The Life of John Papoonung – Part 8

As Zeisberger was on his way to settle at Machwihilusing, he fell in company with John Woolman, who was then travelling northward to pay a religious visit to Papoonung and his tribe. In explaining the origin of John’s concern, his own language may be used. “Being at Philadelphia in the Eighth month, 1761, on a visit to some Friends who had slaves, I fell in company with some of those natives who lived on the east branch of the river Susquehanna, at an Indian town called Wehaloosing, two hundred miles from Philadelphia. In conversation with them by an interpreter, as also by observations on their countenances and conduct, I believed some of them were measurably acquainted with that Divine power which subjects the rough and froward will of the creature; and at times I felt inward drawings toward a visit to that place.”

In the Sixth month, 1763, he left home to perform this journey, in which he was accompanied by Benjamin Parvin. Early on the 10th of the month they crossed the Lehigh, and got over the Blue mountain that night. On the 11th they crossed what is now called the Pocono. On that day he fell in company with Zeisberger, which in his Journal he thus describes.

“About noon, on our way we were overtaken by one of the Moravian brethren going to Wehnloosing, and an Indian man with him who could talk English; and we being together while our horses eat grass, had some friendly conversation; but they traveling faster than we, soon left us. This Moravian, I understood, had spent some time this spring at Wehaloosing, and was by some of the Indians invited to come again.”

On the 17th, about the middle of the afternoon, John Woolman and companion reached Machwihilusing, now called Wyalusing. John says: ” The first Indian we saw was a woman with a modest countenance, with a Bible, who first spoke to our guide; and then with a harmonious voice expressed her gladness at seeing us, having before heard of our coming. By the direction of our guide we sat down on a log, and he went to the town to tell the people we were come. My companion and I sitting thus together, in a deep inward stillness, the poor woman came and sat near us; and great awfulness coming over us, we rejoiced in a sense of God’s love manifested to our poor souls. After a while we heard a conk shell blow several times, and then came John Curtis and another Indian man, who kindly invited us to a house near the town, where we found, I suppose, about sixty people sitting in silence. After sitting a short time, I stood up, and in some tenderness of spirit acquainted them with the nature of my visit, and that a concern for their good had made me willing to come thus far to see them; all in a few short sentences, which some of them standing, interpreted to the others; and there appeared gladness amongst them. Then I showed them my certificate, which was explained to them; and the Moravian who overtook us on the way, being now here, bade me welcome.

“On the 18th, we rested ourselves in the forenoon; and the Indians knowing that the Moravian and I were of different religious societies, and that some of their people had encouraged him to come and stay awhile with them, were I believe concerned that no jarring or discord might be in their meetings; and they, I suppose, having conferred together, acquainted me that the people at my request would at any time come together and hold meetings; and also told me, that they expected the Moravian would speak in their settled meetings, which are commonly held morning and near evening. I found a liberty in my heart to speak to the Moravian, and told him of the care I felt in my mind for the good of these people: and that I believed no ill effects would follow, if 1 sometimes spoke in their meetings when love engaged me thereto, without calling them together at times when they did not meet of course; whereupon he expressed his good will toward my speaking, at any time, all I found in my heart to say. Next evening I was at their meeting, where the pure gospel love was felt, to the tendering some of our hearts; and the interpreters endeavoring to acquaint the people with what I said, in short sentences, found some difficulty, as none of them were quite perfect in the English and Delaware tongues, so they helped one another, and we labored along, Divine love attending. Afterwards, feeling my mind covered with the spirit of prayer, I told the interpreters that I found it in my heart to pray to God, and believed if I prayed aright, he would hear me, and expressed my willingness for them to omit interpreting; so our meeting ended with a degree of Divine love. Before the people went out, I observed Papoonung, a man who had been zealous in laboring for a reformation in that town, being then very tender, spoke to one of the interpreters, and I was afterwards told that he said in substance; “I love to feel where words come from.”

“Relics of the Past No. 41 – Life of John Papoonung” from The Friend: A Religious and Literary Journal Printed by Joseph & William Kite Vol. XVIII No.8 Nov. 16, 1844 Philadelphia. Biography is based on original documents from 1744-1758