The Life of John Papoonung – Part 14

Papoonung, with most of the Christian Indians, settled in a new village at Schonbrunn, the Indian name of which was Welhick Thuppick, both names meaning “fine spring.”

The Delaware Indians, having often applied to Friends to send some one of their members amongst them, to instruct them and their children, the subject claimed serious consideration. The Meeting for Sufferings of Philadelphia, in writing to the Meeting for Sufferings in London, under date of Fourth month 22nd, 1773, uses this language:

“Most of the Indians are now removed far westward; they have for some years past repeatedly solicited Friends here, to send some well-qualified persons to settle among them, for the religious instruction of them and their children, which they have also warmly urged to the consideration of the governor of Pennsylvania, in their messages from their council; but as no Friend hath yet offered under a proper engagement ef mind and call for this service, we have not yet been able to satisfy them in the manner we de sire.”

Soon after the date of the above epistle, Zebulon Heston, a ministering Friend of Wrightstown, Bucks county, informed his Monthly Meeting, that he believed it to be his duty to pay a visit to the Delaware Indians. His Friends thought it right to encourage him to fulfill his apprehended duty, and John Parrish, a minister residing in Philadelphia, was willing to accompany him. Friends had recently received a letter from John Papoonung, and the Meeting for Sufferings believed it would be right to reply to this communication, as well as to address the Delaware Indians generally. For this end they drew up the following paper.

” To Netawattwalomun, and the rest of the headmen of the Delaware Indians at Kekailammapaikung (Still water) and

” To John Papoonung, and the rest of the Indian brethren at Welhick Thuppick, and to all other Indians living beyond the Ohio, to whom these may come.

“Brethren. Your Friends, the People called Quakers, in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, often remember you with desires for your welfare and true happiness, and that the old friendship which was made between your fathers and ours, may still be maintained, and may ever continue between your and our children and grandchildren from one generation to another. Then it will always be pleasing to us to hear from, and to see one another.

“Brethren: The several messages received from you by our brother Killbuck and Joseph Peepy last year, and the year before, made deep impression on the minds of such of us as were present when they were delivered, and have often since excited our thoughts of them. We in our answers informed you, we 
were in hopes the love of God, through our 
Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, would engage 
and constrain some of the ministers of the gospel to visit you; and until such should be thus 
sent among you, we desired you to attend 
diligently to the instructions of the Spirit of 
Christ within you, by which you may come 
to know your duty to God, and one to another.

“Brethren: We are all of us unable rightly 
to obtain this saving knowledge, by our own 
wisdom and strength. We should therefore 
humbly and diligently wait for the Spirit of 
Christ to enlighten our minds, and to give us 
the right understanding, by which we may 
see that in a state of nature we are weak, 
blind and miserable, and can never come to a 
state of true happiness without a Savior: and 
if we receive this understanding with thank
ful hearts, and sincerely desire the help of 
Christ our Savior, He will, by the renewed 
working of his good Spirit, instruct us more 
and more.

“Brethren: The ministers of Christ, who are really led by his Spirit, and faithfully attend to his instructions, may be useful, and a great help to others, by informing them what they have tasted and felt of his love; and when they speak from the constraints of that love, are often instrumental to raise the feeling sense of it in those to whom they speak; but all they can do, or should desire to do, is to bring men to Christ, that they may know and feel him for themselves, as He is graciously manifesting himself by his Spirit within them; for that which is to be known of God is manifested within, and without this knowledge no outward performance of any kind will work out their salvation, and bring them from a state of nature to a state of grace, wherein they may witness salvation through the blood of Christ, which was shed for the redemption of all men. We fervently desire you may come truly to know and experience this, every one of you, in, and for yourselves, for no man can do this work for his brother, nor for his nearest friend.

“Brethren: We write this to you by our beloved Friend Zebulon Heston, whose mind being influenced with the love of Christ, and constrained thereby, engages him to go and visit you, being desirous, though an old man, to see you before he dies, and to express something of the goodness of God, which he hath known to preserve him from his youth to this day. He hath approved himself a faithful minister of Christ, both in word and doctrine, and in life and conversation, and we hope you will receive him as our true friend and brother. As the journey is long, he is accompanied by our friend and brother John Parrish, whose love to you is so great, that he is willing likewise to go and see you. We sincerely desire and pray that they may be instrumental to do you good, and that the blessing of God may attend you and them, and that you may show forth to them that first mark of the disciple of Christ, which is true love one to another.

“Your desire of having some religious instructors for your children we very heartily approve; and as you have been before informed, whenever we can find any rightly qualified and willing to undertake the service, we intend to assist and encourage them in it.

” The letter from John Papoonung and his brethren at Welhick Thuppick was lately sent to some of us by John Etwein, and it is very pleasing to us to hear of your prosperity and settlement there, the increase of which we sincerely desire. In much brotherly love we salute you, and are your friends and brethren.

“Signed at a meeting of Friends appointed to represent our Friends in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, held at Philadelphia, the 8th day of the Seventh month, 1773.

Anthony Williams, 
Thomas Hallowell, 
Hezckiah Williams, 
David Estaugh, 
John Elliott, jun’r, 
John Jones, 
Isaac Parrish, 
Joseph Drinker, 
Robert Parrish, 
Isaac Gray, 
Benjamin Hooten, 
Charles West.”

Is’l Pemberton, 
Will’m Brown, 
Anthony Benezet, 
Isaac Andrews, 
John Reynell, 
Joshua Morris, 
James Pemberton, 
John Pemberton, 
Abel James, 
Owen Jones, 
Samuel Emlen, jr., 
Jeremiah Warder, 
David Bacon,

The governor of the province expressed his satisfaction with the two Friends paying the contemplated visit, and they, soon alter the date of the foregoing paper, commenced the journey. It proved to be satisfactory, and they made grateful acknowledgments on their return of their preservation, and the openness with which the Indians received what they had to say. We have very little account of their labors; one passage has, however, been preserved.

A meeting was held by them at Gekelemukpechink (New-comer’s town,) on the 28th of Seventh month. After the religious service of the meeting was over, the epistle of the Meeting for Sufferings was read to the natives assembled. After a suitable pause, Captain White Eyes rose to reply, and the following is given as the substance of his speech.

“We are glad, and our hearts rejoice to see our brothers, the Quakers, stand speaking before us. What you have said we believe to be right, and we heartily join in with it. Since the Savior came, a Light into the world, there has been a great stir amongst the people about religion. Some are for one way, and some are for another. We have had offers of religion [missionaries to teach them] many times, but would not accept them until we should see our brothers the Quakers, and hear what they would say to us. Now you have come and opened the road. We have heard what you have said, and have felt the grace that was in your hearts conveyed to us. We think that we are two brothers, the Quakers and Delawares, brought up as the children of one man, and that it is our Savior’s will we should be of one religion. Now you have come and opened the road, we expect to see the way from town to town, to the great king over the water. The king will know that the Quakers and Delawares are as one man, and have one religion. We are poor and weak, not able to judge for ourselves. When we think of our children, it makes us sorry. We hope you will instruct us in the right way, both in things of this life, and of the world to come. What we have said, we hope to abide by.”

Friends at Philadelphia, after listening to the report of Zebulon Huston and John Parrish, and hearing this paper read, were made glad by the assurance that the Spirit of God was at work for good in the hearts of these Indians.

To return to Papoonung. The external affairs of the settlement were under his direction, and he was faithful and vigilant in the performance of his duties.

At length, in the year 1775, sickness came upon him, and it was evident that he could not expect to recover. The Lord, whom he had long served, did not forsake him, but blessed him with the comforting presence of his Holy Spirit. Redeemed in measure from the corruptions of nature, before he had heard the name of Christ, he was prepared to acknowledge that name, and to magnify the mercy which brought the Lord Jesus to suffer for us on Mount Calvary, as soon as the precious doctrines of the New Testament were opened to his view. He passed through new exercises, he was made to experience renewed humiliations, and a faith in his Almighty Savior, unshaken and increasing, he manifested out of a good conversation by his works. Jesus was his dependence in life, and his comfort and consolation in death. Loskiel thus terminates a short account of him: “During the latter period of his life he was remarkably cheerful, and in his last illness never wished to recover, but longed to depart and see Jesus his Lord and God, face to face. In this blessed hope he fell happily asleep, and his end was edifying to all present.”

THE Friend

“Relics of the Past No. 45 – Life of John Papoonung” from The Friend: A Religious and Literary Journal Printed by Joseph & William Kite Vol. XVIII No.12 Dec. 14, 1844 Philadelphia. Biography is based on original documents from 1744-1758