Sunday, April 14, 2013

Lehighton Students Investigate the Moravian Massacre and the Building of Fort Allen by Ben Franklin


It was a stormy night, the heavy rains nearly drove them away, but a determined few achieved their objective.
  
The group (students, their parents and teacher) from April 13th gather beneath the shelter of the well-roof between showers.  The modern brick-and-mortar roofed-well was built by Weissport resident Bruce Begal.  He feared children playing nearby were in danger of falling in it, prompting this project in the 1980s.


In the case of Ben Franklin and his men, it was a matter of life or death.  The frontier was in turmoil, hundreds had been killed.  On his way to Gnadenhutten to build Fort Allen, eleven farmers requested guns to defend themselves so that they could retrieve their cattle from their burned out homesteads, to which Franklin obliged.  Then the rains came, forcing Franklin and his fifty militia soldiers into the hospitality of Nicholas Opplinger’s barn near the Aquashicola Creek, in today's Palmerton. 
The view of the Fort Allen site from the Weissport bridge.  The fort would
have been in the dead-center of this picture, 122 feet by 50 feet, with 3 block
houses inside measuring 18'x18', 18'x20' and one 20'x20'.

Soon upon their arrival, word came to Franklin that all but one of the farmers they’d assisted were killed by roving Natives.  Their guns failed them in the rain.  A lesson not lost on Franklin.  The next morning’s journey was clear for the first two miles but once again the defenselessness of their flintlocks in the rain forced them to retreat back to Opplinger’s.

On April 10, 2013, students of the Lehighton Area Middle School also found the site of Fort Allen, minutes after a torrential thunderstorm.  Their mission was simpler than Franklin’s: to find the dimensions of the fort Franklin and his men built over 250 years prior.  
Ben Franklin looms large in our nation's history, but his military exploits are barely
mentioned.  Here he stands over Weissport Park, facing "Franklin Street" just
outside "Franklin Township."  The well and the fort he supervised are about 200
feet in front of this statue, behind the Fort Allen apartment building.

But like Franklin, it was their inquisitiveness that led them to this time and place.  I think Franklin’s commitment to civil service was a natural extension of his curiosity about, and care for, his fellow man.  The LAMS students were assigned to research and report on this colonial episode.  The more they learned the more questions they asked that challenged the knowledge of their teacher, which led their teacher to Dr. Harrison Hoppes.  

Dr. Hoppes recently returned to the area and is the foremost expert on this early period of what was then Northampton County (Carbon would be chiseled away from their mother county in 1843.)  His book, “Behind the Blue Mountain: Tales from Upper Northampton County, PA During the 18th Century (2009) is available at the Lehighton Memorial Library.
Here is Franklin's sketch of his fort as it appears in his auto-biography.  The gate faces the river as one
drawing indicates.

One thing that impressed me about the students’ research was their insistence on making the math add up.  Most accounts of our massacre state that there were fifteen Moravians on the Mahoning, eleven (some say twelve) of them killed with three (some say four) survivors.  The more they dug into the information, the more they realized there were actually sixteen with five survivors.  

Information confirmed by Dr. Hoppes and his research.  So my fifth-grade students ascertained the correct figures that those who posted the story on Wikipedia could not.
This is the sketch that appears in Montgomery's 1916 "Report to
Locate the Frontier Forts of Pennsylvania. Click here to view the original report.

Ben Franklin and his men reached New Gnadenhutten just one day after his fiftieth birthday.  Their first order of business was to properly bury the six hastily buried soldiers killed on January 1, 1756.  While ice-skating on the Lehigh, two Native decoys lured the soldiers from their skating into the woods where they were ambushed.  The attack sent the remaining soldiers garrisoned at New Gnadenhutten scattering.  Future Memorial Day services should include mentioning these fallen men who died within the bounds of our community. 
Could these human skulls be three of the six skulls of the fallen
soldiers?  I doubt Franklin and his men crossed the Lehigh with
the dead soldiers to bury them along the creek.  However, if the
ambush occurred near there it is understandable that the
first burial was done near the Heilman Dam below Rt 443,
therefore this should be considered as one possible
theory.

Franklin was already established in the fields of science, publishing, and civil service, establishing Philadelphia’s first hospital, library and fire department.  He was an influential legislator in the Pennsylvania house and he was the one who proposed establishing a colonial militia to protect the citizenry.  So how could Franklin refuse the Governor Morris’ request to lead the militia in this important endeavor? 
A view of the river as it looks today and site of the January 1, 1756 deaths of six colonial militia men.
"New Gnadenhutten" would have been through the trees at the end of the
bridge seen at the left.  The ford to "Old Gnadenhutten" is thought to be below the McCall bridge at the right,
above where the Mahoning Creek enters the Lehigh River. 

In November, the remaining Moravians at “Old Gnadenhutten” across the river, stayed put despite firm evidence that attacks from the French supported Indians of the Wyoming Valley were moving eastward.  The Penn’s Creek Massacre occurred October 15th; another on October 25th at John Harris’ Ferry near Harrisburg and then the Henry Hartman family was attacked on October 30th at the Swatara Gap.  
Here is where the Mahoing Creek enters the Lehigh River today.  Teedyuscung, the "Last Great War King" of the Delawares was baptized here in the waters of this creek when he was converted by Moravian Bishop
Cammerhoff on March 12, 1750.  Teedyuscung lived at Gnadenhutten before the attack and visited several
times after.  He is a controversial figure in this history, often vilified but also took part in peace negotiations. 

Then came the attack at Readington (Reading) on November 16th very similar to the one that occurred here on November 24th: thirteen killed (11 were killed here, counting Susanna Nitchsmann who died six months later in Indian captivity) with their houses burned and having their cattle, grain and fodder destroyed too.

On Wednesday November 19, 1755 Reverend Martin Mack who oversaw the operations on the Mahoning wrote from "New Gnadenhutten" to Bishop Spangenberg who was in Bethlehem:

My precious and dear heart Joseph:
Last night to our and our pious brothers’ and sisters’ great joy, came the brothers and sisters Lawatsch*, Partsch, and brother Gattermeyer here to us. After a brief stay with us, they went to the Mahoning , and this evening David# with John Shikellamy^  also came to us. For a few days now the neighborhood around us is in an uproar. Many people have fled to Allemangel` again. They also notice that enemy tries and seeks to drive them into the forest. This is down by several disorderly loiters who came from the Susquehanna and have been in the area for several days. The brothers are not home much, but hunting up the Lehigh.
 *Andrew Anton Lawatsch and his wife Anna Maria were visiting Gnadenhutten as part of their Moravian official duties and left before the attack.
# David Zeisberger; a Moravian who frequently traveled between Bethlehem, Gnadenhutten and beyond, frequently living for long stretches with the Natives.
^Cayuga Chief Shikellamy’s son who was a good friend to the Moravians.
` A Moravian settlement in Lynn Township, near where Fort Everett was built under the direction of Ben’s son William Franklin.


In October, the Moravians rescued their missionary blacksmith Marcus Kiefer from the Shamokin settlement who was sent there in April of 1747.  It was Bishop Spangenberg's controversial decision to send him there, but a necessary one to maintain their close Indian friendships.  He was to allow a blacksmith there who was to fix flintlocks belonging to the warriors.  It was hoped the guns would be used to hunt game and not to be used on the war path.  More recently, a member, John Leonard Gattermeyer was working as a blacksmith there as late as October, one month before he arrived back at Gnadenhutten where he was murdered on November 24th.

For these and other reasons, many of the non-Moravian settlers from New Jersey and on out the Mahoning Valley had little trust in the “Indian-loving” Moravians.  However the night of the November 24th attack proved to many that even the pacifist Moravians were not immune to these deadly attacks.

Suffice it for this post to simply list the following information from Dr. Hoppes (Augmented with a few notes of my own:)
The gravestone marker, laying in the flat Moravian tradition, was erected by the Moravians on December 10th, 1788 above the remains of the martyrs.  It can be visited in the lower edge of the Lehighton Cemetery and at the top
edge of the Gnadenhutten Cemetery.
An interesting fact about this stone: Psalm 116:15 normally states
"...precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his Saints."
However, whether it be a mistake made by the Moravian pacifists or intentional,  the stone was carved,
 "...precious in the fight of the Lord..."
 Ironically, the Moravians sought and gained conscientious objector status by the PA Assembly prior to the attack.  When violence erupted in the frontier though, Moravian leadership granted special dispensation allowing the those brethren who wished to defend themselves to do so as needed.
Victims (11*)  
Ages are at time of attack.  Arrival date is at Gnadenhutten.:
1. Gottlieb Anders, gardener age 38, born Neumark, Siesia, arrived in 1755.  (They arrived in Pennsylvania aboard the church ship "Little Strength" in 1743 among the "Second Sea Congregation.") 
2. Christina Anders nee Vollmer, age 34, born Homburg, arrived  1755.
3. Johann Anders, infant 1 year, 2 months, born Nazareth, arrived 1755. (Johann was too young to live in the Moravian nursery in Bethlehem and so perished in the flames.  Brothers Gottleib and John were safe at the Church nursery in Nazareth.)
4. Martin Nitschmann, cutler, age 41, born Suchdol, Moravia, arrived August 1755.
5. *Susanna Nitschmann nee Weicht, age 34, born Rosnitz, Silesia, arrived August 1755 (She and Martin were married in one of the mass weddings of the Moravians, July 15th, 1749.  Her name was included on the stone even though she did not die at Gnadenhutten.  She was taken captive and died six months later.)
6. Catharina Sensemann nee Ludwig, age 38, born Upper Silesia, arrived August 1755.
7. Leonhard Gattermeyer, blacksmith, age 34, born Regensberg, arrived November 1755.
8. Christian Fabricius, teacher/scribe, age 39, born Heidenheim, Wurtem, arrived 1754.
9. George Schweigert, military/teamster, age 31, born Heidenheim, Wurtem, arrived 1754.
10. Frederick Lesly, laborer, age 23, born Conestoga, PA, arrived October 1755.
11. Martin Presser, carpenter, age 46, born Weimar, arrived 1751 or 1752.

Survivors (5):
1. Joachim Senseman, tailor, age 48, born Hesse, arrived August 1755.
2. George Partsch, linen weaver, age 36, born Upper Silesia, arrived November 18, 1755.
3. Susanna Partsch, nee Eller, cook, age 33, born Budingen, arrived November 18, 1755.
4. Peter Worbass, carpenter, born May 18, 1722 age 33,  born Denmark (Jutland), arrived 1754 or 1755.
5. Joseph Sturgis, laborer, latter a potter, age 17, born Philadelphia, arrived before 1755.

Joseph Sturgis recently arrived from Mucungie, and previous to that lived at the Moravian boys School at Oley.  Baptized by the Brethren at an early age, his mother sent him there when he was about ten, after the premature death of his father aged 44.  They were living in Philadelhphia.  Joe Sturgis went on to become a potter and a successful business owner.  He built a stately home in Lititz, PA in 1782.  His family continued to live in Lititz where his grandson founded the first commercial pretzel bakery in the United States.

Peter Worbass is the one survivor most accounts forget to mention.  He married Anna Maria Schemel in Bethlehem in July of 1758.   They had one surviving son Joseph who married Phoebe Hull.

George and Susana Partsch continued to serve "the Economy" after the massacre in St. Thomas.  George died in 1765 and is buried in row 1 plot 12 of the "Married Men" section of the Moravian graveyard in Bethlehem.  Susanna (nee Eller) died in 1795 and is buried in row 6 plot 2 of the "Women and Children" section.  They left three daughters.


Mr Semmel's Class Report 
Mrs. Lusch's Class Report
Mr Knappenberger's Class Report 
 Mr Rabenold's Class Report
Other History Hikes:
The Switchback Railroad Hikes
Old Mauch Chunk Tour/Lower Switchback 


Senseman was widowed by the massacre.  He and his first wife Anna Catharine Ludwig were married at Marienborn August 5, 1741 and arrived here as part of the "First Sea-Congregation" in Philadelphia June 7, 1742.  They had five children, of which three survived, one daughter and one son died in infancy.  Gottlob, Joachim, and Anna Benigna (Named after Count Zinzendorf's daughter who founded the girls' school in Bethlehem.) were in the care of the church nursery in Bethlehem at the time of the attack.  Anna was only 5 when her mother died.  She died at the age of 10 in 1760.  Joachim II lost his arm in a hunting accident later in life, dying at the age of 61.  Gottlob became a faithful companion of Bishop Zeisberger in "successful work and severe trials in the Indian Mission service."  He married Anna Brucker Senseman on May 11, 1778 in Lititz.  She is buried among the brethren in Bethlehem in 1815.  Gottlob died in 1800 in Fairfield Canada.
The Joseph Sturgis grave also lies flat in the Moravian tradition in Lititz, PA.
 From all accounts, he appeared to have lived a long and happy life after
 the massacre, responsible for many children and grandchildren who came
after him.

Many descendants of the survivors were on hand for the 150th Anniversary held at the grave site by the Moravian Historical Society in 1905.  From page 355-6 of Transactions of the Moravian Historical Society, 1906: "...those who were murdered...who left descendents: Martin Nitschman, the first one to be slain; and Ann Catherine Sensemann, who was burned in the building.   Of the direct lineal descendents of Martin Nitschmann there were present: Eugen Martin Leibert, of Nazareth, Richard W. Leibert; Joseph M. Leibert, Jr.; Eugenia Leibert Bishop; John Leibert Bishop; Emily Leibert and Joseph A Rice, all of Bethlehem; and William Henry Rice of Gnadenhuetten, Ohio and who was the one who gave the memorial message.  Of the descendants of Ann Cathaerine Sensemann there were present: Mrs. Albert Lindermann and her daughter Alberta Linderman, of Philadelphia.    More on them on some future post.  The missionaries on the premises at the time of the massacre who escaped, were John George and Susanna Louisa Partsch, Joseph Sturgis, and Peter Worbass.  Of the descendents of John Partsch there were present: J. Samuel Krause and Henry J Meyers of Bethlehem and Mary Krause Henry of Boulton, PA.  OF the descendants of Joseph Sturgis there were present: James Orlando Sturgis of Lititz and Albert Orlando Sturgis and Albert James Sturgis of Nazareth.  Sixteen in all."
A transcript of the Moravian grave side speech and ceremony is available
on Google Books in "Transactions of the Moravian Historical Society."
Approximately 3,000 to 5,000 people attended.  The Lehigh Valley
Railroad allowed the Noon express train to make a special stop
to accommodate pilgrims from Bethlehem.  The memorial address was
given by the Rev W. H. Rice, D. D, himself a descendant of Moravian
missionaries who was living in Gnadehuetten, Ohio at the time.
 A transcript of this address can be viewed by clicking this hyperlink.
Paul Niehoff above started the well known florist business in Lehighton
 and was known to have a grandmother "Nitschmann" who was from
Moravia attesting to his involvement with the 150th Re-Dedication Service.

On that November evening, the news of the attack reached those at "New Gnadenhutten" by way of survivors Joachim Senseman and George Partsch.  They were picked up by Moraivan Brother John Bull’s canoe (also known by his Native name “Shebosh;” he married a Native American woman of the settlement.  Both Senseman and Bull served together in the first settlement in New York years prior.).  At about this time, Brother David Zeisberger arrived from Bethlehem and was crossing the ford on his horse, calls to get him back could not be heard over the hooves splashing and clomping on the rocks, but he turned as the sounds of shots and the flame-orange lit sky alerted him to danger.  

Natives living among them at New Gnadenhutten at first asked to go and find the attackers, but Rev. Mack asked them to refrain themselves, so they scattered into the woods.  George Partsch and Joachim Senseman and others took flight to Bethlehem, reaching there around 3:00AM, to which after daybreak they set out again back to the settlement and claimed the victims from the ashes.  To the astonished relief of Partsch, he found his wife had hid in a "hollow of a tree" overnight in the woods, unharmed.  

The body of Martin Presser was found by the militia stationed at Fort Allen the following April, lying peacefully in the tangled growth along “Sand Spring” (Perhaps this is the spring that flows along Seventh St., Lehighton, past the “Body and Soul” Complex, through the land that once was Olewine’s tannery.).  He had his hands folded on his chest and appeared to have suffered a wound in his right side.  He was identified by his hair and his clothing.
Students line up around the perimeter of the right side of the fort as measured from the well, center left of this picture.  The student in the pink raincoat is on the front right corner while the student in red at right is at the back corner.  The group of students in the middle are representing the dimension of one of the block houses.  The configuration outlined
here represents exactly the right half of the fort.  Jacob's United Church of Christ appears at right.

Students participating in Wednesday’s first group hike were: Makayla Nothstein, her sisters Riley and Aliyah, Rachael DeSanto, Madison “Denver” Bronko, Madison Cressley, Aisa Arner, Aleah Nothstein, Chloe Schliecher, Karissa Hough, Elizabeth Tower, Abigail Hoppes and her brother Daniel, Luke Wilusz, and Alex Zeigenfuss. 

Students, along with their parents, from the second group were: Dylan McIntosh, John DeMatte, Mykayla Engle, Collin Moyer, Kimberly Yerance, Jose Lopez, Makayla Nothstein, Matt Smith, Corey Moyer, Rachael DeSanto, Tia Tyson, Ricky Fasching, Tessa Sitarchyk, Isabella Collotty, and Jessica VanFossen.

Students took dimensions from Ben Franklin's notes from his autobiography,
measuring from the well, the only remaining piece of Fort Allen.

They and their parents humored their teacher by listening to more anecdotes of that fateful night and the week that Franklin performed his duties in today’s Weissport.  They eagerly took the copies of Franklin’s original sketch and dimensions of the fort and measured the right side of the fort from the well (the left side of the fort is now occupied by Behavioral Health Associate’s Building). The students also measured the interior block houses of the fort.  
With the raw data from the primary source, the students had to collaborate
and apply problem solving skills to locate and estimate the parameters
of the fort as well as the three interior wooden block houses. 
The base of the Ben Franklin statue in Weissport park.

The original fort was 122 feet long by 50 feet wide, with a gated side that faced the river.  They used fifteen foot timbers placed three feet into the ground yielding twelve-foot walls.  Planks were ascertained on their way to Palmerton at Kern’s Mill in Slatington.  Planks were fastened on the inside of the stockade about six-feet up, giving the garrison the ability to fire their flintlocks through the palisades as well as the two swivel-guns (small cannons) mounted at opposite corners.
This historical marker sign sets along Trout Creek in Slatington near the location
of Kern's Mill where Franklin and his men secured planks for Fort Allen.
Many parents were also interested in this key role our area played during this contentious period in our national history.
We were fortunate to have retired Social Studies teacher Mrs Barbara Jones, Dr. Harrison Hoppes, and LAMS social studies teacher Mrs. Katherine Decker to help our students learn this history. 

A deserved ‘Thank you’ goes to all the parents who took the time to attend the hike and braved the wet weather as well. 

A follow-up trips was held Thursday, April 18th.  We were fortunate to have Dr. Harrison Hoppes who provided valuable commentary and insight.  A few students came both nights.  Imagine that!  I have a lot of hope for our future historians.  Thank you Dr. Hoppes, Mrs. Barbara Jones, retired Social Studies teacher  and to Mrs. Katherine Decker 5th Grade Social Studies Teacher at LAMS for helping out and giving our students an opportunity to learn about our area outside the classroom.
Here Dr. Hoppes poses with the students from the second night of the field trip.

The second night group also poses along the perimeter of the right side of the fort. 

Resources:
-Interview with and personal notes of Dr. Harrison Hoppes, PhD.
-Hoppes, Harrison N.  Behind the Blue Mountain: Tales from Upper Northampton County, PA During the 19th Century, 2009.
-Montgomery, Thomas Lynch.  Report of the Commission to Locate the Site of the Frontier Forts of Pennsylvania, Google Books, 1916.
-Transactions of the Moravian Historical Society, Vol 7, Google Books, 1902.