SUNBURY, Pa. — Sunbury Press has released John L. Moore’s Bows, Bullets, and Bears, the first of eight volumes in the Frontier Pennsylvania series.
Armstrong was a rough-and-tumble frontier trader whose sharp business practices antagonized one Indian too many. He and two men who worked for him traveled into the woods in early 1744 and never came out again. Word soon crossed the frontier that all three had been murdered. Obscure, but richly detailed documents tell how and why Iroquois Indians living along the Susquehanna River at present-day Sunbury developed evidence that exposed the Native Americans involved in Armstrong’s murder.
John L. Moore’s nonfiction book contains true stories of Armstrong and other real people caught up in the struggles that took place all along the Pennsylvania frontier throughout the late 1600s and 1700s. The stories are set mainly in the valleys of the Delaware, Juniata, Lehigh, Ohio and Susquehanna rivers.
Other chapters tell how:
The Philadelphia jury in Margaret Mattson’s 1683 witchcraft trail delivered a split verdict. She was acquitted of bewitching her neighbors’ cows, but found guilty of being known as a witch. Presiding over the trial was William Penn, who let Margaret go home after her husband and son posted a bond for her “good behavior.”
Moravian missionaries who traveled along the Susquehanna River’s West and North Branches during a famine in 1748 found many Indians sick with smallpox and suffering from starvation. The people in one native town were boiling tree bark for food. In another village they were cooking grass.
Early in the French & Indian War, an influential Iroquois chief known as “The Belt of Wampum” urged Pennsylvania officials to build a fort on the Susquehanna River at the native town called Shamokin, present-day Sunbury. “Such Indians as continue true to you want a place to come to and to live in security,” The Belt said in early 1756.
Frances Slocum, a small girl kidnapped by Indians from her home along the Susquehanna River during the America Revolution, spent most of her adult life as a Miami Indian. In 1839, her brother Joseph and his daughters traveled from Pennsylvania to Indiana to visit her. They traveled by stage coach, canal boat and horse-drawn railroad during their 19-day journey west.
Anecdotes throughout the book describe how Native Americans and Europeans hunted bears, ate bear meat, and used bearskins for blankets and mattresses.
By the early 1740s, an Indian trader named Jack Armstrong, who operated out of Lancaster County, had developed a reputation for employing sharp and even antagonistic practices in his dealings with the Delaware Indians who lived, hunted, and trapped along the Susquehanna and the Juniata Rivers. Some of the trader’s white friends had even cautioned him about being overly harsh with his Indian customers and especially about angering them. If Armstrong wasn’t particularly likeable, he was nevertheless a successful trader and a well-known frontier personality. But as hard and tough as Armstrong was, events that occurred along the Juniata River during early 1744 proved that one of his customers, a Delaware Indian known as John Musemeelin, was tougher, harder, and more ferocious.
Armstrong’s story begins in early 1744 when the trader and two men who worked for him, James Smith and Woodworth Arnold, loaded their string of pack horses with trade goods—gun powder, gun flints, lead bullets, glass beads, scissors, woolen blankets, combs, little bells, and other items. For such goods, native trappers would eagerly swap the skins of deer, bears, beavers, elk, otters, foxes, raccoons, and wildcats.
The three men headed north and followed the trail along the Susquehanna, and then, well north of present-day Harrisburg, swung west and headed out the Juniata toward the Allegheny Mountains. That was in February. By late March and early April, as spring came on, a rumor swept across the frontier: Armstrong and his men had disappeared and weren’t ever coming out of the woods.
As it turned out, all three had been murdered. Since the killings took place in Indian Country—well beyond what was then the western boundary of Pennsylvania—an Indian chief conducted the first official inquiry in the case. Indeed, records of the Pennsylvania colony contain a detailed account of this chief’s investigation into the disappearance and murder of Jack Armstrong. The account itself was dictated by Chief Shikellamy, an Oneida who represented the Iroquois Confederacy at Shamokin and who led the investigation that exposed the killer. Located at the forks of the Susquehanna River, Shamokin was the largest Indian town in what is now Pennsylvania. Shikellamy subsequently had the man arrested and incarcerated. Conrad Weiser, a Pennsylvania German who was the colony’s Indian agent, recorded Shikellamy’s narrative.
About the Author:
John L. Moore, a veteran newspaperman, said he employed a journalist’s eye for detail and ear for quotes in order to write about long-dead people in a lively way. He said his books are based on 18th and 19th century letters, journals, memoirs and transcripts of official proceedings such as interrogations, depositions and treaties.
The author is also a professional storyteller who specializes in dramatic episodes from Pennsylvania’s colonial history. Dressed in 18th century clothing, he does storytelling in the persona of “Susquehanna Jack,” a frontier ruffian. Moore is available weekdays, weekends and evenings for audiences and organizations of all types and sizes.
Moore has participated in several archaeological excavations of Native American sites. These include the Village of Nain, Bethlehem; the City Island project in Harrisburg, conducted by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission during the 1990s; and a Bloomsburg University dig in 1999 at a Native American site near Nescopeck. He also took part in a 1963 excavation conducted by the New Jersey State Museum along the Delaware River north of Worthington State Forest.
Moore’s 45-year career in journalism included stints as a reporter for The Wall Street Journal; as a Harrisburg-based legislative correspondent for Ottaway News Service; as managing editor of The Sentinel at Lewistown; as editorial page editor and managing editor at The Daily Item in Sunbury; and as editor of the Eastern Pennsylvania Business Journal in Bethlehem.
Bows, Bullets, and Bears
Authored by John L. Moore
List Price: $9.99
5″ x 8″ (12.7 x 20.32 cm)
Black & White on Cream paper
Sunbury Press, Inc.
BISAC: History / United States / State & Local / Middle Atlantic
Cover artwork by Andrew Knez, Jr. For more information about Andrew’s work, please see:http://www.andrewknezjr.com/