Talk:Paxton Boys

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search


Removed reference to pacifist Quaker government, since Quakers had withdrawn from the Pennsylvania Assembly seven years earlier (in 1756)Aal3 15:25, 14 August 2007 (UTC)

Added 'Paxtang' to 'see also' links, since that town was where this came from. 10/24/09.... Not sure of time. (talk) 18:02, 24 October 2009 (UTC)


Delete content not covered in article - what Paxton Boys or frontier people thought about subsidies to Indians, or "savage Presbyterians". Does not appear in body.Parkwells (talk) 22:36, 26 October 2011 (UTC)

Needs context[edit]

Article requires more content to explain about the background to the attack, and what the issues were. Parkwells (talk) 22:36, 26 October 2011 (UTC)

There is an early 1800s Lancaster county history text that is housed in a rare collection at the Lancaster County Mennonite Historical society describing this incident in detail and also references earlier histories that may no longer exist. It gives a background of how Indian attacks and killings of farmers up and down the Presbyterian frontier led to the massacre as a reactionary measure to stop the killings of the frontier families. It describes how a Susquehannock indian known as 'Joe' lived with the Conestoga Indians and was a Susquehannock sympathizer. Every time the frontier farmers would be away from their farms for any length of time, it was found that Joe and other Conestogas would inform the Susquehannocks, who would then raid the farms where the men were absent, and brutally kill the women and children and burn the farms.

The work lists the number of settlers murdered by the Susquehannock tribe, and many of them by name. (it lists them in this fashion, this is an example only: Macadam family, 4 dead, killed by indians. Jno Watt family, 2 killed, mother and child, etc.)

The Presbyterians who lived on these outlying frontier farms, then looked to the Quaker and German leaders in the towns to help defend them, but the leaders adopted a pacifist outlook and refused to provide men and arms to help defend the Presbyterian farms. It states clearly that they would not help the Scots-Irish due to their religious beliefs. They also put some kind of pressure on the Presbyterians not to retaliate; the text seems to hint that the germans and quakers would stop providing resources or support to the Scots-Irish if they retaliated themselves.

It describes then that a group got word to the Paxtang boys who were part of their area's official militia, and listed some of them by name and their militia rank. It describes that the Paxtangs agreed to come down and take care of the problem for the requestors. It does not clarify who the requestors were; if they were the Presbyterians who needed someone to come to their defense, or if it was the German and Quaker leadership who needed something done but didn't want to have blood on their own hands. But it makes it clear that the Paxtang group was requested for their help to stop the killings of undefended frontier families by the Indians.

The text states that many people were shocked by the Paxtangs' retaliatory action, but that when those people went to Philadelphia to complain about the Paxtangs and seek punishment for them, that an even greater number of people went to Philadelphia in support of the Paxtang action, and the courthouse was mobbed and impassable, with a near riot between the two groups. But that the supporters showed that the Paxtang aid had been requested to stop the Susquehannocks killing of people on the frontier. Which led to the matter being dropped without any consequence or official record.

Once I can get back to the Historical society to fully reference and cite the work and obtain its citations of the other earlier histories, I'll be able to add this information. But this full history from the era involved, paints a very different picture than the oral traditions that are written about in the 20th century works, when it gives the background and context behind why the killings occurred and the aftermath. Awolnetdiva (talk) 17:15, 9 February 2016 (UTC)

You're right that this article needs more work. I'd think though that your source should really be considered to be a primary source, so it should always be referred to in the text - something like "The Lancaster History reports that 'xxx' ".
I'll write this now without checking my sources. This was obviously a terrible chapter in American history - l'll call it an ethnic-cleansing episode, very chaotic, very much something that subsequent generations wanted to forget or gloss over. Atrocities on almost all sides, the sides including the Scots-Irish Presbyterians, various Native American tribes, the Anglican proprietors (Wm. Penn's heirs), the Quakers and their sometimes allies, the Germans, other Pennsylvanians like Franklin. Franklin was not a passive observer, but rather a pretty slick politician, who founded Pennsylvania's first semi-official militia at this time to stop the Paxton Boys from killing the Indians being protected in Philly. The proprietors might have officially denounced the killings, but did nothing to stop the violence and even reinstated the bounty for Indian scalps. So just about any source from about that time might be expected to show a large amount of bias - but bias that modern readers would have difficulty in sorting out.
Most of this comes from Kenny, Kevin (2009). "Peaceable Kingdom Lost: The Paxton Boys and the Destruction of William Penn's Holy Experiment." Oxford University Press. p. 293. ISBN 978-0-19-533150-9.
I'd guess the best way forward is to treat the modern sources as the standard point of view and include some primary sources as additional material.
By the way, Jeremiah Dixon visited "the scene of the crime" shortly after the massacre. It would be interesting to find and show his views. I'll quote from a U Delaware website, which I pretty much share their POV.
"Pontiac, chief of the Ottawa, had organized a large-scale attack on Fort Detroit on May 5th 1763, and some 200 settlers were massacred along the western frontier.
"Local reaction to the news was brutal. In Lancaster, Pennsylvania, a mob of mostly Scots-Irish immigrants known as the "Paxton boys" attacked a small Conestoga Indian village in December, hacked their victims to death and scalping them. The remaining Conestogas were brought to the town jail for protection, but when the mob attacked the jail the regiment assigned to protect the Indians did nothing to stop them. The helpless Indians—men, women and children—were all hacked to pieces and scalped in their cells. The Paxton Boys then went after local Moravian Indians, who were taken to Philadelphia for protection. Enraged that the government would "protect Indians but not settlers," about 500 Paxton Boys actually invaded Philadelphia on February 6, 1764, although Benjamin Franklin was able to calm the mob. Mason and Dixon were shocked at the violence, and Mason would visit the scene of the Lancaster murders a year later. As the survey progressed, racial violence and the relentless dispossession of Indians were frequent background themes."
Smallbones(smalltalk) 19:08, 10 February 2016 (UTC)

The Apology of the Paxton Volunteers[edit]

In reference to the above discussion, I am surprised no one here has Googled and found this very accessible, very readable transcript of The Apology of the Paxton Volunteers on the Pennsylvania Historical Society's website. This is the pamphlet that Franklin agreed to have read before the colonial assembly when he and some of the other Philadelphia elite met with the Paxton Boys at Germantown. (TL;DR version: "We had no choice but to massacre defenseless Conestoga and Susquehannock because they kept doing the same thing to us, and those liberal do-good Quaker elite weenies in Philly kept being nicer to them than they ever were to us!" It conveniently leaves out that at least some of the Paxton settlers were in violation of treaties that the Pennsylvania government had long honored ... honestly, the whole thing would not be too far out of place on certain conservative websites today)

It is, to be sure, a primary source, but it is one that would definitely provide the context mentioned above. Certainly the article, and its readers, would benefit from hearing the Paxtons' own words and voice in some places. Daniel Case (talk) 16:48, 15 March 2017 (UTC)


The "see also" link to Paxtang may be misleading, as it references only the little present-day borough of Paxtang, while the "Paxton" of the Paxton Boys refers to the territory of Paxton/Peshtank that covered much of what is today Dauphin County, including Upper, Middle and Lower Paxton townships. user: PurpleChez. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:44, 27 September 2013 (UTC)