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THE LIBRARY OF
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CLASS °^ XXc No
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FORT PRESQUE ISLE-PAST AND PRESENT.
The ground upon which Presque Isle Block
House stands has been the scene of many
stirring events in the history of this country.
Here, in 1653, the Erie tribe of Indians fought
their last battle with the Iroquois, who having
secured fire-arms from the Dutch traders,
succeeded in wiping the weaker tribe out of
The Chevalier De LaSalle was the first white
man to set foot upon this soil which he claimed
for France in 1679, but almost three quarters
of a century passed before the French made
any attempt to hold their claim. A fort was
then built (1753) by order of Marquis Du-
Quesne, Governor of Canada, who sent out
three hundred men to establish military posts
for the protection of the Ohio valley against
the ever encroaching English.
The first fortifications built consisted of four
rough block houses within a log stockade, and
as the land at this point was in the shape of a
peninsula, the fort was appropriately named
In 1760, after a bloody siege of two days,
the English, assisted by the Indians, who set
fire to these fortifications no less than fifty
times, succeeded in capturing this stronghold,
but there is only one authentic record of their
occupying their hard gained possession. This
was in 1764, when General Bradstreet made a
treaty with the Dela wares and Shawnees.
The fort was then abandoned and there was
no further mention made of it until 1794, when
it was repaired by General Wayne, (known as
' ' Mad Anthony ' ' on account of his daring in
battle) who had led the attack at Germantown
and had won the admiration of both friends
and enemies by capturing Stony Point, one of
the strongest British possessions on the
In this year he was appointed Major Gen-
eral of the American army and having been
sent on an expedition against the Miami
Indians, he used Fort Presque Isle as his
After forcing his red brothers to sue for
peace, he made a treaty with them in 1795 at
Greenville, Ohio, and in the following year
sailed from Detroit for Presque Isle. While
on the way he was seized with a severe attack
of acute gout and as there were no remedies
on ship-board, when he arrived at his destina-
tion he was in a dying condition and succumbed
to his long-time enemy on December 15th,
1796, at the age of fifty-two years.
At his request he was dressed in his uniform
and boots and buried in a plain coffin at the
foot of the block-house flag-staff. Here his
body rested until 1809 when his daughter,
Mrs. Atlee, of Chester County, Pennsylvania,
became seriously ill and feeling that she was
about to die, expressed a wish that her father's
bones might be disinterred and re-buried in
the family burial ground. Her brother, Col.
Issac Wayne, wishing to grant this dying re-
quest, drove in a sulky across the state of
Pennsylvania, which was then a wilderness,
and on arriving at Presque Isle employed Dr.
Wallace to superintend the disinterment. But
when the grave was opened instead of rinding,
as they expected, only a few bones, they were
surprised to discover the entire body excepting
the diseased leg in a petrified state.
As it was impossible to carry the body in
this condition across the wilderness, Dr.
Wallace boiled the remains in an immense
kettle, carefully scraped the bones and placed
them in a small box which Col. Wayne carried
home with him and buried in St. David's
Episcopal churchyard at Radnor, Delaware
County, about 14 miles from Philadelphia and
not far from Paoli. the scene of the massacre
which General Wayne avenged at Stony Point.
The other remains and the implements used
in cleaning the bones were placed in their
former receptacle and re-buried.
The kettle was preserved and is now on
exhibition in the museum of the Erie Public
In the war of 1812 the old block-house was
used as a rendezvous camp for the soldiers who
were expected to attack the British should
Perry be defeated. It was during this war
that James Byrd was shot as a deserter when
returning from a visit to his sweetheart, who
lived near Dunkirk, N, Y. Byrd had over-
stayed his leave of absence and was hastening
back to his ship, which was anchored in the
bay near the block-house, when the men who
had been sent out to search for him, met him
only a few yards from the ship and fired
without allowing time for a word of explana-
tion. This pathetic incident furnished material
for a beautiful poem which is familiar to all
the old residents of Erie.
Although the block-house was burned to the
ground by some miserable vandals in 1853, its
site was easily traceable until 1863 and during
the civil war some of the home guard camped
Following this war for some years the
historic spot was almost forgotten until 1878,
when the health officer of Erie, the late Dr.
Germer, who was an ardent admirer of General
Wayne, after making careful investigations,
discovered the site of the old block-house and
the grave of ' ' Mad ' ' Anthony Wayne was
once more disturbed.
The coffin lid and the knives used by Dr.
Wallace were found in a fair state of preserva-
tion. These were placed in a glass case and
hung on the wall of a new block-house, which
was built with funds appropriated by the state
legislature through the efforts of Dr. Germer
and Capt. Welsh.
This block-house (built in 1880) is supposed
to be a correct imitation of its historic prede-
cessor and shelters General Wayne's now
empty grave, which has been built up with
stone and marked with its original inscription.
A Marine Hospital was also built on these
grounds, but as it proved useless for this pur-
pose it was finally decided to make it into a
home for disabled soldiers and sailors, and no
more appropriate monument could have been
raised in honor of brave "Mad" Anthony
Wayne, whose ashes or at least a part of them,
now rest where his heart ever belonged, near
to the soldiers and sailors who fought for this
THE PHANTOMS OF FORT PRESQUE ISLE.
Gertrude Montgomery was the only daugh-
ter of old fashioned common-place country
parents and the sister of five ordinary rough-
and-tumble brothers, but she was not of the
" old fashioned girl " type, nor was she like
other girls of her day.
Gertrude, the dreamer, she might well have
been called, for from earliest childhood days
she found her greatest pleasure in sitting in
quiet nooks by herself or in relating to her
little friends dreams, which she claimed to be
scenes in real life and which she conscientiously
believed to be even as she described them.
To her parents she was an enigma, and as
they were of the self-righteous order, who
have no toleration for sinners, they were often
horrified to hear their only daughter telling
tales which they felt were without foundation.
Therefore they considered it their Christian
duty to punish Gertrude for these falsehoods,
and as she was a child of imagination and had
faith in her dreams, she could not understand
why she should be punished and naturally
feared and disliked her parents.
Her brothers, like other ordinary rude boys,
thought that a little girl was of no use around
the house excepting to tease in the old-time
ways so dear to the youthful masculine heart,
which takes pleasure in making a small sister's
back the receptacle for toads, bugs, and other
noxious things, and considers dolls useful only
to be scalped.
As the little dreamer found no sympathy
amoug her home people she sought the woods
and flowers for her companions in summer and
a few well thumbed books served for her only
amusement in winter, and thus she passed the
first sixteen years of her life.
At this time all of her brothers had gone
from home and she often surprised her mother
by describing what they were doing at certain
times, claiming that she had seen them in her
dreams, and shortly after letters would come
to verify her statements.
Mrs. Montgomery told some of the neigh-
bors about her daughter's strange gift and
they laughed at such nonsense. But when Dr.
Cresswell, an eccentric old Englishman who
spent most of his time in pouring over musty
books, heard of Gertrude's dreams he became
very much interested and on his first visit to
her she felt that at last she was understood.
The doctor saw that, as a delicate blossom gives
up all its strength in distilling fragrant perfume,
so this young girl's mind was cultivated at the
expense of her body and she dwelt more in the
realms of far away thought than in the cold
world of reality.
This eccentric old gentleman surprised his
neighbors by declaring Gertrude Montgomery
to be superior to all those who laughed her to
scorn. He claimed that she was one of those
few persons of delicate and over developed
sentient nerves, who feel both pleasure and
pain more keenly than mortals of commoner
cla}' and at times can even separate their spirits
from the burden of their earthly bodies and
visit (in spirit) those in whom they are inter-
As a proof of his statement he cited many
authentic incidents, quoted by reliable writers,
of mothers who, while on their death beds,
possessed an intense longing to see their beloved
children and by some unknown power were
able to appear before them, and likewise ac-
counts of sons and daughters who had shown
themselves to their absent parents, and lovers
to their sweethearts. Of course the ignorant
people ridiculed these tales, but the kind old
doctor ignored their taunts and spent much of
his time in reading upon psychological subjects
with the so-called "queer" Gertrude.
Time passed on and Gertrude grew into
young womanhood. Then the second war
with England broke out and her youngest
brother enlisted in the U. S. Navy. Sitting by
the fireside in the long evenings she could see
him at his various posts and on several occa-
sions when he was in danger she saw that his
life was saved by a friend who was always
near his side.
As Christmas time drew near she dreamed
that this brother (Charlie) was coming home
and would bring his friend with him and in a
few days her mother received the letter which
she knew would come with the same news.
Young Montgomery and his chum arrived
at the old homestead on a dark stormy night
and as handsome, dashing James Byrd came
in reach of the bright rays from the fire-light,
Gertrude knew that she had met the friend of
her dreams — and her fate. Love came to both
these 3'ourjg people on their first meeting and
within three days they were bethrothed.
For the first time in her life Gertrude felt
the joy of loving and of being loved, but her
happiness was of short duration for she was
soon parted from her lover, who had to return
to his post of danger.
And now her dreams came faster and were
more vivid than before, as her heart followed
her loved one and she knew what happened to
him each day even before his letters told her
the same story.
Thus the winter passed by and the summer
came with all its glory and on a beautiful night
as she sat by her bed room window, she saw
her beloved approaching her and felt the joy of
a lover's kiss. Then all was changed — he was
hastening away from her — returning to his
ship — there was some mistake — some dreadful
mistake — the sound of firing and a pale still
face upturned to the cold rays of the moon.
As all mortals are prone to try and forget
sorrow, so Gertrude tried to laugh at this
horrible dream; but experience had taught her
to have faith in her visions and she thought
that this dream had been sent to forewarn her
lover of some danger. Hastily she wrote him
a brief note telling him that even if he should
be near by he must not come to visit her, and
although it was midnight she crept noiselessly
down stairs and out to the stable where she
saddled a horse and rode to the postofhce, five
miles away, so as to send her all important
message without delay.
Then she returned to her lonely room, but
could not sleep as the horror of this dream
was upon her, and when early on the follow-
ing morning she heard the voice of her brother
Charlie she knew that her vision was true and
James Byrd could not be far away. Running
down stairs she threw her arms around her
brother's neck and begged him to ride hard and
fast back to the ship and tell Jim not to come
and see her.
''Talk about silly girls," impatiently ex-
claimed her brother, ' ' you are the silliest. I
thought I was bringing you a nice bit of news
as Jim has a day's leave of absence and is now
on the road to see you, but for some insane
reason you don't want to see him."
Disregarding his taunts the poor girl fell on
her knees and pleaded with him to grant her
request as Jim's life was in danger, but he
only laughed, and finding him obdurate she
mounted his horse and rode out to meet her
lover. The two lovers met only a few miles
from her home and Byrd was greatly surprised
to see Gertrude but more astonished when she
threw her arms about his neck and implored
him to return at once or he would be shot.
He tried to quiet her fears and laughed at
the vision she had seen, but she would not be
calmed, and after repeated and frantic appeals
for him to leave her, she fell in a senseless
heap at his feet. Then it was James Byrd's
turn to grow wild with apprehension. He,
who had no fear of the battle, felt terror-
stricken as he held the pale form of his loved
one in his arms, and having tried in vain to
restore her to consciousness, he put her on his
horse and brought her home. The doctor
was summoned and after a time succeeded in
arousing the unconscious girl, but as soon as
she saw her lover she became almost delirious
and frantically begged him to leave her. In
anxiety for her he even forgot his duty and
was only aroused to a realization of his rashness
by a whispered warning from Charlie that it
was now eight o'olock, the hour when he
should be on shipboard, ready to report
Kissing his loved one good-bye, he sprang
on his ho ; se and rode in hot haste towards his
ship, which was anchored some thirty miles
away, near the old Presque Isle block-house.
The last two miles, however, he was compelled
to make on foot as he had borrowed the horse
he rode from a farmer and was pledged to
return it that night.
Therefore it was almost midnight when the
lights of the ship were plainly in sight, and
what a relief to see the ship so close and to
feel assured that he could relieve his darling's
mind on the morrow by sending a message
telling of his safe return. And although he
knew that he had disobeyed orders and would
be reprimanded, yet he felt certain that when
his Captain, who had a kind heart, should
know the cause of his tardiness, he would
make his punishment light.
With these hopes to buoy up his spirits he
quickened his pace almost into a run and was
within a few yards of his goal when suddenly
a posse of men surrounded him on all sides
and before he could utter a word several shots
were fired in quick succession and James Byrd
fell dead — shot as a deserter — his pale face
upturned to the cold rays of the silent moon
even as his sweetheart had foreseen.
As his spirit passed to the world beyond,
Gertrude knew that the time had come to join
her beloved one and she crossed the dark
waters to that land where loving souls meet to
part no more.
The spot where Byrd fell, now marked by a
clump of bushes, is often pointed out by the
inmates of the "Soldiers and Sailors Home",
and some of these old veterans claim that on
clear moonlight nights they can see the forms
of a sailor lad and a slender maiden walking
hand in hand.
Others make sport of such tales, but whether
or not the spirits of these two unfortunate
lovers are permitted to wander together upon
earth we feel that they must be united some-
Mortals often murmur against that which
seems an injustice when one who has ever lived
uprightly is deprived oi every comfort and joy,
knowing naught but pain and sorrow, while
another who defies all laws of God and Nature,
enjoys health and all of earth's pleasures.
Why should this be? Where is God's justice?
Man does not know but he feels assured that
the just and merciful Father of this universe is
kind to all of his children and to those who are
deprived of earthly joy he gives a greater
capacity for enjoyment in the world to come.
In that world, we are told, there is no
marrying or giving in marriage but those who
have loved each other upon earth with a pure
heart-to-heart, soul-to-soul love, will surely be
united in that spiritual bond of love which can
never be served and which gives far greater
peace and comfort than earthly love can know.
Pennsylvania Soldiers and Sailors Home.
HERALD, ERIE, PA.