Denny Carleton

Beautiful Spring

The year is 2003. The Willoughby Fine Arts Association asked me to write a song for a play commemorating Ohio's 200th anniversary, for a children’s summer theater group. They wondered if I could write a few songs about Ohio. So I came up with a simple one in a Chuck Berry style called O-H-I-O, plus I wrote a song about the original settlement in Ohio called "Beautiful Spring", which is based on a true account.

David Zeisberger, a Moravian Missionary from Pennsylvania, came to Tuscararwas River Valley in Ohio in 1771. He was invited by Delaware Chief Netawetwes to build a mission on land near a spring of sparkling water called Schoenbrum, which is German for "beautiful spring". The mission became the first town in Ohio. Netawatwes took the Christian name of Abraham and led his people in a pledge of non-violence towards Indians and the white man. In the midst of frontier fighting, they were viewed with mistrust by the Indians, the British and the Americans.

They fled Shoenbrun, relocating to a nearby town called Gnattendhutten. American Col. David Williamson promised them protection if they would give up their weapons as proof of their pledge of non-violence. After they had given up their weapons, he then told them they would die in the morning but gave them permission to pray for a night before their death and massacre.

These are the facts about that settlement and it is remembered every summer with a play in New Philadelphia about the Indians and Schoenbrun. The play is called "Trumpet in the Land" and is an excellent outdoor drama about these historical events. I felt it fit Ohio’s history and was also a good way to mention that the U.S. is capable of great injustices and it also was a round-about way to protest the Iraq war, and to write a song that would be a Christian pacifist witness.

I made the song into a story-telling narrative, with each of the children reciting a line and the chorus, sung with the following words:

Beautiful Spring of Sparkling Waters, Praises they’d sing for their Lord and their King.

Our first town is Schoenbrun, is the land of the Beautiful Spring.

The children sang the song at the Summer theater performance and it was excellent.

About a day after I had written this song, I had to play a job at the All Nations Festival in Eastlake at 500 Flags Park. It was a job on Memorial Day for the radio station I was on at the time, WELW. In the parking lot, taking my parking money, was an American Indian and his wife and another American Indian Couple. As I took my guitar out of the car, I thought this might be a good opportunity to try my song out on an American Indian. He could tell me if he thought it was worthy, if I showed his culture proper respect and if I pronounced the names correctly. I thought to myself, "I’ve got my guitar, I’ve done this before in the '60s and '70s. I’m a former hippy child, why not?" So I asked him, he said yes and I sang the song for the four American Indians.

He said he liked the song and then asked me if I knew any more Indian Songs. I had just learned the "Navaho Peace Prayer" for a mass and I played that for him. He then stopped me and said he liked that also and then asked if he could recite something for me. He then recited a reading which he said was the ancient prophecy that had been fulfilled. It was that in the seventh generation, the white man's children would come in peace and understanding towards the American Indian. As I looked at him sort of in wonder, he asked me if I would like to play the Pow Wow that he was holding in Eastlake in a couple of weeks. I told him I didn’t know that many Indian songs. but he just said Beatles, or Neil Young would be fine. He said he would feed me some Buffalo Burgers and the deal was made. I left.

When I told my mother that this had happened, she said, "Only to you would this happen." My mom was who hadn’t laughed in weeks, (she was also on oxygen) had a joyful laugh.

I went to play the Pow Wow that Sunday and the minute I walked in, there I saw two people I knew. One was a young girl from my Christian Open Mic (with whom I hosted) who asked to sing with me. The other was someone who knew me, who I could only describe as a proselytizing born again Christian, who had come to witness and basically wanted me to tell the Indians to accept Jesus Christ as their Savior or they would burn in Hell. I was very happy and felt a bit privileged to be there and I was quite content to let my song do the talking. I went up, played my song and also did "C'mon People, Smile On Your Brother". In the middle of the song during an instrumental part, my young Christian singing friendasked everyone to close their eyes and let God speak to them in their own way. That was really inspired.

After I finished playing, the born again Christian lady came up to me as did an American Indian Woman who seemed to be in her late thirties or early 40’s. She asked me if the next time I sing "C'mon People Smile On Your Brother", to sing on 'One Another', because that would include woman and also the animals. The born again Christian lady said something like, the important thing is to get out of your pagan gods' control and find the one true way to God through Jesus Christ, and then she looked at me and said, "Right?" I was in a tough spot here. I do believe in Jesus Christ as the Way, the Truth and the Life. But I also know the Holy Spirit as someone who will not force himself on others and has an all-accepting love for all. I also have a profound respect for the Indian culture and the truth is that the white man and Christians have cheated the Indians right from the start. On top of it, she was raining on my parade. And on top of that, I had just sang a song that addressed all these issues - Beautiful Spring. So I changed the subject.

Many times, Jesus didn’t answer questions but raised new ones and put his accusers on the spot. I asked both of them why they thought my song "It Only Takes a Spark" (to get a fire going) was so popular. Was it anti-war song? Or a peace song? Or a patriotic war song? Or was it a Christian song or some sort of song that appealed to New-Agers? This song gets about 80 downloads a month. [Beautiful Spring