The Wyoming Massacre

I was born and grew up in northeastern Pennsylvania, not far from Wilkes-Barre. My earliest impressions of the Wyoming Valley, bisected by the Susquehanna River, were physical. Of the anthracite or hard-coal fields in the area: a landscape dotted with collyeries, steam locomotives and railroad sidings, mine shafts and culm banks, refuse heaps which were often burning fueled by bits of discarded coal. Eventually this sort of mining deep underground became too expensive and was replaced by surface or strip mining which further ravaged the land until laws were passed requiring reforestation. Some of the area today still resembles the dead landscape of the moon.

As I grew up I also became aware of the early history of the Wyoming Valley—in the 1760s when the beautiful lands and fertile soil bordering the Susquehanna were claimed by Connecticut according to its founding charter. Many settlers from that colony, and some from Rhode Island, moved into the area. Periodically, conflict broke out between the locals and the “intruders” but nothing like what happened in 1778 in what is known as the Battle of Wyoming and the subsequent “Massacre.”

During the Revolution the British sought to put pressure on the American rebels by harassing frontier settlements with the assistance of the Indians who felt they had been displaced from land which was rightfully theirs. Settlers in the Wyoming Valley feeling exposed and insecure constructed several small forts for their protection. In July of 1778, British Colonel John Butler put together a force of some 1,000 consisting of British soldiers, Tories, and Seneca Indians and marched to the head of Wyoming Valley intending to clear out the settlers. Receiving news of this impending raid a small band of patriot soldiers and citizens hurriedly assembled, under the command of a Continental Army officer named Colonel Zebulon Butler, and attempted to repel the invaders. A battle ensued in which the heavily outnumbered soldiers and settlers were completely routed. Rampaging Indians slaughtered and scalped some 225 fighters and in the following days killed civilians and devastated the area, destroying dwellings and crops. Survivors fled to the east where many perished in the wilderness that was the Pocono Mountains.

Living in the area I also knew of the township of Slocum but had no idea of the derivation of its name. Research led me to the story of Frances Slocum, her connection with the Wyoming Valley, and her abduction and captivity by the Indians. More of Frances’ story in the next post.

posted July 30th, 2015 by Janet, CATEGORIES: Battles, Indians, Patriots, Pennsylvania, Slocum, Frances, Wyoming Massacre

  1. Yesterday, I was at the monument. There were many of my ancestors – Finch men listed. I would like to connect and find out more about the fate of women in the Wyoming Massacre. I am a writer with a recent novel, “The Fathers.”

    Comment by Finch Vandivier — July 13, 2017 @ 2:50 am

  2. Dear Ms Vandivier,
    Thank you for your interest in the Wyoming Valley Massacre. Which monument did you look at? I assume you are a Finch descendant. I don’t know much more about the women connected with the Massacre than what I wrote in the several blogs on the subject chiefly focusing on Frances Slocum. I refer you to the two sources I mention:
    Biography of Frances Slocum, the Lost sister of Wyoming: A complete Narrative of her Captivity and Wanderings Among the Indians, John Franklin Meginness (Williamsport, PA: Heller Bros. Printing House, 1891). Also Frances Slocum: The Lost Sister of WyomingCompiled and written by her grand niece Martha Bennett Phelps for her Children and Grandchildren (New York: Knickerbocker Press, 1906), available online HERE. Sorry I can’t be of more help.
    Wishing success in your writing,
    Janet Wedge

    Comment by Janet — July 13, 2017 @ 8:01 pm

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