As the French and Indian War came to a close in North America in 1763, new tensions simmered throughout the western frontier of colonial America. Throughout the Ohio Country, native peoples struggled to adapt to the new post-war order, as the British commitment to settlement and expansion replaced the prior French trade-focused policies. The British occupation, which tended to view the native populace as subjects of a conquered land and not as equal cohabitants, raised tensions. New policies installed by General Jeffrey Amherst, which included restrictions on vital trade goods including ammunition and gunpowder, further inflamed emotions. The stage was set for renewed hostilities, and once again the French Creek Valley would be at the epicentre of a storm of violence, conflict and bloodshed.
A living history event titled, “Pontiac’s Rebellion – Uprising and Revenge on the Frontier” will be held at the Fairgrounds in Cochranton, Pennsylvania on Saturday, July 14 and Sunday, July 15, 2018. An acclaimed group of authors, historians, re-enactors and living historians will stage two full days of presentations and exhibits to explore this pivotal time period and the events that happened both in western Pennsylvania and throughout the Ohio Country. This year’s program will also include the rededication of the French Creek historical marker, recently refurbished and relocated to the French Creek Landing in Cochranton, by the Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office.
The event - set to run from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm on Saturday, and 9:00 am to 4:30pm on Sunday - will feature an assortment of presentations, artifact displays and living history demonstrations. The central feature of the grounds on both Saturday and Sunday will be the speaker’s tent. The programs on Saturday will cover a variety of topics relating to Pontiac’s Rebellion on the Pennsylvania frontier and modern day Midwest. Presenters will include acclaimed author David Preston, professor at the Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina, who returns following his participation in the French Creek Heritage Event in 2016. Also presenting will be another highly regarded author, Timothy Todish, who has penned several books detailing the events of the period. Dr. Preston will provide insights into the lead-up and forces behind the uprising, while Mr. Todish will discuss the military aspects of the conflict. Rounding out Saturday’s presentations will be researcher, author and living historian Matt Wulff who will discuss Henry Bouquet’s pivotal 1763 campaign that culminated in the Battle of Bushy Run. All of our distinguished speakers will be invited to participate in our roundtable discussion, one of the centrepieces of the program on Saturday. On Sunday, Dr. Edward Jolie of Mercyhurst University will speak regarding Guyasuta’s War and new insights arising from the archaeological excavations at Custaloga Town in Carlton, PA. Beth Kennedy, an expert on the lives, experience and repatriation of Native American captives, will speak on this intriguing subject, while Michael Burke from the Fort Pitt Museum will discuss the 1763 Siege of Fort Pitt.
An assortment of other exhibitors will be included on the grounds, including members of the Society of Pennsylvania Archaeology and the local French Creek Archaeological Society that will display and discuss 18th Century artifacts unearthed in the region. A variety of demonstrations including military drill, flint knapping and blacksmithing by the French Creek Living History Association and other re-enactment and historical groups will provide educational and entertaining activities for all members of the family. A variety of period “sutlers” will demonstrate crucial trade skills of the period, including forging, tinsmithing and fur trading. A formal “Children’s Program” will be offered – a first for this event - enabling young and aspiring historians to experience colonial history and life on a firsthand basis.
Other activities during the event will include a waterborne expedition, with a group of colonial and Native American re-enactors paddling down French Creek on Saturday morning. Coming ashore near the junction of Sugar Creek, these living historians will establish military encampments and foraging camps. These camps will be open to the public throughout the event, and visitors will have an opportunity to observe and experience the lifestyle and hardships of the period. The artifact display of Native American materials will be housed in one of the museum buildings and for those with an interest in the field of Archaeology, Mercyhurst University’s Archaeological Institute will conduct a series of “dig boxes” for the aspiring artifact hunter, demonstrating the modern procedures used to rediscover the past.
The event is open to the public, and attendance and parking will be free. Primary parking will be at the Cochranton Junior-Senior High School. Food and beverages will be available for purchase throughout the day on Saturday at the Fairgrounds. The event’s sponsors and participants are hopeful that the event’s activities will be truly interesting and engaging for the public, and are excited about the prospects for what is becoming an annual event in our community and region.
The French Creek Heritage Event is a project of the Cochranton Area Redevelopment Effort (CARE), working in conjunction with the French Creek Living History Association, the Fort LeBoeuf Museum and the French Creek Valley Conservancy (FCVC), to promote the longstanding and deep heritage of the French Creek watershed. This event will showcase not only the local history but promote the unique natural resource that French Creek is to the entire region. Throughout its history, French Creek has played a pivotal role in the growth and development of not only western Pennsylvania but the entire nation as well, affording the region an astonishingly rich heritage and a place in history that deserves to be celebrated. This event has features that will not only entertain and educate but provide a unique opportunity for discovery for all ages.