EASTON, Pa. - One of our people from the past brought us together today, said Lenape Nation Chief Bob Red Hawk Ruth of the Unami clan.
"For years we have hoped to rekindle the friendship that was between William Penn and Tamanend," he said.
In the clouded rain-soaked morning of Sept. 13, Red Hawk and Easton Mayor Michael McFadden together unveiled a new tombstone in the Hay's Cemetery.
The new granite marker replaced a weathered stone that had marked the grave of A-B Man for two centuries.
Born in 1704 and dying in 1804, A-B Man saw the coming of the white men, the initial peaceful co-existence, the effect of the Walking Purchase that stole his people's land and the eventual tide that brought destruction to his people. He is the only known Lenape Revolutionary War veteran buried among the 282 Revolutionary War veterans in Northampton County.
"At the age of 75, he carried messages for General George Washington," said Donald R. Repsher, a retired Presbyterian minister of Moore Township and amateur historian. "When he reached [General John] Sullivan's army [in 1779], he joined others of his people who were scouting and protecting the army from being caught and attacked."
A-B Man likely participated in the war because of promises made to his people. A Sept. 17, 1778 treaty between three Lenape chiefs and a young United States of America promised the Indians representation in Congress in exchange for safe passage of troops through Lenape territory while fighting the British.
"And the said deputies, on the behalf of their nation, engage to join the troops of the United States aforesaid, with such a number of their best and most expert warriors as they can spare," the treaty said.
Repsher said Sullivan's army looked for men like A-B Man who had experience of the land.
"He was probably about 5-foot 8-inches, tough as nails, even at the age of 75," Repsher said.
Like several others, Repsher thought A-B Man had carved the gravestone himself, a special effort with symbols that are deeply personal to his own life and probably unknowable to others. On the stone are several pictographs including a turtle, an eagle with spread wings, an image of an Indian man and a line drawn from a medicine wheel that may represent the doorway between heaven and earth.
The wheel had special meaning to Repsher.
"Each one of us is like a spoke, intended to make a journey to the center, drawing closer together, not further apart," he said.
Replacing the stone was spearheaded by Carole J. Heffley, editor of Easton Is Home Publications. Acknowledging this forgotten chapter of history and including the Lenape's participation is important to do, she said. Heffley brought the idea to County Executive Glenn Riebmann who helped budget the $2,500 county grant to replace the stone. Among other speakers present were state Rep. Robert Freeman D-Northampton, who said, "His life is a symbol of how we are truly many people who have come to occupy this place."
"Everything begins and everything ends with our Creator," said Red Hawk. "For years we have hoped to rekindle the brotherhood that started with William Penn and Tamanend."
The original stone still stands at the gravesite. Heffley said it will be allowed to disintegrate into the earth. The reproduction of the stone, molded and cast by Easton artist Chris Blumquist, was laid into the ground over the grave.
Participating in the project, William O'Brennan of Easton, worked on pencil rubbings of the original stone. O'Brennan's sense of the pictographs was that A-B Man asked Creator to send him to this land.
"I think he really wanted to come here and make a difference," said O'Brennan.
McFadden, who, as a boy scout in 1962 was inducted into the Order of the Arrow, an order based on Lenape tradition, proclaimed Sept. 13 Native American Day in Easton.
"Look at the history of Easton and the Lenape," said Red Hawk. "It is so interconnected. We hope this will be a beginning of friendship in which we can all work together on many different projects."