Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Enoch Brown Massacre

Memorial for Enoch Brown and his pupils
Sadly in the modern world violence has become such a part of our lives that we tend to be insensitive to the horrific acts that permeate the news outlets. While some are quickly forgotten, others remain fresh in our minds, especially when it comes to major acts of senseless violence that haunt our schools. I know in my own mind I can tell you where I was at when I heard about the shooting at the Columbine High School in Colorado and at the Amish School at Nickel Mines here in Pennsylvania.

The history of school violence predates these modern shootings by two hundred plus years. The first act of school violence in the Americas occurs in 1764, within the borders of Pennsylvania.

ocated northwest of Greencastle, the Enoch Brown Memorial Park is a lasting memorial to the act of violence that affected the Pennsylvania frontier. Enjoying the drive among the rolling hills of Franklin County, I found my way to the park. Turning down the narrow, pine tree-lined dirt road, an eerie feeling seemed to fill the air as I drove slowly toward my destination. I could see the memorial at the end of the tunnel of trees, which caused me to shiver at the tragedy that happened here so long ago.

Passing the pavilion and playground area, I found a place to park near the large memorial. Despite having read about the massacre, actually seeing the location first-hand sent goosebumps up my arms as I read the words carved into the large memorial that was erected at the spot where the old schoolhouse once stood. As I stood before the memorial, the stillness of the countryside seemed to grow even quieter – all of nature seemed to grow silent as I paid my respects to those who died here so long ago.

One side of the memorial
For Enoch Brown and his pupils
I first encountered the senseless deaths of the teacher Enoch Brown and his pupils in Sipe's Indian Wars of Pennsylvania. Sipe records the summer of 1764 as a very violent and bloody year on the Pennsylvania frontier.

The Seven Years' War (known in America as the French and Indian War) had ended only the year before with the Treaty of Paris (1763). Though European countries had found a temporary state of peace, the war that had scarred the landscape and damaged the lives of those living on the American frontier raged on. Due to the constant attacks and threats of warfare on the advancing settlements, the state of Pennsylvania offered a reward for any Indian scalp, male or female, taken from one who was over the age of ten.

Life on the frontier would become even bloodier. With the promise of a monetary reward, settlers killed Indians at first sight and Indians retaliated by raiding the settlements even more than they had in the past. Tensions were high and both sides were spoiling for a fight. The result was known as Pontiac's War.

Starting at the end of the French and Indian War in 1763, Pontiac's War lasted until 1766. In the conflict, members of the Iroquois Nations joined together to fight the British in North America. People tend to think of the conflict as the British colonists versus the Indians, but it was not that clear cut  as many Indians did not want to go to war and instead sought peace among the settlers. But the warring factions brought a reign of terror on the western frontier that swept all Indians – whether friendly or not – into a continual cycle of violence.

But the Indians were not the only ones responsible for terrible and horrific crimes on the Pennsylvania frontier. On December 14, 1763, a group of men known as the Paxton Boys raided a peaceful Indian settlement at Conestoga, killing six of them. The remaining fourteen Conestogas were arrested for their safety and placed in the jail at Lancaster. On December 27, the Paxton Boys attacked again, breaking into the Lancaster jail and slaughtered the Conestogas being held there.

The spring of 1764 saw a number of raids into present-day Cumberland and Franklin Counties. Settlers knew that danger seemed to be behind every hill, bush and tree. But nothing would prepare the settlers of the terrible event that would occur in the summer of that year.

On July 26, 1764 one of the most horrific massacres of Pontiac's War occurred. Located roughly three miles northwest of present-day Greencastle was a small schoolhouse run by Enoch Brown. Very little has been recorded about the life of Enoch Brown. However what little has been written describes him as a kindhearted school master who showed good Christian values.

The mass grave holding the remains of
Enoch Brown and ten of his pupils
Nothing seemed out of the ordinary that morning as eleven students arrived at the schoolhouse for their lessons. The students included two girls and nine boys – Archie McCullough, Ruth Hale, Ruth Hart, Eben Taylor, George Dustan, two boys of the Dean family, plus four others whose names have unfortunately been forgotten over the years.

According to local legend, a number of students skipped class for one reason or another that morning, sparing their lives. If legend is true, then at least six children (if not more) had strange reasons they were not in class – ranging from stopping to watch people cut hay to one girl who had a strange feeling of dread. One of the students who supposedly skipped school that day was a young James Poe, who would later become a noted Indian fighter on the Pennsylvania frontier.

While teaching the students that morning, the classroom was disrupted by three Indians who barged into the schoolhouse. The trio, consisting of two elderly men and a young warrior, burst through the door bringing the day's lesson to an end. Enoch obviously knew what was about to happen and in an attempt to save the lives of the children, he stepped forwarded and offered himself as a sacrifice. Enoch Brown was struck down, beaten and scalped in front of his horrified students.

The taking of Enoch's life did nothing to appease the raiders. They attacked the children next. One by one the children fell and were scalped.

The horrific scene was discovered a couple hours later by a passerby who was curious why the schoolhouse seemed so quiet. Looking inside the building, the terrible atrocity was discovered – Enoch Brown lay butchered in the center of the room, still holding onto the Bible he taught from. Around him were ten of the eleven students who attended class that day. The room was a bloody mess and the mangled bodies were lying in a large pool of blood.

Upon discovering this dreadful sight, the passerby ran to spread word. Soon families and neighbors arrived to claim their dead. A search of the area would discover the missing child, who had survived the massacre. Archie McCullough, was discovered washing his bloody, scalped head at the nearby spring that provided water for the schoolhouse.

Archie would later tell of how Enoch Brown offered his life for the safety of the children and how the Indians attacked the defenseless children. The raiding Indians struck Archie on the head and brutally ripped a portion of his scalp away. Once the Indians left the building Archie managed to hide himself behind the fireplace in case they would come back in and found him still alive. Only after he was convinced they were gone, he crawled from the schoolhouse to the nearby spring where searchers discovered him. Archie would never mentally be the same again.

Marker at the grave site
The families of the victims would have a large box constructed and Enoch and the ten children would be buried in a mass grave near the schoolhouse.

Leaving the larger marker, I crossed the recently cut grass to the grave site which was a short distance away. I stood there taking in the events of that terrible day, unable to take in the fear that the children and their teacher must have known as the hollow seemed to grow even quieter – it was as if nature was remembering the deaths of the innocents.

A deeper sadness permeated the air as I realized that, almost a hundred years after the horrible event, it had been mostly forgotten about by locals.

Yes, most residents have completely forgotten, or have never learned, about the terrible events of that day. There they would lie, almost completely forgotten about by most. Many thought that the story of the massacre was merely a legend, because no identifiable grave could be located near the old schoolhouse. It would not be until the mid-1840s when the common grave was discovered by a group of men who marked the grave with four locust trees.

In the spring of 1883, the four locust trees were cut down and, fearing that the grave would be lost, a group of local men offered to purchase the land. On August 4, 1885, a marker was erected in honor of the victims of the massacre. At the mass grave, a tombstone was placed for the ten victims resting there. The memorial was placed a short distance from the common grave which is at the location of the old schoolhouse.

Memorial at Archie's Spring
After paying my respects to those buried there, I glanced down the Bell Trail and could see another marker. Walking down the hill, I discovered another marker that covered a spring, known now as Archie's Spring. This was the spot where they located the scalped survivor as he attempted to wash the blood from his head.

As I stood there in silence, the only thing I could hear was the sound of water running. The feeling of sadness that lingered in the air finally took its toll on me as a tear rolled down my check. I wiped it quickly away as I remembered the senseless violence that happened that terrible day. I recomposed myself and rather than continuing down the trail, I returned to the grave site to say one more word of remembrance before leaving the memories of the past lingering in the hollow behind me

Though it is a park, complete with a pavilion and and playground, please be respectful if you choose to visit, especially the area of the grave.

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