Whitehall-Coplay Press

Monday, June 17, 2019
PRESS PHOTO BY KATHY LAUER-WILLIAMSGary Weaver and Whitehall Mayor Michael Harakal Jr. unveil an interpretive sign for Fort Deshler during a dedication ceremony March 29. PRESS PHOTO BY KATHY LAUER-WILLIAMSGary Weaver and Whitehall Mayor Michael Harakal Jr. unveil an interpretive sign for Fort Deshler during a dedication ceremony March 29.

Sign is dedicated at Fort Deshler site

Wednesday, April 3, 2019 by KATHY LAUER-WILLIAMS Special to The Press in Local News

A sign commemorating the archaeological dig of the Fort Deshler site in Whitehall Township was unveiled by township officials and community members at a dedication ceremony March 29.

The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission interpretive marker was installed along the Ironton Rail Trail to recognize the only Colonial fort used for refuge during the 1763 Native American uprising.

The fort was near the location of what is now the intersection of MacArthur Road and Chestnut Street, between Egypt and Coplay. The original buildings were in ruins until they collapsed around 1940.

“We have a lot of history in this township, and we want to make sure we commemorate the work that has been done,” Whitehall Township Mayor Michael Harakal Jr. said.

After the sign was unveiled, Gary Weaver, a re-enactor from the 3rd Pennsylvania Regiment and who was dressed in Colonial state militia garb, fired two shots from his Brown Bess musket.

The archaeological dig on the site was commissioned in 2017 in conjunction with the 75th anniversary of the naming of MacArthur Road. The township worked with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation since some of the site is on PennDOT’s right of way.

Fort Deshler was built on property owned by Adam Deshler. It was provisioned as a place of refuge during times of unrest by the Pennsylvania Assembly and Benjamin Franklin.

Lee Rackus, township planning bureau chief who also was a member of the MacArthur Road 75th anniversary committee, read from a letter that appeared in Franklin’s publication, The Pennsylvania Gazette, after the Oct. 13, 1763, Native American uprising. The letter describes the discovery of men and women who had been killed and houses set on fire by an assembly of 20 men in arms.

Rackus said it was one of the only forts used as a refuge during one of last Native American uprisings in the Northeast.

She said the dig had located a foundation of the stone building and found artifacts.

“It raised awareness that the fort was there,” she said.

Harakal noted the French and Indian War-era fort was “a safe haven during a brutal clash between the Native Americans and the settlers.”

The fort consisted of a fortified stone blockhouse and a large wooden building that could have been used as a barracks for soldiers and storage for military supplies.

Harakal also thanked Paula Yoh, who designed the sign, and Mike Hobel, on whose property the dig was located.

He praised the Ironton Rail Trail, which he said has been recognized “nationally as one of the best maintained trails.” The trail, built in 1996, is part of a regional link of a 165-mile trail from Scranton to Philadelphia, as a spur to the Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor.

Harakal noted the trail also passes the 19th-century Saylor Park cement kilns in Coplay and the Thomas Iron Works in Hokendauqua, which was a major supplier of munitions.

The trail is managed and maintained by Whitehall and North Whitehall townships and Coplay Borough.