Susanne Luise (Eller) Partsch was born in Budingen, Germany on December 4, 1722. Her father, Johann Just Eller, a slate roofer for the court of Count Ernst Casimir, passed away before she was born. Susanne’s troubled childhood began when her mother married a violent man, before she turned seven years of age. The court removed her from her mother and step-father to be placed with the Bailiff Schubert and his wife in Meerholz. Susanne remained with the Schuberts until she was eighteen.
Susanne left the home of the Schuberts to work as a cook for a government counsellor named Schmidt. She came to know the Moravian group at the near by settlement of Herrnhut. Susanne was received into their congregation, in 1744. Within the year, she married her husband, twenty-five year old Georg Partsch, a fellow Moravian. They were joined in wedlock on the same day as twenty-three other Moravian couples from the congregation. The couple joined the Second Sea Congregation, which included as passengers the other twenty-three newly married couples. They set sail on the ship “Little Strength” to New York on November 26, 1744. The voyage took eighty-seven days. The group arrived in Bethlehem on December 6, 1744. In January of the next year, Susanne and Georg were assigned to the community in Nazareth.
On November 18,1755, the congregation elders requested that Georg and Susanne join the Indian Mission at Gnadenhutten on the Mahony creek, (near Lehighton). Susanne served as the cook for the group of fifteen plus an infant. Six days after their arrival the missionaries were attacked by hostile Indians. As the missionaries sat together finishing their evening meal, the settlement’s dogs began barking, warning the group of the approach of strangers. Soon the group heard voices and footsteps outside. One of the missionaries, Martin Nitschmann, opened the door and was shot dead on the spot. A volley of musket balls were fired into the dwelling, killing or grazing four more men. The remaining missionaries ran up the stair to the attic. One woman, Susanna Nitschman, was shot on the stairs. She fell backwards and was captured by the attackers. The rest of the group barricaded themselves in the attic with furniture. Not able to get past the barricade the assailants fired their guns into the floor of the attic and up at the roof. Their final act was to set the house on fire. Only five missionaries survived that night. Susanna Nitschman died several months later, still in captivity. Susanne and Georg both jumped out windows separately and made it to safety. However neither knew if the other had survived until a chance meeting the next day. The attackers, twelve Shawnee Indians, proceeded to raid the food, butchered sixty cattle and set all the buildings on fire in the settlement.
This party of Shawnee raiders were allies of the the French government. The French and Indian War had begun in May of 1754 when the French and British fought over an American land dispute in the Pittsburgh area. The French recruited the assistance of several tribes in the Great Lakes region. In 1758 the Treaty of Easton ended local hostilities when the Pennsylvania government promised the tribes of Pennsylvania and Ohio land in exchange for their neutrality. The war in North America officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Paris on February 10, 1763.
After escaping the fire, Susanne Partsch ran toward the Lehigh river. She had only arrived a few days before the attack so she was not familiar with the area. She hid herself in a hollow tree until the next morning. She came upon Georg who had just returned from warning the inhabitants of New Gnadenhutten, across the river (the location of Weisport today). That settlement had been built the year before and housed thirty to forty Moravian Native Americans.
Bethlehem was considered the largest town at the edge of the frontier. When the news of the Indian attacks spread, hundreds of frightened European settlers rushed to Bethlehem for protection.The town’s people built a palisade fence,15 feet high, around the town. Two watch towers were erected, built of logs. Susanne and Georg were among the people who made their way to Bethlehem for protection. Susanne fell ill upon arriving there but was nursed back to health a few weeks later.
In 1761, the church elders once again requested that the Partsches continue their missionary work. This time they traveled to St. Thomas, where they remained for a year before returning to Bethlehem. Between residing in America and St. Thomas, the Partsches had six children. Georg passed away in 1765, at age 46, and was buried in God’s Acre. Susanne continued her work in the Congregation kitchen until 1772 when she moved into the single women’s house. She suffered from tuberculosis in her later years but died peacefully on February 1, 1795 at 73 years of age. She also was buried in God’s Acre.
In 1905, six thousand people gathered in Lehighton, 150 years after the brutal killing of the missionaries at Gnadenhutten. The Moravian Historical Society arranged the memorial service to honor these missionaries. Also in attendance that day were sixteen descendants of the Gnadenhutten missionaries including J. Samuel Krause, Harry J. Meyers and Mary Krause Henry, descendants of Georg and Susanne Partsche.