Trailheads presents information and details about the exhibits, events and programs hosted by the historic sites and museums on PHMC's Pennsylvania Trails of History.

If you are interested in the American Revolution, you may have visited related sites on the Pennsylvania Trails of History, such as Washington Crossing Historic Park and Brandywine Battlefield Park. You may have attended a Revolution-themed program, such as the Whitemarsh Encampment at Hope Lodge or the Then & Now Military History Timeline at the Pennsylvania Military Museum. You may know that Cornwall Iron Furnace produced armaments for the Continental Army. But what about the less familiar stories of the Revolutionary era to be found on the Trails of History? Here’s a brief glimpse.

Ephrata Cloister’s primary historical focus is the celibate religious community founded in 1732 by Conrad Beissel, but for about six months starting at the end of 1777, the inhabitants cared for sick and wounded soldiers of the Continental Army. The soldiers arrived at Ephrata (and other communities in southeastern Pennsylvania) just before Christmas, while their healthier comrades were settling in for the winter at Valley Forge. For many years, tradition held that “hundreds” of soldiers died and were buried at Ephrata, and a monument placed at the site’s Mount Zion Cemetery in 1902 enshrines that tradition. Subsequent research, however, has revealed that about 60 soldiers are interred there.

There are many stories about Graeme Park, originally built for provincial governor Sir William Keith. Some of the most interesting accounts revolve around Elizabeth Graeme Fergusson, who inherited the property in 1772 from her father. In 1771 Elizabeth had secretly married Henry Hugh Fergusson, a Scotsman whose loyalty to the British forced his departure from Pennsylvania in 1778. Elizabeth remained at Graeme Park, where she had established a circle of literary and intellectual friends, many of whom supported independence. Her patriotism, however, was questioned by the colonial government, because she had carried pro-Loyalist letters for her husband, and Graeme Park was seized. She was finally able to recover the property in 1781.

Somerset Historical Center’s 1770s farmstead, created using building techniques and materials of the period, represents the living conditions of rural western Pennsylvanians who fought in the Revolution, many serving in the 8th Pennsylvania Regiment, also known as the Kittanning Regiment. The farmstead’s furnishings, the visitor center exhibits, a series of hands-on workshops and the popular Mountain Craft Days festival (September 9-11, 2016) help visitors and local residents explore Somerset County foodways and material culture before and after the Revolution.

Those inclined to more detailed historical research should enjoy a visit to the Pennsylvania State Archives website to read the list of documents found in Record Group 27 (Pennsylvania’s Revolutionary Governments) or Record Group 4 (Records of the Office of Comptroller General), which includes ledgers, daybooks and other financial records related to military forces and supply chains. It’s arcane stuff but a potentially fascinating picture of the day-to-day business of keeping fighting units in the field during the American Revolution.

 

Amy Killpatrick Fox is a museum educator in PHMC’s Bureau of Historic Sites and Museums. She writes a weekly blog called Trailheads.