Following Forbes' footsteps: Fort Loudoun gives taste of frontier conflicts

FORT LOUDOUN, Pa. -- Running west from Chambersburg, U.S. Route 30 loops over gently rolling hills and into the green velvet Conococheague Valley, a pastoral slice of America dotted with black-and-white Holsteins. Overhead, hawks swoop and soar.

No wonder the Welsh, English, Scots-Irish and German settlers flocked to Franklin County during the 1750s. Apart from a topography that reminded them of home, the area's 11 frontier forts offered refuge to settlers besieged by Indians.

British Gen. John Forbes stopped here in September 1758 before marching west to control Fort Duquesne at the forks of the Ohio, where Pittsburgh later grew.

Forbes battled a serious stomach illness as he traveled across Pennsylvania and at one point was carried on a litter. His trusted deputy, Col. Henry Bouquet, was well ahead of him in Fort Loudoun. In June of that year, Bouquet had negotiated an alliance with Cherokee and Catawba Indians, who agreed to serve as scouts for the British.

If you go: Fort Loudoun
About 75 French and Indian War-era re-enactors will gather at Fort Loudoun on June 21-22 to re-create the Cherokee Council, an event that lasted for two days in June 1758.
British, French and Native American Camps open at 9 a.m. on June 21. Throughout the day, re-enactors will conduct historic weapons demonstrations, presentations on Native American customs and military drills. Also that day, Cherokee Council will be re-enacted at 1:30 and 3 p.m.
At noon on June 22, David Dixon will speak on "Indian Diplomacy with the French and British in the Ohio Valley, 1758-1763." Re-enactments of the Cherokee Council will occur at 1:30 and 3 p.m., followed by a Colonial music concert at 4 p.m.
A bus tour of key French and Indian War-era sites in Franklin County will be held on June 20, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Cost is $40 and includes the tour, lunch, and talks by two historians, Roger Swartz and Calvin Bricker. To register, call the Conococheague Institute at 717-328-3467.
For a full lineup of the weekend's activities, visit and click on the events listing in the drop-down menu.
Following Forbes' footsteps
"Pennsylvania's Forbes Trail," a new travel guide and history from Taylor Trade Publishing, focuses on gateway communities across the state through which Gen. John Forbes passed on his 1758 expedition to capture what is now Pittsburgh's Point.
Staff writers Len Barcousky and Marylynne Pitz revisited those communities for a travel series:

As Gen. Forbes made his way across Pennsylvania, he remembered Braddock's ill-fated strategy, which cost the former Coldstream Guard his life at a battle on the banks of the Monongahela River in July 1755.

"Forbes had learned from Braddock that he couldn't afford to ignore the importance of Native American tribes," said Dr. Walter L. Powell, executive director of the Conococheague Institute, a nonprofit that preserves and promotes the study of cultural and natural history in Franklin County.

So, for two days in 1758, Bouquet engaged in intrigue, dinners and public councils with 99 Cherokees and 27 Catawbas at Fort Loudoun and finally persuaded them to ally themselves with the British.

The alliance was costly, Dr. Powell said, because during the 18th century, American Indians were the "ultimate consumers of European goods," with an endless thirst for guns and gun powder, copper kettles, iron pots, blankets, flour, clothing beads and looking glasses.

With the Indians serving as scouts, British soldiers hacked and carved the Forbes Trail out of the dark, dangerous forest, which allowed the army to travel west. The Forbes Trail roughly parallels portions of today's Route 30.

Known as the Cherokee Council, this meeting will be re-created by 75 re-enactors, some of whom are of Native American descent, on June 21 and 22 at the rebuilt site of Fort Loudoun, which is one mile east of the village of Fort Loudon (which is spelled without the "u"). The re-enactment is part of a schedule of educational activities that include lectures by historians, a daylong bus tour of significant sites, book signings and two Colonial music concerts.

These events are sponsored by the Fort Loudoun Historical Society and the Conococheague Institute, which is 14 miles southeast of the fort at the edge of a village called Welsh Run. The institute and Fort Loudoun Historical Society interpret the fort, which is located on the west branch of the Conococheague Creek.

Built in 1756, this Franklin County stockade was named for John Campbell, Fourth Earl of Loudoun, commander of British forces in North America. The fort was a key communications post and supply depot until 1765.

"This region served as a granary for the [Maj. General Edward] Braddock and [General John] Forbes expeditions," Dr. Powell said.

Pennsylvania Col. John Armstrong, a prominent judge in Carlisle, oversaw the building of Fort Loudoun; each of the four walls of the stockade stretched 127 feet in length to protect settlers against Indian attacks. Each corner had a bastion, a lookout point from which sentries kept watch by day and night.

The fort, which has 8-foot-tall walls, was reconstructed in 1993 and 1994.

If Fort Loudoun serves as a tangible reminder of bloody frontier conflicts, the Conococheague Institute is a pristine place and includes Rock Hill Farm, where visitors can experience Colonial history firsthand. The 20-acre property features a house built in 1752, historical artifacts from the region, a library for geneaological research and wayside exhibits about the French and Indian War along a pathway. In addition, there's a beautiful rose garden and a fenced flower and vegetable garden with raised beds. A new visitors center will open by the end of the summer.

The institute is the brainchild of Dr. John Stauffer, a retired family physician, octogenarian and native of Hagerstown, Md. A lover of history and horticulture, Dr. Stauffer has been aided by a staff of two and a phalanx of loyal volunteers. The Tuesday Bridge Club met every week for eight years to restore the Martin-Negley house, a log building that is a fine example of the Pennsylvania German three-room plan. Last year, local Boy Scouts laid old bricks atop sand in the cellar and built the bins that would have served as the place where Germans kept roots, vegetables and sauerkraut.

Post-Gazette staff writer Marylynne Pitz may be reached at 412-263-1648 or . First Published June 8, 2008 4:00 AM


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