Along the Way: Regina’s Song

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Memorial for Regina Leininger

 

Alone, yet not alone am I,

Though in this solitude so drear;

I feel my Saviour always nigh,

He comes the very hour to cheer;

I am with Him, and He with me,

E’en here alone I cannot be

Note: There are a handful of different versions this hymn. Though they are all very similar, the lyrics of “Allein, und doch nicht ganz allein” that I used come from Sipe’s The Indian Wars of Pennsylvania.

Music has a very important place in everyday life. We have favorite songs we enjoy playing over and over again as they hold a special place in our hearts. A song can send us back to events that happened years and years ago or take us once again to the place we first heard it. Without a doubt, music has played an important part in my life and it was a song that brought me to Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church on the western edge of Stouchsburg.

As I approached the church, I could not help but be in awe of the magnificent structure erected between the years 1785 and 1786. The original church structure was built in 1743, with its cornerstone placed on May 12, Ascension Day. The church and cemetery are often referred to as Long’s Church and Cemetery, after Reverend A. Johnson Long who served as pastor here from 1874 until his death in 1908.

My attention shifted from the church to the old cemetery opposite the church. The beautiful old cemetery shows great care for its age and I could not wait to explore the grounds. While not impossible, it would be a challenge to find one particular stone among the older weathered stones. Thankfully I knew the location of the marker I sought.

I crossed the parking lot to the stone wall that surrounds the burial grounds in order to get a better look at this historic cemetery. The “newer” stone caught my attention and I knew it was the memorial I sought – it was just inside the gate, exactly where I was told it was located.

The memorial was for Regina, the Indian captive. The marker, placed by the Berks County Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1958, remembers Regina, who lies in an unmarked grave in the old cemetery. The memorial recognizes her by the two different names is was known by – Regina Leininger in life and Regina Hartman in legend. Regina’s story is one that weaves fact and lore into an interesting story that has been handed down through the generations. Historians and folklorists have debated her identity over the years and while the majority agree Regina Hartman and Regina Leininger are one and the same, the legend continues to be told and retold.

The legend of Regina begins on October 16, 1755, when she was taken prisoner by raiding Indians in Lebanon County. Regina’s father and brother were killed in the raid and she and her sister, Barbara, were taken prisoner. At the time of the raid, Regina was two years old; for the next seventeen years was raised among the Indians.

At the end of Pontiac’s War, Regina was among the captives returned. Regina was placed in a line with the other captives and those who had children taken walked among the captives, searching the faces for some trace of identification. Regina’s mother looked at the children, but did not recognize her daughter among the children. At the insistence of Colonel Bouquet, Regina’s mother was asked to think of something that might help her daughter recall her past. Her mother started singing Allein, und doch nicht ganz allein, the hymn she often sang to Regina as a baby. According to legend, Regina recognized the song and bursting into tears, rushed forward to the embrace her birth mother.

I first encountered Regina’s story in The Report of the Commission to Locate the Site of Frontier Forts of Pennsylvania, which is the source of the confusion of Regina’s identity. Her story originally came from Rev. Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, the son-in-law of Conrad Weiser, who recorded the story told to him by the widow of John Hartman while she was visiting him from her home in Lebanon County. Many have read this and have assumed Regina was the daughter of the widow Hartman. At no point does Reverend Muhlenberg record this in his writings – the Reverend merely states Regina’s story was told to him by the widow of John Hartman. Adding to the confusion is Reverend Muhlenberg never identifies the last name of Regina.

The date of the supposed massacre and abduction was the same day as the Penn’s Creek Massacre. On October 16, 1755, Delaware warriors attacked the German settlements on Penn’s Creek, near present-day Selinsgrove and New Berlin. Among the captured were Barbara Leininger and her sister Rachel, who was also known as Regina. More on the massacre and Regina’s abduction can be found here: The Penn’s Creek Massacre: Part One

After paying my respects to Regina and remembering her story, I left her resting in her unmarked grave, while remembering the song that brought me here had reunited a family after years of separation.

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