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Hannah Duston statue.

Hannah Duston: The Mother's Revenge

Field review by the editors.

Haverhill, Massachusetts

Every town wants its own champion. For decades, Haverhill had Hannah Duston, the frontier fury. Her monument in the city park tells her story: how she was captured by Native Americans, how her husband blasted the "savages" who tried to grab her children, and how she later massacred ten of her captors with their own tomahawks (and the help of two fellow prisoners). Dubbed "The Mother's Revenge" -- her captors had supposedly killed her baby -- it happened in what is now New Hampshire. When that state erected a statue of Hannah on the site, her home town in Massachusetts soon followed with one of its own. She had been dead for 143 years.

Unlike the statue of Hannah in New Hampshire, which depicts her in a post-massacre pose with scalps in her hand, the one in Haverhill captures her at the moment of attack. Hannah grips her hatchet, her eyes set in a deadly glare, and her finger pointing toward the traffic on Main Street. The pose of the statue is reproduced on a small plaque on its base titled, "Her slaying of her captors." It's only when you see the bas relief plaque that you realize that Hannah is pointing at the sleeping people she and her two fellow captives are about to whack.

Relief of sleeping raiding party.

For several generations of Haverhill citizens the Hannah Duston statue was regarded as perfectly acceptable. It was a popular subject for postcards. But beginning in the 1980s the statue began to be the focus of protests, and was occasionally splattered with red paint. Historians say that Hannah did nothing noteworthy either before or after her kidnapping (we've heard that gripe before with another ax mistress). Others say that the whole Mother's Revenge story was invented as an excuse for Hannah's killing spree, and that six or seven of her victims were children themselves.

Hannah Duston monument.

In 2021 the red paint attacks increased, and there were demands for the statue's removal. This spurred Haverhill to suggest a compromise: the "savages" language would be removed from the monument's base, an additional plaque would give historical context to Hannah's story, and Hannah would lose her hatchet -- although because she's clearly holding something, no one seems quite sure what will replace it.

Also see: Hatchet Hannah Bobble Head | Hannah Duston Massacre Site

Hannah Duston: The Mother's Revenge

River St., Haverhill, MA
I-495 exit 51. Drive east on Hwy 125/Main St. for 2.5 miles. Statue on the right, in GAR park between Winter St. and Bailey Blvd. The Library is on left side of Main St.
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
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Nearby Offbeat Places

Muffler Man with AxMuffler Man with Ax, Groveland, MA - 4 mi.
Two CastlesTwo Castles, Methuen, MA - 6 mi.
Graves of Betty and Barney HillGraves of Betty and Barney Hill, Kingston, NH - 11 mi.
In the region:
Birthplace of the Telephone, Boston, MA - 29 mi.

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