Enoch Brown and students remembered after 250 years

JOYCE F. NOWELL, Echo Pilot
Members of the Kittochtinny Associators, 1700s pre-militia re-enactors, offered a volley Saturday during the memorial service for Enoch Brown and his 10 students who were massacred by Indians in 1764. A wreath was placed at the site of the mass grave at Enoch Brown Park in Antrim Township.

It took more than a century for the event that was likely at least one of the first school killings in what would become the United States of America to be properly recognized in a wooded area of Antrim Township. On Saturday, 250 years after that is now known as the Enoch Brown massacre, dozens gathered to commemorate the tragedy and memorialize those lives lost.

“As a local significance we don’t want to forget this,” remarked Cameron Grosh of Greencastle, a Geneva College history major, following a noon memorial service on the site of a common grave where Brown and 10 students were buried after being killed by Indians in their schoolhouse. “But we also want to remember an important time in the county’s history, before we were even a country.

“These children were innocent. We don’t want to forget about them.”

The story of the July 26, 1764 tragedy in which three Delaware Indians scalped Brown and the children in a log schoolhouse located in the northwest section of Antrim Township faded in local memory into lore or legend for nearly 80 years. That’s when an exhumation revealed the mass grave and in 1885 a monument was finally erected.

Telling the story

Sponsored by the Allison-Antrim Museum and Antrim Township, which takes care of the three-acre historical park off Enoch Brown Road where the 250th anniversary event was held, the program featured the telling of the story by Dale Hostetter of State Line and presenting of information about the Indian conflicts of the day from Roger Swartz, a teacher of American History. Members of the Kittochtinny Associators, re-enactors of pre-militia activities on the Pennsylvania frontier, shared information and took part in the memorial service. Rev. Ralph Geiman presided over the memorial service. Bonnie Shockey, Allison-Antrim Museum president, related information about the local area at the time of the massacre.

Hostetter recounted the atmosphere of the new world in the mid-1700s.

“Leading up to this event, there was a lot of animosity between the Indians and the whites. Most people think the Indians did all the scalping, but in fact the whites did a lot too. Gov. John Penn had enacted the Scalp Act a number of years before this. Apparently it served its purpose because it did reduce the amount of Indian activity in the Cumberland Valley,” said Hostetter.

“It started to grow again. Problems began to escalate largely because the whites were pushing into the Indian territory. They were taking their hunting areas. They were taking the plots that they had tilled to grow their crops. The raids started again and pretty much they were directed by Chief Pontiac. He controlled a lot of the tribes.”

Learning local history

Rick Nicarry of Greencastle was eager to connect an affinity for history with grandson Cameron Grosh.

“I’ve always been interested in history and I wanted to know more about the local history. Cameron  just completed his first year at college and last semester had a class on U.S. Colonial and Pre-Colonial History. I thought it would be something interesting that we could share.”

Nicarry was impressed with the information presented.

“When we first arrived Cameron made the statement, ‘I’m easily the youngest guy here’ and he is college age. It’s like anything else, if it doesn’t get passed on, it will die away. I was struck by the knowledge shared by Roger Swartz. Once those type of folks are gone, they take that with them. By putting that same information into our younger generations, it will be carried on. I think that’s important,” he said.

Grosh, who hopes to be a history teacher, found the speakers enlightening.

“I have studied a lot of the things they referenced about what was going on in America, but I learned more about the local history. I had come to Enoch Brown Park a few times as a kid and knew the basic story, but not the entire background. To add this knowledge with what I learned at college, and then connect it to my hometown is very interesting.”

Remembering those lost

After Shockey placed the wreath on the grave site, Geiman recounted the events of that fateful day in 1764. “On that particular morning in July children set out on their walk through the forest as they had on many previous occasions, anticipating a day of learning and a day of fun, and maybe even a few shenanigans...but the anticipated day of learning and fun never took place.

“Over the subsequent years of that time to our time, have given rise to many stories and legends. And all of them are connected to this horrific event.”

Geiman closed with a prayer.

The Kittochtinny Associators marched in rank to the common grave from the higher ground and offered a volley from their rifles. Living historian, Deborah “Turtle” Swartz, who was dressed in East Woodland Native American dress, offered a blessing at the grave site.

History repeating itself

The feeling that the country has come full circle was not lost on those assembled for the anniversary event as thoughts turned to the rash of school killings of this time.

“When you can see similarities of events that happened 250 years apart it makes you sit down and say where have we gotten in all those years,” said Nicarry. “I guess it goes back to the fact that we’re still human. We’re still people. We still do terrible things. We still make bad mistakes.

“And that will probably be around 250 years from now also. Those type of things don’t seem to change. We can only try to make it better and try to make improvements. But there are just some things that will always be around.”

Nicarry hopes that exposing the next generation of his family to this history has an impact.

“Someone like Cameron whose only been around for 18-19 years, he only knows what he’s experienced. By him sitting here and hearing about a 9-10-year-old child 250 years ago who went off to school and their parents fully expected them to come home from school and they didn’t — there are similarities to what has been happening today. It’s good for him to know that these things didn’t just start happening. They’ve been happening for the ages,” Nicarry said.

As for Grosh, he may understand history all too well.

“We’re humans and we’re flawed. It doesn’t really change much in 250 years. We have learned from the past. History does repeat itself. There are people who want to make a negative mark on history and choose to do it in ways like this.”