It is not enough for us to go back to the dim obscurity of the middle ages, or even to the dreadful epoch of religious wars and religious persecutions following them, to trace the unhappy history of the peaceful sect which we know as the Moravians. We look back no further than to see a band of unfortunate exiles offered and accepting a resting-place on the ample estate of a young German nobleman, Count Zinzendorf. Here the weary outcasts, burning with the purest spiritual devotion, built a town. When their membership reached six hundred, the little society became transfigured with a sublime missionary zeal. They longed to carry the Gospel of Peace to the darkest spots of earth. And by simple appeals and the example of pure and blameless lives to win men from wars and wickedness to peace and virtue. So, amid prayerful farewells, many of the brethren and sisters, the very flower of the congregation, set out from the little German village on diverse paths. Some of the pious missionaries went to the West Indies, some to Greenland, some went to the distant Cape of Good Hope, where, under southern skies, they toiled among the savage Hottentots; others took their way to the regions of everlasting snow and ice, where their converts were the fur-clad and blubber-eating Esquimaux. Of the fortunes of the heroic missionaries it is for others to tell the history.
It was natural that the simple-minded Moravians should turn their prayerful hearts to the fierce Indians of America. The stories of their enormous stature, their hideous cannibalism, their appalling blood-thirstiness and cruelties, which floated in distorted fragments to the placid Moravian community, instead of deterring them only impressed more deeply on their minds the midnight darkness, the infinite needs of the poor savages. So they sought the New World -- pale-faced scholars and slender nuns, weak in every thing but their sublime faith and utter forgetfulness of self. A mere outline of the tragic history of the Moravian missions in America but poorly represents the toils, the hardships, the sufferings, the sickness, the deaths, which from the first was the lot of the frail missionaries.
Their first attempts were made in Georgia, in 1732. After seven years of labor, in which time they had managed to build a tolerably comfortable settlement, a war broke out between England and Spain. The fierce Cherokees became involved in it. The poor missionaries had to abandon the product of those seven years of weary toil, and fly for their lives. Their next location was in Pennsylvania, where, in the process of time, they founded several settlements to which they gave such gentle names as Nazareth, Bethlehem, Nain, Gnadenhutten (Tents of Mercy), and Friedenshutten (Tents of Peace).
At the same time that the tired wanderers commenced anew their labors in Pennsylvania some of their number pushed on to New York and Connecticut. A small settlement was founded in each State, on the lands of the white people. Little by little, the pious missionaries won a handful of converts from the Indians around them, perhaps fifty or sixty in each place. The Christian Indians came and settled with the missionaries, leading settled and upright lives. They worked in the field, assembled for morning and evening worship, and, catching the fire from the burning hearts of the Moravians, labored to win others of their race from habits of war, indolence, and drunkenness.
But if the Moravians were saints, their white neighbors were devils. These latter spared no pains to tempt the converts with rum, and to destroy the influence of the missionaries with lies. The drove the Moravians from their fields with open violence. This was not all. They circulated reports through the provinces that the pale-faced preachers were French spies, and were laboring to detach the Iroquois from the English. The gentle missionaries were dragged before justices of the peace, petty tyrants, whose criminal jurisdiction has always been, and yet remains, an intolerable and outrageous shame. They were dragged about from place to place for examination, thrown into prison, and subjected to cruel insults. The ministry of other Churches joined the hue and cry against the martyrs, and denounced them as papists. These men, whose sect had undergone every species of infernal persecution and torture from the Catholic Church, upon whom the fagot, sword, and thumb-screw had been used without mercy, were publicly accused of being papists! The devil must have thrust his tongue into his cheek and almost exploded with infernal laughter at the monstrous joke. Still worse, men declared that the Brethren had three thousand stand of arms, with which they intended to arm the Iroquois in the interest of France.
Such an uproar was raised that the governor of New York, on December 15, 1744, sent a sheriff and three justices of the peace to notify the Brethren that they were prohibited from holding any further meetings, and further ordering them to appear before the governor. Nothing was developed, except that the missionaries were conscientiously opposed to taking oaths. The assembly at once passed a law prohibiting any person from living in the province who refused to take an oath. Two of the leading missionaries, men of eminent piety, on their way from Bethlehem to the Iroquois confederacy, were arrested, taken to New York, thrown into a loathsome prison cell, and kept there seven weeks. Let us remember that these things were done in our country. Let us learn from the bitter past. Let us resolve, earnestly and honestly to rebuke superstition and religious intolerance wherever we find it, and at every cost to keep our courts free from partisan and political prejudice.
The sequel is evident. The New York and Connecticut missions were given up. Amid a hooting mob, the ministers of peace and their poor ignorant converts, who were no doubt confused and troubled at the dark and devious ways of the white man, humbly marched away to join their brethren in Pennsylvania. In a material way the Pennsylvania settlements had much greater prosperity. The towns were laid out regularly, with smooth, broad streets. At the time of the Revolution the Brethren at Bethlehem owned nearly a hundred buildings, all of stone, and of picturesque, though simple architecture. Among these was a large church, from whose belfry a sweet chime of bells sounded a musical call to morning and evening worship. There was also the "Home for Single Brothers," and at a little distance, surrounded by trees, the pretty "Home for Single Sisters," as well as a third companion building, the "Home for Widowed Sisters." Here in their sober garments, with white aprons and white linen head-dress, the neat Moravian nuns plied their busy fingers. The buzz of the spinning-wheel and the rattle of the old-fashioned loom never ceased. The spacious buildings and tidy rooms were neatly though plainly furnished, and not a speck of dirt was allowed on the premises. Each inmate had a separate bed of scrupulous whiteness.
Around the picturesque village many a hundred acre field of grain flashed in the sunlight. The whole community was ideal, such as one reads about in fiction. During the hour's rest at noontide, the laborers would snatch up musical instruments, and fill the air with quaint, rich melodies. These plain people were skilled musicians. The place also contained the finest artisans in America. In all Europe could not be obtained such rarely ornamented pistols, such accurate watches, and such ingenious embroidery. A fine water works was a pat of the product of the skill and industry of the Brethren. European travelers went wild over the rare and curious souvenirs to be bought at Bethlehem.
Perhaps nothing, however, added so much to the reputation of the place as its inn and hostelry. In all America there was not another such haven of rest for the tired traveler. The building was a large and handsome stone structure, with commodious sleeping rooms, and beds for which no praise was too high. The table was all that could be desired. It abounded in the rarest mountain trout, the sweetest venison and partridges, together with famous beef and mutton, and the fattest poultry. Of the vegetables and fruits there was no end, and at no other table in America was to be found such rarely flavored wines, and such famous brands of other liquors. It is evident that the simple and abstemious Brethren knew well how to minister to their more worldly guests.
In addition to this material prosperity, the gentle strangers made many converts from the Indians. These would settle near them in peaceful communities, strangely contrasted with the wild villages in which they had been born and reared. They were faithful even unto death.
But the pleasant picture of Bethlehem and its surroundings in by no means the only thing to be described. Troubles there were for the Moravians, on which we have twice already touched. We have seen the massacre at the first Gnadenhutten, on Mahony Creek, in November, 1755. We have also seen how, during the ferocities of the border warfare of 1763, the Christian Indians were removed for safety to Philadelphia. These Indians were the poor, surprised converts, gathered in quiet little settlements, near Bethlehem. Sheep gathered near their shepherds. We have given a brief sketch of their sufferings, of the cruel mob which mocked their sorrows, and insulted their weakness; of the terrible journey toward New York; of the peremptory refusal to admit them to the province, and the weary return to Philadelphia. Even this was not the end of their misfortunes. The small-pox broke out among them in the barracks, and carried off large numbers. In the midst of these afflictions, their missionaries stayed with them, offering the comfort and solace which is from above. The poor outcasts remained faithful to the end. Suffering wrung from them only prayers. The plague itself only inspired the unhappy converts to new praises for God's providence. For more than a year they were cooped in the unhealthy Philadelphia barracks. Much of the time the guards with difficulty protected them from the ruffians of the city. Far more dangerous would it have been for them in their homes. The Moravians themselves were regarded by the borderers as French sympathizers, if not spies. Several of the settlements where the Indians had lived were laid in ashes by furious rangers, from whom the inhabitants themselves had barely escaped. Even the mills and expensive water-works at Bethlehem were set on fire by incendiaries.
At last the glad word came that the war was over. The doors of the barracks were thrown open. The unhappy Christians were told to go where they pleased. But where to go was a question. That a return to their former settlements, where they would be exposed to the ruffians of the border, was highly dangerous, and even foolish, was evident. The wanderers journeyed to Bethlehem, guided and guarded by the ever faithful missionaries. From there it was decided that they should go to Wyoming. The journey thither was so difficult that many of the party who had survived all the sufferings of the Philadelphia barracks died by the way. At last they reached the pleasant shores of the Susquehanna. Here they industriously set to work to clear and fence the ground for planting. For provision, the men killed such game as they could find, while the women and children gathered wild potatoes and roots, to eke out the scanty meals. Here, in spite of the hostility of the Six Nations, the antagonism of Indian prophets and conjurors, and the meanness of the white settlers, who tempted the converts with rum, the Christian Indians prospered. In the course of seven years, their revivals greatly recruited their ranks, and tireless industry had built a pleasant village. There were forty well-built houses of squared logs and shingle roofs, a large, new church, "with a neat cupola and bell on top." The gardens were surrounded by paling fences, and the young orchards were beginning to bear well.
Their enemies, however, began to annoy the regenerated savages greatly. The lordly Iroquois sold the land on which the village was located to English speculators, and had the impudence to send two Spanish dollars to the Christian Indians as their share of the purchase money. Surveyors came and pretended to lay out the land for the new owners. A thousand indications of hostility were seen. The poor Indians became alarmed. It was evident that they must leave their happy settlement, throwing away the product of seven year's of toil, and start anew in some other region. Long and prayerful consultations were held. The final resolution was taken. They met to hold public worship for the last time in the chapel of which they had been so proud. A last look was taken at the comfortable houses, the neat gardens, and the rich fields. Then they, for whom there seemed to be no resting place on earth, turned their faces toward the new home in the west. Surely it at last would be one of permanent peace, happiness, and security.
There were two hundred and forty-one persons in the party. The details of the journey which have been preserved are few. Some went by boat, taking all the plows, pick-axes, harrows, iron-pots, and other utensils. The land party had seventy head of cattle to care for. They waded tremendous morasses, crossed steep and rocky mountain ranges, waded and swam rivers without number. Many of the party were bitten by rattlesnakes. They were stung by vicious insects. The measles broke out among the children. One faithful Indian mother had a poor, crippled son, whom she carried in a basket on her shoulders. Day by day she journeyed on, feeling the burden on her back grow lighter, and that on heart grow heavier, until one morning she found all the load transferred to the latter. A rude grave was made, a simple prayer offered, and then the slow procession moved on. One can feel that mother's heart turning back forever afterward to the little mound in the wildwood.
Their destination was the banks of the Muskingum River, where the Delawares had invited then to come. Worn and weary they reached the river's banks, and knelt in simple prayer of thankfulness to God. Here the new-comers built three villages, Shonbrum, Lichtenau, an, in memory of the past, and unwittingly in prophesy of the future, a third, named Gnadenhutten. They succeeded, as they had ever done. Shonbrun was the larger and handsomest of the villages yet built by the Christian Indians. It had sixty houses. The prospect for the conversion of the entire Delaware nation seemed bright. An "infidel" medicine man from the Six Nations, who came to argue with the converts, was confuted and confused. The pleasant state of affairs was interrupted by Lord Dunmore's war.
War had always brought harm to the Christian Indians. The hostilities ended without serious injury to the colony. It was not long, however, till the black portents of the Revolution appeared in the sky. The missionaries explained the trouble to the Delawares, and through the influence of their chief, Captain White Eyes, the nation resolved to remain neutral. This, of course, was the attitude of the Christian colony. The colonies invited the Delawares to come under the protection of their government, but the recollection of the fate of the Conestogas and the Moravians, made them shrink from such a protector. Yet, through 1776, and the stormy time of 1777, the Delawares remained at home in peace.
The English, at Detroit, attributed this to the influence of the missionaries. The Wyandots three times offered the war-belt to the Delawares. Finally, word was sent to Shonbrun that all would be murdered unless they left the place at once. Once more these sad children were driven from home. The chapel was torn down, that it might not be used for unholy purposes, and the procession of exiles again wound through the forest, to join one of the other settlements. As the terrible drama of the border war progressed, the war parties of Indians would pass through the peaceful settlements very frequently. Their object was, perhaps, to annoy the people and excite the Delawares, or, perhaps, only to get a good meal, which they uniformly demanded, and as uniformly received. One is not likely to refuse some victuals to a band of painted savages, armed with rifle and tomahawk. To have done so would probably have resulted in the destruction of the settlements. Yet, these acts were liable to misconstruction by the bold Indian fighters of the border. Bitter experience had shown that the Christian Indians would be confounded with the general mass.
On the other hand, a trio of deserters from Fort Pitt -- McKee, Elliot, and Girty -- spread reports among the Delawares that it was the purpose of the Americans to kill every Indian in the Ohio valley, and that an army was then on the march to carry out the plan. An official denial of this lie was necessary in order to prevent the Delawares from going to war at once. No runner could be found to carry the message from Fort Pitt. Heckewelder, the Moravian, undertook the dangerous journey. He arrived among the Delawares not a moment too soon, but he succeeded in convincing them of the falsity of the renegades' story. For the present Captain White Eyes, chief of the peace party among the Delawares, triumphed over his adversaries, who threatened to lead the tribe against the helpless frontiers.
The Moravian settlements were between two merciless fires. The English commander at Detroit burned with suspicion and hostility toward the peaceful missionaries. He rightfully suspected them of holding the Delawares in check, but he attributed to them the wrong motive. As had been said, the missionaries were neutral, both in conduct and spirit. Nevertheless, the petty annoyances, the everlasting incitements to warfare, the harassing threats, the mysterious inuendoes, and the open insolence of the emissaries, both white and Indian, compelled the evacuation of not only Shonbrun, but also of the other settlements. Shonbrun was destroyed. At Gnadenhutten, the chapel, cottages, barns, and gardens were left standing, unoccupied and desolate.
The refugees assembled at Lichtenau, some thirty miles away. Here they were packed into small apartments, crowded together at scanty and insufficient tables, and subjected to the greatest discomforts. Their cattle, horses, and sheep were herded in small pastures, designed for only one-third of their number. Here, throughout the winter of 1778-79. The unfortunates, both human and brute, were compelled to remain.
As spring came on, grave questions confronted the missionaries. The Christian Indians, inpatient with their surroundings, longed to return to the fertile gardens and tenantless houses which they had, in their panic, abandoned during the previous year. Aside from the motives which inspired these homesick creatures, the missionaries became aware of other powerful reasons for dividing the Lichtenau settlement. The American borderers had suffered severely during the preceding year. They were now waging an offensive warfare. They were pursuing the Indian war-parties for into the west. Many Indian warriors passed through Lichtenau to beg a meal. The whites, following their trail, might at any time be led to the open village, throughout the extent of which scarcely a gun was to be found, and, roused by every feeling of hatred and indiscriminate vengeance, might butcher every helpless inmate of the place.
Gladly did the Christian Indians return to their old homes at Gnadenhutten and Shonbrun. For nearly two years these people considered themselves fortunate. They were left to till their gardens in peace, with no more alarming occurrence than the theft of their live stock. Lichtenau, however, continued to have its troubles. Captain White Eyes, the great peace chief of the Delawares, whose ambition and leadership had always been directed toward the civilization of his low-brewed people, died. Deputations from distant tribes, not omitting the remote and terrible Cherokees, visited the Delawares. With blackened faces, with cruel thorns thrust in their flesh, and with the sorrowful eloquence of the forest, these ambassadors paid their tribute of grief to the memory of the great departed. If the missionaries omitted to prick themselves with thorns, paint themselves black, and utter lugubrious howls, it was not because they were less sad at the chieftain's death.
Captain Pipe, the rival of White Eyes, at once became the master spirit of his people. His voice was lifted for open war. The poor people at Lichtenau became the victims of robbery and murder. So intolerable did their situation become, that, in the spring of 1780, they, in turn, were forced to abandon their place. With streaming eyes, with hands uplifted to the heavens, which seemed as brass above them, they join in a farewell service, them thrust the torch into handsome little church and settlement, and as the encircling flames leap upward, the wanderers turn their faces toward Gnadenhutten. Earth seemed to have no resting-place for her most heroic children.
Seven miles from Gnadenhutten, the brave Christian Indians who, by their constancy, in the midst of suffering, to their new religion, rivaled the martyrs who had preceded them by many an age, again began the construction of a town. To this the simple-minded people gave the gentle name of Salem. It was eight weary months in building. December snows lay thick upon the frozen ground, the wild animals were sleeping benumbed in hollow trucks and hidden caverns, and cutting blasts roared loudly among the leafless branches of the trees, before the refugees were again gathered around the cheery firesides of comfortable homes. Still, by their removal, they gained one thing. That thing was peace. By peace, we are to understand, not a life exempt from trouble, danger, and violence, but merely an immunity from scalp-lifting and the insolent exactions of hostile savages. The white people were very attentive. Not a week passed in which horses, cattle, or sheep were not stolen. These robberies, however, took place at night, and the polite plunderers took great care not to disturb the sleeping settlement.
The monotony of the settlers' lives was varied by disagreeable episodes. One day, when the good missionary Zeisberger was passing through the forest, eight ruffians, headed by the white monster, Simon Girty, sprang forward from the shadow to murder him. This was the fruit of a wicked plot, of which warnings had already reached the settlement. But, Zeisberger, when told of it, had simply lifted his eyes to heaven with a prayer to God in whom he put his trust. When his friends urged him to take precautions, he gently rebuked them. To such he said, suggestively, "God will protect me." Either in answer to the good man's prayer, or by some happy chance, some Delawares passed by just as the murderers were about to put the missionary to death. And at sight of the new-comers, Girty and his gang took to their heels. Zeisberger found in his deliverance a new miracle with which to excite the reverence of the Indians among whom he labored.
This incident was the first indication to the missionaries of a dark and far-reaching conspiracy for their destruction, more portentous than any which had alarmed them. The Iroquois had been urged to take in hand the work of destruction. This lordly people had, however, no mind to soil their fingers with the bloody task. They simply sent messengers to the Ojibwas, Ottawas, and Wyandots. Their messages ran thus: "We herewith make you a present of the Christian Indians on the Muskingum to make broth of."
The Wyandots accepted the bloody gift. An expedition was at once fitted out. On the 10th of August, 1780, one hundred and fifty plumed and painted warriors appeared before the startled town of Salem. They demanded an interview with the leading men of the settlement. Messengers were sent off in the night to Shonbrun and to Gnadenhutten with short, sharp information of the danger. When Zeisberger received the news he said, "It then has the appearance was if Satan is again about to make himself merry by persecuting us."
The old missionary was about correct. During the following day, the Indians, with re-enforcements, having forced the frightened settlers to empty their larders of their choicest contents, repaired to Gnadenhutten for the conference. Only the chiefs took part in this. The common Indians had a grand drunk, which lasted a week. In this time they frightened the peaceful Christian Indians almost to death by their hideous threats and insults. The half king of the Wyandots demanded that the Christian Indians should at once leave their settlements and go upon the war-path. To this the unfortunates replied with tears and entreaties. The situation of the settlement was critical. That the inhabitants would be murdered in case of refusal to comply with the demands of the Wyandots was highly probable.
The plan for the murder of the missionaries was perfected. The warriors became surly and threatening. They would brandish their hatchets in the faces of the missionaries with horrid curses. In spite of their danger, the Christian Indians stood by their bold refusal. In this crisis, Zeisberger, Senseman, and Heckewelder found themselves prisoners. The settlements were panic-stricken. The prisoners were bound and placed under guard. Poor Heckewelder, to his anguish, was shortly informed that forty Indians were going to Salem to get his wife and child. The information was correct. At midnight the party returned in triumph. Heckewelder's home had been entered, his wife and child made prisoners. The feather beds had been emptied into the yard, and sacks of coffee, and barrels of flour scattered through the streets.
For several days these terrible scenes continued. The result was inevitable. For perhaps the fifteenth time the settlements of the Moravians were abandoned. Gnadenhutten, Shonbrun, and Salem were left desolate and deserted. Many head of cattle were left behind. Large stores of provision remained in the cellars of the houses. Many hundred acres of corn, almost ripe for harvest, were left in the field without a hand to gather in the abundant yield.
The journey was made partly by land, partly by canoes. One night a terrific storm burst upon the encampment of wretched refugees. Even the women with babes in their arms, stood knee-deep in the flood which covered their camping-ground. Large trees were torn up by the roots. Others were broken off and carried by the wind for an immense distance. Every camp-fire was put out. Alarmed and wretched, the poor people passed hour after hour in the darkness of night, amid the convulsions of the elements and the fury of the storm. This was but one of many hardships. Sometimes the Indians cruelly struck the prisoners, staggering under heavy packs.
At last, on the eleventh day of October, 1781, they reached their destination, on the upper Sandusky River. There the Wyandots, taking all the valuable provision, unceremoniously left the unfortunates to shift for themselves. The situation was full of wretchedness. The milch-cows failed for want of pasturage. Corn was only to be had by paying a dollar for two or three quarts. Increasing cold caused the keenest suffering to the wanderers, who were encamped in the open air in the midst of a vast and barren prairie. The very logs with which to construct houses had to be dragged a great distance.
Leaving the others to prepare such shelter as they could, the four white missionaries were summoned to Detroit, to be tried for treason to the English. They made the journey amid insufferable hardships, arriving at Detroit with scarcely a rag on their backs, barefooted, famished, and sick at heart. The good missionaries made a favorable impression on their judges. They were not only acquitted, but sent back home with generous supplies of provision, clothing, and blankets. Their return to the rough camp on the Sandusky was the occasion of great joy. A little meeting-house was built. Heckewelder writes: "The Christmas holydays, notwithstanding our poverty, were celebrated with cheerfulness and a blessing, and the year concluded with thanks and praises to Him who is ever the guardian and savior of his people."
The memorable year of 1782 opened with disasters which formed true omens of the sad events which were near at hand. The cold became insupportable. Fire-wood was almost wholly wanting. At every thaw the water forced itself into the floorless cabins. The cattle dropped dead from starvation. Suckling babes perished for want of nourishment from their mothers' impoverished breasts. One pint of corn a day was the allowance to each person. In spite of this destitution, bullying Wyandots, and even Simon Girty himself, would force their way into the cabins of the unhappy people, and insolently demand the preparation of a good meal.
These hardships led the Christian Indians to a desperate resolve. They determined to make their way back to Gnadenhutten, gather the corn left standing in the fields, and bring supplies to their starving families. They set out at once on their journey, leaving those behind to count the weary days till their return. Arrived at Gnadenhutten, they commenced the work of gathering the corn. Some was stored in holes in the ground. Quantities were put up in packs for transportation. They were on the point of beginning their return trip, when four Sandusky warriors met them with alarming news. This quartet of savages had captured a white woman and her child and put them to death. The whites had found the mangled remains, and were in full pursuit if the murderers. Before the Christian Indians had made their start homeward, a party of two hundred enraged borderers dashed into Gnadenhutten. Their hands already reddened with the murder of two half-bloods on the outskirts of the settlement. Of this, the Indians scattered through their corn-fields, were ignorant. One party of Indians surrendered at once on the promise that they would be taken to Pittsburgh. No one suspected the bloody intentions of the whites. The innocent Christian Indians were completely deceived. The whites represented themselves as devout Christians. They took a pious interest in the meeting-house, and solemnly inquired as to state of the Indians' souls. Their only wish was to have the Indians lay down their arms and go with them to Pittsburgh, where their hardships and sufferings would be over, and where they would be joined by their friends from the Sandusky.
To this plan the unsuspecting Indians gave a joyous assent. The designing whites induced them to send messengers to Salem and elsewhere, to summon their companions to assemble at Gnadenhutten. These simple-hearted people fell into their snare. No sooner were they all at Gnadenhutten, and disarmed, than the conduct of the whites underwent a sudden change. The Indians were informed that they were prisoners. They were accused of having stolen property from the white people of the frontiers. They were charged with having massacred the settlers. They were impeached for sympathy with the British, and for treachery to the Americans. The borderers heaped upon them insults, and with the most frightful curses struck one after another of the unresisting people to the ground.
The Christian Indians were informed that they must die. To the protestations of innocence and prayers for mercy the black-hearted and enraged borderers turned an ear of stone. The condemned saw that their doom was fixed. Faithful even in death to the religion which had involved them in such suffering; which, while it had opened their eyes to the truth, had only led them into an unending career of misery, they begged a short respite in which they might make a last sad preparation for death. The request was granted. Asking pardon for whatever offense they had given of grief they had occasioned, they kneeled down, offering fervent prayers to God, and kissing one another under a flood of tears, they commended their souls to the Savior, their great exemplar in suffering.
A farewell song, which they had been singing, was scarcely finished, when one of the murderers picked up a cooper's mallet. "This," said he, "will exactly suit out purpose." A deadly hatred glittering his unfeeling eye. With a hasty stride forward he dashed out the brains of the nearest Indian, whose eyes were closed and hands uplifted, as he still knelt in prayer. Not an Indian stirred as the murder proceeded down the line. Again and again he performed the act of murder, until a row of fourteen ghastly corpses marked his bloody path. Breathless with the awful work, he tossed the mallet to a companion, saying, "Go on with the glorious work. I have done pretty well."
This was but the opening scene in the tragedy. The flood-gates of murder were open. The tide would have its way. Old men and young men, loving mothers, gentle maidens, and unconscious babes, innocent in the sight of earth and heaven, meek and unresisting as lambs led to the slaughter, were massacred outright. Ninety persons were put to death within half an hour. Sixty-two of the number were grown persons, the remainder laughing bright-eyed children. Only two captives escaped the massacre. One crept under a plank in the floor, and lay concealed, while the blood of his companions dripped through the open cracks upon his face. The other, though knocked down and scalped, was not killed. After nightfall, he crept through a small window and stole away. Another boy was unable to get out at the window, on account of his size, and was left imprisoned until the building was fired and the crackling flames released his soul from earth.
Glutted with their deeds of vengeance, finding no more work for their reddened hands to do, the monsters reluctantly withdrew to the shades of the neighboring forest. One of them, as if unsatisfied, returned to feast his fiendish eyes upon the horrid scene. At that moment, a youth, mangled and bloody, was lifting himself upon his hand. A smile of gratification crossed the white man's face as he buried his tomahawk in the brain of the unfortunate. As night drew on, the houses of the settlement were fired. Henceforth the peaceful name of Gnadenhutten was to stand as the title of the place which the wrath of man, insane and wicked, had given over, without right or reason, to fire and blood.
Days and weeks passed by, and still the scene of slaughter remained a solitude. The flowers of spring blossomed out in all their old-time fragrance and beauty. The somber forests were embowered in soft, green foliage as rich and lovely as before. The sunny skies of May were just as blue, the waving verdure of the prairies had just had just as bright an emerald hue, the gentle breezes of the spring were just as balmy as when the humble converts of the Moravian missions looked out upon the landscape with happy faces and grateful hearts. The awful crime had left no stain upon the face of nature. Its only record was the unburied skeletons of the slain. Years have come and gone, until a century has rolled its ponderous wheels around. Other generations of men, ignorant or thoughtless of the past, now populate the accursed spot of slaughter. Only now and then does some curious reader peruse the red pages of the story of the massacre.
It would be interesting to follow the career of the missionaries and their converts, which were left on the Sandusky River. They endured this blow, as they had all others, without a murmur against the God they worshiped. It was not long, however, before they were compelled to abandon their settlement. Again and again they sought to find a resting place; sometimes in Canada, sometimes in the territory of the States, once even near the site if the fated Gnadenhutten. But in no place did their neighbors permit them to remain longer than two or three years, and often scarcely as many months. No less than seven removals are recorded after the massacre. At last, even the invincible courage and sublime faith of the missionaries wavered. The coverts, already wearied with the conflict with their external foes, were attacked by internal enemies. Skepticism, heathenism, and savage passions fought hand-to hand with the Christian faith of the proselytes. A few remained faithful. Some succumbed. After so many years of suffering, the western missions of the Moravians were abandoned. Some twenty-five times since they came to America had these peaceful ministers been driven from their settlements, which they had founded with infinite pain and toil. The odds of ignorance, brutality, and wickedness were too great. Such of the pious missionaries as had survived the struggle made their way back to the peaceful Bethlehem. They had gone out from there young, vigorous, full of faith. They returned gray-haired, bent with age and exposure, disappointed and defeated.
Retyped and reformatted by Ray and Kathy Leigh