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Weekend celebration marks Fort Loudoun anniversary

June 17, 2006|by RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Correspondent

FORT LOUDON, Pa. - This weekend marks what could be the biggest celebration ever for Fort Loudon in western Franklin County - an event that took a year and a half to plan.

The event will mark the 250th anniversary of Fort Loudoun, the mid-18th century fort that saw the first fighting between Americans and the British in what was at the time the American frontier. The town dropped the second "u" when it took its name from the fort.

Fort Loudoun, which was built in 1756, was one of a chain of forts built by the British along the Blue Ridge Mountains from the Delaware River to the Mason-Dixon Line, according to the Fort Loudon Historical Society's Web site.

The string of forts was ordered built by the Pennsylvania General Assembly to protect French-supported Indians who terrorized the frontier with raids. Settlers gathered at the forts during raids for protection, said Anna Rotz, historical society president.

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Incidents in the Fort Loudon area prompted the emergence of a local frontiersman named Jim Smith, who assembled a regiment of 300 rangers, or "Black Boys" as they were called at the time because they disguised themselves as Indians with native garb and painted faces, Rotz said.

The rangers organized to stop the sale of arms and liquor to Indians by unscrupulous merchants. The British, in control of the colonies, did little to control the activity.

On Nov. 17, 1765, Smith and his raiders marched to the fort and fired on it until the British were forced to move out, Rotz said.

Rotz said the incident was the first armed clash between the Americans and the British.

"It was the earliest cradle of American liberty," Rotz said.

The State of Pennsylvania, which owns the fort, leased it to Peters Township, Pa., in 2000 for 99 years, Rotz said.

The historical society manages the fort, its 207 acres and the late 18th-century Patton House Museum on the grounds.

Officially dubbed the 250th Anniversary of British Fort Loudoun, the festival began Friday night with the unveiling of a painting by Fulton County artist Brian Tucker of the taking of the fort by Smith and his rangers.

The painting, commissioned for $3,500, will hang over the mantel in the Patton House. The historical society is selling prints for $75, Rotz said.

Today's festivities begin at 10 a.m. with demonstrations by 18th-century reenactors, and talks on musical instruments of the period, log-building construction, feeding the frontier army, Smith and his rangers, and causes of the French and Indian War, among other topics. The United States Navy Cruisers will perform at 7 p.m.

On June 24 at 5 p.m., the 1939 Hollywood movie "Allegheny Uprising," about Smith and his antics and starring Claire Trevor and John Wayne, will air.




For more information on Fort Loudoun, go to www.fortloud oun-pa.com.

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