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Indian Relics, Character, Destiny

The land that the whites now possess and hold so dear is not all that the vanquished red men left for their successors to have and treasure. The aborigines left many legacies, not purposely but incidentally, which are now sought for and highly valued, because they throw some light on their manner of life, their simple wants, their pastimes, their struggles, and even their hope of a future life. The plow, rain and flood have unearthed many, and still continue to uncover interesting objects, as arrow points, spear-heads, stone axes, flint knives, tobacco pipes, pestles, mortars, celts, gorgets, pendants, drills, sinkers, beads, pottery, paint stones, hammer stones, memorial stones, ceremonial weapons, and occasionally rude images, that, even as books and pictures, give us some knowledge of the children of the forest whose wigwams once stood on the same soil, and who once owned and loved the same streams and valleys and mountains — the same magnificent domain that the pale faces now claim, and would in turn fight no less desperately for, if another race were to come to our shores and try, on their own terms and by force, to get possession. The relics they left us are grave reminders of their melancholy fate. Only the imperishable articles they fabricated are now found, however, because the many things they made of wood, bone, horn, shell, grass, feathers, and the skins of animals, and on some of which they may have spent as much or even more time and skill, have all decayed and vanished.

The famous Warrior Spring, located along the edge of the river near Port Penn, was on the border of one of the most frequented and inviting Indian camping grounds in the West Branch Valley. On the high bank above the spring, for many rods both up and down the river, numerous relics were in past years found, and occasionally some are still picked up. The account of the Battle of the Muncy Hills says that the whites had crossed the hill, and discovered fires, where the Indians lay during the night. The vigilant natives in camp along the river had evidently discovered them, and tried to get around them. One of the white men understood the cunning of the Indians well, having for nine years been a captive among them, and for this very reason insisted that the command should fall back on the path over which they had come-the Indian trail from the Warrior Spring to the head of Delaware Run, thence down over the Warrior Run, and on down the river to Northumberland. And on the summit of the hill, as they had been warned, they encountered the Indians.

Mr. Charles G. Hewitt now owns part of the land (until recently owned by the heirs of the late Stephen F. Ellis) called "The Folly," that was surveyed February 26th, 1787, by virtue of a warrant granted to Samuel Titmus, February 2d, 1785, and for which the said Titmus obtained a patent dated May 1st, 1787 — just twenty-four years after the battle was fought. The tract is in part described as "situate on the old Indian Path leading over Muncy Hill and joining the Battle Ground in Turbut (now Delaware) Township, Northumberland County: Beginning at a Pine Tree, thence by said Battle Ground south 35 degrees west 169 perches to a Chestnut Oak, in witness whereof His Excellency Benjamin Franklin Esquire President of the Supreme Executive Council hath hereto set his hand, and caused the State Seal to be hereto affixed." The description and the draft both show that the land on all sides of the tract was then still vacant, that the Indian trail crossed it, and that the Battle Ground was on the path, and apparently or mainly on the land adjoining. But it seems probable that the battle raged over more ground than the surveyors knew. There were a number of relics found on the Titmus tract. John Y. Ellis, son of Stephen F., says that nearly fifty years ago he helped his father clear the ground adjacent to what in the description is designated as the Battle Ground, and that among the various articles found he remembers there were several iron tomahawks; a "horse pistol" that was still loaded, but of which the wooden butt had entirely decayed; a knee buckle, and the tricker-guard of a musket. And all this agrees with the record in Loudos's Indian Narratives, discovered in the State library at Harrisburg by the late Hon. Thomas Wood, of Muncy, while he represented Lycoming County in the Assembly of 1854-'55, as mentioned in Otzinachson.

The account of this battle proves that the pale faces could be just about as cruel and savage as the red men. When they reached the vicinity of Northumberland, on returning after the fight, some of these so-called civilized warriors unfeelingly and by deliberate treachery murdered three innocent friendly Indians, merely because they were Indians, and from a mere savage thirst for blood because of some murders that had been perpetrated by hostile Indians. Many such shameful outrages were committed by white men. The reader may have read of the unpitying barbarity of Frederick Stump in murdering six friendly Indians in 1768, near the mouth of Middle Creek, in Snyder County; or of the cold-blooded butchering of ninety-six peaceable and inoffensive Moravian Indians on the 8th day of March, 1782, at Gnadenhuatten, Ohio, by a lawless band of brutal white men from the western parts of Virginia and Pennsylvania. One-half of these unfortunate Indians were feeble old people and children. After the fiendish murder the victims "were scalped and cut to pieces." Could the savages be more savage? Or the reader may recall the sad story of the celebrated Logan, who, like his noble father, Shikellimy, was a warm friend of the white man, but in whom the savage nature was aroused when his whole family of thirteen was inhumanly murdered by white men, and whose spirit of revenge was never satisfied until he had taken one white scalp for each member of his exterminated household. Was he more cruel than his cruel white enemies? Meginness declared a truth no reasonable person can deny when, in the first chapter of the revised edition of Otzinachson, he said: "Many Indians were made demons through the treachery and dishonesty of white men."

We are not left to the silent implements and objects transmitted to us to understand the true character of the Indians who made them, nor to the unscrupulous Indian slayers, or the biased chroniclers, who believed that the only good Indians are the Indians in the spirit world. Many fair-minded persons who have been much among them and studied them—such men as Conrad Weiser, George Catlin, Capt. R. H. Pratt, and Bishop Whipple — have shown that they were not totally depraved and not always savage, but that they were as human as white people, and often exhibited the noblest traits of character. In proof of this the following incident mentioned by Drake in The Aboriginal Races of North America may be cited. An Indian in bad weather wandered into the back settlement of Virginia, and sought refuge at the house of a settler. He was thirsty and hungry, but was refused both food and shelter. "Get you gone, you Indian dog," was the only answer he got. In the course of time it chanced that this same settler was lost in the woods, and after a long tramp came to an Indian cabin.

He asked the way to the white settlement, but as it was night the Indian told him he should stay with him until morning and he would then show him the way. After kindly feeding and lodging him, the Indian next morning took him through the wilderness, until they came in sight of the settlement. He then looked him full in the face and asked, "Don't you know me?" The settler then recognized him, and was horror-struck to find himself at the mercy of an Indian to whom he been so inhuman and was now so much indebted. Dumbfounded he tried to make excuses, when the Indian interrupted him and said, "When you see poor Indian fainting for a cup of cold water, don't say again, "Get you gone, you Indian dog!" He then took leave of him. Drake adds: "It is not difficult to say which of these two had the best claim to the name of Christian."

Conrad Weiser, who in 1737 inspected the ancient fortification near Wolf Run, was one of the best and most useful men of his day in Pennsylvania. He had lived for some time with a Chief of the Six Nations, learning their language and becoming well acquainted with their habits and ideas of things. In 1729 he settled in Tolpehocken Valley; soon after which he became the officially recognized Interpreter of the Province of Pennsylvania. He was prominent in many important councils with the Indians. No white man in the Province so fully had their respect and confidence. He was a peacemaker, through whom conflict was often averted. He and the famous Shikellimy were warm friends. When in 1752 Berks County was organized, he was made the first President Judge. His eldest daughter, Anna Maria, became the wife of the celebrated Lutheran minister, the Rev. Dr. Henry Melchior Muhlenberg. An anecdote in which Weiser figures may here be related to show what the Indians then thought of their manifest destiny. Conrad was seated on a log in the forest meditating. An Indian, who knew him, stealthily approached and took a seat intrusively close to him. He moved, but the Indian only pressed the harder against him. Conrad moved again, and so did the Indian. He then wanted to know what was meant by this pressing familiarity. The Indian answered: "Thus the whites did to the Indians. They lighted unbidden on our lands. We moved on; they followed. We still moved, and they are following after. Conrad, I will not push you from the log entirely. But will your people cease their crowding ere we roll into the waters?"

  • Gernerd, J. M. M., The Muncy Valley: Snap-Shots of Scenery, Geology and History, 1909, Press of the Gazette and Bulletin, Williamsport PA
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