Wednesday, July 27, 2016

German Migration to the American Colonies

When Bob’s and my Hochstetler ancestors arrived in Philadelphia aboard the ship Charming Nancy on November 9, 1738, they were part of a great migration of Germans to the American colonies. During the 18th century, more than 100,000 Germans arrived in this country. Among them were Mennonites, Amish, Swiss Brethren, and Pietists, who were the largest group. The Amish, which included my ancestors, and the Mennonites made up only about 5,000 of the German immigrants. Most of them settled in Pennsylvania, while smaller numbers made their homes in New York, Maryland, Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia. Together they became the largest non-English-speaking community in colonial North America.

German Peasants' Revolt
Why did so many Germans migrate here? During the 16th and 17th centuries, wars ravaged Germany and much of Europe. Armies trampled farmers’ crops, stole livestock, and put homes to the torch. Famine spread across the land and, along with ruinous taxes levied to pay for the wars and religious disputes resulting from the Reformation, made life intolerable. In addition, rulers determined what church their subjects belonged to, with no regard for personal conscience. The British colonies in North America, especially Pennsylvania under the Penns, offered them not only religious freedom and escape from constant wars, but also economic opportunity in the ability to own land, a right denied religious dissidents in Europe.

Conditions in Europe were bad, but the decision to move to America was not an easy one and required staunch determination and deep personal faith. The ocean crossing was often harrowing and could take as long as 2 months. A diary attributed to Hans Jacob Kauffman lists the deaths of many children and adults during his voyage. Below is Gottlieb Mittelberger’s vivid description of the conditions passengers endured during his passage in 1750.

18th Century Ships
“Children from one to seven years rarely survive the voyage; and many a time parents are compelled to see their children miserably suffer and die from hunger, thirst, and sickness, and then to see them cast into the water. I witnessed such misery in no less than thirty-two children in our ship, all of whom were thrown into the sea. The parents grieve all the more since their children find no resting-place in the earth, but are devoured by the monsters of the sea. It is a notable fact that children, who have not yet had the measles or small-pocks [sic], generally get them on board the ship, and most die of them. Often a father is separated by death from his wife and children, or mothers from their little children, or even both parents from their children; and sometimes whole families die in quick succession; so that often many dead persons lie in the berths beside the living ones, especially when contagious diseases have broken out on board the ship.”

Once they arrived, the troubles of the hard-pressed immigrants were not necessarily over. Many were forced to bind themselves as indentured servants until they could pay off the cost of their passage. In most cases this was voluntary, but sometimes individuals were kidnapped, bundled aboard a ship, and sold to the highest bidder as soon as it reached port in America. Either way, they often found their masters difficult or even abusive.

Others, however, moved to the frontier, where they built homes, communities, and churches. My ancestors were among these, settling along Northkill Creek in Berks County, Pennsylvania, along with other members of their Amish church. There they lived peacefully for many years until they again faced a tide of destruction and loss as England went to war with France and her Native allies.

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Deleware's Big House Ceremony

The Northeastern Woodland tribes observed many common festivals and ceremonies such as the maple, planting, and green corn festivals, but many tribes, including the Delaware, had an annual religious ceremony that differed from those of other tribes. The Delaware’s supreme annual religious service was the Big House Ceremony, in which they worshiped and reestablished their moral relationship with their Great Spirit, Manitou.

Big House Ceremony

Delaware Big House Photograph and Sketch from Conner Prairie
The Delaware had a temple, called the Big House, which symbolized the universe and was used exclusively for this annual ceremony. They believed that the universe consisted of 12 houses stacked one upon the other, with Manitou residing in the 12th and highest house. When the people entered the Big House, they visualized themselves as passing through these twelve stacked houses to come before the great deity. Therefore they believed that everyone who entered the Big House and everything used in it had to be pure. No metal objects of any kind were allowed in the Big House, and ritually impure persons, such as menstruating women, were denied entry.

The Magic Moccasins
by Jane Barks Ross
Forty feet long, 14 feet high, and 24 feet wide, the building originally resembled a longhouse in form and construction, with its front facing east and its rear facing west. By the early 1800s it was often built of logs or boards, with gabled ends. The eastern door, facing the direction of the rising sun and moon, represented the beginning of everything. The western door, which faced the setting of the sun and moon, symbolized both the end of everything and the Good White Path, which one travels from birth to death. The building’s hard-tamped floor represented the lesser manitou, Mother Earth, and the underworld; its four walls, the four cardinal directions; and its vault, the sky’s dome, the domain of the Elder Brothers, sun and moon. Two smoke holes were located in the roof, one above each of the two sacred fires.

The great central post supporting the roof’s ridge pole represented Manitou’s staff, on which his hand rested and through which he transmitted power to the Delaware. A carved face hung on its east and west sides. A single smaller carved face also decorated the 6 smaller posts that supported the roof along the building’s north and south sides as well as the posts of the 2 doors. These faces weren’t the object of worship, but simply served as channels for worship. All of them were painted red on the right side and black on the left, with red symbolizing life and black, death.

From The Magic Moccasins by Jane Barks Ross
The leader, or “Bringer-in,” managed every aspect of the ceremony. The 6 ceremonial attendants he appointed—1 man and 1 woman from each of the tribe’s 3 divisions, Wolf, Turkey, and Turtle—camped in tents on the square yard at the eastern end of the Big House, the men on the north and the women on the south side during the 12 days of the ceremony. On the first night the 3 male attendants built two fires of elmwood using the sacred fire drill reserved for that purpose. When the fires were lit the 3 female attendants entered and swept turkey wing fans on both sides of the fires 12 times to banish all dirt and evil influences from the building and to open a road to heaven. Two guards were stationed outside the building.

Big House and Encampment
from The Magic Moccasins by Jane Barks Ross
For the ceremony, all the people, including visitors, camped outside the Big House beyond the attendants’ tents, arranged by gender, tribal division, and sex. During the day the people spent their time in games and other activities, and the women cooked the hominy, corn mush, meat, and berries for the nightly feasts in large kettles as well as food for daily meals. When it came time for the ceremony, adults and children old enough to stay quiet entered the Big House by the eastern door, dressed in their finest clothing. Everyone sat in separate sections according to their tribal division, with the men and women seated separately within their sections. The Bringer-In or leader, the attendants, and the drummers occupied separate places of distinction. Two drummers began the ceremony by beating on a rolled up deer hide on which wooden slats were tied. This was followed by a long prayer of thanksgiving to Manitou.

Dreams and visions are very important among the native peoples, and the first 11 nights of the ceremony were devoted primarily to reciting visions as a form of worship. The Bringer-in began the service by chanting his story while dancing and shaking a turtle shell rattle, accompanied by the singers and drummers. One at a time other mature men took turns reciting their visions and leading the songs and dances. The hard-trodden dancing path that led counterclockwise from the east door down the north side, past the fires to the west door, then doubled back on the south side to its beginning symbolized the Good White Path, down which man winds his way to the western door where all ends. Dancers paused at each carved face to recite verses to them. Between the dances both men and women swept the Good White Path twelve times with turkey wings, recited prayers to the Manitou twelve times, and smoked tobacco. Bowls of food were passed around counterclockwise, with each person taking only one spoonful so everyone could share. The dances continued until no one else wished to take up the rattle and recite their vision.

Misinghalikun, from The Magic
by Jane Barks Ross
On the 4th day, ceremonial hunters went out, and that night the Mask Being, or Misinghalikun, the creator and keeper of game animals, appeared to lead the Mask Spirit Dance. The person impersonating him appeared frightening and imposing wearing a floor-length bearskin coat and a great wooden face painted red on the right side and black on the left and carrying a stick, a turtle-shell rattle, and a bearskin bag. Around the 6th or 7th day the hunters returned, bringing in more meat for the nightly feasts.

On the 9th night the fires were allowed to go out. The ashes were carried out the Big House’s western door, and new fires were kindled with the sacred fire drill. The carved images in the Big House and the face images on the drumsticks received a fresh coat of paint. Then the cheeks and foreheads of the participants were rubbed with red in a sacred rite of consecration.

On the final night of the ceremony, the women danced and recited their visions. In the morning the fires were extinguished, first the eastern fire and then the western fire. The ashes were thrown out the western door, then the participants filed out the eastern door to form a row north and south facing east. Everyone cried out the prayer word “Ho-o-o” in unison six times standing and 6 times kneeling, then the ceremony was concluded and the Big House closed up for another year.

Do you see any similarities in the Delaware’s religious beliefs and worship to Judeo-Christian beliefs and practice? If so, what are they?


Friday, July 8, 2016

Seneca Ceremonies and Festivals

I’ve been doing considerable research on the religious beliefs and practices of the Native American tribes that appear The Return. The Seneca, the westernmost tribe of the Iroquois Confederacy, held our ancestor Jacob Hochstetler captive from the fall of 1757 to May 1758, when he managed to escape. I'm finding their major religious ceremonies and festivals especially interesting. A very well-researched 5th grade textbook titled The Magic Moccasins by Jane Barks Ross (copyright 1985), now out of print, has been especially helpful, along with several online resources I found, which are listed below. The Seneca observed the following six major ceremonial festivals during the year to give thanks to Nauwaneu, the Master of Life.
  • The Maple Festival, in which they gave thanks to the maple trees for yielding their sweet waters, and to the Master of Life for the gift of the maple.
  • The Planting Festival, when they invoke the Master of Life to bless the seeds and cause the rain to fall and the plants to grow.
  • The Strawberry Festival, a thanksgiving for the first fruit of the season.
  • The Green Corn Festival to give thanks for the ripening of the harvest.
  • The Harvest Festival, which is a general thanksgiving to the Master of Life for the abundance of the harvest.
  • The Midwinter or White Dog Ceremony.
The White Dog Ceremony was the Seneca’s most important (and most interesting) festival. It was celebrated at the time of the new moon at the end of January or first of February to inaugurate the beginning of their new year by making a sacrifice for sins. It was believed that this would help the Master of Life bring back the spring and keep his evil brother from obstructing him.

 White Dog sacrifice at Onondaga Castle, January 18, 1872
Ten to 20 young men formed a committee to oversee the preparations and performance of the ceremonial. On the first day, 1 or 2 white dogs or those with the fewest spots—or sometimes a person held captive—were strangled near the door of the council house. (The Iroquois who still celebrate this festival today use a white basket.) They were careful to not make a wound or spill any blood. The dogs’ faces, the edges of their ears, and various parts of their bodies were then painted red, and after they were elegantly decorated with colored ribbons, feathers, and other ornaments, they were hung on posts outside the council house doors.

Dancing in Worship of the Great Spirit
The young committeemen now raced around the town wearing only breechcloths and beating paddles on the houses to drive the occupants out. After they left, the youths went inside, scraped up the ashes of the old fire with their paddles, and threw them into the air, scattering them throughout the house. After kindling new fires with a flint, they fired 2 shots with their guns as they went out.

The next 2 or 3 days found the committeemen dancing and running through the town with bearskins wrapped around their legs, firing their guns and running tortoise-shell rattles across the walls of the houses. Each carried a basket and demanded from the townspeople tobacco and other items to use for incense at the sacrifice. Ceremonial dances were held in which all the townspeople participated.

Iroquois Cornhusk Mask
On the festival’s 4th or 5th day the young men wore fearsome faces of woven corn husks in addition to their bearskins. They ran around the town, smearing dirt on themselves and on anyone who hadn’t given any incense. In this way they drove off the evil spirit and gathered into themselves all the sins of the tribe. On the 8th or 9th day the committeemen took the white dogs down from the poles and by a form of magic worked the sins of the tribe from their bodies into the dogs, which were then placed on a pile of wood. While they were burned, the people threw the gathered incense onto the fire so the scent would rise on the smoke to Nauwaneu and please him.

The chiefs conferred on the affairs of their nation throughout the 9 days of the festival and planned for the future. On the final day everyone feasted on meat, corn, and beans cooked together in large kettles. Then the war dance was performed, followed by the peace dance. After the people smoked the peace pipe, they returned to their homes feeling that they had been cleansed from their sins to start the new year.

Some of these customs may seem outlandish to us today, but they held great meaning to the Seneca as the means of making atonement for their sins. Their religionincluded some beliefs and practices that helped to open the hearts of many of the native peoples to the preaching of the Gospel. In next month’s post I’ll describe the festivals of the Lenape, or Delaware tribe, whose religious beliefs made this tribe especially fertile ground for the ministry of Moravian and other Christian missionaries.

What religious festivals are particularly meaningful to you? Please share how they help you to worship and draw closer to God.


Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Maiden Foot and Mary Means

One of the resources I’ve been using in doing research for The Return is The Indian Wars of Pennsylvania by C. Hale Sipe. It contains a wealth of fascinating information about the Native Americans in Pennsylvania during the colonial and Revolutionary War. The following is an edited version of the moving, true story of a Delaware warrior and a little white girl that Sipe includes in the book, which he quotes from Boucher’s History of Westmoreland County. It touched me deeply, and I hope you find it meaningful too.

"Young Delaware Indian"-- Randy Steele
After the end of the French and Indian War, friendly Delaware Indians often visited Fort Ligonier. In the spring of 1763 a young warrior named Maiden Foot was at the fort when a settler named Means, who lived a short distance away, arrived with his wife and little daughter, Mary. She was just eleven years old, and Maiden Foot took a great liking to her. When it came time for him to leave with his companions, he became sad and thoughtful. Before they parted, he gave the little girl a gift of a sting of beads.

A short time later the great chiefs Pontiac and Guyasuta led an uprising against the British. Alarmed by rumors of attacks in the area while Mr. Means was away, his wife and daughter left their home and headed for the fort. On their way they were captured by two Indians, who took them into the woods, tied them to a tree, and left them. Soon Mrs. Means and Mary heard gunshots from the Indian assault on the fort. After the passage of some time, Maiden Foot unexpectedly appeared. It may be that he had been sent to scalp them, but as soon as he recognized them he cut their bonds and took them by a roundabout route back to their home. Mr. Means had returned and met them there. Maiden Foot urged the family to flee to the mountains and directed them to a ravine where they could hide until the warriors left the area. Before he left them, Maiden Foot took Mary’s handkerchief. Her name was embroidered on the white cloth in black silk thread.

A number of years afterward the Means family moved to the vicinity of Cincinnati, Ohio. Mary’s parents died, and she married an officer named Kearney, who later commanded a company under General Anthony Wayne at the Battle of the Fallen Timbers on August 20, 1794. Afterward, Kearney and some companions found an elderly Indian man sitting on a log on the battlefield. He told them that he had been a warrior all his life and that he had fought at Ligonier, at Bushy Run, on the Wabash against St. Clair, and at the recent battle against Wayne. He had had enough of war, he said, and he desired henceforth to live in peace with all men. Searching in his pouch he took out a white handkerchief. On it was embroidered in black thread the name Mary Means.

Kearney had heard his wife tell the story of Maiden Foot many times, and he took the old Indian home with him. It had been thirty-one years since they parted near Fort Ligonier, but Mary and the Indian immediately recognized each other. Maiden Foot explained that shortly before he met her, he had lost a sister about her age and size, and that by giving her the gift of the string of beads he was in effect adopting her as his sister.

Maiden Foot was taken into the Kearney family and lived with them until his death four years later. He was buried in a graveyard at Cincinnati, and the tablet erected at his grave bore the following inscription: “In memory of Maiden Foot, an Indian Chief of the Eighteenth Century, who died a Civilian and a Christian.”

In reading this story, I was reminded that the love God bestows knows no boundaries of age or race or culture, but endures beyond time. “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Iroquois Longhouse Interior

If you’re like me, you love to “feather your nest” as the old saying goes. Most women and even many men love nesting, and playing around with my home’s d├ęcor is one of my favorite pastimes. So when I began research on the Seneca for The Return, I was especially interested in discovering how Iroquois longhouses were constructed, and not only how the interior spaces were used, but also how they were decorated. After all, native peoples weren’t any different from European settlers in wanting their homes to offer a pleasing appearance in addition to utility and comfort.

Iroquois Longhouse Interior

Longhouse Framework

The pole framework of the longhouse divided its interior into a series of compartments from front to back, with a 10-foot-wide aisle running down its center. The compartment inside the entry at each end of the structure served as common storage for food supplies, firewood, and other items too large to be kept in the individual families’ personal living space. The rest of the compartments provided space for the families that lived there.

Longhouse Interior
Two families lived in each compartment, on opposite sides of the central aisle. They shared a fire pit, which occupied the center of the aisle, so there was a row of fire pits extending from the front to the back of the longhouse, except in the storage areas. To vent the smoke, a hole was made in the roof above each fire pit, with a sheet of bark that could be slid over it in bad weather. When the smoke hole was closed, smoke collected at the high ceiling above the living space for a while, but I’m sure the atmosphere became pretty thick if the vents had to be kept closed for very long! Vents were also sometimes built into the walls to let air and light in, and these also could be closed as needed.

Each family’s living space measured about 6 by 10 feet. Wooden screens and mats or hangings of animal skins separated the families’ personal spaces along each wall and offered a certain amount of privacy. A platform built about a foot above the floor along its exterior wall provided seating, work space, and a bed. Woven rush mats and animal pelts covered the platform and the exterior wall to serve as decoration, padding, and insulation, and pelts and blankets were used as covers. Each family stored personal items like tools and clothing beneath the platform as well as some food and a small store of firewood.

A raised platform of the same size was often hung about five feet above the lower one, and a third might be added above that. These were used to store clothing and other items and for extra sleeping space as needed. Braided ears of corn and sacks of grain, nuts, and other foods were hung from the rafters, and additional household goods were hung on the walls and partitions.

It sounds like a pretty practical and efficient living space to me for wilderness areas, though it’s probably not very comfortable in cold or hot weather. When you consider the community that developed in each longhouse as the clan expanded, you gain a new perspective on the phrase “It takes a village to raise a child.” However, as one reader commented on last month’s post, think of what it would sound like at night with all those men snoring!