Philadelphia Reflections

The musings of a physician who has served the community for over six decades

Related Topics

Philadelphia, A Running Commentary
A series of observations in and around Philadelphia by notables over the last three and one-half centuries.

Bystanders to the Revolution
It wasn't heroic to everyone.

Revolutionary Philadelphia's Loyalists
History is written by the victors, so the Tory Loyalists of Revolutionary Philadelphia have mostly fallen from view.

Favorite Reflections
In no particular order, here are the author's own favorites.

Montgomery and Bucks Counties
The Philadelphia metropolitan region has five Pennsylvania counties, four New Jersey counties, one northern county in the state of Delaware. Here are the four Pennsylvania suburban ones.

Pacifist Pennsylvania, Invaded Many Times
Pennsylvania was founded as a pacifist utopia, and currently regards itself as protected by vast oceans. But Pennsylvania has been seriously invaded at least six times.

Military Philadelphia

The Pennamite Wars
The Connecticut farmers believed the King's last word overturned all earlier ones, else why be a king? William Penn's revolutionary idea was that of private property -- the first sale created a new owner, whose new word erased any earlier ones. When you acquire a new continent from aborigines, that's a congenial viewpoint.

The Wyoming Massacre of July 3, 1778

The Wyoming Massacre

The six nations of Iroquois dominated Northeastern America by the same means the Incas dominated Peru -- commanding the headwaters of several rivers, the Hudson, the Delaware, and the Susquehanna, as well as the long finger lakes of New York, leading like rivers toward Lakes Ontario and Erie. They were thus able to strike quickly by canoe over a large territory. Iroquois were quite loyal to the British because of the efforts of Sir William Johnson, who settled among them and helped them advance to quite a sophisticated civilization. It even seems likely that another fifty years of peace would have brought them to an approximately western level of culture. Aside from Johnson, who was treated as almost a God, their leader was a Dartmouth graduate named Brant.

Brant, The Noble Savage

The mixed nature of the Iroquois is illustrated by the fact, on the one hand, that Sachem Brant translated the Bible into Mohawk and traveled in England raising money for his church. On the other hand, his biographers trouble to praise him for never killing women and children with his own hands. British loyalty to these fierce but promising pupils was one of the main reasons for the 1768 proclamation forbidding colonist settlement to the West of what we now call the Appalachian Trail, which on the other hand was itself one of the main grievances of the rebellious land-speculating colonists. The Indians, for their part, saw the proclamation line as their last hope for survival. After Burgoyne's defeat at Saratoga, the Indian allies were free to, and probably urged to, attack Wyoming Valley.

It is now politically incorrect to dwell on Indian massacres, but this one was both exceptionally savage, and very close to home. The Iroquois set about systematically exterminating the rather large Connecticut sub-colony and came pretty close to doing so. Children were thrown into bonfires, women were systematically scalped and butchered. The common soldiers who survived were forced to lie on a flat rock while Queen Esther, "a squaw of political prominence, passed around the circle singing a war-song and dashing out their brains." That was for common soldiers. The officers were singled out and shot in the thigh bone so they would be available to be tortured to death after the battle. The Wyoming Massacre was a hideous event, by any standard, and it went on for days afterward, as fugitives were hunted down and outlying settlements burned to the ground.

It's pretty hard to defend a massacre of this degree of savagery, but the Indians did have a point. They quite rightly saw that white settler penetration of the Proclamation Line would inevitably lead to more penetration, and eventually to the total loss of their homeland. The defeat of a whole British Army under Burgoyne showed them that they were all alone. It was do or die, now or never. Countless other civilizations have been extinguished by provoking a remorseless revenge in preference to a meek surrender.

Originally published: Tuesday, June 20, 2006; most-recently modified: Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Hello ! I would like to know where you got the information for this article. I want to read the complete collection of research papers for myself. Is it is a diary(s) or a newspaper account? I am a direct descendant of John Gardner Sr., (he was my 5th Great grandfather), who was murdered by Indian squaws in Painted Post, NY. I would like a list of every single one of the settlers who were murdered in the massacre and Queen Ester's involvement in the later murders. Thank you Lorraine (Hopfer) Brelsford
Posted by: Lorraine (Hopfer) Brelsford   |   May 31, 2017 10:38 PM
Thank you for filling in more details. I am a descendant of Oliver Pettibone, a boy who escaped during the fighting, and am particularly interested in learning more about that family. Hopefully there will be some cousins who will reach out to me. Thank you. Rosemary
Posted by: Rosemary Rosenthal   |   Mar 27, 2017 2:53 AM
Do any of you have information about an Indian raid that impacted a group of PA folks heading out to settle in what is now the Midwest? My great-great-great-grandmother, Priscilla Lindeman/Lendemann is said to have survived an ambush in which her biological parents were either killed or taken. Priscilla was born in 1812 in PA, married later on to an Irish immigrant, James McDermott, around 1830. It is said this attack happened when she was just a little child and she was then raised/adopted by a family that escaped being killed in the ambush. We have no details about where/when exactly this attack purportedly took place. Any help out there? (It may even be that Lindeman/Lendemann was the name of her adoptive parents. We descendant geneologists keep coming up empty-handed when we try to trace Priscilla's origins. any input or referrals would be tremendously appreciated!! thank you.
Posted by: B.B.   |   Jul 8, 2014 3:36 AM
My 6th GGrandfather was John William Woodring.
Posted by: Paul K. Ingram   |   Feb 15, 2014 3:28 PM
I forgot to post my email on my previous entry. It is: Peace, Mike
Posted by: Mike Simmons   |   Oct 23, 2013 9:01 PM
I'm a descendant of Lt Asa Stevens who died at Wyoming - I'm interested in any information regarding him.
Posted by: michael bielby   |   Oct 22, 2013 9:56 PM
Interesting reading but I think it may be debatable as to the extent the Iroquois tribes were matriarchal. While it is true their women chiefs had a lot of power such as they got to choose the pressing issues concerning the tribes to hand over to the male chiefs to be discussed and decided on.And they also had the power to remove the male chiefs for corruption and ethics violation. Once the male chiefs received the issues to be decided on the women chiefs could not interfere with their deliberations and when the men reached a decision it was final and could not be undone by the women chiefs. I would argue based on these important exceptions the Iroquois confederacy was ultimately patriarchal.
Posted by: jerry   |   Oct 4, 2013 4:22 PM
My 5th Great Grandfather Paul Stark survived the event. I am also a descendent of the Hopkins family that was there. I also suspect that my Utley and perhaps my McCreary ancestors were there. If anyone has any info. please contact me if you wish. Peace, Mike Simmons
Posted by: Mike Simmons   |   Oct 1, 2013 11:40 AM
My 4th greatgrandfather, Isaac Tripp was killed during this wyoming Massacre.
Posted by: Jan   |   Dec 10, 2012 12:57 PM
Richard Inman (1751-1831) was my 4th great-grandfather. He saved the life of Rufus Bennett, 3 Jul 1778, in the Wyoming Valley Massacre. Two of his brothers, Elijah and Israel, were killed in the battle.
Posted by: Bettyg   |   Nov 17, 2012 4:28 PM
I am a decendent of Thomas Kennedy - one of 3 brothers living in the area. I would like more info.
Posted by: Carole Murphy   |   Jun 3, 2012 6:52 PM
I had two ancestors in Butler's Rangers. Most rangers and many of the First Nations warriors had already seen their farms torched and often their women and children imprisoned or killed by 'patriots'. The historical fact is that the inexperienced fleeing militia were killed. Few who surrendered died and women and children were usually spared by order of both Brant and Butler. The American Revolution in the 'Back Country' was basically a guerilla war with -at times not at all times no rules at all.
Posted by: Mary Jane Miller   |   May 3, 2012 11:49 AM
The Inmans were my relatives WoW what a story. Two died and 1 hide after a few too many but did save a life of a man being chased by a Indian.
Posted by: Jeffery MacBeth   |   Feb 24, 2012 5:58 PM
RIP John Wigton, American Patriot.
Posted by: Clan Wigton   |   Jan 9, 2012 5:00 AM
# of my ancestors were killed thee Silas, Asa, and George Gore. All brothers. @ other brothers Daniel and Samuel escaped.
Posted by: andy lucas   |   May 21, 2011 6:23 AM
One of my ancestors, Hanna Mott, was an Iroquios Indian. She was orphaned during this Massacre and was raised by the "white people". She also took the name of the white woman who adopted her. I just found this out tonight.
Posted by: A.Prebb.   |   May 20, 2011 3:36 AM
My ancestor, Elisha Blackman, Jr. was in this battle. He escaped in the river and hid out until it was safe to make it to Forty Fort. He lived to be 85 years old and was the last remaining survivor of this massacre.
Posted by: ALH   |   Jan 26, 2011 3:57 PM
One of my ancestors was kidnapped by Queen Ester she raised him till he was 21 and sent him back. She took him because she was getting even for the death of her 2 sons. My family's last name was Carey. Does anyone know of this story and where i can find more info.?
Posted by: Beth Benner   |   Sep 2, 2010 1:51 AM
My ancestors- The John and Samuel Kennedy families were at the massacre.
The women and some of the children hid in the fields and escaped while John Kennedy was away at another fort defending it. Many Kenndy relatives were killed in the Battle.
Posted by: Beth Snyder   |   Jun 26, 2010 7:37 PM
good job this helped me on my report
Posted by: jadyn   |   May 19, 2010 3:07 PM
my great great great great grandmother was in it. she hid in a well
Posted by: [none]   |   Mar 4, 2010 8:37 PM
not good information, a little confusing, but has excellent pictures
Posted by: name   |   Jan 4, 2010 1:12 PM
I live in the Wyoming Valley and I have studied the Wyoming Massacre. There are no actual accounts of women or chidlren being tourtured or scalped. There were only 12 or 13 soldiers who were killed by Queen Esther. She was more than "a squaw of political prominance." The Iroquois nation was a matriarchal society. So she was a true Queen. Most of the officer were killed outright in the battle and those who were not killed then usually escaped. The Indians took 227 scalps out of approximately 350 men who went out to battle. The Indians were accompanied by 500 Loyalists under the command of Colonel John Butler of Butler's Rangers.
Posted by: Jeffrey Smith   |   Nov 13, 2009 2:32 PM
2 much killings in williberry
Posted by: dude   |   Apr 23, 2009 10:18 AM
Has lots of information!
Posted by: anomimis   |   Oct 12, 2008 1:16 PM

If only we had learned, kept, defended the nobler aspects of our hardwon heritage of life and liberty.

**** "The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose, and that is the path of surrender, or submission." - John Fitzgerald Kennedy ****

"At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it? -- Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant to step the Ocean and crush us at a blow? Never! -- All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Bonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years. -- At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide." - Abraham Lincoln, 1838
Posted by: psa   |   Mar 20, 2008 11:53 AM