Gnadenhutten Remembrance Day observed in the village

Gnadenhutten Remembrance Day observed in the village
Kyle Valentini

County Commissioners Chis Abbuhl, left, and Joe Sciarretti attended the Remembrance Day in Gnadenhutten, which commemorated the 237th anniversary of the massacre that took the lives of 96 Christian Delaware Native Americans.


Residents and visitors to the region gathered around the mass burial mound at Gnadenhutten on the morning of Friday, March 8 to recall the 96 lives lost on March 8 and 9, 1782, when a group of Pennsylvania militiamen under the command of Capt. David Williamson attacked the Moravian Church mission founded by David Zeisberger.

Gnadenhutten Mayor John Heil welcomed visitors to the memorial park. “I know it’s a bit cold, but it is important that we gather here,” Heil said. “I want to thank everyone for taking the time to be here this morning.”

Gerald Heath, a descendant of those murdered at Gnadenhutten and the grandson of the man who erected the 35-foot memorial years after the massacre, spoke at a ceremony to commemorate the 237th anniversary of the massacre. “We know this is a site of mourning,” Heath said. “But it is a site for celebration as well.”

Heath went on to explain the significance of recognizing the massacre and honoring the Christian people who died on the site during the American Revolutionary War.

A large cedar cross made by the Woodworkers of Central Ohio recently installed at the park was dedicated.

Actors Joe Bonamico and Kami Stanley presented two short scenes from “Trumpet in the Land,” the outdoor drama that tells the story of the Gnadenhutten massacre, written by Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Paul Green.

Therese and Larry Johnson of Moraviantown in Ontario, Canada attended the ceremony with their great-grandchildren. “It is hard to imagine what it must have been like for my ancestors, whose bones are here in this grave,” Therese Johnson said. “To think of them now, trying to escape on the river, is difficult.”

History says when militiamen arrived at Gnadenhutten, they accused the peaceful Native Americans of an attack on Pennsylvania settlements. Soldiers forced the men and women into separate buildings in the village, where they would stay overnight and be executed the following morning.

The Christian Delawares spent the night praying and singing hymns. The next morning the soldiers took the Christian Delawares in pairs to a cabin and bludgeoned them one after another. In all Williamson’s men murdered 28 men, 29 women and 39 children.

Two teen survivors informed the Moravian missionaries and other Christian Native Americans of the horror that unfolded on that March morning.

While the militia attacked the Native Americans mistakenly in retaliation for the deaths and kidnappings of several white Pennsylvanians, the Christian Delawares had only recently returned from their new outpost at Upper Sandusky to forage for crops and were in no way responsible for the Pennsylvania attack.

In addition to the cross, further improvement at the memorial park will include the enlargement of the area around the burial mound and the addition of wrought iron fencing to two different areas. Improvements also are planned for walkways and parking.

Donations can be sent to The Gnadenhutten Historical Society c/o John Heil, 156 Spring St., Gnadenhutten, OH 44629. For more information call Heil at 330-691-1474.

Loading next article...

End of content

No more pages to load