In Search of John Elder

My summer of research got underway this week with two afternoons at the Dauphin County Historical Society in Harrisburg, PA.  Along with my research assistants Megan and Brianna, I am spending the next few months exploring the relationship between Presbyterians and the American Revolution for my current research project.

This week we examined the papers of Rev. John Elder, a Presbyterian minister who was probably one of the ring-leaders of the so-called Paxton Boys, a group of Scots-Irish Presbyterians who, in December 1763, massacred twenty Conestoga Indians in Lancaster County, PA.

Megan and Brianna are reading and transcribing select Elder letters written in the years surrounding the massacre and I was trying to make sense of Elder’s prayer and sermon books.  In addition to the Elder stuff, I found a few useful documents in the papers of Rev. John Roan, the minister of the Derry Presbyterian Church in what today is Hershey, PA.

We are off to a good start.  I will try to use the blog to keep you up to date on our progress.  Also stay tuned for the next edition of the Virtual Office Hours, which will be devoted to our research experience at the Dauphin County Historical Society and will feature me standing alongside Front Street in Harrisburg facing down rush-hour traffic and yelling into the camera.

Here are a few pics:

Megan trying to make sense of an Elder letter

Brianna intently reading one of Elder’s letters from the 1760s
Manuscript Collection 070
Elder to Joseph Shippen, 1 Sept., 1763