Chapter 1: The Time Before Settlers

In beginning this book, I wanted to address all people that had walked the lands before the Europeans settled here. While there are no specific references to Native American presence on the Hertzog Homestead property, there is evidence they were around.

The Time Before Settlers

The summer of 1981 bore down dry and hot. For the first time since we had moved into the plantation house, the well that serviced it could not provide enough water, forcing my father to dig another well and forced us to use the outhouse that was once used regularly up to the early 1960’s. 

On these heat laden days, mom had us do our chores in morning, such a weeding the garden and mowing, while it was cooler, so that we could play during the hot part of the day.  Sometimes this took us to a watering hole dad had dug out with his green skid loader and lined with a black liner. Swimming in here was like taking a bath on the hottest  of summer days. But if we really wanted to stay cool, my brother and I would hang out in the barn.

Fueled by stories of Westerns, we would play cowboys versus the Indians. In the northern most mow of the barn, Doug and I would sometimes line up straw bales in a fort formation, complete with escape tunnels, but our best defense lay in the ventilation slits that dotted the northern most wall.  Armed with tobacco lathe and stick guns, we pressed ourselves against the cool stone wall and peered out across the neighbor’s barley field. In our imagination’s eye, we could see the dust kicked up in the the distance and hear the whoops and yells from the Indian posse on horseback, thundering our way. Like the Alamo, we slipped out our  pretend rifles through the holes and prepared to make our last stand.

Despite these childhood fantasies, the Native American reality in this area of Lancaster played out quite a bit different.

The land on which the Jacob Metzler Plantation resides is permeated with gradual rolling hills composed of limestone soil. The Conestoga Creek (or River as we called it) is the closest body of water and is a tributary to the Susquehanna river.  These lay in the bowl between the Furnace Hills to the north, the closest of which was the Ephrata Mountain, and the Welsh Mountains to the South East. Neither of these are truly mountains in the real sense of the word, acting more like big hills.  The real lack of physical boundaries, since the shallowness of the Susquehanna did not provide a real barrier, made Lancaster County easily accessible to the Native Americans.1

Many Indians settled in the Washington Boro area.  This made sense since the growing season was 205 days, almost month longer than in the Ephrata area, where the Jacob Metzler Plantation resides.  It makes sense then that the fertile soil, fair climate, plenty of game, and river access that major Indian settlements happened in the Conestoga and Washington Boro areas. Lancaster’s soils are a rich limestone, well drained and excellent for agriculture.1

Archeological digs indicate that small settlements existed along the shores of the Susquehanna river as early as sometime between 10,000 and 8000 BC. These groups of indians were called Paleo (old or ancient) Indians. While there are no known settlements near the Jacob Metzler Plantation, these Indians most likely roamed the area in search game like the Arctic Shrew, the northern bog lemming, Caribou, and even mastodon. The remains of one mastodon was found near Ephrata.1

Two other periods of Indian culture existed in the Washington Boro area: The Archaic Indians, who were Hunters, Fishers, and Gatherers (8000 BC to 1000 BC) and the Woodland Period Indians, who seemed more focussed on Horticultural and Village life (1000 BC to 1550 AD).1

The era of Indians that play most prominently into the white man’s arrival were the Susquehannock Indians (1575 AD to 1675 AD).  The first written account of the Indians in Lancaster county begins when Captain John Smith  of the Pocahontas fame, encountered a group of 60 warriors, probably from the area of Washington Boro.2 By the late 1600’s, the only prominent Indian settlement  and remnants of the Susquehannocks and Senecas was at Conestoga.3Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 9.03.37 AM

This paints a short history of the Indian presence in Lancaster County. But how do these people figure into the history of this property? We have a smattering of arrowheads, axe heads, and other indian artifacts that my father collected while farming the land, so obviously they roamed the area.

Perhaps the only reference to Indians specifically in the area of the Jacob Metzler Plantation comes from H. M. J. Klien. When the settlers first arrived in Lancaster County, they found area full on tall trees, but they were unhindered in their travel since the forests lacked undergrowth. He concludes that the “Indians were never numerous; ‘scarcely more than half a dozen families were ever to be found in one place;’ yet the Indian custom of burning scrubby underwood ‘made it not a difficult matter to drive a cart for long distances through woods in all directions.”4

The rest of the information we have is a bit more speculative and conjecture. While it is not farfetched to believe that Indians from the Paleo-Indian, Archaic, and Woodland periods traveled in hunted the lands surrounding the Jacob Metzler Plantation, there is little concrete proof that they did so. If anything, it seems a fairer bet that the Susquehannocks, who later became incorporated into the Conestoga Indians along with the Seneca and other Indian tribes, paddled up this river since the hub of their society was down at the mouth of the river.

Yet there are stories, oral tradition and rumors, that have wound their way down through families. Many times there tend to be some kernel of truth in them.

TScreen Shot 2014-12-08 at 9.03.50 AMhe Conestoga River lies ½ miles away from the . Turtle Hill Road travels from Brownstown along the along the Conestoga Creek until in ends at the Farmersville bridge. Fabric shop owner Emma Martin, who lives on the corner of Turtle Hill  Road and Snyder Road, tells that her grandfather remembers that Turtle Hill Road was once an Indian path. That the road it remains close to the river, following its contours, yet takes advantages of the high ridges nearby, could suggest truth in this piece of oral history. This would allow the Indian travelers to keep their moccasins dry. Not to mention, many Indian pathways were eventually converted to roads.5

Joel Buch, a Social Studies teacher at Conestoga Valley High School, teaches local history and shared that his grandfather once heard stories of a indian trading post near the juxtaposition of West Farmersville Road, East Main Street in Brownstown, and Turtle Hill Road. This story has some merit since the Indian settlement in Conestoga was predominately a trading town and situated where the Conestoga river dumps into the Susquehanna.3 It would be easy to imagine them traveling up the river to this trading post, and other trading posts like this.

The trading post would have most likely been run by the Dutch or the French, who were enlisted by the Governor of Pennsylvania to conduct fur trade.  At this post, Conestogas would have brought furs to exchange for other goods.  An inventory list from the area of the Conestoga trading posts indicates some of the items the Indians would have offered for trade and also gives insight as to what sort of wildlife was roaming the woods at the time. Pelts and skins from white tailed deer, elk, foxes, bobcats, raccoons, and bear were common and exchanged for items like gunpowder, blankets, buckshot, buttons, and ribbon.3

The aforementioned Emma Martin also tells a story recounted by her grandfather of a cave that had Indian markings on it. The entrance to the cave collapsed at some point. It was located  along the Conestoga Creek between Farmersville bridge and the Talmage bridge. Thomas Weaver, former school teacher at Metzler’s one room school house from 2009 to 2012, attempted to verify the story, and talked to someone who thought they too remembered a cave, but the existence of such a cave remains unverified.

Kinsey, Dr. W. Fred. Lower Susquehanna Valley Prehistoric Indians. 1977.

Wallace, Paul A.W. Indians in Pennsylvania. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Harrisburg. 1989.

Kent, Barry C. Susquehanna’s Indians. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. 2001.

Lancaster County Pennsylvania: a History. Editor: H.M.J. Klein, Ph. D., Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc., New York. 1924.

Wallace, Paul A.W. Historic Indian Paths of Pennsylvania. 1952.

Leave us a comment