The early German settlers of Pennsylvania bore the brunt of savage attacks made by Indians during those terrible years of the French and Indian War from 1754 to 1763 when the unguarded frontier of the province left the northern frontiers open to raids by Native Americans. This list of victims is far from complete. The several cases selected for mention here serve to show the horrors which our pioneer forebears suffered.
On 8 June 1756 Felix Wuench was plowing in his field near “The Hole” in Swatara Gap (Schuylkill County), when some Indians, hiding in ambush shot him through the breast. Two shots were fired, the second killing one of the horses in the plow. Wuench ran, crying for help but the Indians caught up with him. For a short time he defended himself with a whip which he carried but they overpowered him. They cut his head with their tomahawks and scalped him.
Mrs. Wuench heard her husband’s cries for help. She ran out of the house but was captured by the murderers. The Indians removed three small children from the house and then set fire to the property.
A servant lad, who was not in the house at the time, saw the flames. He ran to the home of a neighbor, George Miess, to summon help. Miess and his son gave chase to the Indians as they hurried away, carrying Mrs. Wuench and the three children with them. (Pennsylvania Gazette – 17 June 17 1756).
In November 1755 a group of settlers journeyed along the road leading over the Blue Mountain from Bethel in Berks County to Pinegrove in present day Schuylkill County. They were “going on the watch” near the spot where Fort Henry was built a year later when the party was attacked by Indians. The following persons were slain; John Leyenberger, Rudolph Kendall, George Wolf, John Apple, Casper Spring, George Bauer, Frederick Wieland, Jacob Ritzman. This list was furnished by Peter Spycker of Tulpehocken, 28 November 1755 at the request of Governor Robert Hunter Norris.
The report of Captain Jacob Morgan (C. Saur’s Newspaper, 1 December 1755), described the terrible condition in which Caspar Spring’s body was found. The cleft skull of the victim permitted the dead man’s brain to protrude and there were two tomahawk wounds on his chest, a shot in the back "and other things which modesty forbids to mention."
On the first of March 1757, on a farm belonging to Philip Bussart, a workman named Mulhaurs was breaking flax. Suddenly a shot rang out and Muhlhaurs fell dead. George Minier’s son, who was a witness to the murder was shot while running to the house. The boy succeeded in getting his gun but died before he could fire it. Phillip Bussart, the owner was armed. He succeeded in killing some of the attackers but he was severely wounded and his son was killed in an attempt to escape. This encounter took place north of the Blue Mountains between Fort Norris and Fort Hamilton. (Appendix: Gordon’s History of Penna., 1829)
The horrible massacre of the Brethren at the Moravian settlement in Gnadenbutten caused the death of 11 persons. Among them were the missionaries Martin Nitchman and his wife.
To list all the victims of this terrible type of warfare would call for a more extensive treatment of the subject. We have the lists of the names where they were furnished by the local magistrates and contemporary accounts in newspapers as sources of information. The names are overwhelmingly of German origin, proving that the pioneer settlers from the Palatinate served as the buffer between the hostile Indian tribes and the English settlements on the seaboard.
One very touching case was reported by Conrad Weiser on 19 November 1755. “Another party found a woman just expired with a male child on her side both killed and scalped. The woman lay upon her face. My son Frederick turned her about to see who she might have been, and to his companion’s surprise they found a babe of about 14 days old under her, wrapped up in a little cushion, his nose quite flat which was set right by Frederick, and life was yet in it, and recovered again.”
The mother’s dead body had shielded the tiny infant. (Penna. Archives II pp. 503-504).
These are just a few reminders of the risks our forebears took on a daily basis to establish their lives in America.