At the time of European contact in the 16th and 17th centures, the Lenape (Delawares) lived in the area referred to as Lenapehoking (roughly the area around and between the Delaware and Hudson Rivers) in what is now the Northeastern United States. They were gradually pushed out of their ancestral homeland over the next centuries, having been by severely weakened by introduced infectious diseases, and by conflict with both Europeans and their traditional Lenape enemies, the Iroquoian-speaking Susquehannock. After the signing of the Treaty of Easton in 1758, the Lenape were forced to move west into what is today known as Ohio.
The Moravian missionary town of Gnadenhutten, south of what is now New Philadelphia, Ohio, was the scene of a brutal massacre of 96 Ohio Indians, mostly Lenape, by a company of Pennsylvania militia during the American Revolutionary War on March 8, 1782. The Indians, who had been converted by Moravian Breathren and were peaceful Christians, were under suspicion because of their neutrality in the war. Seeking revenge for Indian raids of frontier settlements, Captain David Williamson and his 90 volunteers captured a number of Lenape from the town and from neaby Salem. They were imprisoned overnight until it was decided to execute them the next morning by smashing their skulls, one-by-one, with a cooper’s mallet. Only two children managed to escape.