REPORT OF THE COMMISSION TO LOCATE THE SITE OF THE FRONTIER FORTS
Clarence M. Busch
State Printer of Pennsylvania, 1896.
Contributed for use in the USGenWeb Archives by Donna Bluemink.
Transcriber's note: Some language, spelling and grammar have been updated for ease of
reading without compromising content.
Map of Site of Fort Swatara.
About 12 miles east of Manada Gap is the still more important passage through the Blue Mountains by which the Swatara creek makes its way to the fertile regions below. This gap, at what is called "The Hole in the Mountain," or more commonly "The Hole," is known as Swatara Gap or Tolihaio Gap. In its vicinity was located Fort Swatara or Smith's Fort. Through a very peculiar mode of expression on the part of Gov. Morris it has been also known, although incorrectly, as Fort Henry or Busse's Fort. This has occasioned several errors on the map published in 1875, by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, where Fort Swatara is located on the Swatara creek at a place where neither it nor any other fort ever stood, and that at Swatara Gap is named Fort Henry. Fort Swatara was, in reality, never called Fort Henry, but always Fort Swatara or occasionally Smith's Fort after the captain who commanded it. Fort Henry was the fort erected at Dietrich Six's, near Millersburg in Berks county, and was always known as such, except when occasionally mentioned as Busse's Fort after its commanding officer. Whenever the name Fort Henry occurs in the Pennsylvania Archives it invariably applies to the station in Berks county and never to that at Tolihaio Gap, even if the actual language used may seem otherwise. But more of that hereafter.
The news of the Indian murders up the Susquehanna near Shamokin (Sunbury) spread fast. From an interesting letter written October 30, 1755, by Conrad Weiser to Gov. Morris, (Col. Rec., vi, p. 656) we learn that he immediately alarmed the neighborhood. The farmers at once gathered together, armed with guns, swords, axes or pitchforks, whatever they chanced to possess, until some 200 had rendezvoused at Benjamin Spickers, near Stouchsburg, about six miles above Womelsdorf. Then Mr. Kurtz, the Lutheran minister who resided about a mile away, delivered an exhortation and prayer, after which Mr. Weiser divided the people into companies of thirty, each under the command of a captain selected by themselves, and at once took up his march towards Susquehanna, having first sent some 50 men "to Tolkeo in order to possess themselves of the capes or narrows of Swahatawro [Swatara], where we expected the enemy would come through, with a letter to Mr. Parsons who happened to be at his plantation. Their numbers increased rapidly on the way until they arrived at Squire Adam Read's on the Swatara creek, where they received intelligence of the surprise and slaughter of the settlers who, under the leadership of Capt. McKee, John Harris and others, had gone up the Susquehanna to Penn's creek to protect the people there and bury the dead. This seems to have dampened the ardor of the party somewhat, who wisely concluded they could afford more protection to their families by remaining home, and accordingly wended their way back, being hastened somewhat by the rumor, which reached them as they were returning, that 500 Indians had already made their way through Tolheo Gap and killed a number of people.
The letter which Conrad Weiser speaks of having forwarded to William Parsons was duly received by him, as we learn from a communication which on October 31st, he sent to Mr. Peters at Philadelphia. (Penn. Arch., ii, p. 443.) He tells how he met the advance guard of farmers, with their motley array of arms, and advised them to make a breastwork of trees at Swatara Gap with their axes, promising to procure for them and send them a quantity of bread and ammunition. They got as far as the top of the mountain, fired their guns off in the air, alarming the whole neighborhood, and then came back again, firing the whole way to the great terror of the inhabitants. Soon came the news of the murder of Henry Hartman, just over the mountain. As Mr. Parsons, with a party, were on their way to bury the body, they were told of two more who had recently been killed and scalped, and of others who were missing. Having decently interred the dead they returned. The roads were filled with persons fleeing from their homes, and confusion reigned supreme. It was a terrible time, and, whilst we may smile at the actions of the settlers, owing chiefly to their inexperience, we must not forget that, at heart, they were brave and true as men could be. Amongst them all none possessed more bravery, judgment, or sterling qualities than did Conrad Weiser, a man whose deeds for his state and country have been so little known and appreciated. There was a person, however, who saw immediately that he was the one best able to cope with the emergency, and that was Gov. Morris, who, on October 31, 1755, writes the following complimentary letter to Mr. Weiser:
"Sir: I have the pleasure of receiving your favor of the 30th instant, and of being thereby set right as to the Indians passing the mountains at Tolheo, which I am glad to find was a false alarm. I heartily commend your conduct and zeal, and hope you will continue to act with the same vigor and caution that you have already done, and that you may have the greater authority, I have appointed you a colonel by a commission herewith.
I have not time to give you any instructions with the commission, but leave it to your judgment and discretion, which I know are great, to do what is most for the safety of the people and service of the crown." (Col. Rec., vi, p. 660.)
The necessity of occupying the position at Swatara Gap was very apparent, and measures were at once taken to that end. Now appears the misleading order of Gov. Morris, or rather letter of his to Col. Weiser referring to the order. On January 25, 1756, he says:
"I have ordered Capt. Christian Busse with a company of 50 men in the pay of this Province, to proceed to the Gap at Tolihaio, and there to erect a stoccado [stockade] fort of the form and dimensions given him, and to take posts there and range the woods from that fort westward towards Swehataro [Swatara] and eastwards towards a stoccado to be built by Cap. Morgan, about half way between the said fort and Fort Lebanon.
I have ordered Capt. Jacob Morgan, who is posted at a fort in the forks of Schuylkill, called Fort Lebanon, to leave 20 men in that fort and proceed with the remaining 30 to some convenient place about half way between that fort and Fort ____ at Tolihaio, and there to erect a stoccado [stockade] of about 40 foot square, where he is to leave 20 men under a commissioned officer and to return to Fort Lebanon which he is to make his headquarters, and from that stoccado and from Fort Lebanon , his men are to range and scour the woods both eastward and westward." (Penn. Arch., ii, p. 547.)
Again on February 1, 1756, Gov. Morris writes to Gov. Dinwiddie telling him that he has just recently returned from a month's tour through the back parts of the province, where he had tried to encourage the people and had arranged to build a chain of forts. He says "those between Delaware and Susquehanna are to be about 10 or 12 miles asunder; the most considerable of them is built at an important pass through the Kittahteny Hills, on our northern frontier, and I have called it Fort Henry." (Penn. Arch., ii, p. 561.)
Once more on February 2, the next day, he writes to Col. Washington on the same subject, saying, "On the east side of the Susquehanna the forts are about 10 to 12 miles asunder among which the most considerable are Fort Henry, at a pass through the mountains, called Tolihaio, Fort Lebanon, on the forks of Schuylkill, and Fort Allen, upon the West Branch of the Delaware, where the Moravians had a town called Gnaden Hutten." (Prov. Arch., ii, p. 565.) In all these instances the Governor distinctly speaks of Fort Henry at Tolihaio, or Swatara Gap, and yet in no case does he literally mean what he says. Capt. Busse was never stationed at Swatara Gap. He had command invariably at Dietrich Six's place, the real Fort Henry, and he never was ordered by the Governor to proceed to Tolihaio Gap proper, as apparently stated.
In the orders given Capt. Busse the Governor distinctly says he directed him to proceed to the Gap at Tolihaio, there erect a fort and range from it "westwards towards Swehataro," meaning the fort erected at Swatara Gap, and nothing else; also to range "eastward towards a stoccado [stockade] to be built by Capt. Morgan about half way between the said fort and Fort Lebanon," which could have been only Fort Northkill.
The truth of my statement is further evidenced by these orders to Capt. Jacob Morgan, just quoted. Capt. Morgan had command of Fort Lebanon above Port Clinton. The stockade which he was directed to build half way between Fort Lebanon and Fort Henry was unquestionably Fort Northkill, which was half way between Fort Lebanon and Fort Henry at Dietrich Six's, and could not have meant the fort at Dietrich Six's which is not half way between Fort Lebanon and Swatara Gap, but is half way between Fort Northkill and Swatara Gap.
If any other proof were needed we might refer to Conrad Weiser's letter of July 11th, 1756, to Gov. Morris, giving the various assignments of the troops under him. He states in detail where the men of Capt. Smith are to be placed, all of them in and about Swatara Gap and the Manada Fort; then gives the men under Capt. Busse, all of whom are in and about Fort Henry, and after him Capt. Morgan's men at Fort Northkill and Fort Lebanon. (Penn. Arch., ii, p. 696.)
As we follow the course of events recorded about these several forts, I feel assured that no doubt can remain as to the fact that the statements made by Gov. Morris relative to Fort Henry at Tolihaio Gap, whilst possibly clear to him and those to whom he wrote, are certainly misleading to us. I believe the explanation to be this. In writing or speaking of localities at that time it must certainly have been difficult to do so intelligently. There were no towns or villages along the mountain as now, and it was impossible to say that a fort was located near such a village or settlement, where none existed. It was unsatisfactory to speak of locations in connection with a private residence, although that was occasionally done when a person was prominent, like Adam Read. It only remained to refer to a position as being near a mountain gap. Now no such gap exists between Swatara Gap and that at Port Clinton, so the Governor could not do otherwise than say "Fort Henry at Tolihaio Gap." More definite, and possibly personal instructions to the commanding officer would make clear to him the exact spot. Whatever may be the explanation, it was a wrong which it is high time to make right. The only name for the fort at Tolihaio Gap is Fort Swatara, and Fort Henry belongs at Dietrich Six's alone. Indeed even to this day the fort near Dietrich Six's in Berks county is there known as Fort Henry. After a personal investigation made some time ago by Hon. D. B. Brunner, of this city, he remarks, in 1881, "It might be supposed that there is a mistake in the name of this fort, but a number of the old men who were brought up in the vicinity of the fort told me that this (Fort Henry) was the name that was applied to it by their parents and grandparents." (Brunner's Indians of Berks County, Penna., p. 23.)
Having therefore removed the discrepancy which existed with regard to the names of these two forts, let us consider the history of the real fort at Swatara Gap, Fort Swatara.
The first and most prominent commander of Fort Swatara was Capt. Frederick Smith, whose company came from Chester County. On January 6, 1756, orders were sent him from Reading, as follows:
"Capt. Frederick Smith:
You are, as soon as you possibly can, to draft out of your company, 50 of the best men belonging to that company, and with your lieutenant and ensign, march to the town of Reading, where you will be mustered by James Read, Esq., and from the time of such muster, you and the company are to enter into the government pay, according to the establishment herewith given you.
You are to engage your men for a certain time, not less than two months nor more than three months.
You are to remain in the town of Reading till you receive further orders, and while there, you are to post your men in such a manner as best to defend that town in case it should be attacked.
You are to cause such of your men as are able to bring with them, each a gun and a blanket, and either an axe or a grubbing hoe [tool to dig up roots and stumps].
You are to keep your men sober and in order, and at all times fit for duty, and to hold yourself and them in readiness to march from Reading, at an hour's warning." (Penn. Arch., ii, p. 544.)
It was soon seen, however, that the line of the Blue Range was the proper position to occupy, so, on January 26th, the orders were sent Capt. Smith, already given in connection with the history of Manada Fort, to proceed as soon as possible with the company under his command to the "gap at Tolehaio where Swehatara [Swatara] comes through the mountain, and in some convenient place there to erect a Fort, of the form and dimensions herewith given you, unless you shall judge the staccado [stockade], already erected there, conveniently placed, in which case you will take possession of it, and make such additional works as you may think necessary to render it sufficiently strong and defensible." (Penn., Arch., ii, p. 552.) He was ordered, with a part of his company to occupy the Manada Gap. Owing to his lack of knowledge of the country, James Galbraith was directed to confer with and advise him. Capt. Adam Read, who had been previously ranging the mountains with his men was ordered to now dismiss them and turn over his arms and supplies to Capt. Smith, as was also Capt. Hederick who had been engaged in like work, all of which was done. (Penn. Arch., ii, p. 551-553.) Referring to these arrangements the Governor in his letter of same date to James Galbraith says, "I have ordered Capt. Smith, with a company from Chester County, to take post at the gap at Swehatara [Swatara], and to station a detachment of his men at Monaday [Manada], either in the stockadoes [stockades] already built there, or to erect such others as he may judge best; but as he is a stranger to that part of the country, I must desire you will assist him with your advice, not only as to the most advantageous situations for the forts, in case it should be resolved to erect new ones, but in anything else that the service may require, and let me know from time to time what is done in that quarter." (Penn. Arch., ii, p. 554.)
(Site of Line of Forts Along Blue Mountains.)
No further mention is made of the erection of the fort. As in the case of Manada Fort, it is very probable that the stockade erected by the settlers during the latter part of 1755 was occupied by the soldiers. It was not an extensive work. In his letter to Col. Washington of February 2, 1756, Gov. Morris says the principal forts east of the Susquehanna were Fort Henry, Fort Lebanon above Port Clinton and Fort Allen at Weissport "the other being only block houses." (Penn. Arch., ii, p. 565). We may presume, therefore, that it consisted of a single building surrounded by a stockade.
The many murders committed by the savages and their stealthy approach made it necessary to distribute the soldiers around amongst various farm houses, especially during the harvest time now at hand.
Col. Weiser held a consultation with Capts. Smith, Busse and Morgan, in July, 1756, at Fort Henry the central point, and arranged for the distribution of the men. Eight men of Capt. Smith's company were to assist the people in "the hole" (the place where twice murder was committed) to gather in their harvest, and stay over night in the Moravian House; eight of his men to range westward of his fort under the hill, and if occasion require to be stationed in two parties to guard the reapers; 16 men to be in and about the fort to help and protect the neighbors, but constantly 10 out of the 16 are to stay in the fort; nine men to remain constantly in Manada Fort, and 12 men to range east and west of that place. Although this arrangement did not leave men enough in the forts to relieve those on duty, and barely enough to defend the forts and send provisions to the various posts, yet it was not sufficient for the settlers, who, becoming enraged at the loss of family, friends and property, even threatened to go to the French for protection if the English provincial government would not afford it. Some of the number, without giving their action due consideration, even seem to have complained to the Governor that Capt. Smith, who appears to have been a brave and faithful officer, was negligent in his duty. To the credit of the inhabitants generally it must be said that as soon as they learned this, the people about Swatara and "the hole" wrote a letter to Col. Weiser in his favor, which the Colonel sent to Gov. Morris by his son "Sammy" Weiser who might translate it to His Excellency. (Penn Arch., ii, p. 696.)
It might be well to refer here to the Journal of the officer in command at Fort Northkill, which will be given in proper order, and in which frequent mention is made of Capt. Smith and his command. In the Pennsylvania Archives, Vol. ii, p. 159, it is called "A Journal in 1754," another unfortunate error, probably made at some time in transcribing records, or of a typographical character, but which has caused confusion as to the date of erection of the sundry forts.
The time when this Journal was written was unquestionably from June to August of 1757, and not 1754, as at the latter time the country thereabouts was at peace with the Indians, and we have just seen that Capt. Smith and his command were not mustered into the service of the government until 1756.
Notwithstanding all efforts of the government and soldiers the enemy seemed to be successful in their work of destruction. It was felt that, perhaps, the methods of defense were unequal to the occasion but how to remedy the matter was no easy conclusion to reach. In the early part of 1757, Major Burd suggests to the government the desirability of doing away entirely with all the forts and defenses except three, one to be Fort Lytleton in the extreme west, another Fort Augusta, in the center, and a third to be erected at Easton, with Col. Weiser's battalion, numbering 500 men, in charge. At these forts were to be stationed 100 men only, the balance to be engaged in active operations against the savages, marching into their own country instead of waiting their attack at home. He suggested uniforming the troops in green hunting shirts for better concealment. The plan was certainly wise and was acted upon, to a certain extent, with success, but it seemed impossible to carry it out in full, so the original forts were continued until gradually diminished in number. (Penn. Arch., iii, p. 99.)
In 1757 was held the Treaty with the Indians at Easton where Conrad Weiser once more acted as the agent of the government, and interpreter for the Governor. On that occasion he arranged for a guard of 110 men, who were to come from sundry forts, amongst them Fort Swatara. (Penn. Arch., iii, p. 218) On February 5th, 1758, Adjutant Kern reports at Fort Swatara Lieut. Allen with 33 men, and its distance to Fort Hunter, on the Susquehanna, as 24 miles (Penn. Arch., iii, p. 339). In another report under the same date, of the fort, he gives the name of Lieut. Marshloff, with 33 men, 28 provincial muskets, 23 private guns, 10 lbs. of powder, 10 lbs. of lead, 2-1/2 months of provisions, and 14 cartridges. (Penn. Arch., iii, p. 341.) On February 9th, Jas. Young, Commissary of Musters, reports one company of 46 men on duty at the fort on Swatara (Penn. Arch., iii, p. 341.) James Burd, during his tour on inspection, visited Fort Swatara and has the following to say of it at this time:
Sunday, February 19th, 1758.
"This day at 11 A.M., marched for Fort Swettarrow [Swatara], got to Crawford's, 14 miles from Hunter's (Fort Hunter), here I stay all night, it rained hard.
Had a number of applications from the country for protection * * * *
Marched this morning at 11 A.M., met a sergeant and 12 men here, who marched with me back to Swettarrow [Swatara], this day it rained much, got to Swettarrow Fort at 4 P.M., the roads extremely bad, the soldiers march with great difficulty, found Capt. Lieut. Allen and 38 men here per report; this is 11 miles from Crawford's.
Reviewed the garrison this morning at 10 A.M., and found 38 men, visited, 21 belonging to Capt. Lieut. Allen, and 17 detached from Capt. Weiser's Co.; of Capt. Allen's 13 men for three years, no province arms fit for use, no kettles, nor blankets, 12 lbs of powder and 25 lbs of lead, no powder horns, pouches, nor cartouch boxes, no tomahawks nor province tools of any kind, two month's provision.
Some soldiers absent and others hyr'd [hired] in their place which has been a custom here, the soldiers under no discipline. Ordered a sergeant and 12 men to be always out upon the scout from hence to Crawford's, keeping along the Blue Mountain, altering their routes and a target to be erected six inches thick, in order to practice the soldiers in shooting.
This day 12 M. D. [midday], the country people came here, I promise them to station an officer and 25 men at Robertson's Mill, this mill is situated in the center between the Forts Swattarrow [Swatara] and Hunter, this gave the people content.
Marched at 1 P.M., for Fort Henry" * * * * (Penn. Arch., iii, p. 353.)
Upon his arrival there he ordered Ensign Craighead with 18 men to march to Fort Swatara, there obtain seven men from Capt. Allen and with his command proceed to Robinson's Mill, in accordance with his promise made the farmers. He also sent a sergeant, corporal and eight men to Squire Read's house, and instructed Capt. Weiser, whose company was added to that of Capt. Busse at Fort Henry, to range from Fort Henry to Fort Northkill on the east and Fort Swatara on the west. From Fort Henry he proceeded to Conrad Weiser's house, from which place he ordered to Fort Swatara one cask of powder, and, later, from Reading, 11 blankets and 100 lbs of lead.
Here ends our record of Fort Swatara, which, with the success of the British troops and consequent cessation of hostilities in that neighborhood, gradually passed out of existence. There is nothing in what has been written to definitely fix its location. Fortunately memory and authentic tradition supplies this deficiency. In Rupp's History of Berks and Lebanon Counties, p. 364, the following appears:
"Fort Smith, it is believed, was in this part of the country (Lebanon County) within the limits of Union Township. Not a few seem to think, each of them has the honor of having it perpetuated, that Fort Smith was on his farm. Some with whom we have conversed, locate it at Union Forge. An intelligent gentleman, Jacob Weidman, Esq., in a communication of February 13, 1844, says: - 'The following facts I obtained from Mr. Daniel Musser, who is nearly 70 years old. He suggests that there may probably be an error to locate Fort Smith where Union Forge is.' Mr. Musser's maternal grandfather, Peter Heydrich, who emigrated from Germany and located previous to 1738, about three-fourths of a mile due north from this place it appears, owned the place on which Fort Smith was erected. My informant says, he knows that a fort had been erected on his grandfather's farm, to which in great emergencies the neighbors fled for safety.
The persons whom Mr. Musser remembers having heard of that resided in this township, as old settlers, were Mr. Noacre or Noecker, who was shot dead in his field while ploughing, on the farm now owned by John Zehring. He says that one Philip Maurer was shot dead while cradling oats on the farm now occupied by John Gross. Martin Hess, who escaped unhurt, his house also had been a place of refuge - often half a dozen of families would resort to Hess's house, which was about one mile southwest from Peter Heydrich's, and a half a mile west from this place. Mathias Boeshore (your mother's relative) was also an old settler, who, on one occasion retreated from the enemy, the Indians, towards Hess's. Just as he had got inside the house, seized his gun, and turned upon his pursuers, leveling his deadly weapon at them, and while in the act of drawing the trigger, he received a shot from an Indian, which wounded him but slightly. The bullet of one savage's gun struck that part of Boeshore's rifle, to which the flint is attached; the ball glancing a little to one side, wounded him in the left side. Boeshore lived to be a very old man.
(Site of Fort Swatara and Hess' Block House.)
The land on which this fort was erected, is now owned by widow Elizabeth Shuey. The old people are unanimous in locating the fort on Mrs. Shuey's farm, at that time the property of Peter Heydrich. None of them seems to know that the house on Mr. Weidman's place here was ever used as a fort. May it not, like the house of Mr. Hess, have been only a kind of blockhouse; as the house of Hess, as well as the one here, has also some apertures, or port holes, which were evidently used to fire out upon the enemy?
Of Peter Heydrich, it is related, that on a certain occasion, the Indians appeared in great numbers - and nearly all the neighbors being in their own houses - Heydrich gave immediate notice to the people to resort to the fort, and in the meantime, (having both fife and drum in the fort, and could beat and fife well), took the drum and fife, marched himself into the woods and thicket, now beating the drum, then blowing the fife; then and again gave the word of command, loud and distinct, as if it had been given to a large force - though he was the only one to obey orders - by this "Guerre de ruse," slight of war, he managed to keep the savages away, and collect his neighbors securely. "Noth bricht Eisen.'"
This interesting letter gives the true situation of the fort without doubt. I personally made a careful investigation of the entire neighborhood, with the result of only confirming what has just been said. The unanimous verdict of the people located at Fort Swatara or Smith's Fort on the Shuey property, now the Behny farm. The sketch given will be more explicit.
Fort Swatara stood in what is now a field, at the end of the private farm road leading from the State road to the farm of Joseph Behny, distant from the former some 80 yards, and from Inwood Station, at Swatara Gap, three-fourth mile southwest. The farm was sold by Mrs. Shuey to William Coppenhaver and by him to Jacob Behny, whose home is near that of Joseph. It is on the left side of the road, with a spring at the southwest corner of the fort, and a fine run of water directly south of it, flowing east and west. The ground is not elevated, but comparatively level. A number of old residents testified as to the correct situation of the fort. Amongst them Jacob Kohr, 72 years old, whose mother and grandmother told him of it, the latter, Mrs. John Wallis, dying 50 years ago, 87 years old. He stated that it was a log house, with port holes cut in it. As will be noticed the fort commands the roads to Harrisburg, Swatara Gap and the country below. I would recommend a monument at the entrance to the lane, on the State road.
On the sketch is also located the Weidman house, at Lickdale, formerly Union Forge, of which mention has been made, and which was used as a house of refuge. The original old mansion still stands, but its former appearance has been completely changed by the weather boarding placed over it. It is beautifully surrounded by a grove of trees, and stands about 50 yards back of the road.
The numerous murders committed by the Indians made necessary the occupation by soldiers of various buildings besides the forts proper. The settlers themselves frequently used other houses, strongly built and centrally located, as places of refuge. Each of these had its own tale of terror and possible death. It is but right, wherever known, to fix their positions on the map and tell somewhat of their history, if in existence. In this vicinity, besides the Weidman house, stood the Hess House, the block house at Fredericksburg, and the Moravian Church at the same place. I give herewith a general sketch, embodying the position of each. Mr. Read's house, on the Swatara Creek, might properly be included here also, but as its history was more intimately connected with that of the Manada Fort, I have noted it under that heading.
Mention has been made heretofore of Hess's house, and I have marked its location above. Of its history I have learned nothing in especial, beyond the fact of its use as a place of refuge. It is said there is an excavation where the old house stood. It was about one mile from Fort Swatara and about the same distance from Lickdale.
The site of the block house near Fredericksburg was originally on the farm of John Groh, one of the first settlers of Bethel Township. It was sold to J. H. Lick and Joseph Gibber, the present owner. About four years ago it was torn down and the logs used in the new building which stands nearly if not quite on the site of the old house. At the time it was torn down it was noticed that the loop-holes were blackened with powder, showing the active use to which it had been put. It is on the road leading from Jonestown to Fredericksburg, about 300 yards from the latter place, and on the banks of a small stream. It was some 32 feet long, 16 feet wide, and one story high, and had a garret, or cornice, extending out over the sides, with loop-holes in the floor to enable the inmates to shoot downwards. It was a house of refuge. This information was kindly furnished by Gideon Schnaterly, who is 68 years old, and received it from ELizabeth Herman, who died 20 years ago at the age of 92, as well as from his father who died 15 years ago at the age of 80.
(Site of Moravian Church Stockade, Lebanon County.)
The Moravian Church, which was used as a place of refuge and defense, was located three miles northwest from Fredericksburg and five miles north from Jonestown, on the road leading from Fredericksburg road, and 200 yards northeast from the New Church. The grave yard, in which it is said a number of the persons murdered by the Indians lie buried, is about 200 feet in the rear of the barn. The barn and house which now stand on the property were partly built of logs from the old church, which looked to be in an excellent state of preservation. It was torn down 15 to 18 years ago.
This information was obtained from Josiah Shugar living on the place, as well as from Mr. Gideon Schnaterly, mentioned above.
The Indian Forts were erected solely for the purpose of protecting the lives and property of those who lived near them. Had there been no murders there would have been no forts. I feel, therefore, that the history of the forts would be incomplete without reference at least to such of the terrible sufferings endured by the people in their neighborhood as are on record. The inhabitants of Lebanon and Berks Counties endured even more than their share of the terrible atrocities perpetuated by the savages.
The town of Lebanon, being already densely settled, was resorted to, as a place of safety by hundreds of families who fled from the frontier settlements. Sixty families had, at one time, taken shelter in the house of John Light, which is still standing, and known among the people there as the "Old Fort." Of it the Rev. P. C. Croll of that city, has just written me "The John Light Fort" is a dilapidated stone structure, fast going to ruin, in the northwest section of our city, lately owned by one Gingering, but now in possession of the Brocks and Colemans. It was a house of refuge, having still the arched vault under the first floor (which is stone and earth) spacious enough to shelter comfortably 100 people. It used to have a running spring in this cellar, which is dried up. The house was used as a Mennonite meeting house, and residence, and fort, and later distillery, and now furnished shelter for goats and sparrows and a colored family."
The house of Mr. George Gloninger was also a place of usual resort, also that of Mr. Ulrich near Annville, and the Zellers property near Newmanstown.
(Site of Ulrich Fort or Block House.)
Concerning these three buildings Rev. P. C. Croll, of Lebanon, has kindly furnished the following interesting information:
"The Gloninger and Ulrich forts, so called, I judge have been simply strongly built houses of refuge. The former is now used, with some alterations, as a farm house. The latter was erected in 1751, a quarter of a mile north of Annville railroad depot, by Mr. Ulrich, over which his descendants erected a stone dwelling, which has been recently remodeled, but the fort has remained intact. It is nothing but a mural dungeon, or vault, built into a hillside, with an air hole walled out. It has a stone with this inscription:
'SO OFT DIE DIER DEN ANKEL WENTAN DEINEN TOD, OMENSCH GEDENK.' 1751.
(A free translation.)
'Whene'er this door its hinge does turn, may thought of death to thee return.'
(Gloninger Block House, 1895.)
(Site of Gloninger Fort or Block House.)
Mr. Croll says of the Zeller house of refuge that it is an old and well-preserved building built of solid masonry, and, in part, ornamented with carved stone door-jambs and head stones or lintels. It was erected in 1745 on land owned by Heinrich Zellers and now in possession of his eighth lineal descendant, Mr. Monroe P. Zellers. Even then it was built for protection and to guard against attack, the original windows being mere port holes, as shown in some still preserved. Many traditions still cluster about this old landmark. It is related of the original Mrs. Zellers that she superintended the construction of the house, whilst her husband was out on an expedition against the Indians, and that her laborers were colored slaves. It is said, also, of this same Christine Zellers that one day, whilst alone in the fort, she saw three prowling savages approaching and heading for the small hole in the cellar shown on the picture attached. She quickly descended the cellar steps and stationed herself at this window with an uplifted ax. Presently the head of the first Indian protruded through the hole when she quickly brought down the weapon with an effective blow. Dragging the body in, she disguised her voice and, in Indian language, beckoned his companions to follow, which they did and were all dispatched in like manner. It was here that the community found refuge during the Indian troubles, at which time it is said to have been attacked.
(Site of Zeller Fort Block House.)
(Zeller Block House, 1895.)
In addition to these building, the Moravian Church, erected in 1750, a mile and a half east from Gloninger's was occupied by refugees, the principal part of whom had fled from the Moravian settlements in Bethel township. (Loskiel p. 11, p. 180.)
One John Spitler, son-in-law to Jacob Miley, was shot dead while fixing up a pair of bars, and his body cruelly mangled. Mrs. Miley escaped by taking refugee in the watch house at her father's, a few miles from Stumptown. This happened in May, 1757. Spitler's mangled corpse was interred in the graveyard at Hebron, near Lenanon. The following, touching his murder, is found in the Records of the Hebron Church, "1757, May den 16, wurde Johannes Spitler, Jr., ohnweit von seinem Hause, an der Schwatara von moerderischen Indian ern ueberfallen und ermordert. Er war im acht und dreisigsten Jahr seines Alters, und verwichenes Jahr im April, an der Schwatara auf genommen. Seine uebelzugericht tette Leiche wurde den 17ten May hieher gebracht, und bei einer grossen Menge Leute begleitet auf unsern hiesigen Gottesacker beerdigt." (Rupp, p. 310.)
In Bethel Township the people suffered greatly. In November, 1755, twenty persons were killed and some children carried off. "Shocking," says the Secretary of the Province, "are the descriptions given by those who escaped of the horrid cruelties and indecencies, committed by the merciless savages, on the bodies of those unhappy wretches who fell into their hands, especially the women, without regard to age or sex, these far exceed those related of the most abandoned pirates."
On June 8th, 1756, at "The Hole," Swatara Gap, they crept up, unobserved, behind the fence of Felix Wuench, shot him, as he was ploughing, through the breast - he cried lamentably and ran, but the Indians soon caught up to him, and, although he defended himself sometime with his whip, they cut his head and breast with their tomahawks and scalped him. His wife, hearing his cries and the report of two guns, ran out of the house, but was soon taken by the enemy who carried her with one of her own and two of her sister's children, away with them, after setting the house on fire and otherwise destroying property.
A servant boy, who was at some distance, seeing this, ran to his neighbor, George Miess, who, though he had a lame leg, ran, with his son, directly after the Indians, raising at the same time a great noise, which so alarmed the Indians that they immediately ran off, leaving behind them a tub of butter and side of bacon. Mr. Miess then went to the house, which was in flames, and threw down the fences in order to save the barn. The Indians had drunk all the brandy in the spring house, and took gammons [side of bacon], a quantity of meal, some loaves of bread, and a great many other things with them. Had it not been for the courage of Mr. Miess they would have attacked another house. They shot one of the horses in the plough, and dropped a large French knife. (Penn. Gaz., June 17, 1756.)
Shortly after committing the above murder the Indians killed a child of Lawrence Dippel's, a boy about four years old, who was found cruelly murdered and scalped. Another lad, about six years old, was carried off. (Penn. Gaz., June 17, 1756.)
On June 26, they surprised and scalped two men, Franz Albert and Jacob Haendsche, also two lads, Frederick Weiser and John George Miess, who were ploughing in the field of one Fischer, and shot two horses. (Schwatarer Kirchen Buch.)
In August, 1757, as John Winkelbach's two sons, and Joseph Fischbach, a provincial soldier, went out about sunrise to bring in the cows, they were fired upon by about fifteen Indians. The two lads were killed, one being scalped, the other reaching the house before he died. The soldier was wounded in the head. (Hist. Penn., Egle, ii, p. 865.)
The Rev. Henry Melchior Muhlenberg relates, in the Hallische Nachrichten, p. 1029, a touching incident, which has been frequently told, but is so "apropos" to this record that it should not be omitted. It was of the widow of John Hartman who called at his house in February, 1765, who had been a member of one of Rev. Kurtz's congregations. She and her husband had emigrated to this country from Reutlingen, Wurtemberg, and settled on the frontiers of Lebanon County. The Indians fell upon them October 16th, 1755, killed her husband, one of the sons, and carried off two small daughters into captivity, whilst she and the other son were absent. On her return she found the home in ashes, and her family either dead or lost to her, whereupon she fled to the interior settlement at Tulpehocken and remained there. The sequel to this occurrence is exceedingly interesting. The two girls were taken away. It was never known what became of Barbara, the elder, but Regina, with another little girl two years old, were given to an old Indian woman, who treated them very harshly. In the absence of her son, who supplied them with food, she drove the children into the woods to gather herbs and roots to eat, and, when they failed to get enough, beat them cruelly. So they lived until Regina was about nineteen years old and the other girl eleven. Her mother was a good Christian woman, and had taught her daughters their prayers together with many texts from the Scriptures, and their beautiful German hymns, much of which clung to her memory during all the years of captivity. At last, in the providence of God, Col. Bouquet brought the Indians under subjection in 1764, and obliged them to give up their captives. More than 400 of these unfortunate beings were gathered together at Carlisle, amongst them the two girls, and notices were sent all over the country for those who had lost friends and relatives, of that fact. Parents and husbands came, in some instances, hundreds of miles, in the hope of recovering those they had lost, the widow being one of the number. There were many joyful scenes, but more sad ones. So many changes had taken place, that, in many instances, recognition seemed impossible. This was the case with the widow. She went up and down the long line but, in the young women who stood before her, dressed in Indian costume, she failed to recognize the little girls she had lost. As she stood, gazing and weeping, Col. Bouquet compassionately suggested that she do something which might recall the past to her children. She could think of nothing but a hymn which was formerly a favorite with the little ones:
"Alone, yet not alone am I,
Though in this solitude so drear;
I feel my Savior always nigh,
He comes the very hour to cheer;
I am with Him, and He with me,
E'en here alone I cannot be."
She commenced singing, in German, but had barely completed two lines, when poor Regina rushed from the crowd, began to sing also and threw her arms around her mother. They both wept for joy and the Colonel gave the daughter up to her mother. But the other girl had no parents, they having probably been murdered. She clung to Regina and begged to be taken home with her. Poor as was the widow she could not resist the appeal and the three departed together. (Todd's Sabbath School Teacher.)
In reply to a letter addressed Mr. Sarge, he wrote Mr. Rupp thus:
"In 1834, an uncle of mine purchased a farm, three miles from Fort Smith, the house, then on this farm, was evidently also a fort - tradition has it so - there are besides - or were at least when I saw the house in '34 - marks of corroborating evidence to conclusively show this to have been the case. The port-holes, though plugged when I saw the house, and the scores of partial perforations made in the logs by bullets or balls, concur to sustain the truth of tradition. The house has, however, been since removed, and in its stead, another is erected. The workmen, in sinking the cellar deeper, discovered a subterranean cave, which, it is surmised, served as a place of concealment and greater security for their wives and little ones, should the fort be surprised by the Indians in the absence of the men on their farms at work.
Mr. Meiss, some years ago, informed my father that two of his brothers fell a victim to gratify the destructive propensity of the Indians. The two brothers were ploughing, and thus were surprised by the Indians. One of them was shot dead on the spot; the other, for his life, made for the house; having nearly reached his goal, and while in the act of leaping a fence, a ruthless Indian, hard on his heels, sunk his tomahawk in the head of his victim - he expired instantly." (Rupp, p. 321.)
In Hanover Township, on November 16, 1755, a party of Indians crossed the Susquehanna, commenced their bloody deeds, and murdered 13 persons.
In the autumn of 1756, a company of 10 Indians came to the house of Noah Frederick, while ploughing, killed and scalped him, and carried away three children that were with him, the eldest but nine years old.
The correspondent from this township of the Pennsylvania Gazette, says, in its issue of May, 1757, that the house of Isaac Snevely was set on fire and entirely consumed, with 18 houses and cows, and that, on May 17th, five men and a woman were killed and scalped about 30 miles from Lancaster. In another letter, dated August 11th, it is stated that on Monday, the 8th, George Mauerer was killed and scalped whilst cutting oats in George Scheffer's field. "There is now," says the same writer, "such a severe sickness in these parts - the like has not been known - that many families can neither fight nor run away, which occasions great distress on the frontiers. Had it not been for 40 men, which the province has in pay in this township, little of the harvest could have been saved, and as the time for which they have been engaged is nearly elapsed, the inhabitants hope the government will continue them in the service, else the consequences will be dreadful."
On Monday, May 22, Barnabas Tolon was killed and scalped in Hanover Township, "and we are," says the editor of the Pennsylvania Gazette, "well informed that 123 persons have been murdered and carried off from that part of Lancaster (Lebanon) County, by the Indians, since the war commenced and that three have been scalped and are yet living."
On June 18th, 1758, Squire Read writes to Edward Shippen that as Leonard Long was riding along the road, about a mile from Read's house, he was killed and scalped. Mr. Read, with some of his company, immediately went to the scene where they found the body lying in the road, bleeding, but could not track the Indians. (Penn. Arch., iii, p. 426.)
The Indians continued to commit murders and depredations till December, 1763, when they were seen for the last time within the limits of Lebanon County.
Londonderry Township being more towards the interior was not so much exposed to the depredations of the savages as those on the northern frontiers. Nevertheless, in the more sparsely settled parts they committed various murders. June 19, 1757, nineteen persons were killed in a mill on the Quitapahilla Creek, and on the 9th of September, 1757, one boy and a girl were taken from Donegal Township, a few miles south of Derry. (Loudon's Narratives, p. 200-208.) About the same time, one Danner and his son Christian, a lad of 12 years, had gone out into the Conewago hills to cut down trees; after felling one, and while the father was cutting a log, he was shot and scalped by an Indian, and Christian, the son, taken captive into Canada, where he remained until the close of the war when he made his escape. Another young lad, named Steger, was surprised by three Indians and taken captive whilst cutting hoop-poles, but, fortunately, after remaining with the Indians some months made his escape.
Jacob and Henry Boman, brothers, both young men, having been taken captive were tied in a secluded thicket by the Indians, who left, it is presumed, to go to the Conestoga Indians, intending to return, but, in the interim, a Mr. Shally, who was returning from Lancaster to Lebanon, chanced to pass, and upon their calling him, released then, and they returned to their parents living near the present Palmyra. (Rupp, p. 334.)
In Heidelberg Township nothing special occurred not common to the other townships in the county. The Indians committed several murders in the northern part, now Jackson. They carried off several children, one of whom, William Jackson, was returned, who had been held captive for some time, in 1762, at Lancaster. (Rupp, p. 344.)
In Jackson Township, near Stouchsburg, was the house of Benjamin Spycker, where the farmers under Conrad Weiser, rendezvoused in 1755, as previously described. In this, as well as the other townships, were several clock houses, or places of refuge, one of which stood on the farm owned by Mr. Breitenbach in 1844, a short distance east of Myerstown. Philip Breitenbach, the father of Mr. Breitenbach, purchased the tract of land, on which the block house stood, from Martin Noacker. Philip Breitenbach was wont, on many occasions of alarm, to take his drum and beat it on an eminence near his house, to collect the neighbors from work into the fort. On one occasions the Indians pursued them close to the house, when one of the inmates took up a gun and shot the Indian dead on the spot. (Rupp, p. 363.) About one mile northeast from Millerstown the first public house, in this region of country, was kept by the grandfather of Adam Ulrich, the occupant in 1844. Mr. Ulrich also kept a small store and traded with the Indians, many of whom stayed weeks with him. Adam Ulrich's father, when a boy, frequently played with the Indians in the thickets. It appears there was a burying ground near Ulrich's house.
(Breitenbach Block House, 1895.)
One evening, about 1756 or 57, Adam Ulrich's father and grandfather were feeding their cattle when they were surprised by the Indians, fortunately escaped and eluded their pursuit, whereupon the Indians killed all the cattle by cutting out their tongues. (Rupp, p. 360.)
This completes the record of a few of the sad occurrences in Lebanon County, and the vicinity of Fort Swatara, which have been preserved. It is not pleasant to pursue them and the reader is doubtless quite ready to pass from their consideration to that of Fort Henry.
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