REPORT OF THE COMMISSION TO LOCATE THE SITE OF THE FRONTIER FORTS OF PENNSYLVANIA.
Vol.1, Thomas Lynch Montgomery, 1916, Pg. 119-120
[with 1896 additions in brackets.]
Contributed for use in the USGenWeb Archives by Georgette Ochs.
Transcription is verbatim.
Fort at Dietrich Snyder's
[The site of this fort was marked by the Berks County Historical Society in 1915.]
No mention is made of this fort in the old records. It is, however, properly given on the Historical Map of Pennsylvania. In reality it was no fort, but merely a settler’s log house used as a lookout station. It will be recalled that no gap exists in the mountains between Swatara Gap and the Schuylkill Gap. Whilst the enemy generally made use of these natural passages, they also, not infrequently, crossed directly over the mountains, especially when they could take advantage of a roadway leading over them. Such was the case in this instance. Not far distant from the locality of Fort Northkill is a road leading over the mountain to Pottsville, the only one in that vicinity. On this road, at the top of the Blue Mountains, on one of its most conspicuous points, Dietrich Snyder had built for himself a one story log house, about 20 X 40 feet. From this a view of the surrounding country could be had, and the approach of marauding parties of savages, easily discovered by the trail of burning farm houses in their tracks, reported at once to the commander of Fort Northkill which stood but a mile and half, or two miles, below them. Then again this building, properly garrisoned, commanded the road over the mountains. Its advantages were so great that it is hardly likely they would have been overlooked, and we have good reason to presume that soldiers occupied the house. To corroborate this fact, Mr. D.B. Brunner was told, in 1879, by Mr. Jonathan Goodman, of Strausstown, an old gentlemen thoroughly familiar with the place, that a fort was located there. Mr. Henry Brobst, of Rehrersburg, a gentleman 73 years old, also well acquainted with the vicinity informed me that, upon the death of Dietrich Snyder, his wife still remained in the old house. She lived to be 115 years old. Upon her death the property was sold to a Mr. Miller, who tore down the old building and erected a new hotel, now owned by Mr. Harry Nine, which is still standing. [in 1916] The old blockhouse stood a short hundred yards directly north of the hotel. Mr. Brobst was acquainted with Mrs. Snyder and frequently saw the old building. Mr. Jos. Potteiger, of Strausstown, 65 years old, corroborated Mr. Brobst’s statement, and added that the house was boarded inside and not plastered.
Fort Lebanon (and William).
Pages 120-134 .
(Present Site of Fort Lebanon.)
Fort Lebanon (and William). [Marked by Mahantongo Chapter, D.A.R., 1913.]
Not far distant from Fort Northkill to the East is the important gap in the mountain made by the Schuylkill River, where Port Clinton now stands. Some six miles north of Port Clinton is the town of Auburn, and about 11 miles east of Auburn stood Fort Lebanon, distant eleven miles from Fort Northkill, by the route usually taken, which was along the northern base of the Blue Range, then across the mountain. This fort, during the latter part of its history, was also called Fort William.
The first mention made of it is in a letter of instructions sent by Gov. Morris to Col. Weiser, on January 25, 1756, in which he speaks of having ordered "Captain Jacob Morgan, who is posted at a fort in the forks of Schuylkill, called fort Lebanon," to take twenty men and build Fort Northkill. (Penn. Arch., ii, p. 547).[Capt. Jacob Morgan was born in the district or shire of Caernarvon, in the northern part of Wales, in 1716, and emigrated with his father. Thomas Morgan to Pennsylvania some time previous to 1700. In connection with a colony of Welsh people they migrated up the Schuylkill Valley from Philadelphia to the mouth of the French creek and thence along Its waters and beyond until they reached the headwaters of the Conestoga creek, in Caernarvon township of Berks County, where they settled. The tract of land taken up by Thomas Morgan was in the vicinity of the present Morgantown, which was laid out by Jacob In 1770, and named after the family. At the outbreak of the Revolution, although nearly 60 years of age, he at once became very prominent, and retained this position until his death. In June, 1776, he was re-elected to represent Berks county as a delegate to the Provincial Conference, and In July following as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention. In 1777, upon the creation of that office, he was appointed Lieutenant of the county, being selected from a number of prominent and influential citizens. He filled this office with great credit until his resignation in December, 1780. He officiated as a Judge of the county for the years 1768, 1769, 1772, and from 1774 to 1777, also as a justice of the peace for the southern district of Berks county, which included Caernarvon township from 1777 to 1791. He was a man of great courage, and a most distinguished citizen of his adopted county and State. He died at Morgantown on November 11, 1792, at the age of 76 years, and was buried in the graveyard of St. Thomas Episcopal Church of that place. He left two sons, Jacob and Benjamin, and three daughters, Sarah (married to ___Jenkins), Mary (married to Nicholas Hudson) , and Rebecca married to John Price, an attorney at Reading).]
The order, itself, as sent Capt. Morgan, is dated January 26th, 1756, and begins, "As you are Captain of a Company of foot in the pay of this Province, now posted in a fort in the of forks of Schuylkill, I think it necessary to give you the following Orders and Instructions for your better government and direction, (in the execution of the trust reposed in you. (Penn. Arch., ii, p. 555).
Then follows the order relative to Fort Northkill.
When writing to Col. George Washington, February 2,1756, Gov. Morris mentions "Fort Lebanon, in the Forks of Schuylkill," as being one of the forts erected East of the Susquehanna. (Penn. Arch, ii., p. 565).
The date when this defense was built is not given, but, on Jauuary 25, 1756, it is already mentioned as in existence. Knowing, as we do, that the Indian depredations did not reach this vicinity until about November, 1755; knowing also that the Fort was built by the Government as one of the chain of defenses erected about November, 1755, and then too, knowing that Capt. Morgan, its commander, and undoubtedly its first commander, was not commissioned until December 5, 1755, we are entirely justified in saying that it came into existence during the month of December, 1755, and we have good reason to think that it was built by Capt. Morgan, and his soldiers.
Fortunately we have this description of the fort, which tends to prove the correctness of my reasoning:
Description of Fort Lebanon, 1756.
Fort Lebanon, about 24 miles from Gnadeuhutten (Fort Allen at Weissport), in the Line to Shamokin (Sunbury).
Fort, 100 Foot Square.
Stockades, 14 Foot high.
House within built 30 x 20, with a large Store Room.
A Spring within.
A Magazine 12 Foot Square.
On a Barren not much Timber about it.
100 Families protected by it within the new Purchase. No Township.
Built in three weeks. Something considerably given by the neighbors toward it. (Penn. Arch., ii, p. 665).
It was one of the larger and more important forts.
Commissary James Young has this to say of it during his tour of inspection:
June 21st, 1756 - Accordingly we sett out for Fort Lebanon (from Fort Northkill); all the way from North Kill to Lebanon is an Exceeding bad road, very Stony and mountanus. About 6 miles from North kill, we Crossed the North Mountain, where we met Captain Morgan's Lieut. with 10 men, Ranging the woods between the Mountain and Fort Leb'n; we past by two Plantations, the Rest of the Country is Chiefly Barren Hills, at noon we came to Fort Lebanon, which is situated in a Plain, on one side is a Plantation, on the other a Barren Pretty Clear of Woods all round, only a few trees about 50 yards from the Fort, which I desired might be cut down. His Fort is a square of ab't 100 f't well staccoded with good Bastians, on one side of which is a Good Wall Piece, within is a good Guard house for the People, and two other Large houses built by the Country people who have taken refuge here, in all 6 Families. The Fort is a little too much Crowded on that acc't; I acquainted Cap't Morgan that the Serjeant at Northkill did not do his Duty, and I believ'd it would be for the good of the Service to have a Com'd Officer there, on which he ordered his Lieu't, with two more men to go and take post there, and sent with him 4 lbs Powder & 10 lb. Lead. Provincial Arms & Ammun'tn: 28 G'd Muskets, 10 wanting Repair, 9 Rounds of Powder & Lead, 4 lb Powder, 24 lb Lead, 30 cartooch boxes, 40 Blankets, 1 Axe, 1 Wall Piece.
By Capt. Morgan's Journal, it appears, he sends a Party to Range the woods 4 or 5 times a week, and Guard the Inhabitants at their Labor. At 1 P. M. I muster'd the People and Examined the Certificates of Inlistments which appear in the muster Roll, after which I ordered the men to fire at a Mark, 15 of 28 hit within 2 foot of the Center, at the Distance of 80 yards. Provisions here: Flower and Rum for a Month; the Commissary sends them money to Purchase meal as they want it. (Penn. Arch., ii, p. 676.)
On July 11th, 1756, Col. Weiser writes to Gov. Morris that his orders to Capt. Morgan, with regard to the garrison at Fort Lebanon, are that 15 men shall stay in Fort Lebanon, 8 men protect the people over the hill in harvest time, 10 men range constantly eastward or westward, and, if the people return to their plantations thereabouts, to protect those that first join together to do their work. (Penn. Arch., ii, p. 696.)
[An additional paragraph is found in 1896 edition and inserted here.
On July 11th, 1756, Col. Weiser writes to Gov. Morris that his orders to Capt Morgan, with regard to the garrison at Fort Lebanon, are that 15 men shall stay in Fort Lebanon, 8 men protect the people over the hill in harvest time, 10 men range constantly eastward or westward, and, if the people return to their plantations thereabouts, to protect those that first join together to do their work. (Penn. Arch., ii, p. 696.)]
I think it is well to give at this time a sketch showing the location of Fort Lebanon.
Fort Lebanon stood on what is now the farm of Lewis Marburger, on the north side of the road between Auburn and Pine Dale, about 1-1/2 miles from each. In the olden time this was not much more than a path, but still the line of communication between the East, West and South. We are told that there was a spring inside of the fort. There are still traces of an old spring (now dry) some 15 feet back of the oak tree which stands on the south side of the road immediately opposite the site of the fort. It is more than likely that the old road did not run exactly as the present one. It may have been somewhat nearer the creek, and the fort may have extended across the present road so as to include the spring mentioned. It is also possible that another spring may have been north of the road, and inside of the fort, which has long since dried up and disappeared, but of such an one the people know nothing.
This position of the fort, besides agreeing with all records extant, comes from a most authentic source. Mr. Thos. J. Ebling, 56 years old, now living on his farm about 3/4 mile east of the fort, is a son of Gideon Ebling, who died in 1893, about 80 years old, and a grandson of John Ebling, who died 40 years ago, aged 85 years. Mr. Thomas Ebling was born in an old blockhouse, which was burned down some 30 years ago and which stood about 50 feet from the road, back of where Jared Wagner's house is at this time. I have marked its site on the map. Paul Heim lived in it during the Indian troubles, when it was used as a house of refuge. It was planked inside with heavy timbers. At one time Mr. Heim saved a family near him from being burned to death. The Indians had set the building on fire and fastened the door to prevent anyone from getting out. Hearing of this, Mr. Heim jumped on his white horse, took his gun, and managed to draw the enemy off, or frighten them away. He then returned and rescued the people before the house was destroyed.
Mr. Thomas Ebling is an intelligent man, as was also his father, Gideon Ebling, recently deceased. Outside parties testify to this fact also, and say that he retained all his faculties until his death. He delighted to tell about occurrences that happened in the past. His widow, a very old lady, lives yet. The grandfather, John Ebling, was personally acquainted with Paul Heim, of whom we have just read. Mr. Thomas Ebling says that both his father and grandfather frequently showed him the place where the fort stood and told him about it. They told him that it measured one hundred feet from the road north, which is verified by the official report previously given, and that they had frequently ploughed up grubbing hoes, stones, etc., used in the construction of the fort. This position was corroborated by the statement of people at Pine Dale. Mr. Ebling was moreover told by his father and grandfather that the soldiers obtained their water from the spring at the oak tree. About 75 feet west of the oak tree there still remains a part of the stump of a tree near an apple tree in which quite a number of bullets have been found. The soldiers were probably in the habit of firing at it as a mark. The fort stood about 60 yards west of the road to Port Clinton, which there crosses Pine creek by a bridge. It is about the same distance north of Pine creek. The ground is level and somewhat elevated, falling down to the creek just below the oak tree. Pine creek is the old Bohundy creek, and it is not long since that a boat plying on the canal at Auburn was called the "Bohonto" after it.
Of the old fort nothing remains, except a hollow place in the field, 20 feet north of the road, which marks the location of the cellar.
Just to the north of the bridge, about midway on that part of the road which runs north and south, and on the west side of the road, tradition has it that an Indian was buried.
Fort Lebanon was unquestionably of much importance, occupying or rather commanding the Schuylkill Gap. A monument should certainly be erected to mark its position. I would recommend that it be placed by the public road, immediately opposite the oak tree and fronting the site of the fort.
The location of the fort being now defined, we can the more intelligently turn to the record of events which are given as having transpired in its vicinity.
The first mention is in the following report made by Captain Morgan to Gov. Denny:
Jacob Morgan, to Gov. Denny, 1756.
November Fourth, 1756.
Hon'd Sir, Yesterday Morning at Break of Day, one of ye Neighbours discovered a Fire at a distance from him; he went to ye top of another Mountain to take a better Observation, and made a full Discovery of Fire, and supposed it to be about 7 miles off, at the House of John Finsher; he came and informed me of it; I immediately detach'd a party of 10 Men (we being but 22 men in the Fort) to the place where they saw the Fire, at the said Finsher's House, it being nigh Skulkill, and the Men anxious to see the Enemy if there, they ran through the Water and the Bushes to the Fire, where to their disappointment saw none of them, but the House, Barn, and other out houses all in Flames, together with a Considerable Quantity of Corn; they saw a great many tracks and followed them, carne back to the House of Philip Culmore, thinking to send from thence to alarm the other Inhabitants to be on their Guard, but instead of that found the said Culmore's Wife and Daughter and Son-in Law all just kill'd and Scalped; there is likewise missing out of the same House, Martin Fell's Wife and Child about 1 Year old, and another Boy about 7 Years of Age, the said Martin Fell was Him that was kill'd, it was just done when the Scouts came there, and they seeing the Scouts ran off. The Scout divided in 2 partys, one to some other Houses nigh at Hand, & the other to the Fort, (it being within a Mile of the Fort) to inform me; I immediately went out with the Scout again, (and left in the Fort no more than 6 men) but could not make any discovery, but brought all the Famileys to the Fort, where now I believe we are upwards of 60 Women and Children that are fled here for refuge, & at 12 of the Clock at Night I Rec'd an Express from Lieut. Humphres, commander at the Fort of Northkill, who inform'd me that the same Day about 11 o'clock in the forenoon, (about a 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 2 old Men and taken another Captive, and doubtless would have kill'd all the Familey, they being 9 Children in the House, the Lieut’s party tho’ 7 in Number, fired upon the Indians andthought they killed 2, they dropping down and started up again, one held his Hand (as they imagined) over his Wound, and they all ran off making a hallowing Noise; we got a Blankett and a Gun which he that was shot dropt in his Flight. The Lieut. Had one Man shot through the right Arm and the right side, but hopes not mortal, & he had 4 Shotts through his Own Cloathes. 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 Honour to order a Reinforcement at both Forts, I doubt not but we should soon have an Opertunity of Revenging the loss, from
Your most Humble Serv't to Command
Fort Lebanon, Wednesday, the 4th of November, at 3 of the Clock, post Miridian.
To the Honourable William Denny, Esq'r, Lieut. Governour and Commander in Chief of the Province of Pennsyl'a, and County of Newcastle, Kent and Sussex, on Delaware.
The Humble Petition of Jacob Morgan, Cap’n Commander at Fort Lebanon, most Humbly sheweth:
That having two Forts belonging to one Company, and my Men to the Number of 19 was drafted from me, being total but Fifty-Three, Your Petitioner thinks himself too weak to be of any Service to the Frontiers, seeing the Enemy commits violet Outrages nigh the Forts; as Yesterday, the 3d of November, I found 3 Persons Scalped, and there is 3 more missing within a Mile of Fort Lebanon, & 2 Men killed and one took Captive within ½ Mile of the Fort at Northkill, and dangerous it is to keep ye Forts if their was a Superiority in Number to besiege them, So your Petitioner in Humility begs that your Honour would take ye Premising into Consideration, & do as it shall seem meet or expedient to your Honour, which is in distress from him that for your Honour shall ever Pray.
JACOB MORGAN (Penn. Arch., iii, p. 30)
This was sent by express to Col. Weiser, then in Philadelphia, with the request that he present it to the Governor after his own perusal of its contents. The express passed through Reading and of course told the news, leaving, at the same time, a letter from James Read, Esq., who chanced to be absent at Lancaster. Upon his return he likewise writes to the Governor giving him an account of the occurrences at Fort Lebanon. He says, "What I can gather from a Person who was near Fort Lebanon, (where Captain Morgan is Station'd) at the Burial of the People kill'd thereabouts is, That on Wednesday last, about noon, a Party of Savages came to the farm of one Jacob Finsher, about Six miles from that Fort, and set Fire to his House, Barn, and Barracks of Corn and Hay; upon first notice whereof, Captain Morgan detach'd ten men from his Fort, and soon after followed with a few more, who, as they were returning from their Pursuit, not having met any Enemy, found Finchers Barn, &c. consumed, and at Martin Fell's House, about a Mile from the Fort, found Martin and his Wife's Sister and her Mother scalp'd, the young woman being not yet quite dead, but insensible, and Stuck in the Throat as Butchers kill a Pig; she soon died, and was buried with the others. Martin's Wife, and two Children, one about a Twelve month, the other about Seven years old, were carried off Captives. By a Gentleman who left Fort Lebanon yesterday afternoon, I hear that Sixty Women and Children have fled into it for Refuge, and several Families have come further into the Settlements, with their Household Goods & Stock. (Penn. Arch., iii, p. 36).
On June 24th, 1757, Captain Morgan writes:
"On Wednesday last we were alarmed by one of the neighbours that came to the Fort, and acquainted us that one Jno. Bushy had seen an Indian at his house, (which was about 3 miles from Fort Lebanon). I immediately went out with a party of men to the place where we found the tracts of three, but could not see any of them.
Yesterday morning about 8 of the clock, the son of one Adam Drum, (whom the Indians had killed the night before in Allemingle, and took the Son Captive) found an opportunity to make his Escape, and came to the Fort; he inform'd me that the Indians, (8 in number) had got a quantity of Liquor out of his Fathers House, and came to a Hill about 7 miles from the Fort, where they got a dancing, and made themselves drunk, he took the opportunity and escaped to the Fort, the Indian followed him near a mile and half whom our men afterwards tract'd; so as soon as the young man came I sent out a party to the place where the man left them, but when they came there they only found an old pair of Mogasins, and a Deer Skin whom they had left, but the Indians were fled; they tract'd them as far as they could but night coming, obliged them to return home. I have this Day sent out a Party to intercept them in the way, to the Gap of the second Mountain, (where Schuylkill comes through) being the place which I often found where they retreat back; the men will range about 2 days." (Penn. Arch., iii, p. 190).
A portion of the guard which attended Col. Weiser at Easton, during the conference with the Indians in July, 1757, came from Fort Lebanon. (Penn. Arch., iii, p. 218).
The Governor, or Col. Weiser, seems to have given instructions to the various commanding officers of the forts that they should keep a daily record of events and duties performed at their stations. We have several of these preserved. Amongst them is the Journal of Capt. Morgan for the month of July, 1757, which now follows:
Monthly Journal for July, per Jacob Morgan, 1757.
July the 1st. Sent a Corporall with 11 men on a Scout to Clingaman Hausaboughs, at Allemingle, who staid all Night; sent Serj't Mathews with several men to Reading, to be Qualifyed & be supplied with necessaries.
2d. The Scout return't from Allemingle, and reported they had made no discovery of the Enemy.
3d. Sent a party to range to Allemingle, same date came a Scout from Northkill Fort & return'd again the same day, bringing no news.
4th. Our men returned to Allemingle, and reported, that some of the inhabitants that were afraid, near the mountain, were removing downwards; Serj't Matthews returned with the men from Reading, the rest guarding at the Fort.
5th, 6th, 7th. Was exceeding heavy rain, & the water very high.
8th. Being a day of Humiliation we appl'd our selves thereto.
9th. Rainy weather, we could not Scout.
10th. I sent out a party to range to Allemingle; this Day Serj't Matthews return't from Colonel Weisers, with orders for me to station 10 men in Windsor Township, & to keep 10 men in readiness to go to Easton.
11th. The Scout return'd back, I prepared the men in readiness according to orders, & sent some men to guard the Farmers in their Harvest.
12th. I went with the 10 men to Windsor Township & stationed them there, where I found the most proper. In the Evening was very heavy rain & thunder, obliged me to stay all night; we sent some partys from the Fort to guard the farmers.
13th. I returned in the morning to the fort, I received a Letter from Lieut. Colonel Weiser, to send 10 men to Easton to Guard at the Treaty; partys went to Guard the Farmers, & this Day, in my return, I met the Scout which I had posted in Windsor township, ranging about the farmers houses.
14th. I sent Serj't Matthews with 9 men to Easton to the Treaty to Guard, & sent out some partys to range and Guard the Farmers, who did return in the Evening by reason of the heavy rain and thunder, which fell in the Evening.
15th. Being all Day very heavy rain, & the Creeks so high that Schuylkill rose perpendicular fifteen feet in about nine hours time, being considerable higher than ever was known in these parts; the Guards could not return, and we remained in the Fort, with only 8 men to Guard.
16th. The rain continued but more moderate, our partys could not return, we staid in the Fort and Guarded as usual; the party ranging up Long Run among the vacant houses, they found old tracts but none new.
17th. Some of our Guards returned, being reliev'd by others in their lieu-the Creeks fell very much this Day.
18th. I sent a party to Guard the farmers at their Harvest, and left some at the neighboring houses, the rest to Guard at the Fort.
19th. I likewise sent a party to guard who return'd in the Evening, the residue guarding at the Fort.
20th. I sent out two partys to range and Guard the Farmers, who both returned in the Evening.
21st. I likewise sent out a party to Guard, we were advertis'd by Jacob Shefer that an Indian was seen near his house, we having 2 men ranging there they saw nothing of their tracts, & believe it was a mistake.
22d. Sent out a party to range to the Fort, at Northkill, with Ensign Harry for Ammunition, who staid all night, the rest guarding at the Fort and farmers.
23d. The party from North Kill return'd with a Command of Col'l Weiser's men, with Lieut. Weiser himself, who staid here all Night; sent out a party to Guard the Farmers, who return'd in the Evening to the Fort.
24th. Lieut. Weiser retun’d with his Company, sent a party of ten men to relieve the party in Windsor township; the rest to Guard.
25th. The party return'd from Windsor township to the fort, when a party of them enlisted for three years.
26th. Sent Serj't Robert Smith with a Company of men to Reading to be Qualifyed, and being but a few at the fort could not range; have two Commands at the Farmers.
27th. I went down to Windsor among the men to see whether they kept good orders; I found everything very well, and enlisted more men and staid there all Night, the Command remaining at the Farmers.
28th. I returned back to the fort and found everything well; Serj't Smith, with his party, returned from Reading, the guard remaining still with the Farmers.
29th. Ensign Harry went out with a party to range among the farmers, and sent out two partys to Guard the Neighbours at their Harvest; they return'd without any discovery or signs of the Enemy.
30th. I went over the Hill to Windsor township, in order to send some men to Reading to be Qualifyed, I sent a Corporall with Sixteen men; I return'd in the Evening to the fort. 31st. The party return'd from Reading; we had partys at the neighbouring houses, who remained there on Guard (Penn. Arch., iii, p. 252).
As we have already learned, Captain Morgan was in command of Fort Lebanon. He was its first commanding officer and retained the position. His commission was dated December 5, 1755. Andrew Engel was his Lieutenant at that time, commissioned January 5, 1756, and Jacob Kern his Ensign, whose commission dated from the same time. Later on, Ensign Harry seems to have taken the place of Mr. Kern, and Lieut. Humphreys of Mr. Engel, transferred to Allemingel. (Penn. Arch., iii, p. 88).
In February, 1758, Adjutant Kern reports Capt. Morgan still on duty at the same place, and gives its distance from Fort Henry as 22 miles. (Penn. Arch., iii, p. 339). Here, however, for the first time we find it called Fort William instead of Fort Lebanon. When and why its name was changed we do not know. It was probably done towards the latter part of 1757 or beginning of 1758, but the reason for so doing cannot be surmised. Fort William, however, is unquestionably one and the same place as Fort Lebanon. The name of its officers, and the distance from Fort Henry, as given by Adjutant Kern, are ample proof of this fact. It is verified, however, in the journal of Mr. Burd, which follows, wherein he likewise names its officers and speaks of its situation between Forts Northkill and Franklin.
On February 5, 1758, Adj. Kern reports, in addition to the above, at Fort William Capt. Morgan, Lt. Humphreys, Ensign Harry 50 men, 30. province arms, 23 private guns, 75 lbs of powder, 80 lbs of lead, 14 days' provisions, 12 cartridges, and Jonas Seely as the Commissary of the Station. (Penn. Arch., iii, p. 340).
The Journal of James Burd has this to say of the Fort:
Friday, Feb. 24th, 1758.
This morning sett out (from Reading) for Fort William, arrived at Peter Rodermils at 2 P. M., 15 miles from Reading, it snowed and blowed so prodigeously I stayed there all night.
March'd this morning, the snow deep, for Fort William, arrived at Fort William at 12 M. D., here was lieut. Humphreys & Ensign Hary, ordered a Review of the Garrison at 2 P.M.; at 2 P. M. Reviewed the Garrison & found 53 good men, difficient in Dissipline, stores 3 Quarter casks of poudder, 150 lb of lead, 400 flints & 56 blankets, no arms fit for use, no kettles, nor tools, nor drum, 2 months Provision.
Here I found a target erected ordered the Company to shout at the mark, sett them the Example myself by wheeling around & fireing by the word of Command. I shott a bullott into the Centre of the mark the size of a Dollar, distance 100 yards. Some of them shott tolerable bad, most of their Arms are very bad.
Ordered Cap't Morgan to continue to pattroll to Northkill & Alemingle.
Marched from hence at 10 A. M., went over the Mountains to Mr. Everitt's, where Captain Weatherholt is stationed. * * (Penn. Arch., iii, p. 354).
The Penn'a Gazette of September 1, 1757, says, "We hear from Berks County, that several Indians have lately been seen near Fort Lebanon; and that on Sunday, the 21st August, the house and barn of Peter Semelcke were burnt, and three of his children carried off; himself, wife and one child, being from home at the time. This was done within two miles of the fort."
The Gazette goes on to say, October 6 and 13, that their accounts from the frontiers, are most dismal; that some of the inhabitants are killed or carried off; houses burnt and cattle destroyed daily; that, at the same time, the people are afflicted with severe sickness and die fast, so that in many places they are neither able to defend themselves, when attacked, or to run away.
Our history of Fort Lebanon here ends. It is to be regretted that there is not extant a more detailed report of events at what was one of the important stations on the line of defense.
(Present Site of Fort Franklin.)
Continuing along the northern base of the Blue Mountains, for about nineteen miles from Fort Lebanon, we reach the next garrison at Fort Franklin.
This fort is of especial interest from the fact that it was one of those erected by order of Benjamin Franklin. Immediately after the massacre at Gnadenhutten (Weissport) in November, 1755, Franklin, accompanied by James Hamilton, later Governor of Pennsylvania, set out for the scene of operations to arrange for the defense of that part of the Province. They were at Bethlehem on January 14, 1756, where sundry preparations were made and orders given. Capt. Wayne was directed to build a fort at Gnadenhutten, and another company raised, under Capt. Charles Foulk, to aid him in the work. On January 25th, this fort was in a fair state of completion, the flag was hoisted in the midst of a general discharge of musketry and swivels, and the name of Fort Allen was given it by Mr. Franklin, who was present in person. He immediately sent Capt. Foulk “to build another, between this and Schuylkill Fort, which I hope will be finished (as Trexler is to Join him) in a week or 10 Days. Col. Rec., vii, p. 16).
This tells us definitely when and by whom the station under consideration was erected. It was undoubtedly finished during the early part of February, 1756, and, when completed, was named Fort Franklin, after Benjamin Franklin, even then a distinguished man and actively engaged in caring for the welfare of his adopted Province.
The first reference we have to Fort Franklin is in the postscript of a letter from Wm. Edmonds to Sec'y R. Peters, written June 14th, 1756, in which he speaks of enclosing the copy of a letter sent there, which unfortunately is not extant (Penn. Arch., ii, p. 669).
It is occasionally referred to as the Fort above Allemangle, because of its location immediately across the mountain from Albany Township of Berks county. The name Allemangle or Albany means "All Wants," and was given because of the arid condition of part of the land.
Commissary Jas. Young, whilst on his tour of inspection, visited Fort Franklin. The following account is taken from his journal:
Fort above Alleminga, -- At ½ past 3 P.M. (June 21st, 1756) we sett out with the former Escort & 2 of Cap't Morgan's Comp’y (from Fort Lebanon) for the Fort above Alleminga, Commanded by Lieu't Ingle (of Capt. Morgan's Company, who was relieved by Lieut. Sam'l Humphreys); at ½ past 7 we got there; it is Ab't 19 miles N.E. from Fort Lebanon, the Road a Narrow Path very Hilly and Swampy; ab't half way we came thro' a very thick and dangerous Pine Swamp; very few Plantations on this Road, most of them Deserted, and the houses burnt down; ½ a mile to the Westward of this Fort is good Plantation, the people retires to the Fort every Night. This Fort stands ab’t a mile from the North Mountain; only two Plantations near it. This Fort is a square ab’t 40 foot, very ill staccaded, with 2 Logg houses at Opposite Corners for Bastions, all very unfit for Defence; the Staccades are very open in many Places, it stands on the Bank of a Creek, the Woods clear for 120 yards; the Lieu’t Ranges towards Fort Lebanon and Fort Allen’ ab’t 4 times a Week; much Thunder, Lightning, and Rain all Night. Provincial Stores: 28 G'd Muskets, 8 wants Repair, 16 Cartooch Boxes, 8 lb Powder, 24 lb Lead, & 12 Rounds for 36 men, 36 Blankets, 1 Axe, 1 Adse, 1 Auger, 2 Plains, 1 Hammer, 2 Shovels, 9 Small Tin Kettles.
June 22d - At 6 A.M. I orderd the People to fire at a mark; not above 4 in 25 hit the tree at the Distance of 85 yards; at 7, Mustered them, found 25 Present, 2 Sick, 2 Absent on Furlough, 2 Sent to Reading with a Prisoner, and 5 at Fort Allen on Duty. Provisions, One Cask of Beef Exceeding bad, Flower and Rum for 3 Weeks. At 8 A.M. We sett out for Fort Allen, at Gnadenhutten.***** (Penn. Arch., ii, p. 677).
In his journal, under date of November 5, 1756, Col. Weiser makes mention of a warning which had been given him of a proposed attack of the Minisink Indians on Easton and the capture of Gov. Denny, who was there in Conference with Teddyuscung. It was reported that the Minisink Tribe was very much averse to peace with the English, and, that if Teddyuscung showed any inclination to treat with their enemy, they proposed to kill both him and the Governor, lay waste Easton and then destroy Bethlehem, thus making themselves masters of the whole country. Col. Weiser immediately sent an express to Lieut. Engle, at Fort Franklin, to come with a detachment of 20 men, including a Sergeant, in all possible speed, to reinforce the Town Guard during the time His Honor, the Governor, should stay in Easton. (Penn.Arch., iii, p. 32).
With great difficulty I succeeded in definitely and correctly locating For Franklin. I drove on various occasions through the entire neighborhood, covering many miles of territory, but without obtaining information which I considered sufficiently satisfactory. This part of the country is not thickly populated now, and was very sparsely settled then. I saw a number of very interesting buildings, many partly in ruin, which must date from the time of the French and Indian War. Not a few of them are still pierced with portholes. If any of them, however, have a history, at all unusual, I could not learn of it. At last I ascertained from a Mr. Joseph Miller, an intelligent, elderly man with an exceedingly good memory, living not far distant from Snydersville, that a place known as the “Fort Field,” amongst his elders, was to be found on the Bolich farm, now owned by Mr. J.W. Kistler, not far from West Penn Station, of the Lehigh and Schuylkill R.R. or, as sometimes called, the Lizard Creek Branch of the Lehigh Valley R.R. I drove there instantly and was fortunate in meeting Mr. Jonas Hill, residing in the immediate vicinity of the spot, who at once confirmed Mr. Miller’s statement and pointed out the exact location of the fort. Mr. Hill is about 60 years old, and obtained the information from his father. He states that there can be no doubt of the fact, and, of this there can hardly be any question, as it corresponds in all respects with the information we have about it. Its isolated position will readily account for the general lack of knowledge concerning it. I may add that, later, I again visited the place, driving across the mountains from the site of Fort Everett, to still more fully satisfy myself on the subject, when I met Mr. Kistler, who corroborated the information obtained from Mr. Hill.
The sketch herewith given shows more fully its position.
Fort Franklin was situated on a hill, a part of what was at one time the Bolich Farm, now owned by J. Wesley Kistler. It had a most commanding view of the entire country. It was distant from Snydersville about ¾ mile, on the North, and distant one mile from the base of the Blue Mountains on the South. It stood directly on the road across the mountain to Lynnport, the location of Fort Everett, but a few rods distant from the main road between Fort Allen and Weissport, and Fort Lebanon, at Auburn. At the base of the hill is a fine creek of water, coming from the mountain and emptying into Lizard creek, about ½ mile distant. It may be almost literally said that “it stood on the banks of a creek.” It may be well, however, to correct, at this time, the error made by some writers, who have stated, without due investigation, that it stood on the banks of the Lizard creek, taking it for granted that when Commissary Jas. Young said it stood on the banks of a creek he means Lizard creek. It is well to take nothing for granted in this world until we are sure of its accuracy. If we did so there would be more real history written, and less romance. Its distance from Fort Lebanon is some nineteen miles, and from Fort Allen some fourteen miles, all as stated.
We could wish, from the name it bore, that this fort, might have been amongst the more important ones. Unfortunately such was not the case. Poorly constructed in the first place, in the next place its location was in a part of the Province as yet but poorly settled. Being north of the Mountain, the district was entirely open to the assaults of the savages. Already many of the plantations, so called, had been deserted; buildings and property had been destroyed or were fast going to ruin, and their owners had fled across the mountains to Albany Township, or elsewhere, to find a more thickly settled region and greater safety. I think it is doubtful whether the fort would ever have been built except to fill in the long gap in the chain of defenses between Forts Allen and Lebanon.
We are not then surprised to read what Col. Weiser wrote November 24, 1756, after the Conference with the Indians at Easton was over. He was then at fort Allen. He says:
"I took my leave of them (certain Indians) and they of me very candidly; Capt. Arnd sent an Escort with me of twenty men to fort Franklin, where we arrived at three o’Clock in the afternoon, it being about fourteen miles distant from Fort Allen. I saw that the Fort was not Teanable, and the House not finished for the Soldiers, and that it could not be of any Service to the Inhabitant Part, there being a great Mountain between them. I ordered Lieut'n Engel to Evacuate it, and come to the South side of the Hills himself with Nineteen men at John Eberts, Esq'r., and the Rest being Sixteen men more, at John Eckenroad, both places being about three miles distant from each other, and both in the Township of Linn, Northampton (Lehigh) County, until otherwise ordered.
23d. Left Fort Franklin. The Lieut., with Ten men, escorted me as far as Probst's, about Eight mile, where I discharged him, and arrived at Reading that Evening." (Penn. Arch., iii, p. 68).
Whether the garrison was entirely removed at once, or whether, as is more likely, it was still occupied, after a fashion, by some of Capt. Wetterholt’s men, we cannot positively say. It is certain, however, that it was more and more neglected if not actually abandoned. To such an extent was this true that the remaining settlers, for some still remained, felt obliged to present the following petition, which was read in the Provincial Council on Saturday, May 7th, 1757.
To the Honourable WIlliam Denny, Esq'r, Lieutenant-Governor and Commander-in-Chief of the Province of Pennsylvania, and Counties of New Castle, Kent & Sussex, on Delaware, &c.
The Petition of:
The widow of Mark Grist,
Deceased, the widow of George Krammer Deceased, (which said Grist and Krammer have lost their Lives in the Defence of their Country lass fall)
John Scheeffer &
all Inhabitants of Berks County [now Schuylkill], within four miles of and about Fort Franklin, over the blue Mountains:
Most Humble Sheweth-
That your Petitioners are informed that Fort Franklin aforesaid is to be removed to this Side of the said mountains and a considerable way into Albany Township; That if in Case the said Fort is to be Removed your Petitioners will be Obliged to Desert their Plantations, for their Lives and Estates will then lye at Stake, and a greater part of this Province will lye waste and your Petiitioners humbly conceives that it would be the Safest way to have the said Fort continued & rebuilt, as it is very much out of order and Repair.
Therefore your Petitioners humbly prays your Honour to take the Premises in Consideration and Issue such orders as will Prevent the Removal of the said Fort & order a Suffi't Number of Men in it, and to grant your Petitioners such other relief as to tyou in your wisdom shall seem Mete, and your Petitioners, as in Duty bound, will Ever Pray for your Eternal welfare.
Signed at the Reuest & in behalf of all the petitioners.
(Penn. Arch., iii, p. 153)
About the same time a petition was presented by the people of Lynn Township, on the South side of the mountain, praying that Lieut. Weatherhold, who was daily expecting marching orders, be not sent away with his detachment. (Penn. Arch., iii, p. 152).
These several petitions seem to have had their weight with the Government. For Franklin was put in a better condition and soldiers retained there. In November, 1757, it furnished its quota for Col. Weiser's guard at Easton, during the Conference with the Indians at that time. (Penn. Arch., iii, p. 218). Shortly after however, it seems to have been again abandoned, probably about the end of 1757, when there came a lull in the frequency of Indian depredations. When James Burd made his visits to the various forts in February, 1758, his journal makes no mention whatever of Fort Franklin. True, he directs Capt. Morgan to continue patrolling between his fort, Lebanon, and Alemingle, but we must remember that Alemingle refers to Albany Township south of the mountains, and undoubtedly Fort Everett is meant at this time. Fort Franklin was the "Fort above Alemingle," and never at Alemingle. Then again Mr. Burd speaks of leaving Fort Allen and arriving at "Lieut. Ingle's Post," 15 miles distant. Whilst Lieut. Engle had formerly commanded at Fort Franklin, a moment’s thought will show that what is here called "Lieut. Ingle's Post" could not have been Fort Franklin. Mr. Burd had left Fort Everett, continued East to Fort Allen, and was now leaving Fort Allen to cover territory towards the Delaware. No other construction is possible. Lieut. Engle had long since, in May, 1757, been transferred from Fort Franklin to the command of Fort Norris. Besides the distance from Fort Franklin to Fort Allen was but fourteen miles and not fifteen, which is the distance from Fort Allen to Fort Norris.
No, our history of Fort Franklin ends with the year 1757. If we may judge from the published records, it did not play such a part in the history of our State as did its great namesake. For that we dare not blame it or its faithful garrison, but can only attribute it to the force of circumstances. Had the necessity for action come, as at other places, the duty would doubtless have been faithfully performed. It was one of the regular chain of forts and its position should be marked; I would recommend a tablet, in close proximity to its site, along the public road to Lynnport.
I have said that in this general neighborhood are many points of interest, of which, however, the history is unknown. I picked up, nevertheless, several traditions which are worthy of note. Mr. Chas. Focht, at New Ringgold, a gentleman 80 years old, was told by a Mr. Zimmerman some 60 years ago, the latter then an old man, that the settlers were accustomed to take refuge in a mil, known 60 years ago as Stein's Mill, now as Stout's Mill, located about 2 miles S.W. of Snydersville, near the base of the Blue Mountains, on a creek which flows into Lizard Creek. In the vicinity the Indians had captured a Mr. Fies and his son. The bones of Fies were discovered a long time after, about ½ mile from his house, being recognized as his by sundry buttons and a frying pan lying near by. The son was never heard of. This incident was corroborated by Mr. Abr. Focht, his brother, who also mentioned a block house of refuge on what was formerly the Schwartz farm, but is now in the Borough of New Ringgold, about ½ mile east of the railroad station.
Mrs. Koch, the mother of Mr. H.B. Koch, who is proprietor of the excellent New Ringgold Hotel, an intelligent old lady, 73 years of age, called my attention to a place where persons had been buried during the Indian War. They were supposed to have been Indians, but were more likely settlers who had been killed by them. She had been told about it by her grandmother who lived at the time. It is on the upper side of the Summer Mountain, about 3 miles directly north of Kepners, but a short distance from the house of Mr. Kelchner, and also near the creek which empties into Lizard Creek at Snydersville. I visited the spot and found, as I had been told, that it was kept sacred and never ploughed over.
Through the kindness of Mr. H. B. Koch I have also been informed by Mr. R.F. Leidy, an old gentleman of that locality who obtained his information from a Mr. Shellhamer, that a house of refuge, or so called Indian Fort, stood about 1-½ miles north of Kepnersville, of which part of the stone wall can yet be seen.
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