Most people think of the words “school massacre” and envision Columbine High School, where in 1999 two boys murdered 13 then committed suicide. Or perhaps they think of 2005 and Red Lake, Minnesota where a student murdered eight before turning the gun on himself. Americans are still reeling from the school shooting in Newtown Connecticut where, last year, a twenty-year-old shot and killed 26 people, most of them children. But the first recorded school massacre in the U.S. came years before anyone ever associated the schoolhouse with guns or weapons.
“Yesterday at noon a boy sixteen years of age shot himself, or was shot by his brother…the boy is dead. He was a member of the High School of this city … this boy lost his life through the too common habit among boys of carrying deadly weapons. We do not know that this habit can be broken up. We do not know that school teachers have the right … of searching the pockets of their pupils, but it seems almost a necessity… nearly every schoolboy carries a pistol “ (source). This is not a story taken from yesterday’s headlines, but from an 1874 Los Angeles Herald.
But the first recorded school massacre went back farther in time, to July 26, 1764. It was a part of what was labeled “Pontiac’s Rebellion,” where Chief Pontiac of the Ottawa Tribe went to war with small American colonies that had settled in lands promised to the Indians by the British. That morning, a group of Indians raided a schoolhouse a few miles from present day Greencastle, Pennsylvania. They began clubbing School Master Enoch Brown and his students. Despite Brown’s pleas to save the children, the Indians clubbed and scalped all eleven students. One boy survived to later tell the tale, which for many years was thought to be a horrific legend. Farmers investigated several hours after the attack to discover what was called by historian Francis Parkman “an outrage unmatched in fiendish atrocity through all the annals of war” (source). The bodies were buried in an unmarked grave in one large box, placed head to toe. Nearly eighty years later an investigation led to the discovery of the grave.
It was reported the three Indians who created the massacre angered the tribes, and they were called “cowards” – a serious intimidation in these particular tribes. A memorial site was dedicated to Enoch Brown and the children. A stone pillar was placed near where the schoolhouse once stood, and a gravestone was created for the grave.
List of U.S. school shootings HERE
Photo from and for photos & information on the memorials, go HERE
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Photo of J. Yates by Rachel Stephens