Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Jacob Neff

Some Brethren moved west along the old Forbes Road from the Philadelphia area to the Morrison's Cove region around the year 1755. Brethren, indeed, formed the majority of the population in that region. They quickly purchased large tracts of land and settled in what was a fertile valley.

However they suffered a great deal during the Indian wars. Figures are hard to come by, but it seems that on several occasions Brethren were killed, abducted or sent packing. On one occasion five members of the Martin family were murdered and six were abducted. Shortly afterward another child, who proved too young to move fast enough to suit the Indian captors, was also murdered on Sideling Hill. There is a record of a petition from John Martin, who lost his wife and five children as a result of the raid, asking officials for help in recovering his other children.

This happened on more than one occasion. One of the worst, in 1777, became know as the Dunkard massacre. More than thirty Brethren were killed, in part because they refused to resist because of their faith.

Jacob Neff, another Brethren, stands in stark contrast. He operated the mill near Roaring Spring and always kept a loaded rifle nearby. When he spotted two Indians lurking in a small wood about a hundred yards below the mill he picked up his rifle without thinking and shot the older of the two. Neff ran out of the mill with his rifle when the younger Indian took aim at him and fired, but missed him. According to the story the two stood forty yards apart and both began to reload their rifles. Neff proved the quicker, but when he raised his weapon the Indian began to gyrate his body in a series of contortions, finally throwing himself to the ground, in an effort to throw Neff off his aim. This did not work. When the Indian rose to his feet Neff shot him through the head. The then ran off for help, but when he returned the mill was in ashes.

The non-Brethren version of the story is that the Brethren shunned him for defending himself, and refused to patronize his mill. However, James Sell, writing about the incident, tells a different story. Sell states that Neff did not own the mill, he only worked there. He also says that Neff admitted he was wrong to take a human life and that he was excused by the members of the church.

He was not excommunicated until he took to bragging about his exploits. Repeatedly. Over and over again. After many warnings he was expelled from the Brethren. Neff did not move away from the region. Records show that he continued to live and work in the area.

Source: A Tercentennial Minute by Frank Ramirez