THE diligent and successful labors of the Moravians for the conversion to Christianity of the Indians in Sharon,
is an item in the history of the town well worthy of record. This body of Christians established a mission among
the Indians in this region as early as 1740. Their special fields of labor were at Shekomeko (Pine Plains),
in New York, and at Wequagnock (Sharon) and Schaticook (Kent), in Connecticut. The
first minister who labored here and established the Mission was the Rev. Christian Henry Rauch. He
was succeeded in 1742 by the Rev. Gotlieb Buetner, who labored in the Mission until his death, in 1745, at the
age of twenty-eight years. He was buried in the field of his labors, and his memory is well preserved by an enduring
monument and an appropriate epitaph. If the fact were not well authenticated as a matter of history, it would scarcely
be credited now, that the Mission was broken up in 1745 by the government of New York, from the belief that the
missionaries were Jesuits and Papists, and emissaries of the Pope and the French King. On the occurrence of this
event many of the Christian Indians of Shekomeko joined the tribes of Sharon. Several clergymen labored here at
stated periods, up to 1749. In that year David Bruce, then the missionary here, died and was buried in the beautiful
field of his labor, on the e&stern shore of the Indian Pond. He was a Scotchman from Edinburgh. He was not
a clergyman in the Moravian sense, but an assistant. He acted rather as a teacher or catechist. He labored in the
Mission at Sharon but a few months. As everything relating to his history is interesting, a more extended notice
of him is copied from Loskiel’s History of Moravian Missioners.
“Brother David Bruce was now appointed to the care of the Christian Indians at Schaticook and Wequagnock, who since the forementioned visit of the bishop had formed a regular settlement. He resided chiefly in a house at Wequagnock, belonging to the brethren called Gnadansee (Lake of Grace), but sometimes resided at Scaticook, whence he paid visits to Westenhunk by invitation of the head chief of the Mohikan Nation, sowing the seeds of the gospel wherever he came, but as he was not ordained, Bishop Camerhoff, with brother Beyold went again to Wequagnock to strengthen the brethren and to administer the sacraments there. Twenty Indians were added to the church by baptism. Brother Bruce remained in this station till his happy departure out of time, which, to the great grief of the Indian congregation, took place this year. He was remarkably cheerful during his illness, and his conversation edified all who saw him. Perceiving that his end approached, he called the Indian brethren present to his bedside, and pressing their hands to his breast, besought them fervently to remain faithful unto the end, and immediately fell asleep in the Lord. His funeral was committed to one of the assistants, who delivered a powerful discourse upon the solemn occasion to the company present, among whom were many white people, who had often heard our late brother’s testimony of the truth, with blessing.”
So reads the book, and so died the missionary. The exact date of his death was July 9, 1749. The Missionary at Scaticook, in 1752, wrote as follows: “They have permitted me to put a stone on Brother David’s grave, and then enclose it with a fence.” The stone was in good preservation in 1825, but has since been broken into many fragments. What remains of it is in the possession of the Moravian Historical Society of Nazareth, Penn. It contained the following epitaph :—
From Edinburgh in Scotland.
The Brethren’s Church,
Among the Indians.
The Indians of Sharon having sold their lands in 1755 and dispersed to different parts of the country, the Mission was then abandoned by the brethren; but a congregation of white people built a meeting house on the western border of the Indian Pond, on land now owned by Col. Hiram Clark, and retained the services of one of the Missionaries, the Rev. Joseph Powell, until his death in 1774.
It will be observed that all the missionaries who labored here were under the direction of the Moravian authorities at Bethany, Penn., from whom they received their appointments. After the breaking up of the Mission here, and the death or removal of the missionaries, missionary stations were established in parts of the country west of Bethany, and for nearly a century the scene of the labors and place of the graves of the faith ful and devoted missionaries in this region had passed from the knowledge of the Moravians at Bethany; and it was owing to investigations made by the Rev. William J. McCord, and the Rev. Sheldon Davis, of Duchess county, that this field of missionary labor, so interesting in Moravian history was brought to their knowledge. The Moravian Historical Society, at Nazareth, Penn., on the 11th day of July, 1859, determined to mark the resting places of the missionaries, by the erection .of suitable monuments, and thus to revive and perpetuate their memories, so long neglected and forgotten. These monuments were set up under the direction of the Rev. Mr. Davis, and of Benson J. Lossing, Esq., and a single monument over the remains ‘of David Bruce is for a memorial of him and of the Rev. Joseph Powel. The inscriptions on that monument were as follows :—
(On the north side.)
A Minister of the Gospel,
Church of the United Brethren.
Born in 1710,
Near White Church, Shropshire, England:
Died Sept. 23, 1774,
At Sichem in the Oblong,
Duchess Co., N. Y.
(On the south side.)
A Minister of the Gospel,
Church of the United Brethren,
Edinburgh, in Scotland.
Died July 9, 1749,
At the Wechquadnock Mission,
Duchess Co., N. Y.
(On the east side.)
How beautiful upon the mountains
Are the feet of him that bringeth
good tidings, that publisheth peace,
That bringeth good tidings of good,
That publisheth salvation.
Isaiah lii, 7.
(On the west side.)
Erected by the
Moravian Historical Society,
October 6, 1859.
Solemn and impressive, as well as instructive services, performed by the Moravians from Bethany, were rendered at the dedication of that monument, on the 6th day of October, 1859. As the remains of the missionaries had been committed to the grave without the performance of the cherished rites of that body of Christians, it was deemed appropriate that those portions of the Moravian ritual which relate to death and the resurrection should be employed in the ceremonies. For the same reason the Easter Morning Litany which is prayed annually on Moravian burying grounds, and the choral music of trombonists, a characteristic element of Moravian obsequies, were added to the programme Of religious exercises. The services were held in the open field in which the monument stands, and were performed by the Bishop and several Moravian clergymen, with a select band of trombonists and choir of singers in the presence of some seventeen hundred people. The venerable Bishop Wolle had the principal charge, and his white locks, his clerical costume and his solemn and deliberate utterances, with a slight German accent, of the various portions of the Moravian funeral ritual, with the earnest and solemn responses from the people and from the trombonists gave an indescribable interest to the ceremonies. After an historical discourse by the Rev. Mr. DeSchweinitz, in which a minute history of the Mission and missionaries was given, the following stanzas from the Moravian Hymnal were sung by the congregation :—
How sweetly these our brethren sleep,
Enjoying endless peace,
The grave In which their Saviour lay
Is now their resting place.
Naught can disturb these heirs of life,
AU earthly cares are fled,
To be with Christ was their desire,
And now they’re perfected,
To Father, Son and Holy Ghost,
One God, whom we adore,
Be glory as it was, is now,
And shall be evermore.
And thus ended the solemn burial services.
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