This selection comes from George Dallas Albert, The Frontier Forts of Western Pennsylvania by George Dallas Albert (Harrisburg: C. M. Busch, state printer, 1896), 401-410.


Doddridge in his "Notes on the Early Settlements and Indian Wars (vol. 2, p. 26)," says the "settlers' fort" of those days was "not only a place of defense but the residence of a small number of families belonging to the same neighborhood. As the Indian mode of warfare was an indiscriminate slaughter of all ages and both sexes, it was as requisite to provide for the safety of the women and children as for that of the men. The fort consisted of cabins, blockhouses, and stockades. A range of cabins commonly formed one side at least of the fort. Divisions or partitions of logs separated the cabins from each other. The walls on the outside were ten to twelve feet high, the slope of the roof being turned wholly inward. A very few of these cabins had puncheon floors, the greater part were earthen. The blockhouses were built at the angles of the fort. They projected about two feet beyond the outer walls of the cabins and stockades. Their upper stories were about eighteen inches every way larger in dimension than the under one, leaving an opening at the commencement of the second story to prevent the enemy from making a lodgment under the walls. In some forts the angles of the fort were furnished with bastions instead of blockhouses. A large folding gate, made of thick slabs, nearest the spring, closed the fort. The stockades, bastions, cabins, and blockhouse walls were furnished with port-holes at proper heights and distances. The whole of the outside was made completely bullet-proof. It may be truly said that necessity is the mother of invention, for the whole of this work was made without the aid of a single nail or spike of iron, and for the reason that such things were not to be had. In some places less exposed a single blockhouse, with a cabin or two, constituted the whole fort. Such places of refuge may appear very trifling to those who have been in the habit of seeing the formidable military garrisons of Europe and America, but they answered the purpose, as the Indians had no artillery. They seldom attacked, and scarcely ever took one of them."

The foregoing description of the different kinds of forts and blockhouses is peculiarly applicable to this region. Later and after the Revolution there were many so-called stations along the Ohio river and in Kentucky and the western country then being settled. "A station was a parallelogram of cabins, united by palisades so as to present a continued wall on the outer side, the cabin doors opening into a common square, on the inner side. These were the strongholds of the early settlers." (Note to Border Warfare, p. 235.) Further this description might possibly answer for some of the stations in the Panhandle or the western border of Washington county.

In speaking of the condition of the settlements in the Washington county region towards the close of the Revolutionary War, Mr. Butterfield in his Crawford Expedition against Sandusky, p. 39, says:

"The people of the border were forced into forts which dotted the country in every direction. These were in the highest degree uncomfortable. They consisted of cabins, blockhouses, and stockades. In some places, were the exposure was not great, a single blockhouse, with a cabin outside, constituted the whole fort. For a space around, the forest was usually cleared away, so that an enemy could neither find a lurking place nor conceal his approach.

"Near these forts the borderers worked their fields in parties guarded by sentinels. Their necessary labors, therefore, were performed with every danger and difficulty imaginable. Their work had to be carried with their arms and all things belonging to their war-dress deposited in some central place in the field. Sentinels were stationed on the outside of the fence; so that, on the least alarm, the whole company repaired to their arms, and were ready for the combat in a moment.

"From Pittsburgh south, including the Valleys of the Monongahela and Youghiogheny, and the territory west of these to the Ohio, was a scope of country having, at this time, considerable population; nevertheless, there were few families who had lived therein any considerable length of time that had not lost some of their number by the merciless Indians.

"Beyond the story of old Catfish, alias Tingooqua, an Indian chief who 'lived betimes on what is the site of Washington, Pa.,' and the doubtful traditions of the existence of a few Indian settlements within the present limit of Washington county, there is," says the Hon. Boyd Crumrine in his History of Washington County, "with reference to that territory, no Indian History to be given for the years prior to the opening of Dunmore's War, in 1774. From that time on through the border warfare that raged until after the close of the Revolution the annals of this region are full of stirring events -- Indian incursions, massacres, and alarms -- covering the period from 1774 to 1783."


"This fort is situated on Buffalo creek, about twelve miles from its junction with the Ohio river." It appears, says Mr. Alfred Creigh in his History of Washington county, that Rice's Fort furnishes the most satisfactory history of those times, which I have been able to procure.

The Indians, being defeated at Wheeling [1782], resolved to strike a severe blow in the country, and hence about one hundred warriors marched to Rice's Fort, but the inhabitants being made aware of their approach, each ran to his cabin for his gun, and all took refuge in the blockhouse or fort. Although they intended to take it by assault, yet they failed, as the sequel will show, and they continued their depredations, destroying barns, fences, cattle, etc., but finally retreated. Rev. Dr. Doddridge, in his account of this fort, says:

"This place was defended by a Spartan band of men, against one hundred chosen warriors, exasperated to madness by their failure at Wheeling Fort. Their names shall be inscribed in the lists of the heroes of our early times. They were Jacob Miller, George Leffer, Peter Fullenweider, Daniel Rice, George Felebaum, and Jacob Leffer, Jr. George Felebaum was shot in the forehead through a port-hole at the second fire of the Indians, and instantly expired, so that in reality the defense of the place was made by only five men. Four of the Indians were killed. The next morning sixty men collected and pursued the Indians, but discovered they had separated into small parties, and the pursuit was given up."

More particulars of this attack are given below which are taken from Crumrine's History of Washington county, and the letters in part from the Washington-Irvine Correspondence:

On the 11th of Sept., 1782, in the evening, an Indian force of 260 warriors under the renegade George Girty (brother of the infamous Simon), accompanied by a force of about forty British rangers from Detroit under Capt. Pratt, or the royal service, attacked the fort (Fort Henry) at Wheeling, but were repulsed. Other attempts were made by them to carry the place by assault during the day and night of the 12th, but with no better success, and in the morning of the 13th they withdrew from Wheeling with the intention of carrying their depredations to the inland settlements. Their attack on Wheeling is described by Ebenezer Zane in the following letter to Ge. Irvine [Washington-Irvine Cor., p. 397]

"Wheeling, 17th September, 1782.

"Sir: On the evening of the eleventh instant a body of the enemy appeared in sight of our garrison. They immediately formed into lines around the garrison, paraded British colors, and demanded the Fort to be surrendered, which was refused. About 12 o'clock of night they rushed hard on the pickets in order to storm but was repulsed. They made two other attempts to storm before day but to o purpose. About 8 o'clock next morning there came a negro from them to us, and informed us that their force consisted of a British captain and 40 regular soldiers and 260 Indians. The enemy kept up a continual fire the whole day. About 10 o'clock at night they made a fourth attempt to storm to no better purpose than the former. The enemy continued around the garrison till the morning of the 13th instant, when they disappeared. Our loss is none. Daniel Sullivan, who arrived here in the beginning of the action, is wounded in the foot. I believe they have driven the greatest part of our stock away, and might, I think, be soon overtaken."

When the Indian besiegers found themselves compelled to withdraw from Fort Henry without having effected its capture as they had expected to do, the larger part of their force, together with Capt. Pratt's British Rangers, crossed the Ohio with what plunder they had been able to secure, and took their way through the wilderness towards the Sandusky. The remainder of the Indian force, some sixty or seventy in number, took the opposite direction, striking eastward towards the interior settlements, bent on massacre and devastation in revenge for their disappointment at Fort Henry. Their objective point was Rice's fort, on the Dutch Fork of Buffalo creek, in the present township of Donegal, Washington county.

Intelligence of the attack on Fort Henry was brought to Col. James Marshel at Catfish by Capt. Boggs immediately after the siege began, and while all the Indian and British forces were collected round the fort. On the receipt of the information Marshel notified Gen. Irvine by letter as follow [Wash.-Irvine Cor., p. 312]:

"Thursday, September 12, 1782.

"Dear Sir: By an express this moment arrived from Wheeling, I have received the following intelligence, namely: That a large trail, by supposition about two hundred, Indians, was discovered yesterday about three o'clock near to that place. Capt. Boggs, who brought the account, says that when he had left the fort about nine miles and a half he heard the swivel at Wheeling fired, and one rifle. He further says that Ebenezer McCulloch, from Van Meter's fort, on his way to Wheeling, got within one-half mile of the place shortly after Boggs left it, where he was alarmed by hearing a heavy and constant fire about the forts, and makes no doubt the fort was then attacked. * * * *"

Three days later Col. Marshel communicated to Ge. Irvine further information of the movements of the Indians in the following letter:

"Sunday Morning, 15th September, 1782.

"Dear Sir: You may depend upon it, as a matter of fact, that a large body of Indians are now in our country. Last night I saw two prisoners who made their escape from Wheeling in time of the action, and say the enemy consists of 238 Indians and 40 Rangers, the latter commanded by a British officer; that they attacked Wheeling Fort on Wednesday night, and continued the attack, at which time the above deserters left them. This Fort they say was the principal object of the enemy; but it appears, both from their account and the enemy's advancing into the country, that they have despaired of taking it. The deserters say that shortly before they left the enemy that they had determined to give up the matter at Wheeling, and either scatter into small parties in order to distress and plunder the inhabitants, or attack the first small fort they could come at. The latter I'm this moment informed is actually the case; that they have attacked one Rice's Blockhouse, on what is called the Dutch fork of Buffalo, and its to be feared it will fall into their hands, as only those have been called upon who are not going upon the expedition. I'm afraid they will not turn out as well as they ought to do. If the enemy continues to advance in one body the matter will become serious, and perhaps require our whole strength to repel them. But if it can possibly be avoided I could wish not to call upon a man that's going upon the expedition against Sandusky. Besides, the battalion rendezvous is appointed as soon as the men could possibly be collected. Unless the officers have made their appointments, as you will see by Col. McCleery's letter they have done in the first battalion, no doubt ammunition will be wanted on this occasion. A small quantity, such as the bearer can carry, will do. Excuse haste."

The following account of the attack on Rice's Fort is from "chronicles of Border Warfare, or a history of the settlement of northwestern Virginia." By A. S. Withers, 1831.

"The place against which the savages directed their operations was situated on Buffaloe creek, twelve or fifteen miles from its entrance into the Ohio, and was known as Rice's fort. Until Miller's return, there was in it only five men, the others having gone to Hagerstown to exchange their peltries for salt, iron and ammunition. They immediately set about making preparations to withstand an assault, and in a little while, seeing the savages approaching from every direction, forsook the cabins and repaired to the blockhouse. The Indians perceived that they were discovered, and thinking to take the station by storm, shouted forth the war-whoop and rushed to the assault. They were answered by the fire of the six brave and skillful riflemen in the house, and forced to take refuge behind trees and fallen timber. Still they continued the firing, occasionally calling on the whites to 'Give up, give up -- Indian too many -- Indian too big -- Give up, Indian no kill.' The men had more faith in the efficacy of their guns to purchase their safety than in the proffered mercy of the savages; and instead of complying with their demand, called on them, 'as cowards, skulking behind logs, to leave their coverts, and show but their yellow hides, and they would make holes in them.'

"The firing was kept up by the savages from their protected situation until night, and whenever even a remote prospect of galling them was presented to the whites, they did not fail to avail themselves of it. The Indian shots in the evening were directed principally against the stock as it came up as usual to the station, and the field was strewed with dead carcasses. About ten o'clock of the night they fired a large barn (thirty or forty yards from the blockhouse) filled with grain and hay, and the flames from which seemed for a while to endanger the fort; but being situated on higher ground, and the current of air flowing in a contrary direction, it escaped conflagration. Collecting on the side of the fort opposite to the fire, the Indians took advantage of the light it afforded them to renew the attack, and kept it up until about two o'clock, when they departed. Their ascertained loss was four warriors -- three of whom were killed by the first firing of the whites -- the other about sundown. George Felebaum was the only white who suffered. Early in the attack he was shot in the forehead, through a port-hole, and expired instantly, leaving Jacob Miller, George Leffler, Jr., Peter Fullenweider, Daniel Rice and Jacob Leffler, sole defenders of the fort, and bravely and effectually did they preserve it from the furious assaults of one hundred chosen savage warriors.

"Soon after the Indians left Rice's fort, they moved across the hills in different directions and in detached parties. One of these observing four men proceeding towards the fort they had lately left, waylaid the path and killed two of them on the first fire. The remaining two fled hastily, and one of them, swift of foot, soon made his escape. The other, closely pursued by one of the savages and in danger of being overtaken, wheeled to fire. His gun snapped, and he again took to flight. Yet more closely pressed by his pursuer, he once attempted to shoot. Again his gun snapped, and the savage being now near enough, hurled a tomahawk at his head. It missed its object and both strained every nerve for the chase. The Indian gained rapidly upon him, and reaching forth his arm, caught hold of his belt. It had been tied in a bow-knot, and came loose. Sensible that the race must soon terminate to his disadvantage unless he could kill his pursuer, the white man once more tried his gun. It fired, and the savage fell dead at his feet."

The fact that the Indians were advancing eastward from Wheeling was known at Rice's fort about half an hour before the savages made their appearance, the intelligence having been brought by Jacob Miller, who learned the news at the house of Dr. Moor, near Catfish, and rode with all possible speed to notify the people at the threatened point, and to take part in the defense. Some of the men from the fort had gone to Hagerstown for supplies, and only five were left to defend it, viz: George Leffler, Peter Fullenweider, Daniel Rice, George Felebaum, and Jacob Leffler, Jr. This force was increased to six by the arrival of Miller. The Indians soon made their appearance and surrounded the fort. The six defenders fired, and three savages fell. The Indians returned the fire without effect, but in their second volley they killed George Felebaum, who was standing at a port-hole. The ball struck him in the forehead, and he expired instantly. The firing was kept up during the day, but without any casualty to the white men.

Abraham Rice, of the fort, was absent, having set out at once on receipt of the news brought by Miller to go to Lamb's fort, some four miles away, for assistance. He had not been gone long when he heard the firing at his own fort, and at once determined to return and assist in the defense; but failed in his attempt, for he was discovered by the Indians, who fired a great number of shots and wounded him badly, but he made his escape, and was able to reach Lamb's, whence, after his wounds had been dressed, he set out on his return, having with him a party of twelve men. This was late in the evening. On approaching the besieged fort, ten of the party became alarmed and retreated, but Rice and the other two went on. They were soon discovered by an Indian, who thereupon gave the usual alarm, which passed around the entire line encircling the fort. The savages supposed that a large party of whites was approaching, and after one more fierce and ineffectual attempt to carry the fort they retreated from the place, having lost four warriors by the rifles of the defenders. On the following morning a force of about 60 frontiersmen collected and started in pursuit of the Indians, but after proceeding two or three miles it was found that the savages had scattered in small parties, and the pursuit was abandoned. The Indians, however, in their retreat met another party of four white men, two of whom they killed, losing one of their warriors.

The Indian attacks at Wheeling and at Rice's fort (showing that the savages could make incursions in force and almost at will in spite of the vigilance of the "ranging parties" of militia) materially dampened the ardor of the people with regard to the new Sandusky campaign, notwithstanding that the government had ordered a considerable body of Continental troops to accompany the expedition, in accordance with the wishes of Cols. Marshel and Cook and several of the more prominent among the militia officers of Washington and Westmoreland counties. [Crumrine's History of Washington county, page 134.]

This fort was on the farm now owned by Charles Burrick, in Donegal township, Washington county.