Depending on which account one reads about the life of Frederick Stump, he was considered a notorious “Indian killer” who was never brought to justice, or he was a feisty, German tavern owner and distiller of rum who successfully overcame insurmountable odds, more than once, when he found his life in shambles.
The controversy surrounding his life began on a cold, January evening in 1768 in what is now middle Pennsylvania on the edge of the wilderness land of the Six Nations (Iroquois) and Delaware Nations. Those settlers who lived on the border (“borderers”) were an agitation to the peace-loving Quaker communities which were found in much of the Pennsylvania area at that time. The borderers were also an agitation to the surrounding Nations because they had little regard for treaty agreements when these agreements conflicted with their way of life.
The following account of that wintry evening and the following day is attributed to Stump as he was relating it in the home of George Gabriel (account personalized):
White Mingo, Cornelius, John Campbell, Jones, and two women, came to my house and were “drunk and disorderly!” I tried to get them to leave and they refused. I was afraid I was putting myself in danger, so I killed them all. I then dragged their bodies to the creek, made a hole in the ice, and shoved their bodies into the water. I was afraid that news of this might be carried to the other members of the tribe, so the next day I took my servant, John Ironcutter, and we traveled some fourteen miles up the creek. There we found one woman and two girls and a child in two cabins. We killed them, put them in the cabins, and burned them.
William Blythe, a member of the community who personally heard Stump’s account of the murders, immediately traveled to Philadelphia and, under oath, swore that he heard Frederick Stump admit to the murders when he had been in Gabriel’s home.
John Penn, the provincial governor, offered a reward of 200 British pounds for Stump and Ironcutter. Penn promised that they would be punished with death and that the leaders of the Six Nations and Delawares would be notified of what they had done.
Before the proclamation made its way back to the community, Stump and Ironcutter were swiftly arrested by a force of nineteen men led by the local British commander, William Patterson, of nearby Fort Augusta. After a defiant struggle, they were brought directly to the sheriff in the town of Carlisle in Cumberland County. A letter was sent by the British commander to the Six Nations expressing condolences and restitution for the murders. A portion of the letter follows:
“The inhabitants of the province of Pennsylvania do disapprove of the said Stump and Ironcutter’s conduct; and as proof thereof, I have taken them prisoners, and will deliver them into the custody of officers, that will keep them ironed in prison for trial; and I make no doubt, as many of them as are guilty, will be condemned, and die for the offence.
“Brothers, I being truly sensible of the injury done you, I only add these few words, with my heart’s wish, that you may not rashly let go the fast hold of our chain of friendship, for the ill-conduct of one of our bad men.”
A reply from the Six Nations was magnanimous:
“Loving Brother: I am glad to hear from you. I understand that you are very much grieved, and that the tears run from your eyes. With both my hands I now wipe away those tears; and as I don’t doubt but your heart is disturbed, I remove all the sorrow from it, and make it easy, as it was before. I will now sit down and smoke my pipe. I have taken fast hold of the chain of friendship; and when I give it a pull, if I find my brothers, the English, have let it go, it will then be time for me to let go too, and take care of my family. There are four of my relatives murdered by Stump; and all I desire is, that he may suffer for his wicked action; I shall then think that people have the same goodness in their hearts as formerly, and intend to keep it there. As it was the evil spirit that caused Stump to commit this bad action, I blame none of my brothers, the English, but him.”
But before they could come to trial, Frederick Stump and John Ironcutter were rescued from jail by a large group of settlers, called the Paxton Boys, who sympathized with Stump’s actions. In the past, local white settlers had been scalped and brutally murdered as well. The mob overpowered the sheriff and the jailor and released Stump and Ironcutter.
For a time the Stumps lived near Fort Augusta at least until after Frederick, Jr. was born in 1769. Then he fled the country, eventually settling in Georgia. At the time, Frederick had a wife, Ann, a son, Jacob, 11, two daughters, Barbara, 7, and Anne, 6 and infant Frederick, Jr. It’s not certain if they went with him immediately because after the birth of Frederick, Jr., there is a seven year gap before his next child was born.
Read more about Frederick Stump in the post entitled “*a footnote to Savagery in the Susquehanna – Frederick Stump (Part 1a)” and in the post “Fugitive, Fighter, Founder – Frederick Stump (Part 2).”
Frederick Stump is my 5th great grandfather. His daughter Anne is my 4th great grandmother who married Jonathan Guice.
© 2011 Melinda Holloway All Rights Reserved