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Restoring Ohio's link to the American Revolution
Fund raising for Fort Laurens in Tuscarawas County includes a 5-K "Jog for Logs" run & walk this summer to help pay for timber...a lot of timber
by WKSU's TIM RUDELL


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Tim Rudell
 
Historical reenactors show what it may have looked like when American soldiers marched into the area where they built Fort Laurens
Courtesy of Friends of Fort Laurens
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The “Friends of Fort Laurens” may be closer to bringing the only Revolutionary War fort in Ohio back to life. WKSU’s Tim Rudell reports that the Bolivar-based preservation group is working on spreadsheets and reports that could get rebuilding of the fort off the ground. Precisely where the reconstructed palisade, living quarters and work buildings will stand is still to be determined. But the choices have been narrowed down to two.

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It will take more than a half a million dollars just to put in the log wall that surrounded the roughly one-acre 18th century fort and to reconstruct a handful of small buildings that were inside it. scale model of fort Exact figures aren’t available yet, but enough funding has come in from donations and grants to prompt the group leading reconstruction efforts, The Friends of Fort Laurens, to begin working up a business plan to operate the memorial. They will submit that to the Ohio Historical Society, the owner of Fort Laurens, along with a request to begin reconstruction. 

Important step
Site Manager Tammi Mackey says “the financing, and when it [the fort] gets built is kind of hand-in- hand. Site Manager Tammi MakeyIf they can show that the fort and museum are going to make money, then The Ohio Historical Society is pretty much ready to give the go-ahead to rebuild the fort.”

Where, exactly?
There has been some disagreement among supporters of the reconstruction over where the replica fort should actually stand. In a mid-May meeting of interested parties, the majority favored erecting the new fort next to the site of the original, thus leaving the foundations and interior spaces where the old fort stood available for future archaeological exploration. Later, some Friends of Fort Laurens members and others objected, saying the new structure needs to stand right where the soldiers built the first one in 1778. More meetings will be held to decide exact placement. 

Meanwhile, construction begins next week on a new restroom complex near the current vistors' center in anticipation of greatly increased visitor traffic.  That project is being paid for by avisitors center separate grant and set of donations totaling more than $100,000.
 
Resting place of the Unknown
Fort Laurens is also the site of the Tomb of the Unknown Patriot of The American Revolution -- with ceremonies and events related to the tomb. Construction and reconfiguration of the memorial park will be planned around the location of both the stone historical marker for the Unknown Patriot, and the graves of 21 soldiers graves at Ft. Laurens who were killed when the fort was besieged between the time of its construction until it was abandoned the following year. 

Hard times
Fort Laurens was originally to be an advanced base for mounting an American attack on the British stronghold at Fort Detroit. But, shortly after the fort was built, American commanders at Fort Pitt, from which the expedition into the Ohio Country was sent, decided that the plan was impractical.  All but 150 soldiers of the 8th Pennsylvania and 13th Virginia Regiments were withdrawn. That's when the siege began. Various historical accounts say that by spring, the defenders of Fort Laurens were reduced to cooking and eating their leather moccasins.  

Disappearing
After the final pull out by the Army in 1779,Foundation remains at Fort Laurens and for some years thereafter, the timbers of the fort were "recycled" by local settlers to build cabins, barns and stockades. Eventually, there was nothing left but the indented lines of the foundation -- which can still be seen.

Related WKSU Stories

Six-figure grant will help bring historic location alive
Tuesday, July 17, 2012

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