David Zeisberger: A Life among the Indians

By David Zeisberger; Earl P. Olmstead | Go to book overview

APPENDIX I
Analysis of the Skeletons Found in the Mass Grave at Fort Laurens, July -- August 1986

AS NOTED in Chapter 23, the massacre at Fort Laurens took place on the morning of Feburary 23, 1779, when a wood-gathering party of colonials was ambushed and brutally murdered within sight of the fort but out of rifle and musket range of the fort defenders. The number of men supposedly involved ranged from eleven to eighteen. Since the fort was under siege at the time, the bodies lay as they were killed probably until the second week in March, when the siege was lifted and the bodies were gathered and buried in one mass grave. According to legend, the hole was dug and the bodies interred. The grave party was interrupted, however, by nightfall and the interment was not completed until the next morning. During the night, wolves invaded the partial grave and some were shot and thrown into the grave the next morning when the work was completed.

Over the intervening years, an elaborate legend has developed surrounding this grisly incident. In an effort to solve some of the mystery surrounding the event, a party of archaeologists, sponsored by the Ohio Historical Society and the Tuscarawas County Historical Society and led by Michael Gramly, excavated the cemetery at Fort Laurens in 1986.

Fourteen bodies were found in the grave. All had been killed with tomahawks or Indian ball clubs. No conclusive evidence was found among the bodies that would support the legend of the wolves. After exhaustive examination at Buffalo, New York, and Columbus, Ohio, the skeletons were returned in July 1991 and reinterred

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