Friday, November 4, 2016

Sheaf House eBook Sale!

Time to stock up on great reading—and great gifts—for Christmas! All Sheaf House ebooks are on sale for only $1.99 through November 30 on Kindle and Nook, which means you can get all 5 volumes of my American Patriot Series for only $9.95!

And for more gripping historical fiction, you’ll find Northkill at the same terrific price. Get caught up with the story before Book 2, The Return, releases April 1, 2017! And for a deeply moving Christmas read, don’t miss my modern-day retelling of the Christmas story One Holy Night. Go to Kindle or Nook. CBD will have their price changed early next week, so if you have an account with them, check back in a few days for that link.

Cozy mystery lovers, you’re going to love E. E. Kennedy’s delightful Miss Prentice Cozy Mystery Series! You’ll find all 4 volumes on Kindle and Nook for only $7.96! CBD link to come.

And if you love heart-warming contemporary women’s fiction, check out Jen Stephens’ Harvest Bay Series! Only $5.97 for all three: The Heart’s Journey Home, The Heart’s Lullaby, and The Heart’s Hostage. The characters will capture your heart! Kindle and Nook. We’ll also have the CBD link for this series soon.

Happy reading!

Friday, October 14, 2016

Moravian Missionaries: Christian Frederick Post

In my previous post I covered the beginnings of the Moravian Church in Europe, the Moravians’ beliefs, and their missions outreach. Today we’ll take a look at one of the most notable of the intrepid Moravian missionaries who ventured from Europe to other countries to spread the gospel: Christian Frederick Post.

Post was born in Prussia in 1710. Little is known of him until 1742 when he came to Pennsylvania with the Moravian migration that established Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. He initially worked to form a church federation among Christians of German heritage in that area, but his ability to learn native languages made him more suited to organizing native groups.
Moravian Chapel at Bethlehem

Between 1743 and 1749 Post ministered to the Moravian Indians living in the Hudson Valley in New York State and in western Connecticut. He earned the respect and trust of his Indian neighbors by learning their language and customs and by twice marrying native converts: Rachel, a Wampanoag, whom he married in 1743 and who died around 1745; and Agnes, a Lenape woman he was married to from 1747 until she died in 1751. Post had four children with his wives, but all died as infants. Suspicion and threats by local colonists against Post and his converts led to his being jailed in New York, then expelled from both New York and Connecticut. He returned to Europe in 1751. From there he was sent to Labrador for a time but eventually returned to Pennsylvania and his ministry among the Indians.

Post emerged as a significant figure in 1758 during the French and Indian War, when Governor William Denny enlisted him as his emissary to the Delaware, or Lenape, Indians living along the western frontier. Along with Pisquetomen, a Lenape headman of considerable influence, Post played a central role in peace negotiations between the English and the tribes allied with the French. The two men journeyed across Pennsylvania in spite of great danger from both colonial and native enemies to carry news of the 1758 Easton Treaty with the eastern tribes to the Indians living along the Allegheny and Ohio rivers.

The western tribes gladly accepted Governor Denny’s offer to restore peace if they agreed to remain neutral while British General John Forbes attacked Fort DuQuesne. However, the Indian leaders emphasized that the English must withdraw from the Ohio Territory after defeating the French. If they did not stay east of the Allegheny Mountains, the Lenape sachem Tamaque warned, his people would again take up the war hatchet. A short time later, the government’s agents who were with Post insisted that the Indians had changed their minds and would welcome the establishment of forts in Ohio Territory. Post met with the Indian leaders, confirmed that they had not changed their minds about the presence of the English in their lands, and insisted on giving that message to the governor.

Detail from Penn's Treaty with the Indians
by Benjamin West
Late in 1761 Post traveled to the native settlements in Ohio’s Muskingum River Valley and built a cabin there before returning to Bethlehem for the winter. The next spring he returned to continue his ministry, accompanied by a young Moravian assistant, John Heckewelder. Again the governor of Pennsylvania enlisted him as a messenger, this time to summon Tamaque and other Indian leaders to a treaty at Lancaster. After the August treaty, during which he served as one of the interpreters, Post went back to the Muskingum to resume his missionary work. But that fall the Indians’ hostility against the Whites rose to the point that Heckewelder hurriedly left. Post was finally forced to flee for his life at the end of the year as events rapidly moved toward another war, this time under the leadership of an Ottawa chief named Pontiac and a Mingo chief named Guyasuta.

Post was motivated by faith, not politics, and these experiences convinced him that God’s work and politics don’t mix. He finally asked the governor not to employ him as an emissary if the promises given to the Indians weren’t going to be fulfilled. He came to the conclusion “that a man whose Caracter it is to bring Words of Goddely and immutable Truth to the Nations, ought to be somewhat more cautious than others in carrying to the same People worldly messages, as these latter are often subject to unforeseen Disappointments” and that “the Lyes of our Messengers will always expose us [missionaries] to Danger from the Indians.” (Quotes from “C. F. Post and the Winning of the West” by Walter T. Champion, Jr.)

Post married Mary Margaret Stadelman Bolinger in January 1763, and seeing that his efforts to maintain peace and convert the Indians had failed, set off for the Carolinas later in the year to preach among the Cherokee. In 1764 he sailed to South America to establish a mission among the Indians of the Mosquito Coast. But when he returned to Pennsylvania in 1767 seeking additional funding from the Moravians, he was told that his services were no longer needed. He promptly enlisted as a missionary with the Anglican Church and returned to Nicaragua, where h labored in the jungles into his seventies.

Post finally returned to Pennsylvania in 1784. He settled in Germantown near Philadelphia, where he died the following year, survived by his wife. Charles Thomason, a Quaker who was a contemporary of Post’s remembered him as “a plain, honest, religiously disposed man.” One of his fellow missionaries aptly described him as a “man of undaunted courage and enterprising spirit.” David Zeisberger and John Heckewelder are two of the spiritual heirs of Post’s missionary work among the Lenape. I’ll take a look at their lives and ministries in my next posts.

Christian Frederick Post shows up in The Return as he passes through Sauconk in 1758 on the way to a dangerous meeting with hostile Indians tribes to try to persuade them to abandon the French while in the very shadow of Fort DuQuesne’s guns. He appears again in 1762 at Tamaque’s settlement along the Muskingum with his young assistant John Heckewelder when he resumes his mission there and summons the Indian leaders to a treaty at Lancaster.

Post truly was a bold and faithful servant of Jesus Christ. In what ways does his example inspire you to live a bolder and more faithful life as a disciple?

My next post will take a look at another well-known Moravian missionary, David Zeisberger.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Moravian Missions to Native Americans

In doing research on the French and Indian War, I recently ran across a man named Christian Frederick Post, a Moravian missionary who was highly instrumental in negotiating peace between the English and the Native American tribes allied with the French. I knew only a little about the Moravians, and this piqued my interest. In digging further I discovered how extensive the Moravians’ missionary efforts were among the Indians—and how successful. Today we’re going to delve into the history of this denomination and their missions outreach to the Indians.

The Beginnings of the Moravian Church

Jan Huss
The name of the Moravian Church comes from a country currently a part of the Czech Republic, which was then known as Moravia. In the mid ninth century large numbers of people in Moravia and adjacent Bohemia converted to Christianity. When the Roman Catholic Church brought the church in this region under their jurisdiction, many of the members objected and a reformation eventually movement arose. In 1415 Jan Hus, the foremost of the reformers, was convicted of heresy and burned at the stake. The Moravian Church, officially known as the Unitas Fratrum (Unity of Brethren), was established as a result of Hus’s death, 60 years before Martin Luther began what we know as the Protestant Reformation. By 1517 the Moravian Church included at least 200,000 members. It printed its own hymnal and catechism, as well as a Bible for the people of Bohemia and Moravia in their own language.

 The church spread into Poland as the result of persecution and continued to grow rapidly. In 1722 a pietist nobleman, Count Nicholas von Zinzendorf, offered refuge to several Moravian families. They established the community of Herrnhut on his Saxony estate, which became a safe haven for many more refugees. Count Zinzendorf, who eventually became a bishop in the Moravian Church, urged the Brethren to take the gospel around the world, and in 1732 the first missionaries went out to the West Indies and Greenland.

Missions to the Indians


Moravians first came to America in 1735. The community they founded in Savannah, Georgia, didn’t prosper, and in 1740 they began a mission among the Mohicans at the village of Shemomeko, New York, where the first native Christian congregation in the colonies was formed. On Christmas Eve 1741 the Moravians also established a mission called Bethlehem in Pennsylvania in order to spread the gospel to the Delaware Indians. This became the center of
Bethlehem, 1754
Moravian missions in colonial America. Additional communities followed, including Nazareth and Gnadenhutten, as well as congregations in Philadelphia, New Jersey, Maryland, on Staten Island in New York, and in North Carolina.

In 1741 Count Zinzendorf traveled to Pennsylvania. He met with leading men such as Benjamin Franklin, and with the assistance of the well-known translator and negotiator Conrad Weiser, also met with Iroquois leaders and concluded agreements that allowed Moravian missionaries to move freely throughout lands under Iroquois control.

The Moravians quickly developed strong relationships with the Indians among whom they served. Their focus on the Scriptures for guidance in matters of faith and conduct and on religion from the heart was compatible with many Native American spiritual traditions, especially those of the Delaware, or Lenape. The Moravians’ practice of equality of spiritual life in their communities also appealed to the Indians. Unlike other Protestant missionaries, the Moravians lived and dressed like the Indians, and converts shared common quarters with white believers of all social levels. In the Salem, North Carolina, community, in fact, slaves were also able to become full members of the Church and were even eligible for election to church offices.

Lenape Chief Lapowinsa
These practices and the Moravians’ efforts to stop the profitable liquor trade with the Indians aroused opposition from the English colonists. Because of local hostility to the Mohicans in New York, rumors were spread that the Moravians were either secretly Jesuits or were allied with these “atheistic papists”. In spite of those who defended their work, at the end of 1744 the colonial government expelled them from New York, forcing the Moravians to close the mission at Shemomeko.

Moravian missionaries remained faithful to their native converts, however, moving westward with them as the Indians were progressively pushed into Ohio Territory after the French and Indian War ended. They also began new missions in the South, including among the Cherokee in 1801. When the Cherokee were forced to move to Oklahoma in the 1830s, Moravian missionaries moved with them. This mission continued until the end of the Civil War, when it was transferred to the Danish Lutheran Church and became the Oaks Mission School.

Even though the Moravians played an important role in U.S. history, church membership is only about 60,000 in all of North America today. There are more than one million members around the world, however, mostly in eastern Africa. Other major Moravian centers include the Caribbean, South Africa, Winston-Salem, NC, and Bethlehem, PA.

In my next few posts, I’m going to focus on several important Moravian missionaries to the Lenape and other native tribes in Ohio Territory during the 18th and early 19th centuries: Christian Frederick Post, David Zeisberger, and John Heckewelder.

I was very impressed by the Moravian missionaries’ faithfulness to Christ and their attitude toward and treatment of the native peoples they worked among. What do you admire most about the Moravians’ missions and teachings? 

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! 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Iroquois Longhouse

Native Americans figure prominently in both the Northkill Amish Series and my American Patriot Series, and I’ve done quite a bit of research into the tribes who appear in the stories. It’s been, to say the least, fascinating. It’s well known that our Hochstetler ancestors were carried off into captivity by a band of Indians who attacked their farm during the French and Indian War. The father, Jacob, ended up with the Seneca in the town of Buckaloons. His sons, Joseph and Christian, most likely were given to the Leni Lenape, or Delaware. Consequently these tribes are the focus of our research.

The Seneca belong to the Six Nations, or Iroquois Confederacy. Historically the Iroquois called themselves People of the Longhouse, which naturally sparked my curiosity about longhouses. I’d heard of them, of course, but when you’re writing about people who live in them, it’s necessary to describe these structures in some detail. In my next few posts I’m going to delve into the lives of the Seneca in the 18th century, beginning with the homes they lived in: the longhouse. I hope you find it as interesting as I do!

18th Century Longhouses

Iroquois Longhouse
Eighteenth-century longhouses were large wooden buildings ranging in length from 30 to several hundred feet that housed the members of a single clan. Its length was determined by the size of the extended family that would live in it; the larger the family, the longer the longhouse. As the size of the extended family grew, the building was enlarged to make room for its expanding population. Archeologists have discovered the post-hole patterns of two enormous longhouses that were 364 feet and 400 feet long—longer than a football field and even a block; however, the typical Iroquois longhouse was between 180 to 220 feet long, which is still pretty impressive.

Longhouse with Front Shed
Longhouses were generally about 20 feet wide and 20 feet high and symmetrical, with a rounded rather than peaked roofline. There was a single door at each end, covered with a fur pelt or piece of rawhide to keep out the weather. This seemed to be the general rule; only one longhouse has ever been discovered that had an extra door, located in the middle of one side. The ends of the structure were usually rounded, but some longhouses had squared ends with a flat roof overhanging the doorway.


The forest provided the posts, poles, and bark the Iroquois used as building materials. Saplings with tall, straight trunks were cut into lengths to form the framework. To reduce insect damage and decay the bark was peeled off in narrow strips and saved for other uses. The builders set two parallel rows of strong upright posts into holes dug in the ground, spaced from 10 to 12 feet apart along each side of the longhouse. They added thinner interior posts between the outer rows to outline the walls of compartments and a central aisle, then lashed strong, flexible rafter poles to the tops of the posts horizontally from side to side across the building and bent them to form an arch. They laid more poles down the longhouse’s length to stabilize the roof, then placed additional poles along the sides to form a grid pattern to which large sheets of bark were attached to cover the walls.

Daily Life in an Iroquois Village
Since the Iroquois had no nails, they tied or lashed their buildings together by winding strips of rawhide or long, flexible strips or ropes of bark around the poles and posts. When these dried, they shrank and stiffened, tightening the joint. The bark of basswood and hickory trees works well for this purpose. The Iroquois used elm bark whenever available for the large sheets that covered the exterior of the longhouse. After the bark was hung on the frame, it had to be held down to keep it flat and to prevent the wind from lifting it. Another framework of smaller poles laid across the outside of the bark served this purpose.

Bark can be peeled off certain types of trees during the spring while the sap flows freely and the leaves are still small. Large sheets must be flattened out with weights while they dry to keep them from curling. The Iroquois may have stored extra bark they harvested under water to keep it supple until it was needed. A sheet of elm bark that has been flattened and dried is as strong as a piece of plywood. Although it has deep furrows in it that run vertically along the trunk, the Iroquois usually applied it with the groves running horizontally. This probably was done because it was easier to keep the bark flat by securing it horizontally against the vertical posts. One account describes some Iroquois smoothing out these furrows with an adz to prevent them from catching rainwater running down the roof and sides of the longhouse.

Iroquois Villages

Iroquois Village
The tribes of the Iroquois Confederacy lived in villages and towns near waterways such as rivers and creeks. They were often surrounded by a palisade wall to keep out enemies. The land surrounding the village was cleared into fields belonging to the women, where they grew the crops used for food.

In my next post I’ll describe how the longhouse was divided up among families and how they furnished and used this communal interior space.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Video Interview with Bob Hostetler

In this video interview Bob talks about his career and published books including Northkill. I hope you enjoy learning more about the other half of this writing team!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Hochstetler Story Featured on TV!

Some of you may have seen the TLC show Who Do You Think You Are? last Sunday featuring actress Katey Sagal. She’s a descendent of our ancestor Jacob Hochstetler, and they spent quite a bit of time talking about this inspiring story. If you haven’t seen it, you can watch the entire episode on YouTube, and if you scroll down you’ll also find it on the sidebar. They did mispronounce Hochstetler, which is not surprising, and leave out a lot of the details. But otherwise it was very well done. I'm impressed!