Though not related directly to Summit County history, the account of the massacre at Gnadenhutten is indirectly related through Chief Hopocan/Captain Pipe. It also shows the mindset of some settlers at that time, that the Native Americans were somehow subhuman. I can tell the story no better than Gen. L.V. Bierce, in his book Reminiscences of Summit County. Critics say that Bierce tends to embellish the truth, but I look at it as his adding dialog to historical facts. Besides, his account was written over 100 years ago, so he may have had access to oral testimony that is not available to us today.
These things we do know, in mid 1700’s the Delaware Nation of Native Americans was split between trying to live in harmony with the “Whites” and those that were determined to drive them back out of their lands. To further complicate matters, there were several groups of Lenape/Delaware that had converted to Christianity through the work of French Moravian missionaries David Zeisberger and John Heckewelder. (side note-This all happened approximately 50 years before the settlement, or even the survey of the Western Reserve. Heckewelder drew one of the first maps of the Northwest Territory, and it was used during the surveying of the Western Reserve) These Moravian Indians, or to be politically correct, Christian Delawares, were extreme pacifists, compelled by their core belief, not to fight, or raise a hand in anger, or even self-defense, let alone to fire a gun, even in self-defense. Though the aggressive faction of Delaware were responsible for a attack on Pennsylvania settlers, it was these Moravians that were made to pay.
I must warn everyone that this story is rather gruesome. If I were going to rate this post like a movie I might go as far as to give it a NC-17. One equally gruesome point that needs to be made is that the most Native Americans, when they executed someone, did not do so humanely, just the opposite. When they burnt someone at the stake, they did not do so in the traditional English manner. Rather than build a fire under a person, they would build the fire around them, so that the flames would simply lick at the person and literally roast them to death, taking several hours for the person to die.
From the book Reminiscences of Summit County by Gen. L.V. Bierce:
“In March, 1782, Col. David Williamson, one of the Indian hunters, assembled 80 or 90 men on the frontier of Pennsylvania, and started on an expedition to murder and plunder the Moravian Indians at Gnadenhutten, on the Tuscarawas. These Indians had been converted to christianity by Moravians, whose religious principles forbid them to fight. The dastardly cowards, under Williamson, found them, as they had reason to expect, an easy conquest. Their first exploit was to kill a young half-breed Indian, by the name of Schebosh, in the most brutal manner.— They fired upon him and broke his arm, when he fell on his knees and begged hard for his life, saying he was the son of a white christian; but while thus pleading for his life he was chopped to pieces by them, scalped and tomahawked. They then took the remainder of the inhabitants and confined them in a couple of old log houses, and Williamson then put the question to a vote of his soldiers whether the prisoners should be put to death. To this base and inhuman proposition all but 16 said yes. During the short time occupied by this vote, the Indians, foreseeing their fate, were employed in singing, praying, and exhorting each other. They were notified of the result of the vote by the commencement of the horrid butchery, and in a few minutes those slaughter-houses, as these butchers called them, exhibited, in the interior, the bloody remains of men, women, and children; from the grey-haired Patriarch to the prattling infant sporting on the mother’s breast. Thirty-four out of the ninety-six murdered, were children. (Most records list the dead as: 28 men, 29 women, and 39 children RDJ HASC)
These Moravians were Delawares, and that tribe were naturally aroused for revenge. Capt. Pipe summoned his warriors— the tomahawk was dug up, and the war hoop given.
So successful had Williamson been, that another expedition was got up in May, of the same year, for the command of which Williamson and Col. William Crawford were rival candidates. — Crawford was elected. They rendezvoused at the old Mingo town, on the Ohio river, and started on the trail. Williamson followed on the route of the first expedition. Before starting every man pledged himself not to spare an Indian of any age or sex, but to destroy all that fell in their power.
They first went to the Moravian towns to see if any had returned; but all was silent save the cawing of the vulture as he hovered over the moldering bodies of the murdered Moravians.
Disappointed in their hopes of murder and plunder at these places, they turned towards the Delaware towns on the Sandusky plains, where the Moravian Indians had assembled after the destruction of their towns on the Tuscarawas.
Nothing material occurred, as the Indians had all fled, until the 7th of June, when the advance guard, about three miles north of where Upper Sandusky now is, was attacked and driven in by the Indians, who, in great numbers, were concealed in the high grass. The fight continued till dark. The Indians were continually receiving reinforcements, and on the next day Crawford made arrangements to retreat. The fight commenced, and soon became a perfect rout. All order and discipline was lost, and a general slaughter followed. So inveterate was the Indian hostility, and so determined were they on revenge, that they pursued the retreating fugitives almost to the Ohio river. One of them was killed two miles east of St. Clairsville. Two days after the battle, Crawford was taken prisoner by Capt. Pipe, who commanded the Indians in the engagement, and on the 11th of June 1782, he was burnt at the stake at a Delaware town on the Tyemotchee creek, a few miles west of the present location of Upper Sandusky. Pipe painted him black, with his own hands, preparatory to burning. After he was stripped and bound to the stake, Crawford asked to see Wingenund, another noted Delaware chief, with whom he had formerly been on the most friendly terms.
A long conversation ensued between them, when Crawford asked, “can you devise no method of getting me off? You shall be well rewarded if you will save my life.” Wingenund replied: “Had Williamson been taken with you, I and some of my friends, might have succeeded in saving you, but as the matter now stands, no man dare interpose in your behalf. The King of England himself, were he to come on this spot with all his wealth, could not effect this purpose. The blood of the innocent Moravians, more than half of whom were women and children, cruelly and wantonly murdered, calls loudly for revenge— the Nation to which they belonged will have revenge— the relatives of the slain, that are among us, cry out REVENGE, REVENGE! The Moravians, whom you came to destroy, having fled instead of avenging their brethren, the offence becomes national itself is bound to take revenge,” “My fate, then,” said Crawford, “is fixed, and I must meet death in its worst form.”
“I am sorry for it,” said Wingenund, “but cannot do anything for you. Nothing now remains for you but to meet your fate like a brave man. Farewell Crawford, they are coming.”
Captain Pipe then led on his tormentors, and for three hours Crawford was literally roasting alive. At last, exhausted, he sunk on the ground, when an old squaw scalped him, and then threw a quantity of burning coals and ashes on his naked skull, which ended his torments and closed the drama.”
An account of the Gnadenhutten Massacre and it’s sequel, from Karl H. Grismer’s book Akron and Summit County.
Gnadenhutten was one of three mission villages established among the Delawares on the Tuscarawas during the 1770s by Moravian missionaries. The other two were Schoenbrun and Salem. All the Indians in these villages had been converted and were living as true Christians. Adopting the name of the missionaries they called themselves Moravians. After the Revolutionary War started they used their influence, with considerable success, to keep the Delaware nation at peace.
By I781 the British became convinced that the Moravians, instead of being neutral, were actively aiding the Americans. So they descended on the villages in September,’ rounded up the missionaries and their converts, and forced them to march to Sandusky, on Lake Erie. Shortly afterward, they were tried by the British officials. They were found innocent, but were turned loose by the British to starve.
During the winter the Moravians suffered terribly from lack of food and in February a large group of them retuned to their homes to gather corn they had planted on the banks of the Tuscarawas.
Word of the gathering soon reached Fort Pitt. Col. David Williamson, a notorious Indian fighter widely known for his ruthlessness, decided to swoop down upon the Moravians before they had a chance to return to Sandusky. Hastily organizing a force of some ninety men, he reached the village on March 5, 1782. Through treacherous promises, he induced the Indians two days later to surrender the few rifles they had brought along with them for hunting. He then herded them into two prison houses in Gnadenhutten, the men in one and the women and children in another.
After the Indians were confined, Williamson asked his men whether the prisoners should be taken to Fort Pitt or put to death. All but eighteen voted that they be killed. Told of the decision, the Moravians spent the night in prayer. Early the next morning, the whites entered the prisons and with guns, spears, knives and mallets slaughtered the men, women and children, ninety-six in all.
One man with mallet killed fourteen and then handed the weapon
To another saying “Go on the same way; my arm aches.” only two young Indian boys escaped, to tell in after years of the cruelty of the whites.
The Gnadenhutten massacre had a bloody sequel. When Williamson and his gang of murderers returned to Fort Pitt with news of their success the border fighters there decided to make another invasion to wipe out the Moravians who had remained at Sandusky. Col. William Crawford, a friend of George Washington, was elected leader. Most of Williamson’s men re-enlisted and he was chosen second in command. The force consisted of 480 men.
This time the borderers were destined to encounter a more formidable foe than submissive Christian Indians. Captain Pipe, the crafty Delaware chief, awaited them. Pipe had never liked the Moravians, even though they too were Delawares, because he believed they were too cowardly to fight. But when they were slaughtered, he swore he would avenge them. His scouts spotted Crawford’s men when they crossed the Ohio and fast runners kept him informed of all their movements. He quickly planned an ambush.
Crawford and his men reached the Sandusky plains on the afternoon of June 6, 1782. No Indians were seen and the next morning the borderers resumed their march. That afternoon, while crossing, a wide savannah, they were suddenly attacked. Pipe’s men, cunningly concealed in the tall, coarse grass, blasted the Americans with a rain of bullets. Crawford fell back, leaving many dead and wounded.
All next day the battle raged, the whites suffering heavy loses. Hoping to escape from the trap, the panic-stricken men scattered as
darkness fell and fled back to the forests. Many escaped but Crawford was captured. A horrible fate awaited him.
Taken by Captain Pipe to a Delaware camp on Tymochiee Creek, his body was painted red and black and he was tied to a stake. A slow fire was started and his torture began. For three long, terrible hours, the Indians danced around him, taunting him, upbraiding him for the massacre of the Moravians, beating him with clubs and jabbing; him with red hot irons. Crawford screamed in agony, but when he begged the savages to end his suffering with a bullet, they only jeered at him. Late in afternoon, the bonds which held him to the stake burned off and he face forward on the fiery bed of coals, insensible, and died.
A number of whites captured with Crawford were executed but not tortured as he was. Pipe later said that he would have let Crawford
die an easy death if he had been able to capture Williamson, the man he was really after. But early in the battle Williamson fled, leaving his comrades to escape as best they could, or die. It is said he never again ventured, into the Indian country.