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Fort McIntosh

Beaver, Pennsylvania


General Lachlan McIntosh

Fort McIntosh was built during the American Revolution, in the autumn of 1778. It was occupied for about ten years. No major battles were fought here, but the fort earned its place in history both as an arm of strength and as a bulwark of peace. After the war was won, it became the first home of the peacetime army of the United States, and was the site of a landmark treaty with the Indians.

The fort was built by General Lachlan McIntosh, then commander of the Western Department, under General Washington. He intended that it would be not only his headquarters, but the first in a chain of forts extending across the Ohio Territory as far as Detroit, where the British had a strong garrison. Its purpose was to protect the western frontier from possible attacks by the British and from the continual raids of their Indian allies.

Fort McIntosh was exceptionally large and well-built for a frontier fort, and at one point accommodated at least 1500 men. It was the first fort built north of the Ohio River, then considered to be the perpetual boundary between the colonies and the Indian territory. Its brief but colorful history ended in late 1788, by which time the frontiers were pushing farther west, and its mission had been fulfilled. Restoration of the remaining original stone foundations was completed in 1978, exactly 200 years after the fort was built.


First US Army Peacetime Garrison

When the Revolution finally ended in 1783, the Continental Army and the militia were rapidly disbanded. But there was a heated debate in Congress about the need to have a standing peacetime army. The western frontier was still being contested, settlers required protection and boundaries had to be enforced. Finally, on June 3rd, 1784, Congress passed a resolution to establish "a body of (700) troops e... assembled into one regiment". The new regiment was formed largely from the remnants of state militias, and except for a handful of supply guards at Fort Pitt and West Point, it constituted the entire United States Army at this time. Since Pennsylvania supplied the largest number of troops, it was allowed to select the commanding officer, who was Col. Josiah Harmar. The organization of the regiment took several months, but on September 4th, Harmar proclaimed his group "The first American Regiment". By late October most of the individual companies had arrived and were about to assemble at Fort McIntosh. On December 5th, they marched for Fort McIntosh to take up their first permanent quarters. The first American Regiment remained at the fort for the next year, and thereby established this as the first peacetime post of the US Army. The modern Third Infantry Regiment - "The Old Guard" - is now the Presidential Honor Guard. in recognition of the fact that they are the oldest US Army unit, direct descendants of the regiment that had Fort McIntosh as its first duty post in 1784-85.


The Treaty of Fort McIntosh

Before 1785, the Ohio River had been the recognized boundary between the United States and the Indian territory. Part of the duty of the troops at Fort McIntosh was to keep the marauding Indians under control, and also to keep would-be settlers from encroaching in dangerous enemy territory. It finally became evident that a new treaty would have to be drawn with the Indians so that this rich land could be legally and safely developed. The chiefs of the Delaware, Wyandot, Ottawa and Chippewa nations, along with 400 of their warriors, came here in January of 1785 to meet with the treaty commissioners, George Rogers Clark, Richard Butler and Arthur Lee. The terms were imposed rather than negotiated, and required the return of all captives and the surrender of all claims to the greater part of the Ohio Territory , including the Western Reserve area. As a direct result of the treaty, the way was cleared for Congress to enact the Land Ordinance of 1785. This became the pattern for ultimately opening all the western territories to boundary surveys and orderly settlement, and marked the real beginning of the westward migration that continued for the next hundred years.

The Site Restoration

In 1893, Judge Daniel Agnew of beaver published a booklet entitled "Fort McIntosh And its Times". His purpose was to try to kindle interest in restoring and preserving what remained of Fort McIntosh at that time. But it was not until 1974 that a group of volunteers, under the sponsorship of the Beaver Heritage Foundation, actually went to work to accomplish this task. The exact shape and dimensions of the fort were unknown, and even the location of the remains were nowhere evident. The team of archaeologists laid out the area in a series of test squares and began digging in a strait line. Eventually, they encountered the first row of stone footers marking one of the outer walls of the fort. Following this pattern, they gradually unearthed several more sections of stone footers for walls and fireplaces. The digging continued for four years and eventually turned up not only the stone foundations but more than 80,000 identifiable artifacts and fragments of archaeological significance. The project was distinguished by the fact that about 85% of the estimated $150,000 value of the work was done by volunteers or paid for by voluntary contributions. The completed restoration was dedicated by General William Westmoreland on October 7th, 1978 -- the 200th anniversary of the original building of the fort.

The Beaver Area Heritage Foundation

In the late 1960's a Beaver citizen and restaurant owner named Harry Phillips, who had come to this country from his native Greece many years earlier, took the initiative in forming the Beaver Area Heritage Foundation. The late Mr. Phillips, who did not share the complacency of his fellow townsmen, saw much in Beaver's history that was worth recording and preserving. His visions are finally being fulfilled. In the past twenty years, the Foundation has published many books and pamphlets on Beaver history, has organized tours to historic points in a wide area, has sponsored the restoration of the Fort McIntosh site, and has created a historical museum in the Beaver Memorial Library. The organization has grown steadily to more than 500 members, and publishes its own award winning house organ, FOUNDATIONS. A 25 man re-enactment troop, known as the First Company-Fort McIntosh Garrison, has been formed to bring history to life for area citizens. Membership in the Foundation is open to all interested persons for a nominal membership fee.



P.O. Box 147, Beaver, Pennsylvania 15009