Previous violence between the Iroquois and settlers was one of the contributing factors to the events of the Sugarloaf Massacre. In 1780, there were a large number of attacks by Natives in the vicinity where the massacre took place, including an attempted attack on Moses Van Campen. On June 15, 1780, a group of militia in Northampton were commissioned to serve for seven months, led by Captain Johannes Van Etten.
The communities of Bloomsburg and Catawissa were home to large numbers of Loyalists who aided the British during the American Revolutionary War, and a detachment of 41 of Van Etten's men headed to Northumberland to investigate these settlements in 1780. They were placed under the command of Lieutenants Moyer and Fish, and they left Northampton County in the beginning of September 1780 from Fort Allen and headed into Sugarloaf Valley[Murder Along the Creek 1] to search for Loyalist sympathizers and spies. Upon leaving the fort, Klader's men crossed the Lehigh River and traveled to the community of Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania and then to Nesquehoning Creek, where they camped. The next day, they traveled over Broad Mountain and through a stretch of wilderness known as the "Haselschwamp," which is now Hazleton. They passed through the swamp on September 10.
On September 6, approximately 250 to 300 Native and British soldiers arrived at
Fort Rice, near Chillisquaque Creek in Lewis Township, Northumberland County. They attacked the fort and the surrounding residences, but Colonel Hunter sent some troops from
Fort Jenkins to their aid. Approximately 200 men arrived at Fort Rice, and the British and Natives dispersed. Upon retreating, these people went over Knob Mountain and a group of 30 to 40 of them went down the stream known as Cabin Run to Fort Jenkins, which they burned down, along with numerous buildings in the fort's vicinity. They then crossed the Susquehanna River and went to Sugarloaf Valley in southwestern Luzerne County.