History on Foot: Frank Galterio and the Moravians
By Brian Thomas
Some people learn a landscape by reading a book about it. Others must walk its length and breadth over many years. Still others, like Frank Galterio, do both.
A longtime friend of the Kent Historical Society, Galterio has been walking Schaghticoke Mountain since the 1970s when he came here camping from Long Island. Eventually he moved to Kent. He explains, “I hike all over the place, all day long. And I usually don’t follow trails.”
On one walk, he had a conversation with Alan Russell, chief of the Schaghticoke Indian Tribe. Russell showed Galterio a copy of a map of a gravesite that had 68 graves in it. Later, around 2010, Galterio found two volumes about the Moravian missionaries who lived in Kent from 1743 to 1767 among the Schaghticokes– translated and edited by Corinna Dally-Starna and William Starna, called Gideon’s People: Being a Chronicle of an American Indian Community in Colonial Connecticut and the Moravian Missionaries Who Served There. Galterio has read this account five times.
Galterio explains what makes these Moravian diaries so interesting. The missionaries had to write day by day diaries of everything going on, from the weather to earthquakes, and especially their ties with the Native Americans. “The Moravians were really truthful in their diaries,” Galterio says. “They didn’t lie. It was a sin.” Many Schaghticoke Indians became Moravians during this period.
The history was checkered, since Connecticut expelled the Moravians during the French and Indian War. Many of the Moravians, in addition to a number of Moravian Indians, fled to the main site of the Moravian church in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where the order welcomed them and provided land for them to farm. Eventually it became possible to return to New York and Connecticut. Galterio says, “They said they wanted to return where the land was most beautiful and the people were the most peaceful. And that was here in Kent.”
Galterio’s research is ongoing, but a high point came in 2012, when Frank brought Craig Atwood, director of the Center for Moravian Studies to Kent and led him to the gravesite on the map. He introduced him to Alan Russell. The Schaghticokes and the Moravians “hadn’t been together for 269 years,” Galterio said. He filmed them together, standing among the graves of their ancestors.