The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


July 6, 2014

The fort of last resort

Re-enactors portray soldiers and settlers at celebration

SUNBURY — The French and Indian War is raging, and Fort Augusta is needed to protect the Valley from invasion, Pennsylvania leaders told a crowd of more than 100 on Saturday morning.

Wait ... that little fort on North Front Street is going to protect Sunbury from war? No, the model at the Northumberland County Historical Society is one-sixth the size of what was the largest fort Pennsylvania’s colonial government built during that war.

And it was the centerpiece of Fort Augusta Day, a whole roster of events to commemorate the start of the real fort’s construction 258 years ago.

Those “Pennsylvania leaders” really were re-enactors portraying some of the key decision-makers at the time, when the need for the fortified place appeared dire. They took part in “Frontier Voices, the Story of Fort Augusta,” a historical pageant written specifically for the event.

It could not have been a more beautiful day for Gov. Robert Morris, played by Murray Strauser, to speak of the situation, one of several re-enactors to give a historical perspective to the event.

They did so under the watchful eye of the Augusta Regiment, actors playing the 18th century soldiers who built and manned the post. They paraded around the grounds while visitors soaked in the local history under a beautiful and unusually cool July day.

About 500 people were expected to cycle through the grounds of the Northumberland County Historical Society for the day-long celebration, President Scott Heintzelman said. This is the first commemoration with the scale model of the fort in place. It was dedicated in November.

The fort itself was 204 square feet and built on the grounds around the Hunter House. It was used as an outpost during the French and Indian War and the Revolutionary War in the days when the Susquehanna Valley was on the frontier.

Visitors on Saturday seemed taken by the details of this miniature version. Eric Strausser, of Shamokin, thought it was impressive, and his friend Luke Miller, of Northumberland, remarked on the work that went into it.

Visitors also filtered in and out of the society’s North Front Street building, observing local artifacts and learning the region’s history. Sisters Caroline York, 7, and Sydney York, 9, of Lemoyne, were at the museum with their grandmother, Bonnie Miller, of Sunbury.

“It’s pretty cool,” Sydney said of the tiny fort. Miller said she was “speechless” over the society’s collections.

“I can’t believe all the stuff they have here now,” she said. “It’s a very nice museum and very nice for our city to have.”

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