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.
(Present Site of Fort Northkill.)
Unpleasant as is the duty, it becomes necessary for me here to refer to the inaccurate position of various forts, whose history has just been given or will presently be taken up, on the Historical Map of Pennsylvania, published by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in 1875. Fort Harris and Fort Hunter are correctly marked; Fort Manada and Robinson's Mill are at the right place but each on the wrong side of Manada Creek; Fort Henry at Swatara Gap is placed where Fort Swatara belongs, but also on the wrong side of the Swatara Creek; Fort Swatara as given on Swatara Creek is entirely wrong and should be obliterated; Six's Fort is correct except that the name should be properly given as Fort Henry; Fort Northkill's position on the Tulpehocken Creek is altogether wrong, as it belongs at the base of the Blue Mountains just below the fort at Dietrich Snyder's, which is right; Fort Lebanon should be nearer the mouth of the Bohundy Creek and on the other side of the stream. The remaining forts are placed very nearly at their correct locations. At Lehigh Gap, however, the fort above the mountains has been omitted. It was on the north bank of the Aquanshicola Creek, almost at the entrance of the Gap.
With this digression, we are prepared to follow along the mountains to the next station, called Northkill, 11 miles distant from Fort Henry to the west, and equally distant from Fort Lebanon to the East; that is to say Fort Northkill was half way between its two neighbors. This statement practically explains its existence, which was owing to the fact that the rich and thickly populated county of Berks demanded for its protection more than the two forts which were 22 miles apart. Indeed the utmost vigilance of the garrisons in all three forts did not save its settlers from their merciless enemy, except in part.
On January 25th, 1756, Captain Jacob Morgan, in command of Fort Lebanon, above what is now Port Clinton, was ordered to leave 20 men at his fort and with the remaining 30 proceed "to some convenient place about half way between that fort and Fort _____ at Tolihaio, and there to erect a stoccado [stockade] of about 400 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.)
In choosing the ground for the stockade he is to take care that there is no hill near it which will overlook or command it, from whence an enemy might annoy the people within, and also to see that there is a spring or running stream of water either in the fort or at least within command of their guns. (Penn. Arch., ii, p. 548.)
The orders were duly carried out and the stockade erected, but evidently with somewhat less care than should have been exercised. Commissary James Young, when making his tour of inspection in 1756, has this to say of its shape and appearance:
June 20th, at 2 P.M., I set out from Reading, escorted by five men of the town, on horseback, for the fort at Northkill; at one-half past 6, we came to the fort, it is about 19 miles from Reading, the road very hilly and thick of wood; the fort is about nine miles to the westward of Schuylkill, and stands in a very thick wood, on a small rising ground, half a mile from the middle Northkill Creek; it is intended for a square about 32 feet each way, at each corner is a half bastion, of very little service to flank the curtains, the stoccades (pointed stakes) are very ill fixed in the ground and open in many places; within is a very bad log house for the people, it has no chimney, and can afford but little shelter in bad weather; when I came here, the sergeant who is commander, was absent and gone to the next plantation, half a mile off, but soon came, when he had intelligence I was there; he told me he had 14 men posted with him, all detached from Capt. Morgan's Company, at Fort Lebanon, five of them were absent by his leave, viz: two he had let go to Reading for three days, one he had let go to his own house, 10 miles off, and two more this afternoon, a few miles from the fort, on their own business; there was but eight men and the sergeant on duty. I am of opinion there ought to be a commissioned officer here, as the sergeant does not do his duty, nor are the men under proper command for want of a more superior officer; the woods are not cleared above 40 yards for the fort; I gave order to cut down for 200 yards; I inquired the reason there was so little powder and lead here, the sergeant told me he had repeatedly requested more of Capt. Morgan, but to no purpose. Provisions here, flour and rum, for four weeks; Mr. Seely, of Reading, sends the officer money to purchase meal as they want it. - Provincial arms and ammunition at Northkill Fort, viz: eight good muskets, four rounds of powder and lead, per man, 15 blankets, three axes.
The next day he left for Fort Lebanon, and upon his arrival there informed Capt. Morgan that the sergeant in command at Northkill was derelict in his duty, and requested him to send a commissioned officer to relieve him, whereupon his lieutenant was detailed for that purpose, and started for the post accompanied by two additional men taking with them four pounds of powder and 10 lbs of lead. (Penn. Arch., ii, p. 675-676.)
In July Col. Weiser directs Capt. Morgan to order "six men to range from the little fort on Northkill westward to the Emericks, 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." (Penn. Arch., ii, p. 696.)
From the foregoing we see that Fort Northkill was built by the government troops in the beginning of February, 1756. We have just read a description of its size and appearance. Not very extensive and hastily constructed, it was never intended for more than a station, which it was absolutely necessary to sustain between the two large forts. From the journal of its commanding officer, which will follow in full, we notice that in the summer of 1757 preparations were made for the erection of a more substantial place of defense. It is very doubtful whether this latter was ever constructed, for in the beginning of March, 1758, as we will see presently, the stockade was abandoned. The position, now determined, corresponds precisely with the description given above of the original fort, and nothing is known of any other in that locality. It is possible, of course, that the new fort may have been built beside the other, although there was barely room on the little elevation on which it stood for that. The new fort, again, may have only meant a general putting in order of the old, but I am inclined to believe that the project of its erection was abandoned after it had been commenced, and that we have only to deal with the original stockade. The maps herewith given will illustrate its position:
This is one of the very few forts of which any trace exists. The cellar is still visible, although now nearly drifted full with forest leaves. This is unquestionably owing to its isolated location. Its site is about two miles distant from Strausstown in Upper Tulpehocken township, Berks county, and about half a mile from one of the branches of the Northkill creek, from which it derives it name. It stood directly at the base of the mountains, and, even now, is still on the edge of the woodland. Its position, however, was good. It was but a short distance from the main, state road, and on slightly elevated ground which gave it a full view of the cultivated valley lying all around it. A small stream of water, emanating from a spring, was close to it. At the time of the Indian troubles, as now the land was cultivated almost up to the fort, but, even now, as then, its site stands on the edge of waste mountain land, and it is owing to its undisturbed condition that some trace of it can still be seen. Mr. Jonathan Goodman, of Strausstown, a gentleman who in 1879 was nearly 80 years old, and who was born and lived all his lifetime in that neighborhood, remembered that, in his younger days the stockades were still in position and higher than the ceiling of a room, and that the form of the fort could still be seen. (INDIANS OF BERKS COUNTY, D. B. Brunner, p. 23.) To this day the location of Fort Northkill is well known in and about Strausstown.
Whilst it may have been a comparatively insignificant station, it was a most important one. We will see from its records that its garrison and officers were always most actively engaged. In fact they probably had more than their share of actual encounters with the savages. It would certainly be an ill-advised act not to erect a monument to mark the location of Fort Northkill. It should be placed on the site of the fort.
A number of these interesting occurrences are, fortunately, on record, and their perusal will add much to the interest which attaches itself to this fort.
One of these encounters is related in a letter from Lieut. Humphreys, in command, to Col. Weiser:
Thursday, November 4th, 1756.
Fort above the Northkill.
May it please the Colonel:
Yesterday we were alarmed by a number of Indians, who came and took a child away. Immediately upon hearing the news, I, with nine men, went in pursuit of them, leaving a number of farmers to guard the fort until we should return. But we found nothing until this morning, we went out again; and, in our return to the fort, we were apprized of them by the firing of several guns; when I ordered my men to make what speed they could. We ran till we were almost out of breath, and, upon finding Nicholas Long's house attacked by the Indians, the farmers, who were with us to the number of 20, deserted and fled, leaving the soldiers to fight. We stood in battle with them for several minutes until there was about 60 guns discharged and, at length, we put the Indians to flight.
We have one man wounded, and my coat was shot through in four places. The number of Indians was 20. Our number at first was 24, but they all deserted and fled except seven. Two old men were killed before we came, one of whom was scalped. Ten women and children were in the cellar and the house was on fire; but we extinguished it and brought the women and children to the fort. I desire the colonel to send me a reinforcement; for the men solemnly say they will not go out with the farmers, as they deserted in the battle and never fired a gun. The Indians cried the halloo during the battle.
We have one of their guns and a blanket, which had two holes with a bullet in it, and is bloody. The Indians had all red hats and red blankets.
Sir, This in distress (wanting reinforcement) from
Yours to command,
May it please the colonel to send by the bearer, Adam Hayerling, as much powder and lead as you can spare (Penn. Arch., iii, p. 28.)
Lieut. Humphreys also made his report to Capt. Morgan, who, in turn, on November 4th writes to Gov. Denny, giving him details of occurrences around Fort Lebanon, and this account of the fight at Northkill:
"At 12 of the clock at night I received an express from Lieut. Humphreys, Commander at the fort at Northkill, who informed me that the same day about 11 o'clock in the forenoon (about half a mile from his fort), as he was returning from his scout, came upon a body of Indians to the number of 20 at the house of Nicholas Long, where they had killed two old men and taken another captive, and doubtless would have killed all the family, there being nine children in the house, the Lieut.'s party though seven in number, fired upon the Indians and thought they killed two, they dropping down and started up again, one held his hand (as they imagined) over his wound, and they all ran off making a hallooing noise; we got a blanket and a gun which he that was shot dropped in his flight. The lieutenant had one man shot through the right arm and the right side, but hopes not mortal, and he had four shots through his own clothes. I this day went out with a party to bury the dead nigh here; we are all in high spirits here; if it would please his Honor to order reinforcement at both forts, I doubt not but we should soon have an opportunity of revenging the loss." (Penn. Arch., iii, p. 30.)
It is gratifying to know that Lieut. Humphreys received at least a fair amount of credit for his gallant action. James Read, Esq., in writing November 7th to Gov. Denny, observes that "By concurrent accounts from several persons, whose character will not suffer me to doubt what they tell me, I am persuaded that Mr. Humphreys behaved in a most laudable manner, and manifested that calm courage and presence of mind which will ever gain an advantage over superior numbers, whose leader is too precipitate and void of discretion" (Penn. Arch., iii, p. 36). Immediately upon receipt of this the Governor directs Capt. Morgan to "thank Lieut. Humphreys and the men under him on my part for the gallant behavior in the later action against the Indians. (Penn. Arch., iii, p. 39.)
The next record of events at Fort Northkill is the following copy of an interesting journal kept by the officer in command, extending from the middle of June to September 1st, 1757, and fortunately preserved. I say in 1757, although the Pennsylvania Archives, Vol. ii, page 159, speaks of it as a "Journal in 1754." This is simply impossible, and so evidently an error of some description as to hardly need comment. Suffice it to say that in 1754 the settlers were at peace with the Indians, at least in that vicinity, neither in 1754 were there such officers as Capt. Smith and Capt. Busse, both frequently mentioned, who were not commissioned until November 1755 and January, 1756. It could not therefore be a "Journal of 1754." Neither was it written in 1755, because Fort Northkill of which it speaks and to which it unquestionable refers, was not built until February, 1756, because in June, 1756, Commissary James Young paid a visit of inspection to the fort, and, as we have seen, found there a sergeant in command, and made complaint of his inefficiency, recommending at the same time that a commissioned officer replace him, which was immediately done. The person who wrote this journal was unquestionably a commissioned officer. It could not possibly have been written in 1758, because we are told that in the beginning of March in that year the stockade had been abandoned and partly demolished. It could only then have been in 1757, and the journal bears evidence of that fact in its contents. It will be recalled that during the latter part of May and beginning of June, 1757, it became necessary to reinforce Fort Augusta at Shamokin (Sunbury) and that three companies from Col. Weiser's battalion were ordered there for that purpose. We will also recall how the forts in Berks County suffered for the lack of these troops, so much so, in fact, that Col. Weiser was obliged to order an officer and detachment from his own company at Reading to Fort Northkill (the rest of the company being ordered to Fort Augusta). This is distinctly specified in the journal. The officer also says that he relieved Ensign Harry, whom we know to have been in command of Fort Northkill about this time, and probably immediately after Lieut. Humphreys. Morever, on October 4, 1757, Col. Weiser in writing to Mr. Peters, the Governor's secretary, says "Enclosed is the journal of last month of the ensign at Northkill (Penn. Arch., iii, p. 283.)
A Journal of Fort Northkill, 1757.
June 13. Received orders from Lieut. Col. Weiser to march from Reading with all the Company remaining there (the rest being commanded to Fort Augusta). Accordingly I set out from Reading by break of day, on the 14th. Arrived at Lieut. Col. Weiser's where I received orders to march with the Company or Detachment to Fort Henry, and from there take a detachment of 20 men and continue until to Fort Northkill. Accordingly on the 15th, in the evening, took 20 men from Fort Henry of the new levies [enlisted men] and marched straight way to the said fort accompanied with Capt. Busse and Capt. Smith. As soon as I arrived I gave Ensign Harry (then commander of said fort) notice of my orders, and sent off two men immediately to the colonel's with a report of the condition I found the fort in, and sent him a list of the new levies who were detached from Capt. Busse's fort with me to this fort.
16th. Capts. Busse and Smith set off about 10 o'clock with a scout of 10 men, which Capt. Busse had ordered from his Company on the 15th. And Ensign Harry marched out of the fort about 12 o'clock (after delivering it to me), with his men to Fort Lebanon, according to orders. Provision I found in the fort as follows: 5 lbs powder, 198 lbs flour, 10 small barrels of lead, 15 lbs of beef and pork, 3-1/2 lbs candles.
17. I, with a corporal and 20 men, according to orders from Lieut. Col. Weiser, went a scouting and ranging the woods till to Fort Lebanon, where we arrived about 2 o'clock in the afternoon. We stayed there all night, being not able to scout any further, or return home because of a heavy rain.
18. Set off from Fort Lebanon in the morning being rainy weather, and ranged the woods, coming back as before, with the same number of men and arrived at the fort on Northkill about 4 o'clock in the afternoon.
19. Gave orders to Sergeant Peter Smith to scout to Fort Lebanon and to bring me a report the next day of his proceedings. Accordingly he arrived on the 20th about 3 o'clock in the afternoon, and made report that he had done according to his orders, and that he had made no discoveries. Received a letter by him from Capt. Morgan, informing me that he had no news, &c.
21. Sent off Corp. Shafer to scout as before.
22d. Minister Shumaker came and preached a sermon to the Company. The scout arrived from Fort Lebanon. The corporal reported that nothing strange had come to his knowledge. A scout of Capt. Busse arrive about 11 o'clock and returned about 4 towards their forts, but upon the Indian alarms they immediately returned back to my fort and gave me notice. In the midst of the rain, I sent on the first notice, Sergeant Smith, with 18 men, and ordered them to divide themselves in two parties.
June 23d. Sergeant Smith returned and made report that he arrived at Dietz's house about 10 o'clock in the night, where they heard a gun go off at Jacob Smith's about a mile from there. They immediately set off again for said Smith's towards the place where the gun went off, and surrounded the house but found no marks of Indians. From there they marched to Falk's house in the gap, and surrounded it, but found no Indians. From there they went to the mountain and arrived there at 2 o'clock in the morning, where Sergeant Smith according to orders, waylaid the road in two parties, and as soon as it was day went back and buried the man that was killed, to wit, Peter Geisinger, who was shot and killed the day before. At burying him, they heard five guns off about two miles from said place, whereupon Sergeant Smith immediately repaired to the place, and divided themselves in two parties (I had sent off Corporal Sheffer with eight men on the 22d to their assistance). Sergeant Smith also makes report that this morning at 7 o'clock a girl about 15 years, daughter of Balser Schmidt, was taken prisoner, by two Indians, whose tracks they saw, and followed, but to no purpose. A party of Capt. Busse's Company went along from this and remained with my men all the time. 15 or 16 of the inhabitants came to me and applied for assistance. I ordered out several detachments to assist them.
24. I set off with 20 men from this to Capt. Busse's fort along the mountain, and called at the place where the murder was committed. Went up as far as the gap of the mountain, but as I found no tracks there, I thought the Indians would be on this side of the mountains, therefore I went up along the mountains without opposition, till to Capt. Busse's fort, and as it rained very hard all day and we went far about, we arrived there towards the evening.
25. Set off in the morning with the same number of men, and scouted the woods back near the same way back again, and arrived towards evening in the fort, being rainy weather.
26. Received in the morning a letter, for my positive orders not to neglect my scouting towards Fort Lebanon, accordingly immediately called in my detachments. This afternoon a woman living about 1-1/2 miles from here, came to the fort, and said she had seen an Indian just now in her field, almost naked, and had a gun, but said she did not stay to look long. I immediately sent off Sergeant Smith with two parties, consisting of about 20 men. They searched the place, and found nothing, but saw two bare feet tracks. They divided into small parties and scoured the woods til evening and then returned to the fort, and as I had today but men sufficient to guard the fort, I sent out no scout. This evening intelligence came to me from the Colonel's, informing me that he had notice from Capt. Orndt of 15 Indians going to fall on this settlement or hereabouts. He ordered me therefore immediately to send notice thereof to Capt. Busse's fort, in order that it might be from there conveyed to Fort Swatara, accordingly I did.
June 27. Gave orders to Sergeant Smith to go scouting the woods between this and Fort Lebanon, and if Capt. Morgan thought that it was serviceable, to range some way up Schuylkill (as that gap is their common rendevous).
28. A scout of Capt. Busse arrived in the forenoon and set off again this afternoon.
29. In the evening there came two men to the fort, and reported that the Indians had invaded about six miles from this, about 9 o'clock this morning, I was somewhat concerned that I had no sooner intelligence of it, however, I immediately sent off 12 men under two corporals.
30. About noon the two corporals returned and made the following report. That yesterday he could not reach the place as they were tired, but stayed at a house till nigh break of day, and then set off again. He did not immediately go to the place where the man, &c., were killed, but went somewhat further down towards Schuylkill, thinking that the Indians had invaded lower down, but as it was not so, he took another route, towards Schuylkill, thinking that perhaps the Indians had invaded lower down, but as it was not so he took another route towards the place, where the murder was committed, and as he came there he found the man's wife (Fred. Myers) who had been at a plough, and shot through both her breasts and was scalped. After that he went to look for the man, whom they found dead and scalped some way in the woods. They took a ladder and carried him to his wife where the neighbors came, and helped to bury them, after which they went towards the mountain, and scouted along the same and arrived here about 4 o'clock in the afternoon. It is reported by the farmers who saw the deceased a short while before, that he was mowing in his meadow, and that his children were about him, which makes them believe that the man, after he heard the shot (which killed his wife) he went to run off with only the youngest child in his arms, as the man was shot through the body, and the child is 1-1/2 years of age and is scalped, but yet alive, and is put to a doctor's. The other three, who were with their father, are taken prisoners; one of them is a boy about 10 years old, the other a girl of eight years, and the other a boy of six years. There was a baby, whom they found in a ditch, that the water was just to its mouth. It was laying on its back crying. It was taken up, and is like to do well. A boy of one Reichard, of eight years, was taken prisoner at the same time. This was all done within half an hour, as some neighbors had been there in that space of time.
July 1. Sergeant Peter Smith returned with the scout, and reported that when he came to Fort Lebanon, Capt. Morgan sent a detachment under Ensign Harry to the gap of the Schuylkill. And that on the 28th last past, they ascended the mountains, and when they came on the other side, they found an encamping place of the Indians, which, after Ensign Harry had surrounded with his party, he sent off Sergeant Smith with another party to lay in ambush on the Indian path all night, but as nothing was to be heard of the Indians, they met again the next day; the Indians, as he supposes, having left that place the day before. However, they found two match coats, one spear, one scalping knife, some vermilion, and 800 blank wampum, also great variety of salves. The 29th they yet lay in ambush in several parties, but all to no purpose. The Indians having without doubt discovered them, in case any was thereabouts. The 30th they set off from the hills, and arrived within a few miles of this fort. And July 1st, they arrived accordingly in the fort.
July 2. Being rainy weather I sent no scout, but put the men to work to repair the stoccadoes [pointed stakes/stockade].
3. Early in the morning my men were all gathered, and I ordered a corporal to scout with a party to Fort Lebanon, and return part of the way and encamp in the woods upon a rising ground, that he might the easier discover a fire.
4. In the morning a scout of Capt. Busse's arrived and returned again in the afternoon. The scout from Fort Lebanon returned and the corporal made report, that he had ranged as directed but had made no discoveries.
5. Being a very rainy day, could send no scout.
6. Sent Sergeant Smith on a scout to range on this side the mountains towards Schuylkill.
7. A scout of Capt. Busse's arrived and set off again directly. In the afternoon my scout returned, but had not news. It rained hard, they lay in a house about 12 miles from here.
8. Being appointed by his Honor the Governor a day of fast, I sent no scout, but had a sermon read in the fort, where numbers of the neighbors had assembled. A scout of Capt. Busse's arrived and returned directly.
9. Sent off Corporal Shefer with a scout to Fort Lebanon, who returned on the
10th. But brought no intelligence. I received orders to repair to Reading, where I arrived this afternoon.
11. Returned again to the fort, where Sergeant Smith informed me a scout of Capt. Busse's had arrived at the fort and returned. That he had ranged the gap about two miles from this, and had been over the mountains, but had discovered nothing.
12th. A scout of Capt. Busse's arrived and returned immediately. Sent a corporal and a scout to range to Fort Lebanon.
13. My scout from Fort Lebanon returned. The corporal reported he had ranged as ordered, but had no discoveries.
14. Capt. Busse arrived this morning with a party of Capt. Smith's and his own, to the number of about 28. I gave him 15 of my men, in order to escort the treaty at Easton.
15. It being a rainy day I sent no scout.
16. Continuing rainy weather, I could send no scout. In the evening repaired some stoccadoes [stakes], the rain having held up.
17. The water being high and the bushes wet, I could send no scout today. A scout of Capt. Busse's arrived, there being no water between his and this fort.
18. Sent a scout along the mountains. They arrived in the evening and had no intelligence.
19. A scout of Capt. Busse's arrived and returned directly. Sent Sergeant Smith with a scout to Fort Lebanon.
20. Sergeant Smith returned and reported that he had been at Fort Lebanon and returned some part of the way and laid in the woods, but had made no fire. They made no discovery. A scout of Capt. Busse's arrived and returned instantly.
21. Having laid out part of my men to protect the farmers and the rest fatigued with yesterday's scout, I could send none today.
22. Sent a scout along the mountain who returned without discovering anything.
July 23d. I went scouting with a party over the mountains, and as it was very warm, I ordered the men about noon to rest themselves a couple of hours when we were over the mountains, I then ordered them to march, and as we came to Schuylkill, I saw it was too high for the men to wade through. I then got horses, and towards evening we got over Schuylkill. We arrived at Fort Lebanon towards night, and was obliged to stay there that night.
24th. Returned, and as soon as we came over on this side of the mountains (it being early in the day) I took quite another route through the woods, but made no discovery, so we arrived at the fort in the evening. I had not been there one-half an hour before three farmers came and informed me that this morning the Indians had taken a boy of about 14 years prisoner, but had done no other damage. I immediately sent off a party, but as it happened, the boy being taken prisoner in the morning, night came on before my men could get there.
25. In the morning I heard the boy had escaped, and that he made report that there were four white men and four Indians with him, and that at night he escaped, they had tied him and he was obliged to lay between them, but as they all got drunk, and fast asleep, he untied himself and ran off. He further says that when he was taken prisoner he made a nosie, and that they struck him and told him to be silent. I imagine they saw me with my men go over the day before yesterday. The Indians were this night about the fort, but it was very dark therefore, I did not sally out.
26. This morning sent out Sergeant Smith, with five men to search about the fort for tracks, but he only found one which was in a muddy place. But it being nothing but stones, he could not follow the tracks. It rained all day very hard, therefore, I could send no scout.
July 27th. Sent a scout down on this side of the mountain. The scout returned in the evening having no intelligence.
28th. A scout of Capt. Busse's arrived and returned about noon; nothing extraordinary happened.
29th. Sent Sergeant Smith with a scout along the mountains. He returned having nothing particular.
30th. A scout of Lieut. Philip Weiser, from Capt. Busse arrived. Having laid aside out several detachments to assist the farmers, I could send no scout today.
31. Lieut. Weiser returned from his scout. I called in the detachments this day, and sent out a scout which returned this evening.
August 1st. The men being tired and their feet in blisters, I let them rest this day.
2d. Sent a scout along the mountains with orders to range to Schuylkill.
3d. The corporal returned from his scout and reported he had ranged as ordered.
4. A scout of Capt. Busse's arrived and returned the same day. The inhabitants desiring assistance to bring in their harvest, I gave them some men and went although a scouting, but as I left few men in the fort, I returned this evening.
5. A scout of Capt. Busse's arrived and went off after they had rested awhile. Sent Sergeant Smith with a scout and ordered him to range the woods on this side of the mountains. He returned and had nothing particular.
6. Sent off a scout. They went along on the foot of the mountains and returned the evening the evening without any intelligence.
7th. Being Sunday, I took a party and went to church, as the church lies near the mountain and the minister could not come without a guard.
8. The sentry fired at an Indian. The Indian stood behind a bush about 300 yards off, and was viewing the fort. I went off with 18 men and parted them in six parties and went after the Indians, but could not come up with them. Went to clearing about the fort, it being thick with bushes.
9. Continued clearing and burning brush so that on the south side of the fort, it is cleared a full musket shot. A party of Capt. Busse's arrived.
10. Sent off a scouting party, who returned and brought no intelligence. This night the sentry about an hour after dark perceived that a fire had been kindled to burn brush, but was before night gone out, began to burn afresh; upon which he called the sergeant of the guard, who perceiving the same ordered the guard to fire, on which the Indians ran off. The dogs pursued them and kept barking after them about half a mile. I had the men all under arms; but everything being now quiet, dismissed them, ordering them to be in continual readiness with their accouterments on. In about an hour the Indians returned and took a firebrand out of the fire and ran off. They were immediately fired on, but in vain.
Aug. 11. Ensign Biddle arrived at the fort with the detachment of our Company that were in Easton.
12. A scout of Capt. Busse's arrived and returned directly.
13. This day I left the fort in order to go to the colonel's agreeable to his orders. I left Ensign Biddle in the fort. Sent a corporal to range towards Schuylkill, who returned the same evening and the corporal reported that he ranged as directed and had made no discoveries. A scout of Capt. Busse's arrived and returned the same evening.
14. Being Sunday, Minister Shumaker came here and the soldiers being fatigued with continual scouting, there was no scout today.
15. Ensign Biddle sent a corporal with a scout to range eastwards towards Schuylkill and return under the mountains. The scout returned towards evening and the corporal made report, he had ranged as directed, and had no intelligence.
16. Sent an express sergeant with 15 men to range eastward along the mountain. A scout of Capt. Busse's arrived and returned immediately. In the afternoon, the scout returned. The sergeant made report he had ranged as directed, but had no news.
17. Early this morning Ensign Biddle sent Sergeant Smith with 10 men to escort Lieut. Col. Weiser, who was expected here this day. This day Col. Weiser arrived, accompanied with Capt. Busse and myself, together with the said escort. The Colonel returned the same day homewards, after we had chosen a place where to build a new fort. Ensign Biddle went along with Capt. Busse.
18. Sent off a scout to Fort Lebanon and ordered them to range the woods between here and that fort till night.
19. The scout returned about 4 o'clock and informed that he had done according to his orders. Capt. Morgan came with the scout and returned the same evening.
20. Sent a scout of 15 men to range the woods towards Schuylkill into Windsor Township, and with order to call in some detachments lying in said township, according to Lieut. Colonel's orders.
21. The scout returned with the detachments. The corporal reported he had done according to his orders, but had no news. The same day Capt. Busse returned the same evening.
22d. Received an express from Lieut. Col. Weiser, with orders to come to his house. In pursuance of which I set off immediately, leaving Ensign Biddle in the fort.
23d. A scout of Capt. Busse arrived. The sentries heard the Indians distinctly whistle this night in the fort woods.
24. Ensign Biddle, according to orders, with a scout of 20 men, went over the mountains to Capt. Morgan's fort.
25. Lieut. Philip Weiser came here from Fort Henry, with a scout.
26. Ensign Biddle returned from his scout, having been at Capt. Morgan's fort, and from thence scouted over the mountains into Allemangle and from thence along the foot of the mountains till here. This day I also arrived in the fort from Lieut. Col. Weiser's.
27. Having orders from Lieut. Col. Weiser's to look out for a proper place to build a new fort, this being so bad, I began to lay out one on a spot which had been before pitched upon by the Colonel and Capt. Busse, but night coming, we could not finish.
28. Laid out the remaining part of the fort.
29. Had some brush cut, round the new intended fort, till evening.
30. Sent off a scout towards Schuylkill. They returned in the evening, but made no return with the remaining party of the men. I continued clearing and burning of brush.
31. Sent off Sergeant Smith with a scouting party, towards Schuylkill. He returned but made no discovery.
After this there seems to have been more or less irregularity with regard to the occupation of Fort Northkill. Probably the government was already considering the matter of its abandonment, in connection with the plan of consolidating the various defenses into a fewer number. It would seem as if the officer writing the above journal was ordered away, with his command, in the beginning of September, because in a letter of October 1st, 1757, to Gov. Denny, Col. Weiser says that Capt. Oswald, who commanded a company of regular troops, from the Royal American Regiment, stationed at Reading, sent immediately two lieutenants, with 40 privates, to the assistance of the people about Northkill who were in distress, which could hardly have been the case if the fort had been still garrisoned. (Penn. Arch., iii, p. 277.)
James Burd, in his journal of inspection, February, 1758, visited Fort Henry and directed its commander to continue ranging to Fort Northkill on the east. He also visited Fort Lebanon, or Fort William as then called, found Lieut Humphreys and Ensign Harry there, and likewise directed its commander to patrol to Fort Northkill. This would indicate, without much doubt, that the fort was no longer occupied by a regular body of soldiers, under the command of a commissioned officer, as heretofore, although it is possible that detachments may have still temporarily taken possession of it.
By March, 1758, it was completely abandoned as shown in the following petition to Gov. Denny from Berks county, and its history ceases:
March 15, 1758.
The humble petition of the inhabitants of the township of Bern and parts adjacent in the county of Berks in the said province, Showeth;
That from the beginning of the Indian incursions into this province, the neighborhood wherein your petitioners live hath been frequently harassed by the enemy, and numbers of their neighbors cruelly murdered, others captivated, and many of your petitioners obliged to fly from their dwellings to avoid the same unhappy fate, to their unspeakable terror and distress. That during this winter the severity of weather hath prevented those barbarians from committing their wonted cruelties; but as the snow is now melting, and the weather is growing fair, your petitioners are every moment dreading an attack from the enemy, and find themselves less secure than heretofore, from their attempts, as the blockhouse at Northkill is destroyed and no garrison kept in those parts.
Your petitioners, in the deepest distress, implore your Honor's protection, and most earnestly beg that they may not be left a prey to the savage enemy, protesting that without assistance from the public, they are utterly unable to defend themselves, and must on the first attack, abandon their habitations, and rather embrace the most extreme poverty than remain subject to the merciless rage of those bloody murderers; and that they have the greatest reason to expect an attack is obvious from the many former successful attempts of the enemy, three or four Indian paths leading into their neighborhood.
Your petitioners therefore most humbly beg your Honor to compassionate their miserable circumstances, and order soldiers to be stationed for their defense in some of the most exposed farm houses, or take such other effectual measures for their security and protection as to your Honor's wisdom shall seem meet.
And as in duty bound they will ever pray, &c.
(Here follow the signatures in German.)
(Penn. Arch., iii, p. 361.)
Besides the occurrences already mentioned, the Pennsylvania Gazette of May 19, 1757, says "We have an account from Fort Babel (Northkill) that on Friday last, a boy was killed and scalped; and another who had the small pox, was dangerously wounded by the Indians, within a mile and a half of said fort. Lieut. Humphreys went out, but could find nothing of the enemy. The wounded lad says, he saw but two Indians, one was painted black, the other red; they cut him badly, but would not scalp him for fear of the infection, as is supposed."
The same paper in its issues of October 6 and 13, 1757, mentions about four persons being killed and four made prisoners near the Northkill, by a party of Indians, supposed to be about 50.
In April, 1758, at Tulpehocken, a man by the name of Lebenguth and his wife were killed and scalped. At Northkill, Nicholas Geiger's wife was killed - these were all scalped. The Indians divided themselves into small parties, and surprised the settlers unawares. (C. Sauer's German Paper, April, 1758).
Hon. D. B. Brunner, in his INDIANS OF BERKS COUNTY, p. 23, speaks of seeing, in November, 1879, an interesting relic consisting of an old chest, the property of Mr. John W. Degler, who lived a short distance from Fort Northkill on a farm, settled by his great grandfather before the Indian war. Old Mr. Degler, who possessed the virtues of honesty, kindness, generosity and hospitality, was on excellent terms with the Indians, who frequently visited him, and to whom he always gave food and such other things as they might need. When the war broke out, and the Indians began murdering his neighbors, although he had not, as yet, been molested Mr. Degler feared treachery and moved his family in close proximity to the fort. The Indians, seeing this, believed he had become hostile to them and joined their enemies, so they at once proceeded to his home, ransacked the house, and demolished things generally. Amongst these things was the chest in question, which was of cedar, unpainted, and protected on the edges with iron. This was split completely through the middle. It was afterwards repaired by placing small iron bands around the ends, but the lid still remained in two pieces. The chest bears the date 1757, at which time it is presumed the Indians committed the deed just mentioned.
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