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- 1 2016-08-19T13:35:52-07:00 Will Fenton 82bf9011a953584cd702d069a30cbdb6ef90650a A Narrative of the Late Massacres Will Fenton 2 A narrative of the late massacres, in Lancaster County, of a number of Indians, friends of this province, by persons unknown. With some observations on the same. gallery 2018-02-12T01:37:11-08:00 [Philadelphia] : Printed [by Franklin and Hall?], in the year M,DCC,LXIV.  Franklin, Benjamin, 1706-1790. Call number: Am 1764 Fra Ar 64 f.83 Generally attributed to Benjamin Franklin. Ascribed to the press of Franklin and Hall by Miller on the basis of the typeface used. Evans, Hildeburn, and P.L. Ford suggest Anthony Armbruster as printer. Sabin says "Written and printed by Franklin." Signatures: A-B? (B8 verso blank). Evans, C. American bibliography, 9667; English short title catalogue (ESTC), W17009; Hildeburn, C.R. Pennsylvania, 1992; Miller, C.W. Franklin, 807; Sabin, J. Dictionary of books relating to America from its discovery to the present time, 25557. Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Will Fenton 82bf9011a953584cd702d069a30cbdb6ef90650a
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The following issues of the Pennsylvania Gazette were digitized by the American Antiquarian Society thanks to the support of a Lapidus Initiative Digital Collections Fellowship from the Omohundro Institute of Early American History & Culture. One outstanding issue (29 December 1763) has been generously supplied by the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts. (Please reference Credits for complete acknowledgements.)
One of the most prominent newspapers in colonial America, the Pennsylvania Gazette was printed by Benjamin Franklin himself. Given Franklin’s active participation in the Paxton debate, his paper offers a backdrop against which to read his arguments and to measure changes in colonial settlement policy.
The Gazette also offers a rich, weekly record of affairs within in the colony and across the Atlantic.
The publication traverses the Paxton print debate (1763-64) and situates that massacre in a wider context of indigenous warfare. The 23 curated issues span from Pontiac’s Rebellion (June 9, 1763) through the 1764 election results (December 27, 1764).
Read Will Fenton's post on Uncommon Sense for a longer a discussion of the Pennsylvania Gazette and the Paxton massacre.
Alongside the aforementioned issues of the Pennsylvania Gazette, LancasterHistory has digitized two excerpts from The Gentleman's Magazine, a periodical published in London between 1731-1922, and one issue of the London Chronicle. Notably, the April 1764 issues of both the Gentleman's Magazine and the London Chronicle include a version of Benjamin Franklin's Narrative of the Late Massacres.
We have currently digitized 27 issues of the Gazette, Gentleman's Magazine, and London Chronicle, arranged chronologically in the path below "Contents."
media/1717 first map showing Indiantown_edited-1.jpg
A History of Conestoga Indiantown
Darvin L. Martin
Conestoga Indiantown was at the forefront of Native American/Colonial relations in the eighteenth-century mid-Atlantic. The colonies of Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia each signed treaties through Conestoga concerning a range of Native American issues that impacted the entire continent as Europeans traveled west.
In hundreds of accounts written between 1701 and its demise in 1763, Indiantown served as a reference point in the first surveys to determine the Pennsylvania/Maryland border 16 miles to the south (Colonial Records of Pennsylvania). The records indicate that as Europeans moved in, Indiantown was increasingly regarded as a reservation and its inhabitants made increasingly dependent on both the Pennsylvania government and their European neighbors for sustenance.
This essay will explore the history of Conestoga Indiantown, its people, and their displacement after the Paxton massacre.
The Susquehannock Nation
The Susquehannock Nation finds its roots in the Seneca Nation of western New York. Beginning in the early 1400s, Susquehannock peoples differentiated themselves from the Seneca, and migrated south-east, downstream along the river which now bears their name, to settle in what is now Lancaster County, Pennsylvania (Kent 13-18). By the mid-1500s, Susquehannock culture dominated trade along the Susquehanna River and established several cities along its eastern shore, both north and south of the confluence of the Conestoga River with the Susquehanna. They grew maize, beans, at least six species of squash, tobacco, paw-paw fruit, at least two species of chenopodium, marshelder and maygrass, and engaged in hunting, fishing, beadwork, weaving, flint knapping, construction, and trade through a network that extended at least from modern-day Louisiana to Quebec (Minderhout 30ff; Ward 231ff).
Captain John Smith referenced the Susquehannock in his account of exploration regarding the Chesapeake Bay in 1608 (Smith 58-61). Smith was surprised to find the Susquehannocks trading French goods from Quebec, a colony founded just a few years earlier. The Susquehannocks were also noted by the Swedish missionary Johannes Campanius, in 1645, when he described a fort located twelve Swedish miles (about 80 English miles) from New Sweden (now Wilmington, Delaware). “They came daily to trade with us…They live on a high mountain…there they have a fort, a square building surrounded with palisades…They have guns and small iron canon.” (Holm 157-158).
Due to colonial pressures and the traumatic effect of disease introduced by Europeans, however, the Native population soon declined precipitously. Europeans considered the effect as “divine providence,” the natural winnowing of a once powerful people (Carlisle and Golson 108ff). In the 1670s, the Susquehannocks, now possessing far lesser influence, moved to the west side of the Susquehanna River, which was claimed by the government of Maryland.
In May 1680, about 300 Susquehannocks were forcibly relocated from the lower village and placed in Maryland on a reservation 100 miles to the south near the first cataracts of the Potomac River (Maryland Archives). The reservation was rampant with disease and created systemic dependency, stripping the Susquehannocks of the ability to practice their culture and teach their children native values. Within two years scores of natives fled the reservation, and by any means possible, attempted to return to their homeland.
Between 1682 and 1685, this group had reconnected with others and settled just south of the 40th parallel on the east side of the Susquehanna, about four miles inland (Jennings 198-199). They numbered about 200 people, and assumed the name Conestoga, and are henceforth known as the Conestoga Indians.
They settled in the heart of what later became Penn’s Manor, and area of 16,000 acres initially restricted from colonial settlement (Kenny 21-22). William Penn allegedly visited the Natives at this location on his second visit to Pennsylvania in 1701. The 1717 Taylor survey of “Conestoga Manor” clearly shows “Indiantown” immediately north of John Cartledge’s 300 acre tract (PA 4:49).
After William Penn’s death in 1718, the established Manor was gradually broken up for European settlement. By the time a new survey was drawn up in 1737, 414 acres remained surrounding the native village of “Indiantown.” The 414 acres were bracketed by farms established by English Quakers and Swiss-German Mennonites.
In 1739, a Swiss-German neighbor by the name of Michael Bachman attempted to obtain the last of the Native lands—the very acres upon which the remaining Susquehannocks had settled. He went to Philadelphia and presented a request in which he claimed he could convince the Indians to remove themselves from the manor so that he could “purchase the spot where the old Indian town stands with the whole vacancy” (Taylor 147). James Logan denied the request, as the Indians of Conestoga were necessary as a listening post for broader Indian affairs.
Seven Years’ War
English frontiersmen turned against Conestoga Indiantown during the prologue leading into the French and Indian War. Gross atrocities occurred on both sides of the conflict brewing in the 1740s and exasperated into full scale guerilla warfare in the 1750s. However, Indiantown remained reclusive and largely peaceful.
Those joining the war effort left Indiantown for the front lines of battle to the north and west. The small band of Conestogas that remained on 414 acres in southern Manor Township became trapped within this “reservation.” They were fearful of carrying guns to hunt beyond their small acreage. Even traveling outside the reservation to sell handmade baskets and bowls aroused the suspicion of a local public, which grew discontent with the native presence, and sought to take over their lands.
Many of the Conestoga at Indiantown had converted to Christianity. They took on Christian names and named their children after their English and German neighbors. The local Lancaster government distanced itself from the administrative duties regarding Indiantown, and by default such responsibility rested squarely on the Quaker government in Philadelphia. Clinging to a three-generation old arrangement made by William Penn, Indiantown petitioned the Philadelphia government directly to settle its grievances. Quaker justice James Wright and German Mennonite Abraham Herr, who both lived near Indiantown, were appointed by the Pennsylvania government to supply them with flour and basic necessities (“Recollections”). Mennonite gunsmith Abraham Newcomer began to refuse serving the Natives at Conestoga Indiantown for fear that their guns and knives were being used against white frontiersmen (Dunbar 282).
In Colonial Records (Vol. 9, p.88) we find the last address from the Conestoga, dated November 30, 1763:
Pennsylvanian frontiersmen, particularly of Scots-Irish descent, festered increasing resentments against the Quaker-led Pennsylvanian government and its apparent sympathy for the Native people. The frontiersmen sought to defend their squatter properties from both Native American raids and the Pennsylvania Provincial Council. Suspicious that the peaceful natives of Conestoga Indiantown were providing aid and intelligence to the hostile natives on the frontier, these vigilantes formed their own militia with the goal of exterminating the local natives.
To the Honorable John Penn, esquire, lieutenant Governor and Commander-in-chief of the Province of Pennsylvania,
Brother: We (the Conestoga Indians) take the present opportunity, by Captain Montour, to welcome you into this Country by this string of Wampum and as we are settled at this place by an agreement of peace and amity established between your grandfathers and ours, we now promise ourselves your favor and protection, and as we have always lived in peace and quietness with our Brethren and neighbors round us during the last and present Indian Wars, we hope now, as we are deprived from supporting our families by hunting, as we formerly did, you will consider our distressed situation and grant our women and children some clothing to cover them this winter. The government has always been kind enough to allow us some provisions, and did formerly appoint people to take care of us, but as there is no person to take that upon him, and some of our neighbors have encroached upon the tract of land reserved here for our use, we would now beg our brother, the Governor to appoint our friend Captain Thomas McKee, who lives near us and understands our language, to take care and see Justice done us.
SOHAYS, his mark
CUYANGUERRYCOEA, his mark
SAGUYASOTHA (JOHN), his mark (Colonial Records 9:88)
Right of Conquest
The Paxtons’ intent to kill every Conestogan, every adult or child who could claim inheritance, furthered their goals to take control of Indiantown. Immediately following the massacre, the Paxtons cited “the right of conquest,” claiming themselves as victorious with the right to claim ownership of a conquered territory. However, the property had been effectively managed as a reservation for decades by the Pennsylvania government in Philadelphia. Following the massacre, the property’s management was assumed by Sir William Johnson, the British-commissioned superintendent of Indian affairs for the colonies. Johnson appointed Jacob Whisler, a Mennonite neighbor, as the property’s caretaker (PA 1:119).
On March 12, 1764, Whisler wrote an urgent letter to Surveyor General William Peters, in which he said that two men came to his home to inform him that nine or ten Paxton families intended to settle the town by right of conquest. In April, Whisler wrote again, informing the authorities that two families were already living on the land and a third was plowing it. When approached by Whisler, the squatters claimed they would defend their rights for the conquered land to the death. Whisler identified the families as that of Richard Meloon and Robert Bow (Brubaker 131).
The Lancaster Magistrate Edward Shippen also reported to governor Penn that settlers were building new log houses on the Indian land and that an elderly couple named Magginty was living in one of the existing “Indian Wigwams.” However, both Edward Shippen and Thomas Barton, the rector at St. James Episcopal Church, issued pamphlets defending the acts of the Paxton militia. Shippen’s influence in 1763 was extensive. With the Philadelphia government demanding the identity and detention of the killers, the Paxton Boys could not have evaded arrest without the help of Shippen.
Four years later, the land was still occupied. On January 13, 1768, the Pennsylvania assembly, through speaker Joseph Galloway, addressed the governor, reiterating that the respected colonial general Thomas Gage (later Governor of Massachusetts) and Sir William Johnson were dissatisfied with the management of Indiantown and that the perpetrators who murdered “a number of Seneca and other Indians,” had “eluded the hands of justice” (Colonial Records 9:409). The assembly gave voice to a concern among the continental governing authorities that the Indian lands were settled without the consent of the Indians themselves, namely the Seneca nation. A plan was developed to insure that Conestoga Indiantown was “officially” returned to the Pennsylvania government, and no Indian could ever lay claim to it again.
Treaty of Fort Stanwix
On November 5, 1768, Johnson signed a treaty with the Six Nations of the Iroquois at the strategic Fort Stanwix (present-day Rome, New York). In the treaty the Iroquois relinquished lands beyond their scope, extending the British boundary from the Alleghenies west through the full course of the Ohio River to the Tennessee River. The treaty effectively granted all of Pennsylvania south of the West branch of the Susquehanna, and all of modern-day West Virginia and Kentucky south of the Ohio River. And here, near the end of the verbiage of the treaty, specifically by name, the commissioners presented 500 dollars to the Seneca and Cayuga peoples “in full satisfaction of the ‘Conostoga Lands,’ which by the death of that People became vested in the Proprietaries.” The treaty stated that Pennsylvania “freely gave this sum as a farther Proof of the regard of that Province, for them, and of their concern for the unhappy fate of the Conostogas” (Marshall; full text available here). The payment was not made in standard British currency, but in dollars, presumedly the popular Spanish silver dollar of the time. The approximate exchange of four Spanish dollars equaled one British pound.
Many of the Shawnee, Lenape, Cherokee, and various other tribes who lived throughout the lands negotiated in the treaty, did not acknowledge or agree to the terms and conditions. And as we find later, both Seneca and Cayuga Peoples challenged the claim to Conestoga Indiantown.
Meanwhile, the Philadelphia government considered the Lancaster magistrate responsible for arresting a detaining the perpetrators of the Conestoga massacre. No one was arrested, but instead, after the treaty was signed, Jacob Whister was dismissed from his appointment as caretaker of the property. That responsibility instead was handed to Thomas Barton, the Episcopalian rector who earlier issued a pamphlet condemning Benjamin Franklin’s remarks about the massacre and justifying the actions of the Paxton boys (Myers).
Barton almost immediately moved from his parsonage to Indiantown, and rebuilt the fences, constructed a barn and planted an apple orchard inside 50 acres of cleared land. In December 1770, he wrote a letter to Edmund Physick, the Penns’ land agent and suggested that occupying the land was not solely his idea or Johnson’s. He said his friends and he made the decision, that the governor endorsed such a decision to occupy the land, exactly as Whisler had done. Barton told Physick that he improved the property. At the time he moved there (1768) the fences were decayed, and the property was without “house, barn, nor stable, except two cabins erected by the Paxton people” (Brubaker 140-141).
In May of 1775, eight Cayuga Indians journeyed down the Susquehanna to Conestoga to petition their own claim to Indiantown. They proceeded to Philadelphia, where a council was held with them on May 16th. Three of the eight claimed to be the closest living survivors of Sohays, who lived at Conestoga. One claimed to be Sohays’ brother. The Governor revealed a copy of the Stanwix Treaty and described that the land had already been paid. He claimed that a value in goods equal to “200 pounds York money” was paid to Togaiato, the Cayuga Chief, to be distributed as he saw fit. However, for their trouble and journey, the Governor granted the claimant party of eight a total of 300 dollars. The Cayuga accepted the payment and signed the back of the treaty forfeiting their claim to Indiantown (Mombert 280ff). As before, the Pennsylvania government negotiated with the Indians using Spanish dollars.
The Deed is Done
On September 16, 1780, an official deed was created for Indiantown. The deed mentioned the original Jacob Taylor Survey of 1717, which partitioned 16,000 acres as Penn’s Manor, including Indiantown by name. The deed also mentioned the treaty at Fort Stanwix, declaring that the next of kin to the murdered Natives forfeit all “right, title and interest to said Indian Town and the lands thereto belonging.” Finally, the deed stipulated 414 ¾ undivided acres, owned in fourths. John Musser, the Mennonite land agent of Lancaster, was granted one-fourth for the sum of 1,244 pounds 5 shillings lawful money of Pennsylvania in gold or silver. The remaining three-fourths were sold to Robert Morris, esquire of Philadelphia, for 3,750 pounds (Deed Book BB-28-38).
The amount that the Philadelphia government paid in 1768 (500 Spanish dollars or 125 pounds) increased forty-fold when the government sold the tracts twelve years later. Over the same time period the farms adjacent to Indiantown significantly decreased in monetary value due to the American Revolution.
Pennsylvania purposely did not pay a fair price to the Indians for these lands. This is a common theme we find throughout this tragic history. While written on September 16, 1780, the deed was not recorded until November 16, 1784. There is no record detailing what happened to the property between 1780 and 1784. It is probably during this period that squatters were removed. The deed would not have been finalized until the land was cleared of potential claims and could be subdivided for new settlement.
John Musser acted as the local representative of Robert Morris’ land speculation. Morris represented Pennsylvania in the Second Continental Congress from 1775 to 1778, and extensively financed the American Revolution, giving one million pounds to pay the Continental troops under Washington. Morris owned numerous ships that carried cargo from Cuba and the West Indies to France, Spain, and Italy. He engaged in profiteering and seized illegal cargo in the West Indies, which is quite possibly why the Pennsylvania treasury paid Indians in Spanish dollars (Rappleye). The new United States Congress appointed Morris as the United States superintendent of finance from 1781 to 1784.
John Musser took the first steps to divide up Indiantown a year after the deed was recorded. He sold 63 acres and 63 perches to the neighbor to the south, James Pratt on January 1, 1786 for 1,014 pounds (Deed Book EE-543). Pratt later transferred this property to his son William. Thirty days later, on Jan 31, 1786, Musser paid Morris for the remainder of Indiantown (Morris’s ¾ investment), for 7,000 pounds (Deed Book FF-122). After this, Musser continued to divide up Indiantown.
Today, Chief’s Hill (also known as Indian Round Top) is the wooded patch inside property #19. The top of the mound is located where the western corner of property #20 is adjacent to the wooded patch. This mound is named for Togodhessah (Chief Civility), who as a young chief, addressed the Philadelphia government council on October 15, 1714, saying, “our Old Queen (Conguegos) is in the Indian mound, the aged warriors are dead; we are young buds of the old tree; we never saw our Great Father (Connoodaghtoh), but we shall keep the peace as long as the waters run or the sun continues to shine” (Colonial Records 2:574).
This essay was derived from Darvin Martin’s “The Case for Conestoga Indiantown” (2015). To learn more about Martin, visit the Creators page.
- Jack Brubaker. Massacre of the Conestogas: On the Trail of the Paxton Boys in Lancaster County. History Press, 2010.
- Rodney P. Carlisle and J. Geoffrey Golson, eds. Native America from Prehistory to First Contact. ABC-CLIO, 2006.
- Colonial Records of Pennsylvania, Vol. 2 & 9. Harrisburg, Printed by T. Fenn & Co. 1831-1853.
- Deed Book BB-28-38, EE-543, and FF-122. Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
- John R Dunbar. The Paxton Papers. The Hague: Martinus Nijhof, 1957.
- Thomas Campanius Holm. Description of the Province of new Sweden, now called by the English, Pennsylvania in America. Pennsylvania: McCarty & Davis, 1834.
- Francis Jennings. The Ambiguous Iroquois Empire. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1990.
- Kevin Kenny. Peaceable Kingdom Lost: The Paxton Boys and the Destruction of William Penn’s Holy Experiment. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.
- Barry C. Kent. Susquehanna’s Indians. Harrisburg: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 2001.
- Peter Marshall. “Sir William Johnson and the Treaty of Fort Stanwix, 1768.” Journal of American Studies 2 (1967): 149-179.
- Maryland Archives, Vol. 15, p. 280, dated May 12, 1680.
- David J. Minderhout, ed. Native Americans in the Susquehanna River Valley, Past and Present. Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 2013.
- Jacob Isidor Mombert. An Authentic History of Lancaster County. Lancaster: J. E. Barr & Company, 1869.
- James P. Myers Jr. “The Rev. Thomas Barton’s Authorship of The Conduct of the Paxton Men, Impartially Represented (1764),” Pennsylvania History 61 (Apr. 1994): 155-84.
- Pennsylvania State Archives, Vol. 1 & 9.
- Charles Rappleye. Robert Morris: Financier of the American Revolution. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010.
- John Smith. The Generall Historie of Virigina, New England and the Summer Isles, Book 3, 1624.
- Isaac Taylor. Dec 3, 1739, Papers Read Before the Lancaster County Historical Society. Lancaster, 1896.
- H. Trawick Ward. “The Susquehannock Connection.” Excavating Occaneechi Town: Archaeology of an Eighteenth-Century Indian Village in North Carolina. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 1998.
Accounts of the Paxton incident published between December 1763 and January 1764 did not look favorably upon the conduct of the Paxton Boys. Emphasizing the particulars of Indian violence and condemning the vigilantes’ violation of law and order, these early pamphlets shaped future critiques. Paxton apologists didn’t gain traction until the spring of 1764.
David Henderson, Account of the Indian Murders (Lancaster, December 27, 1763).In a letter written after the march on the Lancaster jailhouse but before their march to Philadelphia, David Henderson emphasizes the injustice of the Paxton attacks.
John Penn. By the Honourable John Penn (Philadelphia, 1764).Governor Penn calls for the immediate arrest of the Paxton Boys in this proclamation. Printed on January 2, 1764, this broadside reflects the governor’s second condemnatory proclamation, the first printed on December 22, 1763, after their massacre at Conestoga Indiantown but before their attack on the Lancaster jailhouse.
Charles Read, Copy of a Letter from Charles Read (Philadelphia, 1764).This early account the Conestoga massacre anticipates arguments Franklin popularizes with Narrative. Read presents the Paxtons as the real savages, murderers who should suffer the punishment of the law. He holds that the Susquehannock are subjects of the crown and entitled to security, an argument less grounded in ethics than economics.
Benjamin Franklin. Narrative of the Late Massacres (Philadelphia, 1764).Benjamin Franklin’s influential pamphlet created a template for Paxton critiques. He emphasizes the need for law and order. Franklin also personalizes the Susquehannock by using their English names, describing familial relationships, and providing detailed accounts of their slaughter. Meanwhile, he condemns the Scotch-Irish frontiersmen as “CHRISTIAN WHITE SAVAGES.”
Anonymous, A Serious Address (Philadelphia, 1764).Published contemporaneously with Narrative, this pamphlet provides the first insinuations of Paxton apology. The author complains of “too general Approbation” of the killings, despite their being “contrary to the Laws of Nations.” The pamphlet’s appearance of impartiality earned it significant popularity: Serious Address was republished in four editions.
Continue to Quakers in the Crosshairs: The Early Paxton Debate.
American History assignment suitable for one 90-minute class period. This assignment asks students to engage with an artwork as a primary source document, rhetorical object, and to consider its role in shaping historical memory. In addition to fulfilling related Common Core standards (History) this lesson fulfills two Pennsylvania academic standards (Arts & Humanities). Lesson pairs well with An Interview with the Paxton Boys and Transcribing the Paxton Boys.
- What makes art rhetorically effective?
- Why and for whom are artworks produced?
- Students will describe how print and visual sources shape popular conceptions of Pennsylvania history.
- Students will research motivations of printers and visual artists.
- Penn's Treaty with the Indians
- A Narrative of the Late Massacres (first six pages)
- The German Bleeds & Bears Ye Furs (optional)
- Internet access for Digital Paxton and Google Drive
- Student laptops
- Classroom projector
- Assignment sheets
- Do-Now sheets
Download a printable version of this background information.
Where are their Voices?
Students will use the graphic novel Ghost River: The Fall and Rise of the Conestoga to give voice to Leni Lenape, Conestoga, and Moravian Indians by analyzing primary source materials from the Paxton massacres and 1764 pamphlet war. This lesson provides a pedestal for students to explore colonial bias and stereotypes. Students will use primary sources to develop an historical understanding of how local Native peoples were excluded from colonial records of the incident.
- How were the voices of local Native Americans suppressed or excluded from the 1764 pamphlet war?
- How were local Native Americans stereotyped in primary source materials?
- How do printed materials (e.g. political cartoons) compare to unpublished materials (diaries)?
- How were the Native Americans interned in Philadelphia used to sway public opinion against Paxton critics such as Benjamin Franklin and the Quakers in the Pennsylvania Assembly?
- How does Ghost River give voice to those Native peoples?
- Describe the representation of local Native Americans in primary source materials.
- Use contrasting primary and secondary sources to understand the perspectives of both colonialists and Native Americans.
- Use primary sources (a painting, political cartoon, and diary) to better understand a secondary source (Ghost River).
- Develop structured and coherent writing that uses textual evidence to make an argument about the Native Americans involved in the Paxton incident.
Grade Level: Grades 9 and 10
- CC.8.6.9-10.C: Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
- CC.8.6.9-10.H: Draw evidence from informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
- CC.8.5.9-10.F: Compare the point of view of two or more authors for how they treat the same or similar topics, including which details they include and emphasize in their respective accounts.
- CC.8.5.9-10.I: Compare and contrast treatments of the same topic in several primary and secondary sources.
Excerpt from Kevin Kenny, Peaceable Kingdom Lost:
The Paxton Boys, frontier militiamen on an unauthorized expedition, struck Conestoga Indiantown at dawn on December 14, 1763. "Fifty-seven Men, from some of our Frontier Townships, who had projected the Destruction of this little Commonwealth," Benjamin Franklin wrote in his Narrative of the Late Massacres in Lancaster County, "came, all well-mounted, and armed with Firelocks, Hangers [a kind of short sword] and Hatchets, having travelled through the Country in the Night, to Conestogoe Manor." Only six people were in the town at the time, "the rest being out among the neighboring White People, some to sell the Baskets, Brooms and Bowls they manufactured." The Paxton Boys killed these six and burned their settlement to the ground.
The Conestoga people lived on a 500-acre tract, which William Penn had set aside for them seventy years earlier, near the town of Lancaster, one hundred miles west of Philadelphia. By 1763 only twenty Conestoga people were living there—seven men, five women, and eight children.
After the murders, local magistrates removed the remaining fourteen residents to the Lancaster jail and workhouse for their safety, but on December 27 the Paxton Boys rode into that town to continue the attack they had started two weeks earlier. Fifty men, "armed as before, dismounting, went directly to the Work-house and by Violence broke open the Door," Franklin reported, "and entered with the utmost Fury in their Countenances." Within a matter of minutes they had slaughtered the fourteen individuals sheltering at the workhouse, including the eight children.
The Paxton men were fully aware of the symbolic and political significance of their actions. They murdered unarmed, peaceable Conestoga people to make the point that all Indians were the same. And they slaughtered the Conestogas on government property in broad daylight. In perpetrating the massacres, they repudiated the settlement policy of William Penn.
Excerpt from Scott Paul Gordon, Christian Indians
The armed frontiersmen who marched to Philadelphia in February 1764 planned to murder 140 Indians gathered in barracks in the city's Northern Liberties. Most of these Indians were Christians, having lived in the Moravian mission towns of Nain and Wechquetank in Northampton County. Provincial authorities decided to “order the Moravian Indians down to Philadelphia” in November 1763, as Governor John Penn wrote, because “the people of Northampton County … were determined to cut them all off” (John Penn to Richard Penn). These individuals were joined by other Native Americans from Wyalusing, an Indian town on the Susquehanna River. Except for their leader, John Papunhunk, who had been converted by Moravian missionary David Zeisberger, the Wyalusing Indians were neither Moravian nor Christian. The Paxton Boys' Declaration and Remonstrance clearly identified the different groups gathered in Philadelphia: “Some of these Indians now in the Barracks of Philadelphia are confessedly a part of the Wyalusing Indians, which Tribe is now at War with us; and the others are the Moravian Indians, who [are] living amongst us under the Cloak of Friendship.”
These Christian Indians were confined at the Philadelphia barracks and on Province Island from November 1763 until March 1765. Many prominent citizens visited them, including Governor John Penn and Anthony Benezet, and mobs threatened them. They tried, as much as possible, to live as a congregation as they had in Nain and Wechquetank. Moravian missionary couples, Bernhard Adam and Margaret Grube and Johann Jacob and Johanna Schmick, lived with them. The diaries kept by these missionaries record regular services, communions, lovefeasts, births, and baptisms. Sadly, these diaries are also filled with deaths and burials. Fifteen Indians died in May and June 1764, and twenty more died the next month: in all, fifty-five Moravian Indians were buried in 1764 in Philadelphia's Potter's field. The Paxton Boys did not reach the Christian Indians in February 1764, but the confinement that their threats precipitated turned out to be more deadly than their guns and sabers.
- Ghost River: The Fall & Rise of the Conestoga (print or digital edition)
- Excerpts from Ghost River (34-36; 45-47)
- Franklin and the Quakers (political cartoon and transcription)
- Excerpts from Diary of the Indian Gemeine in the Barracks of Philadelphia, Final Draft (Jan. 24 - Dec. 31, 1764)
Warm-up: Write-Pair-Share (10 minutes):
- Show image of Benjamin West's Penn's Treaty with the Indians (1771-72) and ask students to write and reflect on:
- How are the colonists portrayed in this painting?
- How are the native peoples portrayed in this painting?
- What might have been Benjamin West's agenda for creating these portrayals?
Notes for the Teacher: Penn's Treaty with the Indians (1771-72) was commissioned by William Penn's son Thomas Penn. It depicts the meeting of William Penn and the Quakers, members of the Leni Lenape tribe, and merchants in Shackamaxon along the Delaware River.
- Divide students into pairs and have them share their responses with partners.
- Reset class and ask volunteer pairs describe their responses.
- Guide students to understanding about how images can shape popular understandings of peoples and histories.
- Refer to image of page 46 from Ghost River to introduce the lesson's objective.
Guided Review: Mini-Lecture (5-10 minutes):
- Review chronology of the Paxton incident using Ghost River and historical background excerpts.
Notes for the Teacher: The Paxton pamphlet war features dozens of political cartoons, pamphlets, and broadsides. Engravers like James Claypoole, who created Franklin and the Quakers, used these materials to attack their political opponents and influence popular opinion. This image depicts Benjamin Franklin conspiring with his political allies, the Quakers in the Pennsylvania Assembly, to arm their enemies, the Native American had attacked the colony during the Seven Years' War. It should be noted that the "Christian Indians" that the Paxton mob murdered (the Conestoga people) did not participate in any of that violence.
Activity (20 minutes):
- Break students into two groups (A and B) based upon their original Write-Pair-Share pairings.
- Group A will analyze the political cartoon Franklin and the Quakers (1764) and pages 36-40 of Ghost River. Students will draw connections between the political cartoon and the graphic novel using these questions:
- How are Native Americans stereotyped in the political cartoon?
- Why might the voices of local Native Americans have been suppressed or excluded from the political cartoons and pamphlets that circulated in the 1764 pamphlet war?
- How does Ghost River give voice to those Native peoples?
- Group B will analyze excerpts from Diary of the Indian Gemeine in the Barracks of Philadelphia, Final Draft (Jan. 24- Dec. 31, 1764) and pages 36-40 of Ghost River. Students will draw connections between the diary and the graphic novel using these questions:
- How do the diaries describe the experience of Moravian Indians interned in Philadelphia? How does that experience contrast with Benjamin West's idyllic scene (Penn's Treaty with the Indians)?
- How do these diary entries give voice to the interned native peoples? Who gives voice to those peoples?
- How does Ghost River represent the experience of interned Lenape and Moravian Indians?
Notes for the Teacher: The Diary of the Indian Gemeine in the Barracks of Philadelphia was recorded by Moravian missionaries who accompanied the Lenape and Moravian Indians interned in Philadelphia. These excerpts are recorded in German, and they have been transcribed and translated in order to make them accessible to the students. These excerpts describe their relocation from Province Island (where the Philadelphia Airport currently resides) to the Philadelphia Barracks (in what is today Northern Liberties).
Excerpts for Analysis:
Partner & Class Discussion (5 minutes):
January 25: We began to settle in a bit. The things that we had left behind on Province Island came to us, although our good Indians missed many things, particularly axes, that had been stolen. In the evening, Br. Grube held a service in his own room.
February 4: Br. Neusser and Ludwig Weiss visited us. We heard a lot of bad reports. In the afternoon, Captain Schlosser came and reported to us that we should move to the second story with the soldiers, because there were no keys if the rooms should be broken into. Because the order regarding the moving of the soldiers came so late, a great confusion arose between them and our poor Indians, who were chased from one place to another, particularly when a couple shots happened outside the barracks, so that everyone got alarmed and made ready to fight. We then had our hands full with our Indians, getting them in their lodgings, and quieting them.
February 20: After the early service, first Br. Schmick and then his wife visited the Indians in their rooms, and they found several sick.
- Have students return to their partners from the first Write-Pair-Share exercise and share and record their responses to the two different primary source materials they examined (the diary and the political cartoon).
- Ask pairs to answer a prompt and be prepared to share it with the class.
- How were Native Americans represented in the two primary source documents?
- Why might be these two documents tell such a different story about the Paxton incident?
- How does Ghost River give Native peoples a voice?
- Have volunteer pairs share their answers with the class.
Assessment: Students will conduct research on their own by using either Digital Paxton or the Ghost River digital edition to find an additional printed, manuscript, or visual record that gives voices to the Conestoga, Lenape, or Moravian Indians. Students should justify their selections by describing how their records contrast with Benjamin West's Penn's Treaty with the Indians.
You may also download a printable version of this lesson.
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Lynching and Terrorism: The Paxton Boys
Jacqueline Katz, Wellesley High School
This lesson reviews contemporary definitions of terrorism and lynching and applies them to the massacre of the Conestoga people by the Paxton Boys in 1763. Students will learn vocabulary, read primary and secondary sources, and perform their own research using Digital Paxton. For assessment, have students create a pamphlet that applies what they learned.
- Students will apply contemporary terms in new ways to the Paxton massacre.
- Students will perform primary and secondary source research to analyze the massacre.
- Students will produce a pamphlet that answers the essential questions and reflects the media of the time.
Historical Thinking Skills:
- Analysis of Primary and Secondary Sources
- Understanding Historical Context
• Was the massacre of the Conestoga people a lynching?
• Were the Paxton Boys terrorists?
Grade Level: Grades 8-12
Duration: 120 minutes
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.1: Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.2: Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.8: Evaluate an author's premises, claims, and evidence by corroborating or challenging them with other information.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.9: Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources.
Teacher Background: Teachers should be familiar with the Paxton Boys and the massacre of the Conestoga people. Teachers should read Dr. Fenton's overview, browse Digital Paxton, and/or ask a librarian for help with the research excerpted in the lesson.
- Distribute Worksheet Packet
- Have students define the word "lynching" and "terrorism" using the Worksheet Packet (pages 1-2 of packet).
- Where have they heard these words before?
- Do they know what they mean?
- Review definitions with students, ensuring that each part of the definition is reviewed. For instance, it is key that terrorists have a political purpose—make sure students understand that they need to look for political reasons as they research. For lynching, the action must be extralegal and conducted by a mob of 2+ people (pages 3-4).
- Show students the research graphic organizers (pages 7-8), and check that students understand that they have to find all the parts of the definition as they research.
- Review Historical Context (pages 5-6). Set up the major players and locations. Only answer questions that are integral for understanding the sources. Do not answer the focus questions.
- Have students read through the primary sources first to find answers to the essential questions (begins on page 10).
- Have students read through the secondary sources. Struggling students may start with the secondary sources. Advanced students may skip the secondary (so they have to piece together the primary sources—a more difficult skill).
- When students have completed the readings, review the Research Worksheet (page 9) to set up the online research. Depending upon the grade level, students may perform this research in-class or as homework. Once students can answer the focus questions with evidence, they may stop research.
Assessment: Have students create their own pamphlet that addresses the focus questions. (Other options might include a letter, account, discussion, op-ed, political cartoon, or poem.) Students should answer the questions using primary and secondary source materials. They may evaluate evidence the SPARC technique (SPARC Handout).
This lesson was created during the 2019 Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History Teacher Seminar, "Native Peoples, Settlers, and European Empires in North America, 1600-1840" (July 28-August 3, 2019). You may also download a printable version of this lesson.