Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Fort Norris

Fort Norris
Pennsylvania Historical Marker
East of Kresgeville,

When it comes to the history of our state, the span of years from 1740 to 1760 has become a favorite period of mine. The early growth of the state and the result of the settler’s push into the wilds has become a fascination as I’m discovering that the violence on the frontier was not just from the natives, but also from the settlers.

A recent journey brought me back to a granite marker that sits on the southern side of Route 209, just east of Kresgeville. The memorial that was erected by the Monroe County Historical Society can easily be missed as it is hidden under a small cluster of trees, but closer to the road is one of the familiar blue historical markers placed by the state

The two memorials are for Fort Norris, which was erected just south of here.

The history of Fort Norris is an important piece of the westward expansion within the state, but a piece of history that has often been overlooked. Fort Norris was one of four provincial forts built in what was then a part of Northampton County under the direction of James Hamilton and Benjamin Franklin. Franklin himself had arrived here and selected the location where the fort was to be erected. 

The fort was named in honor of Isaac Norris, who was the Speaker of the Assembly and a Provincial Commissioner. Norris’ legacy lives on to this very day, though many do not realize his contribution to the state’s history. In 1751, Norris commissioned a bell to be made for the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Pennsylvania Charter. This bell still exists in Philadelphia and is visited by thousands daily, known to most as The Liberty Bell.

The four "official" forts were built along the northern side of the Blue Mountain, spread out from present-day Stroudsburg to Snyders. These four forts were Fort Hamilton (Stroudsburg), Fort Norris (Kresgeville), Fort Allen (Weissport), and Fort Franklin (Snyders).

Fort Norris was finished in the February of 1756 and would be abandoned a little over a year later. It was built at a mid-point between the two existing forts of Fort Hamilton and Fort Allen. It was erected in the midst of a clearing that allowed those stationed within the fort to have the ability to see a distance around them.

But the location of the fort had a deeper meaning to settlers – it was built along Pohopoco Creek at the spot where Frederick Hoeth had settled. Hoeth (also spelled Hoethe and Hueth in some reports), along with his wife and a number of their children, were the victims of an Indian raid on December 10, 1755. The account of the massacre was reported by Michael Hute, who managed to escape the attackers.

Frederick was killed immediately in the attack and the survivors were stuck in the house and it (along with the other buildings on the property) were soon set afire.  Mrs. Hoeth has fled to the bake house and remained inside until she could stand the heat no longer – she managed to escape the blaze and jumped into the creek, but died of her burns. Three of the children perished in the fire, one was killed and scalped as she tried to escape and three were carried into captivity. There is mention of another woman who was wounded in the first volley of shots that felled Frederick Hoeth, but none of them are clear as to her fate.

Michael reported that one Indian was killed and one was wounded.

Fort Norris monument
Erected by Monroe County
Historical Society
Of the three taken into captivity, Marianna (also referred to as Maria) would eventually return to civilization. She would return to Bethlehem, bringing with her the son she had to her captor. Her son, who would be christened Frederick in honor of her father, died shortly after his baptism. Marianna would pass at the tender age of thirty-five. Another of the sisters would marry a Frenchman while the third disappeared into history.

I could not find a total number of those killed in the attack. Sources vary as low as four, while other have upwards of eight. George Heiss, who survived the massacre, returned the following day to search for victims and survivors. He reported that they discovered an unidentified man who had been killed and scalped.

Fort Norris was built upon the spot of this tragedy. -The fort was originally commanded by Captain Jacob Orndt. Though they had encounters with Indians, the biggest problem Captain Orndt had to deal with was mutiny. In August of 1756, a detachment of men serving under Lieutenant Miller were stationed at Trucker's Mill (sometimes referred to as Druker's Mill; it was located at present-day Slatington) mutinied. When Miller was supposed to turn over his post to another, he refused, threatening to kill anyone who tried to take him. On August 15, Captain Wetterholt arrived at Trucker's Mill and subdued Lieutenant Miller and turned him over to Captain Orndt so Lieutenant Miller could see how a real soldier acted.

On August 26, a minor mutiny occurred at Fort Norris when a sentry refused to do his job; his refusal was supported by a number of his fellow soldiers. The basis for their uprising was a lack of pay and food.

The fort would see a number of exchanges in leadership, but after the Easton Conference in the summer of 1757, the fate of Fort Norris was sealed. It, like a number of forts across the state, would be abandoned. On September 27, 1757, Governor Denny gave the order to evacuate the fort.

The fort fell into decay and in 1787, when surveys were being done in the region, no trace of the fort could be found – time had erased an remains of the fort.

The memorials for Fort Norris stand along Route 209 just east of Kresgeville on the south side of the road.

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