Fort Freeland, Northumberland County, Pennsylvania
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The sad history of this death trap is well and widely known, on Warrior run, about four miles east of Watsontown and one mile east of well-known Warrior Run church; it was stockaded in the fall of 1778 by Jacob Freeland and his neighbors, enclosing n large two-story log house of Jacob Freeland, as many of the descendants of the early settlers still live in this region and the bloody ending of the place has kept it well in remembrance. Jacob Freeland here built a mill in 177 and 1774, having brought the iron from New Jersey. Mr. Enoch Everitt, of Watsontown, now owns the hue farms on which it was located. A depression on the yard to the large brick farmhouse marks the cellar to the site of the old Freeland house. A fine spring of water near the house is still used by the farmhouse of today. In Vol. xii, Pennsylvania Archives, p. 364, is found the recollections of Mary V. Derickson, born in the Fort Freeland, written in 1855, seventy-five years after the occurrence, but is remarkably clear. John Blair Linn, in his Annals of Buffalo Valley, and John F. Meginness in his “Otzinachson,” give us full particulars, drawn largely from the Archives.
Mary V. Derickson writes: “Sir: In compliance with your request, I will give (so far as my memory will serve) all the account of the early settlers and occupants of Fort Freeland. The fort was situated on the Warrior run creek, about 4 miles above where it empties into the Susquehanna River. In the year 1772, Jacob Freeland, Samuel Gould, Peter Vincent, John Vincent and his son, Cornelius Vincent, and Timothy Williams, with their respective families cut their way through and settled within some two miles of where the fort was afterwards built. They were from Essex County, New Jersey. Jacob Freeland brought the irons for a gristmill, and in the years 1773 and 1774 built one on Warrior Run. There were several more families moved up from the same place, and they lived on friendly terms with the Indians until ’77, when they began to be troublesome and to remove their own families, in the summer of ’78, they had to leave the country, and when they returned in the fall they picketed (stockaded) around a large two-story log house (which had been built by Jacob Freeland for his family), enclosing half an acre of ground; the timbers were set close and were about twelve feet high; the gate was fastened by bars inside. Into this fort, or house, the families of Jacob Freeland. Sen., and Jacob Freeland, Jr., John Little, Michael Freeland, John Vincent, Peter Vincent, George Pack, Cornelius Vincent, Moses Kirk, James Durham, Samuel Gould, Isaac Vincent and David Vincent, all gathered and lived there that winter. In November George Pack, son of George Pack, was born, and on the 20th May, George, son of Isaac Vincent, was born, on the 10th of February, 1779, I was born. My father was Cornelius Vincent. In the spring of ’79, the men planted corn but were occasionally surprised with the Indians, but nothing serious occurred until the 21st day of July, as some of them were at work in the corn field back of the fort, they were attacked by a party of Indians, about nine o’clock, A, M. and Isaac Vincent, Elias Freeland and Jacob Freeland, Jr., were killed and Benjamin Vincent and Michael Freeland were taken prisoners. Daniel Vincent was chased by them but he outran them and escaped by leaping a high log fence. When the Indians surprised them, Ben. Vincent (then ten years of age) hid in a furrow, but he thought he would be more secure by climbing a tree, as there was a woods near, but they saw him and took him a prisoner. He was ignorant of the fate of the others until about two o’clock P. M., when an Indian thrust a bloody scalp in his face and he knew it was his (and my) brother’s Isaac’s scalp. Nothing again occurred until the morning of the 29th about day-break, as Jacob Freeland, Sen,, was going out the gate he was shot and fell inside of the gate. The fort was surrounded by about three hundred British and Indians, commanded by Capt McDonald. There were but 21 men in the fort and but little ammunition. Mary Kirk and Phoebe Vincent, commenced immediately and run all their spoons and plates into bullets; about nine o’clock there was a flag of truce raised, and John Little and John Vincent went out to capitulate, but could not agree. They had half an hour given to consult with those inside; at length they agreed that all who were able to bear arms should go as prisoners, and the old men and women and children set free, and the fort given up to plunder. They all left the fort by 12 o’clock P. M. Not one of them having eaten a bite that day and not a child was heard cry or ask for bread that day. They reached Northumberland, eighteen miles distant, that night and there drew their rations; the first they had that day. When Mrs. Kirk heard the terms on which they were set free she put female clothes on her son William, a lad of 16, and he escaped with the women. Mrs. Elizabeth Vincent was a cripple; she could not walk. Her husband John Vincent, went to Capt. McDonald and told him of her situation, and said if he had a horse that the Indians had taken from his son Peter the week before that she could ride about daylight next morning. The horse came to them; he had carried his wife to the lower end of the meadow, where they lay and saw the fort burned, and it rained so hard that night that she laid mid side in the water; when the horse came he stripped the bark off a hickory tree and plaited a halter, set his wife on and led it to Northumberland, where there were wagons pressed to take them on down country.
After the surrender of the fort Captains Boone and Daugherty arrived with thirty men; supposing the fort still holding out they made a dash across Warrior run, when they were surrounded. Capt. Hawkins Boone and Capt. Samuel Daugherty, with nearly half the force were killed; the remainder broke through their enemies and escaped. Thirteen scalps of this party were brought into the fort in a handkerchief. Soon after this the fort was set fire to and burned down. The killed of the garrison and Boone’s party, from best information, to be arrived at amounted to about twenty men, but two such men as. Boone and Daugherty in such times were of more value to such a community than many common men.
Thus ended Fort Freeland. Robert Covenhoven, the famous scout and Indian killer of the West Branch, had passed down ahead of this party of Tories and savages, giving notice of their approach, but it is said Fort Freeland did not get notice. Ammunition was hard to get, almost impossible sometimes to procure, which may account for Fort Freeland being so short that the women had to run up their spoon and “pewter” plates, but one would suppose, if there was any head to the garrison after the attack of a few days before, when their loss was three killed and two captured, he would have caused them to be better prepared for another attack.
Each succeeding generation on the Warrior run since the fall of Fort Freeland has pursued up the site of the place that no doubts exist in regard to it.
The effect of the fall of Fort Freeland was disastrous to this region, accompanied as it was with the death of Boone, Daugherty and their brave comrades, and the desertion of Boone’s Mills as a post of defense. It entirely uncovered Fort Augusta to the inroads of the enemy. Bosley’s Mills alone, with its small garrison standing on the defensive on one flank liable to be overthrown when any considerable force of the enemy appeared before it. Colonel Hunter, holding his base with a force so feeble as to warrant a less courageous commander in calling in every man and gun for the protection of Augusta, as comparatively few persons remained to protect in his front, but holding what he had left. In November the German Battalion was sent him, counting about one hundred and twenty men, with which he secured his base, built Fort Rice and garrisoned it, and built Fort Swartz and also garrisoned it, as well as Fort Jenkins with thirty men, – with ten to fifteen militia at Bosley’s Mills, and a few of the inhabitants to hold Wheeler, eighty to ninety men in all, besides his garrison of Augusta. At this date his left flank had been contracted from now Lock Haven to Milton, with his right weak but intact. Affairs did not improve much in this department to the close of the war in 1780. The right flanking fort was destroyed by the troops being withdrawn in an emergency, and some time elapsed before the flank was again protected by Fort McClure, at now Bloomsburg.