The Eunice Williams Covered Bridge stretches over the Green River.
Photo Credit : Bethany Bourgault
Tucked away in the rolling hills of Greenfield, Massachusetts, is a rather large covered bridge with a long history to match. The Eunice Williams Covered Bridge marks the site where the life of a young mother was abruptly cut short, just hours after the Deerfield Massacre. Nowadays, legend holds that Mrs. Williams never left the place she died.
It was still dark on the morning of February 29, 1704, when 300 warriors from the French Army and their allies from the Abenaki and Mohawk tribes crept into Deerfield. The French and British were fighting Queen Anne’s War for control of the continent. The little New England town barely knew what had hit it before houses were plundered and burned, livestock were killed, 56 residents were murdered and 112 were captured. Those 112 (or those of them who would make it, that is) would spend the next few months hiking to Canada.
Among the 112 captured were the reverend John Williams, five of his seven children, and his wife, Eunice. Eunice, though, was in no shape to make the trek to Canada — she had given birth just a day before. The baby did not survive the attack.
Eunice collapsed while the group was crossing the Green River — the first obstacle on the way to Canada. The warriors were instructed to strike down anyone unable to keep up, and falling on the first leg of the trip put her in this category. She was struck down by tomahawk not far from her husband and surviving children.
Eventually, John and four of the five children reunited and returned. One child, the young girl named after her mother, chose to stay with the Natives. Eunice replaced one of the girls in their tribe who had died of smallpox. She was loved and taken care of by her new tribe, and took on the name Marguerite Kanenstenhawi. She abandoned her English language, was baptized Catholic and married a Native man. Even after her brothers and father made repeated attempts to convince her to come back home, she still refused.
Some say that Mrs. Williams haunts the river by the bridge in remembrance of the violent death she faced. Struck down by tomahawk in icy waters while her family watched, just hours after her newborn and second youngest were torn from her arms and killed. Others say that she appears to passersby whom she mistakes for her family. After all these years, perhaps she still waits for them to come back for her. Still others say she is haunted by the fate of her daughter, the one who bore her very name, and who abandoned her family and the religion her family valued so much.
Whatever her reason for returning, locals claim to have spotted Eunice near the waters under the bridge and floating around a nearby dam. She’ll appear on the bridge too, but only under the right conditions. If you are driving on the bridge on a clear, moonless night, turn your headlights off and honk your horn—you may just catch yourself a ghostly glimpse of history.
The Eunice Williams Covered Bridge has been rebuilt and renovated several times over the years, but is now in tip-top shape. It was rebuilt in 1972 after a fire destroyed the original (built in the 1870s), then closed to vehicle traffic in 2002 because of natural wear on the structure. Hurricane Irene took a major toll on it in 2011, and it was closed to foot traffic soon after. In November 2014, after substantial renovations, it was reopened to both vehicle and foot traffic. This post was first published in 2015 and has been updated.