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.
(See Site of Fort Henry, Berks County.)
Following the plan of defense which had been laid out, the next fort along the mountains was placed some 14 miles to the east of Fort Swatara, and called Fort Henry. Sometimes it is mentioned as Busse's Fort, from the name of its commanding officer. It was the most important fort between the Susquehanna and Lehigh Rivers, owing to the fact that it was about equally distant from each, and also because it was on the main road to Shamokin (Sunbury) and protected the most populous portion of the entire region. It lay near no village, nor any prominent stream from which it might derive a name or location; neither did it stand at any gap in the mountain, of which none exists between Swatara Gap and that at Port Clinton, so that it could not be named or located with reference to any such pass. It did, however, practically command the connecting roads between the Swatara or Tolihaio Gap, and the numerous settlements near it, as the savages were obliged to come through the former to reach the latter. It is, therefore, occasionally referred to as "Fort Henry at Tolihaio," using the name "Tolihaio" in a general sense to apply to the surrounding country, not necessarily right at Tolihaio or Swatara Gap itself. This subject has already been discussed and is only mentioned at this time to impress upon the reader the fact that no matter what may be said of Fort Henry, or under what conditions the name "Fort Henry" may be used, it invariably refers to the one now under discussion. It is also called, sometimes, the "Fort at Dietrich Six's" or "at Six's," because the murders which took place, at the outbreak of hostilities, near Dietrich Six's house, had much to do with the selection of its site on his farm.
The history of Fort Henry is very appropriately introduced by this letter of Conrad Weiser written, November 19th, 1755, to Gov. Morris:
On my return from Philadelphia I met in the township of Amity, in Berks County, the first news of our cruel enemy having invaded the country this side of the Blue Mountain, to wit, Bethel and Tulpenhacon. I left the papers as they were in the messengers hands, and [hastened] to Reading, where the alarm and confusion was very great. I was obliged to stay that night and part of the next day, to wit, the 17th of this instant, and set out for Heidleberg, where I arrived that evening. Soon after, my sons Philip and Frederick arrived from the pursuit of the Indians, and gave me the following relation, to wit, that on Saturday last about 4 o'clock in the afternoon, as some men from Tulpenhacon were going to Dietrich Six's place under the hill on Shamokin Road to be on the watch appointed there, they were fired upon by the Indians but none hurt nor killed. (Our people were but six in number, the rest being behind.) Upon which our people ran towards the watch-house which was about one-half a mile off, and the Indians pursued then, and killed and scalped several of them. A bold, stout Indian came up with one Christopher Ury, who turned about and shot the Indian right through his breast. The Indian dropped down dead, but was dragged out of the way by his own companions. (He was found next day and scalped by our people.) The Indians divided themselves in two parties. Some came this way to meet the rest that was going to the watch, and killed some of them, so that six of our men were killed that day, and a few wounded. The night following the enemy attacked the house of Thomas Bower, on Swatara Creek. They came to the house in the dark night, and one of them put his firearm through the window and shot a shoemaker (that was at work) dead upon the spot. The people being extremely surprised at this sudden attack, defended themselves by firing out of the windows at the Indians. The fire alarmed a neighbor who came with two or three more men; they fired by the way and made a great noise, scared the Indians away from Bower's house, after they had set fire to it, but by Thomas Bower's diligence and conduct was timely put out again, so Thomas Bower, with his family, went off that night to his neighbor Daniel Schneider, who came to his assistance. By 8 of the clock parties came up from Tulpenhacon and Heidleberg. The first party saw for Indians running off. They had some prisoners whom they scalped immediately, three children lay scalped yet alive, one died since, the other two are like to do well. Another party found a woman just expired, with a male child on her side, both killed and scalped. The woman lay upon her face, my son Frederick turned her about to see who she might have been and to his and his companion's surprise they found a baby of about 14 days old under her, wrapped up in a little cushion, his nose quite flat, which was set right by Frederick, and life was yet in it, and recovered again. Our people came up with two parties of Indians that day, but they hardly got sight of then. The Indians ran off immediately. Either our people did not care to fight them if they could avoid it, or (which is most likely) the Indians were alarmed first by the loud noise of our people coming, because no order was observed. Upon the whole, there is about 15 killed of our people, including men, women and children, and the enemy not beat but scared off. Several houses and barns are burned; I have no true account how many. We are in a dismal situation, some of this murder has been committed in Tulpenhacon Township. The people left their plantation to within six or seven miles from my house (located at the present town of Womelsdorf) against another attack.
Guns and ammunition [are] very much wanted here, my sons have been obliged to part with most of that, that was sent up for the use of the Indians. I pray your Honor will be pleased, if it lies in your power, to send us up a quantity upon any condition. I must stand my ground or my neighbors will all go away, and leave their habitations to be destroyed by the enemy or our own people. This is enough of such melancholy account for this time. I beg leave to conclude, who am,
Your very obedient,
Heidleberg, in Berks County,
November 19th, 1755.
P.S. - I am creditably informed just now that one Wolf, a single man, killed an Indian the same time when Ury killed the other, but the body is not found yet. The poor young man since died of his wound through his belly." (Penn. Arch., ii, p. 503.)
To Governor Morris.
The first and violent onslaught of the Indians took place, as has been noted, in the vicinity of Dietrich Six's House, located near what is now the village of Millersburg, in Bethel Township, Berks County, where already a watch-tower seems to have been erected.
The excitement amongst the settlers, caused by the depredations of the savages, was of such a character and brought about such action on their part, that it dare not be passed by in this recital, and will be here given before taking up further matters pertaining directly to Fort Henry.
All was alarm and confusion. In the absence of Weiser who had just been commissioned a colonel at Philadelphia, where he was doubtless arranging the plan of campaign with the governor, the farmers arranged to meet again at Benjamin Spickers, near the present Stouchsburg, just as they did in the previous month of October at the time of the alarm at Swatara Gap, and there organize for defense. Just then Mr. Weiser returned, and the following letter written by him to the governor, immediately after the one given above, and of the same date, well portrays what happened:
"May it please the Governor:
That night after my arrival from Philadelphia, Emanuel Carpenter and Simon Adam Kuhn, Esqs., came to my house, and lodged with me. They acquainted me that a meeting was appointed (of the people of Tulpenhacon and Heidleberg and adjacent places) in Tulpenhacon Township (then occupying the whole northwestern part of Berks county, - Author), at Benjamin Spicker's early next morning. I made all the haste with the Indians I could, and gave then a letter to Thomas McKee, to furnish them with necessaries for their journey. Scarujude had no creature to ride on. I gave him one. Before I could get done with the Indians three or four men came from Benjamin Spicker's to warn the Indians not to go that way, for the people were so enraged against all Indians, and would kill them without distinction, I went with them; so did the gentlemen before named. When we came near Benjamin Spicker's I saw about 400 or 500 men, and there was a loud noise, I rode before, and in riding along the road (and armed men on both sides of the road) I heard some say, why must we be killed by the Indians and we not kill them! Why are our hands so tied? I got the Indians to the house with much ado, where I treated them with a small dram, and so parted in love and friendship. Capt. Diefenback undertook to conduct then (with five other men) to Susquehanna. After this a sort of counsel of war was held by the officers present, the before named and other freeholders. It was agreed that 150 men should be raised immediately to serve as out scouts, and as guards at certain places under the Kittitany Hills for 40 days. That those so raised to have two shillings a day, and two lbs of bread, two lbs of beef and a gill of rum, and powder and lead. (Arms they must find themselves). This scheme was signed by a good many freeholders and read to the people. They cried out that so much for an Indian scalp they would have (be they friends or enemies), from the Governor or Assembly. They began, some to curse the Governor; some the Assembly; called me a traitor of the country, who held with the Indians, and must have known this murder beforehand. I sat in the house by a low window, some of my friends came to pull me away from it, telling me some of the people threatened to shoot me. I offered to go out to the people and either pacify them or make the King's Proclamation; but those in the house with me would not let me go out. The cry was, "The land was betrayed and sold." The common people from Lancaster (now Lebanon) County were the worst. The wages they said [were] a trifle and said somebody pocketed the rest, and they would resent it. Somebody had put it into their heads that I had it in my power to give them as much as I pleased. I was in danger of being shot to death. In the meantime a great smoke arose under Tulpenhacon Mountain, with the news following, that the Indians had committed murder on Mill Creek (a false alarm) and set fire to a barn, most of the people ran, and those that had horses rode off without any order or regulation. I then took my horse and went home, where I intend to stay, and defend my own house as long as I can. There is no doings with the people without a law or regulation by the Governor and Assembly. The people of Tulpenhacon all fled; till about six or seven miles from me some few remain. Another such attack will lay all the country waste on the west side of Schuylkill.
I am, Sir, Your most obedient," * * * * (Penn. Arch., ii, p. 504.)
Although I can trace a quiet touch of sarcasm in Mr. Weiser's account of how the people fled upon the first rumor of danger, after their threats against him, yet the gravity of the situation cannot be questioned. It was so great, indeed, that some of the more prominent gentlemen present deemed it best to draw up a paper to be sent the governor. On November 24th the following statement was forwarded:
We the subscribers hereof, being met together to think on means how to withstand our cruel Indian enemy, thought fit to acquaint your Honor of the miserable condition the back inhabitants of these parts are in:
(1st) Since the last cruel murder committed by the enemy, most of the people of Tulpenhacon have left their habitation; those in Heidelberg moved their effects. Bethel Township is entirely deserted.
(2d) There is no order among the people, one cries one thing, and another another thing. They want to force us to make a law, that they should have a reward for every Indian which they kill; they demanded such a law of us, with their guns cocked, pointing it towards us.
(3d) The people are so incensed, not only against our cruel enemy the Indians, but also (we beg leave to inform your Honor) against the Governor and Assembly, that we are afraid they will go down in a body to Philadelphia and commit the vilest outrages. They say they will rather be hanged than to be butchered by the Indians, as some of their neighbors have been lately, and the poverty that some are in is very great.
(4) Yesterday we sent out about 70 men to the mountains to take possession of several houses, and to range the woods along the mountain in Berks County, on the west side of Schuylkill. The same number are sent to the back parts of Lancaster (Lebanon County), we promised them two shillings a day, two lbs of bread, two lbs of beef, and a gill of rum a day, and ammunition, and that for 40 days, or till we shall receive your Honor's order. We persuaded ourselves your Honor will not leave us in the lurch; we must have done such a thing or else leave our habitation. If no worse; and all this would not do, we and others of the freeholders have been obliged to promise them a reward of four pistols for every enemy Indian man they should kill. Many things more we could mention but we don't care to trouble your Honor any further, do therefore conclude, and beg leave to subscribe ourselves,
Your very humble servants,
ADAM SIMON KUHN.
P.S. - I cannot forbear to acquaint your Honor of a certain circumstance of the late unhappy affair: One ____ Kobel, with his wife and eight children, the eldest about 14 years and the youngest 14 days, was flying before the enemy, he carrying one, and his wife and a boy another of the children, when they were fired upon by two Indians very nigh, but hit only the man upon his breast, though not dangerously. They, the Indians, then came with their tomahawks, knocked the woman down, but not dead. They intended to kill the man, but his gun (though out of order so that he could not fire) kept them off. The woman recovered so far, and seated herself upon a stump, with her babe in her arms, and gave it suck, and the Indians driving the children together, and spoke to them in high Dutch, be still we won't hurt you. Then they struck a hatchet into the woman's head, and she fell upon her face with her babe under her, and the Indian trod upon her neck and tore off the scalp. The children then ran; four of them were scalped, among which was a girl of eleven years of age, who related the whole story; of the scalped, two are alive and like to do well. The rest of the children ran into the bushes and the Indians after them, but our people coming near to them, and hallooed and made noise; the Indians ran, and the rest of the children were saved. They ran within a yard by a woman that lay behind an old log, with two children, there were about seven or eight of the enemy.
I am, Honored Sir, your obedient,
I intend to send a wagon down to Philadelphia for blankets and other necessaries for the people, on their guard under the mountain, and I hope it will be then in your Honor's power to supply us. (Penn. Arch., ii, p. 511.)
The governor was fully aroused by these horrible atrocities and endeavored to perform his whole duty. The correspondence received, together with his recommendations, were at once laid before the Assembly as well as all the prominent officials of Philadelphia County. His success will better be shown by a letter written November 17th (probably 27th) to General Shirley:
Dear Sir: Since writing the letter herewith I have received intelligence that the Indians have crossed the Susquehanna, and fallen upon the inhabitants to the southward of the mountains at and near a place called Tulpihockin, about 60 miles from hence, where they had, when the express came away, burnt several houses and killed such of the inhabitants as could not escape from them. The settlement they are now destroying is one of the finest in this province, the lands are very rich and well improved. My Assembly have now been sitting ever since the 3d instant, but have done nothing for the defense of the province, nor raised any supply. The bill they have proposed for that purpose, being of the same kind of one I had before refused to pass and which they know I have no power by my commission to pass it. Such a conduct while the country is bleeding, seems to me to merit the severest censure. (Penn. Arch., ii, p. 525.)
It was not until the latter part of the year that action was taken which finally enabled the Governor to organize a system of defense. Troops were regularly enlisted, officered and equipped. Stations for forts, from 10 to 12 miles apart, were selected, and companies assigned to each, under the command of Lt. Col. Conrad Weiser. It was at this time, simultaneously with those of Fort Swatara and Fort Lebanon, that the history of Fort Henry really began. It was on January 25, 1756, that Capt. Christian Busse, with a company of 50 Provincial soldiers, was ordered "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 Capt. Morgan, about half way between the said fort and Fort Lebanon." (Penn. Arch., ii, p. 547.)
On February 1, 1756, Gov. Morris wrote to Gov. Dinwiddie explaining his arrangements for a chain of forts, and says of those between the Susquehanna and Delaware "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.)
In similar strain, on February 2d, he writes to Col. Washington "on the east side of the Susquehanna the forts are about 10 or 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 * * * * " (Penn. Arch., ii, p. 565.)
These orders and letters have already been quoted under the head of Fort Swatara, and their misleading language commented upon, and therefore need no further attention here. They go to prove, however, the time when Fort Henry was erected to have been in February, 1756, because in the case of this important position the fort was of considerable size and built by the government troops. The watch tower, originally erected by the farmers was no longer used. Where this latter stood we do not know, but my opinion is, after a careful examination of the ground and talk with the people, that it was at the spot where the fort stood later, into which it was incorporated, or else torn down.
Fort Henry seems to have been so well known and in such good condition as not to need as much attention as some of the other places. This is evidenced by the fact that when James Young, the Commissary General of Musters, made his tour of inspection in June of the same year he passed over the mountains after leaving Fort Northkill and went to Fort Lebanon, without stopping at Fort Henry. He says, June 21st, "At 8 o'clock A.M., Capt. Busse, from Fort Henry, came here (Fort Northkill) with eight men on horseback, he expected to meet Col. Weiser here, in order to proceed to the several forts on the Norther Frontier, but Col. Weiser wrote him that other business prevented him, and desired Capt. Busse to proceed with me, and return him an account how he found the forts, with the quantity of ammunition and stores in each of which I was very glad, as the escort on horseback would expedite our journey very much, and be much safer." (Penn. Arch., ii, p. 676.) Capt. Christian Busse, the commander of Fort Henry here mentioned had been a doctor at Reading, Pa., before entering the military service.
Notwithstanding the terrible depredations committed by the Indians, the officers in command of the troops made every effort to prevent them, and their unceasing vigilance is well worthy of commendation.
The following report of Col. Weiser to Gov. Morris, made in July, 1756, bears witness to this statement:
Immediately after my return from Philadelphia, I sent orders to Capts. Busse, Morgan and Smith, to meet me at Fort Henry, on the 9th of this instant, to consult together over certain measures, how to oppose the enemy of killing the people in reaping and gathering in their harvest. The evening before, to wit, on the 8th of this instant, Mr. Young arrived with your Honor's orders to me, I therefore sent out next morning about 5 o'clock for Fort Henry, in company with Mr. Young, as far as Benjamin Spyckers. I arrived at Fort Henry by 10 o'clock. Capt. Busse met me with an escort of eight men on horseback, about six miles on this side of Fort Henry; about 12 o'clock the Capts. Morgan and Smith arrived. I immediately made your Honor's orders known to them, and the following deposition was made: That eight men of Capt. Smith's Company shall assist the people in the "Hole" (the place where twice murder was committed) to gather in their harvest, and stay overnight 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; sixteen men are 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 are to stay constantly in Manity [Manada] towards Swatara, and six men to range westward towards Susquehanna; each party so far that they may reach their fort again before night. Capt. Busse's Company stationed as follows: Ten men at Bernhard Tridel's, next to the Moravians, eight men at Casper Snebelies, six men at Daniel Shue's or Peter Klop's. All these are westward of Fort Henry. Eastwards Capt. Busse is to post four men at Jacob Stein's, three men at Ulrich Spies, six men at the widow Kendal's, the rest, consisting of 19 men, to remain at the fort. Capt. Morgan's Company, as follows: Six men to range from the little fort on the Northkill, westward to the Emerick's, and stay there if the people unite to work together in their harvest, six men to range eastward on the same footing, eight men to stay in that fort, 15 men are to stay in Fort Lebanon, eight men to protect the people over the hill in harvest time, 10 men to range constantly eastward or westward, and if the people return to their plantation thereabouts, to protect those first that join together to do their work.
All the aforesaid men are posted as much in a range as was possible, and would suite the settlement best.
Your Honor will observe that there are not men enough left in the forts to change or relieve the men on duty, but scarce sufficient to keep the forts, and send provisions to the several posts.
I did propose to the captains to make a draft of about 25 men out of the three companies, and sent them over the hills to a certain place in Kind Creek, to lie in ambush there for the enemy, for about 10 days, but the large frontier which they have to guard with their men, would not admit of it at this time, so I was therefore obliged to give over that point.
A great number of the back inhabitants came to the fort that day, and cried out for guards. Their situation is indeed desperate. About 40 men from Tulpenhacon have been out for their protection, but they got soon tired, and rose disputes and quarrels in order to get home again.
I hear that the people over Susquehanna will have protection, cost what it will; if they can't obtain it from the English, they will send to the French for it. I believe (by what I hear) that some on this side of the river are of the same opinion, at least there is such a mumbling among the back inhabitants.
I must mention to your Honor that when the people about Swatara and the "Hole" heard of Capt. Smith's being accused of neglect of duty, they wrote a letter to me in his favor, which I send by Sammy Weiser, who can translate it if your Honor orders him to do it. I also send a letter from Capt. Busse, which contains the particulars of the last murder. I received it by the way coming from Philadelphia, and stopped the express (as it was only to me) in order to save changes.
As I had no clerk for some time, I wrote a general letter yesterday to all the commanding officers eastward from Fort Henry to Easton, with a copy of your Honor's orders enclosed. I could not send everyone a copy, but ordered them to take it themselves and send it forward immediately.
Just this moment my son Sammy arrived from Fort Henry, and tells me that there had been an engagement at Caghnckacheeky, wherein 12 on our side were killed, and six Indians; that our people kept the field and scalped the Indians, and that the Indians ran off without any scalp. As bad news as it is, I wish it may be true.
I have at present no more trouble your Honor with, but remain,
Sir, Your very obedient and humble servant,
Heidleberg, in the County of Berks, July the 11th, 1756.
P.S. - I should have told your Honor that I keep a sergeant, with nine private men of my company at Fort Henry, under Capt. Busse, with that proviso, that they shall stay in the fort and defend it when the Captain's men are on their several posts or ranging; the Captain must keep a ranging party all along; tomorrow another sergeant marches from Reading with nine men, to relieve those of my company that have been out two weeks. (Penn. Arch., ii, p. 696.)
On November 16th, 1756, Secy. Peters notifies Capt. Orndt, in accordance with the Governor's orders, "that measures are [being taken], as well at Shamokin (Sunbury) as in the forts in Berks County, to pursue the enemy Indians who have lately committed murders on the inhabitants near Fort Henry, Fort Lebanon and Fort Franklin, of which the Governor desires our friendly Indians may be advised least our parties should meet with these Indians, mistake them for the enemy and if so fall upon them." (Penn. Arch., iii, p. 51.)
The reader will please notice that Fort Henry is mentioned as a "Fort in Berks County," whereas if it had been literally situated at Swatara Gap it would have been in Lancaster (now Lebanon) County.
The consultation of the Governor with Lord Loudoun, at Philadelphia in April, 1757, has previously been referred to, and the fact mentioned that it was then decided to reduce the number of the forts east of the Susquehanna to three, of which Fort Henry was one, and the only one, between the Susquehanna and the Lehigh. (Penn. Arch., iii, p. 119.) It was found impracticable, however, to carry this plan into immediate operation.
In June of that year Fort Henry was honored by a visit from Gov. Denny, the successor of Gov. Morris, under peculiar circumstances. The government had been notified of a threatened attack in force on Fort Augusta at Shamokin (Sunbury) just at a time when the terms of enlistment of the troops composing its garrison had expired. No persuasion could induce more than 40 men to re-enlist. In the emergency it became necessary to order immediately three companies from Col. Weiser's regiment to the scene of action, whilst the Governor, in person, hastened from Lancaster into the county of Berks to encourage the raising of these 159 men. When he came there he found men enough but met with an unexpected obstacle. The country people, supported by their magistrates and the leading men of the county, refused to serve under the provincial officers but insisted upon choosing their own. This, it seems, was put into their heads at Lancaster, by some of the Commissioners and Assemblymen, who made them think it was a most valuable privilege. The Governor adds: - "Intending to go to Fort Henry, the only garrison my time would allow me to visit, I desired Col. Weiser to acquaint the leaders of these infatuated people, that I should be glad they would come and speak with me at the fort. Accordingly about 50 substantial freeholders, well mounted and armed, joined the escort and attended me to Fort Henry, where I had an opportunity of undeceiving them. Convinced of their error, they presented me a very respectful address, assuring me of their desire to have a proper militia law, and that they were determined under such a law to serve and do their duty to their king and country. Forty instantly were enlisted by Col. Weiser out of this neighborhood, and a magistrate about 20 miles off wrote me he had enlisted 40 more." (Penn. Arch., iii, p. 194.)
We have already seen that there was a lack of soldiers for the proper protection of the people, and can readily imagine what a sad deficiency was caused by the withdrawal of three companies to Fort Augusta. It is, therefore, a matter of no surprise to read the following letter written October 1st, 1757, from Reading, by Col. Weiser to Gov. Denny:
"I humbly entreat your Honor to pity our cause and give orders that the men belonging to the 1st Battalion of Pennsylvania's Regiment, now at Fort Augusta, may all return to their proper or former station. When this present trouble is over I will gladly send a reinforcement again either to Fort Augusta or wherever your Honor pleases. It is certain that the enemy is numerous on our frontiers, and the people are coming away very fast, so that the forts are left to themselves with the men in them, but no more neighbors about them." (Penn. Arch., iii, p. 277.)
So urgent is the matter that Col. Weiser, three days later, writes to the Governor's secretary, Mr. Peters:
Sir: I did not think on the post [mail] till he[ mailman] entered my doors, else I would have wrote particularly to the Governor, though I have been very busy with writing to the commanding officers of the several forts under my care. It is now come so far that murder is committed almost every day; there never was such a consternation among the people, they must now leave their houses again, with their barns full of grain; five children have been carried off last Friday, some days before a sick man killed upon his bed, begged of the enemy to shoot him through his heart which the Indian answered, I will, and did so. A girl, that had hid herself under a bedstead, in the next room, heard all this, two more families were about that time destroyed. Enclosed is the journal of last month of my ensign at Northkill. Capt. Busse lies dangerously sick at John Harris. I hear he is tired of everything; I have neither men nor a sufficient number of officers to defend the country. If his Honor would be pleased to send me orders for to recall all the men belonging to my battalion, from Fort Augusta, he would justly bring upon him the blessing of the most high. I can not say no more. I think myself unhappy, to fly with my family in this time of danger I can't do. I must stay, if they all go. I am now preparing to go to Fort Henry, where I shall meet some officers to consult with, what may be best to be done. I have ordered 10 men, with the Governor's last orders, to Fort Augusta; I shall overtake them this evening at Fort Henry, and give them proper instruction. For God's sake, dear Sir, beg of the Governor, press it upon him in my behalf, and in behalf of this distressed inhabitants, to order my men back from Fort Augusta. I will give my reason afterwards, that I am in the right. I conclude with my humble respects to his Honor.
And remain, Kind Sir,
Your most humble servant,
Excuse my hurry. (Penn. Arch., iii, p. 283.)
Who can fail to sympathize with Col. Weiser as he endeavors to faithfully perform his duties surrounded by these many trials and difficulties. It is with much satisfaction, therefore, that we find, on November 8th, orders sent by the Governor for Capt. Busse to return with his detachment to his former post. (Penn. Arch., iii, p. 38.)
In the midst of all his discouragements Col. Weiser does not forget his sick friend Capt. Busse, and snatches a moment's time from his multitudinous labors to pay him a visit at Fort Harris. Here, by chance, he was informed of the capture of a French deserter at Fort Henry. We will let him tell the incident in his own words, as we find them in a letter of October 16, 1757, to Gov. Denny, written from Reading. He says:
According to my last I went up to John Harris's Ferry to visit Capt. Busse, where I found him in a very poor condition, but he told me he was much better than he had been the day before; and after about two hours conversation, he went to Hunter's Fort by water, though against my advice, as he had Lieut. Philip Marsloff with him, and Ensign Kern by my order (not knowing that Marsloff was there) was come up to wait on the Captain, etc. Kern had but half hour to stay when he was ordered by me to follow the Captain by land, with an escort of four men of the Battalion under my command. Before he set off he informed me that on the 12th instant, a French deserter or spy came down the hill near Fort Henry, and made towards Dietrich Six's house, which the sentry of the fort observing, acquainted the commanding officer of the fort thereof, who sent an officer and two soldiers to seize and bring him into the fort, which was accordingly done. I ordered, by express, my son Samuel, who commanded at the fort on Sweetara [Swatara], to march with a ranging party with all possible speed and care and take the said prisoner and convey him safe down to my house in Heidelberg, where he arrived safe with the prisoner about noon yesterday. I examined the prisoner by such an interpreter as I could get, but thought fit to bring him down hither to have a more full examination by the assistance of Capt. Oswald and Mr. James Read, and accordingly came here with him last night. The paper enclosed and a fuse were found in his possession. The examination I left to Capt. Oswald and Mr. Read, who will transmit a fair copy to your Honor. As I've no men to spare in this dangerous time, and Capt. Oswald hath been so kind as to offer a party of the Regulars under his command here to guard the prisoner to Philadelphia, I have accepted his offer, and accordingly put him into custody of the guards appointed by the Captain, which I hope will not be disagreeable to your Honor.
I am, Honored Sir,
Your most humble servant,
(Penn. Arch., iii, p. 293.)
We have then recorded the examination of the prisoner at Reading, and later his more complete examination at Philadelphia, both of which abound in interesting statements, but have no proper place in this history and must therefore be omitted. Suffice it to say, briefly, that his name was Michael La Chauviguerie Jun, and his age seventeen. His father was a lieutenant of French Marines and Commandant of Fort Machault, just building, which was 72 leagues up the Allegheny River from Fort Du Quesne (Pittsburgh) and near the Lakes. The son had been given command of a party of 33 Indians, principally Delawares, who were sent out on a marauding expedition. As they neared the Blue Mountains he tells the sad tale of prisoners taken and numerous deserted homesteads. By accident one day he dropped a piece of bread and whilst looking for it his party of Indians became separated from him and he found he was lost. After wandering around for seven days he was forced to surrender at Fort Henry to save himself from starvation.
In this connection, I desire to call attention to the fact that Fort Henry is mentioned as being in close proximity to Dietrich Six's house, which fully corroborates the position which will be given presently.
James Burd, in the journal of his inspection of various forts, has this to say of Fort Henry:
"Tuesday, February 21st, 1758.
Marched at 1 P.M. for Fort Henry (from Fort Swatara) at 3 P.M., got to Soudder's 7 miles, left Lieut. Broadhead to march the party four miles to Sneevlys there to halt all night and to march to Fort Henry in the morning, six miles, the roads being very bad, marched myself with Adjutant Thorn and eight on horseback arrived at Fort Henry at 5 P.M., found here Capt. Weiser, Adjutant Kern and the Ensigns Biddle and Craighead, doing duty with 90 men. Ordered a review of the garrison tomorrow at 9 A.M.
Had a review this morning at 9 A.M., found 90 soldiers under good command, and fine fellows. Examined the stores, and am informed by the commanding officer there is two mo's more about six miles from here at Jacob Myers Mill; no powder, 224 lbs of lead, no flints, about 80 Province arms belonging to these two companies, good for nothing.
Ordered Ensign Craighead with 18 men of this garrison to march tomorrow morning to Fort Swettarrow [Swatara] and there to apply to Capt. Allen and to receive from him seven men, and with this party of 25 men to march from thence to Robertson's mill, there to take post to order from thence a sergeant corporal and eight men to the house of Adam Read, Esq., and to employ his whole party in continual ranging to cover these frontiers; this I found myself under a necessity of doing otherwise several townships here would be evacuated in a few days.
Ordered Ensign Heller to march back my escort to Hunter's Fort tomorrow morning, and Capt. Weiser to continue to range from this to Fort Northkill and Swetarrow [Swatara], to employ all his judgment to waylay the enemy and protect the inhabitants. This is a very good stockaded fort, and everything is good order, and duty done pretty well.
Marched today at 11 A.M., and arrived at Conrad Weiser's, Esq., at 3 P.M., 14 miles, where I found four quarter casks of powder belonging to the Province, three of which I ordered to Fort Henry, and one to Fort Swettarrow, no lead here, very bad roads and cold weather, stayed all night." (Penn. Arch., iii, p. 553.)
Before considering the matter of location I submit the following letter from Capt. Busse to Col. Weiser, written at Fort Henry on June 19th, 1758, which has an important bearing on the subject:
"Dear Sir: At noon I received news that this morning about 8 o'clock, the Indians took and carried away the wife of John Frantz, with three children, six miles from here, deep in the country. I sent momently Lieut. Johnston with a party of nine men to go along the mountains, and to stay at the "Hole" to intercept them. Them being gone, a farmer was following on horseback, came back and told that he saw three Indians near the fort at the place of Six. Being not able to spare more men, as just a detachment was out to meet the wagon with provision, I sent Sergeant Christ Mowrer only with two men to look for their tracks. It is a cruel fate where we are brought to that, we shall fight without powder or lead. If some is there, be pleased to send it to us. I hope you will be so kind as to give Capt. Blakwood notice hereof, with my compliments.
I am, Dear Sir,
Your very humble servant,
(Penn. Arch., iii, p. 425.)
In this letter Capt. Busse speaks of the Frantz family, who lived six miles from Fort Henry. I have just recently talked with Mr. William Frantz, 73 years old, residing at Millersburg, about this very event in his family, he being a descendant of those mentioned. He informed me that the event happened at their home which was on the Little Swatara Creek, some two miles north from Millersburg, which would make it six miles from Fort Henry if located at Dietrich Six's house. Indeed Capt. Busse, himself, in the letter, refers to the fort as being at Six's place. But I especially desire to call attention to the fact that a detail was sent to the "Hole" (Swatara Gap) to intercept the Indians as they retreated and possibly rescue the captives. This clearly shows that the Swatara Gap was looked upon and used as the ordinary passageway through the mountains to the whole locality in said neighborhood, and that it would be but natural, as I have already argued, to speak of Fort Henry as at Tolihaio Gap although actually 14 miles distant from it.
It only remains to say, what the reader has already discovered, that Fort Henry was located near the home of Dietrich Six. This property was on the old Shamokin (Sunbury) Road, three miles north of Millersburg, in Bethel Township, Berks County. Dietrich Six owned the farm during the French and Indian War. It was purchased from him by Frantz Umbenhauer, born October 23, 1751, died March 31, 1812, and buried in the Union Church Yard near Millersburg, who came to that locality when a young man and settled there. From him it descended to his son Peter Umbenhauer, who always kept the place intact and sacred, for the benefit of the many visitors who came to see it. It afterwards came into the possession of Mr. George Pott, and is now owned by James Batz. It was my privilege to interview Mrs. Elizabeth Ditzler, a bright, active old lady 83 years old, who was the daughter of Peter Umbenhauer and still lives with her married daughter but a short distance from the site occupied by the fort. She has frequently seen it, but even when she was 15 or 16 years old it was in ruins, and not much more than a heap of stone remained. Her father, who died at the place some 60 years ago when 63 years old, told her all about the fort and its exact location, which agrees precisely with what is recorded, and is corroborated by the testimony of many other reliable authorities.
The following [Fort Henry] map will now give more clear insight into the matter:
The fort stood in what is now a cultivated field, about 25 yards northeast one-fourth east from the shed with stone base standing by the roadside. It was on slightly elevated ground and commands a splendid view of the approaches from the Blue Mountains and of the valley to the west. At the foot of the elevated ground runs a little stream of water, originating at the spring back of the fort. Mr. Batz still ploughs up stone belonging to the fort, as well as pieces of common clay pipe stems, and finds chips of flint at the spring, all, undoubtedly pertaining to the garrison. This spring, which is the origin of the stream is in a gully about 175 yards from the shed, and must therefore have been comparatively near the fort.
We have already discussed and settled the time when this fort was built. With regard to the fort itself unfortunately we know nothing definite, except that it was a stockade. In our generation it has been merely a heap of ruins, but we are assured from them that it was more pretentious in size than usual. This we would have reason to expect because of its importance, and from the number of soldiers in the garrison. I have been unable to get any description of it from anyone, except from Mr. Daniel Hostetter, of Springsville, who is some 60 years old. Even this is of a rather vague character. He says most of the stone belonging to the fort was taken by the farmers for building purposes, but when he first saw it the marks of the building were plain, and that even 14 years ago about a quarter of the wall was still there. To him it seemed shaped like a half moon, and in the center was a house which evidently had a cellar underneath. The walls of the fort were about three feet thick and about 200 long, and Mr. Hostetter adds that he never saw such a place in his life and doubts if there is any other like it in the state.
About one mile east of the fort rises abruptly from the plain Round Top Mountain. So abruptly does it rise that it is almost impossible to scale the side facing the fort. Dr. W. C. Kline, of Myerstown, who has at various times visited this locality and who 25 years ago also saw traces of the walls of Fort Henry, at one time made an effort to reach the summit of Round Top. With much difficulty he clambered up its steep face until he reached a point about half way from the top where he was surprised to find what seemed undoubtedly an artificial plateau, about 40x150 feet formed by spreading out stones taken from the hill behind, thus making a wall in the rear. The stones seem to have been broken to a small size and were entirely different from the rock comprising the other part of the mountain over which he had climbed. They were much harder and made somewhat of a ringing sound when knocked together. The doctor was entirely unable to give an explanation of the fact, nor did the farmers living there know of it. I here mention it as a matter, certainly of interest and possibly of value. It has suggested itself to me that the Indians, who occupied that part of the country before the advent of the white man, there obtained the stones from which to make their axes, arrowheads, etc., as the more prevalent stone in that neighborhood is too soft for such purposes. I have also thought that the soldiers of the garrison may have obtained some of their flints from this place, but as they would have needed only a very few compared to the large number of stones seen, I am rather inclined to my former opinion. There may also be some connection between this theory and the numerous flint chips even now found at the spring in the gully back of the fort, too many to have been made by the soldiers. Does it not indicate an Indian village or villages, in the distant past at that point?
That Fort Henry's position should be perpetuated by a monument hardly admits of controversy. In my judgment the spot on which to place it would be on the site of the public road near the shed having a stone base.
At the time of the conference with the Indians at Easton in July, 1757, Col. Weiser's guard of soldiers from Forts Swatara, Henry, Lebanon and from Allemangle, were under the command of Capt. Busse. (Penn. Arch., iii, p. 218.) On February 5, 1758, Adjutant Kern reports Capts. Busse and Weiser at Fort Henry, with 89 men in their two companies, and its distance from Fort Swatara 14 miles. In his detailed report of the same date he specifies, besides the two Captains, Lt. & Adjt. Kern, Ensigns Beedle and Craighead, 92 Provincial arms on hand, 26 men with their own arms, 12 lbs of powder, no lead, two months provisions, 14 cartridges, and the Messrs. Weisers as Commissaries for the station. (Penn. Arch., iii, p. 339-340.)
Here comes to an end the recorded history of Fort Henry, but not its actual existence, as in July, 1763, we find a letter of instructions from Governor Hamilton to Col. Armstrong, in which he says that he has appointed 100 men for each of the three counties of Lancaster (Lebanon), Berks and Northampton, to be reinforced from other points as occasion may demand. (Penn. Arch., iv, p. 115.) We have every right to presume that Fort Henry, the most important of the chain of forts, was then occupied. During the interim, however, between 1759, when the Indians had retired with their French ally, and 1763 which signalized the new outbreak under Pontiac, comparative peace existed and we need not be surprised at a lack of stirring events on record. Prior to 1759 there certainly was no lack of such events in the neighborhood. Many of the merciless acts committed by the savages in the general locality of Fort Henry have been given under Fort Swatara. Others in its more immediate vicinity still remain to be told.
In the Pennsylvania Gazette of December 18, 1755, it says, "We hear from Reading, in Berks County, that on Sunday last, about 9 o'clock at night, the guard belonging to that county, about 17 miles from that town, were attacked by some Indians, with whom they exchanged several fires, and put them to flight; that none of the guard were wounded; though one of them had the skirt of his jacket shot away, and that they supposed some of the Indians were badly burnt, as they heard a crying among them as they ran off; but that the guard having spent their ammunition, could not pursue them."
On March 7, 1756, Andrew Lycan, who lived over the mountain, 25 miles below Sunbury, at or near the Wiskinisco Creek, was attacked by Indians. He had with him a son, John Lycan, a negro man, a boy, and two of his neighbors, John Revolt and Ludwig Shut. As Andrew Lycan and John Revolt went out early that morning to feed the animals, two guns were fired at them, but they escaped unhurt, ran to the house and prepared for an engagement. The Indians then got under cover of a log house near the dwelling, whereupon John Lycan, Revolt and Shut crept out to get a shot at them, but were fired at by the Indians instead, and all wounded, Shut being hit in the abdomen. Andrew Lycan then noticed one of the Indians and two white men run out of the log house and get a little distance from it. Upon this the inmates of the house endeavored to escape but were immediately pursued by the Indians to the number of 16 or more. John Lycan and Revolt being badly wounded, were able to do nothing, and so went off with the negro, leaving Andrew Lycan, Shut and the boy engaged with the enemy, who pursued so closely that one of them came up with the boy, and was about to strike his tomahawk into him when Shut turned and shot him dead. At the same time Lycan shot another, whom he is positive was killed, saw a third fall and thinks others were wounded by them. Being now both badly wounded and almost exhausted, they sat down on a log to rest themselves, whilst the Indians stood a little way off looking at them.
One of the Indians killed was Bill Davis, and two others they knew to be Tom Hickman and Tom Hayes, all Delawares and well known in those parts. All of the farmers escaped through Swatara Gap into Hanover Township, and recovered under the care of a doctor, but lost all they were worth. (Pennsylvania Gazette, March 18, 1756.)
The editor of the Gazette, of June 24, says: "we have advice from Fort Henry, in Berks County (Bethel Township) that two children of one Lawrence Dieppel, who lives about two miles from said fort, are missing, and thought to be carried off by the Indians, as one of their hats had been found, and several Indian tracks seen." In relation to this statement the editor adds on July 1st, "we learn that one of Lawrence Dieppel's children, mentioned in our last to be carried off, has been found cruelly murdered and scalped, a boy about four years, and that the other, also a boy, eight years old, was still missing."
On November 19, 1756, Col. Weiser writes to Gov. Denny that the Indians had made another incursion into Berks Country, killed and scalped two married women and a lad of 14 years of age, wounded two children of about four years of age, and carried off two more. One of the wounded was scalped and likely to die, and the other had two cuts to her forehead, given by an Indian who had attempted to scalp her but did not succeed. There were eight men of Fort Henry, posted in different neighbor's houses, about one mile and a half off, who when they heard noise of the guns firing, immediately went towards it but came too late. The Pennsylvania Gazette of December 9, also says they had heard of a woman who had been missing from Heidelberg Township for three weeks past, and was supposed to have been carried off by the savages.
Again in the issue of July, 1757, the Pennsylvania Gazette gives this extract from a letter dated, Heidelberg, July 9th: "Yesterday, about 3 o'clock in the afternoon, between Valentine Herchelroar's and Tobias Bickell's, four Indians killed two children; one of about four years, the other five; they at the same time scalped a young woman of about 16; but, with proper care, she is likely to live and do well.
A woman was terribly cut with the tomahawk, but not scalped - her life is despaired of. Three children were carried off prisoners. One Christian Schrenk's wife, being among the rest, bravely defended herself and children, for a while; wresting the gun out of the Indian's hands, who assaulted her, also his tomahawk, and threw them away; and afterwards was obliged to save her own life - two of her children were taken captive in the meantime. In this house were also 20 women and children, who had fled from their own habitations, to take shelter; the men belonging to them were about one-half mile off, picking cherries - they came as quick as possible and went in pursuit of the Indians, but to no purpose, the Indians had concealed themselves."
In August, 1757, people were murdered by the Indians in Bern Township, and others carried off. At Tulpehocken a man named Lebenguth, and his wife, were killed, and scalped. On October 4, 1758, a letter from Fort Henry says, "The first of October, the Indians burnt a house on Swatara, killed one man, and three are missing. Two boys were found tied to a tree and were released. We are alarmed in the fort almost every night by a terrible barking of dogs; there are certainly some Indians about us." (Pennsylvania Gazette, October 19, 1758.) On September 9, 1763, a letter from Reading says: "A few of the Rangers who had encamped in Berks County, were apprized of the approach of Indians by their out scouts; the Indians advanced cautiously to take them by surprise; when near, with savage yells they rushed forward, but the Rangers, springing on their feet, shot the three in front; the rest fled into a thicket and escaped. The Indians were armed with guns and provided with ammunition. These Indians, it is supposed by some, had been on their way from the Moravian Indians, in Northampton County, to the Big Island. Runners were sent to the different parties of Rangers with information, and others sent in pursuit of those who fled." (Rupp, p. 77.)
During the same month, eight well-armed Indians came to the house of John Fincher, a Quaker, residing north of the Blue Mountains, in Berks County, about 24 miles from Reading, and within three-quarters of a mile of a party of six men of Capt. Kern's company of Rangers, commanded by Ensign Scheffer. At the approach of the Indians, John Fincher, his wife, two sons and daughter, immediately went to the door and asked them to enter in and eat, expressing hope that they came as friends, and entreated them to spare their lives. To this entreaty the Indians turned a deaf ear. Both parents and two sons were deliberately murdered, their bodies being found on the spot. The daughter was missing after the departure of the Indians, and it was supposed from the cries heard by the neighbors that she also was slain.
A young lad, who lived with Fincher, made his escape and notified Ensign Scheffer, who instantly went in pursuit of these cold-blooded assassins. He pursued them to the house of one Miller, where he found four children murdered; the Indians having carried two others with them. Miller and his wife, being at work in the field, saved their lives by flight. Mr. Miller himself was pursued near one mile by an Indian, who fired at him twice in hot pursuit. Ensign Scheffer and his squad continued after the savages, overtook them, and fired upon them. The Indians returned the fire, and a sharp but short conflict ensued, when the enemy fled, leaving behind them Miller's two children and part of the plunder they had taken.
These barbarous Indians had scalped all the persons they murdered, except an infant about two weeks old, whose head they had dashed against the wall, to which the brains and clotted blood adhered as silent witness of their cruelty.
The consequence of this massacre was the desertion of all the settlements beyond the Blue Mountains.
A few days after these atrocious murders, the house of Frantz Hubler, in Bern Township, 18 miles from Reading, was attacked by surprise. Hubler was wounded, his wife and three of his children were carried off, and three other of his children scalped alive, two of whom died shortly afterwards.
On September 10, 1763, five Indians entered the house of Philip Martloff in Berks County, at the base of the Blue Mountains, murdered and scalped his wife, two sons and two daughters, burnt the house and barn, the stacks of hay and grain, and destroyed everything of any value. Martloff was absent from home, and one daughter escaped at the time of the murder by running and secreting herself in a thicket. The father and daughter were left in abject misery. (Rupp, p. 78.)
A brief mention has already been made of the Frantz family, in Bethel Township. The Pennsylvania Gazette of June, 1758, gives the following account of the case, which substantially agrees with the tradition told me by one of the descendants, still living in that locality:
"At the time this murder was committed, Mr. Frantz was out at work; his neighbors having heard the firing of guns by the Indians immediately repaired to the house of Frantz; on their way they apprised him of the report - when they arrived at the house they found Mrs. Frantz dead (having been killed by the Indians because she was rather infirm and sickly and so unable to travel), and all the children gone; they then pursued the Indians some distance, but all in vain. The children were taken and kept captives for several years.
A few years after this horrible affair, all of them, except one, the youngest, were exchanged. The oldest of them, a lad of 12 or 13 years of age, at the time when captured, related the tragical scene of his mother being tomahawked and shamefully treated. Him they compelled to carry the youngest.
The anxious father, having received two of his children as from the dead, still sighed for the one that was not. Whenever he heard of children being exchanged he mounted his horse to see whether, among the captured, was not his dear little one. On one occasion he paid a man £40 to restore his child, who had reported that he knew where it was. To another he paid $100, and himself went to Canada in search of the lost one - but, to his sorrow, never could trace his child. A parent can realize his feelings - they cannot be described."
The Rev. Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, D.D., in the Hallische Nachrichten, tells the soul-stirring story of Frederick Reichelsdorfer, whose two grown daughters had attended a course of instruction, under him, in the Catechism, and been solemnly admitted by confirmation to the communion of the Ev. Lutheran Church, in New Hanover, Montgomery County.
"This man afterwards went with his family some distance into the interior, to a tract of land which he had purchased in Albany Township, Berks County (see under Fort Everett also). When the war with the Indians broke out, he removed his family to his former residence, and occasionally returned to his farm, to attend to his grain and cattle. On one occasion he went, accompanied by his two daughters, to spend a few days there, and bring away some wheat. On Friday evening, after the wagon had been loaded, and everything was ready for their return on the morrow, his daughters complained that they felt anxious and dejected, and were impressed with the idea that they were soon to die. They requested their father to unite with them in singing the familiar German funeral hymn,
"Wer weiss wie nahe meine Ende?"
(Who knows how near my end may be?)
after which they commended themselves to God in prayer, and retired to rest.
The light of the succeeding morn beamed upon them, and all was yet well. Whilst the daughters were attending to the dairy, cheered with the joyful hope of soon greeting their friends, and being out of danger, the father went to the field to prepare the horses, to prepare for their departure home. As he was passing through the field, he suddenly saw two Indians, armed with rifles, tomahawks and scalping knives, making towards him at full speed. The sight so terrified him that he lost all self command, and stood motionless and silent. When they were about 20 yards from him, he suddenly, and with all his strength, exclaimed "Lord Jesus, living and dying, I am thine!" Scarcely had the Indians heard the words "Lord Jesus" (which they probably knew as the white man's name of the Great Spirit), when they stopped short, and uttered a hideous yell.
The man ran with almost supernatural strength into the dense forest, and by taking a serpentine course, the Indians lost sight of him, and relinquished the pursuit. He hastened to an adjoining farm, where two German families resided, for assistance, but, on approaching near it, he heard the dying groans of the families, who were falling beneath the murderous tomahawks of some other Indians.
Having providentially not been observed by them, he hastened back to learn the fate of his daughters. But, alas! on arriving within sight, he found his home and barn enveloped with flames. Finding that the Indians had possession here too, he hastened to another adjoining farm for help. Returning, armed with several men, he found the house reduced to ashes, and the Indians gone. His eldest daughter had been almost entirely burnt up, a few remains only of her body being found. And, awful to relate, the younger daughter, though the scalp had been cut from her head, and her body horribly mangled from head to foot with the tomahawk, was yet living. "The poor worm," says Muhlenberg, "was able to state all the circumstances of the dreadful scene." After having done so she requested her father to stoop down to her that she might give him a parting kiss, and then go to her dear Savior: and after she had impressed her dying lips upon his cheek, she yielded her spirit into the hands of that Redeemer, who, though his judgments are often unsearchable, and his ways past finding out, has nevertheless said, 'I am the resurrection and the life, if any man believe in me, though he die yet shall he live."
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