DISCOVERING THE FUTURE BY REVEALING THE PAST
DISCOVERED: DIETZ & HELLER FORT
FRENCH AND INDIAN WAR, PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP, NORTHAMPTON COUNTY
During the 19th century, a commission was formed and sent into Northeastern Pennsylvania to locate the old forts from the French and Indian war. Military records show the name Adam Dietz as providing a blockhouse for British officers and the Philadelphia militia in Plainfield Township, Northampton County.
On their arrival in Plainfield, the commission stopped in the town of Wind Gap, where they began interviewing the residents as to the location of the Dietz Blockhouse. Following those interviews, it was concluded that the blockhouse had been built following an Indian raid upon a family there by the name of Keller. The Commission also concluded that before the blockhouse was taken down, 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. A 19th-century survey map shows the area where Heitzman and Florey resided across from Miller’s Station. That location has since been excavated and nothing of any significance was found. But on the same survey map, the names Heitzman and Florey also are shown residing in an area just a few miles southeast of the Wind Gap near Miller Road, and across from where the Rail Road runs along the Bushkill Creek.
Found recently beneath clapboard siding and lathe and plaster, a log meeting house was discovered that was located just a few miles southeast of the Wind Gap near Miller Road.
A recently discovered Deed for the meeting house tells a story that reaches back to the mid-18th century when it was used by Benjamin Franklin to station British officers and Philadelphia militia troops during the French and Indian war (1754-1764).
Military records show the names Adam and George Dietz and Simon Heller as providing garrisons for the British officers and Pennsylvania militia within Plainfield Township, during the war. Along with the Deed for the meeting house, and the locating of starting points used for the mapping of area land surveys, they take this old log building back before 1752 when a man named Adam Dietz was licensed to run a tavern from there.
Military records from the French and Indian war show that from January 1, 1756, until October 1758 there are different buildings reported as being a military station called Dietz, together, they were referred to by the governor as the Dietz Stockados. According to Adam Dietz's December 1756 tavern license renewal form, the Dietz Tavern was "located on the Local Road leading from Easton, to the Minisinks near a place called the Wind Gap in the Blue Mountain". The first report from this garrison is on January 1, 1756, when a company of soldiers was reporting their whereabouts following an ambush on the company by Indians.
WESTERN PENNSYLVANIA, July 1755, Ft. Duquesne, Lieutenant Colonel George Washington writes: "The General (Braddock) was wounded of which he died three days after. Sir Peter Halket was killed in the field, where died many other brave officers. I luckily escaped without a wound, though I had four bullets through my coat, and two horses shot under me."
NORTHEASTERN PENNSYLVANIA, 7 NOVEMBER 1755. And the dawn flickered to light 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 war paint, carrying muskets, tomahawks, and knives attacked and burned the village of New Gnadenhutten located near the Lehigh Water Gap. Following this 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 Hays' men at Kesslerville, Youngs Hill, and Lefevre Roads. On 18th-century maps, they show there being 2 Bethlehems during that time. One is Deshlers Bethlehem Lehigh, where the town is located today, and Bethlehem, which was located midway between Deshlers and the town of Easton. Land surveys show the Dietz Tavern was located on the Local Road about 11 miles distant from Bethlehem closest to Easton. Two weeks later the Indians attacked the Peter Doll and Nicholas Heil farms located about 10 miles south of the Wind Gap near the base of the mountain. 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 were different garrisons described as being a military station called Dietz. When referring to the Dietz Post at the mouth of the Wind Gap, the records are written that the station is ATthe Wind Gap. When referring to the Dietz Post located a further distance from the Wind Gap, it is written as being NEAR the Wind Gap. The Dietz Post near the Wind Gap was immediately used as a garrison following the attack upon Captain Hay’s company. English law was written at that time that taverns be used for this purpose. With General Franklin's return there, on January 15, 1756, Hays' men accompanied the general's party to the Gnadenhutten village, escorting provisions there for the construction of Fort Allen. Following the attack in November of 1755, the Assembly in Philadelphia then agreed that a private residence may also be used for a military garrison. Following the construction of Fort Allen, the general's men were then reassigned to specific posts. Upon the general's return to the area in February 1756, he then stations a detachment of Hays' men in the George Dietz home residence as General Franklin reported "Ensign Sterling and 11 men at Wind Gap, Dietz house.".
By March 7, Ensign Sterling and his men were replaced by a detachment from Captain Nicholas Wedderholt's company, commanded by Ensign Geiger, as documented by a receipt for supplies "for the Use of the Soldiers posted at Deet's the Wind Gap...being a Party of Wetherholt's Company." The soldiers of Wedderholt's company were later replaced by a detachment from Lt. Andreas Engle's company stationed at Ft. Lehigh located just east of Ft. Allen on the east side of the Lehigh Gap. Through the month of December, Lieutenant Engle reports sending "Serjt Zoller with eight men to Adam Deetses." On December 13, he reported sending "Serjt, Zoller with eight men a-long the Blue Mountain to George Deetses." On June 12, during his tour of inspections of the eastern forts, Major Parsons reported of Captain Nicholas Wetterholt, "Being inform'd that Capt. Wetterhold was return'd to Dupui's I went there and mustered the detachment of Men posted there; and then the Capt. took all the rest of his Men who had not before been duly inlisted and sworn, as far as Dietz' (to the Dietz Tavern near the Wind Gap) in Order to take them on Monday Morning to Justice Martin's to be sworn. The Capt. appears to be a careful industrious Man. He has got the 2nd & 6th Articles of War and the Oath and Certificate all put into Dutch, that his Men may better understand them." Justice Martin shows also on a land survey as residing in the area of the Dietz Tavern, near the Wind Gap.
Commissary Young, who visited the Dietz garrison on June 25th reported, "sett out from Depues for the Wind Gapp where part of Capt Weatherholts Compy is Station'd, Stopt at Bosarts Plantation to feed our horses, was inform'd that this Morning 2 miles from the house in the woods they had found a Body of who had been Murdered and Scalp'd Ab't the Month of Febry, at 11 A:M: Came to the Wind Gapp where I found Captn Weatherholts Ensign who is Station'd here with 7 Men." The Dietz Tavern (Adam Dietz') was Located about 6 miles southeast of the Wind Gap. Soldiers patrolled from the tavern, thence northeast to the Delaware Water Gap area, then west along the Blue Mountain to the Wind Gap (George Dietz'), thence return. This "triangle" perimeter, protected the towns of Easton and Bethlehem, as well as the Scotch-Irish settlement, all being located south and east of the Wind Gap.
On February 9, 1757, records show that 106 men were stationed between the Dietz garrisons and the various outlying stations around Northampton County. By Spring, records show both Dietz posts had been evacuated and although the forts located on the opposite side of the Blue Mountain were stationed with soldiers, this left the Plainfield and neighboring Mt. Bethel areas open to attacks. A petition to the governor during this time was received from the "Inhabitants of Mount Bethel, Plainfield, and Forks of the Delaware," who, "hearing that the Company which has been stationed above us is going to be Removed over the Blew Mountain, which has put us to the utmost Confusion, we Being Sensible by Experience that the Company has been of Little or no Benefitt unto us while over the Mountain," advise the governor "That a Station for a Number of Men, somewhere near the Wind Gapp, under the Blew Mountain on the East side thereof, might have the best Tendency to Secure the Inhabitants of These parts." This petition is requesting the Dietz Tavern be regarrisoned as it was located on the east side of the mountain near the Wind Gap, about midway between the town of Easton located on the Delaware River, and the Wind Gap. The home of George Dietz was located on the south side at the base of the Blue Mountain at the Wind Gap. The Blue Mountain is a ridge that cuts diagonally across eastern Pa., through Harrisburg, and runs north-east beyond the Delaware Water Gap. The Blue Mountain ridge is about 1100 ft. average in height.
On September 14, Indians attacked and took captive a family of settlers in the area by the name of Keller. Following that 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, the Dietz Tavern held about a dozen soldiers, and the George Dietz house accommodated about 9 soldiers. Shortly after the attack records show that a blockhouse then existed at the Dietz Tavern as reported by Ensign Jacob Kern, “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.”
From Colonel James Burd's inspection reports of the forts on the eastern front, they show that he only inspected forts and blockhouses, not the smaller outposts and ranging stations. On March 1, 1758, the colonel visited the Dietz Blockhouse and reported, "arrived at Nazereth at 1 P:M, here dined 8 miles set off again at 2 P:M arrived at Dietz at 3 P:M 6 miles here." From the Town of Nazareth, (via the old wagon road known today as Tatamy Road) and ending at the Local Road (now called Kesslerville Road) at Youngs Hill and Lefevre Roads, it is 6 miles. It is also from there that Captain Hays' men reported being at a small garrison about 11 miles from the town of Bethlehem. The colonel's inspection report then goes on to say that at the Dietz Blockhouse he "Ordered a Review and found here 30 good men." The colonel also noted in his report that "the House is built in a swamp." The colonel is inspecting the Dietz Blockhouse, yet he refers to it as a house. During the 18th century, a blockhouse was constructed about 25 ft. square and sat up high upon a smaller foundation which provided a cantilever overhang of the top portion over all four sides of the foundation. A meeting house during this time was also built about 25 ft. square only it sat on a foundation of equal size. The Dietz Tavern was run from a building that looked like both a house as well as a blockhouse. Upon the tavern license, it states that Adam Dietz is living in his tavern/Inn. From those descriptive accounts of the location of both the Dietz Blockhouse and the Dietz Tavern, it seems that following the September 1757 attack on the Keller family, the Dietz Tavern was then renovated into a blockhouse.
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 school house was 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 Dietz Fort that the “house is built in a swamp”, as well as Lieut Hyndshaw's report that the building was not fully stockaded round. From those reports, burning wood that was damp would cause sickness as Lieutenant Hyndshaw also described in his report. From 18th-century survey maps of Northampton County, they show branches of both the Mud Run and Bushkill Creeks surrounding the Kesslerville Road area. Published within the Joint Planning Commission Lehigh-Northampton Counties, for the Historic Structures and Sites, it shows a survey map of Old Northampton County and is dated 1763. The map platts the Dietz Fort in an area on the Mt. Bethel and Plainfield Townships boundary line on the local road from Easton to the Minisinks that is today Kesslerville Road.
Records show that the Dietz Blockhouse held about 30 troops and the George Dietz house about 9 troops. Following the governor's orders of sending over 50 troops to the Dietz Stockadoe's, Lt. Hyndshaw then "Sent Ensign Hughes with 12 Men from Dietz to Dupui’s here being no conveniency for so many Men."
Within Colonel Burd's March 1st inspection of the Dirtz Blockhouse, he reported that he stayed the night there. The following day the colonel then reported that he "Marched from home (Dietz's) at 9 A.M. for Samuel Depews, went by the way of Fort Hamilton to view that place...This is 15 miles from Dietz's." The blockhouse was located over 20 miles (via the Wind Gap) from Fort Hamilton. Being at capacity with 30 soldiers living in poor conditions it is unlikely that the colonel stayed the night there. It is likely that following his inspection at the blockhouse, he then proceeded to the Wind Gap and stayed the night at the George Dietz house which was located 15 miles from where Fort Hamilton stood via the Wind Gap. There was no wagon road through the Delaware Water Gap until 1800 thus making for a difficult trail to cross there on horseback. The Wind Gap (a dry gap in the mountain ridge), was the only thoroughfare for wagon travel in or out of that area.
It's probable that Adam Dietz took up residence in the meeting house (tavern) following the death of his wife Anna Catherine, in 1753. It is stated within his December 26, 1756 tavern license renewal "That your Petitioner lives on the local Road from Easton to the Minnisinks near a place called the Wind Gap where formerly Petitioner and Jno (John George) his Son have kept a Public House...." Following the death of Anna Catherine, their son George (John George) took up residence at the Wind Gap. George Dietz is shown on a 1753 land warrant and a 1766 land survey as residing on a 25-acre tract of land at the Wind Gap. Adam was living at his tavern according to his license renewal application.
In the 1700s and into the early 1800s, the taverns that were found in the very sparsely settled countryside of Pennsylvania were small log buildings, 1 or 1 1/2 stories high, with 2 rooms on the first floor. One room served as the bar room, the other as a meeting place or living quarters. These country taverns, like taverns everywhere, were located along a busy road or situated at the intersection of two well-traveled roads.
As a result of the approaching campaign of General Forbes for the retaking of Fort Duquesne in May of 1758, the governor ordered the Dietz Blockhouse and the Post at the Wind Gap evacuated. A new company of levies from Colonel Mercer's 3rd Battalion then replaced those men at the Dietz Stockadoes. In June, a report from Secretary Richard Peters listed four officers and seventy-three men at Fort Allen and three officers and fifty-three men at Dietz's and Everett's along the Northampton County frontier. By October, the government concluded the Indian treaty at Easton. Although the forts and posts were then evacuated at that time, sporadic attacks continued in that area well into 1764 during Pontiac's revolt.
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 wife and family lived. It was also the George Dietz Post at the Wind Gap, during the war. That same land deed also shows that on February 1, 1763, Simon Heller purchased those 151 acres. Simon, a founder of Hellertown in Lower Saucon, then moved his family from Hellertown to the Wind Gap upon that
Adam Dietz house at Wind Gap. Later in the 19th century was known as the Woodley House.
purchase. The sale also included the meeting house on Kesslerville Road, 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 (Tavern)”; and again in June of 1764, “Captain Rinker with 13 men was posted at Simon Heller’s near Wind Gap.” Simon Heller'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.” Church records show that in 1770, a new log church was built for the Plainfield Lutheran and Reformed Congregations. With the new 1770-built church, the two congregations then owned their own church building. The meeting house then continued for school purposes, as church records show paid receipts to Henry Houser, “for work done on the school house.” through the years 1783-1788.
Robert Lyle Esq., who laid out the original Mount Bethel boundary lines and also appears within Mount Bethel History records as being one of its earliest settlers. Robert Lyle, a member of the Presbyterian church and land owner in the Scotch-Irish Hunters Settlement area of Mt. Bethel, appears along with Adam Dietz within the 1757 petition to the governor asking that the Dietz Tavern be regarrisoned. In 1751, Robert Lyle claimed a land warrant for 50 acres upon which the meeting house sat. It is stated on a Deed 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 (Sigman),” all surnames still displayed on land surveys as surrounding the Kesslerville and Youngs Hill Roads area in 1793 (see below survey).
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 in 1750, on the north-west side of Delabole and Church Roads. During the 1800 - 1805 renovation, the first church (now being used as only a schoolhouse) was then moved from Kesslerville Road to Delabole and Church Roads. The commission in their interviews with the residents of Plainfield township, when searching for the Dietz Blockhouse were told the blockhouse had been torn down years prior and it is probable that it was between 1800 and 1805 when it was taken down and moved. By 1805, the 1770 log church, and the school were both located upon the 26 acres secured by the Plainfield church in 1750. 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, which totaled about $852.00. By 1832, a cornerstone was laid by the congregations for a new church building. In that same year, records show that upon completion of the new red brick church, the renovated 1770 log church was then sold and removed from the church property.
The St. Peters Evangelical Lutheran Church at Plainfield (Plainfield Church) is located at Delabole and Church Roads, in PenArgyl 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 from 1766 and a c.1904 photograph confirmed as being the old Parochial School House. Beneath the clapboard siding and lathe and plaster sit 1 ½ story of hand-hewn logs. Until recently, that old church, hotel, tavern, military post, school house, post office, and polling place, held nine, mid-eighteenth century made window frames, each with 15 panes of handmade glass that would bloom with the pastels of sunlight upon its occupants.
SUMMARY - During the French and Indian War, Benjamin Franklin stationed British officers and the Philadelphia militia in the Dietz, and later the Heller tavern. The tavern was renovated into a blockhouse following an Indian attack on the Keller homestead. Later in the 19th century, the state of Pennsylvania formed a commission to locate the old forts from the French and Indian War. Records by Conrad Weiser as well as by British officers, locate the blockhouse as being in a swampy area on the Local Road where today is the intersection of Kesslerville, Youngs Hill, and Lefevre Roads. Records from the Plainfield Church report that the blockhouse was moved and relocated to Delabole and Church Roads upon the 26 acres secured by the church congregations in 1750. The log meeting house was renovated and living quarters were added for the schoolmaster between 1800 and 1805. Later following the move and renovation, the log church built in 1770 was removed from the property and the blockhouse, also used as a church, school, hotel, tavern, post office, and polling place has been there beginning in 1766 and known as the Parochial Schoolhouse according to Plainfield Church records. When first moved to the 26-acre property, the meeting house sat on the edge of the property that is now Church road. The schoolmaster's house built in 1839 also sat in what is today the intersection of Church and Delabole Roads according to a photograph taken in c.1904. The house was originally built as a wood-sided house and was then later covered with stone in the 1920s or 30s. The buildings were moved about 150 feet further onto the property when those two Indian paths/wagon roads were widened into two lanes for automobile traffic in the early 19th century. Prior to the 1800-1805 move and renovation, a man named Casper Doll reveals the first records for the Plainfield Church with the Baptisms of his kids beginning in 1738. He purchased for the Plainfield Church additional land for cemetery purposes. Prior to the widening of the two roads, the burials upon those 26 acres were moved across Delabole Road to the additional land according to Plainfield Church records.
The first Plainfield Church was built upon land acquired by the Scotch-Irish (Hunters Settlement) from Chief Justice William Allen. Justice Allen owned 12,000 acres of land in the areas from the Wind Gap, in Plainfield, to Martin's Creek in Mount Bethel. Mount Bethel records show that the Scotch-Irish/Presbyterians also purchased land from Justice Allen for their new church built in 1747 in Lower Mt. Bethel. The Scotch-Irish also built the log church (above) by September 1737, for in that year is when the New Jersey Presbytery sent regular pastors into the area above the forks of the Delaware.
The Scotch-Irish had their own unique designs in their building methods. They would center their door(s) between two windows. In the photo at left, is a stone church building the Scotch-Irish built in the Minnisink Hills in 1753. The church was located north of the log meeting house. Notice in the above photos, just left of the top of the doorway, the cut pieces of log timber. It may be also that it was during the renovation of the meeting house, that the Dutch-German builders redesigned that doorway and moved it to the right side of the building, hence the short pieces of lumber (above image, left). A seam in the front wall between the two windows is also visible from where a doorway would have earlier been located as in the photo (left).
1737 Meeting House 1805 Plank House - the First 1839 Schoolmaster House 1832 (Red Brick) Plainfield Church Dwelling for the Schoolmaster
A survey map of Plainfield, published in 1860, the map shows the area that today makes up the town of Wind Gap to be Hellerville, and the 26-acre tract of land that makes up the Plainfield Church area to be the Wind Gap Post Office. Records also show that in 1804, Jacob Heller became the postmaster for Wind Gap. A personal letter dated April 16, 1812, is addressed to Jacob Heller at Wind Gap, Northampton County (right). The meeting house was used as a post office and during the 20th century also a polling place. This old log meeting house built in 1737, served as a church, a hotel, a tavern, a blockhouse, a school, a post office, and a 20th-century polling place. She was retired in 1992 following 255 years of public service.
FORT: FRENCH & INDIAN WAR
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