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Dedication held for Engagement of Frankstown Monument

At dawn on Sunday morning, June 3, 1781, a detachment of 43 Bedford County Militia Rangers under the command of Capt. John Boyd left Fort Fetter and headed north.

A report had been received at Fort Bedford two days before that a party of Indians who had come into the Tuckahoe Valley had then killed a settler and taken his wife captive.

Capt. Boyd, a Northumberland County resident just recently assigned to the Bedford County Militia, was commissioned to raise a company to go in search of the war party to try to free the captured woman.

John Boyd’s company was joined by a small group of local settlers who volunteered to help in the search.

The Rangers and volunteers headed out from Fort Fetter, which stood where the Comfort Inn at Wye Switches stands today. Their plan was to pass follow the Kittanning Path through the Kittanning Gap, where the Horseshoe Curve is located, and head toward the Indian town of Kittanning, all the while scouting for the party of warriors who had taken the woman captive.

Marching along the Beaverdam Branch, at a point about two miles north of Fort Fetter and a short distance downstream from the mouth of the Sugar Run, the Bedford County troops were ambushed.

Lt. Robert Nelles led a platoon of British soldiers out of Fort Niagara on one of nearly 60 raids that year. A platoon could consist five to 20 soldiers.

As the British troops marched south through the Genessee Valley of the New York province, they were joined by a party of nearly 80 Seneca warriors.

Following established paths and waterways, the war party arrived in the north end of the Tuckahoe Valley where they attacked a farmstead.

The goal of the attack was not to kill a settler and take his wife captive; it was to goad the Bedford County Militia out of any of its fortifications. Once in the open, the militia officers could be captured and used as a bargaining chips for captive British officers.

As the Rangers marched along, the British soldiers and Seneca warriors rose out of the morning fog, let out a war whoop and showered the Bedford County men with arrows and musket fire.

A short battle ensued leaving about 15 men killed, five wounded and seven taken captive. One of the British soldiers were killed and two were wounded and the Indians lost two warriors. Capt. Boyd was one of the Bedford County men taken prisoner.

The name “Engagement of Frankstown” was coined by Blair County historian Floyd G. Hoenstine.

In 1923, the Blair County Historical Society erected a small monument along the Old Sixth Avenue Road, currently known as Route 764. Although the small monument is near to the site of the engagement, it is too small and too close to the road to be easily and safely visited.

Researching for a new book, Frontier Patriots Chapter, Sons of the American Revolution President Larry D. Smith was struck by how similar the Engagement of Frankstown in 1781 was to the Phillips Rangers’ Massacre (in the Woodcock Valley) in 1780.

In both instances, a British-led Seneca Indian incursion attacked a local farmstead, killed the men and took the women and children captive.

The attacks goaded the Bedford County Militia to come out in the open where the troops were ambushed, resulting in deaths and the captains being taken prisoner to Fort Niagara.

Due to the similarities of the incidents, Smith was motivated to encourage the Frontier Patriots Chapter to undertake a project. That project was to erect a monument memorializing the Engagement of Frankstown that would be similar in style and size to the one erected in 1926 on the eastern slope of Tussey Mountain northwest of Saxton.

A bequest to the Frontier Patriots Chapter from the estate of Joseph and Elizabeth Ramsey was used to fund the project.

A bronze plaque designed by Smith was cast by Olde Mill Impressions of Mechanicsburg.

The plaque provides a narrative of the engagement along with the names of the 44 participants. It was set in the stone monument constructed by Stiffler Masonry of Martinsburg on a piece of property donated by Imler’s Poultry.

The monument is located on the northwest corner of the intersection of Route 764 and Theater Drive.

The monument was dedicated in a ceremony held July 10.

The ceremony, attended by nearly 30 people included greetings by Fred Imler Jr., comments on the history of the incident by Larry D. Smith, comments on the importance of the monument to the County of Blair by Chairman Commissioner Bruce Erb and comments and a prayer blessing the monument by Pastor David McClanahan of the Smith Corner Church.

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