Three Villages/3 Gnadenhütten

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Three Villages by William Dean Howells
Gnadenhütten


Howells Three Villages Gnadenhütten Start.png


GNADENHÜTTEN.




I  HOPE that it is something better than an idle love of picturesque and ancient days that prompts me to cast a glimmer of their light on this page, and trace the origin of a poor little Indian village that flourished and fell, beyond the Ohio, ninety years ago, to that remote century, when the Paulician fathers, Chyrillus and Methodius, went out of Constantinople and established Christianity among the heathen of Moravia. The fate of Gnadenhütten is so dolorous in itself that I have no need to borrow pathos of the past; yet I own that its obscure troubles have a peculiar interest to me in their relation to those of a people whose seat was in the world's most famous places, and whose heroes' and martyrs' names are quick in all men's minds.

The annals of the Moravian Church link in the same chain of sorrows and calamities the burning of Huss at Constance and the murder of the hapless Christian Indians on the Muskingum; and if they cannot make them equal sharers with him in the glory of martyrdom, they declare their death equally magnanimous and saintly, their faith as great, and their spirit the same. It was this spirit, at once zealous and patient, which made the Moravian Church first among the missionary churches, and which early in its history awakened persecution against it. Indeed, the Moravians were scarcely converted to Christianity in 860, when Rome assailed them with all the reasons of popes and kings, and the fagot and sword were constantly employed against people whose bodies at least would have remained much more comfortable if they had continued heathen instead of becoming heretics. Their chances of heaven may have been impaired, in the opinion of their persecutors, if that were possible, when, after two hundred years of suffering, they united with the Waldenses, in Bohemia; but the chances of being burned alive were unquestionably diminished by this union, and there was no more persecution of either sect till Rome began to feel the first movements of the Reformation within herself. The Moravian Church then became especially obnoxious to her, and she determined to uproot that heresy. So it came to the martyrdom of Huss and of Jerome, and of many more unremembered, and at last to the armed resistance of the Moravians under Zisca. When Zisca died, the persecuted people quarrelled among themselves, and divided into the Taborites, who held for a pure Scriptural church, and the Calixtines, who were received into the Roman Church with the promise of certain privileges afterward only partially or never fulfilled; but a part of the Taborites and a body of the Calixtines came together again, and called their new band Unitas Fratrum, and so eagerly devoted themselves to the work of conversion, that the Romish Calixtines stirred up a new persecution. The temporal power refused the United Brethren its protection; their civil rights were forfeited, the prisons were filled with them; they were driven from their homes in midwinter, and reduced to scattered remnants that dwelt in the forests and the uninhabited places, kindling fires only by night, lest the element that saved them from one death should betray them to another yet more cruel. These fugitives finally met together in the wilderness, to the number of seventy, and reaffirmed their fealty to their ancient church, and their preference for the episcopal over the presbyterian constitution. Through the Paulician fathers, first sent to them, and again through their union with the Waldenses, they traced an episcopal succession, hitherto unbroken, up to the apostles themselves; and now, casting lots for such of their number as should receive the succession, they sent these secretly to the Waldensen bishop, Stephen in Austria, who consecrated them.

After Stephen was burnt, many Waldenses united with the Moravians, and, in the midst of persecutions, they re-entered upon their career as a missionary church. They published the Bohemian Bible in 1470, and they multiplied copies of the Scriptures at two printing-offices in Bohemia and one in Moravia.

Luther, after a preliminary quarrel with them about discipline, received a copy of their confession of faith, and acknowledged them worthy of all Christian love, a little before Charles V., declaring them worthy of all Christian hate, because he believed they influenced the Bohemians in their refusal to fight against the Protestant Elector of Saxony, confiscated their property, outlawed their nobles, and racked their bishops. Their sufferings continued throughout the Thirty Years' War, and at its close the Protestant powers abandoned them to the fury of Austria, who disposed so effectively of their pestilent Bibles and other books, of their churches and their schools, that she might well believe herself to have extirpated them. Their Bishop Comenius, however, escaped to England, where he was received with all affection and respect by the Anglican clergy, and whence he went later to Holland, where he wrote the history of his church. Before he died he caused the ordination of two bishops, and thus transmitted the apostolic succession to the church in our times, through the few Brethren whom that devout man, Count Zinzendorf, found at Fulneck in Bohemia, and invited to a safer and quieter abode on his vast estates at Bertholsdorf. There, in 1722, they founded their famous hamlet of Herrnhut, and established their church once more in the ardor of its zeal and hope.

They were for the most part simple peasant folk and artisans, but they were afterward joined by scholars and people of condition from all parts of Germany. It appears they did not in all cases bear their peace and security with so great dignity as they had borne their sorrows and wrongs. They sometimes fell into silly ecstasies of devotion, and permitted themselves a latitude of metaphor and expression that scandalized the whole Protestant world, — the excellent Protestant world, that had given them up to their mortal enemies, and had endured their calamities with such exemplary fortitude. Zinzendorf was himself an enthusiast, and unwittingly provoked the weaker Brethren to this verbal and sentimental excess, though he was afterwards first and severest in rebuking it, when the clamor rose against it. The offending zealots owned their indecorousness, and sent their apology to the other Protestant churches. Their folly had never passed beyond words; and in the mean time the works of the Moravian community were of a character to win it our profoundest respect, if they did not attract so much contemporary attention.

During the first ten years after their colonization on Count Zinzendorf's estates, and while not yet numbered but six hundred, the Moravians sent missionaries to all parts of the heathen world, to Greenland, to the West Indies, to Tartary, to Lapland, to Guinea, to the Cape of Good Hope, to Ceylon, and to North America. Their missionaries first landed upon our continent at Savannah in 1735, and attempted the conversion of the neighboring Creeks, but withdrew to Pennsylvania a few years later, and founded their town of Bethlehem, and entered upon their mission to the Delawares. They had afterwards their greatest success with this tribe; but the first Indian community seems to have been formed among the Mohicans at Shekomeko in New York and Pachgatgoch in Connecticut. There the efforts of the Brethren for the conversion and civilization of the Indians affected the whiskey traffic with the savages in a short time to such a degree that nothing but their interruption saved the border from ruin. It was certainly a cruel burlesque of their real character, and of their past, that these poor Moravians should have been accused as Papists; but in this quality they were dragged to and fro for several days about Connecticut, until at last they were brought into the presence of the governor, who promptly liberated them. Yet they could never hope to be free from molestation there: the traders instigated the savages to attempt their lives, and the local religious feeling was averse to their missionary enterprise; while in the Province of New York the intelligent conception that they were French spies gave them as great trouble as their reputed Papistry in Connecticut. The Moravians were non-resistants, and they had conscientious scruples about taking oaths; and the Provincial Assembly passed an act banishing from New York all who refused the oath of allegiance, and forbidding the missionaries to instruct the Indians. They were thus forced to abandon their missions in New York and Connecticut, and retire to Bethlehem, which had already begun to assume that character of spiritual capital still belonging to it among the Moravians. The whites near Shekomeko at once seized upon the lands of the Indian converts; and it is consoling to know that a pious struggle for their souls ensued between the local Christians and the local savages, the former striving to attach the converts to their churches, and the latter to drag them back into heathenism.[1] The savages, however, got nothing at all; and the Christians, nothing but the land; for, after a great deal of suffering and molestation, the converts thought best to follow their teachers to Bethlehem.

The Moravians were now confined in their enterprise to the Province of Pennsylvania, where the precedent of the Friends had already so far depraved public sentiment, that it was possible for them not only to refuse oaths and military service, but to pursue their benevolent efforts among the Indians without incurring so much resentment as in Connecticut and New York.

This, however, was but for a time. Many Scriptural-minded colonists of that day held that the Indians were Canaanities; and many others, who knew enough of God to swear by, interpreted the Divine will to the extinction, not the conversion, of the heathen. The French War broke out, and it appeared certain to all these that people who treated the Indians with love and kindness, whereas God had imposed no duty toward them but the simple and elementary obligation of destruction, must in reason be French spies; while the heathen, on the other hand, took it into their wrong, thick heads that the Moravians must be the foes of their race, and secretly leagued with the English, being of such an inimical color as they were. The savages, therefore, fell upon a Moravian station on the river Mahony, and killed all the Brethren, with their wives and children, whom they found there. This unsettled the colonial mind somewhat concerning their complicity with the French, but did nothing to disabuse it of other prejudices. Some murders committed on the border exasperated the feeling against the converts to such degree that it was judged best by their teachers to abandon their exposed and isolated villages, and place themselves under the protection of the troops at Philadelphia. But when they repaired to the barracks, with the governor's order for their admission, the soldiers would not let them enter, and they remained a whole night before the gate, exposed to the insults and outrages of the mob that gathered about them, and that threatened to revenge on these helpless folk the crimes and injuries of the savages. They were then sent to Province Island, where they were lodged for some months in comparative safety and comfort; but about the beginning of the year 1764 orders came from the government for their removal to New York, and, very scantily clad, and burdened with their old and sick, they set out on a journey which was attended with exposure not only to the seventy of the winter, but to the contumely of the mobs that followed them in all the stupid and wicked little towns, and assembled to revile them as they passed along their route.

They had not reached the New York frontier, however, when they were met by a messenger from the governor of that Province, forbidding them to cross it; and so they returned upon their weary steps to Philadelphia, where the authorities now succeeded in lodging them in the barracks. For no other reason than that they were Indians, and with scarcely the pretence of any other reason, a mob assembled to destroy them, and nothing but the most prompt and energetic measures on the part of the military and the better citizens saved them. The danger was so great, and the intended outrage so abominable, that even some of the younger Quakers took up arms in defence of a people whose use and creed would not permit them to defend themselves; and indeed the Quakers, throughout the unmerited sufferings of these harmless Indians, were their true and steadfast friends, insomuch that one of them said, Even the sight of a Quaker made him happy. In this, as in other things, the Friends bore witness to the superior civilization of their sect, and to the faithful and generous spirit of their relations with the Indians, at which it has in these days grown easy and cheap to sneer. Next to the drab-coats it was the red-coats that treated the Christian Indians with the greatest tenderness and respect, and in effect protected them against the popular fury, until the end of the war, which came in December, 1764, after they had been under arrest a whole year. They were then set at liberty, the danger from partisans of either side being past; and with greatly enfeebled numbers (fifty-six had died of small pox during the summer) they repaired to a point on the Susquehanna, in what is now Bradford County, and there founded their first considerable town. The Indian name of the place was Wyalusing; but the Moravians, out of their thankful and hopeful hearts, called it Friedenshütten, or Tents of Peace. It is needless to relate at length how their hopes were turned to despair, as the whites encroached upon them, and the traders attempted to make their village a rendezvous whence they might debauch and plunder the neighboring savages. The great blow to their tranquillity and confidence was the sale of the whole region round about them, which was ceded to the English by the Iroquois, in violation of the solemn promises of that truculent and faithless tribe confirming the Christians in the possession of the lands on which they had settled. The Moravians had already extended their operations westward as far as the Ohio, and had a prosperous station on Beaver Creek, and there now came to them, for the third time, messages from the chiefs of the Delawares, inviting them to establish a mission in their country. The Lennilenape, as they called themselves, were then a numerous and powerful people, in alliance with many important tribes, who, having abandoned Pennsylvania, where they were subject to the Iroquois, now inhabited a vast and fertile country about midway between the Ohio River and Lake Erie, and had their principal towns on the Walhonding and Tuscarawas, whose confluence forms the Muskingum. It was from these capitals that the invitation came to the Christians at Friedenshütten, offering them lands and the protection of the Delaware nation, with full and free opportunity to the missionaries of preaching the gospel and introducing the arts of peace. The messages added that the land should never be alienated from them, as it had been at Friedenshütten by the Iroquois; and both teachers and people saw that in this invitation, from one of the mildest and most intelligent of the Indian nations, a great and smiling field of usefulness opened to them, remote alike from the evil influences of the border and the bad faith and secret enmity of the Iroquois. It was true, the governor of Pennsylvania had assured them that they should never be molested in the tenure of their lands, and had forbidden the survey of any territory within five miles of their villages on the Susquehanna; but their experience of the colonists had taught them to distrust, not the good will, but the strength of their authorities. Still less were the Moravians disposed to listen to the remonstrances and repentant prayers of the Iroquois, who now besought them not to abandon their country. They heard the Delaware embassy with favor, and sent out to Ohio David Zeisberger, their leading missionary, and five Indian families to look at the land offered them; and these arriving on the Tuscarawas made choice of a tract which, when they described it to the Delaware chiefs, proved to be the very land destined to them by the nation.

The pioneers found the soil of their allotted domain excellent,[2] and the game abundant in the forest, and with well-contented hearts they built themselves cabins, and laid out their peaceful city on the site of an old Indian town, long since deserted and falling to decay. Ramparts and other traces of ancient fortification were still visible beside the small lake where the gentle Moravian and his followers planned their home, and from the heart of the ruin burst forth that beautiful spring for which he named their city, Schönbrunn. All round them stood the primeval, many-centuried woods; the river, never vexed by keel, flowed beside them from solitude to solitude; even the lodges of their savage hosts and benefactors were a day's journey out of sight.

It was in April, 1772, and in the summer of the same year the whole community of Friedenshütten abandoned their houses and farms, and departed on their long pilgrimage through the wilderness, to seek the country given them beside the Muskingum; and though their historians set down

“The short and simple annals of the poor”

in terms something of the driest, yet an irrepressible pathos communicates itself to the reader as these writers tell how they all left their beloved village on the Wyalusing to the malice of men and elements, and trusted themselves to the promise of the desert. At Friedenshütten they had dwelt seven happy, prosperous years, which they had employed so well that their town wore a substantial and smiling aspect, with its great street eighty feet wide, and its lines of pretty cottages, —“built of squared pine logs,” and flanked by gardens, — radiating from the spacious chapel in the midst; while around it on every hand rippled their yellow wheat, and the broad acres of bladed corn spread their serried ranks. The green fruit mantled to ripeness in their generous orchards, and all the flattery of harvest was in the landscape from which this poor little people turned their heavy eyes.

They must, of course, leave the greater part of their substance, but such things as were most necessary or most portable they carried with them, and departed a heavily laden train, bearing each one his burden, and all driving their well-freighted horses and their flocks and herds before them. Hundreds of miles of unbroken wilderness stretched between Friedenshütten and the land of promise; and their path was beset, not only by the sylvan beasts, but by the wild brethren of the new Christians. The converts had all the toils and fatigues of the pilgrimage to bear, and they must have often found a potent fascination in the desert, where the wildness without allured the wildness within them, and pleaded eloquently for their return to the allegiance of the woods. But they none of them faltered in obedience to the pious and humble teachers who led them, neither for love of the desert if it beguiled, nor for fear of the drunken savages, who sometimes molested their march.

The pilgrims were far from suffering from hunger, for they killed a hundred deer upon their journey; but their course was through tangled depths of woodland and morass, across floods, and over mountains, and their steps were always in peril of rattlesnakes, which infested the wilderness in great numbers. Those who journeyed by land fared not more painfully and slowly than others of the brethren who descended the rivers towards the Ohio in heavily laden canoes, and over the long portages or beside the shrinking streams carried craft and freight alike upon their shoulders.

Heckewelder,[3] who tells us this much, tells little of all that it would now be so interesting to know of this strange pilgrimage, nor do other Moravian writers, except in a dry and general way, touch upon its events, at best vaguely sketching a picture which the reader's fancy must fill up. Their thoughts are doubtless upon the things of which these wanderings were but the shadow and symbol; yet here and there a touch illumines the whole with a vivid and purely human interest. Such a one shows us a certain poor mother, who took her crippled son upon her shoulder, and so set out from Friedenshütten with the rest, and bore him many and many days' journey through the desert. Sickness appeared among the pilgrims, and some of the little ones drooped and died; and that which shall one day ease us all of our burdens, whether they console or whether they oppress us, drew softly near the crippled boy. Day after day the poor mother found the load upon her shoulder grow lighter, and that within her breast heavier and heavier, as if the burden were shifted, till at last those walking at her side saw by his white lips and shrinking visage that the hand of death had touched the child. The cripple, between signs and sounds, made them understand that he desired baptism before he died, and, tenderly lifting him from his mother's shoulder, they consecrated him by the ancient rites of that church of the poor and martyrs. So he died; and the mother mixed again with the rest, and we know her thenceforth only as part of the sorrow of her people.

In fact, the history of Gnadenhütten follows with certainty few individual fortunes; but its chroniclers, who touch upon no others in that march, tell us how every night, when the foot sore and failing train halted after their long day's journey, they built a great fire in the midst of their camp, and, as around an altar, raised their voices in hymns of praise and thanksgiving. It may be that, at these times, when the echoes of the songs died away in distant solitudes, the teacher who led them sought to give his wild flock such ideas as they might grasp of their church's past, and recounted her history to those who were keeping unbroken here, in another race and remote deserts, the long succession of her martyrs. Fancy may have her will as to what strange images of imperial Levantine and lordly German cities, of Byzantium, of Vienna, of Prague, and of the embattled life of those far-off lands, arose before the wondering eyes of these children of the forest, as the story ran; for not one of their kindred survives in any generation to refute her, but all have entered upon their inheritance.

On the 23d of August, 1772, the pilgrimage came to an end, and beside the Muskingum the wanderers kindled their great camp-fire, and for the last time gathered about it to utter the common gratitude in songs and prayers. On the morrow they arose and began their guiltless warfare with the wilderness.

The good Moravians who had led them hither had no grand or novel ideas of a state, and perhaps their success in civilizing the Indians was largely due to the fact that they formed for them no high civic ideal, but seem to have made them as like German peasant-folk as they could where neither Kaisers devoured them in wars nor lords in peace, and where the intermittent persecutions of their white and red brethren could have but poorly represented the continual oppressions of Fatherland. They taught their communities to sow and reap, they instructed them in humble and useful trades; they inculcated the simple policy of thrift, the humble virtues of meekness and obedience. But if the political ideal of the Moravians was lowly, their religious ideal and their discipline was lofty and severe, — so severe, indeed, that it had in time of great peril and necessity barred their union even with the early Lutherans. They had sought these lately savage men, not with the awful prophets of doom, and the sword of the Lord sharpened against them, nor had they come among them as the equally zealous and devoted Jesuits did, to take their imaginations with the picturesque splendors of ritual. The ardent faith of the Hussites and the meek goodness of Herrnhut were the arms with which they surprised these wild, wily hearts, and conquered them for heaven, making their converts lay down the savage, not in creed only, but in life also, and put on the Christian with all the hard conditions of forgiveness to enemies, of peace, and of continual labor. Never since Eliot preached to the Indians in New England had efforts so sincere and so fortunate been made for their conversion, and never had civilization been so strictly united with conversion. For once the unhappy race, whom romance has caressed, and sentiment has weakly compassionated, but from whom our prudent justice has always averted its face, was here taken by the strong hand of love and lifted to the white man's level, and saved for earth as well as for heaven. It appears that the converts yielded an implicit submission to the advice and laws of the Moravians, who assumed no superiority over them, who married among them, and who shared equally with them in their toils and privations.

Chief among these teachers was the brave, steadfast, and pious David Zeisberger, a learned and diligent man, and an apostle of zeal and love not less than Eliot's. He was born in Moravia, but his early life was passed at Herrnhut, whither his parents repaired at Zinzendorf's invitation; and he was eighty-seven years old when he died, in 1808. Of these years he had spent sixty-two in unceasing labors among the Indians, without reward save such as came to him through the sense of good work well done; for he always refused to “become a hireling,” and never took pay for his missionary services. He was the author of a German and of an English grammar of the Onondaga language, and a dictionary in that tongue containing near two thousand pages, as well as a Delaware grammar and spelling-book; he was translator of innumerable hymns and sermons for the use of the Indian congregations; and he was well versed in different native dialects. He was a man of simple and abstemious life, of a most benevolent heart, and a courageous and undaunted temper. We need not refuse to know that “he was of small stature, with a cheerful countenance,” that “his words were few, and never known to be wasted at random or in an unprofitable manner.”[4]

The Rev. John Heckewelder, who imparts these facts, was himself only second to Zeisberger in the length and ardor of his labors among the Indians. He was born of Moravian parents in England, but came to this country when a young man, and spent nearly his whole life in the companionship of Zeisberger, and in the work which engaged him. He left a daughter, born in one of the Indian villages on the Tuscarawas, who survived until last September at Bethlehem; and he bequeathed to our literature a work on the history, character, and customs of some tribes of the North American Indians, which was received with great favor and great disgust by differing North American Reviewers of other days. I have here availed myself freely of his Narrative, the statements of which there is no reason to doubt, whatever may be thought of his philosophy of Indian life. He and Zeisberger arrived among the first in the Muskingum country in 1772, and continued there throughout ten years of its occupation by the Christians, being later joined by Brothers Edwards, Sensemann, and Jungmann, and others.

The Christian Indians who appeared on the banks of the Tuscarawas in 1772, and who built Schönbrunn, were two hundred and forty-one in number; a little later came a congregation of Mohicans, and on the same river, some miles to the southward, founded the village which gives my history its great tragic interest, and which they named Tents of Grace, or Gnadenhütten. In 1776 Zeisberger and Heckewelder, at the prayer of the Delaware chiefs, laid out a third village, which they called Lichtenau, near the heathen town of Goschocking, and stationed a Missionary there, that the wives and children of these chiefs might hear the preaching of the Christian faith. All these communities now prospered and grew in the likeness of civilization exceeding that of any of the border settlements. It was yet ten years before the first white man had fixed his place west of the Ohio; a few hunters held Kentucky against the Indians north of the river, and sustained with that region the primitive relations of horse-stealing and scalping; in Virginia, the frail and lonely settlements creeping westward made friends with the desert and produced a population nearly as wild as its elder children and quite as fierce and truculent. In the mean time the old-world peasant-thrift and industry, moving the quick and willing hands of the new Christians, made those shores of the Muskingum glad with fields and gardens. The villages were all regularly laid out and solidly built upon nearly the same plan. The chapel stood in the midst, and the streets, branching away from it to the four quarters, were wide and kept scrupulously clean, and cattle were forbidden to run at large in the public ways. The houses of the people were the log-cabins common to all pioneers in the West; but they were built upon foundations of stone, and neatly constructed within and without, and their grounds were prettily fenced with palings. The chapels, for their greater honor and distinction, were built, not of the ordinary trunks of trees, but of logs squared and smooth-hewn, and they had shingle roofs, and were surmounted with belfries, from which the voice of evening and of Sabbath bells floated out over the happy homes, and took the heathenish heart of the wilderness beyond.

The people were for the most part farmers, but some exercised mechanical trades. There was neither poverty nor wealth in the state, but all lived in abundance upon the crops that the generous acres yielded them, and the increase of their flocks and herds; and at a time when none but the rudest fare was known to their Virginian neighbors, any of them could set before the guest who asked their hospitality a meal's victuals (as Heckewelder quaintly phrases it) of good bread, meat, butter, cheese, milk, tea and coffee, and chocolate, with such fruits and vegetables as the season afforded. They dressed decorously, and not after that heathen fashion which took the fancy of the younger of the white settlers; the men wore their hair like Christians, not shaving it as the savages did, nor decorating their heads and faces with feathers and paint in their vain manner; and the women doubtless wore the demure caps and linen fillets, which it is said the good Count Zinzendorf once passed a sleepless night in contriving for the Moravian sisterhood.

The government of the villages was akin in form and spirit to that of all other Moravian communities. By an ancient usage of the church in Bohemia and Moravia, each minister received under his roof and into his family two or three acolytes or assistants, whom he educated in certain offices of piety and religion, such as visiting the sick, catechizing the young, and caring generally for the moral welfare of the people. When the church was revived at Herrnhut, the minister ceased to receive the acolytes into his family; but they still continued a part of the social and religious government, and in all the missions of the Brethren, being chosen from among the converts, they were particularly useful and active. They were of either sex, the men being charged to oversee the Brethren, and the women, who must always, according to the Discipline, be “respectable, prudent, and grave matrons,” having particular care for the helplessness of widows, and the innocence of young maidens. They were never ordained, but they gave their right hands to the Elders as a pledge that they would be faithful in duty. In the Muskingum towns, the authority rested in a council composed of these acolytes and of the missionaries, subject to the mission-board at Bethlehem,[5] and this council enacted the laws under which the people lived. Heckewelder gives the substance of their laws, which were eminently practical in most things, and were remarkable, as will be seen, for embodying some principles of legislation supposed to be entirely the fruit of modern reform. These enactments, which were accepted by the whole congregation at Schönbrunn, and applied afterwards to all the other towns, declared that God only should be worshipped among them, that the Sabbath should be hallowed, and that parents should be honored, and supported in helplessness and age. It was made unlawful for any convert to be received without the consent of the teachers; and neither adulterers, drunkards, thieves, nor those that took part in the feasts, dances, or sacrifices of the heathen, were suffered to remain in the Christian towns. The people renounced “all juggles, lies, and deceits of Satan,” affirmed their will to obey the teachers and acolytes, and to live peaceably together, and not to be idle or untruthful in anything. None should strike another; but if any were injured in person or property, the wrong-doer should make just atonement. “A man,” the statutes continue, “shall have but one wife, love her, and provide for her and the children,” and she shall be obedient to him, take care of the children, “and be cleanly in all things.” The young were forbidden to marry without their parents' permission; and no one might go on a long hunt or journey without first informing the teachers or assistants. All persons were enjoined not to contract debts with traders, and none could receive goods to sell for them without leave of the council; all should contribute cheerfully of labor and substance to the public work of building school-houses and churches, and other enterprises of the community. There was a law, also, forbidding the converts to use witchcraft or sorcery in hunting, as the heathen did, the Moravians esteeming it perhaps wicked, or perhaps only a foolish and unbecoming thing for Christians; and among these Indians the first prohibitory liquor law was rigorously enforced. They allowed no intoxicating drink to be brought within their borders; and if strangers or traders chanced to have such drink with them, the acolytes took it in charge, and delivered it to them only on their departure. Some time after the adoption of these rules, when the Revolutionary War broke out, and a war-party sprang up among the Delawares, the native assistants, of their own motion, enacted that “no one inclining to go to war, which is the shedding of blood,” or that gave encouragement to theft and murder by purchasing stolen goods of warriors, could remain among them.

Offenders against any of the laws were first admonished, and, upon repeated offence, sent out of the towns.

The reader must have noted how little these stern and simple enactments flattered any savage instinct. Under them, a people fiercely free became meek and obedient, changed their wild unchastity and loose marital relations for Christian purity and wedlock; left their indolence for continual toil; learned to forego revenge, and to withhold the angry word and hand; eschewed the delights and deliriums of drunkenness; and, above all, in a time and country where all men, red and white alike, seemed born to massacre and rapine, set their faces steadfastly against war, and did no murder. The success of the good men who effected this change seems like a poet's dream, in view of what we know of Indian life; and it must indeed have been a potent bond of love which so united their converts to them that the order of the villages was only once disturbed from within, and was then restored by the penitent return to the church of those who had been seduced by the heathen. Doubtless the hold of the Moravians upon the Indians was strengthened by those ties of marriage and adoption which they formed with them; but, after all, their marvellous triumph was due to the fact that their efforts were addressed to the reason of the savages, and to humanity's inherent sense of goodness and justice. I confess that this alone interests me in the history of Gnadenhütten, and lifts its event out of the order of calamities into a tragedy of the saddest significance. Not as Indians, but as men responding faithfully and sincerely to the appeals of civilization and Christianity, and reflecting in their lives a far truer image of either than their destroyers, its people have a claim to sympathy and compassionate remembrance which none can deny.

In spite of many vexatious disturbances from the incessant border frays, the prosperity and happiness of the Christian towns were so great that their fame spread throughout the whole Indian country, and the heathen came from far and near to look with their own eyes upon the marvel. They lost their savage calm when they beheld these flourishing villages peopled by men of their kindred and color, each dwelling in his own house with his wife and little ones in peace and security, and in such abundance as the wilderness never gave her children. They saw with amazement the spreading fields, and all the evidences of thrift and comfort afforded by flocks and herds, and the free hospitality which welcomed them as guests, and feasted them as long as they cared to linger; and though they doubtless regarded with grave misgiving those points of the Moravian system which required men who would naturally have been naked and idle braves to clothe themselves like white men, and go unpainted and industriously about women's work of tilling the earth, and which, teaching them how to use the axe and saw and hammer, left them unskilled in the nobler arts of tomahawking and scalping, yet they could not deny that the whole result was exceedingly comfortable and pleasant. They shook their heads, and murmured gloomily over the contrast their own state presented to that of the Christians; and they loudly blamed their chiefs for not listening to the preachers. It was not strange that the Moravians should conceive hopes of converting the whole Delaware nation, both from the effect of their people's visible prosperity upon the imagination of the savages and from more substantial facts. Converts were made in such numbers that it became necessary to build new and larger chapels at Schönbrunn and Gnadenhütten; while, in a council of the whole Delaware nation, it was determined that the Christian Indians and their teachers should enjoy throughout their country equal rights and liberties with other Indians, and that, while all should be free to listen to the doctrine of the missionaries, no heathen Indians should be permitted to settle in the neighborhood of the Christian towns or in any wise disturb them. The Moravians had exacted a pledge of neutrality from the Delawares in the wars between the whites and Indians; in 1776, when the war of our Revolution began, they stood firm upon the maintenance of this pledge; and in the national council it was determined to keep faith with them. Schools for the children were maintained in the villages, and instruction was given from elementary books prepared by Zeisberger; and the religious activity of the ministers never ceased.

In the midst, however, of these happy and successful labors, the storm which was gathering to the eastward burst upon the whole country, and at last involved the Christian communities in ruin.

There had never been peace between the white settlers and the other Indian tribes, and now, at the outbreak of hostilities between the Colonies and England, the Delaware borders burned with warfare, the rumor of which beset the timid Moravian flocks with terror. In spite of the protection of the Delawares, they trembled at the threats of the tribes that accused them of secret alliance with the Americans; and they were especially afraid of the Monseys, — once a truculent and bloodthirsty people, but now extinct as the Spartans, — and, alarmed at the advance of a Monsey war party upon Schönbrunn, they abandoned that village and fled to Gnadenhütten, first taking care to destroy their beloved chapel, lest it should be desecrated by heathen powwows and dances. But the Monseys passed harmless by Schönbrunn, and in three days the Christians came back; though they finally abandoned the place, and drew nearer the Delaware capital of Goschocking, in Lichtenau. Here, with the fugitives from Gnadenhütten, which had been in like manner abandoned, they enlarged the chapel, and pushed forward their work of conversion and civilization. In time they returned to the deserted villages, and rebuilt Schönbrunn, which had been destroyed; but as new dangers threatened, and the Delawares seemed about to swerve from their neutrality, even Lichtenau was vacated, and the united congregations founded a new town, which they called Salem. Schönbrunn and Gnadenhütten were still inhabited; and the converts continued obedient to their teachers; laboring as their wont was, and enjoying seasons of prosperity and happiness with longer and longer intervals of disturbance. The war parties of the Wyandots had free passage to and from Virginia through the Delaware country, and the pioneers made their avenging forays over the same ground; the Christian villages were thus overrun by warlike guests, to whom they dared not deny their hospitality, and they came to be regarded with an evil eye by either side. The pioneers especially complained that they fed and comforted the murderous bands that preyed upon the borders, and desolated them with warfare as pitiless and indiscriminate as that waged by themselves, and forgot that the Moravians, claiming from the Indians a right earned by their hospitality, saved from blows and death the unhappy captives who were carried through their country, and when it was possible ransomed them, and sent them back to their friends. Indeed, according to the American and Moravian annalists alike, the Missionaries frequently forewarned the settlements of Indian forays, — not as spies in our interest, but as good men abhorring the cruelties of savage warfare, and anxious to avert its atrocities from helpless women and children. The authorities on either side recognized the vast advantage gained to the American cause by the neutrality in which they held the Delawares and the allies of that nation. At the most disastrous period of our Revolution, this neutrality was observed by a body of ten thousand warriors, whom the British vainly endeavored to incite against us, and it was not broken till the great contest had been virtually decided in our favor. President Reed of Philadelphia, in a letter to Zeisberger, thanked “him in the name of the whole country for his services among the Indians, particularly for his Christian humanity in turning back so many war parties on their way to rapine and massacres;” and there is no doubt of the merciful and beneficent attitude held toward us by a people afterwards requited with such murderous wrong.[6]

It had been the custom of some of the settlers to steal the horses of the Brethren, and the entire population of the border seems to have inherited that stupid hatred which everywhere attended the enterprises of the Moravians. Sometimes large bodies of pioneers, bent upon errands of theft and murder among the hostile Indians, would pass through the Christian country. Such a body once halted at Salem and asked provision; and then, while the greater part remained with their commandant, who was conversing with Heckewelder and assuring him of his respect for the Brethren, and his confidence in their neutrality, certain of the men stole away to destroy the other villages, and could scarcely be restrained from that purpose by their leader, to whom knowledge of it was happily brought in time.

On the other hand, the war parties of the Wyandots grew more and more insolent and exacting. They appeared in larger numbers and with greater appetites, and the hospitality offered them came to be a very oppressive tribute, which they occasionally acknowledged by threatening the lives of the teachers, whom they had often plotted to carry off to the English commandant at Detroit.

During the long summer months the Christian territory was infested by these unwelcome guests. It was a grateful relief, therefore, that the winter brought the teachers and elders, when the last party of warriors, in their paint and savage panoply, marched down the peaceful streets, chanting their melancholy farewell song, and doubtless taking some hearts among their civilized kindred; for here and there a young girl must have melted to look on their splendor, here and there a boy's heart leaped with delight in those free wild men; and even in some of the Brethren tempting memories of other days, when they, too, had trodden the war-path, may have been stirred by these sylvan notes. But the wives and mothers all rejoiced with the Moravians, when the distance hid the nodding plumes, and the last echo let the farewell song die. A profound peace fell upon the solitudes with the falling snow; for even if the woods had not now become impassable to the warriors, the drifts would have betrayed their steps beyond hope of concealment, and pursuit and vengeance would have too surely attended any raid upon the white settlements. And now, life in the Muskingum villages lapsed into a tranquillity broken only by the advent from the forest of some poor heathen, on whom the words of the ministers had wrought, and who came at last, with prayers and tears, entreating to be received into the brotherhood of the Christians. It was the season of social enjoyment, and the people, released from the labor of their farms, paid friendly visits between village and village, and from house to house, or all met in their chapels to celebrate those Love-Feasts, by which their church remembered the earliest Christians, — eating and drinking together, and joining in worship. It was also the time of in-doors industry; the loom clattered at the window, and the wheel murmured beside the hearth much the same music that the children made over Father Zeisberger's spelling-books in the well-ordered schools. No sound but that of the chapel bell broke upon these homely harmonies, save when some peaceful soul departed to its inheritance, and the people, according to the Moravian fashion, hailed its release from earthly tribulations with the jubilant sound of horns and clarionets, continuing their solemn exultation while the bearers of the dead carried their burden through the street to the house where it was prepared for burial. The winter was the great harvest of the missionaries, and they wrought zealously in their pious work, animating those who had grown cold, and call ing the unconverted to repentance. The churches grew in numbers and activity; and it must have been with something like a pang that the Moravians and their assistants saw the buds beginning to swell upon the naked boughs, and found the first violet in the woods.

All was changed with the return of spring, and with the renewal of every year the dangers of their people increased.

Most of the allies of the Delawares had at last joined in the war against the Americans, and there had grown up among the Delawares themselves a hostile faction, which constantly increased. The leaders of this party perceived that nothing but the presence of the Christian Indians hindered them from dragging the whole nation into the war, and all their efforts were bent to their removal. The commandant of the Americans at Pittsburg was also perfectly sensible of this fact. He seems to have been one of those humane, enlightened, and faithful soldiers who have been only too rarely intrusted with the control of our Indian relations, and the Delawares held him in the greatest love and honor. When they applied to him for advice, he counselled them to treat the wards of their nation with favor and kindness; and we may well believe, from the report of the missionaries, and from concurrent facts, that something better than mere policy prompted this advice. But his friendship in the end furnished the war Delawares with an accusation against the Moravians, and determined the English commandant before whom it was made to remove the Christians from the Muskingum. The letters from Pittsburg to the nation were craftily carried to the missionaries to be read and answered. They could not refuse this service, but they rendered it sorely against their will, for they feared that it would bring upon them the charge of alliance with the Americans and unfaithfulness to their neutrality, as indeed finally happened. When the missionaries confronted their chief accuser before the English commandant, the savage with deep grief and shame owned his fraud and declared them wholly innocent; but in the mean time the ruin of the villages had been compassed.

All the events leading to the final disaster are pathetic enough in themselves, and fantastic enough in their travesty of the fatalities by which greater states have fallen. A little wicked diplomacy, a great deal of ineffectual persuasion, appeals to the common sense of danger answered by a few weak souls, and a coup de main at last accomplished the purposes of the Indians against the Brethren. The war faction amongst the Delawares had already fruitlessly urged the Moravians to remove to the Miami country, when, on the 10th of August, 1781, a chieftain of the Hurons called the Half-King appeared in Salem at the head of a hundred and forty armed men, flying the Cross of St. George, and accompanied by Captain Elliott and a trader named McCormick. It does not appear certain that these Englishmen were regularly in the king's service, but on this occasion they gave his authority to the whole transaction, and the Half-King and his warriors acted under the direction of Elliott, who was deputed to this service by the governor of Detroit. They marched down the startled village street, and, after a halt on the borders of the place, passed on to Gnadenhütten, where their number was increased to three hundred by the arrival of Monseys and war Delawares. A week of riot and debauchery in the heathen camp celebrated these preliminary steps, but no acts of violence were committed against the Brethren; and, as soon as his followers had recovered from their drunken stupor, the Half-King, in full council, urged the converts to abandon a place where they were in continual peril from the Virginians, and to place themselves under the protection of the British at Sandusky. Being answered by the assistants that they were at peace with all men, and had no fear of the Virginians, and that, moreover, they were too heavy with substance to think of leaving their present homes, and must in any case delay giving a final answer till spring, the Half-King and his men declared themselves satisfied, and, as a clear expression of their minds, fired upon the British colors. Loskiel and Heckewelder dwell with sad unction upon the events which we need only allude to, telling us with much circumstance how Elliott now turned to evil account the departure of two of the Brethren to Pittsburg, whither they went to inform the commandant of their affairs, and to beg that he would not interfere, lest he should thereby confirm the Indians in their suspicions; how the warriors, incensed by Elliott's report that the Virginians were marching to the rescue of the Brethren, shot down their cattle and threatened their teachers; how the savage politicians tampered with the weaker converts, alluring them with pleasant pictures of the Sandusky country, and terrifying them with the fate that awaited them if they remained on the Muskingum; and how about one tenth of the Christians were brought to favor removal, and some were unhappy enough to give the hint upon which the savages afterwards acted, saying, “We look to our teachers; what they do, we likewise will do!”

By this time all the villages were in the utmost confusion; and at Gnadenhütten the women and children were in terror of their lives; many of the houses were sacked, and the cattle which had been shot down in the streets and fields sent up an intolerable stench. Well might Zeisberger write to Heckewelder: “It has the appearance as if Satan is again about to make himself merry by troubling and persecuting us. No wonder he grows angry when he sees how many of his subjects he loses by our preaching the gospel. His roaring, however, must not frighten us; we have a heavenly Father, without whose will he dare not touch us. Let us rely on Him who so often has delivered us from his machinations.” In the midst of these sorrows and troubles this good man meekly gathered his flock about him at Gnadenhütten, and preached to them for the last time in the beloved chapel, while enemies compassed them about; giving “a most emphatic discourse,” says Heckewelder, “on the great love of God to man,” and charging them in no event to place themselves “on a level with the heathen by making use of weapons” for their defence.

Soon after, the heathen, having received a repetition of the answer originally made them by the Christians, when they urged the removal of the latter, resolved to seize upon the missionaries, and compel their followers to abandon the Muskingum country. Their capture was easily effected, for they made no effort to escape, and the fears of the savages that the Brethren would attempt their rescue were idle. They patiently submitted to the outrage and insult offered them by the Monseys into whose hands they fell, and who, having stripped them of nearly all their clothing, carried them prisoners before Captain Elliott. The Englishman, who seems to have undertaken the expedition chiefly through a desire to profit by the distress and necessities of the Brethren, and who was particularly bent upon buying their cattle for a trifling sum to sell again at a great price in Detroit, had the grace to express some shame when these harmless men were brought maltreated and almost naked into his presence; but he did nothing to relieve them; indeed, he speculated in the clothing of which the savages had plundered their houses, and they were kept from bodily suffering only by the compassion of some of the heathen, who gave back part of their stolen gear, and the Brethren who brought them blankets. Their calamity was not the less real because it took at this and other times the face of comedy. Heckewelder's coat, restored to him without the skirts, and worn in that amusing state of mutilation, covered an aching heart, and the fortune that similarly made a jest of his associates, not the less afflicted them with anguish for the wreck of their just and good hopes, for the unhappiness of their people, and for the cruel state of their families: for their wives and children had likewise been seized by the heathen, and Sister Sensemann was driven from one village to another, with her babe four days old in her arms. As to their treatment by the warriors, in whose camp they were confined, “What incommoded us most,” says Heckewelder, with a quaint pathos, “was their custom of repeating the scalp yell so often for each of their prisoners during the night, as well as in the daytime; but this is a general custom with them, and is continued until the prisoner is liberated or killed. Another very incommoding custom they have is that of performing their war dances and songs during the night near their prisoners, — all which we had to endure, exclusive of being thereby prevented from enjoying sleep. Otherwise the addresses paid us by a jovial and probably harmless Ottawa Indian, who, having obtained of the Wyandot warriors sufficient of our clothes to dress himself as a white man, and placing a white nightcap on his head, being mounted on a horse, would ride through the camps, nodding to us each time he passed, caused much amusement through the camp, and in some measure to us also.” The men to whom this moderate diversion was offered had already been entertained by threats against their lives, and were at the moment of the Ottawa's pleasantries perhaps sufficiently amused in guessing what fate was reserved for them. They were very glad to be released at last on their promise (exacted by Elliott's command) that they would no longer resist the will of their captors, but would prepare at once to go with them to Sandusky. It was hard to persuade the Brethren that they were indeed to abandon their homes; and the missionaries had to call them, not only from the labors of the field, but from their efforts to repair the damages done by the warriors to their gardens and houses; and of one it is related that he was summoned to the general meeting at Salem, away from the new cottage on which he had just put the last touches of loving industry. But they all obeyed the appeals of their teachers, and on the 9th of September assembled from Gnadenhütten and Schönbrunn at Salem, where for the last time the three congregations met together in worship. “A most extraordinary sensation of the presence of the Lord comforted their hearts,” says Heckewelder; the gospel was preached, the holy sacrament was administered to the communicants, and, even in this hour of earthly extremity, a convert was baptized.

The Christians were in the mean time guarded by a body of the hostile Delawares. Many of these attended the service, which was in their tongue, and all treated the congregations with perfect decorum and respect; but on the next day the Half-King and his followers arrived, and renewed at Salem the scenes of rapine and devastation already enacted at Schönbrunn and Gnadenhütten. Then the teachers besought their captors to delay no longer, and on the third day, which was the 11th of September, the Brethren turned their faces from the valley of the Muskingum.

“Never,” says Heckewelder, “did the Christian Indians leave a country with more regret;” and he and his brother annalists, Holmes and Loskiel, briefly relate the losses the Brethren underwent, most of all lamenting the destruction of the writings and records of the little state, of the books of instruction and worship prepared with so much pains and labor for the converts and children, and now heaped into the streets and burned by the Wyandots, as a century before the Bibles of the Moravians were burnt by the Austrians. The total loss of the Christians is computed at twelve thousand dollars, — a great sum for that rude time and country and that humble people. The Wyandots had destroyed six hundred head of swine and cattle, and hundreds of young cattle had wandered into the woods. The crops of the last year were left in the garners; and three hundred acres of corn, ripe for harvest, nodded in the September sunshine, as the captives looked their last upon their beloved villages.

At Sandusky the Brethren halted and prepared to pass the winter; while their teachers were carried on to Detroit, where they confronted their accusers before the English governor, and were honorably acquitted. The season was very cold, and the miserable people, assembled on the bleak Sandusky shores without proper food and shelter, suffered greatly, and many little children died of cold and famine; but our story follows the fate only of those who from time to time stole back to the Muskingum, and gathered the corn yet standing in the fields for the rescue of the starving Brethren.

In March, 1782, a larger party than usual arrived at the deserted villages and began their belated harvest. Great number of these were women and children, and the men bore only such arms as served them in hunting. Even if their bloodless creed had permitted them to guard against the attacks of enemies, they would not have prepared to defend themselves in a region now abandoned by hostile Indians, and lying near the settlements of the whites whom they had so often befriended; for it was the firm belief of these ill-starred people that they had only to fear savages of their own race, and that they were all the safer for their proximity to the Americans. They worked eagerly and diligently, gathering the corn, and securing it in sacks for removal to Sandusky, and it would scarcely have alarmed them to know that Virginian spies had noted their presence and reported it in the settlements.

But on the border deadly influences were operating against them. In February, a party of Indians from Sandusky had fallen upon a lonely cabin, and had murdered all its inmates, with facts of peculiar atrocity. Earlier in the winter, a number of the Christians had been taken, while gathering corn on the Muskingum, and sent to Fort Pitt, where they were promptly liberated by the commandant. It was the public sentiment of the border, that these captives ought to have been killed, religiously as Canaanites and politically as Indians; and there was a very bitter feeling against their liberator, ex tending to Colonel Williamson, who had taken the prisoners and might have butchered them on the spot, instead of sending them to Fort Pitt. Williamson had been the most popular man in the backwoods, and he was deeply hurt by the reproach his clemency had brought upon him. He was, according to the testimony of the annalist[7] who most severely condemns the Gnadenhütten massacre, “a brave man, but not cruel. He would meet an enemy in battle, and fight like a soldier, but not murder a prisoner.” Out of these evil elements — bigotry, lust of vengeance, and a generous but weak man's shame — was shaped the calamity of the Christian Indians. As soon as it was noised through the settlements of Western Virginia and Pennsylvania that a large body of the converts had returned to the Muskingum, a band of a hundred and sixty pioneers hastily assembled, and, under the lead of Colonel Williamson, who burned to wipe out the stain of his former pity, advanced upon the deserted villages with the avowed purpose of putting the Indians to death. We must record, upon the unquestionable authority given below, that these murderers were not vagabonds or miscreants, but in many cases people of the first social rank in the settlements; and perhaps we ought to respect them as vigorous and original thinkers, whose ideas of an Indian policy still largely inspire us.

They hastily organized, and then pushed forward with an eagerness in their purpose which defied all attempts at order and discipline, if any were made. Their advance was not that of a military expedition, but consciously and evidently that of a band of robbers and cut-throats, descending upon victims from whom they expected no resistance. And throughout the whole transaction, as if their deed were to have the lustre of no virtue, they behaved with infamous cowardice as well as treachery.

It is pitiful to think of the blind trust and security in which their victims awaited them. The commandant at Fort Pitt, hearing of the expedition and its object, sent a messenger to warn the Christians of their peril, but he unhappily arrived too late. Yet they were not wholly taken unawares. Information of the approach of Williamson's men had reached them through another channel; but they quietly continued their labors, unable to believe that any harm was meant them; and the murderers found them in the fields at work.

In fact, they had almost completed their harvest, and they were preparing for an early departure when the whites appeared in their midst at Gnadenhütten. The first innocent life had been taken, and the hands extended in friendship to the Brethren were already stained with the blood of one of their number. About a mile from the village the whites found a half-breed boy, the son of the missionary Schebosch and his Indian wife, and, giving him a peaceful greeting, they approached and killed him with their tomahawks, he crying out between their blows that his father was a white man, and imploring them to spare him. To the main body of the Christians whom they found in the cornfields they now declared that they had come to remove them to Fort Pitt, where they would be safe from dangers that menaced them as the friends of the Americans, at the same time taking care to secure their rifles, lest in their extremity these helpless people should be tempted to make some effort at self-defence. The Brethren thanked them for their kindness, and mingled freely with their captors, who walked about among them, “engaging them in friendly conversation,” asking them concerning their civil and religious customs, and praising them for their practical Christianity. They persuaded them to send messengers with a detachment ordered to Salem, and urge the Brethren in the fields there to repair to Gnadenhütten. In the mean time, the whites remaining suddenly fell upon their bewildered prisoners and bound them; and the expedition, acting upon preconcerted measures, re-entered Gnadenhütten with the Salem converts disarmed and manacled.

Although the purpose of the campaign had been perfectly understood from the beginning, the officers were now loath to execute it upon their own responsibility: and it is Doddridge's belief, from his personal knowledge of Williamson's character, that if he had been an officer with due authority, and not merely the leader of a band of marauders, he would not have suffered any of his prisoners to be slain. But he was powerless, and could only refer their fate to a vote of his men. When, therefore, it was demanded, Should the Christian Indians be put to death, or should they be sent to Fort Pitt? only eighteen voted to spare their lives. It still remained a question whether they should be burned alive, or tomahawked and scalped; and the majority having voted for the latter form of murder, one of the assassins was deputed to inform the Indians, that, inasmuch as they were Christians, they would be given one night to prepare for death in a Christian manner.

It is related that the merciful eighteen reiterated their protests to the last against the atrocity, but neither their protests nor the appeals of the Indians availed. One of the women who had been educated at Bethlehem, and who spoke good English, fell upon her knees at Williamson's feet, and besought his protection; but the greater number of the victims seem to have submitted silently, with something of the old stoical fortitude of the savage, and some thing of the martyr's serene resignation. They embraced with tears and kisses, and asked forgiveness one of another, and thus meekly prepared themselves for their doom. They were Christians whose lives had witnessed to the sincerity of their conversion; and, now brought face to face with death, their faith remained unshaken. Among them were five of the national assistants, one of whom was well educated in English, and all of whom were men of exemplary thought and deed. These led the rest in the fervent prayers and hymns with which they wore away the night.

At dawn the assassins grew impatient of the delay they had granted, and sent to the Brethren, demanding whether they were not yet ready to die; and, being answered that they had commended their souls to God and received the assurance of His peace, the whites parted them, the men from the women and children, and placed them in two houses, to which, from some impulse of grotesque and ferocious drollery, they gave the name of the Slaughter-Houses.

Few even among those who had voted for the murder of the Brethren took part in the actual butchery. The great body of the whites turned aside from the ineffable atrocity, while those who with their own hands did the murder now entered the cabins.

The house in which the men were confined had been that of a cooper, and his mallet, abandoned in the removal of the preceding autumn, lay upon the floor. One of the whites picked it up, and saying “How exactly this will answer for the business!” made his way among the kneeling figures toward Brother Abraham, a convert, who, from being somewhat lukewarm in the faith, had in this extremity become the most fervent in exhortation. Then, while the clear and awful music of the victims' prayers and songs arose, this nameless murderer lifted his weapon and struck Abraham down with a single blow. Thirteen others fell by his hand before he passed the mallet to a fellow-assassin, with the words “My arm fails me. Go on in the same way. I think I have done pretty well.” In the house where the women and children awaited their doom the massacre began with Judith, a very old and pious widow; and in a little space, the voices of singing and of supplication failing one by one, the silence that fell upon the place attested the accomplishment of a crime which, for all its circumstances and conditions, must be deemed one of the blackest in history. The murderers scalped their victims as they fell, and, when the work was done, they gathered their trophies together and rejoined their comrades. But before nightfall they came again to the Slaughter-Houses for some reason; and as they entered that of the men, one of the Brethren who had been stunned and scalped, but not killed, lifted himself upon his hands, and turned his blood-stained visage towards them with a ghastly stare. They fell upon the horrible apparition, and it sank beneath their tomahawks to rise no more; and then, with that wild craving for excitement which seems the first effect of crime in the guilty, they set fire to the cabins, and, withdrawing to a little distance, spent the night in drunken revelry by the light of the burning shambles.

The sole witnesses of their riot were two Indian boys, who had almost miraculously escaped the general butchery, and who afterwards met in the woods outside of the village. One of them had been knocked down and scalped with the rest, and, reviving like the Brother who was killed on the return of the murderers to the Slaughter-Houses, had taken warning by his fate, and, feigning death, had fled as soon as they were gone. The other, having concealed himself beneath the house of the women and children, remained there, the blood dripping down upon him through the floor, until nightfall. A companion who had taken refuge with him, and attempted to escape with him through the cabin window, stuck fast and was burned to death.

“Thus,” says Bishop Loskiel, — “thus ninety-six persons magnified the name of the Lord by patiently meeting a cruel death;” and he adds in another place, with a meek self-denial of one who had fain claimed the greater glory for his people, that inasmuch as, from the admissions of the murderers, the Moravians were destroyed not as Christians, but as Indians, “I will not therefore compare them with the martyrs of the ancient Church, who were sometimes sacrificed in great numbers to the rage of their persecutors, on account of their faith in Christ. But this much I can confidently assert, that these Christian Indians approved themselves to the end as steadfast confessors of the truth, . . . and delivered themselves without resistance to the cruel hands of their bloodthirsty murderers, and thus bore witness to the truth and efficacy of the Gospel of Jesus.” Brother John Holmes, writing like Bishop Loskiel at a distance, accepts this strict construction of the position of the Indians in the Church; but Heckewelder, whose life for many years had been passed in the closest and tenderest association with these hapless victims, — who had doubtless been the means of conversion to many, who had joined them in marriage, and had baptized their little ones, who had shared their lowly joys and sorrows, sat at their boards and by the beds of their dying, — has no heart for these ecclesiastical niceties, but breaks into lamentation none the less touching because the words awkwardly express the anguish of his spirit: “Here they were now murdered, together with the little children! — the loving children who so harmoniously raised their voices in the chapel, at their singing-schools, and in their parents' houses, in singing praises to the Lord! — those whose tender years, innocent countenances, and tears made no impression on these pretended white Christians, were all butchered with the rest!”


What recoil of their crime, if any, there was upon the Gnadenhütten murderers themselves, is not certainly known. A dim tradition, one of the few in the West which have not yet hardened into print, relates that their leader in after years lost the popular favor that he consented to buy at so dear a cost. Old friends looked on him coldly, and the humanity of a younger generation regarded him with horror. He could never be brought to speak of the atrocious deed, and his men shunned all talk of it. But since, in the year following the massacre, the same leader and men organized a force to complete their work of murder by taking off the remaining converts in this refuge at Sandusky, it may be doubted whether the defeat that attended this effort, and the burning of such of their number as were captured by the Indians, in avowed revenge for the murder of the Christians, were not the only regrettable circumstances connected in their minds with the Gnadenhütten massacre, until a better and more civilized public sentiment illumined them. Their act at the time did not lack defenders in Eastern gazettes, and many years afterwards Heckewelder tells that he met and rebuked a ruffian who justified them, and regretted that they had not killed all the Christian Indians. It is true that the Gnadenhütten murderers but fulfilled a long-cherished purpose of the backwoodsmen, which had been formed and attempted twenty years earlier in Pennsylvania; and it can be said, in their defence, that they had provocation as well to cruelty as to mercy. The race and color of their victims represented to them the pitiless savages who had so often desolated their homes, sparing neither age nor sex, and holding them in continual wrath and terror; and though many white prisoners owed their welfare or their ransom to the humane offices of the Moravians, the compulsory hospitality of the Muskingum villages to the war parties of marauding Indians was, as has been said, a constant offence to the pioneers. Yet this offence, at the time of the massacre, had entirely ceased, through the removal of the Christians to Sandusky, and the murder was utterly wanton. Doubtless the slaughter of a few Indians, more or less, was not quite a crime to their tough consciences; in the ethics of the border, according to Heckewelder, it was no more harm to kill an Indian than a buffalo, — a sentiment which with contemporary moralists of our Western plains finds expression in the maxim, “Good Indians dead Indians.” We can perhaps hardly arraign these murderers before any tribunal of civilized thought; but their deed was nevertheless hideous, and it was most lamentable in its consequences, for it weakened, if it did not break, the hope of a whole race. It was so horrible, that in the face of it the Moravians never regained full courage, nor the Indians full trust; and though the Moravian mission to the Delawares continued for some forty years thereafter, the early vigor of the enterprise was never restored.

The crime, indeed, had the far-reaching consequences of every evil action; it embittered the warfare between the whites and Indians in ten-fold degree, and filled their infrequent truces with hazard and doubt. Nay, it seems to have broken up all foundation of faith as well as mercy between the two races; many of the converts themselves relapsed into heathenism, and were lost among the multitude of warriors; and when the Moravians sent to seek these out and reclaim them, they sometimes found their bewildered minds filled with a dreadful and unimagined suspicion. “I cannot,” said such a one to the Indian brother who discovered him among the warlike savages, painted and armed like the rest, — “I cannot but have bad thoughts of our teachers. I think it was their fault that so many of our countrymen were murdered at Gnadenhütten. They betrayed us and informed the white people of our being there, by which they were enabled to surprise us with ease. Tell me now, is this the truth or not?” This poor soul had lost all his children and most of his kindred in the massacre, and even when brought to see the injustice of his suspicions, he was impotent to repair the wrong or to return to his old life. “I have now a wicked and malicious heart,” he said, mournfully, “and therefore my thoughts are evil. As I look outwardly,” he continued, pointing to his crimson paint and warrior's plumes, “so is my heart within. What would it avail if I were outwardly to appear as a believer, and my heart were full of evil?”[8]

There yet stands beside the Muskingum, near the site of the hapless Indian village, a little hamlet bearing the pious name of Gnadenhütten, and its chapel bells still call the Moravian Brethren to the worship of their ancient church. But no Christian of Indian blood shares in the celebration of its rites; the stone foundations of the cabins, some aged apple-trees planted by their hands, and a few pathetic traces of the fire that consumed the victims of the massacre, alone remain to attest the success and the disastrous close of the Moravians' loving and devoted labors at Gnadenhütten. The survivors of the great murder and of the cold and famine of that winter at Sandusky attempted a settlement in Canada under British protection, and later built a village in Northern Ohio; but they always longed to return to the Muskingum, to their old fields, and to the scenes endeared to them by so many years of happiness and consecrated by the sufferings of so many of their kindred. Before the close of the century this wish was gratified through the Congressional grant to the Christian Indians of all the lands assigned them by the Delawares; and they came back and founded near the ruins of Schönbrunn a new town called Goshen. Their teachers came with them, and Heckewelder, assisted by a Moravian Brother, gathered together the charred bones of the Indian martyrs, and gave them Christian burial.[9] But the life of the experiment was gone, as if their hopes had been buried in that grave. Defeat met the renewed efforts at conversion; the influences of the border infected the broken and disheartened people; Zeisberger died; the rigid laws of the community were trampled upon by the borderers, among whom the war of 1812 revived all the old bitterness against the Indians; drink was brought into the village; and, before the removal of the community to Canada in 1823, the spectacle of drunken converts in the streets bore witness, if not to the inherent viciousness of the Indian, at least to the white man's success in tempting and depraving him.


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  1. History of the Mission of the United Brethren among the Indians in North America. In Three Parts. By George Henry Loskiel. Translated from the German by Christian Ignatius La Trobe. London, 1794.
  2. The gallant Colonel Bouquet, who penetrated to the Muskingum country, at the head of a small army, some eight years before Zeisberger's arrival, and forced the Delawares to make peace and deliver their prisoners to him, found the whole region surpassingly fertile and attractive, watered by fine streams and springs, and dotted with “savannahs or cleared spots, which are by nature extremely beautiful.”
  3. A narrative of the mission of the United Brethren among the Delaware and Mohican Indians, from its Commencement in the Year 1740 to the Close of the Year 1808. Comprising all the remarkable Incidents which took place at their Mission ary Stations during that Period. Interspersed with Anecdotes, Historical Facts, Speeches of Indians, and other Interesting Matter, by John Heckewelder, who was many Years in the Service of that Mission. Philadelphia: McCarty and Davis. 1820.
  4. The life and labors of so good and useful a man as this should not be suffered to fall into forgetfulness, and the reader will be glad to know that the Rev. Edmund de Schweinitz, a distinguished minister of the United Brethren at Bethlehem, formerly editor of The Moravian newspaper, and now President of the Moravian Theological Seminary, has written a very complete biography of Zeisbsrger. This work, which is the fruit of many years' diligence and thorough research among the records of the missionaries and the other archives of the Church, is a most important contribution to American history, in a department hitherto neglected by students, and almost an unknown land to the mere general reader. Mr. De Schweinitz's volumes contain a full history of the events sketched here.
  5. Letter of the Rev. Edmund de Schweinitz.
  6. Letter to the author from Rev. Edmund de Schweinitz.
  7. Notes on the Settlement and Indian Wars of the Western Parts of Virginia and Pennsylvania, from the Year 1763 to 1783 inclusive, together with a View of the State of Society and Manners of the First Settlers of the Western Country. By the Rev. Dr. Jos. Doddridge, Wellsburg, Va. Printed at the office of the Gazette, for the Author. 1824.
  8. Loskiel.
  9. Rev. Edmund de Schweinitz's letter from Gnadenhütten, in “The Moravian.”



University Press: John Wilson & Son, Cambridge.