Monday, November 10, 2008

The "Gotswiltahns"

Brethren in the American colonies were at times confronted with serious tests of their nonresistant principles. An unfriendly chronicler of the Revolutionary War in the Morrisons Cove area described the Brethren response to frontier warfare.

The alarm was spread among the inhabitants [November 1777] and they fled to the nearest forts with all dispatch; and on this first expedition they (the Indians) would have had few scalps to grace their belts, had the Dunkards taken the advise of the more sagacious people, and fled too; this, however, they would not do. They would follow but half of Cromwell's advise: -- They were willing to put their 'trust in God,' but they would not 'keep their powder dry.' In short, it was a compound they did not use at all.

The savages swept down through the Cove with all the ferocity with which a pack of wolves would descend from the mountains upon a flock of sheep. Some few of the Dunkards, who evidently had a latent love of life, hid themselves away; but by far the most of them stood by and witnessed the butchery of their wives and children, merely saying, 'Gottes Wille sei gethan [May God's will be done].' How many Dunkard scalps they carried to Detroit cannot now be, and probably never has been, clearly ascertained, - not less than thirty, according to the best authority.

The 19th century historian added in an explanatory footnote that the phrase Gottes Wille sei gethan "was so frequently repeated by the Dunkards during the massacre, that the Indians must have retained a vivid recollection of it. During the late war with Great Britain [1812-1815] the older Indians on the frontier were anxious to know of the Huntingdon volunteers whether the 'Gotswiltahns' still resided in the Cove."

Source: Donald Durnbaugh in The Brethren Encyclopedia
from U.J. Jones, History of the Early Settlements of the Juniata Valley (1855)