Greed and Zealousy by Ronald Rabenold
A small patch of land was the center of it. A society was formed on it and out of it, a recluse found her life in it and her death away from it. James Fenimore Cooper came to the Moravian Library to study it. The profiteers then captured it, to set their monuments to the sky upon it.
The spiritually connected Leni-Lenape, lived here first, followed by the Iroquois who claimed tribute from it. Thomas Penn in turn, coveted and squeezed it, creating the “Walking Purchase” to steal it. His hoax of a deed in 1737, called for a ‘walk for a day and a half’ to measure the land, that he said the Leni-Lenape leaders agreed to cede many years before.
The greed turned the walk into a run, with Edward Marshall’s hike ironically ending just north of Jim Thorpe’s present-day grave. The character in Cooper’s novel “Deerslayer,” who seeks asylum from Native retribution in a tomb-like stone home in the middle of a lake, is based on Marshall’s life.
Thus this land was already tainted when Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf led his Moravians here in 1746 to cleanse the ‘dirty souls’ he sought. Eight years of peaceful missionary zeal, ended with Native retribution, eleven Moravians dying amid flames they hoped to eternally avoid.
But she did make provisions. Her efforts weren't in vain. A deal was struck for the land. It was deeded to the “Society of the United Brethren for Propagating the Gospel among the Heathen,” then to a Mr. George Douglas, who deeded it to the First Presbyterian Church of Mauch Chunk, helping to build that congregation's first church as well as a later one in Lehighton. In 1872 these “Gnadenhutten Lands,” the old “Moravian Cemetery” became the property of the “Lehighton Cemetery” next door, which was formerly the first site of the Lehighton Fair Grounds, a horse track for the laying of bets.
The first Board of Directors of the Lehighton Cemetery was composed of men of means and self-made wealth. Among them, General Charles Albright served here after his Civil War campaigns but before his war against the Molly Maguires. Thomas Kemerer was President, Frederick Brinkman served as Treasurer, and A.S. Christine was secretary. And among this mounmental field they created, among the high obelisks, sets there today, pointing high, the finger of the Lady of Eternal Peace herself. She stands alone, above board member and the disciplined meat-packer, Joseph Obert’s grave, pointing with hope, for final redemption.