Fred (Frederick Charles) Brenckman.

History of Carbon County, Pennsylvania; also containing a separate account of the several boroughs and townships in the county, online

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Online LibraryFred (Frederick Charles) BrenckmanHistory of Carbon County, Pennsylvania; also containing a separate account of the several boroughs and townships in the county, → online text (page 4 of 44)
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leisurely in the famous Warriors' Path that led to

Their latter movements were observed by Susan
Partsch, who has been mentioned as having escaped
from the burning house, unperceived by the Indians.
She and her husband were happily re-united the next
morning, each having thought the other had been

Susanna Nitschmann was carried away a captive,
and at Wyoming Christian Indian women ministered
to her wants, and tried to shield her from a life more
terrible than death. Her captors claimed her, dragged
her to Tioga, and forced her to share the wigwam of
a brutal Indian. The horror of her situation, together
with the wound she had received, broke her strength.
She spent her days and nights in weeping for half a
year, when she was mercifully released from her suf-
ferings by death. Thus the innocent Moravians, who
had lived and labored for the good of the Indians, were
visited with a terrible punishment for the crimes tli;it
unscrupulous men had committed against the aborig-

After the Indians had retired, the remains of those
killed on the Mahoning were carefully collected from
the ashes and ruins, and were solemnly interred. A
broad marble slab in the graveyard at Lehighton,
placed there in 1778, and a small white obelisk on a
sandstone base, erected since that date, tell in brief
the melancholy story of Gnadenhiitten, and preserve
the names of those who fell as victims of the hate of
the Indians.

At Bethlehem the people had been in an agony of
suspense, for all had seen the lurid glare beyond the
Blue Ridge, made by the burning buildings, and had


known that evil news of some kind would be borne to
them in a few hours.

The unwelcome intelligence was brought to them by-
David Zeisberger at three o'clock in themorning of the
next day, and it was broken to the congregation, which
had been summoned to meet in the chapel at five
o'clock, by Bishop Spangenberg. On his way to Beth-
lehem, the missionary passed a body of militia, who
marched to within five miles of the scene of the mas-
sacre; but fearing an ambushment, they did not ven-
ture to give pursuit in the dark. Towards night of the
day after the tragedy, eight white people and between
thirty and forty Indians, men, women and children,
who had made their escape from New Gnadenhiitten,
arrived at Bethlehem.

With few exceptions, the remaining settlers of the
upper end of Northampton county and along the Le-
high Valley down to the Irish settlement and below
were precipitately j^ushing southward into the older
and larger settlements of Bethlehem and Easton.
Naturally, they were filled with the wildest alarm, and
many were scantily clad, while all were entirely desti-

These unfortunate and panic-stricken people were
received with the greatest kindness by the citizens of
the localities to which they fied. The Moravians of
Bethlehem kept their wagons plying to and fro between
the village and points eight or ten miles up the road,
bringing in the women and children, who had become
exhausted in their flight and sunk down by the wayside.

A few white families still foolishly persisted in re-
maining on the border after nearly all of their neigh-
bors had fled, and some of these fell easy victims to
the strategy and hate of the Indians.


Among the families who dared to remain in their
homes after so many dreadful warnings was that of
Frederick Hoeth, living about twelve miles east of New
Gnadenhiitten, or what is now Weissport. On the even-
ing of the tenth of December, 1755, their habitation was
attacked by a small party of Indians, six of the family
killed, and two or three others carried away into cap-
tivity, while the house was reduced to ashes.

The family was at supper, when a volley was fired
through the windows, killing Hoeth, and wounding a
woman. The firing continued, and a few of the inmates
of the doomed house fled into the open. The invaders
at once applied the torch to the dwelling, stables, and
an adjoining mill.

Mrs. Hoeth sought shelter and security in the bake
house, which was also set on fire. When unable longer
to endure the resulting heat and smoke, the unfortu-
nate woman rushed forth and dashed headlong into the
Poho Poko creek, where she died, either by drowning
or from the burns she had received. The Indians hor-
ribly mutilated her body with knives and tomahawks.
Three children were burned to death, while a mature
daughter was killed and scalped.

Unlike the peace-loving Moravians, who refused to
bear arms, even to protect their own lives, the members
of the Hoeth family, when attacked, made the best de-
fense of which they were capable, and one Indian was
killed and another wounded in the affray.

Immediately following the massacre of Gnadenhiit-
ten, the company of militia that Zeisberger passed on
the way repaired to the scene of the murders. This
body of troops was commanded by Captain Hay, and
was re-inforced by another company under Colonel An-
derson. Captain Wilson, of Bucks county, with a com-
pany of sixty or seventy men, also marched northward a



few days after the massacre. These troops were posted
at the deserted village to guard the mills, filled with
grain that belonged to the Christian Indians, from
being destroyed. They were also expected to protect
the few remaining settlers about Gnadenhiitten. A
temporary stockade was erected, and all would have
been well had the troops been officered by men experi-
enced in the tactics of Indian warfare. But this all-
important qualification was lacking, and disaster soon
followed. On New Year's Day, in 1756, a number of
the garrison fell victims to an Indian stratagem. The
soldiers, to vary the monotony of life at the fort, were
skating on the ice which covered the Lehigh. While
so engaged they caught sight of two Indians farther
up the stream, and, thinking that it would be an easy
matter to capture or kill them, gave chase. They
gained rapidly upon the Indians, who proved to be
decoys, skilfully manoeuvering to draw them into an
ambush. The fort was now some distance behind, and
a party of Indians suddenly sprang from a thicket in
the rear of the soldiers, cutting off their retreat, and
falling upon them with the fury of a whirlwind . The
soldiers were taken entirely off their guard, and being
outnumbered they were quickly dispatched. This inci-
dent had such a depressing effect on the soldiers re-
maining in the fort that many of them deserted. The
others, thinking themselves incapable of holding the
place, withdrew. This was the moment for which the
savages had been waiting. Seizing all the portable
property that to them seemed of any value, they fired
the fort, the mills and the houses in which the Mo-
hicans and the Delawares had so peacefully lived for a
time, the settlement being totally destroyed in a few


All these and countless similar acts of hostility
finally awakened many who had been temporizing or
believing that the blow would not fall on them to pre-
pare for an efficient defense. There was no further
time to be lost, because there was grave danger that
this whole portion of the province might fall into the
hands of the enemy.



Tlie defenseless condition in which the border of
Pennsylvania was found at the breaking out of the
French and Indian War is to be attributed largely
to the fact that the policies of the province were
moulded and directed principally by members of the
Society of Friends. They, like the Moravians, were
lovers of peace, and it was contrary to their avowed
principles to engage in warfare. This being true, it
was natural that they did not consider it necessary to
prepare for war. Again, the duty of protecting the
province devolved solely on the proprietaries, and
until this time the government had very little to do
with this important function.

Aroused at last by the depredations perpetrated by
hundreds of scalping parties and the loud complaint&
of the colonists, the assembly reluctanily enacted a
militia law. But this encouraged a non-military spirit ;
it prescribed no penalty for those who were unwilling
to enlist ; the officers were elected by ballot, inadequate
means existed for enforcing obedience; the enlistment
of persons under twenty-one was forbidden, and like-
wise the march of men more than three days' journey
from the inhabited parts of the province, or their de-
tention in garrison for more than three weeks.

The slight value of the law was destroyed by the
preamble, which declared that the majority of the as-
sembly was opposed to bearing arms, and that a com-
pulsory militia law was unconstitutional. The law,
however, was designed to encourage and protect volun-
teer associations for the public defense.



Later, the tardiness and reluctance of the assembly
in making provisions for the protection of the settlers
spurred the latter to make a formal protest to the
English king. A committee was appointed by the
privy council to investigate the truth of the charges
contained in the protest, with the result that the con-
duct of the assembly was condemned. The committee
declared that the assembly of Pennsylvania was bound
by the original compact to support the government
and protect its subjects ; that the measures enacted for
that purpose were inadequate; and that there was no
hope for more effective ones so long as a majority
of that body consisted of persons whose principles
were opposed to military service, although they repre-
sented less than one-sixth of the population.

For three-quarters of a century the Friends had
controlled the legislative destiny of the province, but
now it was to pass from them forever. For a lime
they continued to send a majority of the members of
the assembly, but those who believed in the principle
of non-resistance no longer gave the keynote to that

At the time of the Indian uprising the Blue moun-
tain practically marked the limit of actual settlement
on the part of the white men. Standing, as it did on
the verge of civilization, and forming in itself a natural
barrier, it was but in accordance with reason, when the
provincial government, late in 1755, with evident re-
gret took the defense of the settlers into its own hands,
to occupy it and to there stay the further encroach-
ments of the enemy. It is well to bear in mind ihat
the bloody work of the Indians was not performed by
large bodies or any numbers combined; neither were
the tactics of civilized warfare followed. But parties
of from three to ten or twenty would creep noiselessly


past alert and watchful sentries and suddenly fall
upon their unsuspecting victims, just as suddenly dis-
appearing after their dreadful work had been com-
pleted, long before the alarm had been spread, and
before the most active troops could overtake them.
This required peculiar methods of defense, necessitat-
ing the erection of forts not very distant from each
other, which would occupy prominent points of ap-
proach, and, if possible, be situated on elevated
ground, thus furnishing a view of the danger in ad-
vance. It was also important that these forts should
be convenient of access to the settlers, who might, and
constantly did, flee to them for refuge. And last, but
by no means least, an abundant supply of water nearby
was essential.

Upon the occurrence of the first ravages of the In-
dians, block houses were erected by the settlers them-
selves, or farm houses were used as such, being located
where the danger seemed most imminent, and without
respect to any general plan.

When the provincial government decided to assume
the duty of protecting the settlers, one of the first
steps taken was the appointment of two commission-
ers, who were expeced to outline a plan of defense, and
to supervise its execution. The men chosen for this
responsible task were James Hamilton and Benjamin
Franklin. Under their direction a chain of forts was
established along the Blue mountain, reaching from
the Susquehanna to the Delaware. The distance be-
tween these forts was from ten to fifteen miles, de-
pending upon the comparative situation of the promi-
nent gaps, which gateways were invariably occupied.
Sometimes the chain of defenses ran on the north side
of the mountain, then again on the south side. Fre-
quently both sides of the mountain were occupied, as


the needs of the population demanded. Sometimes
these forts consisted of defenses previously erected
by the settlers, which were available for the purpose,
and of which the government took possession, whilst
others were newly erected.

Among the defenses alreadj^ existing when Hamilton
and Franklin began the prosecution of their arduous
and necessary undertaking was Fort Lehigh, situated
just north of Lehigh Gap, and occupying the present
site of Palmerton. Properly speaking it was only a
block house, but it commanded an important position,
and was for a time garrisoned by the provincial sol-
diers. There was also a fort erected on the south side
of the Blue mountain at Slatington, these two defenses
being but a few miles apart. The most important,
however, of all the forts along the Blue mountain, and
the first to be erected, was Fort Allen, situated at New
Gnadenhiitten, where Weissport now stands. The ex-
pediency of fortifying this location was first pointed
out by Bishop A. G. Spangenberg, then the head of the
Moravian congregation at Bethlehem, and a man of
practical wisdom. In a letter to the provincial govern-
ment, dated November 29, 1755, he gives it as his
opinion that the safety of all the settlements lying
along the Lehigh and the Delaware, even as far down
as Philadelphia, itself, depended on immediately erect-
ing a fort at this place. Continuing, he declares: ''If
the French once come and build there a fort, it will cost
as much, if I am not mistaken, as the taking of Crown
Point to get it out of their hands; for if they put a
garrison in the gaps of the mountains, and make there
also a fortification, you cannot come at them at all with
any great guns." In closing, he also refers to the
property of the Christian Indians remaining there with-
out adequate ])rotection, at the same time offering the


government ten acres of land on which to erect a fort.
The erection of a fortification at the point indicated by
Bishop Spangenberg was determined upon about the
middle of December, partly because of the valuable
property remaining there after the Moravians had de-
serted it, but chiefly because of its central and com-
manding location.

Hamilton and Franklin had ordered Captain Hay
to that point, not alone to guard the property there,
but to build the fort. The disastrous developments of
the first of January, when the Indians succeeded in
scaring off the soldiers under his command, and firing
the settlement and the stockade which had been erected,
proved conclusively that he was unfit for the duty to
which he had been assigned. Occurrences similar to
this were taking place at other points throughout
Northampton county and along the border.

Naturally this did not have a reassuring effect upon
the people. Everyone being filled with excitement and
terror, it is not to be wondered at if the settlers, under
these conditions, made unreasonable demands on the
government. To such an extent does this seem to have
been done that Governor Morris became somewhat im-
patient and discouraged. On January 5, 1756, he
writes from Eeading to the provincial council at Phila-
delphia, saying in part:

''The commissioners (Hamilton and Franklin) have
done everything that was proper in the county of
Northampton ; but the people are not satisfied, nor by
what I can learn from the commissioners would they
be, unless every man's house were protected by a fort
and a company of soldiers, and themselves paid for
staying at home and doing nothing. There are in the
county three hundred men in the pay of the govern-
ment, and yet, from the disposition of the inhabitants.


tlie want of conduct in the officers, and of courage and
discipline in the men, I am fearful that the whole coun-
try will fall into the enemy's hands."

In casting about for a man with the qualifications
necessary to bring order and security out of all this
chaos and confusion, Governor Morris finally pre-
vailed upon Franklin himself to take personal charge
of the northwestern frontier, giving him full power to
enlist men and to commission officers. He experienced
no difficulties in securing volunteers, proving himself a
capable recruiting officer. Assembling his forces at
Bethlehem, he appointed his son, who had seen service
as an officer in the army raised against Canada, as
his aide-de-camp. It was the beginning of January,
1756, when Franklin began active operations in the
defense of the frontier. He divided the force under
him into three divisions. One detachment was sent to
the Minisink region with instructions to build a fort
for the protection of the upper part of the country;
and another was sent to the lower part with similar
instructions. With the remainder of the force, Frank-
lin determined to go to Gnadenhiitten, where a fort
was thought more immediately necessary. The Mo-
ravians at Bethlehem furnished him with the wagons
necessary to transport tools, stores and baggage. All
preparations had now been completed to begin the
march into the wilderness. Just before leaving Beth-
lehem, eleven farmers, who had been driven from their
homes by the Indians, appealed to Franklin for fire-
arms that they might return to their farms to bring
away their cattle, which, in their precipitate flight they
had left behind.

On January 15, Colonel Franklin, for that was then
his title, broke camp at Bethlehem and started his little
army on the march to Gnadenhiitten, the distance to


be covered being thirty-one miles. The force had not
proceeded many miles when the rain began falling,
and they were thoroughly drenched. On the way, the
men were met by one of the eleven farmers already re-
ferred to, who conveyed to them the melancholy in-
telligence that they had been attacked by Indians, and
that all save himself had been killed. The guns with
which the farmers had been provided, while not differ-
ing from those that were carried by the soldiers, were
of the most ordinary sort, and the priming having be-
come wet, could not be discharged. Hence the ten men
fell easy victims to the Indians, who were better
equipped in this respect than the farmers were. But
a few miles were traversed the first day, the roads
being in poor condition, and the wagons heavy.

Franklin was especially concerned for the safety of
his men while passing through Lehigh Gap, where he
feared the Indians might be lying in wait to attempt
an ambuscade. The fate that befell the ten luckless
farmers because their weapons proved useless when
put to the test, was not calculated to inspire a feeling
of security, since he knew that the guns with which his
soldiers were armed, being unprotected from the rain,
would probably behave in like manner, should the oc-
casion to use them at that time arise. The little army
pa&sed through the gap unmolested, however, reaching
the home of Nicholas Uplinger at nightfall. The force
bad been augmented by the accession of fifty men
under Captain Wayne on the way. The men were
quartered for the night in Uplinger 's barn.

In the morning the march to Gnadenhiitten was re-
sumed, but only a few miles were covered when rain
again began to fall. There being no shelter to look
forward to at the destination of the march, and the
soldiers being unprovided with great coats to protect


them from the elements, it was deemed advisable to
face about and return to the quarters of the previous
night for shelter. The next day being Sunday, the
march wasi resumed, and New Gnadeuhiitten was
reached at about two o'clock in the afternoon. Before
dark the camp had been enclosed with a musket-proof
breastwork, and with boards which had been ordered
sent in advance from a saw-mill which stood where
Slatington now is. The following day was so gloomy
and fogg>^ that it was determined no work should be
done. A temporary defense having been provided, the
next duty to be performed was to give proper burial
to the bodies of the victims of the massacre at Gnad-
enhiitten, these having been but partially interred in
the first instance. On Tuesday morning the ground on
which the fort was to be erected was decided upon,
and the men began work with a will. Seventy axe-men
dexterously felled enough trees in several hours for
the purpose in hand. The fort was one hundred and
twenty-five feet long, and fifty feet wide. First a
trench on all four sides was dug to the depth of three
feet. Then palisades or timbers eighteen feet in
length and about a foot in diameter, being pointed at
the top, were placed vertically in the trench until the
enclosure was complete, forming what is known as a
stockade. Each tree, when cut in lengths made three
palisades. When the stockade had been completed, a
floor or platform of boards was built all around within
at a height of about six feet from the ground, the plan
being for the men to stand on this when firing through
the loo]i-holes, which occurred at regular intervals in
the walls.

As was almost invariably the case in the construc-
tion of forts of this nature, a number of block-houses,
pierced with loop-holes, were erected within the en-


closed space. These were intended to be occupied as
quarters by the soldiers and the refugee settlers. A
well sixteen feet deep and four in diameter, walled
with stones taken from the river, was dug for the use
of the garrison.

The fort was finished on Saturday morning, less
than a week having been required for its erection,
notwithstanding that the progress of the work was
greatly hindered by rain. The flag was then hoisted,
followed by a general discharge of the rifles of the sol-
diers, together with two swivel guns, constituting all
the artillery of the fort. The cannon were fired for
the purpose of overawing the Indians, should there be
any close by. The defense was named Fort Allen in
honor of Judge William Allen, father of James Allen,
who in 1762 laid out Allentown.

''This kind of fort," says Franklin in his auto-
biography, "however contemj^tible, is a sufficient de-
fense against Indians, who have no cannon."

Considering themselves now securely posted, and
having a shelter to flee to, should the occasion de-
mand, the men forming the garrison ventured out in
parties to scour the surrounding country for Indians.
They failed to encounter any; but evidences were not
lacking that the wily denizens of the forests had been
interested spectators of the activities of the garrison.

It being winter, and the weather being inclement, a
fire was of course necessary for the comfort of the
Indians as they watched the progress of the work at
the fort. An ordinary fire, kindled on the surface of
the ground, would by its light and smoke have dis-
closed their presence at a distance. They, therefore,
dug holes of about three feet in diameter in the ground,
sinking them to the depth of perhaps four feet. Em-
ploying their hatchets they then cut off the charcoal


from the sides of burnt logs lying in the woods. With
these coals they made small fires in the bottom of the
holes, and the soldiers observed among the weeds and
grass the prints of their bodies, made by their lying
on the ground while their legs and feet dangled over
the fire, it being an essential point with an Indian to
keep the lower extremities warm.

Franklin was compelled to admire the shrewdness
of the Indians in thus managing their fires that they
might not be discovered, either by their light, flames,
sparks, or even smoke. It appeared that their number
had not been great, and evidently appreciating the dis-
advantage of their situation, did not venture an at-

Franklin's next concern was to get the fort well
stored with provisions and ammunition.

This done, he received a letter from Governor Morris,
apprising him of the fact that he had called the As-
sembly, and that he desired his presence in Philadel-

Online LibraryFred (Frederick Charles) BrenckmanHistory of Carbon County, Pennsylvania; also containing a separate account of the several boroughs and townships in the county, → online text (page 4 of 44)