Today is a shameful date in American history that is mostly unknown. I did not know of this event until recently, but it was on this date in 1782 that 96 Native American members of the Lenape tribe, most of whom were women and children, were slaughtered by Pennsylvania militiamen as they knelt in prayer to Jesus Christ at a Christian mission in Ohio. The martyred Christians lived in a Moravian village called Gnadehutten. Those murdered were 28 men, 29 women, and 39 children. After their murders, their bodies were burned. They were murdered by the militiamen in retaliation for Indian raids on white settlers. However, there is little reason to believe that any of those murdered were involved.
The great Shawnee Chief Tecumseh was only 14 when the massacre occurred, but it made an indelible impression on the teen. Years later, in 1810, in a negotiation with the territorial governor and Army officer, William Henry Harrison, who was to become president years later, Tecumseh reminded Harrison, “You recall the time when the Jesus Indians of the Delawares lived near the Americans, and had confidence in their promises of friendship, and thought they were secure, yet the Americans murdered all the men, women, and children, even as they prayed to Jesus?”
A mission house and cooper’s shop were reconstructed on the site of the village in East Central Ohio. A monument was also erected in honor of those martyred. The inscription simply reads: “Here triumphed in death ninety Christian Indians, March 8, 1782.” Peace to their memories, and may their memories be eternal.