Fort Reid was the most westerly of the line of defenses thrown out in advance of Fort Augusta, for the purpose of covering that place and as a rallying place for the inhabitants and the scouts when hard pressed. The Continental Army had drawn largely upon the young active men of the region, leaving those less ht for active service at home to cope with an enemy, the most active and wily in border warfare of this kind in the world.
In this forest country, with the inhabitants isolated by the size of their land claims, he could lay in wait, concealed for weeks if necessary, to await an opportunity to strike the settler when off his guard or in a situation in which he could offer least effective opposition. Not hampered with baggage, never troubled about keeping open his communications, as he could glide through where a fox might pass, and as noiselessly; armed by his master with the best of arms the time afforded, while the pioneers could scarcely procure ammunition enough to keep his family in meat; the Indian was bountifully furnished from the ample storehouses of the English. One naturally wonders how, with all the disadvantages against him, the settler held out so long; his staying qualities were wonderful; with these strengthened houses inadequately garrisoned as the only refuge for his family, he was a man who elicits our admiration.
Reid’s Fort was the dwelling house of Mr. William Reid, stockaded in the spring of 1777; its location is on Water or River Street, in the built up part of the town east of the mouth of the Bald Eagle Canal. Judge Mayer and others have kept up an interest in its site. Visiting the site, Capt. R. S. Barker and myself called upon William Quigley and his wife, who were said to be the oldest residents of the place, he being ninety years; we found the pair bright, intelligent people. He recollected the remains of Fort Reid and so did Mrs. Quigley. As their location is acquiesced in by Judge Mayer and the others, we give it.
A large Indian mound existed at this place on the riverbank, described as high as a two-story house, surrounded by a circle of small ones. In digging the Bald Eagle Canal they cut away the western half of this mound, exhuming quantities of human bones and stone implements. The banks of the canal were said to be whitened therewith for years after. Immediately to the east of the mounds and close thereto stood Reid’s fort, traces of which could be seen after 1820. This gives us the exact site within, say thirty feet, of the chimney of the Reid house and brings us within the stockades.
As mentioned before it was the left flanking defense of the series and was vacated by order of Col. Hunter, who had command of these forts, and garrisoned when he had troops, but the principal defense fell upon the settlers of the regions they protected. The Indians seldom attacked these places with any persistency unless accompanied by whites. It was an important point to garrison, covering the river on both sides and the lower Bald Eagle valley, which, when well done by the assistance of Horn, Antes and Muncy protected the whole of the region between the Bald Eagle and the Susquehanna down to White Deer creek.
Moses Van Campen, then orderly sergeant of Captain Gaskins’ company of Colonel John Kelly’s regiment of Northumberland County militia, says the regiment was stationed here at Fort Reid during its six months’ service in the summer of 1777. As he calls it Fort Reid it must have been fortified at that time, as the position was on the extreme outer limits of the settlements and much exposed. This is, without doubt, correct. Scouting duty was performed by the regiment and guarding the inhabitants was performed vigilantly. Here, in the West Branch, is located at the mouth of the Bald Eagle creek, the “Big Island,” comprising a few hundred acres and very fertile. This place attracted settlers early, while on each side of the river the lands were attractive and a considerable settlement existed in the vicinity of the fort at this time. Here Van Campen had his wrestling match with the champion of the Indian land men, or those settlers on the north side of the river, in which Northumberland’s activity and muscle prevailed. Here the Bald Eagle valley terminates. The fort, when manned, as it should be, protected the lower part of the valley. The Rev. Mr. Fithian, of the Presbyterian Church, visited this place before the Revolution, going with Miss Jenny Reed and another young woman whortleberrying on the Bald Eagle Mountain. On returning from the expedition they came part of the way by the river; their canoe man was unfortunate and overset the canoe, spilling out the girls and whortleberries. The water was not deep; the girls squalled lustily at first, but, finding themselves unhurt, they proceeded to chastise the canoe man by “skeeting” water over him with their tin cups until the poor fellow was effectually drenched, when, still indignant, they waded to the shore to their friends, who were there enjoying the scene.
The foregoing includes all the forts built as a defense against the Indians prior to 1783, I find in my jurisdiction, and they are fifteen in number.