Collectibles: Forgotten History Hanging on the Wall


From time to time I am asked to visit local historical societies to help them identify artifacts in their collections. It’s always fun seeing what’s out there and learning from it. I have had the pleasure of seeing some amazing things on these visits. Back in the early summer, the Billerica Historical Society contacted me, and I went by on a Saturday morning for a visit. As I was about to leave, I saw a bullet struck board on the wall of their historic home. It clearly had musket ball holes in it based upon the study I have been working on, but when was it struck? There was no fighting during the American Revolution around Billerica. Was it taken from the Lexington area? Was it from the Siege of Boston or was it earlier?

This led to yet another research project. As I have written about before in my blogs, I am studying all the known bullet strikes from April 19, 1775, but this one intrigued me as it was probably a lot earlier. A check of the history of Billerica provided some information. It wasn’t raided by Native Americans during King Philips War, but in 1695 it was. The raid took place on the north side of town and according to town records, fifteen were killed or taken.

I normally do newspaper searches to see if there are any tidbits that can be found there and sure enough in a Boston Journal article from August 16, 1895, there was an article which mentioned the 1695 raid as well as the board! While it isn’t written for today’s tastes it gives us some information. “It is just two centuries ago today that the savage red men stole down upon the little settlement of Billerica and slaughtered 11 of her people and carried off four more.” As I mentioned, the article isn’t politically correct. It also states “To make it more real a board from the Farmer Garrison of the town was brought forward. In this were four holes made by bullets of the Indians fully two centuries ago.” As you can see, the board in the image also has four holes from a large bore musket. It also has a lot of age and has to be the one mentioned. The article also goes on in a more descriptive way to describe the scene “Mr. Nason drew a most vivid word picture of the scene of two centuries ago, making it so real that one could almost see the scalped, tomahawked families rolling in their own blood at their own hearthstones.”

While more research needs to be done, I don’t doubt this is the 1695 board mentioned in the 1895 article and saved to remember the event. It may be the earliest American bullet-struck object I have ever seen.


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