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Remembering a long-ago war

May 25, 2003|by RICHARD BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

WELSH RUN, Pa. - The French and Indian War erupted across the frontier 250 years ago next year. It was 22 years before the land it was fought on became the United States of America.

That frontier today is part of the Cumberland and Shenandoah valleys, including the Tri-State area and beyond.

A group of historians hope to commemorate the war fought by the British and their American colonists against the French and their Indian allies.

It is also called the Seven Years War, although it lasted nine years, and the First World War, said Jim Smith, a member of the Conococheague Institute and local chairman of a group planning a 250th anniversary commemoration of the war's start.

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Smith and Calvin Bricker Jr., a Welsh Run area resident and historian who lectures on the colonial period, are among the local organizers of the remembrance event.

The area that is now Franklin County, Pa., and Washington County, Md., played a major role in the war, Bricker said.

The institute is joining with the Frontier Forts Association, which represents a network of sites, monuments and educational programs in Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia and Virginia, in the commemoration effort, Smith said.

For its part, the Conococheague Institute is developing an extensive exhibit on frontier forts in the area, particularly Fort Philip Davis, a private fort that stood near the Welsh Run area to protect settlers from Indian attacks during the war.

Smith said the hope is to have a model replica of the fort on display at the institute's headquarters and colonial library at Rock Hill Farm at 12995 Bain Road in Welsh Run for the commemoration.

Dozens of forts, private and military, dotted the frontier area, "about one every 5 or 10 miles," as the war ravaged the area, Bricker said.

Chief among them were the British garrison forts at Fort Loudon, Pa., and Fort Frederick in Washington County, which holds regular re-enactments and living history exhibits. A French and Indian War re-enactment is being held this weekend at Fort Frederick.

Smith said there will be 15 historic sites and exhibits available for the commemoration next year. The institute is preparing maps, photos, artwork, original artifacts, scale model and narratives on the war, Smith said.

"The major portion of the exhibit will be set up as a series of permanent outdoor displays on the Institute's property on Bain Road," he said.

The Institute has budgeted $34,500 for the project. Some of its features are expected to be permanent, such as the historic markers.

"We're also planning an encampment for next year," Smith said.

The goal is to establish a route visitors can follow to learn about the war and some of its individual incidents such as the massacre by Indians of the Studebaker family in Welsh Run in March 1756 and the Renfrew family in Waynesboro, Pa., and the Enoch Brown School massacre in which Indians killed 10 students and their teacher in July 1764, Bricker said.

The Conococheague Institute was formed in 1994 to serve as a steward of the cultural and natural history of the West Conococheague and Welsh Run region. The institute has conducted archaeological and historic research on its property, established a genealogy and research library of more than 3,000 volumes on colonial history, preserved and restored an early 1800s German log house, developed an interpretive nature trail and reconstructed a post log building to be used as a visitor center.

To learn more about the French and Indian War commemorative project, log onto to Web site www.frontierforts.org.

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