The Life of John Papoonung – Part 11

The rioters being prevented crossing the Schuylkill near Philadelphia, by a rise in the waters occasioned by heavy rain,” proceeded up its stream, and finding a passage above, came, on the 6th of Second month, to Germantown. Being informed that they were not likely to gain any thing by proceeding to the city, they ventured no further. The governor on the 7th, sent a person to inquire of them what they wanted. They behaved very insolently, and charged some of the Indians in the barracks with having been engaged in murders to the west, and that they had seen them at Pittsburg. One of them was invited to come into the city and examine the Indians, and see if any such were among them. He came, and being unable to charge a crime on any there, he returned. It was then declared that the Quakers had secretly removed such as were guilty. This charge was proved to be false. Unable to obtain their wicked ends, the rioters withdrew to their homes. The Christian Indians rejoiced because of their deliverance from these cruel enemies, and praise arose from their hearts to God, their preserver. “Many citizens now attended their meetings at the barracks, and some of the soldiers were glad to meet with them. Although in comparative security, yet there was much in the case of the Indians still very trying to them. The high-seasoned food did not agree with them; they were unable to take an amount of exercise sufficient to secure good health, and they had no employment to give profitable action to body and mind.

Early in the Third month ‘the Indians thought it would be proper for them to send a message to their brethren who were at war with the whites, to inform that they were all alive, and to desire that they would lay down the hatchet. This was undertaken with the consent of the government; Papoonung was chosen to do the errand, and another Indian was appointed to accompany him. Papoonung performed this duty, and received an encouraging reply from the warring tribes. It is probable he brought an invitation to the Christian Indians to return to the upper settlements on the Susquehanna, and a pledge that they should not be disturbed. Encouraged by his message, and desirous of once more being at liberty in their native forests, to seek for health and sustenance in the chase, they petitioned the government to set them at liberty, and grant them an escort to the frontiers. This request was not complied with. As the war still continued with the Indians, it was deemed, on several accounts, inexpedient to grant it. The Indians had been uneasy with their confinement before, and this refusal of the governor and council increased the feeling of discontent. As summer came on, fevers broke out amongst them, and the smallpox, with malignant potency, began to thin them. As the sickness increased, owing probably to the persuasions of the brethren, the uneasiness decreased, and resignation to the will of the Lord, whether it might be in life or in death, was the happy experience of many.

Death released fifty-six from the cares and sufferings of life, and joyfully indeed did they welcome him at his coming. Some of those who visited them in their sickness, thus testified concerning them. “We cannot describe the joy and fervent desire which most of them showed in the prospect of seeing their Savior face to face.” The sickness subsided, and in the autumn the Indians again petitioned the governor to give them liberty to return to their homes. After consideration, passports were granted for a few to go to the Susquehanna. At length, on the 4th of the Twelfth month, information having been received that the Six Nations had laid down the hatchet, the governor published a proclamation that all hostilities should cease. This opened the door for the liberty of all the Indians, and they rejoiced at the prospect of once more ranging at liberty in the wildwood.

The Indians who had previously been liberated, now returned to their brethren in Philadelphia, and gave them information of the miseries inflicted on the Indians who remained on the Susquehanna, and yet had refused to fight, by the war-parties of their red brethren. From these accounts it appeared, that the troubles and afflictions of the Christian company, hunted and driven about as they had been, cooped up and kept among the sick and dying, were yet as nothing to that of their brethren who remained in their own dwellings.

On the 26th of Second month, 17G5, the Indians received liberty from the government to go to Wyalusing, where the huts of Papoonung and his followers were still standing. The government of Pennsylvania supplied them liberally with what seemed necessary, and Commissary Fox procured a grant that they should be supplied with flour until the time that the corn to be planted that spring, should be ripe.

The Indians being now ready to depart from Philadelphia, they, on the 28th of Third month, presented the following address to the governor.

” We, the Christian Indians now residing in the barracks, and intending to return with our wives and children unto our own country, approach unto you to take our leave, and to return unto you our most sincere thanks. We acknowledge with unfeigned gratitude the kindness and friendship you have shown unto us during the late war. We were indeed in danger of our lives; but you protected us from our enemies, so that we lived in peace. As a father, you have provided us with food and raiment. You have nursed us in sickness, and buried our dead. We have likewise heard with joy, that you will in future give us flour until our corn is ripe. We thank you more particularly that we have been allowed to have our teachers with us, during these heavy trials. They have shown us the way to salvation, so that we are now become acquainted with our Creator, and can love all men. Your kindness, protection, and benevolence, will never be forgotten by us. We shall bear your goodness in our hearts; we shall speak of it to the other Indians. As long as we live,

We shall remain true friends to the English. We also beg permission to request of you to give us powder and shot, that we may provide food on the journey. Finally, we pray that the Lord may bless you! We, the underwritten, do this in the name of all our people, remaining your faithful friends,

John Papoonung, Joshua, Anthony, Shem Evans.” The Indians did not forget their friends the Quakers, but testified their gratitude to them for their untiring constancy in looking after their welfare, and ministering to their wants. Having bade an affectionate adieu to all, they departed on the 20th of Third month for Wyalusing, which they reached in safety after a stopping for a time at Nain.

(To be continued.)

“Relics of the Past No. 42 – Life of John Papoonung” from The Friend: A Religious and Literary Journal Printed by Joseph & William Kite Vol. XVIII No.9 Nov. 23, 1844 Philadelphia. Biography is based on original documents from 1744-1758