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- 1 2016-08-19T13:20:35-07:00 Will Fenton 9e3bf7727b68fc64e416bcd18efaefb81d06944c The Conduct of the Paxton Men Impartially Represented Will Fenton 4 The conduct of the Paxton-men, impartially represented: with some remarks on the Narrative. gallery 2018-02-12T11:53:24-08:00 Philadelphia : Printed by Andrew Steuart, MDCCLXIV.  Barton, Thomas, 1730-1780. Call Number: Am 1764 Bar 795.D.2 A defense of the Paxton boys, in reply to Benjamin Franklin's "A narrative of the late massacres, in Lancaster County, of a number of Indians." Attributed to Thomas Barton by Hildeburn and Evans. Also attributed to the Rev. John Ewing. Cf. Egle, W.H. History of the counties of Dauphin and Lebanon, 1883, p. 68. An added title page identifies John Creaig of Lancaster as bookseller. Signatures: pi [A]? B-D? E1. Evans, C. American bibliography, 9594; English short title catalogue (ESTC), W37505; Hildeburn, C.R. Pennsylvania, 1957 Library Company of Philadelphia. Will Fenton 9e3bf7727b68fc64e416bcd18efaefb81d06944c
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James P. Myers, Jr.
The most popular author in this Paxton archive is Anonymous. Alongside pseudonyms like "Pennsylvania," "Philalethes," and "Philanthropos," Paxton critics and apologists often published materials without any attribution in order to avoid public scrutiny or reprimand. Indeed, this archive features nearly two dozen pamphlets and political cartoons published without any attribution, including popular materials such as A Battle, A Looking-Glass, and A New Song in High Vogue in Northampton County. Elsewhere, historians and archivists have labored to discern authorship by examining biographies, correspondence, and deconstructing stylistic features that reveal an author's hand. This essay seeks to use Thomas Barton's The Conduct of the Paxton Men, Impartially Represented as one such case study. However, unlike other pamphleteers who chose to mask their identities for personal reasons, Barton was coerced into a political role that he must have loathed.
Printed in Philadelphia in 1764, The Conduct was written partly to rebut Benjamin Franklin's anonymously published attack on the Scots-Irish instigators of the Paxton Boys' disturbances, A Narrative of the Late Massacres. Accordingly, The Conduct sought to justify and defend the actions of the (largely Scots-Irish Presbyterian) Paxtonians, to impugn the motives, pacifism, and inaction of the Quaker-dominated General Assembly, and to discredit the reputation of the murdered Conestoga Indians.
Although the pamphlet's title page does not identify an author, it is generally accepted that the Rev. Thomas Barton, itinerant Anglican missionary in Lancaster, wrote The Conduct. This attribution, however, contradicts all that we know of Barton's previously expressed feelings about the Scots-Irish and the Native Americans. Why would he precipitously betray his mission? The probable answer is that the Penn proprietary (Pennsylvania's executive arm) and the Scots-Irish, long at odds with one another, found common cause in checking the legislative power of the Quakers. Lest he betray the government's strategy, however, Barton had to write as someone other than the most eloquent and literary Anglican divine then in the colony. Anonymity also assuaged his personal scruples.
Barton succeeded in remaining unknown. Although some might have suspected Barton's hand, his authorship remained secret until his own great-great-grandson, George Maurice Abbot, identified him in 1873. Notwithstanding Abbot's attribution and the scholarly agreement accorded it, a careful reading of the tract, set against what can be established of Barton's life and outlook, raises significant questions.
Why would Barton, whose correspondence consistently expresses aversion to both mob rule and overly assertive dissenters, especially New Side Presbyterians, advocate the cause of largely Scots-Irish Presbyterian vigilantes? A missionary committed to Christianizing and educating the Native Americans, moreover, Barton would seem an unexpected apologist for the slaughter of twenty baptized Conestogas peaceably settled on a reservation near Lancaster.
The case against Barton
If George M. Abbot had known of a family tradition identifying Barton as the author, that tradition would most likely have derived from Abbot’s great-grandfather and Thomas's eldest son, William. Yet William, eight years old at the time of the December murders, never once alludes in his biography of his uncle, David Rittenhouse, to his father's attitude toward the rioters (William Barton 146-50). William expends over three pages on the disturbances themselves without referring either to his father's contemporaneous preaching in Lancaster or to his supposed authorship of the tract. Either William Barton knew nothing of his father's relationship to the Paxton affair, or, more likely, he suppressed the information.
Another factual challenge to Barton's authorship comes with the pamphleteer's teasing reference to his residence: "Dated from my FARM-HOUSE, March 17th, 1764." Barton did not reside on or own a farm in 1764. It was only after 1768 that Barton began to cultivate what appears to have been his first and only farm in Lancaster county, ironically located on the Conestoga Manor (Klein and Diller 30-32). This reference thus needs to be understood as a further attempt to mislead the reader.
Thomas Barton's known attitudes also don't align with the pamphleteer's expressed feelings toward the Paxtonians and the Indians. At least one contemporary polemicist perceived that The Conduct was executed in a spirit far from the title's self-publicized impartiality, so shrill was its defense of the rioters and its vilification of the Indians (An Answer to the Pamphlet Entitled "The Conduct of the Paxton Men").
In his introduction, the anonymous author of The Conduct pointedly disavows having any "political Ends to serve . . . [and] nothing to hope or fear from Party Connections." Professing objectivity, he pointedly dissociates himself from any incendiary or insurrectionist impulse, unequivocally repudiating vigilantism: "Such violent Steps can never possibly be productive of any thing, but WILD UPROAR and CONFUSION." He swears "to bear his Testimony against, and to discountenance by every Means in his Power" whatever might offer "the least Insult to the LAWS and GOVERNMENT of his Country."
His argument, however, trenchantly defends the Paxton Volunteers' destructive actions and criticizes all Indians and the Quaker party's political position. After quoting at length from the petition submitted by the rioters (A Declaration and Remonstrance), the author employs the same phrasing he used on his tract's first page, but he now argues that the insurgents need to be appreciated as other than "RIOTERS, REBELS, MURDERERS, WHITE SAVAGES." Rational men, he elaborates:
"As might be deem'd..." – the Paxton Boys only appeared to defy the state. What has been popularly interpreted as rebellion actually laid "bare the PHARASAICAL BOSOM of QUAKERISM, by obliging the NON-RESISTING QUALITY to take up Arms, and to become Proselytes to the first great Law of Nature."
are sensibly concern'd that [the Paxtonians]
were reduced to the Necessity of having Recourse
to such Methods as might be deem'd an Insult to the Government and Laws of their King and Country
The perceived indifference of the Quaker faction to the frontiersmen and its protection of the Indians, on the other hand, invited condemnation. By insisting that important political and ethical differences separated the proprietary from the assembly, the pamphleteer denies accusations of sedition.
Perhaps the most telling argument against Barton's authorship, however, rests upon the pamphleteer's unmitigated hatred for all Indians. Throughout his entire missionary career, Barton distinguished between hostile and "friendly" Native Americans. Generally, he criticized those allied to the French and eager to attack the British settlers. "Barbarous Savages," "the rude Spoiler," "Heathens or Infidels," "Barbarians," "a Cruel Enemy" – these are the more common nouns and adjectives he uses to describe the hostiles (Thomas Barton to William Smith, 28 October 1755; Thomas Barton to William Smith, 2 November 1755; Thomas Barton to Richard Peters, 5 July 1763).
More typically, however, Barton viewed the proposed beneficiaries of his missionary activities with a mixture of condescension and compassion—"poor ignorant Creatures," "tawny People," "miserable unenlightened People," "barbarous Nations who are immersed in the grossest Idolatry," "those poor Heathen who 'sit in Darkness & the Shadow of Death,'" and "rude & barbarous creatures" (Thomas Barton to the Secretary, 8 November 1756; Thomas Barton to the Secretary, 28 June 1763; Thomas Barton to the Secretary, 6 December 1760; Thomas Barton to the Secretary, 23 January 1766).
In one 1764 report, he praises his congregation for having had no part "in the Murder of the Indians in this Place and the different Insurrections occasion’d by this inhuman Act" (Thomas Barton to the Secretary, 16 November 1764). He also castigates the Paxton Volunteers in a letter to Sir William Johnson when he refers in passing to "the Assassination of those hapless Wretches" (Thomas Barton to Sir William Johnson, "supposed May 1763").
The case for Barton
While it is difficult to square Barton's sympathies for improving the Indians' conditions with the pamphleteer's naked hatred of baptized Conestogas, the pamphlet's epistolary form, distinctive prose style, and rhetorical duplication of an earlier Barton tract—combined with external evidence—suggest that Thomas Barton was, in fact, the author.
In addition to combining an apology for the Paxtonians with a polemic against Franklin's Narrative, The Conduct relies upon the convention of the letter. Both the title page and the initial headnote claim to be "A LETTER from a GENTLEMAN in one of the Frontier-Counties, to his Friend in Philadelphia, relating to the Paxton-Men." Barton's brother-in-law, David Rittenhouse might well have been that "Friend in Philadelphia." While the addressee is forgotten once the essay gets fully underway, in one notable passage the author implies that his missive should correct his friend's ignorance of frontier life. The pamphleteer writes: "I am no Stranger to your Fellow-feeling and Humanity:- I well know that you have a Tear for Distress, and a Sigh for Misery." He then diplomatically reminds his friend that "if it were not criminal, I should envy you your happy Lot, in being placed by Providence at some Distance from the Scenes of Destruction and Desolation, of which, I and my Neighbours have been Melancholy Eye-Witnesses." With that, he elaborates a full page of graphic description of recent atrocities enacted in the backcountry.
If the apologist is to be believed, he wrote his letter on 17 March 1764, one month following Rittenhouse's epistolary condemnation of the Paxtonians' march on Philadelphia. William Barton does not quote Rittenhouse’s letter in full, his purpose being to illustrate that his uncle "was zealously disposed to support the legitimate authority of the government, in order to suppress illegal and disorderly proceedings, subversive of the laws and dangerous to the public peace and safety" (William Barton 147).
Because the actual Barton/Rittenhouse correspondence has been lost or destroyed, we cannot examine whatever letters Barton may have penned to Rittenhouse on this subject. One thing about the pamphlet is nevertheless clear: it was written in part to defend the actions of a people who felt that government apathy had abandoned them to Indian savagery and to exonerate the backsettlers from such criticism as Rittenhouse expressed in his 16 February letter, when he wrote: "I have seen hundreds of Indians travelling the country, and can with truth affirm, that the behaviour of these fellows [the Paxonians] was ten times more savage and brutal than theirs" (William Barton 148).
Not unlike handwriting, style reveals evidence of identity, even in instances where an author might try to alter it. Barton's annual epistolary reports to the Anglican church, war journal, and the exhortation Unanimity and Public Spirit all disclose what might be described as eighteenth-century journalistic style: Barton's prose stands out for its energetic, spirited, if at times glib, "flow"; its numerous parenthetical, interruptive, and exclamatory statements; its predilection for paired synonymous, often alliterated nouns, and for paired adjectival, over adverbial, modifiers; its frequent use of the figures of speech metonymy and synecdoche in emotionally stressful descriptions. Perhaps reflecting the fast pace of his writing, Barton reveals a fondness for the dash or the dash combined with a period to mark a sentence's end. Any or a few of these would scarcely serve to particularize Barton's prose, but combined with one another and set forth with rhythms and cadences as distinctive as the grain patterns that distinguish oak, cherry, maple, or walnut, his style announces itself readily.
One of Barton's favorite figures of speech involves a synecdoche employing images of the wounded or bleeding heart and blood/bleeding. It invariably occurs in his descriptions of Indian atrocities and of his reactions thereto. In a 8 November 1756 annual report to his superiors, he writes: "my Heart bleeds in relating what I am an Eye Witness to" (Thomas Barton to the Secretary, 8 November 1756). He tells Thomas Penn that "My Heart bleeds for the poor People" (Thomas Barton to Thomas Penn, 7 April 1758). The author of The Conduct expresses himself similarly: "My Heart has often bled" and "what good Man is there, whose Heart does not bleed . . . ?" Barton uses personification to express the magnitude of suffering in the backcountry: "our bleeding Country"; "their bleeding Country." (Thomas Barton to the Secretary, 8 November 1756; Thomas Barton to Richard Peters, 5 July 1763). Similarly, The Conduct's author rebukes the Quakers "who have so long suffer'd the Province to bleed beneath the Savage Knife."
The image of fire offers another powerful symbol of backcountry warfare. In one letter, Barton describes the country's seeming "to be one general Blaze” (Thomas Barton, Pennsylvania Gazette), anticipating the pamphlet's "all burnt to Ashes in one general Flame." This phrasing echoes similar descriptive usage elsewhere: the pamphlet's "their Country rescued from total Ruin" and an earlier letter’s lament that all is "ready to sink together in one general Ruin!" (Thomas Barton to Thomas Penn, 28 February 1757).
The author of The Conduct shares with Barton a fondness for doubling adjectives and descriptive nouns to heighten emphasis. Compare the following characteristic examples from the pamphlet and Barton's earlier writings. The Conduct: "Distresses and Sufferings ... Infamy and Odium ... WILD UPROAR and CONFUSION"; "Lenity and Mercy"; "meek and peaceable . . . Protection and Security ... Vengeance and Destruction"; "Noise and Hubbub"; "Vassalage and Slavery"; "Ruin and Desolation"; "Cruelty and Inhumanity"; "LAWS and MAGISTRACY"; and "LIBERTY and FREEDOM." Barton's earlier works: "The general Cry & Wish is for"; "Miseries and Distresses"; "Beggary and Despair"; "Objects of Charity and Commiseration"; "Sighs and Groans"; "calamity [SPACE] and distress"; "dangers and trials"; "barbarous and cruel"; "Hardships or Distresses" (Thomas Barton to Richard Peters, 5 July 1763; Thomas Barton, Pennsylvania Gazette; Thomas Barton to the Secretary, 8 November 1756; Thomas Barton to Thomas Penn, 28 February 1757).
Barton and the author of the pamphlet also like to alliterate their doubled nouns and modifiers. A sampling from Barton's known works: "Cries & Confusion"; "the Pulpit & not the Press"; "sudden and savage Death"; "Division and Distinction"; "Advice and Assistance"; "Grand & Glorious work"; "Danger & Distress"; "an Interest with, & an Influence upon"; "all Health & Happiness" (Thomas Barton to William Smith, 2 November 1755; Thomas Barton to William Smith, 28 October 1755; Thomas Barton to the Secretary, 8 November 1756; Thomas Barton to Thomas Penn, 7 April 1758; Thomas Barton to Richard Peters, 11 April 1758; Thomas Barton to Richard Peters, 18 July 1758).
Even though The Conduct's author shows a greater inclination for simple descriptive, often redundant, doublets, he also employs alliteration to achieve added emphasis: "Application and Addresses"; "drunken, debauch'd"; "Discord and Dissention"; "Gallows or the Gibbet"; "Honour and Hospitality"; "Destruction and Desolation"; "lawful and loyal Methods"; and "QUAKERS and DON QUIXOTES."
Barton's frequent use of the verb and the verbal noun groan finds its parallel in the pamphlet. Compare "groaning under a burden"; "miseries they now sadly groan under"; "calamities under which they have groan'd"; "Signs and Groans" (Thomas Barton to the Secretary, 8 November 1756; Thomas Barton to the Bishop of Oxford, 12 March 1757; Thomas Barton, Pennsylvania Gazette) with the pamphlet's "Groans of the People."
Stylistically, Thomas Barton and the writer of The Conduct favor recurring figures of speech, synecdoche, and metonymy. The two authors also show a predilection for the epistolary form. And both rely upon a specific, common vocabulary and rhetorical strategy. Less open to analysis is the similar rhythm, cadence, and syntax that characterize each as journalistic at times, and hortatory at others. Finally, on an admittedly subjective level, reading passages from Barton and The Conduct aloud physically reinforces the sense that we are, in fact, reading the same writer.
This essay is based upon James P. Myers's chapter "A Stark Naked Presbyterian," in The Ordeal of Thomas Barton: Anglican Missionary in the Pennsylvania Backcountry, 1755-1780 (Lehigh University, 2010). To learn more about Myers, visit the Creators page.
- H. M. J. Klein and William F. Diller, The History of St. James's Church (Protestant Episcopal), 1744-1944 (Lancaster, 1944).
- William Barton, Memoirs of the Life of David Rittenhouse (Philadelphia, 1813).
- Thomas Barton, Pennsylvania Gazette, 28 July 1763, no. 1805.
- Thomas Barton to the Bishop of Oxford, 12 March 1757, transcription, Miscellaneous File, no. 15212, York County Historical Society, York, Pennsylvania.
- Thomas Barton to Richard Peters, 5 July 1763, Peters Papers, 6:10, Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
- Thomas Barton to Richard Peters, 11 April 1758, Peters Papers, 3:377, Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
- Thomas Barton to Richard Peters, 18 July 1758, Peters Papers, 3:452, Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
- Thomas Barton to Sir William Johnson, "supposed May 1768," Documentary History of New York, 4:382.
- Thomas Barton to the Secretary, 8 November 1756, S.P.G. Letter Books, Series B, vol. 21, no. 1.
- Thomas Barton to the Secretary, 6 December 1760, S.P.G. Letter Books, Series B, vol. 21, no. 8. Thomas Barton to the Secretary, 28 June 1763, S.P.G. Letter Books, Series B, vol. 21, no. 13.
- Thomas Barton to the Secretary, 16 November 1764, S.P.G. Letter Books, Series B., vol. 21, no. 14.
- Thomas Barton to the Secretary, 23 January 1766, Historical Collections Relating to the American Colonial Church, William S. Perry, ed., vol. 2: Pennsylvania (Hartford. Conn., 1871), 400.
- Thomas Barton to Thomas Penn, 28 February 1757, Penn Papers, Official Correspondence, 8:239, Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
- Thomas Barton to Thomas Penn, 7 April 1758, Penn Papers, Official Correspondence, 9:21, , Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
- Thomas Barton to William Smith, 28 October 1755, the Hawks Manuscript Collection, Records of the General Convention, Archives of the Episcopal Church, U.S.A., S,I,19-6-58.
- Thomas Barton to William Smith, 2 November 1755, Historical Collections Relating to the American Colonial Church, William S. Perry, ed., vol. 2: Pennsylvania (Hartford. Conn., 1871), 559.
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.
Scott Paul Gordon
Today, Americans take equality for granted and view elites—whether political, financial, or media—with hostile suspicion. But it wasn’t always this way. Even during the late-eighteenth century, a period we often associate with revolutionary fervor, most colonists accepted inequality as either ineradicable or (as elites preferred) natural. Most people knew their place, even if they occupied it grudgingly, and deference and paternalism shaped most social relations.
The Paxton Boys understood their role in Pennsylvania’s defense policy. Frontier settlements such as Paxton served as protective barriers for elites in the city of Lancaster and for provincial authorities in Philadelphia. James Logan and Edward Shippen had established settlements on Pennsylvania’s western and northern frontier in the 1720s and 1730s to serve as the first line of defense in case of attack. Being “under some apprehensions” about an attack “from the northern Indians,” Logan “thought it might be prudent to plant a Settlement of such men as those who formerly had so bravely defended Derry & Inniskillen as a frontier in case of any Disturbance” (Logan to Steel). The settlement at Donegal, midway between Paxton and Conestoga Manor, was “made by some of the first Irish that came over … upon some appearance of misunderstanding at that time with the Indians, against whom we thought those People might prove a considerable Security” (Logan to Penn). Settlements of friendly Indians, such as Conestoga Manor, also functioned as early-warning systems for frontier disturbances.
These frontier outposts, populated by Presbyterian Scots-Irish, protected the city of Lancaster. Founded in 1730, Lancaster grew quickly. By the 1750s, a “wide disparity in the economic status of the residents of the town” existed and wealth was “concentrated to a surprising extent in the hands of a relatively small number of families” (Wood 66). Some of the town’s wealthiest residents, including Edward Shippen, were involved in the fur trade, which depended on the peaceful frontiers that Pennsylvania’s defense policy sought to maintain. These wealthy families constituted an English-speaking elite in Lancaster. This elite distinguished itself from the ethnic Germans, who made up the majority of the town’s population (nearly 70 percent in 1759), by intermarrying and supporting one another through patronage and trade. Most were associated with the Penn family and Pennsylvania’s proprietary party, and most attended Lancaster’s Anglican St. James church. Its minister, Thomas Barton, described his congregants as “people puffed up with a notion of their superior knowledge, fortunes, and families” and noted that most “seem apprehensive of ranking with the meaner sort” (Barton to Burton). Jasper Yeates, an aspiring lawyer who moved to Lancaster in 1766 and quickly married into the Shippen family, referred to fellow residents as a “class of Plebians we don’t approve of” (Jasper Yeates to Duncan Campbell).
It was the Paxton Boys’ anger at this local elite that motivated their violence in December 1763. Most historians, prompted by the 1764 pamphlet war to focus on Philadelphia’s provincial authorities, overlook the fact that the Paxton Boys’ December violence stemmed from a strained relationship between elites in Lancaster and the Scots-Irish on the frontiers. This relationship, of course, was not between equals. The frontiersmen typically offered deference—they accepted the prevailing, unequal social order—to secure the “friendship” of these elites, who possessed economic and social capital. Elites lent money, rented or otherwise policed access to land, hired laborers, and controlled many opportunities for work or social advancement (Schultz 210). These “social superiors” were also “expected to … extend assistance in time of need” (Wrightson 149). Pennsylvania’s backcountry settlers defended themselves in times of crisis, but they expected elites to aid them by authorizing scalp bounties, establishing militia units, or providing funds to purchase arms. The December violence signaled that the Paxton Boys believed that elites had failed to meet their terms of the agreement.
In the days immediately following the two massacres, Moravian ministers wrote letters that contain, to date, the sole surviving traces of how the Paxton Boys understood their violence. Their correspondence offers unique insight into what lay beneath backcountry deference and what broke the truce between deference and paternalism. These letters not only show that the Paxton Boys believed that local elites had refused to provide the services that earned their deference; they also reveal that the deference they offered to Lancaster’s elites masked unarticulated (or unrecorded) desires. Moravian letters reveal, above all, that the wounds of class and status—and fury at a particular elite that had inflicted those injuries—provoked the Paxton Boys’ violence.
During times of peace, frontiersmen accorded Lancaster elites the sort of self-interested deference described above. Frontier communities were eager to enlist leading men such as Shippen, the spigot from whom flowed employment and patronage, as “friends”—a common term that disguised arrangements based on mutual interest as affective relationships. One Scots-Irish immigrant that Shippen settled at Shippensburg, Pennsylvania’s westernmost outpost, was Francis Campbell. The “Plebian” Campbell was delighted to ally himself with the Lancaster grandee, noting in his diary that ‘‘I came here ten days ago, not as a matter of necessity, but as a matter of choice, and I find the country all that my friend, Mr. Shippen, represented it to be.” The “entire people of this settlement,” Campbell added, ‘‘is of Irish origin and Presbyterian in faith…. There is not a single family here who are not natives of the Province of Ulster” (Campbell Diary 319).
When war resumed in summer 1763, Edward Shippen reaffirmed his frontier strategy in which well-populated frontier communities served as buffers between Indians and Lancaster. In June John Elder asked Shippen “to try to animate our folks this way to hire a Number of Men and send them up to guard the Frontiers at Paxton” (June 13, 1763, Edward Shippen to Joseph Shippen). But Shippen did not recruit men from Lancaster to defend frontier settlements. Instead, he urged frontier authorities to keep their communities of settlers in place. Shippen praised John Harris in July for “Spiriting the People up to Stay at Pextan” (July 25, 1763, Edward Shippen to Joseph Shippen) and he requested £1,000 to “raise, & pay, a hundred men” for defense, since only “then the Pextan people &c. will return home again” (Edward Shippen to James Burd). A few months later, Shippen reminded the governor that if he did not “send up a little money to Mr. Elder” so he could “hire and pay” his “little Garrison,” the “total Evacuation of Paxtan, Derry, and Hanover Townships” would result (Edward Shippen to Governor James Hamilton). “If the poor people do not receive due Encouragement to Stand their Ground at such Places,” Shippen wrote to his son-in-law, “the Savages will soon make inroads through the whole Province” (Edward Shippen to James Burd). He could not have stated more clearly his expectation that Scots-Irish Presbyterians must protect more important settlements, such as Lancaster, from Indian attack.
The deference that frontiersmen were willing to extend to Lancaster’s elites shattered during this wartime crisis. The Paxton Boys were no longer willing to sacrifice themselves for the elites that, they felt, had abandoned them. Remarks recorded only by the pastor of Lancaster’s Moravian church, Albrecht Ludolph Russmeyer, suggest that the killings at Conestoga Manor and at the Lancaster workhouse were intended as direct and public challenges to Lancaster’s elites. According to Russmeyer, the Paxton Boys “threatened Lancaster,” saying: “You peacefully drink your tea and coffee etc., live carefree, and we have to stand constantly at the ready on the borders expecting to be destroyed by Indians. We want to come live with you” (Russmeyer to Seidel).
These remarks about “carefree” days filled with “tea and coffee” reveal the anger at Lancaster residents who seemed unconcerned about the vulnerability of those who lived on the frontier. The frontiersmen’s account, linking physical safety (“peacefully,” “carefree”) with material comfort (“tea and coffee”), indicted a small but visible segment of Lancaster’s population for their callous disregard of those they dismissed as “the meaner sort” (Barton to Burton). The frontiersmen’s threats exposed how the “meaner sort” viewed this elite—drinking tea and coffee while frontiersmen had to “stand constantly at the ready on the borders expecting to be destroyed by Indians.” Moreover, in this moment of crisis the frontiersmen stated a surprising desire—“We want to come live with you”—that remained unspoken under normal circumstances.
The Paxton men focused particularly on Edward Shippen. Indeed, Moravian records document that the Paxton men visited Shippen’s home before they undertook their expedition to Conestoga Manor. The Moravian minister at Lititz, Matthäus Hehl, reported that
Having completed their murders at Indian Town, Hehl added, “the murderers afterwards jubilantly paraded the scalps, their trophies of success, through Lancaster, and the townspeople laughed” (Hehl to Bethlehem). By returning to Lancaster and displaying evidence of their violence, the men from Paxton boasted that they had done exactly what Lancaster’s leading man had forbidden.
a group of armed men, mostly Irish from Paxtown, came to Lancaster in a total rage, stopping in front of the house of Mr. Shippen. They announced that they intended to kill all Indians living on Manor Land. Mr. Shippen tried to dissuade them, but wasn’t able to prevent it. They did as they said they would, and fell upon the Indian village, murdering all who were there.
Peter Silver has suggested that the Paxton Boys’ violence was “meant to convey a message” to provincial authorities about “what government policy should be” (Silver 182). This message was aimed, at least initially, not at Philadelphia’s provincial authorities but at Lancaster’s elites, who the Paxton Boys believed had failed as local patriarchs. Only later, when the frontiersmen rode to Philadelphia in February 1764, did provincial elites in that city feel threatened. The armed men targeted Philadelphia because the Christian Indians, whom they aimed to eliminate, had been gathered there. But an expedition to Philadelphia brought the frontiersmen near the provincial elites who had befriended Indians.
In early February, John Elder warned Provincial Secretary Joseph Shippen that the “Inhabitants are so exasperated against a particular set of men, deeply concerned in the Government”—Elder scratched out “Quakers”—“for the singular regards they have always shown to savages’’ that it would be ‘‘unsafe for any one to oppose their measures” (John Elder to Joseph Shippen). “The Rioters . . . are still roving about in companys,” Susanna Wright wrote in January, and “they Breath[e] vengeance against Israel Pemberton, Joseph Fox, and my Brother [John Wright]” (Susanna Wright to Isaac Whitlock). Pemberton sent his family away from Philadelphia as the frontiersmen approached. Even after they had retreated, men in Lancaster heard that “Paxtoners are arming themselves again in order to go to Philadelphia” and that they had promised “to bring back Quaker scalps” (Lancaster Congregational Diary).
“Motives of fear or deference” that ordinarily restrain subaltern groups are often overcome when a group believes that it is “supported by the wider consensus of the community” (Thompson 118). The Paxton Boys, as Hebron’s Moravian pastor, Andrew Langaard, put it, “expect[ed] others to think the way they do” (Heisey 51). It is significant that the Paxton Boys did not gallop into Lancaster to murder the Conestogas and then flee as quickly as possible. They were in no hurry and did not hide from onlookers. On the contrary, riding in circles around Lancaster’s courthouse, yelling, shooting guns, they solicited the attention of Lancaster’s residents. They wanted visibility, as they had when they congregated at Shippen’s home before, and returned to Lancaster in triumph after, the December 14 murders.
Some of the Paxton Boys boasted of their actions publicly. The morning after the workhouse slaughter, “a prestigious man” visited a Lancaster blacksmith “and paid a debt he owed and said: ‘We have done a fine piece of work’” (Hehl to Bethlehem). That the Paxton Boys’ identities remain unknown today does not testify to their stealth: it suggests that many Lancaster residents approved of the murderers’ actions and did not want them apprehended and punished. (Other residents may have feared to reveal the murderers’ names.) The fourteen murdered Indians were buried the day after the workhouse massacre. “Like dogs all 14 of them were thrown into a hole on top of one another without a blanket or covering,” Russmeyer wrote, “and the bystanders said: ‘Just as it should be,’ and cursed and reproached them” (Russmeyer to Seidel). Matthäus Hehl in Lititz heard similarly that the Indian killings “didn’t seem to phase the residents [of Lancaster], who say that they had it coming to them” (Hehl to Bethlehem). These citizens of Lancaster joined the Paxton Boys in holding Indians responsible for backcountry violence and were willing to show this support publicly.
The Paxton Boys’ actions exposed differences of allegiance within Lancaster’s population. Few in Lancaster may have sympathized with Indians. But elites such as Edward Shippen—or Lancaster’s sheriff, whom the Paxton Boys injured when he confronted them—opposed the Paxton Boys’ actions because they objected to the violation of authority that their extra-legal violence represented. Their violent acts, John Penn insisted, were “insults upon the Government & its Laws” (Penn to Gage), violations of order and hierarchy. Philadelphia Presbyterians, the Paxton Boys’ co-religionists, used the crisis in Lancaster county to attack Quaker elites for failing to preserve peace in Pennsylvania. But if Pennsylvania’s competing elites opportunistically leveraged the Paxton crisis to jockey for political advantage, they united in their horror at unauthorized “Plebian” violence. The Presbyterian merchant George Bryan, for instance, denounced the Paxton Boys as a “mean and lower sort of people” and insisted on the “necessity of supporting order” (Foster 46).
The Paxton Boys, like the eighteenth-century English crowds that E. P. Thompson analyzes, believed that they were “defending traditional rights or customs” (Thompson 118). They demanded the protection to which they felt entitled. Their rage at Lancaster elites (and, later, at Quaker elites in Philadelphia) did not mean that the Paxton Boys were demanding social or political equality, which, as Gregory Nobles reminds us, is not the only alternative to deference (Nobles 290). The Paxton Boys’ most surprising expression—“We want to come live with you”—exposed a desire eliminate the geographical distance that kept elites insulated from and the frontiersmen endangered by frontier violence. It stopped short of envisioning social equality. Their violence sought to compel Lancaster’s authorities and provincial authorities to exercise their influence to protect frontier communities, not to challenge fundamentally the distribution of social power in Pennsylvania or claim the authority of elites. “If the upper class as a whole failed in what the masses saw as the aristocracy’s duty,” Lynn Nelson argues, “ordinary farmers turned to a long European tradition of extra-legal, but rarely revolutionary, violence” (Nelson 4).
The Paxton Boys were not agitating for political power in 1763. They were demanding that local elites meet their responsibilities. The frontiersmen’s triumphant excursions to Lancaster before and after killings at Conestoga Manor served as a rebuke that sought to shame Lancaster authorities into acting as responsible patriarchs. Only a decade later, during the Revolutionary crisis, did Scots-Irish Presbyterians such as George Bryan, Thomas McKean, and Joseph Reed displace Pennsylvania’s established elite of Anglicans and Quakers. These men did not invoke the extra-legal violence of 1763 to justify their political ambition: the Paxton Boys’ actions still signified unacceptable disorder. The Paxton Boys may have hoped that ‘‘White patriarchs in Philadelphia’’ would recognize that they ‘‘owed their loyalty and support first and foremost to their fellow White patriarchs on the frontier and not to the Indians who also resided there,’’ but elites ignored these pleas for ‘‘racial unity” (Camenzind 216). Instead, elites unified in their denunciations of “frontier justice,” of violence by those whom Bryan called the “mean and lower sort of people” (Foster 46). The difference between plebian and elite trumped the difference between red and white.
For more about Scott Paul Gordon, visit the Creators page.
- Thomas Barton to Daniel Burton, November 16, 1764, in James P. Myers Jr., The Ordeal of Thomas Barton: Anglican Missionary in the Pennsylvania Backcountry, 1755–1780 (Bethlehem, PA: Lehigh University Press, 2010), 209-216.
- Krista Camenzind, ‘‘Violence, Race, and the Paxton Boys,’’ in William A. Pencak and Daniel K. Richter, eds., Friends and Enemies in Penn’s Woods: Indians, Colonists, and the Racial Construction of Pennsylvania (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2004), 201-20.
- Francis Campbell, Diary, in Kerby A. Miller et al., eds., Irish Immigrants in the Land of Canaan: Letters and Memoirs from Colonial and Revolutionary America, 1675–1815 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003), 317-323.
- John Elder to Joseph Shippen, February 1, 1764, Rev. John Elder Correspondence, 1754–1763, Elder Collection, MG 070, Historical Society of Dauphin County, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
- Joseph S. Foster, In Pursuit of Equal Liberty: George Bryan and the Revolution in Pennsylvania (University Park: Penn State University Press, 1994).
- Matthäus Hehl to Bethlehem Authorities, December 29, 1763, Records of the Indian Missions, 1742–1898, box 127, folder 5, Moravian Archives, Bethlehem.
- John W. Heisey, ed., “Extracts from the Diary of the Moravian Pastors of the Hebron Church, Lebanon, 1755–1814,” Pennsylvania History 34, no. 1 (1967): 44-63.
- Lancaster Congregational Diary, February 29, 1764, Moravian Archives, Bethlehem.
- James Logan to James Steel, November 18, 1729, Logan Family Papers, 10:46, Collection 0379, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, reprinted as “Letter of Instruction of James Logan to James Steel, on Proprietary Affairs, 1727,” PMHB 24, no. 4 (1900): 495–99.
- James Logan to John Penn, October 18, 1728, Logan Letterbook, 3:279, Logan Family Papers, Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
- Lynn A. Nelson, ‘‘Historiographical Conversations about the Backcountry: Politics,’’ Journal of Backcountry Studies 2, no. 2 (2007): 1-10.
- Gregory Nobles, ‘‘A Class Act: Redefining Deference in Early American History,’’ Early American Studies 3, no. 2 (2005): 286-302.
- Gov. John Penn to General Thomas Gage, December 31, 1763, in Colonial Records, 9:105.
- Albrecht Ludolph Russmeyer to Nathanael Seidel, January 2, 1764, Box: Letters from Lancaster to Provincial Helpers Conference, 1754–1790, MAB
- Ronald Schultz, “A Class Society? The Nature of Inequality in Early America,” in Inequality in Early America, eds. Carla Gardina Pestana and Sharon V. Salinger (Hanover: University Press of New England, 1999), 204-21.
- Edward Shippen to James Burd, July 15, 1763, Shippen Family Papers, 6:35, Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
- Edward Shippen to Governor James Hamilton, October 29, 1763, Shippen Letters and Papers, American Philosophical Society.
- Edward Shippen to Joseph Shippen, June 13, 1763, Shippen Letters and Papers, American Philosophical Society.
- Edward Shippen to Joseph Shippen, July 25, 1763, Shippen Letters and Papers, American Philosophical Society.
- Willis L. Shirk Jr., “Wright’s Ferry: A Glimpse into the Susquehanna Backcountry,” PMHB 120, nos. 1–2 (1996): 61-87.
- Peter Silver, Our Savage Neighbors: How Indian War Transformed Early America (New York: W. W. Norton, 2008).
- E. P. Thompson, “The Moral Economy of the English Crowd in the Eighteenth Century,” Past and Present 50 (1971), reprinted in Customs in Common: Studies in Traditional Popular Culture (New York: New Press, 1993), 185-258.
- Jerome H. Wood, Conestoga Crossroads: Lancaster, Pennsylvania, 1730-1790 (Harrisburg: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1979).
- Susanna Wright to Isaac Whitlock, January 16, 1764, Pemberton Papers, Parrish Collection, Historical Society of Pennsylvania..
- Keith Wrightson, “Class,” in The British Atlantic World, 1500-1800, ed. David Armitage and Michael J. Braddick (New York: Palgrave, 2002), 133-53.
- Jasper Yeates to Duncan Campbell, December 9, 1769, Yeates Letterbook, 1769-1771, Am.196, Historical Society of Pennsylvania.