1. SILENCED SCREAMS; Enoch Brown Massacre
From the grass you spot the dark form of that which you have always heard about and feared in the night. It was talked about in whispers and in hushed tones around the hearth, but today it is here. It’s the image of wild. That shift like phantom shadows across the wilderness; Indians!
Enoch Brown’s School House in Williamson, PA was attacked on July 26, 1764. One account of the attack is recorded in, Notes on Franklin County History by John L. Finafrock.
One of the cherished traditions of the terrible tragedy is that Schoolmaster Brown was shot down with the Bible in his hand before he could make any resistance and on his knees begged only that the innocent children might be spared. Parkman, in describing the ghastly sight that met those who first entered the school house after the massacre says: ‘In the center lay the master, scalped and lifeless, with a Bible clasped in his hands; while around the room were strew the bodies of his mangled pupils’. Another tradition says that Mr. Linn, while working in a meadow in the vicinity, heard the shot that killed Schoolmaster Brown, and when he and others came to see what was the matter they found little Archie McCullough, who survived the scalping, sitting by the spring nearby washing the blood from his mangled head. He told them that when the four Indians opened the door Master Brown, knowing well their object begged them to take him as their victim and let the innocent children return to their homes. The same instant he was shot down, and then he and the other children were quickly tomahawked and scalped by two of the savages while the other two stood with murderous weapons in the doorway (51).
The raid on the remote school house in Williamson was sparked by much a larger event, Pontiac’s War (1763-66). Pontiac, an Ottawa war chief, was successful in creating an Indian confederacy that went onto destroy many key British forts. Pontiac’s success emboldened the Native’s while putting terror into the hearts of the inhabitants of Cumberland Valley. Pontiac’s War was after the French and Indian War and before the Revolutionary War.
2. PLAYING HOOKY
On the fateful day of the 26th of July, 1764, the day of the Enoch Brown Massacre at Guitner’s school house in Williamson, PA. On this day an unusually high number of students were absent from school. When that day dawned it is doubtful that any of the students feared that their school would be attacked, yet perhaps by providence many did not attend.
One of those absent from school that day was James Poe. At least three different accounts exist about why he missed school that day. The first is that he skipped school to watch mowers in a meadow.
What was the reality for this one student? It is doubtful anyone alive today knows, but the story of a bright eyed youth, weary of the hard seats of school, decided to skip. This is a story that strikes a familiar chord for many students who gaze out from the classroom windows to the streets or fields that hint and beckon of freedoms beyond.
The painting portrays James Poe with his slate and the family Bible. Often the only book students had in the house was their Bible, so it often was used in place of any uniform textbooks, which their parents could not or chose not to buy. Teachers and students had to make do without the barest of education essentials. “Many schools had no slates, pencils, pens, or maps. Until the 1880’s, blackboards were considered a luxury item (Frontier life 1).”
When you look past James you will see three people in the field doing three different steps of the mowing process. The man on the far right is cutting the grass with a scythe. The girl is raking the freshly cut grass into small piles, while the young man is
carefully stacking the grass in neat rows on the hay stack. Often a small structure of saplings would be constructed over the hay stack. A thatched roof of grass or a roof of shingles would partially protect the hay from the weather. Throughout the winter the hay stack was slowly used to feed the livestock.
The comparison of this truant lad’s day to the day of the dutiful pupils that went to school, helps illustrate the stark contrast between doing what we are told is right for us and what we know to be right for us. This boy symbolizes those that have the courage to break away from the hard benches of conformity, to climb towards freedom. As Helen Keller wrote in her book, The Open Door…”Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”
As this lad knows, to climb tree is to see beyond yourself, your job, or classroom. To gain another perspective on a day that appeared to dawn, just like the one before it.
3. AS THE NIGHT FALLS
As night falls,
a family stands by the cross
around the one they lost
Down they stare
fresh earth, a grave of many
pupils and a teacher
In unison their prayer
“Our Father who art in Heaven
Hallowed be they name
thy Kingdom come on Earth as it is in Heaven…”
Words ushered upward
beyond aged trees and rustling leaves
Remembering a special soul
many souls, a cluster of candles snuffed out early
The merry flicker gone
a flower fallen
From the darkness, “goodbye”
As night falls,
it covers rugged hills in a blanket dark
doves to the pines and below
chickens to the roost go
the inhabitants of Williamson PA
turn in for bed
dreams of revenge running in their head
yet others of the cross and forgiveness
An animal cries out in the hollow beyond
The home of the empty bed
To the West, distant mountains rise
Four shadows in silence slip
around rocks upon it’s ridge
bearing their grisly load
Back at the home of the empty bed
One candle in a window placed
dark winds unseen
it burns on