Fort festival offers glimpse of past

STEUBENVILLE – Area residents and visitors who turned out for Ohio Valley History Days Saturday at Historic Fort Steuben got a glimpse of many aspects of life in colonial days, when much of Ohio was unexplored and the colonists were in conflict with both the British and Native Americans.

The festival continues from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. today with demonstrations by various re-enactors and craftsman, an assortment of food and crafts for sale, live entertainment and other activities.

Located on Third Street and near the Market Street Bridge, the fort is a reproduction of the fortress built in 1786 and 1787 to provide protection from Indians to officials surveying the Northwest Territory.

Historian Dan Cutler of Milton, W.Va., offered a Native American perspective on the conflict between them and the colonists as he portrayed Logan, an Indian leader often said to be of the Mingo tribe though he actually hailed from Cayuga nation before coming to the Ohio Valley.

Cutler related how Logan initially welcomed hunters and trappers he encountered along the Ohio River. He noted Logan also didn’t seek war with the farmers who followed, though he and other Native Americans were at odds with their idea that land could be owned.

Wolves and dogs squat on trees to mark their land but no other creatures do so, Logan reasoned.

But the massacre at Yellow Creek of Logan’s brother, pregnant sister and other family members by a group of Virginia frontiersmen in 1774 spurred a vengeful Logan to launch an attack against white settlers and resulted in Dunmore’s War, a campaign against the Mingos and Shawnees ordered by Lord Dunmore, the royal governor of Virginia.

Months later, following the Battle of Point Pleasant, the Indians agreed to a peace treaty with the colonists, but Logan refused to participate.

Cutler said it was Logan’s eloquent speech, following that incident, that inspired him to learn more about the chief, who was a statesman within his tribal nation.

In the speech, Logan notes his early hospitality toward the settlers, saying, “I appeal to any white man to say, if ever he entered Logan’s cabin hungry, and he gave him not meat; if ever he came cold and naked, and he clothed him not. During the course of the last long and bloody war, Logan remained idle in his cabin, an advocate for peace. Such was my love for the whites, that my countrymen pointed as they passed, and said, Logan is the friend of the white men.”

But Logan noted the murder of family members, including women and children, at Yellow Creek “has called on me for revenge. I have sought it: I have killed many: I have fully glutted my vengeance. For my country, I rejoice at the beams of peace. But do not harbour a thought that mine is the joy of fear. Logan never felt fear. He will not turn on his heel to save his life. Who is there to mourn for Logan? Not one.”

Cutler said some Native Americans, such as the Cherokee, attempted to live by the colonists’ rules, while others, such as the Shawnee, fought to the end, but the outcome for all was the same as they were forced from their regions and onto reservations.

Also on hand at Ohio Valley Frontier Days were members of the 8th Pennsylvania Regiment of the Continental Line, re-enactors from Pennsylvania who portray an infantry unit formed in Erie, Pa. early in the Revolutionary War.

Mike Mongelli, a member of the group, said the group was comprised of paid volunteers, farmers and tradesmen who ranged in age from 16 to 60, and were recruited to supplement the Continental Army against British force and to protect settlers against Indians in Ohio and other regions then known as “the West.”

Mongelli said most were dedicated to the latter role first and foremost but reluctantly accompanied Gen. George Washington as he marched east and into battles against the British at Saratoga, Brandywine and Germantown.

They were ill prepared to endure winter encampments – 50 died at Valley Forge – and had little combat training but fought with distinction, he noted.

Mongelli and others in the group brought muskets and other items, both antique and reproductions, carried by the soldiers.

In addition to hearing from experts on various aspects of colonial life, young visitors could try their hand at tomahawk tossing with the help of a local Scout leader, have their face painted or pose for a sketched portrait.

Jackie Cawthorne of Wellsburg and her grandchildren – Emily and Jacob Donley, enjoyed seeking various people and items on the scavenger hunt checklist supplied by the event’s organizers.

“We got Baron von Steuben to sign it while he was eating a hot dog,” laughed Emily. She referred to Professor John Holmes of Franciscan University of Steubenville who was on hand to portray the fort’s namesake, a Prussian army officer who assisted Washington as a drillmaster during the Revolutionary War.

Ohio Valley History Days is among many events being held at the fort this summer. A Local History Day on June 14, to coincide with the Dean Martin and Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Food festivals, will focus on the impact of the steel industry on Steubenville.

And applications are still being accepted for a summer youth program on July 7-11 designed to expose fourth, fifth and sixth graders to frontier life of the 18th century through a variety of hands-on activities. For information or to register, call 740-283-1787 or email info@oldfortsteuben.com.