Sunday, April 2, 2017

Along the Way: Wechquetank

Wechquetank Mission Memorial
Mill Pond Road, Gilbert
Note the correction of the word "historical"
Just south of Gilbert, along Mill Pond Road, is a monument that most people are not aware of. It was on my third trip to the area that I discovered the monument, thanks to a friend’s directions. Had it not been for it being brought to my attention, I would never have ventured off Route 209 and onto the narrow back road, to visit the monument for the Wechquetank Mission.

On the north side of Mill Pond Road stands a shaft of granite, standing eight feet tall, four feet wide and two feet thick. The wording on the monument is vague and leaves the viewer questioning the exact importance of this spot.

The Site of
WECHQUETANK,
A Moravian
Indian Mission Station,
1760-1763.
Erected by the
Moravian Historical Society,
A.D. 1907

The mission was founded by the Moravian Church as a means of converting the Native Americans to Christianity. Founded by the followers of Jan Hus (John Huss) in 1457, the Moravians became the first large scale Protestant missionary movement. Hus would not survive to see his teachings take root and grow; Hus would be tried for heresy against the Roman Catholic Church and was burned at the stake in 1415.

In North America, the Moravians were known for setting up missions and preaching to the natives to bring to them the news of Christianity. Wechquetank was one of these missions.

Set up in 1760, the mission came into existence four years after Fort Norris was erected just west of here. (More about Fort Norris can be found here: Fort Norris) The Wechquetank Mission was founded by Gottlieb Senseman in April of 1760. Its name was derived from the Indian word "Wekquitank," a species of willow that was common along Pohopoco Creek. Pohopoco is another native word for the same type of willow. Just a quick note: Pohopoco Creek is also referred to as Hoeth’s Creek, Head Creek, Heads Creek and Big Creek in various histories.

Wechquetank Mission Memorial
The mission housed thirty Indians who had accompanied Senseman from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Once the mission was established, Bernard A. Grube was placed in charge of it and under his guidance the mission flourished and grew during its three years of existence. While stationed here, Grube translated the Four Gospels into the Delaware language. 

With the onset of Pontiac's War in 1763, the mission floundered. The rise in hostilities created a deadly threat to the peaceful Indians living here. These converts faced death at the hands of both the white settlers and the raiding Indians.

In August 1763, these fears became real. A group of four Indians (Zacharias, his wife and child, and another convert known as Zippora) were traveling towards a village on the Susquehanna when they sought refuge in a barn under the guard of Captain Wetterhold. While they were sleeping, the soldiers, who were drunk at the time, shot and killed the group. White settlers feared retaliation from Zacharias’ four brothers for the senseless murder and Indians at the mission feared more violence against them.

On October 8, 1763, a group of hostile Indians raided the John Stinton farm near Bethlehem. Stinton and several soldiers were killed during the attack. It was in this skirmish Captain Wetterhold was severely wounded and died later that day from his injuries. The result of this raid was the immediate abandonment of the Wechquetank Mission. Fearing for their lives, those living at the mission fled to Nazareth seeking shelter and protection. These converts would eventually be moved to Philadelphia for their safety.

On November 6, the mission was officially abandoned and the peaceful Indians who remained were ordered from Wechquetank. Sometime around the 11th of November the mission was burned to the ground.

The monument was placed in 1907 by the Moravian Historical Society. The iron enclosed memorial is currently surrounded by rolling hills of a small farm. When visiting the site, I found very little parking. Thankfully, the day I visited, there was very little traffic on the back road where the monument is located.

To visit the monument, turn south from the red light in Gilbert onto State Route 3005 (also known as Gilbert Road). This is the same road, that if you go north on it, will take you to the Kresge Family Monument. Information about it can be found here: Kresge Monument. Travel approximately one mile, turn right onto Mill Pond Road (this will be the first intersection). The monument is a short distance along this road on the right.

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