Monday, July 11, 2016

Regina's Song

Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church
Music has a very important place in our everyday life. We all have favorite songs that we enjoy playing over and over again – songs that we crank up loud and sing at the top of our lungs. We all have those songs that hold a special place in our hearts as they bring back memories when we hear them played. A song can send me back to events that happened years and years ago or take me once again to the place I was when I first heard it. Without a doubt music has been a very important part of my life growing up.

It was a song that brought me to Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church on the western edge of Stouchsburg.

Alone, yet not alone am I,
Though in this solitude so drear;
I feel my Saviour always nigh,
He comes the very hour to cheer;
I am with Him, and He with me,
E'en here alone I cannot be

There are a handful of different versions of the lyrics for the hymn Regina's mother supposedly sang. Though they are all very similar, the lyrics of "Allein, und doch nicht ganz allein" that I used come from Sipe's The Indian Wars of Pennsylvania.

The beautiful old church sits on the southern side of Route 422, overlooking the rolling hills of southeastern Pennsylvania. I had passed the historic church a number of times when visiting friends who lived nearby and I had thought about stopping yet never took the time to explore the church and cemetery.

As I approached the church, I could not help but be in awe of the magnificent structure which was erected between the years 1785 and 1786. The church and cemetery are often referred to as Long’s Church and Cemetery, named after Reverend A. Johnson Long who was the pastor here from 1874 until his death in 1908.

My attention shifted from the church to the old cemetery opposite the church – while not impossible, it was going to be a challenge to find one particular stone among the older weathered stones. The beautiful old cemetery shows great care for its age and I could not wait to explore the grounds.

I crossed the parking lot to the stone wall that surrounds the cemetery in order to get a better look at this historic cemetery. A "newer" stone immediately caught my attention; only a few feet away from where I stood, was the memorial I was seeking.

It was the memorial marker for Regina, the Indian captive.

Memorial for Regina Leininger
Long's Cemetery, Stouchburg
The story of Regina is an interesting one that has been interwoven with fact and lore, yet remains an interesting story in the annals of Pennsylvania's history. Sadly, more people know her story through the legend, and not through the actual events of her life.

Regina's story appears in history in the Report of the Commission to Locate the Site of Frontier Forts of Pennsylvania. It is this publication that drew interest in Regina's story and has made it a part of Pennsylvania's legends and lore. According to the report, Regina's story comes from Rev. Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, the son-in-law of Conrad Weiser, who was told the story by the widow of John Hartman.

The legend of Regina starts on October 16, 1755 when she was taken prisoner by raiding Indians in Lebanon County. The Indians killed Regina's father and brother and took her and her sister, Barbara, captive. According to legend, she was two years old at the time and for the next seventeen years was raised among the Indians.

At the end of Pontiac's War, Regina was among the captives returned. Her mother looked at the children, but did not recognize her daughter. At the insistence of Colonel Bouquet, Regina's mother was asked to think of something that might help her daughter recall her past. Her mother started singing the hymn she had often shared with Regina when she was a baby. Regina rushed forward and was reunited with her birth mother.

Ever since the report was offered by the Commission, the debate has raged on, "Who exactly was this Regina Hartman?"

In Sipe's The Indian Wars of Pennsylvania (1931), he records the events of Regina's story as told in the Commission's report and then adds facts that identify Regina.

He states that Reverend Muhlenberg in Hallische Nachrichten, records that while the widow of John Hartman of Lebanon County was visiting him she told him the story of Regina. The mistake that early state historians made in reading this was they assumed that Regina was the daughter of the widow Hartman. At no time does Reverend Muhlenberg record this in his writings - the Reverend merely states that the story was told to him by the widow of John Hartman. At no point does Reverend Muhlenberg ever identify the last name of Regina. This may possibly be due to the fact his readers would have known the people in his story and that Regina was not related to the Widow Hartman who shared the story with him.

Looking at the date of the supposed massacre and abduction, the date instantly caught my attention and should have caught the attention of any state historian. I'm really surprised that the members of the Commission did not put it together, but for some reason they didn't. A reign of terror would begin on October 16, 1755 when Delaware Indians attacked the German settlements on Penn’s Creek, near present-day Selinsgrove and New Berlin. Among the captured were Barbara Leininger and her sister Rachel (Regina). More on the massacre and Regina's abduction can be found in the entry The Penn's Creek Massacre

Yet it surprises me that to this day some still debate who Regina was. Though it is obvious to most that Regina is Regina (Rachel) Leininger, I still read where people insist that Regina Hartman actually existed.

Regina's Memorial in Long's Cemetery

As I stood before the marker placed in her honor, I could not help but think of the deep meaning that song had in both the lives of Regina and her mother. I know the music that means so much to me in my life - the songs that cause memories to flood my mind, both good and bad, happy and sad. Some get sung in joy and others get turned off as I try to escape the memory that pops into my mind, but each one has a special place in my life.

The marker was placed by the Berks County Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1958. It remembers Regina, who lies in an unmarked grave in the old cemetery. I found it interesting her memorial recognizes both names she is known by - Regina Leininger in life and Regina Hartman in legend.

After paying my respects to Regina and remembering her story, I carefully made my way around the cemetery. A number of the older graves have a newer stone next to it, placed there by their descendants. Some of the stones are hard to read, but many of them can still easily be read.

As with all cemeteries, if you decide to visit this one, please be respectful and careful. Many of the old stones can still be read, but many are in fragile condition. Regina's stone is right inside the wall by the parking lot and can be easily viewed without entering the grounds.

I also want to add this important piece of information. When this article was previously posted, I had a number of people ask about the descendants of Barbra and Regina. I honestly have not looked into their families beyond the story of Regina being reunited with her mother after her years in captivity.

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