Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from John Heckewelder, 28 April 1798

From John Heckewelder

Bethlehem Apr. 28th. 1798.


In compliance to Your request, I have communicated what came to my knowledge respecting the Murder of Logans family in the Year 1774. I have shewn by what Opportunity’s reports were brought in the Indian Country—how they circulated—& what effect it had from time to time on the minds of the Indians—But Sir! altho I have no hesitation to bear testimony to the truth, I wish to inform You, that my situation is such, that would not admit of publishing the whole of my relation, & therefore beg You to consider the enclosed communication as Confidential. I am engaged in commencing a Settlement in the Western Country, & my business will render it necessary for me to be at times in the very Country, (& by the by) among the very People to whoom I have in my report alluded, as perpetraters of Murderous acts, especially such as were engaged in Murdering the Moravian Indians on Muskingum, & who, unprincipled as many of them may be to this day, might unite against me &c. Yet, whatever in Your Judgement, shall seem necessary to prove, that the account You gave in Your Notes on Virginia, of the Murder of Logan’s family, was the prevailing report of that day, I cannot object to Your publishing. And as to the Account I have given of Logans Character I have no reason to object to Your publishing the whole as I have given it; if You chuse.

In my Opinion there must be yet People living in or about Pittsburg who have some knowledge of the subject in question. I should think Genl. Gibson one.

I have only to add; that Your complying with my request will put me under great Obligations to You.

I have the honour to be Sir Your most obedt humble servt.

John Heckewelder

P.S. Next Monday I propose leaving home for Detroit & Muskingum

RC (DLC); at foot of text: “Honble. Thomas Jefferson Esqr.”; endorsed by TJ as received 1 May 1798 and so recorded in SJL.

Your request: see TJ to Heckewelder, 11 Apr. 1798.

Murdering the moravian Indians on muskingum: in March 1782 militiamen from Washington County, Pennsylvania, killed over ninety unarmed Delaware Indian converts at the Moravian town of Gnadenhutten, in what is now the state of Ohio. At the time Heckewelder, one of the missionaries to the settlements in the Muskingum valley, was under British custody at Detroit, but he later wrote the definitive account of the incident (John Heckewelder, Narrative of the Mission of the United Brethren among the Delaware and Mohegan Indians, from its Commencement, in the Year 1740, to the Close of the Year 1808 [Philadelphia, 1820], 308–28; White, Middle Ground description begins Richard White, The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650–1815, Cambridge, 1991 description ends , 389–90; Abernethy, Western Lands description begins Thomas Perkins Abernethy, Western Lands and the American Revolution, New York, 1937 description ends , 267–8).

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