Ruth Rutter Hayward
Patron Saint of the Revolutionary Period
Ruth Rutter Hayward was the first white woman in the “Westmoreland Leg” of the New Hampshire Grants. She and her husband Peter Hayward founded the town of Surry in 1752, or thereabouts, journeying there through the unbroken forests from Mendon or Braintree, Mass., whence came all the Haywards and Howards in America (genealogists say that both are of the same stock.) They travelled [sic] into the woods, Mistress Hayward, then a buxom matron of twenty-five years, and her three children riding their one horse. Her babe she carried in her arms and the other two rode in baskets lashed to the sides of the horse.
Peter, already far famed as a hunter and Indian fighter, led the horse, with a gun over his shoulder and an eye open for danger or game. It was no light undertaking, this journey of hundreds of miles into the woods, or sleeping at night under the trees, or perhaps a hastily erected tent of sail-cloth by the side of a roaring camp-fire which had to be kept up all night not so much because of the warmth but as a protection from animals, and living largely upon the game that Peter’s gun provided. But they were young and hardy, used to out-door life and the privations of pioneers, and probably thoroughly enjoyed the adventure. Anyway they reached the site that suited them, built their cabin, and fashioned furniture as they needed, cleared a patch of ground, and began raising their crops.
The Haywards could not have been entirely alone in the wilderness for many months, as three years later, in 1755, we find Peter Hayward hurrying his family into the fort at Keene, N.H., for protection from the Indians and then heading a party which pursued the band which had just killed a woman at the very gate of the fort. The Indians were from Canada, and when they went back, carried with them this same pursuing party whom they had captured. Little of detail is known of the daily life of Ruth Hayward except in so far as it was a part of the life of her husband.
They were harassed by the Indians, and Peter, already noted as a hunter and a deadly shot with a rifle, became a terror to the savages. Years later, an old and friendly Indian told of lying at one time concealed in a clump of bushes waiting to kill Peter Hayward, who he knew must pass that way. But when the hunter came he was accompanied by his first bull-dog, an animal which the Indians had already come to fear as much almost as they feared its master. “I aimed at first at Hayward,” he said, “and then at the dog but did not dare to shoot for I knew that whichever I killed the other would kill me.”
“It is related of this same Peter Hayward,” writes the author of the History of Gilsum, “that one Friday noon, Mrs. Hayward informed him that their meat and meal were all used up and they hadn’t bread enough to last until Monday nor any money with which to buy. About four o’clock, leaving his boys to go on with their work, he took his gun (a very long one, now owned by N.O. Hayward), and went over west on the hills, about a mile. As he looked about he saw a fine buck rubbing his horns against a tree; the distance was thirty or forty rods but he feared to get nearer, and putting an extra bullet in his gun, and in the extremity of his need lifting a prayer for success he fired and killed him. He hung up three quarters where the meat would be safe, and carried the other quarter and the skin back home. It was after dark when he took his horse and started for Northfield, Mass., a distance of thirty miles, where he sold the buckskin (then in great demand for military uniforms), bought three bushels of corn, and after getting it ground, started for home, where he arrived on Saturday night.”
It is a family tradition that this same Peter Hayward went to the battle of Bunker Hill, wearing his leather apron and accompanied by his bull-dog. He was at work in his blacksmith shop when word came of the engagement of Concord and Lexington and he had at once started for Boston. When at the battle their ammunition was spent and the Americans were forced to resort to their bayonets, the story goes that Peter and the dog were in the front ranks. Later we find the names of “Peter Hayward (or Howard)” and his son “Silvanus Hayward (or Howard)” enrolled for the expedition to both Ticonderoga.
Before that the names of both father and son were attached to a “declaration of independence signed by every male inhabitant of Surry” with the exception of a Tory officer who was forced to leave the section. This declaration was issued some three months before the Declaration of Independence at Philadelphia.
Ruth Rutter Hayward died in 1761, the mother of five children. Peter Hayward married twice afterward. He died in 1791, and is buried in the old graveyard in Surry.
Reference: The Pioneer Mothers of America: A Record of the More Notable Women of the Early Days of the Country, and Particularly of the Colonial and Revolutionary Periods by Harry Clinton Green and Mary Wolcott Green, A.B. Third Volume, Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons.