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Nine Men’s Misery

by Thomas D’Agostino

Recently there has been a renewed interest in one of my perennial favorites. In the woods of Cumberland, Rhode Island, is a rectangular mound of stones fronted by a plaque. This marker is a monument to nine men who were captured and slain by the Indians during Pearce’s fight in the midst of King Philip’s War.

King Philip’s War officially began on June 24, 1675, when the local Pokanoket Indians raided the village of Swansea, in a retaliatory move. Shortly after, seven heads of the colonists were found on sticks at the shore of the Kickimuit River. From there the violence escalated to a full declaration of war. Philip (Metacom) and his followers wreaked havoc on the English settlements but not without a heavy price.

One battle that can be chalked up to the Indians was Pierce’s Fight. On the morning of March 26, 1676, Captain Michael Pierce and his Rehoboth Militia were chasing down Cononchet and his marauders. When they came upon the Blackstone River they noticed what looked like some Indians limping along wounded. The group of 63 English and 20  Indians chased down the wounded men only to find they were decoys that had lured them into a trap. The enemy came out of everywhere completely surrounding the small band of Pierce’s men. 

He quickly had them form a circle several deep but they were no match for the Indians who charged at them eight men deep. Pierce fell early in the fight. For hours the men fought gallantly knowing they were doomed. When a few men remained they broke rank and fled. Nine men were captured by the Indians and marched three miles to the spot now known as Nine Men’s Misery. No one really knows exactly what transpired but it is accepted that the Indians sat the prisoners on a large boulder, then built a fire. From there they performed a dance and dispatched them with their tomahawks. Contrary to some claims, they were not beheaded and their heads placed on poles.

When the nine were found they were buried on the same spot they perished, somewhere near the monument. In 1790, a Dr. Bowen of Providence began to disinter the remains in search for one man, Benjamin Bucklin. It was known that this Rehoboth Militia man was of extraordinary size and had a double set of teeth.

Bucklin was found and his skull was given to the RI Historical Society, who over time misplaced the artifact. John Low is another claimed to be buried there. The others who were killed remain a mystery. It can be sure there were no French names as some may have thought. The English and French were mortal enemies from the get go.

One thing is certain and that is the place is haunted. Screams have been heard echoing though the woods around the monument. The ghost of a child is seen near the swamp just to the left of the monument and a ghostly rider has been known to suddenly appear on the trail and wisp off into the void.

If this is not enough, the Monastery that now houses the Cumberland Library is also haunted, but that is another story.

Tom D'Agostino and his wife Arlene Nicholson have written numerous books about paranormal activity in New England, including Haunted Vermont, Haunted Massachusetts, and Haunted Rhode Island. They live in Connecticut.