Photo of Georgetown,Pa. Photo taken around 1908. (Photo is courtesy of the Beaver County Historical Research and Landmarks Foundation.)
With all the recent excavations and information published on Fort McIntosh, and all the admiration and respect it has collected the past few centuries, it comes to no surprise that it has constructed a loyal following to local and national historians as well as its citizens who have continued to reside near the remains. Indeed, it has attracted and influenced folklore, history, reenactments, books and even songs written about its remarkable “emblem” engraved on the heart of America; but yet, there remains another fort , though worthy of enviable mention, it has been forgotten by even the most talented and respected historical authors of recent time.
The most illustrious and charismatic local historians of Beaver County: Bausman, Agnew, Albert, and Warner have even successfully managed to halt its progress into the minds of the most sincere and avid students of local preservation and research. By far, its role played during the American Revolution and other episodes is well akin and grounded in the precious and natural development of our area. The name of this fort was “Reardon’s Bottom”, in Georgetown, Pa. In the pre-dawn creation of Beaver County, Georgetown held a very political and strategic location for numerous walks of folks. It was a major hub for fur traders, trappers, and a supply depot for river travelers; it was even considered a crossover to go “west” as well deep into the Northwest Territory. Even in the creative journals of Lewis and Clarke, they mention a fort in the area of Georgetown as well as military correspondence, and frontier river journals. Example: Fort Pitt.
In April of 1777, the Continental Congress ordered Gen. Edward Hand to arrive at Fort Pitt and take command of the troops already established there( which was the 13th Virginia Regiment ) and to obtain recruits and raise a militia in the surrounding region, noticeably southwestern Pa (during this period, Reardon’s Bottom would have served as an outpost and defense location against hostile Indian attacks in our region). As a duty to his knowledge and position of the area, (Fort Pitt) a report was delivered to him of all the fortified posts along the Ohio River ; the names of most of these forts are rather well known: Fort Armstrong, Holiday’s Cove, Fort Henry, and Fort Randolph; one was on the list that was completely oblivious: “Reardon’s Bottom.” But this post is “officially” documented in military correspondence of generals and officers of the Continental Army in our region. Its geographic location is about 40 miles from Fort Pitt with one officer and perhaps 15 men; the notice is dated June 3, 1777. Also, in the autumn of 1782, a gentleman named Christopher Hays composed a letter to Gen. William Ervine to inform him on his arduous process of surveying the “frontier land” of the western boundary of Pa. He writes: “we expect to strike the Ohio river about Thursday between Fort McIntosh and Raredon’s Bottom(Reardon’s Bottom).
This precise piece of correspondence is candid evidence that a fort was in full operation at Georgetown, Pa. Yet the date of the fort itself is surrounded on all its sides by folklore and obscurity. Some historians claim that it was originally built by the French when they arrived in the territory. This claim would uphold a substantial amount of truth considering the fact that they would have countless incursions from hostile Indians inhabiting the areas along the Ohio river and neighboring woodlands. To further substantiate these claims, more further military correspondence is needed: (1) According to Rev. Bausman , “in 1786 Benoni Dawson built a “fort” on the site of Georgetown, and his son, Thomas Dawson, one on the other side of the river some years later. These were doubtless, as we have said, strong log cabins…” (2) In John Reardon’s application for a Revolutionary War pension dated September 7, 1833, listed his service from March 1, 1776, October 31, 1776; he was stationed on that part of the Ohio river building “blockhouses”(these were local houses of defense that all frontier families occupied when the occasion arose).
To better appreciate the purpose of the Fort, it must be understood that Beaver County, at that time, was largely “frontier” territory and was an important location for the Continental Army. Though a generous amount of trapping, trade, and blacksmithing occupied our region, there were no roads,wagon trails or railroads in the area yet. And since Georgetown was already a flourishing water route, it was easier and much cheaper for the early settlers to journey through the region by way of Georgetown, primarily because of the attraction of keel boats and canoes which it supplied and obtaining the essentials of the forts by the Beaver and Ohio rivers;this made it a paramount objective to the Continental Army generals. One must solely rely upon his own inquisitive imagination to fully augment the dangers that our descendents endured in our region. The origin of our history, though obscure and discombobulated among its auditors, is a transcended odyssey through adventure and informative credibility among its apostles. It is the candid consensus of local historians that the “original” site of the fort lay at the south bank of the Ohio at the mouth of Mill Creek or Nash Run. As a result of the word “Bottom” they have convinced themselves that the fort was located along the river at the mouth of a stream; there is no physical evidence to support this conjecture. The ancient site of the historic relic is veiled in the tapestry of the brush, trees, and earth that is Georgetown; though, purported still, by a few of its inhabitants, patiently anticipating rediscovery.
Despite its location, or the spelling of its name, it is without question that Reardon’s Bottom was a significant structure, occupied by the Continental Army, and defended and saved the lives of countless citizens of our locality. The imminent role that Georgetown played in the early phase of the American Revolution is unprecedented in the annals of the heroic contribution made to the birth of America and the infancy development of Beaver County.