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DISCOVERING THE FUTURE BY REVEALING THE PAST

FORT DISCOVERED: From French and Indian War

Northampton, County, Pennsylvania

During the 19th century, a commission was formed and sent into Northeastern Pennsylvania to locate the old forts from the French and Indian War (1755-1763). Military records show the names, Adam Dietz, George Dietz, and Simon Heller, as providing garrisons to General  Benjamin Franklin and his Philadelphia Militia in Plainfield Township, Northampton County, in Northeastern Pennsylvania. On their arrival in Plainfield, the commission stopped in the town of Wind Gap, located at the foot of the Kittatinny mountain ridge (known in early times as the Blue Mountain) near the Delaware River and Pocono Mountains. 



There the commission began interviewing the residents as to the location of the military garrisons. Following those interviews, it was concluded that one of the garrisons had actually been a blockhouse that was built following an Indian raid upon a family there by the name of Keller. The Commission also concluded that before the blockhouse was removed, it had stood a couple of miles east of the Wind Gap, near the Heitzman and Florey residences and across from Miller’s Rail Road Station. On a 19th-century survey map it shows the area where Heitzman and Florey resided and the Miller’s Station. That location has since been excavated and nothing of any significance was found. But on this same survey map the names Heitzman and Florey are shown also residing in an area just south of the Miller Rail Road Station near Miller Hill Road, and across from where the Rail Road runs along the Bushkill Creek.


From the commission's report in locating the forts from the F&I War in the Northampton, County area, they concluded that a blockhouse existed in the area of the Heitzman and Florey residences near the Miller rail road. The Heitzman and Florey names appear multiple times in the area with the Dietz Fort (blockhouse) plotted at Miller Hill Rd.  



Found beneath clapboard siding and lathe and plaster, a log meeting house was discovered that was first located just a few miles southeast of the Wind Gap near Miller Road and across from where the Rail Road ran along the Bushkill Creek. The documented history of the old log meeting house that was also used as a church, a tavern, a military post, and a schoolhouse, was also discovered. Described here within, this discovery begins in the mid-18th century and what is known as the Great Awakening. It took place in an area known as "Above the forks of the Delaware River, on the Local Road leading from Easton to the Minisinks, near a place called the Wind Gap in the Blue Mountain".

A 21st CENTURY GREAT AWAKENING

The lone rider crossed from New York, over Hudson’s River, and into New Jersey, having received orders to go to the Indians near the Delaware River in Pennsylvania. Within his diary, the rider records, “and so traveled across the woods, rode several hours in the rain through the howling wilderness. From the Hudson to the Delaware, about a hundred miles, through a desolate and hideous country, above New Jersey, where were very few settlements.” This lone rider was sent there by the Presbytery simply to preach the gospel to the Indians. He would live there for the next three years among the scattered Indian, Scotch Irish, and Dutch German families at a place known as “Above the Forks of the Delaware River.” The lone rider was the sainted missionary Reverend David Brainerd and he lived only 29 years. His written diary records his sacrifices and friendships and the spoken words of discovery that helped to transform the Christian religion in 18th century America.

NORTHEASTERN PENNSYLVANIA, ABOVE THE FORKS OF THE DELAWARE RIVER

It has been researched in the past as to just where Reverend Brainerd entered into the forks of the Delaware. Some have located his arrival there as being on the west bank of the Delaware River, in the area across from where today is Belvidere, N.J. Others have located him as entering at the town of Easton, PA, along the Delaware River. Within Brainerd’s diary, he states that upon his arrival (in Pennsylvania) on May 9, 1744, he met with the Indians in the Minisink Hills. From period published records, they show that in 1741, Azariah Horton, a friend of David Brainerd and both being Presbyterian Missionaries, arrived in the Minisinks, using the Old Mine Road (now River Road). On 18th century maps, they show the Old Mine Road crossing the Delaware River from New Jersey, about 3 miles above Depew Island where the Walpack Ferry existed in the Delaware River during that time. The maps show the road then follows the river southwest through the Minisink Hills and into the Delaware Water Gap area. From there, and after crossing several creeks, the road (now Cherry Valley Road) then continues southwest along the base of the north side of the Blue Mountain (the Kittatinny mountain ridge) and ending at the Wyoming Trail at the mouth of the Wind Gap. Following Brainerd’s departure from the Minisinks on May 13th, he then writes that “I arrived at a place, called by the Indians Sakhauwotung, within the Forks of the Delaware.” Sakhauwotung in the Indian language means the mouth of a creek where someone resides. Brainerd writes upon his arrival there, that he is “12 miles above Easton.” Being 12 miles above the town of Easton, at the mouth of a creek, would locate the reverend at the Wind Gap, where the Old Mine Road intersects with the Wyoming Trail and where the Bushkill Creek runs on the south side of the gap and Smithfield Creek streams along the north side of the gap. Within geological reports, it is stated that the Delaware River once flowed through the Wind Gap, before the great ice sheets from the north receded and the river once again flowed at its current location through the Delaware Water Gap.


Brainerd writes that at Sakhauwotung, he is “within the Forks of the Delaware,” meaning he has passed through the gap in the mountain and is now on its south side where he was ordered to report, and where the town of Wind Gap is located today. He also states upon his arrival there, that there is “a settlement of Irish and Dutch people.” Mount Bethel/Bucks County records show that in 1746, Robert Lyle, Esq., first laid out Mount Bethel’s original boundary lines. The records state that the boundary line is to follow the north branch of the Bushkill Creek and upon the west side of the property of Jeremiah Best and to the Blue Mountain. A 1736 land survey shows that Best owned land that was about a mile southeast of the Wind Gap and was located between the east and west branches of the Bushkill Creek. Other names shown on land surveys and located within the Wind Gap area at that time were: Best, Dietz, Mumbauer, Doll, Decker, and Keller. Many of these names being both Irish and Dutch German as the Reverend Brainerd had described there being there. Upon his arrival at the Wind Gap, the reverend states in his journal that he preached there to about 20-25 Indians and that an Indian king allowed him to use his house at will for this purpose. The main road through the Wind Gap at that time was known as the Wyoming Path (later the King's Highway, and today Sullivan's Trail). Upon the Indian migration from the area into the Wyoming Valley, following the Walking Purchase of 1737, no doubt that some Indians had temporally settled there or had not yet left the area. Brainerd writes that from the king’s house he discoursed to the Indians and the settlers at the Wind Gap through the summer of 1744.


Within Brainerd’s diary, it states that by December of 1744, he had built himself a house (about 10 miles southeast of the Wind Gap at the Town of Martin’s Creek) and from his house, he travels 3 miles from there to preach to the Irish, Dutch and the Indians. In July of 1745, the reverend writes that from his house he’s “upon the road” and that he “preached to the white people” and “to the Indians 3 miles away.” Being upon a road and three miles from his house would put him in the area of Kesslerville and Youngs Hill Roads as they are known today. There were many Indian paths that crisscrossed that area at that time, and upon 18th-century maps of the area, only 2 are shown as being roads for horse and wagon travel. Upon a 1749 map of the area, it shows the main road (Wyoming Path) leading north from the town of Bethlehem to the town of Nazareth, and north through the Wind Gap. The other road it shows as being a local road that leads from the town of Easton, then north along Kesslerville Road, until intersecting with the Wyoming Path at the Wind Gap via the current Alpha Road.


Being a missionary, David Brainerd preached from the open air of the wilderness during his stay there. But in October of 1745, he writes “went to the place of public worship.” In September of 1746, upon his return home to the Forks of the Delaware from his travels to Susquehanna, he writes “arrived among my own people, just at night found them praying together: went in.” In September 1738, The Forks of the Delaware asked New Jersey Presbytery to supply Pastors. The Reverend Gilbert Tennent was directed to go there and preach at the Hunters Settlement. The Scotch Irish settlement at Hunters arrived in the Mount Bethel area in 1730. On mid-18th century land surveys, they show the Scotch Irish settlers living in the area from Kesslerville Road and east towards the Delaware River at the town of Martin's Creek. Also living in the area at that time were the Dutch-German settlers. The Dutch-German settlers began migrating into the Mount Bethel area in 1737 and are shown on land surveys as also living along the Kesslerville Road area and north to the Wind Gap. Reverend Brainerd writes in his journal that during his trips to Susquehanna, he was accompanied by Reverend Beatty. Beatty was pastor to Hunter’s Settlement during Reverend Brainerd’s time there. The building that David Brainerd went into, in September 1746, is where he preached to the Indians and the settlers. It is also where the Reverend Beatty preached from during Brainerd’s time there and where the Reverend Tennent preached from beginning in 1738. Some of the names located over the Kesslerville Road area during that time were: Chief Justice William Allen, David Allen, Chief Moses Tatamy, Robert Mathewson, Robert Campbell, Joseph Martin, and Robert Lyle. Those names are all shown as being subscribers to Jonathan Edward’s 1749 publishing of David Brainerd’s diary and journal. 

According to land surveys, Chief Justice William Allen owned 5000 acres of land that stretched from the Wind Gap to Kesslerville Road, to Martin's Creek. The Scotch-Irish first built the log meeting house upon land donated by Chief Justice Allen. The log building was probably built in 1737-38, following the Walking Purchase of 1737 thence N.J. Presbytery began sending pastors into the area in 1738. By 1747, a new church building is reported to have been built for the Presbyterians and located near the spot where David Brainerd writes within his diary that he “preached in the wilderness on the sunny side of a hill,” that being at Three Church Hill in Martins Creek where the reverend built his house. Mount Bethel land records show that the new church there was built on land also belonging to Chief Justice Allen. Also in 1747, appeared the first records for the Plainfield Lutheran and German Reformed Congregations. Traditionally those two congregations worshipped within the same church building and with a new place of worship for the Presbyterians at Martins Creek, the Lutheran and German Reformed Congregations then continued worshipping within what became the first Plainfield Church building; it being located on Kesslerville and Youngs Hill Roads and where the sainted missionary, the Reverend David Brainerd preached outside of to the settlers and to the Indians.


Adam Dietz, a founder of the Plainfield Church, is found on land surveys, along with the religious group The United Brethren, as migrating north through Northeastern Pennsylvania beginning in 1739. A 1779 land survey shows a tract of land that borders Kesslerville Road as being owned by The United Brethren. Exactly when the brethren claimed that tract from Chief Justice William Allen, is unclear but probably in 1747 following the building of the new Presbyterian Church at Martin's Creek. The first record for the Plainfield Church appeared in 1747. The record states that Adam Dietz is also to procure a tract of land for both the Lutheran and German Reformed congregations. In 1750, a land warrant was claimed by Adam for 26 acres and was put “in Trust for the Calvinist Congregation,” (Calvinist, also called the Reformed Christianity). The warrant states that the 26 acres were located near the land of George Berringer. A 1745 land warrant and survey show that George Berringer’s land was situated slightly southwest of where the Plainfield Church Cemetery is located at about a mile south of the Wind Gap at Delabole and Church Roads. The 26 acres were then used by the Lutheran and Reformed Congregations for cemetery purposes. 


Summary: By 1747, the Plainfield Church, Lutheran, and Lutheran Reformed congregations had secured their own building for worship. The log church building was located on Kesslerville Road.  By 1750, the two congregations had claimed a land warrant for 26 acres that were used for cemetery purposes. The cemetery is located about a mile south of the Wind Gap.


As the United Brethren spread Christianity through the northeast of the providence, taverns were a sure source of income. Adam Dietz was granted a tavern license in 1752, and upon a December 1756 tavern license renewal for Adam, it states that the tavern is “upon the local road leading from Easton to the Minnisinks near a place called the Wind Gap where formally Petitoner and Jno (John) his Son have kept a Public House.” On August 3, 1750, Conrad Weiser and his son-in-law, the Reverend Henry Mullenberg, upon their travels to the Minisinks, reported within their journal that they were 5 miles above the town of Nazareth where they stayed the night at a tavern. Five miles above Nazareth locates Weiser and the reverend on Kesslerville Road at LeFevre Rd. and Youngs Hill Rd.. From that record, it is evident that a meeting house existed in the area of that intersection. The meeting house, also being used as a tavern during the Reverend Brainerd’s time in the area, would explain the reverends journal entries that when discoursing to the settlers and the Indians, 3 miles from his house, that some were belligerent towards him and he would preach to those that “seemed to be sober.” During the 18th century, meeting houses were the “downtown” of a settlement. The buildings usually stood 1 and ½ stories tall and were about 25 feet in length and built of stones or logs. A meeting house accommodated a settlement for multiple purposes such as a place for worship, a school, a hotel, etc.   

FRENCH AND INDIAN WAR, PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP, NORTHAMPTON COUNTY

November 7, 1755, the morning was clear with not a breath of air when several hard shocks of an earthquake slam the doors of the Dietz Tavern! The French and Indian war had been heating up across the globe and with the defeat of General Braddock’s forces at Fort Duquesne (pronounced Fort Du-cane), it had now arrived in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Ten days later the French and Indians were within the borders of Northampton County, as a dozen Indian warriors in black war paint, carrying muskets and tomahawks, attacked and burned the village of New Gnadenhutten located near the Lehigh Water Gap. Following that deadly attack, the village was then secured by Captain William Hays and his company, when Indians attacked there again and ambushed Hay’s company. His decimated company retreated to a nearby outpost the captain reporting of the survivors to Governor Morris that “We are at a small garrison, about eleven miles from Bethlehem.” Being located about eleven miles from the town of Bethlehem would put Hay’s men at Kesslerville and Youngs Hill Roads. On 18th century maps, they show there being 2 Bethlehems. They were Deshlers Bethlehem Lehigh, where the town is located today, and Bethlehem, which was located midway between Deshlers and the town of Easton. Two weeks later the Indians attacked the Peter Doll and Nicholas Heil farms located about 10 miles south of the Wind Gap. Governor Morris then commissions General Benjamin Franklin to take charge of the construction of a line of forts along the base of the Blue Mountain. By February 1756, the general writes of his progress, reporting also that “Ensign Sterling and 11 men at Dietz house at the Wind Gap.”

Military records show that from December 1755 until October 1758, there are different buildings described as being a military station called Dietz. When referring to the Dietz Post at the mouth of the Wind Gap, the records are worded that it is AT the Wind Gap. When referring to the Dietz Post located a further distance from the Wind Gap, the post is noted as being NEAR the Wind Gap. The Dietz Post near the Wind Gap (the log meeting house at the Kesslerville Rd. intersection), was immediately used as a garrison following the attack upon Captain Hay’s company. English law was written at that time that taverns could be used for that purpose. Following the attack at New Gnadenhutten in November of 1755, the Assembly in Philadelphia agreed that a private residence may also be used for a military garrison, and upon General Franklin’s return to the area in February 1756, he then stations Ensign Sterling and 11 men in the Dietz home residence, being the Dietz Farmhouse, AT the Wind Gap. 

In 1745, Adam Dietz and his family made their home at the Wind Gap. In 1753, his wife Anna Catherine passed away, her stone is the oldest in the Plainfield Cemetery. Adam may have left the area at that time, or thereafter and moved across the river where he later passed away there. The Dietz house at the Wind Gap is where Adam's son George is listed in the military records as providing supplies and housing General Franklin's Philadelphia Militia as well as their officers at the Dietz house at the Wind Gap.   

By 1757, Northampton County was the scene of attacks by small bands of Indians rather than of large-scale warfare. And because this was so the soldiers at both Dietz Posts were evacuated. On September 14 of that same year, Indians attacked and took captive a family of settlers in the area by the name of Keller. Following the fatal attack, on September 27th, the governor sends orders to Lieutenant Colonel Conrad Weiser that, “the men now on duty in the other Garrisons remain at their respective posts, except those at Fort Norris and Hamilton, which I would have stationed at Adam Deedt’s Stoccadoes near the Wind Gap.” Military records show that prior to the Keller attack, both of the Dietz Posts held about a dozen soldiers each. Shortly after the attack records show that a blockhouse then existed in the area of the Dietz Post on Kesslerville Rd. Colonel Weiser refers to the area as the "Adam Deedt's Stoccadoes." Ensign Jacob Kern reported: “I arrived at Dietz blockhouse Let. James Handshaw Commanded I muster 29 men at the block House they have 100 weight powder 200lb lead and 4 Months provistion Company is in Good order.” As per the governor’s orders, the forts on the north side of the mountain were evacuated and sent to the Dietz Fort near the Wind Gap. Evacuated from Fort Hamilton, Lieutenant James Hyndshaw and his men are also stationed there and the Lieutenant complains of this and reports, “Sent Ensign Hughes with 12 Men from Dietz to Dupui’s here being no conveniency for so many Men myself and Men almost continually Sick by reason of the Stoves and the House not stockaided round.” Taverns were heated with stoves during the 18th century and thus a church and or schoolhouse were either built near or held within a tavern for their heat source. Taverns were also built over or near a water source, which would explain Colonel Burd’s inspection report from the Dietz Post that the “house is built in a swamp.” From 18th-century survey maps of Northampton County, they show branches of both the Mud Run and Bushkill creek surrounding the Kesslerville Road area. 

According to the report by Ensign Jacob Kern, a blockhouse existed along with the Dietz Post. The blockhouse and the Dietz Post were together referred to as the Dietz Fort. Published within the Joint Planning Commission Lehigh-Northampton Counties, for the Historic Structures and Sites, it shows a survey map of Old Northampton County that is dated 1763. The map locates the name "Dietz Fort" in the areas of Miller Hill Rd. and Mud Run Rd and along the East, Plainfield Boundry line. From the commission's report in locating the forts from the F&I War in Northampton, County, they concluded that a blockhouse existed in the area of the Heitzman and Florey residences. Upon a survey map of names, made in 1860, the Heitzman and Florey names appear multiple times in the areas of Miller Hill Rd. and the Kesslerville Rd. intersection.  Within Colonel Burd’s inspection report of the Dietz Fort, it also states that he “arrived in Nazareth at 1 P:M set off again at 2 P:M arrived at Dietz’s at 3 P:M 6 miles here.” Six miles from the town of Nazareth locates the colonel at Miller Hill Rd. and Mudd Run Rd., then between Kesslerville Rd. and the East, Plainfield Twp. Boundry line. Nowhere in Colonel Burd’s records was it found that he inspected single outposts - only Forts. The blockhouse and the tavern together were then referred to as the Dietz Fort and also the Dietz Stocadoes.

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On September 17, 1745, Adam Dietz appears on a land deed as purchasing 151 acres in what is today downtown Wind Gap. Those 151 acres included the Dietz residence, where Adam and his family settled and during the War was known as the Dietz Post at the Wind Gap. That same land deed also shows that on February 1, 1763, a man named Simon Heller purchased those same 151 acres. Simon, a founder of Hellertown in Lower Saucon, then moved his family to the Wind Gap upon his purchase of that land. The sale also included the meeting house as military records explain, “Calvary at Heller’s late Dietz near the Wind Gap.” The records show that in October 1763, during Pontiacs Rebellion, a company of cavalry was ordered by the Governor, “to Heller’s late Dietz Gap”; and again in June of 1764, “Captain Rinker with 13 men was posted at Simon Heller’s near Wind Gap.” Simon’s ownership of the meeting house is also when the first recorded regular pastor for the Plainfield Church begins. Records for the Plainfield School House, also known as the Parochial School House, (Parochial – of a church parish) begin during this time as well, as shown in 1766, when the Reverend Henop reports “32 pupils attending school” there. Church records show that in 1770, a new log church was built for the Plainfield Lutheran and Reformed Congregations. The meeting house then continued for school purposes as church records show paid receipts for the years 1783 – 1788 “for work done on the schoolhouse.”


Robert Lyle Esq., who laid out the original Mount Bethel boundary lines and also appears along with Adam Dietz within Mount Bethel History records as being two of its earliest settlers, Esq. Lyle claimed a land warrant in 1751 for 50 acres that also included the meeting house in the Kesslerville and Youngs Hill Roads area. It is stated on a Deed in Trust that is attached to the meeting house, that on May 20, 1784, Philip Correl, purchased those 50 acres from the Estate of Robert Lyle Esq. It is also written within the same Deed that in “September of 1793, Philip Correl, is selling to the Plainfield Lutheran and Reformed congregation, one acre of land, being a part of the above 50 acres, for the only proper use of a School House as well for the Lutherans and for the Reformed religion people for ever.” The Deed then locates the one-acre as being bounded by the lands of “Philip Corell, Jacob Uhler, Philip Corell’s other land, and Bernhard Sickman,” all of whom are shown on land survey’s as residing in the Kesslerville, Youngs Hill Roads area in 1793.   

From translated Plainfield Church records it is recorded that in 1805 a new church building was erected by the Lutheran and Reformed Congregations. During the 20th century, those early church records were translated from German to English by William J. Hinke and A.S. Lieby. Within A.S. Lieby’s published History of Plainfield Lutheran Church 1805-1955, it is written that “William Hinke’s translated church records, volume 2, pg. 249, inform us that the church in 1805 was “renovated”, - not a new church.” The book then goes on to explain that “As the congregations grew they resolved to enlarge and renovate the log church. This program was begun in 1800. William Hinke errs in making the statement that this renovation was begun in 1805.” Plainfield Church history locates the 1770 log church upon the 26 acres secured for cemetery purposes in 1750, at Delabole and Church Roads. Between 1800 and 1805, the 1770 log church was renovated. During that time is also when the first church (now being used as only a schoolhouse) was then moved from Kesslerville Road to Delabole and Church Roads and the church, the schoolhouse, and the cemetery were all located on the same 26-acre property. Church records then show that on December 26, 1805, the architects/builders of the renovation, Frederick Hahn and Abraham Heller, submitted their financial statements of the renovation to the church elders and deacons. 


By 1832, a cornerstone was laid by the congregations for a new church building. In that same year, records show that upon completion of a new red brick church, the renovated 1770 log church was then sold and removed from the church property. The red brick church, the cemetery, the log meeting house used as a tavern, a church, a military post, and a schoolhouse were then all together at Delabole and Church Roads just a mile south of the Wind Gap.


The St. Peters Evangelical Lutheran Church at Plainfield (the Plainfield Church) is located at Delabole and Church Roads, in Plainfield Township, Northampton, County. This current church building was carved from granite stone in 1916 when it replaced the 1832 red brick church. Located next to the current 1916 church today, sits a 22 ½ ft. x 25 ½ ft., 1 ½ story log meeting house that records and photographs confirm as being the old Parochial School House. Beneath the lathe and plaster and the clapboard siding of this meeting house, sits 1 ½ story of hand-hewn logs. Until recently, that old tavern, church, military post, and schoolhouse, held nine, mid-eighteenth century window frames, each with 15 panes of handmade glass that would bloom with pastels of the sunlight upon its occupants.