Ohio History Journal



VOL. XXVI. No. 2.

APRIL, 1917.


It will be recalled that the autumn, winter and spring of 1777-8 was

the period of the low ebb of the cause of the Colonial Revolutionists. In

the late spring of 1778, while Washington was just emerging from Valley

Forge, George Rogers Clark entered upon the daring expedition to save

the Northwest to the Colonies. The British-Canadian authorities were

planning not only to circumvent Clark but to "carry the war into

Africa" by sending from Detroit a great Indian expedition through the

Ohio country to Fort Pitt. Fort Randolph, at the mouth of the Ka-

nawha was also designated by the British as a point for capture. The

field of the Revolution bid fair to be shifted west of the Alleghenies

into the heart of the Ohio territory. It must be wrested from the British

and their Indian allies. Washington, while still at Valley Forge, planned

a western expeditionary offensive movement. From the Virginia moun-

tains an army of three thousand men was to be raised; it was to be in

two divisions of fifteen hundred each; one division was to assemble in

the back counties of Virginia and march through Greenbrier down the

Big Kanawha to Fort Randolph; the other division was to assemble at

Fort Pitt, descend the Ohio in boats to Fort Randolph, whence the

united force was to invade Ohio and subduing the hostile Indian tribes

proceed to and capture Detroit. The Continental Congress, then a

fugitive at York, Pa., in May (1778), endorsed this pretentious plan,

voting to raise the men and to appropriate $900,000, in silver dollars or

its equivalent, for the necessary expense. Washington named General

Lachlan McIntosh as commander of this western military project. It

was one thing for Congress to vote men and currency; it was another

to carry out the proposition. Moreover, shifting conditions among the

Indians interfered with the plans proposed. However General McIntosh

with five hundred men proceeded from Fort Pitt to Beaver Creek where

he built on the banks of the Ohio a stockade fort, named after the

General, Fort McIntosh. Meanwhile the Virginia army was not raised;

the great western war scheme was abandoned, but early in November

McIntosh set forth with a force of twelve hundred, the ultimate destina-

tion being Detroit; but he found it necessary to abandon the proposal to

immediately proceed to Detroit; with a portion of his force he reached a

site on the west bank of the Tuscarawas, below the mouth of Sandy

creek, about a mile south of the present village of Bolivar. It was the identi-

cal site where Colonel Henry Bouquet, in 1766, had, on his western


294 Ohio Arch

294        Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.


expedition, erected a temporary fort. The stockade erected by McIntosh

was a regular rectangular fortification, enclosing less than an acre of land.

This, the first and only fort built by the Colonists in the confines of Ohio

during the American Revolution was named in honor of the President of

the Continental Congress, Fort Laurens. The erection of the fort was

completed in December, by Colonel John Gibson, who was left in

charge with a garrison of one hundred and fifty men.

The building of Fort Laurens in the trans-Allegheny country

awakened the British commander, Hamilton, to the courage and au-

dacity of the Colonists.  The fearless renegade, Simon Girty, was

directed by Hamilton to raise an Indian force and proceed against Fort

Laurens. On January 6, Girty set out from the Sandusky country, with

a force of hostile Indians, all equipped and provisioned by the British.

The fort was soon surrounded and the provisions soon ran low. Des-

perate efforts were made by small detachments from Fort Pitt to carry

aid to the besieged soldiers in the fort. Captain Henry Bird, of the

8th King's Regiment, with ten British soldiers, with additional bands of

Indians, were hurried to the aid of Girty in his siege of Gibson's brave

contingent. It was a dreadfully cold winter, and the story of this siege

is one of bloody deeds and brave suffering. It has been related at length

in "Randall and Ryan's History of Ohio," and "Stone's Life of Joseph


The siege was a remarkable one and continued until the garrison

was reduced to the verge of starvation; a quarter of a pound of sour

flour and an equal weight of spoiled meat constituting a daily ration

for each; the cold was intense and exit from the stockade could not

be made for fuel or food; the plucky soldiers suffered to the verge of

life; it was a veritable Valley Forge on the banks of the Tuscarawas.

But the assailants themselves were being worn out from exposure and


It was the end of March (1779) that General McIntosh with a

force of five hundred men including Pennsylvania militia and Con-

tinental troops set out from Fort Pitt for the relief of Gibson. Arriv-

ing at the fort, he found the siege abandoned and the savages gone.

The assailing tribesmen had been outstarved and outwitted by the sol-

diers of the invincible garrison. But the latter were in a most deplorable

condition. For nearly a week their only subsistence had been raw hides

and such roots as they could find in the vicinity after the Indians had


In April (1779) McIntosh retired from the command of the western

country. He was succeeded by Colonel Daniel Brodhead. The condi-

tion of the stockade of Fort Laurens at once engaged the attention of

Brodhead. Colonel Gibson was relieved as commandant of the fort by

Major Vernon, who had scarcely succeeded in reaching and occupying


Editorialana.                       295


his fort when parties of hostile Indians made their appearance and

renewed the blockade of the impregnable little fort that stood like a

Gibraltar in the very midst of the enemy's country.

The hardships and privations of the garrison were unabated, and

well-nigh unparalleled. They could not make foraging expeditions and

the portage of supplies into the stockade was attended with difficulties

and dangers that made it nearly impossible.  But Washington, who

amid all his other cares and responsibilities never let the Tuscarawas

outpost escape his attention, wrote General Brodhead: "the Tuscarawas

post is to be preserved, if under a full consideration of circumstances,

it is judged a post of importance and can be maintained without run-

ning too great a risk, and if the troops in general under your command

are disposed in the manner best calculated to cover and protect the

country on a defensive plan." He feared its abandonment would give

hope and courage to the British at Detroit and their Indian allies.

But Major Vernon could not remain without relief, and he wrote

Brodhead, the last of April: "Should you not send us provisions in a

very short time, necessity will oblige us to begin on some cowhides the

Indians left." Such soldiers as could with safety be exported to Fort

Pitt were there sent until in May, Vernon's force was reduced to

twenty-five. The last of this month their handful of men had reached

the limit of endurance; they were living on herbs, salt and cowhides,

when a relief expedition rescued them from approaching death.

This relief came through a company of regulars, commanded by

Captain Robert Beall. To avoid an ambuscade by the besieging savages,

Beall conducted his party by boat from Fort McIntosh down the Ohio

to the deserted Mingo town, at the mouth of Cross Creek; thence

across country to Fort Laurens. The relief party found the post in-

mates in the last stages of starvation, many of them being unable,

through exhaustion and weakness, to stand on their feet. As soon as

possible the revived men were removed to Fort Pitt, and in June the

post was relieved by seventy-five fresh troops well supplied with pro-

visions, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Campbell.   The

siege gradually subsided until, after being once more seriously threatened

by the Indian assailants, Fort Laurens, early in August (1779) was

evacuated; orders to that effect having been sent by Colonel Brodhead.

Such in brief is the tragic and romantic story of Fort Laurens and

its siege.

For many years it has been the desire of the Ohio State Archaeo-

logical and Historical Society to secure the site of the Fort and erect

thereon a monument suitable to the historic record of the stockade.

The editor of the Quarterly and other officers of the Society have at

times in the past visited the locality and conferred with the owners as

to its purchase. The members of the Ohio Society, Sons of the Amer-

296 Ohio Arch

296        Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.


ican Revolution, and also Society of the Daughters of the American

Revolution, have taken active part in arousing interest in the preserva-

tion of the site. Finally various interests united and in the session of

the 81st General Assembly a bill was introduced, providing for its pur-

chase by the State and preservation by the Ohio State Archaeological

and Historical Society. The bill met with favor and was passed. In

accordance with its provisions Speaker Conover of the House appointed

on the committee of purchase Messrs. Oscar M. Hines, of Dennison,

and D. F. Lash, of Bolivar; Messrs. Maurice Moody, of Uhrichsville,

and E. E. Vorhies, of Cambridge, were appointed by Lieutenant Gov-

ernor Arnold, and Mr. Wilson A. Korns, of New Philadelphia, was

appointed by Governor Willis.

This committee elected Mr. Hines president, Mr. Moody, Secretary;

and Mr. W. B. Stevens, of Uhrichsville, attorney. The committee pro-

ceeded to negotiate for the site, as provided in the bill, but great dif-

ficulties were encountered in securing the title, owing to the number of

heirs interested in the estate possessing the property. Not until the

latter part of April (1917) was the title perfected and deed secured

from Mr. David Gibler, which met the approval of the Attorney General.

The deed however is now in the custody of the Auditor of State, and

property in the custody of the Society. The deed secures to the state

"the lands upon which Fort Laurens is located and such additional land

adjacent thereto as is necessary to properly restore said fort and works."

The area secured comprises twenty-eight and twenty hundredth acres.

In due time, no doubt, arrangements will be made to enfence the site

and mark it with fitting historical monument. Following is a copy of

the bill as passed by the legislature.


To provide for the preservation of Fort Laurens by the state of


Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Ohio:

Section 1. That for the purpose of preserving the revolutionary

earthworks known as Fort Laurens, situated in Laurens township, Tus-

carawas county, Ohio, a committee of five shall be appointed, two by

the president of the senate, two by the speaker of the house of repre-

sentatives, and one by the governor. Said committee when appointed

is authorized in behalf of the state, to purchase for the state the lands

upon which Fort Laurens is located, and such additional land adjacent

thereto as may be necessary to properly restore said fort and works, to

include not to exceed thirty acres of land.

Such purchase and title to such land shall be approved by the gov-

ernor and the attorney general of the state, before the same is accepted,

and when accepted shall be conveyed to the state of Ohio, and the deed

thereof shall be duly recorded and deposited with the auditor of state.


Editorialana.                        297


Section 2. That the care and control of the site of Fort Laurens,

located in Tuscarawas county, Ohio, and being the first fort established

west of the Ohio river, shall be vested in the board of trustees of the

Ohio archaeological and historical society, who shall hold the lands and

property thereon subject to such use as the general assembly may by law


Section 3. That for the purpose of carrying out the provisions

of this act, and defraying the expenses of the committee, there is hereby

appropriated out of any moneys in the state treasury, to the credit of

the general revenue fund and not otherwise appropriated, a sum not to

exceed five thousand five hundred dollars.

Passed April 27, 1915.





It was on April 7, 1788, that the immortal forty-eight New Eng-

land pilgrims led by Rufus Putnam, disembarked from the "Adventure

Galley," afterwards named and better known as the "Mayflower," at the

mouth of the Muskingum, opposite Fort Harmer, and laid out and in-

augurated the first settlement in the newly created North West Terri-

tory. It was to be called Marietta, and was the first official capital of

the trans-Allegheny empire. The first clearing was at the "point," on

the east side of the Muskingum, and there the first houses were erected.

As Mr. Summers states in his "History of Marietta," there was need

of some protection against possible attacks of the neighboring hostile

Indians. A fortification known as "Campus Martius," field of Mars, was

erected for the defensive purpose. "The location of Campus Martius is

best described by stating that it was built upon the ground with 'Wash-

ington street as the southern boundary, and Second street the eastern

boundary, and fronting the Muskingum river.' The defense was three-

fourths of a mile from the 'point' and connected with it by the narrow

path which had been cleared. Here was built the stockade which was

for five years to be the dwelling place and refuge of a large part of the

colony. The sides were formed by a continuous line of dwelling houses

two stories in height. They were made of timber four inches thick

sawed by hand, and fitted at the corners in the same manner as those

of a log house. At the corners were block-houses, a trifle higher than

the houses, and projected out six feet beyond the sides of the stockades."

This Campus Martius was not only the "fortification" of the new settle-

ment, but the official building of the new western government. Besides

being the residence of many families including the offices of the ter-

ritorial governor and commissioners. Governor Arthur St. Clair and

his secretary, Winthrop Sargent, here resided. The site of these build-