DISCOVERING THE FUTURE BY REVEALING THE PAST
HEIL / HILE
HEIL / HILE
JON SINATRA son of JOHN S. SINATRA m. LOIS ANN E. (HILE) dau. of HOWARD HILE m. BIRDIE DOLORES (BLAIR) son of THEODORE W. HILE m. CATHERINE ELIZABETH (HOUSER) son of SAMUEL HILE m. SARAH ENGLER son of EVA HEIL dau of JACOB HEIL m. SUSANNA BUTZ son of JOHANNES "JOHN" HEIL m. MARIA BARBARA SILVIUS son of JOHAN NICKEL HEIL m. MARIA MARGARET THEISSEN
THE FRENCH AND INDIAN WAR IN COLORADO
Two and a half hours earlier I had stepped off a plane in Philadelphia, picked up my rental car, and was driving toward my hotel near the town of Wind Gap, located in the Lehigh Valley, Northampton County, Pennsylvania. Two and a half centuries earlier, General Braddock’s defeat at Fort Duquesne had left the frontiers of this county wide open for invasion by the French and Indians. The Wind Gap area, located within the Pennsylvania Walking Purchase Territory, was on the front lines of this invasion.
Jon Sinatra, Black Powder Shooting
The cloudless summer sky made for a lazy 90-minute drive from the airport. Leaving the city behind and heading east toward the Delaware River, the beauty of centuries-old church and farm plantations soon began to dot the lush green landscape. Rubbernecking past those glorious old monuments of yesteryear, I rambled on down the road, when I suddenly spotted, on the opposite side of the highway and through a massive cloud of dust and debris, an SUV tumbling end-over-end across the road! Whoa! I quickly stopped. Resting upside down in an eerie silence and through the dust and smoke, a young girl appeared from the wreckage and was pointing in the direction of her mother who lay on the asphalt bleeding. As I held her mother in comfort, she extended her arms, took a deep breath then closed her eyes.
THE PALATINE COLONIST
These beautiful Pennsylvania valleys were opened to settlement by Royal Charter of King Charles II to William Penn on 5 March 1681: Penn’s treaty with the Indians in 1682 granted a piece of land along the side of which a man might ride on horseback between sunrise and sunset covering the distance from Philadelphia, east along the Delaware River to the Lehigh Valley, was ceded to Penn’s three sons by twenty-three Indian chiefs including five Nation tribal paramount chiefs, in October of 1763.
Philadelphia 1738. The Dutch Germans were pouring into Philadelphia aboard English ships. In September of that year, the ship Robert and Alice arrived in Philadelphia Harbor with a full load of passengers, one of whom was Nicholas Heil. Migrating east along the Delaware, Nicholas and his family would settle in the Lehigh Valley at the base of the Blue Mountain. The area was within the bounds of the Pennsylvania Walking Purchase deal of 1737. Many of the colony’s new immigrants would settle, farm the land and raise their families. The Lehigh Valley was then a virgin forest well watered by many streams broken only by buffalo and Indian trails. An early writer says: “A mile or so across the valley one reaches the Lehigh, which with a magical beauty shows united every charm of a delectable region. The forest trees push forward to lend the scene heightened grace, their branches flung far over the river and shadows cast. The forest is composed in part of several kinds of North American oak, sassafras, tulip tree, sour gum, chestnut, birch, elm, wild ash and many other species.” The Palatines settled on this grant of virgin forest, built log cabins, cleared a plot, and planted maize or Indian corn. A traveler of two centuries ago writes of them: “I have seen nothing anywhere in the farming line that has any resemblance to the splendid farming habits in Pennsylvania. I see nothing like poverty in these counties. The great massy barns with elegant sash and glass windows, their overgrown horses and cattle, their smooth plowed furrows, their haystacks, and snug warm houses, with coffers full of specie, their thick serviceable clothes, the ease and contentment, and above all, that noble independence which marks their steady looks and movements prove them to be a wealthy and happy people.”(1)
THE OHIO VALLEY - 1754
Leading up to the battles with the French at Fort Necessity and Fort Du Quesne, the French had been “reminding” the Shawnee and Delaware Indian tribes of the deal made with them by the English. As these tribes began to break away from their English allies, they in turn quickly began to side with the French military. Thus the match had been struck and the crown was on the eve of a full-blown war against the French and Indians.
FORT DU QUESNE - JULY, 1755
18 July 1755. Lieutenant Colonel George Washington writes: “The General was wounded (Braddock), of which he died three days after. Sir Peter Halket was killed in the field, where died many other brave officers. I luckily escaped without a wound, though I had four bullets through my coat, and two horses shot under me.”(2)
FRENCH & INDIAN WAR
LEHIGH VALLEY - NORTHAMPTON COUNTY - NOVEMBER 1755
At a Council held in Philadelphia on the 29th December 1755, it is reported to the governor that “During all this month the Indians have been burning and destroying all before them in the County of Northampton, and have already burnt fifty houses here, murdered above one hundred persons, and are still continuing their ravages, murders, and devastations, and have actually overrun and laid waste a great part of that county.”3 The Church of Nazareth, located in the Lehigh Valley, records the events of this November within its diary: “And that evening, a breeze from the northwest carried the odor of smoke. Two dozen miles away, across the Blue Mountains, Moravians ran a farming settlement Gnadenhuetten, the “huts of grace.” The smoke that wafted over the mountains that night came from the burning mills, barns, stables, commissary, chapel, and mission house of Gnadenhuetten. A dozen Indian warriors in black war paint and carrying muskets, tomahawks, and scalping knives had attacked the settlement and killed or captured 11 of its inhabitants. Some burned to death when the raiders torched their house. One man trying to escape was shot and scalped. A woman taken prisoner was later killed.”(4)
MOORE TWP. - LEHIGH VALLEY - JANUARY 1756
The Indians entered the township and committed a series of depredations and murders, firing the houses and barns of Nicholas Heil and five others, and kidnapping Catherine Heil, his daughter. The dead bodies of the others were found following the attack and buried at the Moravian Church yard at Nazareth. This church had been used lately by the fleeing settlers from the French and Indian attacks. The church’s diary record this event: “Among the arrival at this place of fleeing settlers, Nicholas Heil, two sons and three daughters. One daughter is probably killed by the Indians.”(3)
A petition to the Governor dated October 5, 1757, concerning the dire straits throughout the Lehigh Valley, was written and signed by 78 elders of this area one of these being Nicholas Heil.
PETITION OF INHABITANTS OF NORTHAMPTON COUNTY
To the Honourable the Governor and General "The petition of the back inhabitants, viz’t, of the Township of Lehigh, situate between Allenstown, and the Blue Mountains, in the County of Northampton, most humbly sheweth: That the said township for a few years past has been, to your knowledge, ruined and destroyed by the murdering Indians. That since the late peace the said inhabitants returned to their several and respective places of abode, and some of them have rebuilt their houses which were burnt. That since the new murders were committed some of the said inhabitants diserted their plantations, and fled in the more improved parts of this province, where they remain. That unless your petitioners get assistance from you, your petitioners will be reduced to poverty. That the district in which your petitioners dwell contains 20 miles in length and eight miles in breadth, which is too extensive for your petitioners to defend, without your assist with some forces. That your petitioners apprehend it to be necessary for their defense that a road be cut along the Blue Mountains, through the township aforesd, and that several guard houses be built along this said road, which may be accomplished with very little cost. That there are many inhabitants in the said township who have neither arm nor ammunition, and who are to poor to provide themselves therewith. That several Indians keep lurking about the Blue Mountains who pretend to be friends, and as several people have lately been captivated thereabouts, we presume it must be by them. May it, therefore, please your honors to take our deplorable condition, and grant us men and ammunition, that we may thereby be enabled to defend our selves, our properties and the lives of our wifes and children, or grant such other relief in the premises as to you shall meet, and your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray." (3)
Following the attack on the Heil homestead and others, General Benjamin Franklin arrived in the area to construct a line of forts along the base of the mountain. Blockhouses with barracks were built that stationed Philadelphia militia and thence began the rebuilding of the Heil house. In 1760, as the war lingered on in the Lehigh Valley, Nicholas Heil died at the age of 44 on February 14, 1760 (below, right)
AMERICAN REVOLUTIONARY WAR
Before the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, John Heil, and his brother Jonathan, married their neighbors, Maria Barbara and Anna Maria Silvius. During an Indian attack on the Silvius homestead in April 1756, brother Nicholas Silvius was kidnapped by the Indians and spent five years in captivity in Montreal, Canada. Nicholas returned home from captivity in June 1761 as shown in an advertisement by Benjamin Franklin in the Pennsylvania Gazette. On July 19, 1763, during Pontiac’s uprising, Nicholas joined Captain Jacob Wetterholt’s 1st Company, 3rd Battalion of Rangers. The company service record paints a picture of Nicholas Silvius. (below) (3-8-9)
On October 8, 1763, during their march from Bethlehem, PA to Fort Allen, located near the Lehigh Water Gap, Captain Wetterholt and his men had taken accommodations for the night at the house of John Stenton. Early the following morning an ambush by a band of Delaware Indians led by Captain Bull, a son of King Teedyusung, attacked the Stenton home. It is written in 1st company’s report of this attack: "Before daybreak, some Delawares (Indians), attacked the house of John Stenton, where Captain Jacob Wetterholt, of the Province service, with a
squad of men, was lodging for the night. The wife of James Horner, who was on her way to a neighbor for coals to light the morning fire, the Indians, fearing lest she should betray them or raise an alarm, dispatched her with their tomahawks. Thereupon they surrounded Stenton’s house. No sooner had Captain Wetterholt’s servant stepped out of the house (he had been sent to saddle the captain’s horse) than he was shot down. The report of the Indian’s piece brought his master to the door, who, on opening it, received a mortal wound. Sergeant Lawrence McGuire, in his attempt to draw him in, was also dangerously wounded and fell, whereupon the lieutenant advanced. He was confronted by an Indian, who, leaping upon the bodies of the fallen men, presented a pistol, which the lieutenant thrust aside as it was being discharged, thus escaping with his life, and succeeding also in repelling the savage. The Indians now took a position at a window, and there shot Stenton as he was in the act of rising from bed. Rushing from the house, the wounded man ran for a mile and dropped down a corpse. Captain Wetterholt, despite his sufferings, dragged himself to a window, through which he shot one of the savages while in the act of applying a torch to the house. Hereupon, taking up the dead body of their comrade, the besiegers withdrew. (10)
Surviving this attack and later during the revolutionary war, Nicholas Silvius, along with the Heil Brothers, all served together with the 4th PA Battalion. This battalion of Army Rangers was on the Frontiers of Northampton County and commanded by General Anthony Wayne early on in the war. In 1779, the battalion made up some of the 1500 troops led by General John Sullivan in what is known as Sullivan’s March. General Sullivan and his troops encamped at Captain Jacob Heller's Tavern at the Wind Gap following their first day's march from Easton. It was also reported of a smallpox fatality at the tavern during that encampment.
Traveling around Northampton County and recording the headstones and dwellings of these departed ancestors I searched for the headstone of Nicholas Heil. I was looking forward to it, but at the same time feeling uneasy. In retrospect, it has been a long line of hard luck and coincidences. My mother had lost her husband, and a young son as well as her mother and a brother when they were young. Her grandfather Hile had also lost a son and his wife when they were very young. And on it goes from Nicholas Heil during the French & Indian War, to my Mother, eight generations later.
Following my arrival there, I found the headstone of Nicholas Heil and the lands where the Indian raids took place. I stood among the quiet and listened to the sharp sounds of Indian hatchets thumping into thick white pine wood doors. Fires burning, musket balls and arrows whizzing through the air! And our ancestors pleading and praying for their lives during the unmerciful attacks.
As I sat at Grandfather Heil’s grave, I thought about Nicholas Silvius and his Indian captivity at the French Forts in Canada. Some of the Silvius headstones were in this same cemetery and I pulled my camera from the day’s newspaper from which it was folded in and snapped a picture of their headstones. Sitting there I thought for a moment of the previous day’s events upon my arrival and began to thumb through the paper when I came upon the auto accident within the pages. The young girl’s last name, whose mother lay on the highway dyeing, was Silvas.
The order of the day will be reading and re-reading, editing, etc. The many family pictures, personal family letters, and mementos before me of the past two centuries provide a stark and vivid reminder of the sufferings that have been handed down from generation to generation. All is quite powerful if one chooses to stand close enough to it and after the passing of my mother and a second brother soon thereafter; I simply walked away in bewilderment. A while back, I received a phone call informing me that my Uncle Hile had passed away and as I stepped back into this family line, much has happened since. In my attempt to try and put at least some of this family’s past to rest with this “public offering of words” will be an attempt that knows no bounds. For as I sit here gazing out my window in reflective thought, in search of a word that may somehow best describe this family line over the past 263 years in America, the perfect word suddenly appeared before me. Presenting itself, in all its violent glory, a wicked tornado descends from above me! Whoa! The French & Indian war in Colorado.
Northern Colorado - 2009
1 TWO CENTURIES OF KEMMERER FAMILY HISTORY - PUB. 1928
2 GEORGE WASHINGTON LETTERS
3 PENNSYLVANIA ARCHIVES / COLONIAL / VOL. I, V SERIES
4 MORAVIAN CHURCH OF NAZARETH DIARIES
5 HISTORY OF THE KELLER FAMILY - PUB. 1905
6 FORTS ON THE PENNSYLVANIA FRONTIER 1753-1758, FRONTIER FORTS OF PENNSYLVANIA - PUB. 1895
7 PENNSYLVANIA ARCHIVES VOL. VIII, V SERIES
8 F&I WAR VICTIMS OF THE INDIANS 1755-57 BY, WILLIAM H. RICKENBACH
9 SOCIETY OF THE SONS OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION
10 NICHOLAUS WETTERHOLT’S DIARY [BROTHER OF THE MURDERED JACOB, PENNSYLVANIA HISTORY
Thanks for stopping by - Jon Sinatra
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