Iman family notes

Home of the Paxtang Boys?

Adjacent to Jacob Eyman in the 1779 Upper Paxtang tax rolls was a "John Elder", most likely the prominent Presbyterian of the neighborhood, and possibly the instigator of an incident which came to be known as the "Paxtang Boys". Settlers on the frontier, feeling unprotected by Quaker politicians from Indian raids took steps which alarmed many and provoked widespread discussion. The chaps who rode down from Paxtang to massacre among the few remaining Indians around Conestoga seem to have been led by the Reverend John Elder.

John was a preacher of the gospel and developed a Donegal Prebytery, which subsequently divided off to a Paxtang congregation.The son of Robert Elder who had migrated from Scotland in about 1730, Elder lived on family land near the first ridge of the Kittochtinny mountains, five miles north of Harrisburg. Elder John was a fiery preacher with strong ideas which were sometimes at variance with other Presbyterians. He took his "leadership of the flock" responsibilities seriously and provided direction to political and military affairs as well as spiritual ones. In the face of Indian difficulties he trained his congregations as scouts, superintended the discipline of his men, and mounted rangers which became widely known as the "Paxtang Boys".

During two summers at least, in the 1760s, his parishioners went to church armed. During the latter part of the summer of 1763, many murders were committed in Paxtang, culminating in the destruction of the Indians on Conestoga Manor at Lancaster. Although the men composing the company of the "Paxtang Boys" who exterminated the savages were thought to have been his faithful rangers, it was never proven that he Rev. Elder had previous knowledge of the plot, though Quaker pamphleteers of the day charged him with aiding and abetting the destruction of the Indians.

When the deed was done, and the Quaker authorities were determined to proceed to extreme lengths with the participants, and denounced the frontiersmen as "riotous and murderous Irish Presbyterians," he took sides with the border inhabitants, and sought to condone the deed. His letters published in connection with the history of that transaction prove him to have been a man judicious, firm and decided. During the controversy that ensued, he was the author of one of the pamphlets: "Letter from a Gentleman in one of the Back Counties to a Friend in Philadelphia."