Features appear in each issue of Pennsylvania Heritage showcasing a variety of subjects from various periods and geographic locations in Pennsylvania.

Scion of a decayed Anglo-Irish Ascend­ancy family of Ireland’s County Monaghan, the young Rev. Thomas Barton journeyed in spring 1755 through the largely unbroken forests of Pennsylvania to the settlement known at the time as Contwager or Conewago. He made his way – “over Susquehanna,” as the contem­porary traveler commonly described it-to lands lying along the Bermudian and Conewago creeks in what was then a part of York County but has since become upper Adams County (an area now embraced by the town­ships still known as Huntington and Tyrone).

Authorized by the London­-based Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts and but recently ordained by the Bishop of London, the Reverend Barton wrote his superiors in London that he “was received with a hearty welcome, and was much pleased to find the poor people fill’d with gratitude” for his being sent into what Pennsylvanians at that time derogated as the “back counties.” Apprehensive that they would become absorbed in an irrepress­ible tide of Scots-Irish Presbyterians, the inhabitants of Conewago, many of whom (like Barton) were Anglo-Irish, had earlier petitioned for their own Church of England priest. They had even erected a “log-House Church” well before Barton’s arrival to establish their good intentions.

During the halcyon early months of his incumbency, the Rev. Thomas Barton was busy indeed. His missionary circuit embraced the fledgling communities of Carlisle and York, and several satellite settlements, including “Canogochieg, Shippensburg, Sharmans Valley, West Penns­Borough and Marsh Creek.” He proved successful. He reported to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts that he had “the pleasure to see my hearers encrease daily … to such a number … that I have been sometimes obliged to preach to them under the Covert of the Trees.” Even dissenters and Indians, eager “to ex­change their savage barbarity for the pure and peaceable religion of Jesus,” swelled his three congregations so that Barton had just cause to feel “big with the hopes of being able to do service.”

By mid-summer, Barton’s anticipation, success, and hopes reversed themselves. Although its effects were not to be felt for several months, the blow occurred on July 9, 1755; hundreds of miles to the west, just south of present-day Pittsburgh, Maj. Gen. Edward Braddock lost his proud army and, days later, his own life. In one account, the badly wow1ded Braddock tried unsuccessfully to obtain Barton’s friend George Croghan’s pistols so that he might “die as an old Roman.” The Pennsylvania frontier collapsed, and Carlisle and Huntington Township became outposts, vulnerable to raiding parties of French, Delaware, and Shawnee.

The Anglican priest joined Presbyterian ministers, the Rev. Andrew Bay and the Rev. John Steel, in marshaling congregations into militia because the Quaker-dominated legislature would offer no immediate military aid to meet the emergency. Christ’s Church in Huntington and Barton’s own private planta­tion in adjacent Reading Township became rallying points, if not actual fortifica­tions. By day and by night, Barton received his fearful parishioners, alarmed by “the Bark of a Dog in the Night, or the least Noise.”

“Tho’ my Churches are Churches militant indeed,” he wrote, “yet I have the pleasure every Sunday (even in the worse of Times). to see my people crowding with their Muskets on their Shoulders; declaring that they will dye Protestants and Freedmen sooner than live idolaters and Slaves.” However, the settlers lacked the materials with which to defend hearth and home. “Not a Man in Ten is able to purchase a Gun. – Not a House in Twenty has a Door with either Lock or Bolt to it. So that a very small number of Indians might totally destroy the whole Inhabitants (in their present Circumstances) without the least Opposition.”

During the chaotic years, and notwithstanding the prevailing anxiety among the isolated inhabitants that their Day of Judgment was upon them, Thomas Barton directed a constant barrage of letters to the Proprietary, to Provincial Secretary Richard Peters, to the Rev. William Smith, provost of the College of Philadelphia and friend, to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, and to his brother-in-law David Rittenhouse. The number of letters extant today, together with references to others that have not survived, is remark­able. That Barton found both the time and the place to dispatch so many missives is nothing less than astonishing. One letter, to the governor, is dated “3 o’clock in the Morning, November 2nd 1755,” and opens without the usual courtesies: “I am just come from Carlisle. . . I suppose by to-morrow there will be not one Woman or Child in the Town.” It concludes with equal urgency. “I intend this morning to return to Carlisle with a Party of men to guard that Town; the Gentl. there desire me to request your assistance without Delay.”

Throughout the remainder of 1755 and continuing until July 1758 – when Brig. Gen. John Forbes set off (with Barton as his Anglican chaplain) to destroy the principal French staging point at Fort Duquesne – the missionary persevered in his many tasks, one of which clearly involved providing accurate and timely intelli­gence to the officials governing the province from – and in the security of – distant Philadel­phia. Faithfully, he reported on farmsteads ravaged by Indian raiding parties, individuals scalped, families annihilated. In some instances, these involved neighbors dwelling as close as the Marsh Creek settlement eleven miles from Barton’s plantation below Mud Run. In other cases, he detailed events distinguished by their savagery or gro­tesqueness. On August 22, 1756, exclaiming in a voice still intimating near-hysteria that “Marsh Creek in York County is become a Frontier,” he described the latest depravity.

… on Friday last, at a Place call’d Salisbury Plains, as a Number of People were accompanying the Corpse of a young woman to her grave, … they were fir’d upon by a Party of Indians, who kill’d five the first fire, upon which they dispers’d, and fled …. And what is unparallel’d by any instance of Brutality, they even open’d the Coffin, took out the Corps and scalp’d her.

Thomas Barton had first come to America in 1751, and taught school in Norriton, near Philadelphia, where he met two remarkable individuals. One of them, Esther, he married three years later, and they had ten children, eight of whom survived into adult­hood. The other, Esther’s brother, David, was destined to become one of eighteenth century Pennsylvania’s genuine geniuses: he was a mathematician, a clockmaker, a creator of musical instru­ments, an astronomer, and a director of the national mint. The siblings’ surname was Rittenhouse, and their ances­tor, William (or Wilhelm) Rittinghausen, had founded America’s first successful paper manufactory.

Rather typical for married women of the period, little is known of Esther Rittenhouse Barton, David’s favorite sister. Her husband’s surviving correspondence refers spar­ingly to her illnesses and recovery, but except for the selections published by Barton’s son, William, the correspondence with David Rittenhouse, in which Barton would have written at greater length of his domestic relation­ships, has disappeared. Elizabeth Barton’s obituary in the June 29, 1774, edition of the Pennsylvania Gazette, possibly authored by Thomas Barton himself, recalls her “amiable disposition and gentleness of manners.” Above all, it celebrates her “propriety of conduct.”

… it was her chief desire, to shine in her own family as a dutiful wife and a tender mother; and (she) preferred the calm walk of domestic happiness to all those fantastic and adventitious joys in the pursuit of which too many waste their precious time.

Throughout his adult life, David Rittenhouse suffered from general physical weak­ness and what appears to have been a severe duodenal ulcer. He wrote to Thomas Barton of “a constant heat in the pit of the stomach, affecting a space exceeding the size of a half guinea, attended at times with much pain.” As early as 1753 – he had been born in 1732 – the excruciating pain drove him to “take the waters” at Yellow (now Chester) Springs, in nearby Chester County. It might have been need for similar relief in 1756 that put him on the trails that would lead him to his sister and brother-in-law’s little plantation in Reading Township.

The Bartons’ farmstead lay a few miles southeast of a sulphur spring, near today’s York Springs, later acclaimed for its healing powers. Analysis was to reveal that twenty percent of the water’s content was Epsom salts, in addition to high levels of other minerals. Although the first publicly recorded notice of the spring details its “discovery” around 1790, it is not improb­able that Barton was acquainted with it in 1756. A naturalist of great energy, Barton was one of the province’s – if not America’s­ – first mineralogists. His manuscript war journal of 1758 details his fascination with the “Stone-Coal” on the Allegheny Mountain and with the unique properties of the Falling Springs shown him near Chambersburg: “this Water is of such a Quality that Wood, Clay, Straws & C that lie any Time in it, are petrified, & sometimes incrusted with a hard Stone.” As early as 1759, his first year in Lancaster, the Library Company of Lancaster recorded a gift by Barton of “some curious Mines, Minerals and Fossils.” In 1766, the missionary sent to London “a box of natural Productions for the Proprietor.” In personal correspondence to Thomas Penn, Barton often recorded observations and discoveries of interesting and potentially profitable mineral resources.

Even though the twenty­-four year old David Rittenhouse complained to Barton that he had “not health for a soldier,” he ventured into remote back counties, notori­ous for Indian attacks, during fall 1756. It was a vast, desolate wilderness, of which Barton had written in August that “here … all is Confusion. Such a Panick has seized the Hearts of People in general…that [Cumberland] County is almost relinquished, & Marsh Creek in York County is become a Frontier.”

It remains uncertain whether Rittenhouse, during his travels, sought relief in Huntington Township’s salubrious waters in 1756. It is clear that he undertook a visit under most harrowing conditions, and that he, already an accomplished clockmaker, presented Barton that year with, in the words of the Anglican missionary’s eldest son William, “an eight-­day clock … over the dial-plate of which, was engraven this mementory motto – Tempus fugit; and underneath, this blunt but too often necessary precept – Go about your business.” (Coincidentally, a Continental bill of credit and one cent piece struck in 1787 bore the word Fugio – “I fly”­ – above a sundial and a meridian sun, and the motto “Mind your business” beneath the two devices. In the years immediately before he was appointed director of the United States Mint in 1792, Rittenhouse had been actively advising on the management of the new facility.)

“Time flies.” “Go about your business.” These meta­physical and pragmatic reminders of life’s transiency must have appealed to Barton’s sensibilities: a sketch of his seal dating about 1760 displays a traditional iconic death’s head and thigh bones, surrounded with royal regalia of scepter, crown, and orb, and garlanded with the venerable Latin tag memento mori, “remember that you must die.” How appropriate David Rittenhouse’s gift of an eight­-day memento mori must have seemed to his brother-in-law, who was hanging on by the barest of threads, a missionary whose letters, now more than two centuries old, convey the sheer panic and utter horror of the era.

.. within three miles of Patterson’s Fort was found Adam Nicolson and his wife, dead & scalp’d; … William Wilcock & his wife, dead & scapl’d; Hugh Micheltree, & a Son of s Nicolson, dead & scalp’d, with many Children, in all about 17 … one Sherridan, a Quaker, his wife, three Children & a Servant, were kill’d & scapl’d, together with one Wm. Hamilton, & his Wife, his Daughter, & one French …

Thomas Barton, having fled the mayhem of eighteenth century Ireland, had ironically found himself in worse sorts. “Now we know,” he wrote, “that our Danger hastens with the Encrease of the Moon, & we expect nothing but Death & Ruin every Night.” But if on the eighteenth century Pennsylvania frontier time flew with the ravening energy of Apocalyptic Horsemen, it also marched on with regular, stately, and measurable rhythms in Philadelphia, the domesticated and eminently civilized capital of the prov­ince. Among a city famed for its instrument-makers and clockmakers, David Rittenhouse towered without rival.

The dock was the technical, aesthetic, and metaphysical analog for the body politic. William Penn himself had written in 1682 that “Govern­ments, like clocks, go from the motion Men give them: and as Governments are made and mov’d by Men, so by them they are Ruin’d too: Wherefore Governments rather depend upon Men, than Men upon Governments.” With the return to peace in 1761. Pennsylvania’s inhabitants could once again anticipate living and reaping the benefits of the good life. The Propri­etary and its bureaucrats once more wound the dock of their beloved Commonwealth and set it a-ticking.

In his new parish in Lancaster, far from the back counties, Barton set about insuring the survival of his church, a shoal girdled by a sea of Presbyterians and German sectarians. He labored to establish a school for Indians and Blacks, and participated in the founding of the Lancaster Library Company, later the Juliana Library (named after Thomas Penn’s wife), inter­preted by one historian as an extension of Philadelphia’s American Philosophical Society. Again preparing to establish a mission among the Indians, the Rev. Thomas Barton, however, had suddenly to adjust to the inevitable reversal when Pontiac’s War erupted. In 1763, he duly reported the events to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts.

The Barbarians have renewed their Hostilities against us, and our Country bleeds again under the Savage knife! The dreadful news of Murdering, Burning and Scalping is daily conveyed to us, and confirmed with shocking additions …. Above 50 miles of the finest Country in America are already deserted, and the people having left their crops in the Ground, almost ready for the Sickle are reduced to the most consummate distress and all this unfortunately happens at a time … when we imagined ourselves going into the Arms of Peace to sing a lasting Requiem!

Not Pontiac’s scalp-hunting warriors, but embittered, frustrated Scots-Irish settlers invaded the streets of Lan­caster on December 27, 1763. Even while Barton celebrated Christmas-he had been on circuit earlier in the week the irate and alienated frontiers­men tomahawked and shot a small band of baptized Conestoga Indians who had sought government sanctuary in the city. The insurrection gathered momentum. Their numbers swollen with addi­tional hordes of suffering frontier settlers, the “Paxton Boys” marched upon Philadel­phia in February 1764 to seek redress for their being cruelly ignored and to finish off the Indians harbored in the city. Philadelphia’s tranquillity was destroyed, and the clockmaker’s dream of order shattered.

About fifty of the scoundrels marched by my work-shop – I have seen hundreds of Indians travelling the country, and can with truth affirm, that the behaviour of these fellows was ten times more savage and brutal than theirs. Frightening women, by running the muzzles of their guns through windows, swearing and hallooing; attacking men without the least provocation; dragging them by the hair to the ground, and pretending to scalp them; shooting a number of dogs and fowls; – these are some of their exploits.

During the years following the so-called “Paxton Riots,” Thomas Barton, the mission­ary, and David Rittenhouse, the clockmaker, began exploring plans for construct­ing an orrery, or planetarium, which in its eighteenth century conception was fashioned like a complicated timepiece, a table-top universe modeled in gleaming brass and ivory, propelled by means of interlocking cog-wheels, regulators, escapements, and springs. In 1767, Barton, building upon previous discussions and correspon­dence, wrote his brother.

I am much pleased with your remarks on Spherical Orreries, or rather on the circles generally adapted to such Orreries …. I would have you pursue your Orrery in your own way, without any regard to an ignorant or prevailing taste. All you have to study is truth, and to display the glorious system of Copernicus in a proper manner; – and to make your machine as much an original, as possible.

The planetarium or orrery of the eighteenth century was the period’s consummate expression of the prevailing natural philosophy. David Rittenhouse’s model, begun in 1767, was to render the galaxy comprehensible. Its mechani­cal precision would intimate the perceptible part of the universe that already inti­mated further the grand, incomprehensible cosmic whole – “the visible creation, consisting of revolving worlds and central suns, even includ­ing aU those that are beyond the reach of the human eye and telescope.” It was con­ceived as the polar opposite, in other words, of the anarchy that subverted civil govern­ment on Pennsylvania’s frontier and thwarted estab­lishing those institutions which would guarantee and regulate the orderly gover­nance of a Commonwealth.

Like a pendulum on one of his brother-in-law’s eight-day time pieces, Barton now swung from chaos to cosmos. The times dictated that his survival depended upon this facility, and his upbringing as an Anglo-Irishman at that moment in Irish history had prepared him well for such polarization. He enthusiasti­cally encouraged his brother-in-law’s project, supplying him with needed books; he even wrote persua­sively to the Proprietor, vividly setting before his mind’s eye the image of what was to become an unparalleled revelation of Pennsylvania’s cultural ferment. In 1768, an astonished Thomas Penn replied to Barton. “The account you give me of Mr. Rittenhouse’s Orrery, is what I could not have imagined could be executed in Pennsylvania; and I shall be much pleased to see a copper-plate of it, for which l would make that gentleman a present, for his encouragement.”

Rittenhouse’s plans for a working model of the universe that would exceed in accuracy and complexity any of its several antecedents excited Philadelphia’s notables, but none as much as the Rev. Dr. Provost William Smith of the College of Philadelphia, who became his advocate and patron. The device Rittenhouse envisioned would be prized by Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, and the College of Philadel­phia. Should Rittenhouse fail to obtain a buyer for his Orrery – surely an improbability – Smith indicated that the college would gladly agree to acquire it. The execution proceeded slowly, the design continuing to evolve as Rittenhouse worked away, the meticulously cut brass parts difficult to obtain. But in the midst of it all, another event intervened to postpone the orrery’s completion.

Approximately twice a century the planet Venus transits the sun. Too small an object at that distance to create an eclipse, Venus nevertheless visibly passes between the earth and the sun. By accu­rately measuring and timing the planet’s transit from a variety of locales, astronomers refine their determination of the earth’s distance from the sun, a measurement that may, in turn, be employed to calculate other distances in the solar system.

Seventeenth century data, produced under less than rigorous and exacting condi­tions, were suspect. A transit in 1761, moreover, had occurred while the North American coast lay under clouds. Consequently, great efforts were undertaken to prepare for Venus’ transit on June 3, 1769.

The American Philosophical Society planned to obtain readings from three different locations, one on the Delaware coast at Cape Henlopen, another from a specially erected observatory at the State House in Philadelphia, and the third from Rittenhouse’s farm at Norriton. It was a grand and worthy effort. Money was obtained from the state legislature; telescopes, chronometers, and other devices were borrowed or donated, some by Proprietor Thomas Penn himself. David Rittenhouse constructed several instruments to com­plete the required inventory. The most learned minds lent themselves to the effort, with William Smith – Rittenhouse in his pocket – leading the way.

With considerable relief, Saturday, June 3, dawned clear. A large crowd of curious farmers who had gathered near Rittenhouse’s observatory had to be warned to maintain absolute silence lest they mar the work. As the critical moment drew close, the observers and their assistants separated into three groups. William Smith took the prestigious position in the log observatory. Nearby in the yard, Provincial Surveyor John Lukens positioned himself at one telescope, David Rittenhouse at another.

Because the transit would occur directly overhead, the observers had to lie on their backs, pointing their telescopes skyward. These awkward positions required assistants to bolster the astronomers’ heads, and it fell to Thomas Barton, who had journeyed from Lancaster for the occasion, to support his brother-in-law’s. In spite of a year’s meticulous preparations and planning, this extraordinary exercise in planning, order, and measure­ment collided predictably with the unpredictable. Chaos once more undermined carefully laid plans. With eyes straining to determine exactly the very second of contact between Venus and the sun, the tension grew to such uncontrollable levels that David Rittenhouse lost consciousness. According to Benjamin Rush, “in the instant of one of the contacts of the planet with the sun, an emotion of delight so exquisite and powerful” induced fainting. Rittenhouse regained awareness only after Venus had transited some one-third of its diameter over the sun’s surface.

Several atmospheric distortions and irregularities made it impossible to deter­mine the precise moment contact between the sun and the planet actually occurred. Three different times were reported at Norriton. The observations at the State House and Cape Henlopen produced only further dis­agreement. Rittenhouse needed more than a month to work out his calculations and compensations. Completed, they were published in Benjamin Franklin’s Pennsyl­vania Gazette and the American Philosophical Society’s Transactions and sent throughout the world. Acco­lades fell to Rittenhouse, and his fame grew. He was appointed to the commission charged with defining the boundary separating New York and New Jersey, and invited to join in the plans to observe Mercury’s transit on November 9. Only after these tasks had been completed was he free to resume work on the orrery.

The orrery had attracted attention beyond Pennsylva­nia. In April 1770, the Rev. John Witherspoon, the recently immigrated Scots Presbyterian president of the College of New Jersey, visited Rittenhouse at his Norriton farmstead. Immediately impressed with the plan­etarium and determining that Rittenhouse was not under any formal prior obligation to sell it, he contracted on the spot to purchase the completed orrery for the considerable sum of three hundred pounds. When Rittenhouse learned that William Smith was outraged at Pennsylvania’s – to say nothing of his college’s – loss of the device (“I never met with greater mortification,” the provost wrote Barton), Rittenhouse agreed to manu­facture a second model for the College of Philadelphia. Obligations, contracts, setting up household in Philadelphia, poor health, and grief over his first wife’s death delayed the completion of the two orreries until 1771. Today, they are the prized possessions of Princeton University and the University of Pennsylvania.

Rittenhouse conceived his orrery as a kind of planetary dock, which he carefully described to Barton. “This Machine,” he wrote, “is intended to have three faces, standing perpendicular to the horizon: that in the front to be four feet square, made of sheet brass, curiously polished, silvered, and painted in proper places, and otherwise orna­mented.” The visual center would feature balls of brass or ivory representing the sun and its planets, the latter capable of moving in elliptical orbits about the sun according to their true velocities, and “U1e orbit of each Planet is likewise to be properly inclined to those of the others; and their Aphelia and Nodes justly placed; and their velocities so accurately adjusted, as not to differ sensibly from the tables of Astronomy in some thousands of years.” A hand crank would allow the curious to explore the machine’s possibilities. “When the Machine is put into motion, by the turning of a winch, there are three indexes which point out the hour of the day, the day of the month, and the year (according to the Julian account,) answering to that situation of the heavenly bodies which is then represented; and so continually, for a period of 5000 years, either forward or backward.” Ordinarily, however, the orrery’s operation would be regulated like a tallcase clock (commonly called a grandfather’s clock): “If it shall be thought proper, the whole is to be adapted to, and kept in motion by, a strong pendulum clock.”

But ill fortune was to hound David Rittenhouse. In the midst of the most orderly of scientific procedures, he – the principal observer – fainted at the critical moment. At an apogee of achievement, his peerless planetaria finally completed, his beloved wife died while delivering a stillborn baby. “I would have you,” he wrote in 1772 to Barton, “to expect nothing of me, in the future. I no longer feel any inducement to exert myself: every thing – even life itself – is insipid.”

Writing of the perennial conflict between Pennsylvania’s executory and Assembly, Barton foresaw the threat to temporal order. “What Revolutions it may bring about, we must leave to Time to determine; – but I am afraid the Effects of it will be grievously felt by Posterity yet unborn. – ” William Penn, however, recognized revolu­tion as an essential condition of human existence. “Being, as to our Bodies, composed of Changeable Elements, we, with the World, are made up of and subsist by Revolutions,” the Proprietor wrote.

When it broke out, the American Revolution proved to be one of the principal dislocations in human history. Less grandly, it indelibly altered the lives of the mission­ary and the clockmaker. Rittenhouse’s devotion to human liberty and the Ameri­can cause was total and undeviating. With each new commitment he made, his fame and stature increased. Not so with Thomas Barton.

If any man of great promise seemed to have been born under inauspicious stars, it was Barton. His family castle of Carrickmacross in Ireland had been sacked and burned by Catholics in the Williamite wars, and the family’s consid­erable holdings were mysteriously diverted by way of a daughter into the posses­sion of another great Monaghan family. Thomas Barton had made his way to Philadelphia in quest for a good life. In the end, he found illness and poor health, demoralization, exile from his home in Lancaster, and separation decreed by the new government from his eight children.

Barton’s reactions to the growing tide of rebellion with those of some of his colleagues reiterate the poignance of his unique tragedy. The Rev. Daniel Batwell, his successor in Cumberland and York counties, apparently assumed a hard stance against the American cause. Persecuted especially by the Germans of York, he was imprisoned under pathetic circumstances before finally being allowed to return to England. Others, including William Smith, seized the opportunity to embrace the new movement and survived, if not thrived. Barton, although generally sympathetic to the patriots’ cause, could not in good conscience forswear his earlier oath to King George III by taking the required test oath to the new government, nor would he suspend the tradi­tional Anglican prayers for the royal family. He closed his churches, but still endeavored to serve his followers’ spiritual needs under the direst of conditions and trials. “I have visited them from house to house,” Barton wrote, “regu­larly instructed their families, baptized & catechized their children; attended their sick and performed such other duties in private as aton’d for my suspension from public preaching.”

Minding his own business availed him naught; the timely admonition on his eight-day clock became the hollowest of platitudes. The missionaries of the Society for the Propagation of U1e Gospel in Foreign Parts, he noted in 1778, “have not intermeddled directly or indirectly in the present melancholy contest nor done any act or thing inimical to the liberty or welfare of America.” Unobtrusively attending to his priestly vocation proved fruitless. The Rev. Philip Reading of Apoquiniminck reported what must have represented an altogether common dilemma for the Anglican clerics: “No more passive obedience and non resistance has been scribbled with a pencil on my Church door.” Eventually, Barton was forced to leave Pennsylvania for the City of New York, compelled to accept exile from his children. For the last two years of his life, he sought tirelessly to reunite with them. Under considerable pressure, the authorities relented, and a brief reunion was allowed at Elizabethtown, New Jersey. That proved a final meeting.

In 1779, in one of his last letters to the Society, Barton offered a sad report.

The Clergy of America, the Missionaries in particular, have suffered beyond example, & indeed beyond the Recors of any History in this Day of Trial. Most of them have lost their all. Many of them are now in a slate of melancholly Pilgrimage & Poverty; & some of them have lately (from Grief & Despon­dency, it is said), paid the last debt of Nature …. We may exclaim, Quis Furor, O Cives! What have we done to deserve this hard treatment from our former friends & fellow Citizens? We have not intermeddled with any matters inconsistent with our Callings & Functions. We have studied to be quiet, & to give no offence to the present rulers. We have obeyed the Laws & Govern­ment now in being, as far as our Consciences & prior obligations would permit. We know no Crime that can be alleged against us, except an honest avowal of our principles can be deemed such, and for these we have suffered a persecution as cruel as the Bed of Procrustes.

One year later, in spring 1780, the Rev. Thomas Barton paid his own “last debt of Nature.”


For Further Reading

Barton, William. Memoirs of the Life of David Rittenhouse. Philadelphia: N. P., 1813.

Ford, Edward. David Rittenhouse, Astronomer­-Patriot, 1732-1796. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1946.

Hindle, Brooke. David Rittenhouse. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1964.

Hunter, William A. “Thomas Barton and the Forbes Expedi­tion.” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography. 95 (1971), 431-483.

Jeffries, Theodore W. “Thomas Barton (1730-1780): Victim of the Revolution.” Lancaster County Historical Society Journal. 81 (1977), 39-64.

Myers, James P., Jr. “The Reverend Thomas Barton’s Conflict with Colonel John Armstrong, en. 1758.” Cumberland County History. 10 (1993), 3-14.

Russell, Marvin F. “Thomas Barton and Pennsylvania’s Colonial Frontier.” Pennsylva­nia History. 46 (1979), 312-34.

Treese, Lorett. The Storm Gathering: The Penn Family and the American Revolution. University Park: The Penn State Press, 1992.


James P. Myers, Jr., a native of Onondaga County, New York, is a resident of Aspers, Adams County. He received his bachelor of arts degree from LeMoyne College, Syracuse, New York, earned his master of arts degree at the University of Arizona, and was awarded his doctorate from the University of Massachusetts. Since 1968, he has taught at Gettysburg College, where he offers courses in Shakespeare, Renaissance literature, and Irish studies. Currently working on a book devoted to Thomas Barton, one of the two subjects of this article, he is also researching Irish Quaker immigration into colonial era South Carolina and Pennsylvania, and the roles of Anglo-Irish placemen in Pennsylvania prior to the American Revolution.