I am Sister Margaret Schnall and my husband is Brother Johann Schnall. We lived with our family at Fairfield on the Thames from 1801-1813 and later at New Fairfield from 1818-1819.
Fairfield was established in 1792 as a refuge for our Delaware brethren, who were peace loving Indians whose lives had been constantly threatened by the white man’s westward migration. In the early 1790s, 96 innocent adults and children were brutally murdered at Gnadenhutten in the Ohio Valley by American militiamen. The British offered us land in Upper Canada and here we lived in relative peace and prosperity for several years, teaching our Indian brethren farming, domestic and academic skills as well as the word of God.
Life was not always perfect but we had no idea of the horrors to come. The Thames River was the main thoroughfare between the Detroit and Niagara regions. In between was one big wildnerness. We were obligated to provide lodging and food for everyone travelling by. Most were welcome (and paid generously) except for the dishonest whose purpose was to cause trouble (mainly sellers of liquor or warfaring Indians who sought to tempt our young men to join them).
The year 1812 brought rumours of war and increased river traffic but the autumn of 1813 was horrendous. After the British defeat on Lake Erie, the retreat up the Thames began. Fort Malden and Amerherstburg were abandoned and set on fire. Thousands came through our village: ordinary families with children; military and Indian families; soldiers; prisoners; and the wounded.
Our buildings were filled beyond capacity and our streets were chaotic with animals and military equipment. The Indian brethren panicked with memories of past brutalities and made preparations to flee eastward with Brother Denke.
On October 5th, Tecumseh was killed in the Battle of the Thames and the British fled east up the river. At first, the Americans promised us no harm but the next day we were accused of aiding and abetting the enemy. Our buildings and possessions were ransacked as they searched for valuables and signs of treason. Even our sermons written in German were thought to be code. Read the rest of this entry