Pages 573 to 593




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Including sections on:

                   The Indian Uprising and the Massacre at Gnaddenhütten

                   Benjamin Franklin Builds Fort Allen

                   The Captivity of the Gilbert Family in 1780





The Massacre at Gnadenhütten in 1755 - Franklin builds Fort Allen for the Protection of the Frontier - Captivity of the Gilbert Family.


The Moravians were the first people to plant an outpost of civilization in that part of Bucks County (afterwards Northampton) which is now Carbon, establishing in the midst of the wilderness in 1746 a home for the Mohegan Indians, which was successfully and flourishingly maintained until the massacre of the mission colonists in 1755.  This settlement, which was an offshoot from Bethlehem, was on the southwest side of the Lehigh River and the north side of Mahoning Creek, near the site of Lehighton.  The location had, doubtless, been selected by Lewis Count Zinzendorf1, who, in 1742, ascended the Lehigh with two friendly Indians, who had been converted to Christianity, as interpreters, and held a conference with the dusky dwellers by the Mahoning.  The land - one hundred and twenty acres - was bought in 1745, and a town laid out upon it, which was called Gnadenhütten, meaning Tents of Grace, or, more literally translated, Mercy Huts.


The Mohegan Indians, having been driven out of Shekomeko, in the State of Connecticut, and Patchgatgoch, in New York, near the border of the former State, found for a time a refuge under Moravian care, at Friedenshütten, near Bethlehem.  But the "Monks of Protestantism," as Madame de Staël has called the Moravians, found it inconvenient to maintain a large congregation of Indian converts so near their chief town, and hence the establishment of Gnadenhütten.  The congregation, we are told, numbered five hundred souls.  Each Indian family was allotted a portion of the land, and each had its own house.  A log church was built in the valley, and the houses half surrounded it, extending over the higher ground in the form of a crescent.  The town was a very pleasant one.  With their usual enterprise, the Moravians took steps to procure a road between their new station and Bethlehem almost immediately after the mission was located.  Such a road was petitioned for in 1747, and it was constructed in 17482.


On the 18th of August, 1746, the missionaries and the Indians partook of the first-fruits of the land and of their toil at a love-feast, and gave thanks to God for the blessings that he had bestowed upon them.  Morning and evening the sound of song arose from the little forest hamlet, and the work of the day was invariable begun and concluded with devout prayer.  Discourses were delivered every Sunday by the missionaries, and several portions of the Scripture, translated into the Mohegan language, were read whenever the congregation was assembled.  The Holy Communion was administered to the communicants every month.  This day was called by the Indians "the great day."   Christian Rauch and Martin Mack were the first missionaries who resided here, and were succeeded by others after a comparatively short period, it being the policy of the Brethren to make frequent changes, that the Indians might not form too strong an attachment for men, but learn to fix their hope and dependence on God alone.  The church built during the first year of the mission was too small for the congregation of five hundred, and the missionaries usually preached in the open air, that all might hear.  The affairs of the station being promising, Bishop Johannes von Watteville went to Gnadenhütten in September, 1749, and laid the foundation of a new church.  all went well until 1754, when a part of the Indians were led to desert the mission and go to the Wyoming Valley.  Efforts to alienate…




1  Count Zinzendorf was the descendant of a noble Austrian family, and was born at Dresden, May 26, 1700.  He was educated at Halls and the University of Wittenberg.  In 1732 he married Countess Erdmuth Dorothea von Reuss, and soon afterwards became a convert to the Moravian faith.  He visited England in 1736, the West Indies in 1739, and came to America in 1739, accompanied by his daughter, Benigna.  He spent little less than a year in the province, traveling and preaching, and in June, 1742, organized the Moravians at Bethlehem into a congregation.  At the close of the same year he left for Europe, where he died in 1760. [RETURN]


2   In the petition mention was made of the medicinal qualities of the spring at Lehigh Gap.  About 1809 a bridge was built across the river at Col. Jacob Weiss', and road was extended through the narrows, past the site of Mauch Chunk, and to the Landing Tavern.  A portion of the Easton and Berwick turnpike, built by the Lehigh and Susquehanna Turnpike Company, chartered in March, 1804, was along the route of this old road. [RETURN]






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                       … the affections of the Mohegans from the missionaries had for some time been making by the Shawanese and Delawares on the Susquehanna, who had begun to waver in their allegiance to the English, and doubtless looked forward to the time when they could boldly raid the settlements.  The Christian Indians had until now steadfastly refused to leave Gnadenhütten, and when finally some of them did so, it was doubtless through the influence of that eloquent, wily, and active chieftain of the Delawares, Teedyuscung1.    The Indians who remained were joined by the converted Delawares from Menialagemeka.


The same year (1754) the mission was removed to the northeast side of the Lehigh, where, upon the site of Weissport, a village, called New Gnadenhütten, was built 2.    The dwellings were removed from the opposite side of the river and a new chapel was erected.  Loskiel says, "In the removal of the buildings (the chapel only excepted) the Indians were kindly assisted by the congregations at Bethlehem, Nazareth, Christianbrunn, and Guadenthal, who furnished not only workmen and materials, but even contributions in money.  Unanimity and diligence contributed so much towards the progress of this work that the first twenty houses were inhabited by the 4th, and the foundation-stone of the new chapel laid on the 11th of June.  Bishop Spangenberg offered up a most fervent prayer and delivered a powerful discourse on this solemn occasion.  The houses were soon after completed, and a regulation made in all the families for the children of each sex to be properly taken care of.  The dwellings were placed in such order that the Makikawa (Mohegans) lived on one and the Delawares on the other side (of the street).  The Brethren at Bethlehem took the culture of the old land on the Mahoning upon themselves, made a plantation of it for the use of the Indian congregation, and converted the old chapel into a dwelling, both for the use of those brethren and sisters who had the care of the plantations, and for missionaries passing on their visits to the heathen.  A Synod was held in New Gnadenhütten from the 6th to the 11th of August (1754) and the chapel consecrated.  Many Indian assistants were invited to this Synod, the chief intention being maturely to consider the situation of the Indian missions."  (For many details concerning the Gnadenhütten mission, see histories of Lehighton and Weissport.)


The Indian Uprising and the Massacre at Gnadenhütten - The Moravians fondly hoped that the prosperity of their little colony might be increased, and that it should remain a permanent abode of peace and of Christianity.  But destiny ruled otherwise.  With the year 1755 came a change in the attitude of the Indians, and consequently in the welfare of the province.  The Indians may have lost confidence in the descendants of the "good Penn," whose memory they revered; they may have felt that they had been injured in "the Walking Purchase" and other negotiations;  they may even have indulged a wild longing to regain their lost ancestral lands; but it is extremely doubtful whether they would ever have resorted to acts of open hostility had they not been incited by the French.   French intrigue provoked the first war in which the descendants of William Penn and the people of the province he founded engaged with the aboriginal tribes.  The French well knew that by securing as allies the tribes which lived in Pennsylvania the possibility of successfully carrying on their military operations in the Ohio country would be largely enhanced.  It was for that reason that they flattered and cajoled the Delawares and the lesser tribes.  Ultimately this course of action had the effect of winning their allegiance from the English,  and was the course of many deeds of blood, in the white settlements of the entire frontier.  Braddock's defeat on the 9th of July, 1755, proved the direct means of encouraging the disaffected Indians to make indiscriminate war upon the whites, which they followed with savage zest for several years.  The massacre at Gnadenhütten was only one incident in the series of border horrors, but it is the principal one with which we are concerned.


"The Indians in the French interest," says Loskiel, "were much incensed that any of the Moravian Indians chose to remain at Gnadenhütten, and determined to cut off the settlement.  After Braddock's defeat the whole frontier was open to the inroads of the savage foe.  Every day disclosed new scenes of barbarity committed by the Indians.  The whole country was in terror; the neighbors of the Brethren in Gnadenhütten forsook their dwellings and fled; but the Brethren made a covenant together to remain undaunted in the place allotted them by Providence.  However, no caution was omitted, and because the white people considered every Indian as an enemy, the Indian Brethren at Gnadenhütten were advised, as much as possible, to keep out of the way, to buy no powder nor shot, but strive to maintain themselves without hunting, which they willingly complied with."  The Moravians were suddenly and horribly aroused from their sense of comparative security.  Late in the…




1  Teedyuscung was born near Trenton, NJ, about 1700, and was a son of a Delaware chief, old "Captain" John Harris.  He came to the region of the Delaware and Lehigh about 1730, and thence roamed beyond the Blue Ridge.  Teedyuscung was converted by the Moravians and baptized at Gnadenhütten, March 12, 1750.  He lived among them until 1754, when he joined his wild brothers, and soon afterwards took up the hatchet.  He exerted great power among his people, and was called the Delaware King.



2  The land on which the town was built was part of a five-thousand-acre tract granted by William Penn to Adrian Vroesen, of Rotterdam, Holland, in March, 1682, deeded by him to Benjohan Furley, of the same city, and surveyed for his heirs in 1735.  It was conveyed in its entirety in March, 1745,  by Thomas Lawrence, of Philadelphia, his attorney-at-law, for Dorothea, widow of Benjohan Furley, and Elizabeth and Martha Furley, co-heirs of Benjohan Furley, to Edward Shippen, of Philadelphia, merchant.  By Shippen it was conveyed, in September, 1745, to Richard Peters, of Philadelphia, who in turned deeded it to Charles Brockden, of the same city, for the use and behoof of the Moravins. [RETURN]






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… evening of the 25th of November the mission-house was attacked by the Indians who were allies of the French, burned to the ground, and eleven of its inmates murdered.


"The family, being at supper, heard an uncommon barking of dogs, upon which Brother Senseman went out at the back door to see what was the matter.  On the report of a gun several ran together to open the house-door, and firing immediately upon its being opened, Martin Nitchman was instantly killed.  His wife and some others were wounded, but fled with the rest up-stairs into the garret, and barricaded the door with bedsteads.  Brother Partsch escaped by jumping out of a back window.  Brother Worbas, who was ill in bed in a house adjoining, jumped likewise out of a back window and escaped, though the enemies had placed a guard before his door.  Meanwhile, the savages pursued those who had taken refuge in the garret, and strove hard to burst the door open; but finding it too well secured, they set fire to the house, which was soon in flames.  A boy called Sturgeons, standing upon the flaming roof, ventured to leap off, and escaped, though at first, upon opening the back door, a ball had grazed his cheek and one side of his head was much burned.  Sister Partsch, seeing this, took courage, and leaped likewise from the burning roof.  She came down unhurt and unobserved by the enemies, and thus the fervent prayer of her husband was fulfilled, who, in jumping out the back window, cried aloud to God to save his wife.  Brother Fabricius then leaped also off the roof, but before he could escape was perceived by the Indians, and instantly wounded by two balls.  He was the only one whom they seized upon alive and having dispatched him with their hatchets, they took his scalp and left him dead on the ground.  The rest were all burnt alive, and Brother Senseman, who first went out at the back door, had the inexpressible grief to see his wife consumed by the flames.  Sister Partsch could not run far for fear and trembling, but hid herself behind a tree upon a hill near the house.  From thence she saw Sister Senseman, already surrounded by the flames, standing with folded hands, and heard her calling out, " 'Tis all well, dear Saviour.  I expected nothing else."  The house being consumed, the murderers set fire to the barns and stables, by which all the corn, hay, and cattle were destroyed.  Then they divided the spoil, soaked some bread in milk, made a hearty meal, and departed, Sister Partsch looking on unperceived 1.


This melancholy event proved the deliverer of the Indian congregation at (New) Gnadenhütten, for, upon hearing the report of the guns, seeing the flames, and soon learning the dreadful cause from those who had escaped, the Indian brethren immediately went to the missionary and offered to attack the enemy without delay.  But being advised to the contrary, they all fled into the woods, and Gnadenhütten was cleared in a few moments, some who already were in bed having scarce time to dress themselves.  Brother Zeisberger, who had just arrived in Gnadenhütten from Bethlehem, hastened back to give notice of this event to a body of English militia who had marched within five miles of the spot, but they did not venture to pursue the enemy in the dark." 2


Such is the matter-of-fact description of this horrible occurrence given by Loskiel.


At Bethlehem the people had been in an agony of suspense, for all had seen the lurid glare beyond the Blue Ridge made by the burning buildings, and had known that evil news of some kind would be borne to them in a few hours.  The alarming news did come after midnight, carried by those who in terror fled from the fire-illumined scene of murder.  Towards night of the day after the tragedy eight of the white people and between thirty and forty of the Indians, men, women, and children, who had made their escape from New Gnadenhütten, arrived in Bethlehem.  From this time on for several days the people of the upper part of Northampton County and along the Lehigh Valley down to the Irish Settlement and below were precipitately pushing southward into the older and larger settlements of Bethlehem and Easton.  They were filled with the wildest alarm, and many came with scarcely clothes enough upon their backs to protect them from the cold, while all were entirely destitute of the means to obtain the necessities of life.  There was a general hegira from the region beyond the Blue Ridge, and hundreds of farm-houses below the mountains, in what is now Northampton and Lehigh Counties, were abandoned by their inhabitants.


To these panic-stricken people the utmost kindness was shown by the citizens of Bethlehem and Easton.  The Moravian Brethren of the former place kept their wagons plying to and from between the town and…




1  After the enemy had retired the remains of those killed at the mission-house were collected from the charred ruins and interred.  A marble slab in the graveyard south of Lehighton, placed there in 1788, and a small white obelisk on a sandstone base, erected at a more recent date, tell in brief the story of Gnadenhütten and preserve the names of those who fell as victims to savage hate.  The inscription on the lab reads:









The inscription on the marble obelisk reads:




2  Loskiel, il. 165







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                 … points eight or ten miles up the road, bringing in the women and children who had become exhausted in their flight and sank down by the way.


The military which has been alluded to as being within five miles of Gnadenhütten at the time of the massacre was doubtless Capt. Hay's company from the Irish Settlement, in Northampton County.  They are said to have come to the hill overlooking the hollow where Parryville now is and to have fired down into the bushes 1,  and then to have departed.  However this may have been, they subsequently repaired to the scene of the murders, and were probably reinforced by another company under Col. Anderson.   Capt. Wilson, of Bucks County, with a company of sixty or seventy men, also marched northward two days after the massacre.  The troops were stationed at the forsaken village to guard the Brethren's mills, which were filled with grain, and the property of the Christian Indians from being destroyed.  They were expected also to protect the few settlers who remained below Gnadenhütten.  A temporary stockade was built, and the frontier at this point would have been well defended had the militia been governed by officers who had a thorough knowledge of Indian maneuvers, but none of those in authority seem to have possessed this all-essential qualification, and hence disaster followed.  On the 1st of January, 1756, a number of soldiers fell victims to an Indian stratagem.  They were amusing themselves by skating on the ice of the river, near the fort,  when they caught sight of two Indians farther up the frozen stream.  Thinking that it would be an easy matter to capture or kill them, the soldiers gave chase, and rapidly gained upon the Indians, who proved to be decoys skillfully maneuvering to draw them into an ambush.  They had got some distance from the fort, when a party of Indians rushed out behind them, cut off their retreat, and falling upon them with great fury, as well as with the advantage of surprise and superior numbers, quickly dispatched them.  Some of the soldiers remaining in the fort, filled with horror by this murder of their comrades, deserted, and the few remaining, thinking themselves incapable of defending the place, withdrew.  The savages then seized upon such property as they could make use of and fired the fort, the Indian houses, and the mills.  Thus again the red glare against which the Blue Ridge loomed up told the people of Bethlehem and of all the lower county that another hostile act had been committed on the northern border.


This was by no means the first one after the Gnadenhütten massacre.  The lull of peace had lasted but a few days.  A few scattered settlers from New York and New England had located on Pohopoko Creek, in Upper Towamensing township, Carbon Co., and here the Indians made one of their forays on the 10th of December, 1755.  The marauding party appears first to have visited the plantation of Daniel Broadhead, on Broadhead's Creek (in what is now Monroe County and not far from the site of Stroudsburg); but the proprietor and his sons succeeding in barricading themselves in the house and repulsing their attack, the little war-party left to fall upon other settlers, - the Hueth, Culver, McMichael, and Carmichel families, - where their bloodthirstiness was gratified in a number of murders.  The attack upon the Hoeth family, which comes more especially in the province of this work than do any of the contemporaneous incidents, appears to have been made by five or six Indians, a straggling division of a much larger band.  At the house of Frederick Hoeth, which was about twelve miles east of Gnadenhütten, the family was at supper, when shots were heard just outside the walls, and two of the family fell to the floor, - Hoeth himself dead and a woman wounded.  Several more shots were fired, and then all who could do so ran out of the house.  The Indians immediately set fire to the house, stables, and adjoining mill.  Hoeth's wife ran into the bake-house, which was also set on fire.  The poor woman ran out through the flames, was very much burned, and in a mad effort to relieve her agony ran into the creek, where she died.  The Indians mutilated her in a horrible manner with their knives and tomahawks.  Three children were burned, one daughter was killed and scalped, and two or three more were carried away into captivity.  One of the Indians was killed and another wounded in this attack.


The state of affairs produced by these and other murders is well described in a letter written to Governor Morris by Timothy Horsfield, of Bethlehem, December 12th.  He says, --

"In the night an express arrived from Nazareth acquainting me that there is certain people in Nazareth who fled for their lives, and informs us that one Hoeth and his family are cut off, only two escaping, and the houses of Hoeth, Broadhead, and others are actually laid in ashes, and people from all quarters flying for their lives; and the common report is that the Indians are two hundred strong.

"Your honor can easily guess at the trouble and consternation we must be in, on this occasion, in these parts.  As to Bethlehem, we have taken all the precaution in our power for our defense.  We have taken our little infants from Nazareth to Bethlehem for their greater security, and these, with the rest of our children, are nearly three hundred in number.

"Although our gracious king and Parliament have been pleased to exempt those among us of tender conscience from bearing arms, yet there are many among us who make no scruple of defending themselves against such cruel savages.  But, alas! what can we do, having very few arms, and little or no ammunition, and we are now, as it were, become the frontier?




1 This locality became known as "the fire line," and the road laid out there in after-years is to this day called "the fire-line road."  The name arose from the circumstance above referred to, but its appropriateness is difficult to discern at this present day. [RETURN]






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and, as we are circumstanced, our family being so large, it is impossible for us to retire to any other place for security.


"I doubt not your honor's goodness will lead you to consider the distress we are in, and speedily to afford us what relief shall be thought necessary against these merciless savages."


Intelligence of the massacre at Gnadenhütten had induced the government to undertake strong measures for the protection of the frontier, and the subsequent outrages had the effect of hastening their execution.  The people of the lower settlements, in Bucks and Northampton Counties, had been thoroughly aroused to the danger that was threatening them, and had recruited volunteer companies for the repulse of the savages.  It only remained to effect an organization of the scattered elements of strength, and to carry them forward for systematic defense.  For this responsible and difficult task the government brought forward no less a personage than Col. (afterwards Dr.) Benjamin Franklin.


Benjamin Franklin builds Fort Allen - Col. Franklin was appointed to take charge of the frontier defenses early in December, 1755, and he lost no time in undertaking the work, arriving at Bethlehem upon the 18th of that month, with Commissioners Hamilton and Fox.  With them came Capt. Trump's company of fifty men from Bucks County, whose "arms, ammunition, and blankets, and a hogshead of rum for their use, had been forwarded to Easton in advance."  Franklin divided his time between Easton and Bethlehem while he was mustering troops and making ready to advance into the wilderness.  From the 7th to the 15th of January, 1756, he made his headquarters at Bethlehem.  "I had no difficulty," he says, in his autobiography, "in raising men, having soon five hundred and sixty under my command."  These soldiers, or rather minute-men, were comprised in the following companies:  Capt. William Persons' company, twenty-four men, and McLaughlin's detachment, twenty men, from Easton;  Capts. Trump's, Aston's, and Wayne's companies, of fifty men each, except the last, of fifty-five, from Bucks County;  Capt. Volck's (or Foulk's) company, of forty-six men, from Allemängel, now Lynn township, Lehigh Co.;  Capt. Trexler's company, of forty-eight men, from townships of Northampton, now in Lehigh County;  Capt Wetterholt's company, of forty-four men, from the same region;  Capt Orndt's, of fifty men, from Bucks County;  Capts. Craig, Martin, and Hays' companies, from the Irish Settlement, in Northampton County;  and Capt. Van Ettan's company, from Upper Smithfield.  Besides these, there was a company of sixty men from New Jersey under command of Col. John Anderson, and no doubt a number of smaller bodies of which no record has been preserved.  Some of these companies served without pay, and furnished their own arms and ammunition.  Capt. Volck's company arrived at Bethlehem from Allemängel, and was mustered into service on January 11th.  Capt. Wetterholt's had been previously mustered.


On the 15th of January, Col. Franklin broke camp at  Bethlehem, and moved his little army in the direction of Gnadenhütten, where it was his purpose to build one of a chain of forts for the protection of the frontier.  A good description of the march and of some subsequent operations is afforded by a letter from Benjamin Franklin to the Governor, dated Fort Allen, at Gnadenhütten, Jan. 25, 1756:


DEAR SIR, - We got to Hays; the same evening we left you, and reviewed Craig's company by the way.  Much of the next morning was spent in exchanging the bad arms for the good, Wayne's company having joined us.  We reached, however, that night to Uplinger's, where we got into good quarters.  Saturday morning we began to march towards Gnadenhütten, and proceeded near two miles; but it seeming to set in for a rainy day, the men unprovided with great-coats, and many unable to secure effectively their arms from the wet, we thought it advisable to face about and return to our former quarters, where the men might dry themselves and lie warm; whereas, had they proceeded, they would have come in wet to Gnadenhütten, where shelter and opportunity of drying themselves that night was uncertain.  In fact, it rained all day, and we were all pleased that we had not proceeded.  The next day, being Sunday, we marched hither, where we arrived about two in the afternoon, and before five had inclosed our camp with a strong breastwork, musket-proof, and with the boards brought here before, by my order from Dunker's mill, 1 got ourselves under some shelter from the weather.  Monday was so dark, with a thick fog all day, that we could neither look out for a place to build nor see where materials were to be had.  Tuesday we looked around us, pitched on a place, marked out our fort on the ground, and by ten o'clock began to cut timber for stockades and to dig the ground.  By three o'clock in the afternoon the logs were all cut and many of them hauled to the spot, the ditch dug to set them in three feet deep, and many were pointed and set up.  The next day we were hindered by rain most of the day.  Thursday we resumed our work, and before night were perfectly well inclosed, and on Friday morning the stockade was finished, and part of the platform within erected, which was completed next morning, when we dismissed Foulk's and Wetterholt's companies, and set Hay's down for a convoy of provisions.  The day we hoisted the flag made a general discharge of our pieces, which had been long loaded, and of our two swivels, and named the place Fort Allen in honor of our old friend 2.     It is…




1  This mill was William Kern's, who lived at what is now Slatington.  His mill was on Trout Creek.  In some reports it is mentioned as Trucker's mill, and in others Kern's mill. [RETURN]



2  Judge William Allen, father of James Allen, who laid out Allentown in 1762.






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one hundred and twenty-five feet long, fifty feet wide, the stockades most of them a foot thick.  They were three feet in the ground and twelve feet out, pointed at the top.  This is an account of our week's work, which I thought might give you some satisfaction.  Foulk is gone to build another between this and Schuylkill fort, which I hope will be finished (as soon as Hays returns I shall dispatch another party to erect another at Surfas's, which I hope may be finished in the same time, and then I purpose to end my campaign, God willing, and do myself the pleasure of seeing you in my return.  I can now add no more than that I am with great esteem and affection your friend.  Yours affectionately,



In his autobiography Franklin thus describes Fort Allen:

"The next morning our fort was planned and marked out, the circumference measuring four hundred and fifty-five feet, which would require as many palisades to be made, one with another, of a foot diameter each.  Our axes, of which we had seventy, were immediately set to work to cut down trees, and our men being dexterous in the use of them, great dispatch was made.  Each pine made three palisades of eighteen feet long, pointed at one end.  While these were preparing our other men dug a trench all round of three feet deep, in which the palisades were to be planted, and, the bodies being taken off our wagons, and the fore and hind wheels separated by taking out the pin which united the two parts of the perch, we had ten carriages, with two horses each, to bring the palisades from the woods to the spot.  When they were set up, our carpenters built a platform of boards all round within, about six feet high, for the men to stand on when to fire through the loop-holes.  We had one swivel-gun, which we mounted on one of the angles, and fired it as soon as fixed, to let the Indians know, if any were within hearing, that we had such pieces; and thus our fort, if that name may be given to so miserable a stockade, was finished in a week, though it rained so hard every other day that the men could not work.  This gave me occasion to observe that when men are employed they are best contented, for on the days they worked they were good-natured and cheerful, and, with the consciousness of having done a good day's work, they spent the evening jollily; but on our idle days they were mutinous and quarrelsome, finding fault with the pork, the bread, etc., and were continually in bad humor, which put me in mind of a sea-captain, whose rule it was to keep his men constantly at work, and when his mate once told him that they had done everything, and there was nothing further to employ them about, 'N_____,' said he, 'make them scour the anchor.’  This kind of fort, however contemptible, is a sufficient defense against Indians, who have no cannon.  Finding ourselves now posted securely, and having a place to retreat to on occasion, we ventured out in parties to scour the adjacent country.  We met with no Indians, but we found the places on the neighboring hills where they had lain to watch our proceedings.


"There was an art in the contrivance of those places that seems worth mentioning.  It being winter a fire was necessary for them, but a common fire on the surface of the ground would, by its light, have discovered their position at a distance;  they had, therefore, dug holes in the ground about three feet in diameter and somewhat deeper; we found where they had, with their hatchets, cut off the charcoal from the sides of burnt logs lying in the woods.  With these coals they had made small fires in the bottom of the holes, and we observed among the weeds and grass the prints of their bodies, made by their laying all around, with their legs hanging down in the holes to keep their feet warm, which with them is an essential point.  This fire so managed could not discover them, either by its light, flames, sparks, or even smoke.  It appeared that the number was not great, and it seems they saw we were too many to be attacked by them with prospects of advantage...


"I had hardly finished this business and got my fort well stored with provisions, when I received a letter from the Governor, acquainting me that he had called the Assembly, and wished my attendance there, if the posture of affairs on the frontiers was such that my remaining there was no longer necessary.  My friends, too, of the Assembly, pressing me by their letters to be if possible at the meeting, and my three intended forts being now completed, and the inhabitants contented to remain on their farms under that protection, I resolved to return; the more willingly as a New England officer, Col. Clapham, experienced in Indian war, being on a visit to our establishment, consented to accept the command.  I gave him a commission, and, parading the garrison, had it read before them as an officer who, from his skill in military affairs, was much more fit to command them than myself; and, giving them a little exhortation, took my leave.  I was escorted as far as Bethlehem, where I rested a few days to recover from the fatigue I had undergone.  The first night, lying in a good bed, I could hardly sleep, it was so different from my hard lodging on the floor of a hut at Gnaden-Huetten, with only a blanket or two."


Thus, after nineteen days' absence from Bethlehem, closed the military services of a man destined to achieve vastly greater renown in civil life.  He had no experience in actual warfare, but in the provisions which he made for the protection of the frontier, including the building of a line of forts or stockades, of which Fort Allen was one, he exercised the same strong common sense and varied ingenuity which in other fields did much to make his fame.


James Young, commissary-general, who visited the fort in June, 1756, coming through Allemängel (Lynn…






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        …township, Lehigh Co.), from which it was distant about fifteen miles, says in his diary,  "The first seven miles of this road is very hilly, barren, and swampy; no plantations.  The other part of the road is for the most part through a rich valley, chiefly meadow ground; several settlements, but all the houses burned and deserted.  At noon we came to the fort.  ...This stands on the river Leahy (Lehigh), in this pass through the very high hills, is, in my opinion, a very important place, and may be a great service if the officer does his duty.  It is very well stockaded, with four good bastions.  On one is a swivel-gun.  The works are clear all around it for a considerable way, and is very defensible.  Within are three good barracks and a guard-room.  I found here fifteen men without any officer or commander.  They told me Lieut. Jacob Mier and two men from the fort were gone this morning, with two gentlemen from Bethlehem and four Indians, fifteen miles up the country, to bring down some friendly Indians, and that the sergeant with three men were gone to Capt. Foulk's, late commander here to receive the pay that is due them...I was informed that a captain with a new company was expected there in a day or two to take post at this fort." 1   Young also speaks of finding "a farm-house with a small stockade around it" at Lehigh Gap.  A sergeant and eight men, a detachment of Capt. Wetherholt's company, were stationed here.  The captain with twelve men was at this time at another farm-house south of the gap.


Either because they were sated with blood, or because the thoroughness of Franklin's plans of border defense had shown them the futility of making further inroads upon the whites, the Indians desisted from hostilities.  Settlers returned to their homes, and the usual avocations were resumed.  But, although the scattered pioneer farmers breathed more freely, they did not for many succeeding years enjoy a feeling of absolute security.  Even as late as 1780, as we shall presently show, the Indians made a hostile raid into that portion of Northampton County which is now Carbon.


Fort Allen 2 was garrisoned for five years (1756 - 61), and after the expiration of that period was occasionally occupied by soldiers.  During the time that regular garrisons were maintained at this fort (and also at Forts Norris and Hamilton) large quantities of provisions were of course needed.  These were furnished in part by Adam Deshler, the noted pioneer of Lehigh County. 3


Governor Morris made efforts to establish peace by treaty in July, 1756, when a council was held at Easton, but without success.  The council was adjourned after much ineffective talking on the part of the government officials and the chiefs and sachems of the Indian tribes.  Another meeting was held in 1757, but it was as futile as the first, and it was not until Oct. 26, 1758, that a general treaty of peace was entered into.  And this was ruthlessly broken by the red warriors, by the perpetration of murders in Lehigh County and elsewhere in 1763. 4


Captivity of the Gilbert Family in 1780 - The hegira of the inhabitants following the Gnadenhütten massacre and other Indian atrocities left the transmontane region a desolate solitude, but as years passed on in comparative tranquility the few who had been settled in what is now Carbon County returned, and were reinforced by others, who opened farms in the fertile valleys.  Among the latter class was Benjamin Gilbert, who, in 1775, located on Mahoning Creek, and built a mill a few miles from where Fort Allen was erected.  He was an old man, married to his second wife, who was the widow of Bryan Peart, and had been, like himself, a resident of Byberry, fifteen miles from Philadelphia.  Their united families of children made a large household. 5  In this same neighborhood lived the Dodsons and a number of other families.


On the 25th of April, 1780, the Gilberts were surprised by a party of eleven Indians, whose appearance struck them with terror; to attempt an escape was death" (says the writer of an elaborate narrative of this incident of pioneer times), 6  "and a portion of distress not easy to be supported the certain attendant on the most potent and submissive conduct.  The Indians who made this incursion were of different tribes or nations, who had abandoned their country on the approach of Gen. Sullivan's army and fled within command of the British forts in Canada, promiscuously settling within their neighborhood, and, according to Indian customs of carrying on war, frequently invading the frontier settlements taking captive the weak and defenseless.


"The names of these Indians, with their respetive tribes, are as follows:

"Rowland Monteur, first captain;  John Monteur, second in command, who was also styled captain, - these two were Mohawks, descended of a French-woman;  Samuel Harras, a Cayuga Indian;  John Huston and his son, John Huston, Jr., Cayugas;  John Fox, of the Delaware nation.  The other five were Senecas.


"At this place they made captives of the following persons:  Benjamin Gilbert, aged sixty-nine years;  Elizabeth, his wife, fifty-three years;  Joseph Gilbert, …





1   Col. James Burd, who visited Fort Allen in 1758, says, "This is a very poor stockade...There is scarce room here for forty men." [RETURN]


2  The only relic of the old fort which remains at the present day is the well, which can be seen in the yard of the Fort Allen House at Weissport. [RETURN]


3  Adam Deshler, as commissary, and Deshler and Balliet, and Levan and Deshler, were paid at various times during 1756-58 sums varying from L 47 11s. 2d to L1354 4s. 4d. [RETURN]


4  See chapter on Indian raid in the Lehigh county department of this work. [RETURN]


5  See chapter on Mahoning township. [RETURN]


6  The account here given of the captivity of the Gilbert family is taken from Hazard's Register of May, 1829, in which the narrative, written a few years after the occurrence, was republished. [RETURN]






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                                                                                             … his son, forty-one years;  Jesse Gilbert, another son, aged nineteen years;  Sarah Gilbert, wife to Jesse, aged nineteen years;  Rebecca Gilbert, a daughter, aged sixteen years;  Abner Gilbert, a son, aged fourteen years;  Elizabeth Gilbert, a daughter, aged twelve years;  Thomas Peart, son to Benjamin Gilbert's wife, aged twenty-three years;  Benjamin Gilbert, a son of John Gilbert, of Philadelphia, aged eleven years;  Andrew Harrigar, of German descent, hired by Benjamin Gilbert, aged twenty-six years;  Abigail Dodson (daughter of Samuel Dodson, who lived on a farm near one mile distant from the mill), who came that morning with grist, aged fourteen years.  They then proceeded to Benjamin Peart's dwelling, about half a mile farther, and brought himself and family, viz:  Benjamin Peart, son to Benjamin Gilbert's wife, aged twenty-seven years;  Elizabeth Peart, his wife, aged twenty years; their child, about nine months old. 


The prisoners were bound with cords, which the Indians brought with them, and in this melancholy condition left under a guard for the space of half an hour, during which time the rest of the captors employed themselves in plundering the house and packing up such goods as they chose to carry off, until they had got together a sufficient loading for their horses, which they took, besides compelling the distressed prisoners to carry part of their plunder.  When they had finished plundering, they began their retreat, two of their number being detached to fire the buildings, which they did without any exception of those belonging to the unhappy sufferers, thereby aggravating their distresses, as they could observe the flames and the falling of the roofs from an adjoining eminence called Summer Hill.  They cast a mournful look towards their dwellings, but were not permitted to stop until they had reached the farther side of the hill, where the party sat down to make a short repast, but grief prevented the prisoners from sharing with them.


"The Indians speedily put forward from this place, as they apprehended they were not so far removed from settlements as to be secure from pursuit.  Not much further was a large hill called Mochunk, (Mauch Chunk) which they fixed upon for a place of rendezvous.  Here they halted near an hour, and prepared shoes and sandals, which they called mockasons, for some of the children.  Considering themselves in some degree relieved from danger, their fear abated so that they could enjoy their meal at leisure, which they ate very heartily.  At their removal from this hill they told the prisoners that Col. Butler was no great distance from them, in the woods, and that they were going to him.


"Near the foot of the hill flows a stream of water, called Mochunk (Mauch Chunk) Creek, which was crossed, and the second mountain passed, the steep and difficult ascent of which appeared very great to the much-enfeebled and affrighted captives.  They were permitted to rest themselves for some minutes, and then pressed onward to the broad mountain, at the foot of which runs Nescaconnah (Nesquehoning) Creek.


"Doubly distressed by a recollection of past happiness and a dread of the miseries they had now to endure, they began the ascent of this mountain with great anguish, both of mind and body.  Benjamin Gilbert's wife, dispirited with the increasing difficulties, did not expect she was able to pass this mountain on foot, but being threatened with death by the Indians if she did not perform it, with many a heavy step she at length succeeded.  The broad mountain is said to be seven miles over in this place, and about ten miles distant from Benjamin Gilbert's settlements.  Here they halted an hour, and then struck into the Neskapack (Neskopeck) path, the unevenness and ruggedness of which rendered it exceedingly toilsome, and obliged them to move forward slowly.  Quackac (Quakake) Creek runs across the Neskapeck path, which leads over Pismire hill.  At this last place they stopped to refresh themselves, and then pursued their march along the same path, through Moravian Pine Swamp, to Mahoninah Mountain, where they lodged, being the first night of their captivity.


"It may furnish information to some to mention the method the Indians generally used to secure their prisoners:  they cut down a sapling as large as a man's thigh, and therein cut notches in which they fix their legs, and over this they place a pole, crossing the pole on each side with stakes drove in the ground, and in the crotchet of the stakes they place other poles or riders, effectually confining the prisoners on their backs; besides which they put a strap round their necks, which they fasten to a tree;  in this manner the night passed.  Their beds were hemlock branches strewed on the ground, and blankets for a covering (which was an indulgence scarcely to have been expected from savages).  It may reasonably be expected that in this melancholy situation sleep was a stranger to their eyelids.


"Benjamin Peart having fainted in the evening, occasioned by the sufferings he endured, was threatened to be tomahawked by Rowland Monteur.


“26th.  Early this morning they continued their route, near the waters of Teropin Ponds.  The Indians thought it most eligible to separate the prisoners in companies of two by two, each company under the command of a particular Indian, spreading them to a considerable distance, in order to render a pursuit as impracticable as possible.  The old people, overcome with fatigue, could not make as much expedition as their severe taskmasters thought proper, but failed in their journey, and were therefore threatened with death by the Indian under whose direction they were placed; thus circumstanced, they resigned themselves to their unhappy lot with as much fortitude as possible.






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Towards evening the parties again met and encamped.  Having killed a deer, they kindled a fire, each one roasting pieces of the flesh upon sharpened switches.  The confinement of the captives was the same with the first night, but, as they were by this time more resigned to the event, they were not altogether deprived of sleep.


"27th.  After  breakfast a council was held concerning the division of the prisoners, which being settled, they delivered each other those prisoners who fell within their several allotments, giving them directions to attend to the particular Indians whose property they became.  In the day's journey they passed near Fort Wyoming, on the eastern branch of the Susquehanna, about forty miles from their late habitation.  The Indians, naturally timid, were alarmed as they approached this garrison, and observed great caution, not suffering any noise, but stepped on the stones that lay in the path, lest any footstep should lead to a discovery.  Not far from thence is a considerable stream of water, emptying itself into the Susquehanna, which they crossed with great difficulty, it being deep and rapid, and continued here this night.  Benjamin Gilbert, being bound fast with cords, underwent great sufferings.


"28th.  This morning the prisoners were all painted according to the custom among the Indians, some of them with red and black, some all red, and some with black only.  Those whom they smut with black, without any other color, are not considered of any value, and are by this mark generally devoted to death.  Although this cruel purpose may not be executed immediately, they are seldom preserved to reach the Indian hamlets alive.  In the evening they came to the Susquehanna, having had a painful and wearisome journey through a very stony and hilly path.  Here the Indians sought diligently for a private lodging-place, that they might be as secure as possible from any scouting parties of the white people.  It is unnecessary to make further mention of their manner of lodging, as it still remained the same.


"29th.  They went in search of the horses which had strayed from them in the night, and after some time found them.  They then kept the course of the river, walking along its side with difficulty.  In the afternoon they came to a place where the Indians had directed four negroes to wait their return, having left them some corn for a subsistence.  These negroes had escaped from confinement, and were on their way to Niagara when first discovered by the Indians.  Being challenged by them, answered, 'they were for the king,' upon which they immediately received them into protection.


"30th.  The negroes who were added to the company the day before began cruelly to domineer and tyrannize over the prisoners, frequently whipping them for their spirit, and treating them with more severity than even the Indians themselves, having had their hearts hardened by the meanness of their condition and long subjection to slavery.  In this day's journey they passed the remains of the Indian town, Wyaloosing.  The lands around these ruins have a remarkable appearance of fertility.  In the evening they made a lodgment by the side of a large creek.


"5th Month 1st.  After crossing a considerable hill in the morning, they came to a place where two Indians lay dead.  A party of Indians had taken some white people, whom they were carrying off prisoners; they rose upon the Indians in the night, killed four of them, and then effected their escape.  The women were sent forwards and the men-prisoners commanded to draw near and view the two dead bodies which remained (the other two being removed); they stayed to observe them a considerable time, and were then ordered to a place where a tree was blown down.  Death appeared to be their doom;  but after remaining in a state of sad suspense for some time, they were ordered to dig a grave; to effect which they cut a sapling with their tomahawks and sharpened one end, with which wooden instrument one of them broke the ground, and the others cast the earth out with their hands, the negroes being permitted to beat them severely while they were thus employed.  After interring the bodies, they went forward to the rest, and overtook them as they were preparing for their lodging.  They were not yet released from their sapling confinement.


"2nd.  Having some of their provisions with them, they made an early meal, and traveled the whole day.  They crossed the East Branch of the Susquehanna towards evening in canoes, at the place where Gen. Sullivan's army had passed it in their expedition.  Their encampment was on the western side of this branch of the river; but two Indians, who did not cross it, sent for Benjamin Gilbert, Jr., and Jesse Gilbert's wife, and as no probable cause could be assigned why it was so, the design was considered as a very dark one, and was a grievous affliction to the others.


"3d.  The morning, however, dispelled their fears, when they had the satisfaction of seeing them again, and understood they had not received any treatment harder than their usual fare.  The horses swam the Susquehanna by the side of the canoe.   This day the Indians in their march found a scalp, and took it along with them, as also some old corn, of which they made a supper.  They frequently killed deer, and by that means supplied the company with meat, being almost the only provision they ate, as the flour they took with them was expended.


"4th.  The path they traveled this morning was but little trodden, which made it difficult for those who were not acquainted with the woods to keep in it.  They crossed a creek, made up a large fire to warm themselves by, and then separated into two companies, the one taking the westward path, with whom were Thomas Peart, Joseph Gilbert, Benjamin Gil-…






Page 582


                                                                                                                        … bert, Jr., and Jesse Gilbert's wife, Sarah;  the others went more to the north over rich level land.  When evening came, inquiry was made concerning the four captives who were taken in the westward path, and they were told that 'these were killed and scalped, and you may expect the same fate to-night.'  Andrew Harrigar was so terrified at the threat that he resolved upon leaving them, and as soon as it was dark took a kettle, with pretense of bringing some water, and made his escape under favor of the night.  He was sought after by the Indians as soon as they observed him to be missing.


5th.  In the morning the Indians returned, their search for Andrew Harrigar being, happily for him, unsuccessful. 1


"The prisoners who remained were therefore treated with great severity on account of his escape, and were often accused of being privy to his design.  Capt. Rowland Monteur carried his resentment so far that he threw Jesse Gilbert down and lifted his tomahawk to strike him,  which the mother prevented by putting her head on his forehead, beseeching him to spare her son.  This so enraged him that he turned round, kicked her over, and tied them both by their necks to a tree, where they remained until his fury was a little abated;  He then loosed them, and not long after bid them pack up and go forwards.  They passed through a large pine swamp, and about noon reached one of the Kittereen towns, which was desolated.  Not far from this town, on the summit of a mountain, there issues a large spring, forming a very considerable fall, and runs very rapidly in an irregular, winding stream down the mountain's side.  They left this place and took up their lodging in a deserted wigwam covered with bark, which had formerly been part of a town of the Shipquagas.


"6th, 7th, and 8th.  They continued these three days in the neighborhood of these villages, which had been deserted upon Gen. Sullivan's approach.  Here they lived well, having, in addition to their usual bill-of-fare, plenty of turnips and potatoes, which had remained in the ground unnoticed by the army.  This place was the hunting-ground of the Shipquagas, and whenever their industry prompted them to go out hunting, they had no difficulty to procure as many deer as they desired.


"Roast and boiled meat, with vegetables, afforded them plentiful meals.  They also caught a wild turkey and some fish called suckers.  Their manner of catching fish was to sharpen a stick, and watch along the rivers until a fish came near them, when they suddenly pierced him with the stick and brought him out of the water.


"Here were a number of colts; some of them were taken, and the prisoners ordered to manage them, which was not easily done.


"9th.  When they renewed their march they placed the mother upon a horse that seemed dangerous to ride, but she was preserved from any injury.  In this day's journey they came to meadow ground, where they stayed the night, the men being confined, as before related, and the negroes lay near them for a guard.


"10th.  A wet swamp that was very troublesome lay in their road, after which they had to pass a rugged mountain, where there was no path.  The underbrush made it hard labor for the women to travel, but no excuse would avail with their severe masters, and they were compelled to keep up with the Indians, however great the fatigue.  When they had passed it they tarried awhile for the negroes, who had lagged behind, having sufficient employ to attend to the colts that carried the plunder.  When all the company met together they agreed to rendezvous in an adjoining swamp.


"11th.  A long reach of savannas and low ground rendered this day's route very fatiguing and painful, especially to the women.  Elizabeth Peart's husband not being allowed to relieve her by carrying the child, her spirits and strength were so exhausted that she was ready to faint.  The Indian under whose care she was, observing her distress, gave her a violent blow.  When we compare the temper and customs of these people with those of our own color, how much cause have we to be thankful for the superiority we derive from the blessings of civilization.


"It might be truly said days of bitter sorrow and wearisome nights were appointed the unhappy captives.


"12th.  Their provisions began to grow scant, having passed the hunting-grounds.  The want of proper food to support them, which render them more capable of enduring their daily fatigue, was a heavy trial, and was much increased by their confinement at night.  Elizabeth Gilbert was reduced so low that she traveled in great pain all this day, riding on horseback in the morning, but towards evening she was ordered to alight and walk up a hill they had to ascend.  The pain she suffered, together with want of food, so overcame her that she was seized with a chill.  The Indians administered some flour and water boiled, which afforded her relief.


"13th.  Last night's medicine being repeated, they continued their march, and after a long walk were so effectually worn down that they halted.  The pilot, John Huston, the elder, took Abner Gilbert with him (as they could make more expedition that the rest) to procure a supply of provisions to relieve their necessity.


"14th.  The mother had suffered so much that two of her children were obliged to lead her.  Before noon they came to Canadasago, where they met with Benjamin Gilbert, Jr., and Jesse Gilbert's wife, Sarah, two of the four who had been separated from them ten days past, and taken along the western path.  This…






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                     … meeting afforded them great satisfaction, the doubt and uncertainty of their lives being spared often distressing their affectionate relations.


"John Huston, Jr., the Indian, under whose care Benjamin Gilbert was placed, designing to dispatch him, painted him black;  this exceedingly terrified the family, but no entreaties of theirs being likely to prevail, they resigned their cause to Him whose power can control all events.  Wearied with their weakness and traveling they made a stop to recover themselves, when the pilot, returning, assured them they should soon receive some provisions.  The negroes were reduced so low with hunger that their behavior was different from what it had been, conducted with more moderation.  At their quarters, in the evening, two white men came to them, one of which was a volunteer among the British, the other had been taken prisoner some time before;  these two men brought some hominy, and sugar made from the sweet maple, the sap being boiled to a consistency, and is but little inferior to the sugar imported from the islands.  Of this provision, and an hedge-hog which they found, they made a more comfortable supper than they had enjoyed for many days.


"15th.  In the morning the volunteer having received information of the rough treatment the prisoners met with from the negroes, relieved them by taking the four blacks under his care.  It was not without much difficulty they crossed a large creek which was in their way, being obliged to swim their horses over it.    Benjamin Gilbert began to fail;  the Indian whose property he was, highly irritated at his want of strength, put a rope about his neck, leading him along with it;  fatigue at last so overcame him that he fell on the ground, when the Indian pulled the rope so hard that he almost chocked him.  His wife, seeing this, resolutely interceded for him, although the Indians bid her go forwards, as the others had gone on before them;  this she refused to comply with unless her husband might be permitted to accompany her.  They replied 'that they were determined to kill the old man,'  having before this set him apart as a victim.  But at length her entreaties prevailed, and their hearts were turned from their cruel purpose.  Had not an overruling Providence preserved him from their fury, he would inevitably have perished, as the Indians seldom show mercy to those they devote to death, which, as has been before observed, was the case with Benjamin Gilbert, whom they had smeared with black paint from this motive.  When their anger was a little moderated, they set forwards to overtake the rest of the company.  Their relations, who had been eye-witnesses of the former part of this scene of cruelty, and expected they would both have been murdered, rejoiced greatly at their return, considering their safety as a providential deliverance.


"16th.  Necessity induced two of the Indians to set off on horseback into the Seneca country in search of provisions.  The prisoners, in the mean time, were ordered to dig up a root, something resembling potatoes, which the Indians called 'whoppanies.'  They tarried at this place until towards the evening of the succeeding day, and made a soup of wild onions and turnip tops;  this they ate without bread or salt; it could not therefore afford sufficient sustenance, either for young or old;  their food being so very light their strength daily wasted.


"17th.  They left this place and crossed the Genesee River (which empties its waters into Lake Ontario) on a raft of logs, bound together by hickory withes.  This appeared to be a dangerous method of ferrying them over such a river to those who had been unaccustomed to such conveyances.  They fixed their station near the Genesee banks, and procured more of the wild-potato roots, before mentioned, for their supper.


"18th.  One of the Indians left the company, taking with him the finest horse they had, and in some hours after returned with a large piece of meat, ordering the captives to boil it;  this command they cheerfully performed, anxiously watching the kettle, fresh meat being a rarity which they had not eaten for a long time.  The Indians, when it was sufficiently boiled, distributed to each one a piece, eating sparingly themselves.  The prisoners made their repast without bread or salt, and ate with a good relish what they supposed to be fresh beef, but afterwards understood it was horse-flesh.


"A shrill halloo which they heard gave the prisoners some uneasiness; one of the Indians immediately rode to examine the cause, and found it was Capt. Rowland Monteur and his brother John's wife, with some other Indians, who were seeking them with provisions.  The remainder of the company soon reached them, and they divided some bread which they had brought into small pieces, according to the number of the company.


"Here is a large extent of rich farming land, remarkable for its levelness and beautiful meadows.  The country is so flat that there are no falls in the rivers, and the waters run slow and deep, and whenever showers descend they continue a long time muddied.


"The captain and his company had brought with them cakes of hominy and Indian corn.  Of this they made a good meal.  He appeared to be pleased to see the prisoners, having been absent from them several days, and ordered them all round to shake hands with him.  From him they received information respecting Joseph Gilbert and Thomas Peart, who were separated from the others on the 4th inst., that they had arrived at the Indian settlements some time before in safety.


"The company stayed the night at this place.  One of the Indians refused to suffer any of them to come near the fire, or converse with the prisoner who, in the distribution, had fallen to him.



Page 583 Footnote


1 Andrew Harrigar endured many hardships in the woods, and at length returned to the settlements, and gave the first authentic intelligence of Benjamin Gilbert and his family to their friends. [RETURN]






Page 584


"19th.  Pounding hominy was this day's employment.  The weather being warm made it a hard task.  They boiled it and prepared it for supper, the Indians sitting down to eat first; and when they had concluded their meal, they wiped the spoon on the sole of their mockason and then gave it to the captives.  Hunger alone could prevail on any one to eat after such filth and nastiness.


"20th.  Elizabeth Gilbert, the mother, being obliged to ride alone, missed the path, for which the Indians repeatedly struck her.  Their route still continued through rich meadows.  After wandering for a time out of the direct path they came to an Indian town, and obtained the necessary information to pursue their journey.  The Indians ran out of their huts to see the prisoners, and to partake of the plunder, but no part of it suited them.  Being directed to travel the path back again for a short distance, they did so, and then struck into another and went on until night, by which time they were very hungry, not having eaten since morning; the kettle was again put on the fire for boiling hominy, this being their only food.


"21st.  The report of a morning gun from Niagara, which they heard, contributed to raise their hopes.  They rejoiced at being so near.  An Indian was dispatched on horseback to procure provisions from the fort.


"Elizabeth Gilbert could not walk as fast as the rest.  She was therefore, sent forward on foot, but was soon overtaken and left behind, the rest being obliged by the Indians to go on without regarding her.  She would have been greatly perplexed when she came to a division path had not her husband lain a branch across the path which would have led her wrong, an affecting instance both of ingenuity and tenderness.  She met several Indians, who passed by without speaking to her.


"An Indian belonging to the company, who was on the horse Elizabeth had rode, overtook her, and, as he went on slowly, conversing with her, endeavored to alarm her by saying that she would be left behind and perish in the woods.  Yet, notwithstanding this, his heart was so softened before he had gone any great distance from her, that he alighted from the horse and left him that she might be able to reach the rest of the company.  The more seriously she considered this the more it appeared to her to be a convincing instance of the overruling protection of Him who can 'turn the heart of a man as the hubandman turneth the water-course in his field.'


"22d.  The Indians approached nearer their habitations they frequently repeated their halloos, and after some time they received an answer in the same manner, which alarmed the company much; but they soon discovered it to proceed from a party of whites and Indians who were on some expedition, though their pretence was that they were for New York.  Not long after parting with these the captain's wife came to them.  She was a daughter of Siangorochti, king of the Senecas, but her mother being a Cayuga, she was ranked among that nation, the children generally reckoning their descent from the mother's side.  This princess was attended by the captain's brother John, one other Indian, and a white prisoner who had been taken at Wyoming by Rowland Monteur.  She was dressed altogether in the Indian manner, shining with gold lace and silver baubles.  They brought with them from the fort a supply of provisions.  The captain being at a distance behind when his wife came, the company waited for him.  After the customary salutations he addressed himself to his wife, telling her that Rebecca was her daughter, and that she must not be induced by any consideration to part with her, whereupon she took a silver ring off her finger and put it upon Rebecca, by which she was adopted as her daughter.


"They feasted upon the provisions that were brought, for they had been several days before pinched with hunger, what sustenance they could procure not being sufficient to support nature.


"23rd.  Their spirits were in some degree revived by the enjoyment of plenty, added to the pleasing hope of some favorable event procuring their releasement, as they were not far distant from Niagara.


"The Indians proceeded on their journey and continued whooping in the most frightful manner.  In this day's route they met another company of Indians, who compelled Benjamin Gilbert, the elder, to sit on the ground, and put several questions to him, to which he gave them the best answers he could;  they then took his hat from him and went off.


"Going through a small town near Niagara, an Indian woman came out of one of the huts and struck each of the captives a blow.  Not long after their departure from this place, Jess, Rebecca, and their mother were detained until the others had got out of their sight, when the mother was ordered to push on, and as she had to go by herself she was much perplexed what course to take, as there was no path by which she could be directed.  In this dilemma she concluded to keep as straight forward as possible, and after some space of time she had the satisfaction of overtaking the others.  The pilot then made a short stay, that those who were behind might come up, and the captain handed some rum around, giving each a dram, except the two old folks, whom they did not consider worthy of this notice.  Here the captain, who had the chief direction, painted Abner, Jesse, Rebecca, and Elizabeth Gilbert, Jr., and presented each with a belt of wampum, as a token of their being received into favor, although they took from them all their hats and bonnets, except Rebecca's.


"The prisoners were released from the heavy loads they had heretofore been compelled to carry, and was it not for the treatment they expected on their approaching the Indian towns and the hardships of…






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… separation, their situation would have been tolerable; but the horror of their minds arising from the dreadful yells of the Indians as they approached the hamlets is easier conceived than described, for they were no strangers to the customary cruelty exercised upon captives on entering their towns.  The Indians, men, women, and children, collect together, bringing clubs and stones in order to beat them, which they usually do with great severity by way of revenge for their relations who have been slain;  this is performed immediately upon their entering the village where the warriors reside.  This treatment cannot be avoided, and the blows, however cruel, must be borne without complaint, and the prisoners are sorely beaten until their enemies are wearied with the cruel sport.  Their sufferings were in this case very great;  they received several wounds, and two of the women who were on horseback were much bruised by falling from their horses which were frightened by the Indians.  Elizabeth, the mother, took shelter by the side of one of them, but upon his observing that she met with some favor upon his account he sent her away;  she then received several violent blows, so that she was almost disabled.  The blood trickled from their heads in a stream, their hair being cropped close, and the clothes they had on in rags, which made their situation truly piteous.  Whilst they were inflicting this revenge upon the captives the king came and put a stop to any further cruelty by telling them 'it was sufficient,' which they immediately attended to.  Benjamin Gilbert and Elizabeth, his wife, Jesse Gilbert and his wife were ordered to Capt. Rowland Monteur's house; the women belonging to it were kind to them and gave them something to eat.  Sarah Gilbert, Jesse's wife, was taken from them by three women in order to be placed in the family she was to be adopted by.


"Two officers from Niagara Fort, Capts. Dace and Powel, came to see the prisoners and prevent (so they were informed) any abuse that might be given them.  Benjamin Gilbert informed those officers that he was apprehensive that they were in great danger of being murdered, upon which they promised him they would send a boat the next day to bring them to Niagara.


"24th.  Notwithstanding the kind intention of the officers, they did not derive the expected advantage from it, for the Indians insisted on their going to the fort on foot, although the bruises they had received the day before from the many severe blows given them rendered their journey on foot very distressing, but, Capt. Monteur obstinately persisting, they dared not long remonstrate or refuse.


"When they left the Indian town several issued from their huts after them, with sticks in their hands, yelling and screeching in the most dismal manner; but through the interposition of four Indian women, who had come with the captives, to prevent any further abuse they might receive, they were preserved; one of them, walking between Benjamin Gilbert and his wife, led them, and desired Jesse to keep as near them as he could; the other three walked behind, and prevailed with the young Indians to desist.  They had not pursued their route long before they saw Capt. John Powell, who came from his boat, and persuaded (though with some difficulty) the Indians to get into it with the captives, which relieved them from the apprehensions of further danger.  After reaching the fort, Capt. Powell introduced them to Col. Guy Johnson and Col. Butler, who asked the prisoners many questions in the presence of the Indians.  They presented the captain with a belt of wampum, which is a constant practice among them when they intend a ratification of the peace.  Before their connection with Europeans these belts were made of shell found on the coasts of New England and Virginia, which were sawed out into beads of an oblong shape, about a quarter of an inch long, which were strung together on leathern strings, and these strings, fastened with fine threads made of sinews, composed what is called a belt of wampum; but since the whites have gained footing among them, they make use of the common glass beads for this purpose.


"The Indians, according to their usual custom and ceremony, at three separate times ordered the prisoners to shake hands with Col. Johnson.


"25th.  Benjamin Gilbert, Elizabeth, his wife, and Jesse Gilbert were surrendered to Col. Johnson.  This deliverance from such scenes of distress, as they had become acquainted with, gave them a more free opportunity of close reflection than heretofore.


"The many sorrowful days and nights they had passed, the painful anxiety attendant on their frequent separation from each other, and the uncertainty of the fate of the rest of their family, overwhelmed them with grief.


"26th.  Expression is too weak to describe their distress on leaving their children with these hard masters; they were not unacquainted with many of the difficulties to which they would necessarily be exposed in a residence among Indians, and the loss which the young people would sustain for want of a civilized and Christian education.


"27th.  In this desponding situation the kindness of sympathy was awakened in one of the Indian women, who even forgot her prejudices, and wiped away the tears which trickled down Elizabeth Gilbert's cheeks.


"The particular attention of Col. Johnson's housekeeper to them, from a commiseration of their distress claims their remembrance.  Benjamin, his wife, and Jesse Gilbert were invited to her house, where she not only gave the old folks her best room, but administered to their necessities, and endeavored to soothe their sorrows.


"Jesse Gilbert was favored to get employ, which, as it was some alleviation of his misfortunes, may be considered as a providential kindness.


"28th.  A few days after they came to the fort they had information that Benjamin Peart was by the river…






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… side with the Indians.  Upon hearing this report his mother went to see him, but every attempt for his release was in vain, the Indians would by no means give him up.   From this place they intended to march with their prisoners to the Genesee River, about a hundred miles distant.  As the affectionate mother's solicitations proved fruitless, her son not only felt the afflicting loss of his wife and child, from whom he had been torn some time before, but a renewal of his grief on this short sight of his parents.  She procured him a hat, and also some salt, which was an acceptable burden for the journey.


"Benjamin Gilbert, conversing with the Indian captain who made them captives, observed that he might say what none of the other Indians could, 'that he had brought in the oldest man and the youngest child.’  His reply to this was expressive, 'It was not I, but the great God who brought you through, for we were determined to kill you, but were prevented.’


"The British officers being acquainted that Jesse Gilbert's wife was among the Indians, with great tenderness agreed to seek her out, and after a diligent inquiry found that she was among the Delawares, and went to them and endeavored to agree upon terms for her releasement.  The Indians brought her to the fort the next day, but would not give her up to her relations.


"29th.  As the cabins of the Indians were but two miles from the fort, they went thither, and Jesse and the officers used every argument in their power to prevail upon them, representing how hard it was to part these two young people.  At length they consented to bring her in next day, with their whole tribe, for a final release.


"30th.  They accordingly came, but started so many objections that she was obliged to return with them.


"31st.  Early next morning Capt. Robeson generously undertook to procure her liberty, which, after much attention and solicitude, he, together with Lieut. Hillyard, happily accomplished.  They made the Indians several small presents, and gave them thirty pounds as a ransom.


"When Sarah Gilbert had obtained her liberty she altered her dress more in character for her sex than she had been able to do while among the Indians, and went to her husband and parents at Col. Johnson's were she was joyfully received.


"Col. Johnson's housekeeper continued her kind attentions to them during their stay here, and procured clothing for them from the king's stores.


"6th Month 1st.  About this time the Senecas, among whom Elizabeth Peart was captive, brought her with them to the fort.  As soon as the mother heard of it she went to her and had some conversation with her, but could not learn where she was to be sent to.  She then inquired of the interpreter and pressed on his friendship to learn what was to become of her daughter.  This request he complied with, and informed her that she was to be given away to another family of the Senecas, and adopted among them in the placed of a deceased relation.  Capt. Powell interested himself in her case likewise and offered to purchase her of them, but the Indians refused to give her up, and as the mother and daughter expected they should see each other no more, their parting was very affecting.


"The Indian woman who had adopted Rebecca as her daughter also came to the fort, and Elizabeth Gilbert made use of this opportunity to inquire concerning her daughter.  The interpreter informed her there was no probability of obtaining the releasement of her child, as the Indians would not part with her.  All she could do was to recommend her to their notice as very weakly, and in consequence not able to endure much fatigue.


"2nd and 3rd.  Not many days after their arrival at Niagara a vessel came up Lake Ontario to the fort with orders for the prisoners to go to Montreal.  In this vessel came one Capt. Brant, an Indian chief, high in rank among them.  Elizabeth Gilbert immediately applied herself to solicit and interest him on behalf of her children who yet remained in captivity.  He readily promised her to use his endeavors to procure their liberty.  A short time before they sailed for Montreal they received accounts of Abner and Elizabeth Gilbert, the younger, but it was also understood that their possessors were not disposed to give them up.  As the prospect of obtaining the release of their children was so very discouraging, it was no alleviation to their distress to be removed to Montreal, where, in all probability, they would seldom be able to gain any information respecting them, on which account they were very solicitous to stay at Niagara;  but the colonel said they could not remain there, unless the son would enter into the king's service.  This could not be consented to, therefore they chose to submit to every calamity which might be permitted to befall them, and confide in the great Controller of events.


"Here they became acquainted with one Jesse Pawling, from Pennsylvania, who was an officer among the British, and behaved with kindness and respect to the prisoners, which induced them to request his attention also to that part of the family remaining in captivity;  it appeared to them of some consequence to gain an additional friend.  The colonel also gave his promise to exert himself on their behalf.


"After continuing ten days at Col. Johnson's they took boat in the forenoon of the 2d, being the Sixth day in the week, and crossed the river Niagara in order to go on board the vessel (which lay in Lake Ontario) for Montreal.  The officer procured necessaries for their voyage in great plenty, and they were also furnished with orders to draw more at certain places as they might have occasion.  These civilities may appear to many to be too trivial to be mentioned in this narrative, but those who have been in equal distress will not be insensible of their value.






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"4th.  The vessel sailed down the lake on the Sixth day of the week, and on first day following, being the Fourth day of the Sixth month, 1780, came to Charlton Island, where there were such a number of small boats which brought provisions that it had the appearance of a fleet.  Benjamin and Jesse Gilbert went on shore to obtain leave from the commanding officer to go to Montreal in the small boats, as the vessel they came in could proceed no farther.    They met with a kind reception, and their request was granted.


"5th.  On the second day following they left Charlton Island, which lies at the mouth of Lake Ontario, and took their passage in open boats down the river St. Lawrence, and passed a number of small islands.  There is a rapid descent in the waters of this river, which appears dangerous to those unacquainted with these kind of falls.  The Frenchman who rowed the boats kept them near the shore, and passed without much difficulty between the rocks.


"6th, 7th, and 8th.  Benjamin Gilbert had been much indisposed before they left the fort, and his disorder was increased by a rain which fell on their passage, as they were without any covering.  They passed Oswagatchy, an English garrison, by the side of the river, but they were not permitted to stop here;  they proceed down the St. Lawrence, and, the rain continuing, went on shore on an island in order to secure themselves from the weather.  Here they made a shelter for Benjamin Gilbert, and, when the rain ceased, a place was prepared for him in the boat that he might lie down with more ease.  His bodily weakness made such rapid progress that it rendered all the care and attention of his wife necessary, and likewise called forth all her fortitude; she supported him in her arms, affording every possible relief to mitigate his extreme pains.  And although in this distressed condition, he, notwithstanding, gave a satisfactory evidence of the virtue and power of a patient and holy resignation, which can disarm the King of Terrors, and receive him as a welcome messenger.  Thus prepared, he passed from this state of probation the eight day of the Sixth month, 1780, in the evening, leaving his wife and two children, who were with him, in all the anxiety of deep distress, although they had no doubt but that their loss was his everlasting gain.  Being without a light in the boat, the darkness of the night added not a little to their melancholy situation.  As there were not any others with Elizabeth Gilbert but her children, and the four Frenchmen, who managed the boat, and her apprehensions alarmed her lest they should throw the corpse overboard, as they appeared to be an unfeeling company, she therefore applied to some British officers who were in a boat behind them, who dispelled her fears, and received her under their protection.


"9th.  In the morning they passed the garrison of Coeur de Lac, and waited for some considerable time some distance below.  Squire Campbell, who had the charge of the prisoners, when he heard of Benjamin Gilbert's decease, sent Jesse to the commander of this garrison to get a coffin, in which they put the corpse, and very hastily interred him under an oak not far from the fort.  The boatmen would not allow his widow to pay the last tribute to his memory, but regardless of her affliction, refused to wait;  her distress on this occasion was great indeed, but being sensible that it was her duty to submit to the dispensations of an over-ruling Providence, which are all ordered in wisdom, she endeavored to support herself under her afflictions, and proceeded with the boatmen.


"Near this place they passed by a grist-mill which was maintained by a stone wing extended into the river St. Lawrence, the stream being very rapid, acquires a force sufficient to turn a wheel without the further expense of a dam.


"The current carried the boat forward with amazing rapidity, and the falls became so dangerous that the boats could proceed no farther;  they therefore landed in the evening, and went to the commanding officer of Fort Lasheen to request a lodging; but the houses in the garrison were so crowded that it was with difficulty they obtained a small room belonging to the boat-builders to retire to, and here they stowed themselves with ten others.


"10th.  The garrison of Lasheen is on the Isle of Jefu, on which the town of Montreal stands, about the distance of nine miles; hither our travelers had to go by land, and as they were entirely unacquainted with the road, they took the advantage of an empty cart (which was going to the town) for the women to ride in.


"The land in this neighborhood is very stony and the soil thin; the cattle small and ill favored.


"When they arrived at Montreal they were introduced to Brig.-Gen. McClean, who after examining them, sent them to one Duquesne, an officer among the loyalists, who being from home, they were desired to wait in the yard until he came; this want of politeness gave them no favorable impressions of the master of the house; when he returned he read their pass, and gave Jesse an order for three days' provisions.


"Daniel McUlphin received them into his house; by him they were treated with great kindness, and the women continued at his house and worked five weeks for him.

"Jesse Gilbert met with employ at Thomas Busby's, where he lived very agreeably for the space of nine months.


"Elizabeth Gilbert had the satisfaction of an easy employ at Adam Scott's, merchant, having the superintendence of his kitchen, but about six weeks after she engaged in his service, Jesse's wife, Sarah, was taken sick at Thomas Busby's, which made it necessary for her mother to disengage herself from the place where she was so agreeably situated, in order to nurse her.  These three were favored to be considered as the king's prisoners, having rations allowed them;  this assistance was very comfortable, but Elizabeth's …






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                                                                … name being erased out of a list at the time when they needed an additional supply, they were much straitened.  Upon an application to one Col. Campbell, he, together with Esquire Campbell, took down a short account of her sufferings and situation, and after preparing a concise narrative, they applied to the brigadier-general to forward it to Gen. Haldimand at Quebec, desiring his attention to the sufferers, who speedily issued his orders, that the releasement of the family should be procured, with particular injunctions for every garrison to furnish them with necessaries as they came down.


"As soon as Sarah Gilbert recovered from her indisposition her mother retuned to Adam Scott's family.


"Thomas Gomersom hearing of their situation came to see them;  he was educated a Quaker, and had been a merchant of New York, and traveled with Robert Walker in his religious visits, but upon the commencement of the war had deviated from his former principles and had lost all the appearance of a Friend, wearing a sword.  He behaved with respect to the prisoners, and made Elizabeth a present.  The particular attention of Col. Closs, and the care he showed by writing to Niagara on behalf of the captives, as he was entirely a stranger to her, is remembered with gratitude.


"As there was an opportunity of hearing from Niagara, it gave them great pleasure to be informed that Elizabeth Gilbert was among the white people, she having obtained her release from the Indians prior to the others.


"Sarah Gilbert, wife of Jesse, becoming a mother, Elizabeth left the service she was engaged in, Jesse having taken a house, that she might give her daughter every necessary attendance; and in order to make their situation as comfortable as possible they took a child to nurse, which added a little to their income.  After this Elizabeth Gilbert hired herself to iron a day for Adam Scott.  Whilst she was at work a little girl belonging to the house acquainted her that there were some who wanted to see her, and upon entering into the room she found six of her children; the joy and surprise she felt on this occasion were beyond what we shall attempt to describe.  A messenger was sent to inform Jesse and his wife that Joseph Gilbert, Benjamin Peart, Elizabeth, his wife, and young child, Abner, and Elizabeth Gilbert, the younger, were with their mother.  It must afford very pleasing reflections to any affectionate disposition to dwell awhile on this scene, that after a captivity of upwards of fourteen months so happy a meeting should take place.


"Thomas Peart, who had obtained his liberty, and tarried at Niagara that he might be of service to the two yet remaining in captivity, viz., Benjamin Gilbert, Jr., and Rebecca Gilbert.


"Abigail Dodson, the daughter of a neighboring farmer, who was taken with them, inadvertently informed the Indians she was not of the Gilbert family; all attempts for her liberty were fruitless.


"We shall now proceed to relate how Joseph Gilbert, the eldest son of the deceased, fared amongst the Indians.  He, with Thomas Peart, Benjamin Gilbert, Jr., and Jesse Gilbert's wife, Sarah, were taken along the westward path, as before related.  After some short continuance in this path, Thomas Peart and Joseph Gilbert were taken from the other two, and by a different route, through many difficulties, they were brought to Caracadera, where they received the insults of the women and children whose husbands or parents had fallen in their hostile excursions.


"Joseph Gilbert was separated from his companion, and removed to an Indian villa called Nundow, about seven miles from Caracadera;  his residence was for several weeks in the king's family, whose hamlet was superior to the other small huts.  The king himself brought him some hominy, and treated him with great civility, intending his adoption into the family in the place of one of his sons who was slain when Gen. Sullivan drove them from their habitations.  As Nundow was not to be the place of his abode, his quarters were soon changed, and he was taken back to Caracadera;  but his weakness of body was so great that he was two days accomplishing this journey, which was only seven miles, and not able to procure any other food than roots and herbs, the Indian economy leaving them without any provisions to subsist upon.  Here they adopted him into the family of one of the king's sons, informing him that if he would marry amongst them he should enjoy the privileges which they enjoyed; but this proposal he was not disposed to comply with, and as he was not over-anxious to conceal his dislike to them, the sufferings he underwent were not alleviated.  The manner of his life differing so much from what he had before been accustomed to, having to eat the wild roots and herbs before mentioned, and as he had been lame from a child, and subject to frequent indispositions, it was requisite for him to pay more attention to his weak habits of body than his captors were willing he should.  When the master of the family was at home the respect he showed to Joseph, and the kindness to him, rendered his situation more tolerable than in his absence.  Frequently suffering with hunger, the privilege of a plenteous table appeared to him as an inestimable blessing which claimed the warmest devotion of gratitude.  In such a distressed situation the hours rolled by with a tediousness almost insupportable, as he had no agreeable employment to relieve his mind from the reflections of his sorrowful captivity.  This manner of life continued about three months, and when they could no longer secure a supply by their hunting, necessity compelled them to go to Fort Niagara for provisions.  The greater number of the Indians belonging to Caracadera attended on this journey, in order to obtain  a supply of provisions, their want of economy being so great as to have consumed so early as the eighth month all they had raised the last year, and the present crops unfit to…






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                                                                                                                                                                            … gather; their profuse manner of using their scant pittance of provisions generally introducing a famine after a short time of feasting.   They compute the distance from Caracadera to Fort Niagara to be one hundred and thirty miles;  on this journey they were upwards of five days, taking some venison on their route, and feasting with great greediness, as they had been a long time without meat.


"When they reached the fort they procured clothing from the king's stores for Joseph Gilbert, such as the Indians usually wear themselves, - a match-coat, leggings, etc.  His indisposition confined him at Col. Johnson's for several days, during which time the British officers endeavored to agree with the Indians for his releasement, but they would not consent.  The afflicting account of the death of his father, which was here communicated to him, spread an additional gloom on his mind.  After continuing at the fort about four weeks the Indians ordered him back with them.  This was a sore stroke, to leave a degree of ease and plenty and resume the hardships of an Indian life.  With this uncomfortable prospect before him, added to his lameness, the journey was toilsome and painful.  They were five days in their return, and when they arrived their corn was ripe for use; this, with the advantage of hunting, as the game was in its greatest perfection, furnished a present comfortable subsistence.


"Joseph had permission to visit his fellow-captive, Thomas Peart, who was at a small town of the Indians about seven miles distant, called Nundow, to whom he communicated the sorrowful intelligence of their mother's widowed situation.


"At the first approach of spring Joseph Gilbert and his adopted brother employed themselves in procuring rails and repairing the fence about the lot of ground they intended to plant with corn, as this part of the preserving the grain was allotted to them;  the planting and culture was assigned to the women, their husbandry being altogether performed by the hoe.


"The Indian manner of life was by no means agreeable to Joseph Gilbert.  Their irregularity in their meals was hard for him to bear;  when they had provisions in plenty they observe no plan of domestic economy, but indulged their voracious appetites, which soon consumed their stock, and a famine succeeded.


"In the early part of the sixth month, 1781, their corn was spent, and they were obliged to have recourse again to the wild herbage and roots, and were so reduced for want of provisions, that the Indians, having found the carcass of a dead horse, they took the meat and roasted it.


"An officer from the fort came down to inquire into the situation of the Indians, and, upon observing the low condition Joseph was in, not being likely to continue long without some relief, which the officer privately afforded, he being permitted to frequent his house, he advised him by flight to endeavor an escape from the Indians, informing him that he had no other expedient for his release.  This confirmed him in a resolution he had for some time been contemplating, but his lameness and weakness, for want of proper sustenance, rendered it impracticable to make such an attempt at that time, and it would require much care and attention to his own health and strength to gather sufficient for such an undertaking.  He therefore made use of the liberty allowed him to visit the officer and partake of his kindness and assistance, that he might be prepared for the journey.


"Embracing a favorable opportunity, when the men were generally from home, some in their war expeditions and some out hunting, he left them one night while the family slept, and made the best of his way towards Niagara Fort, following the path, as he had once before gone along it.  Having a small piece of bread, which he took from the hut, he made a hasty repast, traveling day and night, in order to escape from the further distresses of captivity.  As he neither took any sleep or other food by the way than the piece of bread mentioned for the two days and nights he pursued his journey, he as much fatigued when he reached the fort, and experienced the effects for several days.  Upon his applying to Col. Johnson he was hospitably entertained, and the next day saw three of the Indians whom he had left at the town when he set off.


"After a few days' stay here, as most of the family were discharged from captivity and waiting for a passage to Montreal, a vessel was fitted to take them on board in order to proceed down the lake.


"We next come to Benjamin Peart, who remained the first night after his arriving at the Indian huts with his wife and child, but was separated from them the next day, and taken about a mile and a half and presented to one of the families of the Seneca nation, and afterwards introduced to one of their chiefs, who made a long harangue, which Benjamin did not understand.  The Indians then gave him to a squaw, in order to be received as her adopted child, who ordered him to a private hut, where the women wept over him in remembrance of the relation in whose stead he was received.  After this he went with his mother (by adoption) to Niagara River, about two miles below the great falls, and stayed here several days, then went to the fort, on their way to the Genesee River, where he had the pleasure of conversing with his mother, and received information concerning his wife and child;  but even this satisfaction was short-lived, for he neither could obtain permission to visit his wife, nor was he allowed to converse freely with his mother, as the Indians hurried him off on board their bark canoe, when, having placed their provisions, they proceeded with expedition down the lake to the mouth of the Genesee River, the computed distance from the small village to the mouth of the river being one hundred miles, and from thence up…






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                                                                                         … the Genesee to the place of their destination, thirty miles.  In their passage up the river they were about five days, and as the falls in this river near its entrance into Lake Ontario has made a carrying-place of about two miles, they dragged their canoe this distance to the place of boating above the falls.  There were nine Indian of the party with them.  They frequently caught fish by the way.


"When the party arrived at the place of their designed settlement, they soon erected a small hut or wigwam, and the ground being rich and level, they began with their plantation of Indian corn.  Two white men who had been taken prisoners, the one from Susquehanna and the other from Minisinks, both in Pennsylvania, lived near this new settlement, and were allowed by the Indians to use the horses and plant for themselves.  These men lightened the toil of Benjamin Peart's servitude, as he was frequently in their company, and he had the liberty of doing something for himself, though without much success.


"His new habitation, as it was not very healthy, introduced fresh difficulties, for he had not continued here long before he was afflicted with sickness, which preyed upon him near three months, the Indians repeatedly endeavoring to relieve him by their knowledge of simples, but their endeavors proved ineffectual;  the approach of the winter season afforded the relief sought for.  Their provisions were not very tempting to a weakly constitution, having nothing else than hominy, and but short allowance even of that, insomuch that when his appetite increased he could not procure food sufficient to recruit his strength.  The company of his brother, Thomas Peart, who visited him, was a great comfort, and as the town he lived at was but the distance of eighteen miles, they had frequent opportunities of condoling with each other in their distress.


"The Indian men being absent on one of their war excursions, and the women employed in gathering the corn, left Benjamin Peart much leisure to reflect in solitude.


"Towards the beginning of the winter season the men returned, and built themselves a log house for a granary, and then removed about twenty miles from their settlement into the hunting country, and procured a great variety of game, which they usually ate without bread or salt.  As he had been with the Indians for several months, their language became more familiar to him.


"Hunting and feasting, after their manner, being their only employment, they soon cleared the place where they settled of the game, which made a second removal necessary, and they are so accustomed to this wandering life that it becomes their choice.


"They fixed up a log house in this second hunting place and continued until the Second month, when they returned to their first settlement, though their stay was but a few days, and then back again to their log hut.


"A heavy rain falling melted some of the snow, which had covered the ground about two feet.


"The whole family concluded upon a journey to Niagara Fort by land, which was completed in seven days.  At the fort he had the satisfaction of conversing with his brother, Thomas Peart, and the same day his wife also came from Buffalo Creek with the Senecas to the fort.  This happy meeting, after an absence of ten months, drew tears of joy from them.  The Indians not approving of their conversing much together, as they imagined they would remember their former situation and become less contented with their present manner of life, they separated again the same day, and took Benjamin's wife about four miles away; but the party with whom he came permitted him to stay here several nights, and when the Indians had completed their purpose of traffic they returned, taking him some miles back with them to one of their towns; but upon his telling them that he was desirous of returning to the fort to procure something he had before forgot, in order for his journey, he was permitted.  As he stayed the night with his adopted brother, the Indian came for him, but upon his complaining that he was so lame as to prevent his traveling with them, they suffered him to remain behind.


"He continued at the fort about two months before the Indians came back again, and as he labored for the white people, he had an opportunity to procuring salt provisions from the king's stores, which had been for a long time a dainty to him.


"When one of the Indians (a second adopted brother) came for him, Benjamin went with him to Capt. Powell, who, with earnest solicitations and some presents, prevailed upon the Indian to suffer him to stay until he returned from his war expedition; but this was the last he ever made, as he lost his life on the frontiers of New York.


"After this another captain (a third adopted brother) came to the fort, and when Benjamin Peart saw him he applied to Adjt.-Gen. Wilkinson to intercede for his release, who accordingly waited upon Col. Johnson and other officers to prevail with them to exert themselves upon his behalf.  They concluded to hold a council with the Indians for this purpose, who, after some deliberation, surrendered him up to Col. Johnson, for which he gave them a valuable compensation.


"Benjamin Peart, after his release, was employed in Col. Johnson's service, and continued with him for several months.  His child had been released for some time, and his wife, by earnest entreaty and plea of sickness, had prevailed with the Indians to permit her stay at the fort, which proved a great consolation and comfort after so long a separation.


"About the middle of the Eighth month there was preparation made for their proceeding to Montreal, as by this time there were six of the prisoners ready to go in a ship which lay in Lake Ontario, whose names…






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              … were Joseph Gilbert, Benjamin Peart, his wife and child, Abner Gilbert, and Elizabeth Gilbert, the younger.  These went on board the vessel to Charlton Island, which is as far as the large vessels they use on the lake can proceed;  the remainder of the way (on account of the frequent shoals) they are obliged to go in smaller boats.


"The commanding officer at Niagara procured a suitable supply of provision, and furnished them with orders to draw more at the several garrisons as occasion required.


"In two days they arrived at the upper end of Charlton Island, and went to the commander-in-chief to show their pass, and obtain what they were in need of.  Afterwards they continued on to the garrison of Oswagotchy, by the side of the river St. Lawrence, in an open boat rowed by four Frenchmen, this class of people being chiefly employed in laborious services.


"The stream was so rapid and full of rocks that the prisoners were too much alarmed to remain in the boat, and concluded to go on shore until they passed the danger, but the Frenchmen, who had been accustomed to these wild and violent rapids (the longest of which is known by the name of the Long Sou) kept on board.  This surprising scene continued for the distance of six miles, and they viewed with a degree of horror, their heads becoming almost giddy with the prospect.  When the boat had shot the falls they again went on board, and continued down the river to Coeur de Lac.  No great distance below this they anchored and landed at the place where their father was interred, shedding many tears of filial affection to his memory.  They afterwards applied to the commanding officer of the garrison for provisions and other necessaries; they then bid adieu to this solemn spot of sorrow, and proceeded to Lasheen, which they reached the twenty-fourth day of the Eighth month, having been eight days on their voyage.


"After refreshing themselves at this garrison they set forward on foot for Montreal, which they reached the same day.  They went to the brigadier-general and showed him their passport, and as soon as at liberty waited on their mother at Adam Scott's, as had been already related.


"The situation of Elizabeth Peart, wife of Benjamin, and her child is next to be related:

"After she and the child were parted from the husband, Abigail Dodson and the child were taken several miles in the night to a little hut, where they stayed till morning, and the day following were taken within eight miles of Niagara, where she was adopted into one of the families of the Senecas; the ceremony of adoption to her was tedious and distressing;  they obliged her to sit down with a young Indian man, and the eldest chieftain of the family repeated a jargon of words, to her unintelligible, but which she considered as some form of marriage, and this apprehension introduced the most violent agitations, as she was determined, at all events, to oppose any step of this nature;  but after the old Indian concluded his speech she was relieved from the dreadful embarrassment she had been under, as she was led away by another Indian.  Abigail Dodson was the same day given to one of the families of the Cayuga nation, so that Elizabeth Peart saw her no more.


"The man who led Elizabeth from the company took her into the family for whom they adopted her, and introduced her to her parents, brothers and sisters, in the Indian style, who received her very kindly, and made a grievous lamentation over her according to custom.  After she had been with them two days the whole family left their habitation and went about two miles to Fort Slusher, where they stayed several days.  This fort is about one mile above Niagara Falls.


"As she was much indisposed, the Indians were detained several days for her;  but as they cared little for her, she was obliged to lie on the damp ground, which prevented her speedily recovery.  As soon as her disorder abated of its violence they set off in a bark canoe which they had provided, intending for Buffalo creek, and, as they went slowly, they had an opportunity of taking some fish.


"When they arrived at the place of their intended settlement they went on shore and built a house.


"A few days after they came to this new settlement they returned with Elizabeth to Fort Slusher, when she was told her child must be taken away from her; this was truly afflicting, but all remonstrances were in vain.


"From Fort Slusher she traveled on foot, carrying her child to Niagara, it being eighteen miles, and in sultry weather, rendered it a painful addition to the thoughts of parting with her tender offspring.  The intent of their journey was to obtain provisions, and their stay at the fort was of several days' continuance.  Capt. Powell afforded her an asylum in his house.


"The Indians took the child from her, and went with it across the river to adopt it into the family they had assigned for it, notwithstanding Capt. Powell, at his wife's request, interceded that it might not be removed from its mother, and, as it was so young, they returned it to the mother after its adoption, until it should be convenient to send it to the family under whose protection it was to be placed.


"Obtaining the provisions and other necessaries they came to Niagara to trade for, they returned to Fort Slusher on foot, from whence they embarked in their canoes.  It being near the time of planting, they used much expedition in this journey.


"The labor and drudgery in a family falling to the share of the women, Elizabeth had to assist the squaw in preparing the ground and planting corn.


"Their provisions being scant they suffered much, and as their dependence for a sufficient supply until the gathering of their crop was on what they should receive from the fort, they were under the necessity of making a second journey thither.






Page 592


"They were two days on the road at this time.  A small distance before they came to the fort they took her child from her and sent it to its destined family, and it was several months before she had an opportunity of seeing it again.  After being taken from her husband, to lose her darling infant was a severe stroke.  She lamented her condition and wept sorely, for which one of the Indians inhumanly struck her.  Her Indian father seemed a little moved to behold her so distressed, and in order to console her assured her they would bring it back again, but she saw it not until the spring following.


"After they had disposed of their peltries they returned to their habitation by the same route which they had come.


"With a heart oppressed with sorrow, Elizabeth trod back her steps, mourning for her lost infant, for this idea presented itself continually to her mind; but as she experienced how fruitless, nay, how dangerous, solicitations in behalf of her child were, she dried up her tears and pined in secret.


"Soon after they reached their own habitation, Elizabeth Peart was again afflicted with sickness.  At the first they showed some attention to her complaints, but as she did not speedily recover, so as to be able to work, they discontinued every attention, and built a small hut by the side of the corn-field, placing her in it to mind the corn.  In this lonely condition she saw a white man who had been made prisoner among the Indians.  He informed her that her child was released and with the white people.  This  information revived her drooping spirits, and a short time after she recovered of her indisposition, but her employment of attending the corn continued until it was ripe for gathering, which she assisted in.  Then the harvest was over they permitted her to return and live with them.  A time of plenty commenced, and they lived as if they had sufficient to last the year through, faring plenteously every day.


"A drunken Indian came to the cabin one day, and the old Indian woman complaining to him of Elizabeth, his behavior exceedingly terrified her; he stormed like a fury, and at length struck her a violent blow, which laid her on the ground.  He then began to pull her about and abuse her much, when another of the women interposed, and rescued her from further suffering.  Such is the shocking effect of spirituous liquor on these people; it totally deprives them both of sense and humanity.


"A tedious winter prevented them from leaving their habitation, and deprived her of the pleasure of hearing often from her friends, who were very much scattered; but a prisoner, who had lately seen her husband, informed her of his being much indisposed at the Genesee River, which was upwards of one hundred miles distant.  On receiving this intelligence, she stood in need of much consolation, but had no source of comfort except in her own bosom.


"Near the return of spring, their provisions failing, they were compelled to go off to the fort for a fresh supply, having but a small portion of corn, which they allowanced out one each day.


"Through snow and severe frost they went for Niagara, suffering much from the excessive cold; and when they came within a few miles of the fort, which they were four days accomplishing, they struck up a small wigwam for some of the family with the prisoners to live in until the return of the warriors from the fort.


"As soon as Capt. Powell's wife heard that the young child's mother had come with the Indians she desired to see her, claiming some relationship in the Indian way, as she had also been a prisoner among them.  They granted her request, and Elizabeth was accordingly introduced and informed that her husband had returned to the fort, and there were some expectations of his release.  The same day Benjamin Peart came to see his wife, but could not be permitted to continue with her, as the Indians insisted on her going back with them to their cabin, which, as has been related, was some miles distant.


"Elizabeth Peart was not allowed for some days to go from the cabin, but a white family who had bought her child from the Indians to whom it had been presented, offered the part with whom Elizabeth was confined a bottle of rum if they would bring her across the river to her child, which they did, and delighted the fond mother with this happy meeting, as she had not seen it for the space of eight months.


"She was permitted to stay with the family where her child was for two days, when she returned with the Indians to their cabin.  After some time she obtained a further permission to go to the fort, where she had some needle-work from the white people, which afforded her a plea for often visiting it.  At length Capt. Powell's wife prevailed with them to suffer her to continue a few days at her house and work for her family, which was granted.  At the expiration of the time, upon the coming of the Indians for her to return with them, she pleaded indisposition, and by this means they were repeatedly dissuaded from taking her with them.


"As the time of planting drew nigh she made use of a little address to retard her departure; having a small swelling on her neck she applied a poultice, which led the Indians into a belief that it was improper to remove her, and they consented to come again for her in two weeks.


"Her child was given up to her soon after her arrival at Capt. Powell's, and her husband came frequently to visit her, which was a great happiness, as her trials in their separation had been many.


"At the time appointed some of the Indians came again, but she still plead indisposition and had confined herself to her bed.  One of the women interrogated her very closely, but did not insist upon her going back.  Thus several months elapsed, she contriving delays as often as they came.






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"When the vessel which was to take the other five, among whom were her husband and child, was ready to sail, the officers at Niagara concluded she might also go with them as they saw no reasonable objection, and they doubted not it was in their power to satisfy those Indians who considered her as their property."


Eventually all of the captives were redeemed, and reaching this country in safety, assembled at Byberry to recount in a happy reunion their strange adventures during a captivity of two years and five months.
















The History of the Counties of Lehigh & Carbon, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,


Alfred Mathews & Austin N. Hungerford

Published in Philadelphia, Pa., in 1884


Transcribed from the original in January 2004


Shirley Kuntz



Proofing &

web page by

Jack Sterling

February 2004