History of Luzerne County Pennsylvania

H. C. Bradsby, Editor
S. B. Nelson & Co., Publishers, 1893




UPON the reception of the horrible tidings from Forty fort, Gen. Washington directed Col. Thomas Hartley to form a rendezvous, collect troops and move against the invaders. At the same time Col. William Butler, of the Fourth Pennsylvania, was ordered from Fort Stanwix to go down and form a junction with Col. Hartley, at Tioga (Athens), and together operate against the enemy.

[p.124] The militia were called out and ordered to Sunbury. These were to be joined by Capt. Spalding's company. A detachment from New York was given them, and under Col. Thomas Hartley, of Pennsylvania, an expedition was set on foot up the west branch of the Susquehanna. Much delay in getting the expedition ready followed. Only in September had 200 men assembled at Muncy, of these 130 were from Wyoming under Capt. Spalding, sixty of whom were from the Eleventh Pennsylvania regiment. With this little band Col. Hartley set out for Tioga Point, September 21. The road was a terrible one; the fall rains had raised the streams, and of the route Col. Hartley said: "I can not help observing that I imagine the difficulties in crossing the Alps or passing up the Kennipeck could not have been greater than those our men experienced for the time." Four days was this journey through the cold rains and wading streams frequently, and on the cold ground at night without fire, for fear of the enemy, and yet these men never so much as murmured. The first of the enemy they discovered was near where is now Canton, in the southwest corner of Bradford county. September 26 Hartley's advance met a party of Indians, fired upon them, killed and scalped their chief, and the others fled. In the neighborhood of Le Roy they came upon a fresh camp where about seventy had spent the night previous, but had fled on Hartley's approach. The command pressed on as fast as possible to Sheshequin; here they rescued fifteen prisoners from the Indians, and recaptured quite a number of cattle. Col. Butler was to have joined Col. Hartley at this point, but failing to do so, a small detachment was sent to Tioga, and Queen Esther's village was destroyed. No more daring military movement was ever made with impunity than this of Col. Hartley's. He returned rapidly, the first day reaching Wyalusing, where they halted and cooked the little beef they had as all the food left. The powerful enemy was rapidly collecting to swoop down on his little band and exterminate them, and Hartley realized that he must move fast enough to keep ahead of any pursuers. They had hardly formed in the march out of Wyalusing when they met the enemy; these they soon dispersed, and in a short time again, were attacked in front, but again beat off their assailants. As they reached Indian Hill on the lower edge of Bradford county, a heavy attack was made on their left flank and rear; the rear guard gave way when Capt. Spalding went to its support. Col. Hartley skillfully handled his men, while those in the boats landed and came up in the rear of the enemy, when they, supposing they were about to be surrounded, precipitately fled. Hartley's loss was four killed and ten wounded. Col. John Franklin was in this expedition as captain of the Wyoming militia. In his diary is this entry: "The troops retook a great number of the Wyoming cattle, horses and other property, and returned with their booty October 1; they met many hazardous skirmishes, with the loss of several lives. Several Indians were killed. Col. Hartley and his men were warmly thanked on their return by the executive council of Pennsylvania. It was a blow in return upon the enemy, and though not a heavy one, was magnificent and daring."

The gathering accounts from the bloody Wyoming—the fateful July 3—it seems had now fully aroused the continental congress, and it set about determined and vigorous measures of retaliation, to punish to the last extremity the Indians for their treachery and cruelty, as well as the white-Indians found consorting with them. Hartley's expedition had failed of the full measure of striking the common enemy of civilization such a blow as was imperatively called for under the circumstances; through no fault of the intrepid Hartley, or his brave men, but by the failure of the companion expedition to effect a junction with him at Tioga. Congress advised with Gen. Washington and it was determined to send a strong force up the Susquehanna and on to and through the Genesee valley, the heart of the powerful Iroquois nation and crush the haughty, savage and dangerous spirit of that people. It was Gen. Washington who advised this movement as the only way to strike effectually [p.127] this dangerous enemy in the rear—more threatening than the army in front. The result was the organization of the Sullivan expedition.

Washington's instructions for the commander bear date May 31, 1779. He tendered the command to Gen. Gates, who, on account of age, declined, and it was given to Gen. John Sullivan, who was directed to rendezvous a force of about 5,000 men at Easton, Pa., and march up the Susquehanna. At the same time, Gen. Clinton was ordered to move with his brigade of New York troops and pass down the upper Susquehanna and join Sullivan's forces at Tioga (now Athens), Bradford county. This was one of the important military movements of the Revolutionary war—in results, perhaps, far exceeding any or all others. It was forced reluctantly upon Washington, who had forgiven one act of treachery after another on the part of the red men, after he and the American people had exhausted every means to keep terms of amity with the Indians, or at least to remain neutral in the rebellion against the mother country. There was nothing in the question between the two countries that should have caused the Indians to take sides. In their dense ignorance they knew not that they were by their folly not only forfeiting their rich possessions, but were periling their very existence as a tribe. Washington's military genius indicated to him the immediate results that must follow the success of Sullivan's expedition.

The expedition was directed against the Six Nations, the most powerful body of savages this continent ever knew. Their seat of empire was along the Genesee valley by the lakes. They had trodden like the grass the other tribes of America, extending their conquests to Florida and west to the Mississippi river. Their lands in New York were as rich and beautiful as any on the continent. They had progressed in agriculture until smiling fields of grain, corn and various vegetables were on every hand. They had comfortable huts, and in some cases rude chimneys to them. They helped strike the cruel blow upon the helpless frontier people, and thereby forfeited all their rich inheritance. In Gen. Washington's instructions to Sullivan and in his report to congress he says: "I congratulate congress on his (Gen. Sullivan's) having completed so effectually the destruction of the whole of the towns and settlements of the hostile Indians in so short a time and with so inconsiderable a loss of men." * * * * To the commander he said: "It is proposed to carry the war into the heart of the country of the Six Nations, to cut off their settlements, destroy their next year's crop, and do them every other mischief which time and circumstances will permit. "And again, that there might be no misapprehension, he said: "The immediate objects are the total destruction of the hostile tribes of the Six Nations and the devastation of their settlements and the capture of as many prisoners of every age and sex as possible." There could be no mistake here on the part of Gen. Sullivan. Not only the commander, but the civilized world, understood that here was the terrible answer back to the bloody Wyoming. This was war, not strictly in kind, but swift and terrible, and gave us empire from ocean to ocean. Strict neutrality would have left the Indians in peace, the possession of their homes, crops, ponies and cattle, but far greater than these their rich and boundless land possessions.

Gen. Sullivan's expedition was at the same time supplemented—rather duplicated—by a similar expedition simultaneously carried on by Gen. George Rogers Clark, down the Ohio river and into the Illinois against the British forts at Kaskaskia and Vincennes. The first was under the continental congress and Gen. Washington, while the other was under Virginia (Gov. Patrick Henry) and the "Hannibal of the Northwest"—Gen. George Rogers Clark.

These military expeditions, conceived and executed at the same time, one by Washington and congress, the other by Gov. Patrick Henry and Gen. Clark, the movements of each unknown to the other, are two of the stupendous episodes in the annals of mankind.

[p.128] The question of the success of the American Revolution, little as it was known by our great forefathers, was the very soul and being of the advance of the human race in liberty, in thought, and the higher civilization. We can now know the liberty gained by the Americans in its reflected influence spread over the world, even to the remotest corner of the British empire itself, after its long seven years of cruel war of attempted subjugation crowned even England with an aureole of liberty. The American tories—even these mistaken men, so fierce in opposing their own neighbors, and sometimes members of their own families—were among the beneficiaries of the heroic struggles of the noble sons of liberty. Until the hour of the conception of the Sullivan and the Clark expeditions, there was no thought among the fathers other than that of independence for the little fringe of territory that ran along our Atlantic shore. It was hardly more than individual liberty in their ideas, but these two expeditions were the beginning of our present wide empire: these numerous stars set in azure blue, now glinting upon 63,000,000 of freemen, marching ever onward. These then were vastly more than local events. In results they were not only continental but world-wide and as enduring as the hills. They have touched the whole human race, and made millions of freemen where otherwise would yet have been bred only galley slaves—men, women and children yoked to the cruelest servitude.

Sullivan's army took up its line of march from Easton June 18, 1779, reached Wilkes-Barre on the 23d, and spent three days here looking over the battle-field and fitting out, of which the journalists of the expedition gave many blood-chilling accounts of the sights that here met their gaze; repeating all the wild stories that the poor flying people had told at the dreadful moment. The story of the killing of Henry Pensil by his brother is given in all its horrid details. From one of the several diaries is the following under date of July 2, 1779:

Rode out this morning with Gen. Poor and Col. Dearbon about four miles, to view the ground where the battle was fought between the Savages and the people of Wyoming under Col. Butler, we saw a Stockade fort with a Covert Way to a fountain which our guide told us was built for a shew by some of the disaffected Inhabitants & given up to the Enemy immediately upon their approach; we examined the Trees where the line of Battle was formed, but found very few marks of an Obstinate Engagement; it appears indeed that the Enemy were superior in numbers to the militia and soon after the Commencement of the Action turned their left Flank, this brought on a retreat, in which the savages massacred upwards of 200 men— We saw more or less bones scattered over the ground for near two miles & several Sculls brought in at different times, that had been Scalped and inhumanly mangled with the Hatchet. A captain's commission with 17 Continental Dollars was found in the pocket of the Skeleton of a man, who had laid above ground 12 months— Our guide shewed us where 73 Bodies had been buried in one hole, this place may with propriety be called Golgotha— All the houses along this river have been burnt; and the Gardens and fields, the most fertile I ever beheld, grown over with weeds and Bushes, exhibit a melancholy picture of Savage rage and Desolation.

This entry in the diary was made exactly one year after the battle. It conflicts in an immaterial point with Steuben Jenkins' account of the burial of the dead, as well as adding another enigma to the many accounts of the battle.

At this point Gen. Sullivan's army, 3,500 strong, had a fleet of boats to be ready for them, and the expedition was divided and part by land and the other on boats proceeded up the Susquehanna river to Tioga (Athens). Here a junction of the two armies was effected, Fort Sullivan was built and the army marched up to Newton (near Elmira), met the enemy in force and gained a signal victory. Sullivan's entire force as he moved out from Tioga was 51,000 men. The defeated Indians fled to Canada; Sullivan divided his force and proceeded to devastate the Indian country.

The Pennsylvania troops in Sullivan's army were under Gen. Hand, including the regiments of Col. Richard Butler, Col. Hubley and Col. Hartley and the German battalion; Capt. Spalding's independent company; Capt. Schott's riflemen; Capt. John Franklin's county militia, and several sharpshooters in Morgan's rifle corps. Lieut. John Jenkins was the chief guide of the expedition. The Eleventh [p.129] Pennsylvania and Capt. Spalding's company constituted the advance force that marched by land.

The purpose of Gen. Sullivan's expedition was completely successful; the blow to the Iroquois was fatal, from which, as a people or tribe, they never recovered. The immediate results of the action of that people was the awful calamity to the community of this beautiful valley, to be followed by the stern retaliation of the Hartley and Sullivan expeditions. The ultimate and permanent results are now before us, blooming in all the splendors of this present wealth, universal prosperity, of a people of gentle blood, culture and refinement. Their rich and wide domains were the unequaled forfeit paid by stupid barbarians for their cruel folly. Their sins were grievous, and so were their sufferings. The bloody work of the savage at the Wyoming and Cherry valleys was the beginning of the end of the Indians on this continent.

In the rush of significant events in the Revolutionary times, it is most remarkable that the important feat of Sullivan and his army almost escaped attention; and in time from the chronicles of our Union, it hardly received a passing notice; if mentioned at all it was by some carping critic who denounced it, perhaps, as a useless foray and slaughter of "Lo, the poor Indian." At best to simply mention it as an incident, with no regard whatever to the tremendous results to follow, has been much the rule of writers on the subject of our independence.

By act of Congress, 1876, the several counties of the United States were asked to gather and publish their local histories. The historian of the locality of Newtown, with much of the patience of love, wrote well of the Sullivan expedition and the battle of Newtown, and his publication called general attention to the subject. Under the auspices of the State of New York a centennial celebration of the battle of Newtown was held on the battle-field, August 29, 1879. It was the grandest celebration of that time of centennials. The day was hot and dry; the people assembled to the sum of 50,000, and most of the leading officials of the nation, together with other eminent men, were present. The elegant monument, standing so conspicuously on Sullivan Hill, on the battlefield, commanding a wide view of the surrounding country, was unveiled with imposing ceremonies, and from two stands addresses were delivered.

Indian Marauds.—Comparative peace followed the brilliant exploits of Sullivan and Hartley. But the snake, though scotched, was not killed.

March, 1780, a party of fifty or more Indians came down the river, and when near Wyoming they divided into bands for the purpose of striking the isolated settlers. One of these parties captured Thomas Bennett and his son, near Kingston, and added Libbeus Hammond to their capture, and started to Tioga and camped near Meshoppen. During the night the prisoners rose upon their captors, killed four, wounded another, and one fled, and seizing all the rifles of the slain returned home, March 27; another of these bands suddenly appeared at Hanover and shot and killed Asa Upson. Two days after they captured a boy, Jonah Rogers, and the next day Moses Van Campen; they killed and scalped Van Campen's father, brother and uncle; the same day they captured a lad named Pence. They then passed to Huntington and fell in with Col. Franklin and four of his men, two of whom were wounded but all escaped. They found in Lehman township, this county, Abraham Pike and his wife making sugar. They stayed all night with them and took the man and wife prisoners the next morning, having bundled the baby and thrown it on the cabin roof; during the day they released the woman, and she returned in all haste to her baby, which she found, and with it in her arms fled to the settlement. Pike was a deserter from the British army—a gallant Irishman, and made up his mind that it would be decidedly unpleasant to be carried into the British lines. The party with their captives, on the night of April 3, camped at the mouth of Wysox creek. Supposing they were now out of danger, they relaxed [p.130] somewhat their vigilance. Jonah Rogers, the boy mentioned above, afterward told this narrative:

"In the afternoon of the day before we reached the place of encampment we came to a stream. I was tired and fatigued with the journey; my feet were sore and I was just able to proceed. Pike told the chief of the gang that he would carry me over on his shoulders. The old chief, in a gruff voice, said: 'Well.' Pike whispered in my ear as we were crossing the stream: 'Jonah, don't close your eyes to-night. When they sleep take the knife from the chief and cut the cords with which I am bound.' I was the only one of the prisoners who was not bound every night—the old chief took me under his blanket. The nights were raw and cold, and though protected in this way I thought I should perish. This much of the project was communicated by Pike to the other prisoners. Toward nightfall they halted, kindled a fire, partook of their evening meal, and were soon stretched on the ground. In a few minutes the old chief was asleep, and in the course of half an hour the savages were all snoring; but Pike knew his friends were awake, from the occasional half-suppressed cough.

"Pike was the nearest to me and not over two feet in distance. It was a terrific effort for me to make up my mind to perform my part of the business, for I knew that instant death would be the penalty in case of failure. But, as time passed on, and the snoring of the savages grew louder and louder, my courage seemed to gather new strength. I had noticed where the old chief lay down; the knife in the belt was on the side next to me. I peered out from under the blanket, and I saw the embers of the fire still aglow and a partial light of the moon. I also saw the hands of Pike elevated; I thought the time had come, and these two hours of suspense I had passed were more terrible than all the rest of my life put together. I cautiously drew the knife from the scabbard in the chief's belt, and, creeping noiselessly out from under the blanket, I passed over to Pike and severed the cords from his hands.

"All was the silence of death save the gargling noise made by the savages in their sleep. Pike cut the cords that bound the other prisoners. We were all now upon our feet. The first thing was to remove the guns of the Indians—the work for us to do was to be done with tomahawks and knives. The guns were carefully removed out of sight, and each of us had a tomahawk. Van Campen placed himself over the chief and Pike over another. I was too young for the encounter and stood aloof. I saw the tomahawks of Pike and Van Campen flash in the dim light of the half- smoldering flames; the next moment the crash of two terrible blows followed in quick succession, when seven of the ten arose in a state of momentary stupefaction and bewilderment, and then came the hand-to-hand conflict in the contest for life. Though our enemy were without arms, they were not disposed to yield. Pence now seized one of the guns, fired and brought one down; four were now killed and two dangerously wounded, when the others, with terrific yells, fled at the report of the gun. As they ran, Van Campen threw his tomahawk and buried it in the shoulder of one of them. This Indian, with a terrible scar on his shoulder-blade, I saw years after, when he acknowledged how it came there."

Mrs. Jane (Strope) Whitaker told that Pike had visited her father often after the war, and she had heard him relate over and over again every detail of the episode.

In June, 1780, Col. Franklin, and Sergt. Baldwin with four men had trailed a party from near Tunkhannock to Wysox, near where is the Laning farm. They discovered the camp smoke and crept upon them and captured four white men, bearers of dispatches to the British forces. One of them got away, and the others were taken to headquarters; they were Jacob and his son, Adam, and Henry Hoover. Among other trophies found on the prisoners was a beautiful spy-glass, now the property of Maj. W. H. H. Gore, of Sheshequin; it had been purchased by his father, Judge [p.131] Gore. And Burr Ridgeway when a very old man said that he had heard Col. Franklin say, on pulling out a silver watch, "I took that from one of the prisoners."

Fight.—A battle with the redskins in Luzerne (now Bradford county) took place at the Frenchtown mountain, opposite Asylum, April 10, 1782. A band of marauders had captured Roswell Franklin's family of Hanover. For some unknown cause this family was the especial object of attack of the Indians. A year before they had captured Franklin's son, Roswell, and his nephew, Arnold Franklin, whose father had been killed in the Wyoming battle, and they had burned his grain and driven off his stock. April 7, while Roswell Franklin was away, a band of eight savages rushed into the cabin and captured Mrs. Franklin and her children: Olive, aged thirteen; Susanna; Stephen, aged four, and Ichabod, aged eighteen months, and hurried away with them, going north toward Tioga. The second day they were joined by five other Indians, making thirteen. In a few hours after they had gone, Franklin returned, and divining the affair hastened to Wilkes- Barre and the alarm guns were fired. The captives heard the gun and knew what it meant. Soon a party was in pursuit under Sergt. Thomas Baldwin, seconded by Joseph Elliott. The others of this party were: John Swift (afterward a general, and killed on the Niagara frontier, 1812), Oliver Bennett, Watson Baldwin, Gideon Dudley, Mr. Cook and a Mr. Taylor—eight men. The pursuers struck straight across the country to Wyalusing and reached that point ahead of the Indians, but, for the purpose of a more eligible place for a stand, they passed on to the Frenchtown mountain, and erected a kind of defence works by felling some trees and placing brush in front of them. The Indians had proceeded so slowly that they awaited them two days and when on the point of concluding that they had gone by some other route they finally appeared and halted, and began to peer about with great caution. Mrs. Franklin thought they were looking for deer, as they were out of provision. As soon as one of the bucks came in range he was fired upon, and then a regular battle commenced. The women and children were compelled to lie flat on the ground, as they were between the combatants and the bullets whistling close above them. A savage fell at Dudley's first shot, but when loading Dudley was wounded in the arm. A desperate fight now raged—each party behind trees. The next execution was Taylor's shot that killed their medicine man; he rushed up to scalp him and broke his knife, when two Indians started for him, but he cut off the Indian's head and ran with it and escaped. The fight raged several hours. Mrs. Franklin, anxious to know whether her husband was in the rescuing party, raised on her elbow to look; her daughter, Susanna, seeing an Indian approach, urged her to lie down; the next moment the Indian fired and killed Mrs. Franklin. Joseph Elliott saw the murder of the woman from his place, and creeping along the trunk of a fallen free got an opportunity and shot the Indian dead. The children, now supposing all were to be murdered, jumped up and ran. They heard some one shout to them, and thought at first it was an Indian pursuing to murder them. Again they heard the voice saying: "Run, you dear souls, run!" And the poor, frightened children rushed into the arms of Elliott. The Indians now fled in terror. The whites remained behind their ambush until near sunset, lest it was a trap to get them out and murder them all. Mr. Swift had joined the party about the close of the fight and was hardly on the ground when he was favored by the opportunity and shot an Indian dead. Mrs. Franklin was buried near where killed, and years after the daughter, Olive, wrote the following: "Our friends having found the tomahawks of the Indian along with their packs, cut dry poles to make a raft on which to float, and we dropped silently down the river, and at the dawn came to Wyalusing island. It was just a week since we were taken prisoners. Here we lay a whole day, fearing to go forward lest we should be discovered by the enemy, probably lurking near the shore, and could single us out and shoot us down at their [p.132] leisure. We were sixty miles from safety, and starving, and our friends gave the one remaining biscuit to the children, and fears were entertained that the little ones would die of hunger. The party reached Wilkes-Barre the Wednesday following. The youngest child of Mrs. Franklin was caught up by an Indian at the moment they fled, and carried off, and was never again heard of."

In March, 1778, as soon as the ice was clear of the river, Lieut. Col. Dorrance with 150 men made his second trip up the river for the purpose of aiding the remaining whites to get out of the country. A raft was made of the old Moravian church, at Wyalusing, and the people and some of their effects loaded thereon; among others the families of York, Kinsley, Benjamin Eaton, Fitzgerald, Jonathan Terry and Christopher Hurlbut.

Old man Van Valkenberg and three daughters and his two sons-in-law's families and the Strope family had not been molested, but had been assured by the Indians of their continued friendship and protection. But in time they became alarmed and Strope set out for Wyoming for aid to take his family down the river. Hardly had he left his family, May 20, when thirteen Indians rushed in and captured the inmates, burned the house and drove off the stock. The men captured at this time were sent to Niagara, but the women and children were kept until the war ended. Thus piecemeal the settlement was swept away. Seven in the Van Valkenburg family were captured; seven were killed by the enemy; one died in captivity, and another soon after his release; the total property of these people was destroyed, the cabins all burned, and the gloom and desolation brooded over the fair and once happy land, as if the angel of destruction had spread its wings and covered it in the shadow of death and utter ruin.

C. F. Hill writes of the noted Indians: "Joseph Nutimus was a Delaware Indian and chief of the tribe known as the Fork Indians, and later in life was known as Old King Nutimus, who for many years was at the mouth of the Nescopeck creek, where the town of Nescopeck now stands. The term of his occupation of Nescopeck was between the years of 1742 and 1763. The earliest reference to him is made by James Logan, Esq., in a letter bearing date, Stenton, August 4, 1733, to Thomas Penn, Esq., in which he speaks of an unexpected visit from Nutimus and his company, with a present, and apprehends trouble, and closes by stating, "that they left a bag of bulletts last year." In a later letter, August 22, 1733, Logan acknowledges that Nutimus had lands in the forks of the Delaware and Lehigh river above Durham. The Lehigh river at that time was also known as the western branch of the Delaware river, and the tribes located on the lands between these two streams and where Easton now stands, were known as the Fork Indians.

This was the original dominion of King Nutimus, where he held undisputed sway, subject only to such allegiance as he owed to the Six Nations, until the famous walking purchase took place in 1837, the history of which is too long for the purposes of this notice, and which, contrary to the expectations of the Fork Indians, extended far beyond their meaning of a day and a half walk and included the fork lands. Edward Marshall, a trained pedestrian, did the walking. Nutimus and his people were disappointed, chagrined and angry and were ready for retaliation. Settlers at once flocked in upon his lands and settled among his people, while they obstinately and with much insolence held their ground.

After five years of unhappy dispute as to who should occupy these lands, complaint was made by the people of Pennsylvania to the Six Nations, which resulted in a council being called at Philadelphia July 12, 1842, at which Cannassatego, a sachem of the Six Nations, delivered his famous speech to the complaining Delawares, and cites to them deeds made by their fathers more than fifty years ago for these same lands and later deeds and releases made by themselves, several of which, in fact, were signed by Nutimus himself. Cannassatego was thoroughly disgusted with their action and told them they "should be taken by the hair of their heads and [p.133] shaken until they have some sense; that their cause is bad and their hearts far from being upright, and that the land they claim has been sold and gone down their throats, and that now like children they want it again," and closed by delivering a peremptory order to leave at once and go to the Susquehanna.

No doubt Nutimus was both reluctant and slow to obey; but in due time we find him and his people located at Nescopeck, which place, if he took the most convenient route, he reached by the path which led from the Lehigh gap, in the Blue mountain, across the Mauch Chunk mountain, crossing the Quakake valley and the Buck mountain west from Hazleton, near Audenried, passing near the famous Sugar-loaf in Conyngham valley, to the mouth of the Nescopeck creek, where he settled on the present site of the town of Nescopeck, on a level fertile soil, the forest being of such a character as to yield readily to the Indian method of clearing land, by removing the small trees, and girdling the larger.

Nothing occurred to bring Nutimus and his people to notice in their new home until the breaking out of the French and Indian war. A spirit of unrest and disquiet now came over the Delaware Indians on the Susquehanna. [It was now important to cultivate the friendship of the Delawares. Accordingly Gov. Hamilton sent Conrad Weiser among them with conciliatory messages, who writes May, 1754:

"On April 30 I arrived at Shamokin, and sent my son Samuel and James Logan, Shikellimy's son, up the north branch with the message to Nutimus at Nescopeck. Upon their return they report old Nutimus was from home; but the rest of the Indians received the message very kindly, and said they would lay it before Nutimus and the rest of the Indians after they should come home."] Gen. Braddock was defeated by the French and Indians, July 9, 1757, on the Monongahela. Reports were numerous that the French were coming from Fort Duquesne to Shamokin, now Sunbury, to erect a large fort, and to carry the war into Pennsylvania.

Later Weiser writes that the author of the numerous murders of the people of Pennsylvania is Onionto [the French], and that they have prevailed upon the Delawares at Nescopeck, who had given their town as a place of rendezvous for the French, and had undertaken to join and guide them on the way to the English.

About this time Weiser sent two spies—Silver Heels, and David, a Mohawk Indian—from John Harris' (now Harrisburg), to Nescopeck, to learn what was going on there. Upon their return they reported that they saw 140 warriors dancing the war dance, and expressed great bitterness against the English; and that they were preparing an expedition against them, and thought they would go to the eastward. At a council of the Delawares on the West Branch, and held at Shamokin, it was decided, in order to avoid an invading army from the French, to go to Nescopeck for safety. Tacknedorus, alias John Shikellimy, says: "I went with them to Nescopeck and took my family with me. After awhile I found the Nescopeck Indians were in the French interest. I, with my brethren and others, then began to feel afraid, and returned to Shamokin."

In November, 1755, occurred the burning and plundering of Gnadenhutten, now Weissport, and the slaughter of the Moravian missionaries, and the long list of murders that immediately followed, in this former home of King Nutimus, taken in connection with the circumstances given, and the close proximity of Nescopeck to Gnadenhutten, and the direct path betwixt the two places, forces the conclusion that Nutimus was largely, if not entirely, responsible for them.

Edward Marshall, who accomplished the great walk on which the walking purchase was based, lived at this time at or near the present village of Slateford. Marshall was not to blame for the walk, for he did it as a hired man, though he never received the 500 acres of land promised him. Still, the Indians remembered the part he had taken upon himself, and they determined to retaliate. They [p.134] surrounded his house when be was not at home, and shot his daughter as she was trying to escape, the ball entering her right shoulder and coming out below the left breast. Yet she got away from them and recovered! They took Marshall's wife, who was not in a condition to make rapid flight, some miles with them and killed her. In a former attack on his house they had killed one of his sons. Though thirsting for Marsball's blood for many years, yet they seemed to have always feared him, and usually undertook their bloody work when he was from home. He eventually died a natural death after attaining a good old age.

In 1755 Fort Augusta (now Sunbury), one of the largest, if not the largest fort in the State, was erected; and in June, 1757, we find old Nutimus with his wife and sons and daughters making visits to Shamokin. He frequently came to the fort as a friend, having no doubt in the few preceding years abundantly revenged himself and people for the loss of the Fork lands. At one of his visits to Fort Augusta he complained bitterly to his old friend and long-time acquaintance, Capt. Jacob Ordnt, formerly from Easton, and who was now in command at Fort Augusta, that the soldiers at the fort on a previous visit had debauched his wife and daughter by giving them whisky, and declaring that if such things were allowed that it would not be safe for a man to bring his wife and daughters to the fort again. His visits to Fort Augusta were made with the canoe. It is believed that he left Nescopeck with his family about 1763, and went to the Great Island, on the West Branch, and thence joined the Delawares on the Ohio. He had a son, Isaac Nutimus, who lived at Tioga, and was a warm friend of the English, and at last accounts, in 1759, was about joining an expedition against the French at Pittsburg.

This is the brief history of old King Nutimus and the Nescopeck Indians, many of whose bones lie buried, and which the crumbling banks of the Susquehanna have for many years exposed to view, and unearthed many curious and valuable Indian relics. W. H. Smith, attorney, at Berwick, has many curiosities gathered from the field once occupied by Nutimus and his people. It is said that near the town of Nescopeck, in the surface of a large boulder, is a mortar worked out, in which the Indians with a pestle ground their corn, and which now remains as the last vestige of old King Nutimus and his people.

History of Luzerne County Pennsylvania; H. C. Bradsby, Editor
S. B. Nelson & Co., Publishers, 1893
Chapter IV | Table of Contents | Chapter VI
Updated: 5 Jun 2003