America's Dusty Files - December 14, 1763 - Paxton Boys Attack Susquehannock - Conestoga Massacre

A Year of Colonial American Frontier History
December 14, 1763 - Paxton Boys Attack Susquehannock - Conestoga Massacre
The Treaty of Paris ended the French and Indian War on February 10, 1763, ending the Amerindian attacks on the frontier. But feelings remained raw. The Pennsylvania frontier people felt especially exposed because Quakers dominated the colony's assembly in Philadelphia. The pacifist Quakers refused to spend money on things related to war and defense. This frustration erupted in an attack on the peaceful Conestoga natives by a vigilante band of men from Paxton Pennsylvania, called the Paxton Boys.
The Conestoga were a branch of the Susquehannock Indian tribe that lived near Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The natives had settled down and become peaceful. Many had converted to Christianity. They made handicrafts, which the traded with the area white setters, hunting and government assistance from Philadelphia.
Paxton Boys
Paxton, Pennsylvania consisted mainly of Scots-Irish immigrants. The political divide between the rough and tumble frontiersmen of Paxton and the pacifist Quakers that dominated the Pennsylvania assembly had become intolerable. The frontier people made continual requests for militia, guns, powder and other things needed for defense. The Assembly ignored their request. The Paxton Boys arose as a vigilante group to protect their community against native attacks. Their belief that the peaceful Conestoga Indians had aided other native tribes in their attacks led to the attack on December 14, 1763.
Conestoga Massacre
Many of the male inhabitants of the settlement were away on a hunting trip on the day of the attack. A sudden snowstorm had prevented their return. The Paxton Boys descended on the unsuspecting and defenseless village at dawn. They killed and scalped about twenty of the inhabitants and took another six prisoners. They killed these prisoners over the next several days.
When Pennsylvania Governor John Penn heard of the massacre, he issued warrants for the arrests of the perpetrators. These warrants produced no arrests in a population that was sympathetic to the cause of the Paxtons. He next issued rewards for their capture, which also had no results. The Paxtons, enraged by the governor’s actions, next threatened another settlement of peaceful Moravian Indians living near Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. The governor managed to help these natives escape and put them into the protective custody of a troop of British soldiers that were stationed in Philadelphia. They remained in custody for over a year. This action further enraged the Paxtons. The idea that the government would spend money protecting a group of natives when they would not spend money on the people's defense sent them to the boiling point. In January 1764, they gathered a group of between 600 and 1500 armed citizens and marched in protest on Philadelphia. The peaceful Quakers forgot their pacifism long enough to gather guns and cannon to defend themselves. An ugly confrontation ensued on the brink of violence. Only negotiation between the Paxtons and Benjamin Franklin prevented more deaths. The Paxtons dispersed.

Indiana's history begins many decades before December 11, 1816 when Indiana became a state. The first foundations of Indiana's were laid with the voyages of Christopher Columbus and the settlement that came later. The American History A Day at A Time - 2015 series is in an easy to read "This Day in History," format and includes articles by the author from that series. The reader may read the articles as they appear, or purchase the book:
A Year of Colonial American Frontier History

© Paul Wonning 2016