The Great Windham Frog Battle

Frog art now decorates the town

Frog art now decorates the town

A little late, Okay a lot late, and kinda long.

The Story

Here is the story of the Great Windham Frog Battle, and some sources for it as well. At this point I’ve only researched this story on the web. As I find more information on this story I will post it. From what I can gather, there is no definitive account of this froggy footnote in history.

On a sticky, hot, foggy night in June in 1754 or 1758, the residents of Windham Connecticut were woken up by a god awful screeching noise. By all accounts, the noise was so loud that it woke everyone in the town up. Folks ran out into the green in what ever they had been woken up wearing. For some this meant 17th century peejays, for others it meant much much less.

Some of the townsfolk jumped to the conclusion that surely this was the time of judgment and the most reasonable response was prayerful. Others assumed it was a raid by a tribe hired by the French to slaughter them in their sleep. It was either the start (1754) or the middle (1758) of the French and Indian War, after all.

As folks listened more closely to these awful noises it was decided that it was coming from the general direction of over the hill toward a local millpond. As such, a motley band of militiamen headed in that direction armed with guns, pitchforks and hoes. Most accounts agree that the assembled men managed to put a united and clothed front in face of the terror that lay beyond.

They were not so brave, however, as to cross into the forest that separated them from the terrible noises coming from the pond. They got to the edge of the wooded area and called out to the opposing army, and got no response other than the screaming that had woken them.

Come morning, the men folk managed to get down to the pond and what they found were hundreds of frogs. About half of the frogs looked as if they were dying or dead. The common belief at the time (as reported much later) is that because of the drought there was not that much water, and a battle over the remaining pond space was what caused the racket.

The Culprit

The Culprit

It is important to note that the fear of a tribal raid was not that crazy an assumption. The town of Deerfield, Massachusetts had been burned to the ground by the Pequot Nation about fifty years prior. Fifty-six townsfolk in Deerfield were killed during the raid and the remaining citizens were forced to walk to Quebec so that the tribe could be paid for their captives. Furthermore, as the French were paying for English settlers scalps and captives, the British colonists were paying for the scalps of tribesmen. The brutality on both sides astounds.

Named characters in the story.

The insertion of Lt. Colonel Eliphalet Dyer and Jedidiah Elderkin into the narrative, I suspect came later than the story itself. Both were lawyers in the town. Both served in the Revolutionary war at some point and Lt. Colonel Dyer definitely served in the French and Indian War. Dyer in 1754 was also pushing for Connecticut to have control of Michigan. Who knew?

In some accounts of the story Dyer and Elderkin are running for a political office in town. In this version the frog noises are interpreted as calling out “Dyer” and “Elderkin too.” And so the frogs battle over the candidates. Other accounts have the frogs calling out those names, and the villagers figure the Colonels are being called out because of their roles in the French and Indian war. This heightens the townsfolk fear of an Indian raid.

Many accounts mention of Pomp, an African-American servant in the household of Pastor White. It is unclear as to whether or not Pomp is a free man or a slave. My 21st Century self hopes that he was free. My historical self knows that in 1754 or 1758 in colonial America, chances were that Pomp was owned by the Rev. White. Pomp is important to the story because he is often named as the first person to hear the ungodly sound coming from above. He is awake and walking home from meeting with a lady, and upon hearing the noises he runs to wake up the Reverend.

Another African-American, mentioned, though not often named, is the skeptical voice of reason amongst the believers. He is an older gentleman and points out that it can’t be the Biblical Judgment Day as these awful screams are happening at night, not during the day.

Frog Noises

Frog noises? Really? What noise could a frog make that could not only wake a town but convince a townfull of otherwise sensible New Englanders that the end was near.

THIS is what a normal bullfrog mating call sounds like.
THIS is what a ticked off or very frightened bullfrog sounds like.

Imagine a pondfull of croakers making that noise.

Bonus random frog. A frog named Elvis being cute.

Source Materials and other accounts of the Battle

Frog Bank Notes

Frog Bank Notes

The Windham Bank issued banknotes with the froggies on them, so the Mansfield Numismatic Society has a good account of story.
Here is plausible explanation for the battle itself.
Here is what the Windham Historical Society has to say about the croakers.
Here is a retelling of the story from the book Spooky New England by S E Schlosser.
Here is the account by David Philips.
And this one here gets my vote for the most racist account of the event. No date is ascribed to when this account was written, but I’m guessing sometime in the 1800s.

So there it is. The frogs of Windham. Let me know if you’d like to hear my version of it in person, we’ll arrange a get together. 😉

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “The Great Windham Frog Battle

  1. Pingback: 10 Banknotes With Hidden Images And Symbols | Tolley's Topics

  2. Pingback: Victoriana Trivia | Rena Tobey

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