Ohio History Journal

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HEM, PA., JANUARY 21, 1823, AGED 80








One hundred years ago to-day, September 29, 1898, Rev.

John Heckewelder (then a man about fifty-five years old) moved

into the "First House" of Gnadenhuetten, which he and his helpers

had built on the east bank of the Muskingum (now Tuscarawas)


We are assembled within sight of the spot on which the

"First House" stood, to celebrate with joyous thanksgiving the

centennial anniversary of the founding of Gnadenhuetten as a set-

tlement of whites.

Yonder monument was erected in 1872, on the site of the

first Gnadenhuetten, founded in 1772, as a village settlement of

Indian Christians, under the leadership of David Zeisberger and

John Heckewelder. The monument commemorates the destruc-

tion of the village settlement, in fire and blood, on March 8, 1782.

For ten years it had been an oasis of Christian life and peace

in the midst of savagery and war.

After an interval of sixteen years, in 1798, Heckewelder came

back to rebuild the desolated home of the "Brown Brethren" as

a settlement of whites. We have come together to-day, from

near and from far, to make memorial of the one hundredth anni-

versary of the founding of this second Gnadenhuetten under the

leadership of John Heckewelder.

David Zeisberger and John Heckewelder are the two names

which will always go together in the story of the work of the

Moravian Brethren's church among the Indians of North


The Rev

The Rev. John Heckewelder.            315


Heckewelder was twenty years younger than Zeisberger. He

worked side by side with Zeisberger in all the years of missionary

labor in the wilderness of northeastern and northwestern Penn-

sylvania and in Ohio, Michigan and Canada. They were like

David and Jonathan in the labor and life of the Lord Jesus.

When David Zeisberger grew too old, John Heckewelder took

his place in the active leadership of the work.

The Zeisbergers and the Heckewelders were exiles from

Moravia, who fled to Herrnhut, Saxony, across the mountain

border, leaving behind their farms and their other possessions

for conscience' sake.

The parents of Heckewelder were settled in Bedford, Eng-

land, and were engaged in the work of the Moravian Church in

that district when their oldest son, John, was born March 12,

1743. His father was Rev. David Heckewelder. Listen to the

story of his boyhood in his English home as we hear it from

his own pen:

"When yet I was quite a small boy, I was sent to our church-

schools at Buttermere, and at Fulneck in Yorkshire. I can only

remember in love all the kindness and the help given me by my

teachers. Everybody was good to me.

"I was at Fulneck school when I remember that we cel-

ebrated such a happy Children's Day. It was one of our Prayer

Days. Brother Watteville spoke to us. His words made some

of us little boys feel as if we wanted to be missionaries. Three

or four of the boys and I agreed with one another and the Savior

that we would be missionaries.

"I was not quite eleven years old when my parents got ready

to go to America, whither they had been called by the authorities

of the Moravian Church. We walked to London. There we saw

Count Zinzendorf and Bishop Spangenberg.

"They had a talk with every one of our ship's company

before sailing. The Count said he wanted to have a talk with

me. No one was present except Bishop Spangenberg. He asked

me how I had gotten along in school. He said I ought to be

thinking all the while of getting ready to preach, some day, the

gospel among the heathen.

"The Count talked so kindly to me that I, in my fashion,

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couldn't help telling him about our agreement, - the three or

four boys and I,- at Fulneck school, after the Prayer Day.

"He then asked me whether I could speak German. He

had been talking in English. I told him that I could understand

German better than I could speak it. Then he laid his hand on

my head and prayed in German for me, and gave me his blessing,

as we knelt down together. I have always felt that this was

my ordination to be a missionary.

"It was my birthday anniversary, March 12, 1754, when

we set sail for New York in the ship The Irene, which belonged

to the Moravian Church. Brother Nicholas Garrison was the


"At New York we were the guests of the Moravian Brethren.

The merchant, Brother Henry Van Vleck, was especially kind

to us. The most of the ship's company waited in New York

until the wagons sent on from Bethlehem (the Moravian settle-

ment in eastern Pennsylvania, near the Jersey border) had arrived.

I was one of those who started ahead on foot (a lad in his twelfth


"Bishop David Nitschmann was our guide. He carried me

across the many creeks and rivers which we had to cross; there

were no bridges.

"At Bethlehem I went to school until I was apprenticed to

learn the cooper trade. I got very homesick in the little back-

woods settlement. Nearly everybody spoke only German."

In March, 1762, young Heckewelder, just nineteen years old,

eagerly accepted a call to start out on his first missionary journey.

The famous missionary, Rev. Christian Frederick Post, had asked

for the young man as his associate.

I hold in my hand this time-stained manuscript, - the orig-

inal "Indenture of John Heckewelder, aged nineteen, to Christian

Frederick Post, as an apprentice."

By the special favor of the cooper he was released from his

apprenticeship, which had not yet expired. The object of this

"Indenture" to Mr. Post was to protect the young man against any

attempt that might be made, in the course of their missionary

journeyings, to impress him into the Colonial military service.

It served this purpose, on occasion, on their journeyings.

The Rev

The Rev. John Heckewelder.            317


Young Heckewelder's apprenticeship to the indomitable

Post was wonderfully providential in view of his future career

as a missionary to the Indians. Here he learned well his first

lesson of patient endurance, of unshrinking endeavor to face and

to overcome the obstacles in the paths beset by gravest perils -

paths which led to results that made for peace and for gospel


Their journey from Lititz in Lancaster County, Pennsyl-

vania, lay over the mountain ridge of southern Pennsylvania to

Fort Pitt, and thence across the Allegheny and the Beaver Rivers

to the Indian capital of Tuscarawas, on the Muskingum River.

It stood near the present town of Bolivar, in Tuscarawas County.

The journey took about four weeks. It was the eleventh of April,

1762, when the intrepid missionaries reached the cabin which

Mr. Post had built on his visit and brief stay during the previous

year. Heckewelder says that they started on their journey sing-

ing a hymn of praise. After almost incredible hardships and

perils they entered the little cabin on the eastern bank of the

Muskingum River singing a hymn of praise. Engaged in an

undertaking the success of which was more than doubtful, God

had safely led them all the way.

A new difficulty soon arose. The missionary, Post, had

promised the Colonial Governor of Pennsylvania to act as his

ambassador to the western Delaware Indians and to secure their

consent to come on to Lancaster, in that province, for "a talk."

Mr. Post had also promised to escort them to Lancaster, if

the Indians so desired it. The chiefs in question demanded his


The understanding with the church authorities had been that

young Heckewelder should come on with Post in the event of

such an embassy.

After "the talk" at Lancaster both were to return to Tus-

carawas. But for both to leave their station now involved the

total failure of their missionary enterprise. It was quite plain

that their Indian neighbors would not tolerate their return. To

leave the station during the interval of the embassy's going to

and from the Lancaster "talk" was equivalent to abandoning the

entire enterprise. Naturally Mr. Post was unwilling to sacrifice

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the position that had been gained at the cost of so much peril

and suffering.

He felt equally unwilling to ask his youthful assistant to stay

behind in the savage wilderness and alone to face the dangers

and death that were so imminent. Heckewelder says: "He laid

the whole matter before me, and at last we agreed that I should


He tells the story of his decision in a very modest way.

Where is the young man of nineteen who would have come to

this decision? It bespeaks a heroism and a Christian devotion

prophetic of his career of more than fifty years as a missionary

amongst the Indians, and a right hand of help and direction to

his white brethren in their intercourse with the red man.

After Mr. Post's departure for Lancaster, in Pennsylvania,

Heckewelder, left to his own resources, addressed himself to the

work of supplying the needful provisions. He cultivated a small

garden patch. The passing traders stole almost all the vegetables

as they ripened. The young Indians begged for the use of his

canoe, which they soon lost by accident or design. He was thus

cut off from fishing and shooting along the river. Fever soon

laid its prostrating hand upon him. He nearly died from fever

and starvation.

But for the friendly aid of his nearest neighbor, the trader

Calhoun, who was living on the opposite bank of the river, he

would have perished; but his courage never forsook him.

One day his white neighbor sent him word to call at once

at his cabin. Heckewelder crossed over to be told that he was

in danger of being murdered if he remained a day longer in his

cabin. He was forbidden to return. A friendly Indian had sent

the timely warning.

He now felt justified in taking the first opportunity for a

return to Pittsburgh, for word had also come from the absent

Missionary Post that his assistant should flee the perils of a longer

stay. This finally determined Heckewelder. Time would fail to

tell the experiences on his return journey, of the fever-smitten

youth, of his almost miraculous escapes from the deadly dangers

of the wilderness, and of the almost equally miraculous aid that

came from some friendly hand, often just in the nick of time.

The Rev

The Rev. John Heckewelder.           319

When Heckewelder reached Lancaster his friends at first

failed to recognize the young man whom fever and the wilderness

had so altered in appearance. Everybody was kind and hospitable

to the young hero. He reached Bethlehem in December. His

apprenticeship of nine months had been hard and full of peril.

But it had only served to warm his heart with undying devotion

to the calling of his first love. He was a born missionary.

During the ensuing years of Indian troubles, in which the

frontier settlements were laid waste, Heckewelder was constantly

employed in lending a helping hand in all the intercourse between

the Indian converts and the home church at Bethlehem.

In perils oft in the wilderness, he had various escapes from

death, but he was putting in practice what he had learned of the

eminent missionary with whom he had served his apprenticeship

in 1762, Rev. Christian Frederick Post. Mr. Post was thirty-three

years his senior. Born in Conitz, Polish Russia, in 1710, he

came to America in 1742 as a member of the Moravian Church

colony on board the ship "Catharine."

Heckewelder says of him: "He was a man of undaunted

courage and enterprising spirit. He was well acquainted with

the manner and customs of the Indians. The journeys which Mr.

Post undertook were deemed rash and imprudent undertakings,

but he was not dismayed. Moved by charity, he desired to be

instrumental in putting a stop to murders and effusion of human

blood. He considered himself under the protection of the Al-

mighty and of the Author of the sermon on the mount, who had

pronounced a blessing on all peacemakers. Entreaties intended

to dissuade him from his undertakings had no effect. He con-

sulted not with flesh and blood. Cheerful and undaunted he set

out on his most perilous journeys. The fatigues which few men

would be found able to undergo, Mr. Post bore with calm endur-


In 1771 David Zeisberger asked that the Mission Board

appoint John Heckewelder as his associate in the Indian mission

work. The Board had decided to accept the invitation of the

Grand Council of the Delaware Indians to send its missionaries

to this Ohio territory, and to this valley, which then belonged

to the Delaware Indians. Their great chief Netawatwes urged


The Rev

The Rev. John Heckewelder.            321


their coming upon Zeisberger on the occasion of his preliminary

visit in 1771. As to the resultant action I quote from "David Zeis-

berger and his Brown Brethren": "In the valley of the Mus-

kingum River, in what is now Tuscarawas County, near the

'Beautiful Spring' pointed out to them by Chief Netawatwes,

who made them a grant of land in its immediate vicinity, the first

settlement was begun by Zeisberger and Heckewelder in the

spring of 1772. They gave it the name of Schonbrunn, the Ger-

man for the Indian name which signified Beautiful Spring.

"In the course of a few years this grew into a cluster of

Christian communities of converted Indians: Gnadenhuetten

(Tents of Grace), Lichtenau (Sunlit Meadow), Salem and New

Schonbrunn. Here were dwelling in peace and plenty hun-

dreds of Indian converts and their families, and a corps of de-

voted missionary brethren and sisters who labored under the

superintendency of Zeisberger.

"The material and spiritual prosperity of the remarkable

cluster of Indian towns, in this valley of the Tuscarawas, ex-

cited the wondering admiration alike of the white man and the

red man. Many came long distances to visit these habitations

of peace and plenty, upon which rested the smile of God."

Upon this oasis of peace and plenty in the wilderness arose

the dark cloud of the Revolutionary War. These flourishing

settlements were about half way between the American and

British frontier lines, with the American headquarters for all the

western territory at Fort Pitt (Pittsburgh) and the British head-

quarters at Detroit. The Indian Christians and their white mis-

sionary leaders were helpless in the face of these bitter antag-

onists, and were open to assault from either side as the suspected

favorer of the other. The Indian tribes were the objects of rival

diplomacies and plottings, that they might be secured as allies

of one of these hostile nations against the other.

During this troublous period John Heckewelder performed

a deed of heroism which gives him a rank among the bravest of

brave Americans. It was in the spring of the year 1778. In

the summer of the preceding year, 1777, he had gone to eastern

Pennsylvania on business for the mission. During the winter

the British party amongst the Indians, under the lead of the

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Wyandots and Mingoes, had laid plots to induce the Grand

Council of the peaceful Delawares to take up arms against the

Americans. In this intrigue they found active allies in the rene-

gades McKee, Elliott and Simon Girty, who had left Pittsburgh

as deserters to the British cause, and who now "propagated

abominable falsehoods respecting the war and the situation of

the people in the Atlantic States" amongst the Indians of this

western territory. So well did they succeed in their intrigue that

Chief White Eyes, who championed the cause of peace, could

only persuade the Grand Council at Gotchachgunk (the Dela-

ware capital stood in the site of Coshocton) to postpone the dec-

laration of war against the American colonists for ten days longer.

John Heckewelder left Bethlehem, near the Jersey border

in eastern Pennsylvania, on his return to the mission in this val-

ley, in February. He reached Pittsburgh late in the month of

March. On his way out he had conferred at York with Henry

Laurens, the President of the Continental Congress, then in ses-

sion at that place, and with General Horatio Gates, the Secretary

of War. Both of these officials treated him with distinguished

consideration, as a representative of the Moravian Church in

its successful work among the Ohio Indians. Everything was

done to express the official appreciation of the Government of

the far-reaching influence which Heckewelder could exert in se-

curing the peaceful neutrality of the Delaware nation in the crisis

of the Revolutionary struggle.

On reaching Pittsburgh with his trusty companion, John

Shabosh, he found that the general consternation in the minds

of the people was shared by the military commander, Colonel

Edward Hand and Colonel John Gibson. A general uprising

of the western Indians could mean only one thing: the destruc-

tion of the defenses of the western border and the desolation of

its settlements. Such a calamity at this crisis in the Revolution

might effect the defeat of the colonies in their struggle for in-


Everything now depended on securing a trusty ambassador

to convey assurances of peace and friendship to the Grand Coun-

cil of the Delaware nation at Coshocton. But the risk was

The Rev

The Rev. John Heckewelder.            323


thought to be too great. For it was known that war parties

were out, and every path beset by them.

I will let Heckewelder tell the story of that crisis. "The

matter (of going to our mission in the Tuscarawas Valley) ap-

pearing to us of the greatest importance, we gave it due consid-

eration during the night; the conclusion we reached was that,

in our view it appeared clear, that the preservation of the Dela-

ware nation and the existence of our mission depended on the

nation's being at peace, and that a contrary course would tend

to the total ruin of the whole mission: that were we at this time

to neglect or to withdraw ourselves from performing a service,

nay, a duty, in exposing the vile intentions of a depraved set of

beings whose evil designs were but too well known, we must

become accountable to our God.

"Therefore, with entire reliance on the strong hand of Provi-

dence, we determined to go at the hazard of our lives, or at least

to make the attempt." How much like the intrepid Post ap-

pears the intrepid Heckewelder, who had served his apprentice-

ship in 1762.

"In the morning we made our resolution known to Colonels

Hand and Gibson, whose best wishes we were assured of. We

left our baggage behind. Turning a deaf ear to all entreaties of

well-meaning friends who considered us lost if we went, we

crossed the Allegheny River. We traveled day and night, only

stopping to give our horses time to feed. We several times nar-

rowly escaped falling in with war parties. We crossed the Big

Beaver, which overflowed its banks, on a raft we had made of

poles. Other large creeks in the way we swam with our horses.

We never attempted to kindle a fire, being apprehensive of being

discovered by the warriors smelling the smoke.

"On the third day we reached Gnadenhuetten at eleven

o'clock at night. Fatigued as we were by our journey, without

one hour of sound sleep in three days, I was requested by the

inhabitants of the place, men and women, not to delay any time,

but to proceed to Coshocton, nearly thirty miles distant. They

declared that at the Delaware capital all was bustle and confusion

and many were preparing to go off to fight the Americans as

soon as the ten days had expired, of which to-morrow was the

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ninth; that McKee and his base associates had announced that

the American colonists were preparing at this time to enter upon

a campaign of indiscriminate murder of all the Indians friendly

or hostile.

"I consented after a few hours of rest and sleep, if furnished

with a trusty companion and a fresh horse, to proceed on my

way to Coshocton. Between three and four o'clock in the morn-

ing the National Assistant, John Martin, called me. We set out

together, swimming our horses across the Muskingum River

and taking a circuit through the woods to avoid the encampment

of the Wyandot war party which was close to our path.

"By ten o'clock in the forenoon we arrived within sight of

the capital. A few yells were given by a person who had dis-

covered us, to notify the inhabitants that a white man was com-

ing. This immediately drew the whole body of Indians into the

street. Although I saluted them in passing them, not a single

person returned the compliment. This my companion observed

was no good omen. Even Chief White Eyes and the other chiefs,

who always had befriended me, now stepped back when I reached

out my hand to them. This strange conduct, however, did not

dismay me. I was satisfied that the act of refusing me the hand

had been done from policy, and not from any ill will towards my

person. For I observed among the crowd some men, well known

to me as spies of the war party, who were here to watch the action

of these peace chiefs.

"Indeed in looking around I thought I could read joy in

the countenances of many of them on seeing me among them at

so critical a juncture.

"As no one would reach out his hand to me, I inquired the

cause. Chief White Eyes, boldly stepping forward, replied:

'That by what had been told them by these men (McKee and

party) they no longer had a single friend among the American

people; if therefore this be so they must consider every white

man who came to them from that side as an enemy, who came

to deceive them and to put them off their guard for the purpose

of giving the enemy an opportunity of taking them by surprise.'

I replied that the imputation was unfounded, and that, were I not

their friend, they never would have seen me here.

The Rev

The Rev. John Heckewelder.           325


"'Then,' continued Chief White Eyes, 'you will tell us the

truth with regard to what I state to you?' Having assured him

of this, he asked me in a loud voice: 'Have the American armies

been cut to pieces by the English troops? Is General Washing-

ton killed ? Is there no more a Congress, and have the English

hung some of them and taken the remainder to England to hang

them there? Is the whole country beyond the mountains in

the possession of the English, and are the few thousand Ameri-

cans, who have escaped, now organizing themselves on this side

of the mountains for killing all the Indians in this country, men

and women and children?' I declared before the whole assembly

that not one word of what he had just now told me was true.

He, however, refused to take the friendly dispatches which I had

brought with me. Accidentally catching the eye of the drummer,

I called to him to beat the drum for the assembly to meet, to

hear what their American brethren had to say to them. To Chief

White Eyes' question: 'Shall we, my friends and relatives, listen

once more to those who call us brethren?' there was a loud and

unanimous affirmative. All quickly repaired to the Council

House. All the dispatches were read and interpreted to them.

White Eyes made an elaborate address. In it he specially noted

that the American people had never yet called on the Indians

to fight the English. From the beginning of the war to the

present time they had always advised the Indians not to take up

the hatchet against either side.

"A newspaper which contained the account of the capitula-

tion of Burgoyne's army was found in the packet of dispatches.

This Chief White Eyes unfolded and held up so that all could

get a full view of it. 'See, my friends and relatives, this document

containeth great events, not the song of a bird, but the truth.'

Stepping up to me he gave me his hand, saying, 'You are wel-

come with us, brother.' Every one present followed his example."

Heckewelder now hurried on to the Lichtenau Mission sta-

tion, two and a half miles below Coshocton, "to the inexpressible

joy of Zeisberger," who was sitting by the fire, pale, emaciated,

the image of despair. "He arose and greeted me thus: 'Ah!

my dear John, are you here? You have come into the midst of

the fire! If God does not work a miracle the Mission is at an

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end! The Indians of Gnadenhuetten are on the point of fleeing

hither for safety. But there is no safety here! Satan rules!

One evil follows another! All Goschachgunk is preparing for

war! What will become of the Mission? If the Delawares

really go to war we are lost. I care not for myself, but Oh! my

poor Indians!'"

Bursting into tears at sight of his faithful Heckewelder, who

so unexpectedly stood before him, he listened to the story of that

day's events in the Council House at Coshocton. God had

wrought "a miracle !" And the heroic devotion of Heckewelder

had been the instrument in God's hands by which it had been


To-day we dwell upon the heroism of Hobson and his com-

rades, who faced an almost certain death, in the forlorn hope

that sailed into the very jaws of destruction, in Santiago Harbor;

let us be quick to commemorate the bravery of Heckewelder and

his comrades who rode through the wilderness of deadly danger

with cheerful devotion, to compass the victory of peace. The

historians of the deeds of that historic period may well pay tribute

to Heckewelder as one of the men whose heroic bearing at this

crisis helped to achieve our national independence.

No less conspicuous is the record of his work as a Gospel

laborer. It may be said of John Heckewelder, as was said of one

of old, "The Lord was with him and made all that he did to

prosper in his hand." The record of the great revival at Lich-

tenau Mission station, when in his pastoral care in the winter of

1779-80, marks him as one of the Lord's anointed who are privi-

leged to lead many souls into His kingdom.

Under date of Lichtenau, March 3, 1780, Heckewelder

closes his report of the winter's revival thus:

"Now when I look at our Indian brethren and see the newly-

baptized converts, the hymn comes to my mind, 'The Blood of

Jesus.' For here in the persons of these heathen (and such

heathen as the Indians are) who have been converted to Christ

our Savior, we have before us a true and lasting pattern and ex-

ample of what the Blood of the Crucified One can do for sinners.

"The next impulse of my heart is to cry, 'Glory and Honor

The Rev

The Rev. John Heckewelder.             327


to Jesus our Lamb!' Where would any and all of us be, were

there no Savior?

"I must add one thing more. We have noticed in the case

of the stranger-Indians who visit us from a great distance during

our festival seasons, that they were very attentive hearers during

their visits. They started on their return home with great

anxiety of mind and often with tears. We rejoice to think of the

coming victory of grace in their hearts in the dear Lord's own


The troublous war times compelled them to give up the sta-

tion of Lichtenau, and to move further up the valley. A new

station was founded by Heckewelder at a point within a mile or

two of the plot on which Port Washington now stands. He gave

it the name of Salem. This was in the spring of 1780.

On July 4, 1780, he was married in the newly-built church

at Salem, which had been erected under his superintendence.

His bride was Miss Sarah Ohneberg, daughter of Rev. George

and Susan Ohneberg, who were Moravian missionaries in the

West Indies. (Heckewelder's parents died in the mission service

in the West Indies before he had come of age.)

Miss Ohneberg came out from Bethlehem under the escort

of the venerable Rev. Adam Grube. The others of the party

were Rev. and Mrs. Gottlob Seuseman. Of the four hundred

miles trip, the last one hundred miles from Pittsburgh were gone

over under the escort of some Christian Indians sent from Gna-

denhuetten to meet them. After this party of missionaries had

left Pittsburgh, on their way through the wilderness, three

American scouts fired on them. A bullet passed through the

sleeve of the Indian who was leading Mr. Grube's horse.

Then at Salem, on April 6, 1781, their first child was born,

Johanna Maria Heckewelder.

But the bursting of the gathering storm could not be long

delayed. A little more than a year later, in September, 1781,

came the fiery trial in which perished the fruits of many years of

missionary toil and sacrifice.

Emissaries from the British headquarters at Detroit were

sent to remove the missionaries and their wives and children from

their Mission stations in this beautiful valley, with a view to a

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"dispersion of the Christian Indians" and the "breaking up of

their settlements."

One day Zeisberger and Heckewelder and their associate mis-

sionaries stood captives, almost naked, on yonder bank, exposed

to the brutalities of blood-thirsty villains who only lacked the

courage to murder their innocent victims, whom they had dragged

from their homes at Schonbrunn and at Salem.

It is a harrowing tale - that of their journey through the

wilderness to Upper Sandusky - these men, their wives and

babes - afoot, driven with ruthless indifference, to their final

encampment, in the desert wilderness, in what is now Wyandot

County. They were abandoned by their captors to their fate.

With little food for themselves and their cattle, barely clad, they

would have perished from hunger and exposure but for the Indian

women who supplied their urgent needs from their own scanty

store of roots dug in the woods.

From their hastily constructed cabins, the Missionaries were

summoned to leave their wives and little ones, and to appear in

person before the British commandant at Detroit for trial, as sup-

posed allies and spies in the American interest. In bleak Novem-

ber they made their way - Zeisberger, Heckewelder, Senseman,

and Edwards - around the head of Lake Erie, along "roads such

as we had never before seen." In John Heckewelder's experience

of twenty years' traveling he had never seen the like: "the mud

of the swamps," "our horses sometimes sinking belly-deep into

the mire, which obliged us to cut strong poles to pry them out

again," - "deep creeks across which we had to swim our horses,"

-  "bleak prairies, the northwest wind blowing in our faces so

that we could scarcely stand up against it, having but few clothes

on our backs we would frequently drive our horses before us and

walk, to preserve ourselves from perishing with cold," - through

all this they had made their toilsome way when they came to a

bleak point of land at the junction of the Detroit and Rouge rivers,

in sight of the Fort, but unable to cross the deep strait. "They

passed a dreadful night. Not a stick of wood was to be found to

kindle a fire. They had "to move about the whole night to keep

themselves alive."

The Rev

The Rev. John Heckewelder.             329


Next day they entered Fort Detroit, carried across the river

in friendly canoes. "It being by this time known in town that

the Moravian Missionaries were come in as prisoners, curiosity

drew the inhabitants of the place into the street to see what kind

of people we were. The few clothes we had on our backs, and

these tattered and torn, might have caused them to cast looks of

contempt upon us. But we did not find this to be the case. We

were viewed with commiseration. After standing for some time

in the street opposite the dwelling of the commandant, we were

brought in before him. Here, with empty stomachs, shivering

with cold, worn down by the journey and not free from rheumatic

pains, we staid until we had undergone a short examination." Ad-

ded to all this suffering was their great mental anxiety "for our

families suffering from hunger and exposure, to whom we were

repeatedly told by the savage Indians we never would be permitted

to return again."

The upshot of it all was that the commandant declared them

acquitted of all charges laid against them, and "that he felt great

satisfaction and pleasure in seeing our endeavors to civilize and

christianize the Indians, and would cheerfully permit us to return

again to our congregation."

I hold in my hand the original Passport which was given to

Zeisberger and Heckewelder by the commandant. It bears date

November, 1781, and is therefore nearly one hundred and seven-

teen years old. It bears the official signature of Arent Schuyler

de Peyster, Major of the Royal Eighth Regiment and Command-

ant of Detroit and its Dependencies. It declares the Missionaries

to be

"permitted to perform the functions of their office

among the Christian Indians without molestation."


Before they left the sympathetic hospitality of Fort Detroit they

were clothed anew, and in addition thereto they were furnished

with clothing and blankets and household utensils for their fami-

lies. Provisions had also been sent on in advance, to their camp

at Upper Sandusky. In eight days they were reunited with their

families. "The joy," says Heckewelder, "on both sides was


330 Ohio Arch

330       Ohio Arch. and His. Society Publications.


What sort of winter these white and brown exiles from this

fruitful valley, spent in their encampment at Upper Sandusky is

best described in the words of the man who shared in their suffer-

ings. Heckewelder says: "Not being much troubled by savage

Indians for some time, we built a temporary Meeting House, of

long poles placed upon each other, between posts.

"The crevices were filled with moss gathered from the trees,

instead of mortar. But in what manner to get a supply of provis-

ions, which we stood in need of, caused many anxious reflections.

"Although put to great straits for provisions, our Indian

Brethren trusted in the Lord that he in due time would relieve

them. That they had a place of worship and could daily hear the

gospel preached was to them a great consolation, in these days of

trial. And seeing that some who had lately come among us,

called upon the Lord for mercy, and were baptized in his name,

their hopes were enlivened that the Lord would continue to be

gracious and merciful to them.

"Hitherto the Christian Indians had suffered most from a

want of provisions. But now in the dead of winter, they also

suffered severely from the cold.

"Towards the end of January (1782) the cold during the

night became almost insupportable, the more so on account of the

smallness of our huts. This did not permit the convenience of

our having large fires made within them; and the wood was very

scarce where we were. Our houses having no flooring, whenever

a thaw came on, the water forced passages through the earth and

entered in such quantities that we scarcely could keep our feet


"The cattle finding no pasture in those dreary regions and

we not being able to procure any for them, began to perish from

hunger. As provisions for so many people could not be had, even

for money, famine came. Many had no other alternative but to

live on the carcasses of the starved cattle. Some babes perished

from want of nourishment from their mother's impoverished

breasts. The Missionaries reduced their own daily allowance of

provisions for bread to a pint of Indian corn a day.

"Yet in this wretched situation the hungry (heathen) Wyan-

dots would often come into our huts and see if there were any

The Rev

The Rev. John Heckewelder.            331

victuals cooking or nearly cooked. At one time just as my wife

had set down what was intended for our dinner, the Half-King

and Simon Girty and a Wyandot entered my cabin and seeing the

victuals ready, without ceremony began eating.

"The famine increasing daily - and the children crying for

victuals, was more than the parents could endure. They could

not afford to pay at the rate of a dollar for two or three quarts

of corn, which was the price now asked (in our neighborhood) by

those who held any. Therefore consulting with one another on

measures to be taken for their relief, their deliberations closed

with a resolution, to look to no other quarter for corn but to their

forsaken towns."

My friends, put yourselves in the place of those Indian

farmers. Here in their old homes the corn was still waiting to

be harvested, - and their little ones were starving. It is a five

or six days' journey to the old home. The report has come that

"although the corn still stands in the fields unharvested, yet it is

still good and unhurt."

Do you blame them, men and women with their children, for

coming home again for bread for themselves and little ones!

Here, in yonder flats across the river, in the corn fields which

their own hands had planted they had been working both by day

and by night in gathering and husking corn, for several weeks."

"On the day our Christian Indians were bundling up their packs,

intending to set off on the next morning, a party of between one

and two hundred white people from the Ohio settlements made

their appearance at Gnadenhuetten."

We all know the story of that next day, that bloody Friday,

March 8, 1782!

Listen what Heckewelder has to say of the more than ninety

"Christian Indians murdered by the miscreants." "Five of the

slain were respectable National Assistants or Elders (in the spir-

itual conduct of the Indian Church.) Of these Samuel Moore and

Tobias had been members of the Missionary Brainerd's congre-

gation in New Jersey, after whose death they joined the Christian

Indians on the Susquehanna. Samuel had received his education

from Mr. Brainerd. He could read well and understood the Eng-

lish language so well that he was for many years and until his

332 Ohio Arch

332       Ohio Arch. and His. Society Publications.


death an interpreter of the sermons preached. Tobias and Jonas

led the life of true Christians. Isaac Glickhican - the converted

war-chief - was a useful member of the church. How prudently

he acted on all occasions and how ready and fearless he was in

time of danger; how faithful to his teachers. Doubtless he

would have risked his life for them if occasion had required it.

Another of the five was John Martin, one of the Chapel inter-

preters at Gnadenhuetten, an exemplary and worthy man. Three

of these five Elders of the Church were above sixty; the other

two were about fifty years old. Many of the Brethren and Sisters

who were murdered were born of Christian Indian parents who

were members of the church in Pennsylvania, in 1763 and 1764.

Here they were now murdered, together with their children. The

loving children! who had so harmoniously raised their voices in

the Chapel, at their schools and in their parents' houses, in singing

praises to the Lord. Their tender years, innocent countenances

and tears made no impression on these pretended white Christians.

These children were all butchered with the rest."

Two weeks after the horrible massacre of these brown Chris-

tians, men, women and children, the account of it reached the

exiled Missionaries who with their families were on their way to

Fort Detroit, whither they had been suddenly summoned a second

time by the British Commandant. The bearer of the melancholy

message, says Heckewelder, was our Brother Joshua whose two

promising daughters aged 15 and 18, were among the slain!

"We grieved much for such loving souls, and assembling on

the occasion, prayed the Church Litany to be 'kept in everlasting

fellowship with the church triumphant' and with our dear Breth-

ren and Sisters and the children slain on the Muskingum; in the

firm persuasion of again meeting together in the presence of our


The Moravian mission work - what there was left of it -

was now to be carried on under the protection of the British flag.

The Missionaries began a new settlement on the Clinton river, in

what is now Macomb County, in the state of Michigan, on land

granted them by the Chippewa Indians. The grant was to expire

on the return of peace. The station was named New Gnaden-

The Rev

The Rev. John Heckewelder.            333


huetten. Here was born the second child, to the Heckewelder

parents, Anna Salome Heckewelder, August 13, 1784.

Soon after peace had been declared the American Congress

granted a Reservation of lands and houses, in the Tuscarawas

valley for the Christian Indians, in trust to the Moravian Church.

This was the only consideration for the loss that had been sus-

tained by the destruction of their settlements. The estimated

pecuniary loss incurred by the ruin of the crops, harvested and

unharvested; the loss of their horses and cattle; farming utensils,

houses and household furnishings; books and manuscripts, was

estimated, at the lowest, at twelve thousand dollars. This was a

large sum of money for those times. This estimate fails to in-

clude the loss incurred by the destruction of precious human

lives nor does it take account of the hardships and sufferings

endured by the faithful men and women - the missionaries -

who stood by their Indian converts with unflinching devotion.

Thus after five years of exile from this valley of the Tus-

carawas they turn once more toward the old home. To reoccupy

their towns in this fruitful valley became now the dream of the

Missionaries and their scattered converts.

Less than five years had gone since their forced removal from

their homes here. But they had been years of untold suffering

and trials. They broke up their settlement on the Clinton River,

near Detroit, and started on their return journey in April, 1786.

The Church diary tells what a record their converts had made

among the trades-people of the Fort. "Our Indians left a good

reputation behind them for all the merchants in Detroit report

that they paid all their debts to the last penny. They said it could

well enough be seen that our Indians were an honorable people,

and better than all the people around Detroit who do not like to

pay their debts. The merchants add thereto, that this was the

fruit of the Missionaries' labors."

Like Israel of old they entered upon their wilderness wan-

derings with a view to reach this valley, their Land of Promise.

His spirit and physical strength broken, Zeisberger, now sixty

years old, leaned on his vigorous associate Heckewelder, who

was now in his prime. It was a long and tedious and very severe

journey which ended at the mouth of the Cuyahoga River, where


The Gnadenhuetten Centennial

The Gnadenhuetten Centennial.          335


Cleveland now stands. They made their way along the lake

shore. They founded a settlement in what is now Independence

Township of Cuyahoga County, some distance from the mouth

of the river on its eastern bank.

Here, at Pilger-Ruh, the two missionaries who, since 1771,

had stood by one another in all the joy and the sorrow, the bless-

ing and privations of the past fifteen years, were separated. Heck-

ewelder was compelled to remove his family to Pennsylvania. The

strain of this last long and severe journey had broken down his

faithful wife's health entirely.

But what seemed, at the time, a sore providence was over-

ruled for the best interests of the mission work in all its varied

relations. This separation of Heckewelder from the work of the

mission stations opened to him a larger career as the practical

field superintendent of the Indian mission work of the church.

And with this came the unlooked-for opportunity and the un-

sought distinction in the public service of his country.

For this twofold service he possessed unrivalled fitness. He

was in his prime. For twenty-five years past he had lived among

the Indians of Pennsylvania and Ohio as a missionary. As the

associate of Christian Frederick Post and David Zeisberger he

had learned well the lesson of self-forgetful toil and loving devo-

tion in behalf of the Brown Brethren. And in this period of

transition and of the armed struggles in connection therewith,

John Heckewelder came to be a person of exceptional qualifica-

tions to stand as a middle-man between his Brown Brethren and

the American Government.

His influence for a peaceful and honorable adjustment of the

difficulties was second to that of no other one man of that

troublous period.

At the request of President Washington he consented to

serve the United States Government as a commissioner, with

General Rufus Putnam of Marietta, on an embassy to the hostile

Indians in the Wabash River neighborhood. The long journey

of over twenty-seven hundred miles from Bethlehem to the Post

Vincennes, on the Wabash, and return, was eminently successful

in its results. And this was due in no small measure to the

missionary commissioner's part in the work.

336 Ohio Arch

336      Ohio Arch. and His. Society Publications.


Heckewelder carried out his commission in the face of in-

numerable perils. A very severe illness at one time threatened

his life, but his manuscript record of this famous trip is written

in a style as modest as his endurance of its fatigues and dangers

was cheerful and undaunted. This was in 1792.

In the following year, in 1793, President Washington again

solicited his acceptance of the commission of the Government

as an ambassador to treat for peace with the warring Indian

tribes of the northwestern territory. With Heckewelder on this

embassy were General Benjamin Lincoln of Massachusetts, Tim-

othy Pickering, Postmaster-General in Washington's cabinet,

and former Governor Beverly Randolph of Virginia.

The commissioners traveled to Detroit by way of Albany and

the Mohawk valley; they returned by way of the St. Lawrence

River and Lake Champlain. To-day this is a summer route of

many pleasure seekers. One hundred and five years ago it meant

a pilgrimage through a wilderness beset with imminent dangers.

In coming down Lake Champlain a storm arose during the night

in which the boat which carried the commissioners and their

assistants almost foundered. They had a very narrow escape

from death.

These repeated engagements of Mr. Heckewelder, in the

public service, in association with men of highest character and

official station, are a striking tribute to the character and repu-

tation of the man. They show how well this missionary super-

intendent stood in the esteem of the men of his day who were

highest in the councils of the nation.

But his work in the public service also facilitated his work

in the field superintendency of the mission. In 1797, the year

after he had removed his family to Bethlehem, in eastern Penn-

sylvania, we find him at Pittsburgh. He escorted the missionary

helpers, Michael Jung and John Weigand, to that point, from

whence the two then proceeded to join the Pilger-Ruh pilgrims.

These latter were breaking up their settlement in order to

transfer it to the valley of the Huron River, in what is now Milan

Township, in Erie County.

In the next year, 1788, we see John Heckewelder at the

newly established white settlement of Marietta, at the mouth of

The Rev

The Rev. John Heckewelder.            337


the Muskingum. Here he meets, probably for the first time,

General Rufus Putnam, -  a name than which none is more

illustrious in the history of Ohio. The object of this trip was

to secure a survey of the Reservation voted by Congress. With

him came from Pittsburgh the Surveyor-General, Captain Hutch-

ins. His companion on the journey from the mission settlements

in Lancaster County was Mathias Blickensderfer, a name of no

little honor, in these later days, in this valley.

This first visit to the Marietta Colony laid the foundation

of the mutual friendship and esteem which was maintained during

all the subsequent years of intercourse. He came to be an intimate

friend of General Putnam and his associates, both at Marietta

and later at Cincinnati, then Fort Washington.

An article in the "American Journal of Science and Arts" of

October, 1836, says in reference to this intercourse: "The men

who founded the first Ohio Colony at Marietta carried with it

the sciences and the arts. In the veins of its colonists ran some

of the best blood of the country, and many of them were men

of highly-cultivated minds and exalted intellect. Amid such soci-

ety the pious and humane Heckewelder could not but pass time

pleasantly. He was himself a man full of the milk of human kind-

ness, a great lover of horticulture and all the beauties of nature.

He was much devoted to the study of the natural sciences." The

article adds this in allusion to Heckewelder's residence, at a later

date, in the settlement the centennial of whose founding we are

to-day celebrating: "He kept for many years at Gnadenhuetten

a regular meteorological journal of the seasons, and of the flow-

erings of plants, etc., which was published in 'Dr. Barton's Med-

ical Journal' of Philadelphia."

The proposed survey could not be made at that time because

of the Indian war. After a nine weeks' stay at the infant settle-

ment he returned to Bethlehem.

In the following year, 1789, Rev. John Heckewelder and

Rev. Abraham Steiner travelled from Bethlehem, by way of Pitts-

burgh, to the New Salem station (also called Pettouotting, in

Milan Township, Eric County) on the Huron River, one hundred

and fifty miles from Pittsburgh. They arrived on May 20 and

left June 1. Zeisberger writes in his diary:

338 Ohio Arch

338      Ohio Arch. and His. Society Publications.


"There came to us suddenly and in quite unexpected quick-

ness Brother John Heckewelder and Abraham Steiner, by way

of Pittsburgh. From that place they had had a tedious and

difficult journey. They gave us joy by their letters and news

from the (home) church. Their arrival was the more unexpected

and pleasing from our knowing that the way was not quite safe

from warriors and horse-thieves.

"(Friday, May 22.) Heckewelder held early service about

this: That it is labor in vain to try to live a life well-pleasing to

God and holy before the heart has been washed with Jesus' blood

and forgiveness of sins has been received. (Wednesday, May 27.)

Heckewelder held early service. The brethren were busy plant-

ing. Praise be to God that all is so quiet. (Sunday, May 31,

Whitsuntide.) Brother Heckewelder preached from the gospel

lesson: If any man love me he will keep my word, and my

Father will love him and we will make our abode with him. He

preached about the work of God, the Holy Ghost, to convince

men of their unbelief and lead them to the Savior, our Redeemer,

whom we have cost His blood, that thereby we should have for-

giveness of sins, eternal life and salvation.

"In the second service four were buried in Jesus' death by

Holy Baptism, namely, John Henry, Charles, Gottlob, Cornelia,

by Brother Zeisberger, Heckewelder, Edwards, and Jung, a ser-

vice accompanied by the near presence of the Holy Trinity."

"(Monday, June 1.) Brother Heckewelder held early service,

took leave of the brethren and admonished them to abide by the

Savior and His wounds; He would bless them and make them

fruitful, and let them shine a light among the nations, and they

would be a blessing."

Afterwards, in the afternoon, they set out for Pittsburgh with

a great number of Indian Brethren, nearly the whole town going

with them a part of the way. In referring to this visit, in a review

of the year, in December, Zeisberger writes: "They made us

heartily joyful by a visit of eleven days."

In less than two years after this Visit the New Salem settle-

ment was broken up, and once again the pilgrims became exiles

under the British flag. The Indian hostilities in the spring of

1791 forced the missionaries a second time across the Canadian

The Rev

The Rev. John Heckewelder.            339


frontier. On the Thames River, in Canada, the new station

Fairfield was begun in May, 1792. This became the permanent

home of the principal Indian mission of the Moravian Church.

Zeisberger had just passed his seventy-seventh birthday anniver-

sary when he led the "Indian Church in the wilderness" across

the British border. At New Salem, during the four years of its

occupancy, the spiritual prosperity of former days in this Tus-

carawas valley seemed to be renewed. When he was forced to

abandon the settlement he left behind, in God's acre, the bodies

of some of his most eminent Indian elders. Here too was buried

the body of faithful John Shabosh, who died aged sixty-eight.

In 1793, in June, at Fairfield station, this is the record of

another Heckewelder visit. (Saturday, June 15.) "We had the

unexpected pleasure of seeing Brother Heckewelder among us.

By him we were heartily refreshed by letters and papers, from

Europe and from Bethlehem, with the text-books. We had re-

ceived nothing for longer than a year. On his way he had found

some packages here and there, and had brought with him. We

were comforted and revived. For we had believed that cor-

respondence between the States and Canada had been stopped

and that our letters were lost. (Sunday, June 16.) Brother Heck-

ewelder preached about this, that the Savior came to seek and

save the lost. (Monday, June 17.) Brother Heckewelder held

the early service and spoke in the daily words: Declare His

glory among the heathen, His marvellous works among all


This was during the stay of the United States Commissioners,

of whom John Heckewelder was one, at Detroit, to meet the

Indians at the rapids of the Miami of the Lake. The Indian

brethren who accompanied Brother Heckewelder on his return,

brought back significant word to the effect "that in regard to the

treaty to be held matters looked dubious, and that many lies had

been spread to prevent it." This was a correct forecast of the

upshot of these efforts to establish peace.

Under date of July 22, 1793, the Diary records: "From

Detroit, by an Indian, we had letters from Brother Heckewelder

from which we saw that Brant and fifty chiefs of different nations

had gone from Miami to Niagra to speak with the United States

340 Ohio Arch

340      Ohio Arch. and His. Society Publications.


Commissioners there, and to ask them beforehand if they have

full power to give up the land as far as the Ohio River. If not,

then to prepare to go home again without coming to a treaty.

(August 9.)  We got a letter from Brother Heckewelder at

the mouth of the Detroit River wherein he says that he and

the (other) United States Commissioners are still detained there;

that although they had been invited to a treaty and had come

there from Niagra and were waiting, as there was yet doubt

whether there would be a treaty."

The object was to meet the great body of the warriors

assembled at the rapids of the Maumee face to face at a confer-

ence. Then it was hoped to adjust matters to the satisfaction

of the Indians. But the British, by their agents on the ground,

prevented this, much to the injury of the poor deluded Indians.

All the endeavors of the commissioners to attain the so much

wished for meeting were fruitless. By an insolent speech, that

was brought to the commissioners as expressing the sentiments

of the council of the savages, all hope of securing a conference

with them vanished. The commissioners returned them a short


"They reminded them of the pains the United States had

taken to bring about a peace with them. But as they were inat-

tentive to their own welfare and disappointed the United States

they must abide the consequences. They must only blame them-

selves and their advisers for future events.

"The disappointment was a distressing one to us all. The

poor savages some time after helped to pay dearly for having

suffered themselves to be misled."

In his "Narrative" Heckewelder writes: "The savages con-

tinuing the murderous incursions into the frontier settlements of

the United States, General Anthony Wayne, in August, 1794,

marched an army into their country. On the twentieth of August

he completely routed them in a general engagement at the rapids

of the Maumee. Wayne's victory was the salutary means of

bringing on a peace with them. On August 3, 1795, a treaty of

peace was finally concluded with all the hostile nations."

At last the time had come to revisit the old home of the

mission in this valley. In the spring of 1797 John Heckewelder

The Rev

The Rev. John Heckewelder.            341


set out from Bethlehem for Gnadenhuetten. With him came

William Henry and, as their associates, John Rothrock and Chris-

tian Clewell of Nazareth. From Wellsburg, on the Panhandle,

they came to the site of Gnadenhuetten after a four days' journey.

They arrived on the evening of the eleventh of May.

Heckewelder saw it after an interval of almost sixteen years.

It was on the 11th of September, 1781, that he had left it a pris-

oner, to be led away with his fellow missionaries into the wilder-

ness of northern Ohio. Remembering all the toils and turmoils

of this intervening period, what must have been his feelings as

his eyes rested upon the scene that presented itself. His asso-

ciate, William Henry, thus described it: "We found the whole

neighborhood covered with a deep, dry grass of an old standing

to which on the day of our arrival (May 11) we set fire. We

did this to defend ourselves in some degree against the numerous

snakes and serpents which we found had taken possession. All

the ground where the town stood is covered with briars, hazel,

plum and thorn bushes, like a low, impenetrable forest, except-

ing where the paths of bears, deer, turkeys, and other wild crea-

tures afford admittance. I was exceedingly affected while I

walked over and contemplated the ruins of this once beautiful


The fire having cleared away the dense grass and under-

brush, a clear view was afforded them of the ruins.

"Part of their chimneys appear in their rows. The place

where our poor Indians were massacred is strongly marked.

Part of their bones are yet to be seen amongst the coal and


"In the cellar of the house where part of the brethren were

murdered they found nine of them. And in every direction the

ground was covered with the bones of their cattle killed by their


Heckewelder immediately left for Marietta to secure the at-

tendance and oversight of General Rufus Putnam, the Surveyor

General, in the laying out of the "Three tracts of land, of four

thousand acres each, circumjacent to the three towns of Schon-

brunn, Gnadenhuetten and Salem." Congress had passed an

Act, June 1, 1796, which President Adams approved, granting

342 Ohio Arch

342      Ohio Arch. and His. Society Publications.

these lands in trust for the benefit of the Christian Indians, to

the Moravian Church. In his journey through the wilderness

he had an Indian as his companion part of the way. General

Putnam accompanied his friend back to Gnadenhuetten.

By July 4 the survey was completed. It was the work of

almost a month. Heckewelder accompanied Putnam and his

surveying staff on their return to Marietta to complete all the

necessary legal formalities. William Henry and the others went

home by the direct trail to Pittsburg.

Now, at last the way for the re-occupation of the old homes

was quite open, and John Heckewelder traveled from Bethlehem

to Fairfield to begin the work of re-occupying their homes.

But Zeisberger, the veteran, had come to those years when

active labor in the mission work was almost beyond his strength.

He had just been celebrating the seventy-seventh anniversary of

his birth, when Heckewelder came on from Bethlehem, in May,

1798, to arrange for the return to the Tuscarawas Valley.

He writes (May): "We had the very especial joy of seeing

come to us our dear brothers, John Heckewelder and Benjamin

Mortimer, from Bethlehem by way of Niagra, through the

Bush. They came so unexpectedly, for we had not thought of

their coming before June or July, that we rejoiced the more, like

children. And (the rejoicing) was on both sides. They too re-

joiced, for they had come a very hard way."

I ask you to note the expression - "a very hard way" -

for when these dear people, so heroic in all their endurance say

a way was "very hard," you may be sure it was very hard.

"We refreshed ourselves by reading the letters and papers

received. The Indian brethren all came to greet the Brothers

Heckewelder and Mortimer. (Thursday, May 24,) We had a

conference to read and consider the letters from the Mission

Board. We resolved 1, That some Indian brothers should go

with Brother John Heckewelder to the Muskingum; 2, That

Brother William Edwards should go with them, to which he was

glad and willing to accede; 3, That the Zeisbergers should follow

them, with some Indian families, in June or July."

Preparations were made for an early departure and the In-

dian Brethren Nicholas, Leonard Renatus, Bartholimew, Chris-

The Rev

The Rev. John Heckewelder.            343


tian Gottlieb, and Samuel were selected for the journey. Rev.

John Heckewelder was fifty-four years old on the previous 12th

of March. Rev. William Edwards was seventy-four years old

on the previous 24th of April. He joined the Ohio Mission in


This company of pioneer settlers left Fairfield for Gnaden-

huetten on May 31. The journey through the Bush took them

almost three weeks. Heckewelder declared it to have been the

most disagreeable and fatiguing of all the journeys which he

had ever undertaken. They made their way over lakes and

rivers, and through deep morasses; large stretches of the country

through which they were compelled to travel, were rendered al-

most impassable by the great number of fallen trees. Numerous

snakes infested their path. For miles at a time they were often

forced to break their way through tangled vines of wild grapes

and thickets of nettles five feet tall. In making their way through

the dense undergrowth of a weed, thick and strong, resembling

a file, their shoes and clothes were cut to pieces, and the skin

torn from their bodies. Through all this, clouds of mosquitoes

accompanied them, against whose sting they could make no


My friends, this was a rough road to travel upon! Where

among you is the veteran of seventy-four to keep up with the ven-

erable Missionary Edwards, as he follows the lead of his more

vigorous, but not more undaunted, younger associate, John


At length they emerged upon the trail which soon brought

them to the site of Salem, which Heckewelder had built in 1780.

Here he was married in 1780. Here his first child - dear old

Aunt Polly! God bless her memory! -was born. Do you

wonder that the heroic leader forgot the fatigues of his distressful

journey when his ears were greeted with the familiar songs of the

many birds? He writes: "The whistling 'Bob-whites' seemed to

call out, 'Come back again! Come back again!'"

When they got to Salem he encouraged his tired Indian

comrades by telling them that if they pushed on noon would see

them at Gnadenhuetten. And it came true as he had said.

Swimming their horses across the Muskingum they reached

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yonder eastern bank on the 19th of June. As they came through

the bushes and under the overhanging trees, Heckewelder again

says in his account of their arrival, the birds sang sweetly and

cheerily their welcome. It was, he declares, as if they had been

especially commissioned by our Heavenly Father to give us a

tuneful welcome.

He found the cabin, erected the previous summer, during

the surveying campaign, still standing and untouched, just as

he had left it. As they entered it he looked up the "daily words"

in his Moravian text-book. It seemed as if the dear Lord had

meant it specially for them, so apt and comforting were these

"Scripture words."

After some days the carpenters arrived from eastern Penn-

sylvania - the Colver brothers and Schmick. They at once pro-

ceeded to make preparations to begin the erection of a house.

The "First House" was erected on the spot on the eastern bank,

which we marked during the exercises of this morning with a

Centennial Memorial stone. One hundred years ago to-day

Heckewelder occupied the building.

On October 4, in the autumn, came David Zeisberger and

thirty-six Christian Indians from Fairfield to begin a mission

settlement in the old home. They came by way of Lake Erie

and the Cuyahoga River. They crossed the short Portage and

joyfully launched their canoes upon the waters of their loved

Tuscarawas. Their journey was completed in fifty-one days.

Heckewelder at once arranged for the construction of a

mission house as the residence of the venerable Zeisberger, on

the plot which the latter selected for the new station. They

called it Goshen. On the 13th of November, Zeisberger moved

into his new home. At length this mighty servant of the Lord

had come to his last resting station on earth. Here he lived

and labored during the last years of his long and fruitful life.

Here he entered the joy of his Master, November 17, 1808.

One of the special duties with which Heckewelder was

charged during the twelve years succeeding the founding of Gna-

denhuetten, was the care that Brother David and his wife and

their Indian converts be made comfortable and their needs sup-

plied. It was a privilege as well as a duty-and never did a

The Rev

The Rev. John Heckewelder.            345


father show more thoughtful, loving, consideration for his house-

hold than did Brother John Heckewelder for his beloved Brother

David Zeisberger.

And now just one more word, dear friends, as to the relation

in which this man stood to the times, one hundred years ago,

when the foundations of our commonwealth of Ohio were laid.

All the historians of Ohio name John Heckewelder with Rufus

Putnam, as one of the early founders of our imperial state. His

transparent honesty of character, his kindness of heart, his de-

votion to duty, his readiness to reach out a helping hand; all

this and much more that went to make up the man, John Hecke-

welder, caused the representatives of the Commonwealth to turn

to him when they would fill offices of civic responsibility.

Up to the time of his final return to eastern Pennsylvania

the man whose signature is found on the original parchment

deeds of almost all the farms of this part of the Tuscarawas Val-

ley filled the office of Postmaster and Justice of the Peace.

The Legislature of Ohio elected him the first man to fill the

honorable position of Associate Judge of the Court of Common

Pleas of Tuscarawas county.

His personal influence moved the Legislature of Ohio to

modify laws already enacted, which bore too hard upon the in-

terests which Heckewelder represented. They believed his word

because they had confidence in a man whose entire life had been

spent in unstinted service of his fellow man. His works bespoke

the man of integrity and unselfish devotion to the right.

Heckewelder was frequently appointed upon commissions

charged, for instance, with such duties as the location of county

seats, of the neighboring counties. So long as he was a resi-

dent of Ohio -from the time when he first lived in his cabin

near Bolivar, in 1762, to the year 181O, the year of his final re-

tiracy to Bethlehem, in Pennsylvania, a period of almost fifty

years, John Heckewelder tried to live the life of a manly man and

do the work of a Christian brother and citizen. It is fitting that

this great concourse of people should come to Gnadenhuetten,

this Centennial Day, and do honor to his memory.

But before I close I must touch upon the literary labors

which employed John Heckewelder during the last years of his

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life, He lived to be almost eighty years of age. He died Jan-

uary 31, 1823. It was during the last thirteen years of his life

that he devoted himself to important literary work.

The fruitful work and genuine character of this modest and

true-hearted man, caused him to be sought after by the church-

men and the statesmen, the scholars and the scientists and litera-

teurs of his time. He could not live in obscure retiracy.

The founders of the American Philosophical Society, Doc-

tor Casper Wistar, and Peter Duponceau, sought him out and

made him their associate in the literary undertakings of the so-

ciety. At their earnest solicitation he prepared for publication

his valuable book, an "Account of the History, Manners and

Customs of the Indian Nations Who Once Inhabited Pennsyl-

vania and the Neighboring States." It appeared in 1818, and

was published under the auspices of the American Philosophical


The general scientific interest taken in the work at the time

of its publication is attested by the fact that it was at once trans-

lated into German and into French, and an edition was issued

in each of these languages for the benefit of European scholars.

In this connection you will allow me to call your attention

to this venerable, time-stained document bearing the date of the

year 1794.

It is the engraved diploma written in the Russian language,

constituting "Mr. John Heckewelder a member of the Free Eco-

nomical Society for Encouraging Agriculture and Housekeep-

ing in Russia, under the most high Protection of the Illustrious

and most Mighty Lady, Catharine the Second, Empress and

Sovereign of all the Russias," etc., etc., etc.

"They therefore by these Presents declare him as and for

their Fellow Laborer and Partaker of all the Rights and Pre-

rogatives granted to the Members of this Society, and in future

to be enjoyed by them. (Seal.) Signed by President, Count d'

Anhalt, Secret. periet. Andreas Van Wartow, Executive Coun-

sellor of State and Knight of the Royal Danish Order of Dane-


It seems to me, my granger friends, there ought to be a

The Rev

The Rev. John Heckewelder.           347

framed copy of this document hung up on the walls of every

Grange meeting-room in Ohio. (A loud "Amen!")

In 1820, Father Heckewelder published his valuable book,

"A Narrative of the Mission of the Moravian Brethren's Church

Among the Delaware and Mohegan Indians, from 1740 to 1808."

His two books, together with his numberless Manuscript

Journals and Diaries, including his Manuscript Life of David

Zeisberger, have furnished invaluable materials to all later writers

on the men and times of that early day. It furnished much of

the material for the marvelous sketches of James Fenimore


The following tribute, published in one of the foremost pub-

lic journals in Philadelphia, at the time of his death in 1823,

gives a fair estimate of the esteem in which he and his work

were held by his cotemporaries.

"Probably with Mr. Heckewelder has died more critical and

accurate knowledge of the Indian customs, history and language

than is left behind him. But he did not hide his light nor con-

ceal his knowledge. The public are indebted to him for several

works of which we have before spoken which will do lasting

honor to his name. These works will be of the highest utility

to those who come after us, in obtaining a true knowledge of the

Aborigines of the country. Science is also indebted to his re-


"The character of Mr. Heckewelder was that of the patriarch.

It may be justly said of him that he was in wit a man, in sim-

plicity a child. He was free of access, full of anecdote, communi-

cative and intelligent. His company was delightful to old and

young, to the learned and unlearned. When we consider his

untiring benevolence, his patience in enduring privations and

fatigue, the motives that actuated him, the number and import-

ance of his articles upon the Language, History and Customs

of the Indians, he appears before us as an extraordinary man.

He deserves to rank among the wisest and best of his generation,

and as one of the benefactors of mankind."

Almost fifty years of Heckewelder's life were given to the

active field service of the mission of the Moravian Church among

the Indians. Almost forty of these years of service were spent,

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for the most part, on the soil of Ohio territory. And we are

commemorating to-day his founding, one hundred years ago,

of Gnadenhuetten, one of the earliest settlements of whites in the


He died at Bethlehem, in eastern Pennsylvania, in 1823. His

body lies in its honored grave-rest, among the graves of many

witnesses for Jesus, and of many Indian converts. In the same

God's Acre are buried the bodies of his wife and of his three

children, Johanna Marie, Ann Salome and Susan, and many of

their descendants.

A plain white stone, placed flat upon his grave marks the

resting place of this heroic gospeller. On it is incribed his

name, the place and the date of his birth and the date of his death.

John Heckewelder's name and work will be remembered in

the literature of America for all time. In the annals of Ohio

he will always be remembered and honored as one of the founders

of the Commonwealth, whose helping hand was not withheld in

the toilsome days when the foundations were laid upon which

the superstructure of Ohio's prosperity and glory has been built.

My friends, when I began my address I took as my centen-

nial text, "John Heckewelder," and I promised you that in all

that I should be permitted to say I would try to stick to my text.

I leave it to you whether I have fulfilled my promise. I thank

you for the generous indulgence and patient interest with which

you have received my words.