Pennsylvania Indian Tribes: Susquehannock
The Susquehannock Indians resided along the Susquehanna River in Central Pennsylvania. They are thought to have split off from the Iroquois Mohawks around the year 1300.
Around 1500 they migrated from the area between Scranton, Pennsylvania, and Binghamton, New York to what is the modern day Lancaster, Pennsylvania area. It is believed their territory included what is present day Dauphin County, Schuylkill County, Berks County and Northumberland County. In the early 1600's, they waged war against Iroquois tribes.
By the 1700's, the Lenape Indians were driven out of the Delaware River Valley into the Susquehannock region. At the same time, people of European desent were fleeing religious persecution and starting to migrate into the area, too. On Route 501 about four miles north of Bethal, PA there is a historical marker for Pilger's Rue. Pilger's Rue means Pilgrim's rest. "It was the name given to a spring on the Tulpehocken Path by Count Zinzendorf, the Moravian missionary, on his journey to the Indian towns of Shamokin and Wyoming in 1742." Located just south of the Appalachian Trail (which runs along the top of the Blue Mountain) it was a resting location and watering hole for those Christians making the journey toward a new home.
The area north of the Blue Mountain ridge was known as untamed wilderness. The villages established by the European settlers had names like Fearnot and Rough and Ready.
In 1675, the Susquehannock were defeated by other Indian tribes and were relocated to Maryland. They were renamed the Conestoga Indians. Eventually, they returned to the Lancaster area. The remnants of the Susquehannock tribe were massacred by the Paxton Boys.
The Paxton Boys were a group of backcountry Presbyterian Scots-Irish frontiersmen from the area around the central Pennsylvania, near the settlements of Paxton Church, Paxtang, Pennsylvania, the area now defined as Dauphin County, who formed a vigilante group in response to the American Indian uprising known as Pontiac's Rebellion. The Paxton Boys felt that the government of colonial Pennsylvania was negligent in providing them with protection, and so decided to take matters into their own hands.-- Wikipedia
As the nearest belligerent Indians were some 200 miles west of Paxton, the men turned their anger towards the local Conestoga (or Susquehannock) Indians—many of them Christians—who lived peacefully in small enclaves in the midst of white Pennsylvania settlements. (The Paxton Boys believed or claimed to believe that these Indians secretly provided aid and intelligence to the hostile Indians.) On December 14, 1763 a group of more than fifty Paxton Boys marched on an Indian village near Millersville, PA, murdered the six Indians they found there, and burned the bloody cabin in which the killings were done. This was their first attack, but it did not stop there. The men later attempted to kill more Indian tribes. One of the more famous of the failed attempts being the march on Philadelphia. Later, colonists looking through the ashes of the cabin, found a bag containing the Conestoga's 1701 treaty signed by William Penn, which pledged that the colonists and the Indians "shall forever hereafter be as one Head & One Heart, & live in true Friendship & Amity as one People."
The remaining fourteen Susquehannocks were placed in protective custody by Governor John Penn in Lancaster. But on December 27, Paxton Boys broke into the workhouse at Lancaster and brutally killed and mutilated all fourteen. These two actions, which resulted in the deaths of all but two of the last of the Susquehannocks, are sometimes known as the "Conestoga Massacre". The Governor issued bounties for the arrest of the murderers, but no one came forward to identify them.
Outraged that the eastern establishment leaders would, as they saw it, defend Indians but not settlers, in early 1764 the Paxton Boys set their sights on other Indians living peacefully within eastern Pennsylvania, 140 of whom fled to Philadelphia for protection. About two-hundred and fifty Paxton men then marched on Philadelphia in January of 1764, where only the presence of British troops and Philadelphia militia prevented them from doing more violence. Benjamin Franklin, who had raised the local militia, negotiated with the Paxton leaders and brought an end to the immediate crisis. A third of the Indians subsequently died of smallpox contracted in the crowded barracks where they had been provided refuge.
Like the frontier vigilantes of the Regulator movement in North Carolina, the Paxton Boys reveal the tension between the established societies of the Atlantic coast and the more precarious areas of white settlement on the western frontier. One leader of the "Paxton Boys" was Lazarus Stewart who would be killed in the so-called Wyoming Massacre of 1778.
Previous Page: The Lenape