Local History

Reardon’s Bottom: Beaver County’s Forgotten Fort in Georgetown, PA

       With all the recent excavations and information published on Fort McIntosh and all the admiration and attention it has congregated the past few centuries, it comes to no surprise that it has designed an allegiant following to local and national historians as well as its citizens who have continued to reside, proudly, near its ruins. Indeed, it has attracted and influenced folklore, history, reenactments, books and even songs written about its remarkable “emblem” engraved on the heart of Beaver County, as well as America; but yet there remains another fort, worthy of alluring mention, it has been forgotten by even the most talented and respected historical authors of recent time. The fort I am referring to is Reardon’s Bottom in Georgetown, PA. The fort is named after a gentleman named John Reardon. According to Georgetown legend, John Reardon was an early settler of the area; the bottomland along the Ohio River in Beaver County was labeled “Reardon’s Bottom”(accompanied with various spellings of the name)through the Revolution years; he acquired this land by various methods of “settlement and improvement.” Later on, John Reardon would enlist in the Continental Army and serve in the American Revolution.

      The most illustrious and charismatic local historians of Beaver County such as Bausman, Agnew, Albert, and Warner make no mention of the fascination and importance of this frontier and Revolutionary War post. 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. In the pre-dawn creation of Beaver County, Georgetown held an immense 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 travel journals of Lewis and Clarke, they mention a fort in the area of Georgetown as well as military correspondence, and frontier river journals of other travelers in the region. 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.” This post is officially documented in military correspondence of generals and officers of the Continental Army in our area. 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 does 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. They certainly would have needed protection from Indian attacks, and a well-fortified military post was just the answer. To further substantiate these claims, more military correspondence is needed: (1) According to a rare piece written by 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 in that part of the Ohio river building “blockhouses”(these were local houses of defense that all frontier families occupied when the occasion arose and would have been present in our area). On January 11, 1779, General McIntosh wrote the following, “On account of scarcity of our provisions I have kept…small parties of the 13th Virginia Regiment at Rairdon’s Bottom.” Clearly, General McIntosh had connections with this military outpost in the Georgetown area and even knew the name. It’s certainly no surprise that he would have, being the fort was so close to his own; by boat, the journey would have taken less than a day.

      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 strategic 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 keelboats and canoes which it supplied and obtaining the essentials of the fort(s) by the Beaver and Ohio rivers; this made it a paramount objective to the Continental Army generals.                    One must solely rely on his own inquisitive imagination to fully augment the dangers that our descendants endured in our region. The origin of our history, though obscure and highly contentious among its auditors, is still a glittering odyssey through adventure and persuasive credibility among its citizens. It is the refulgent consensus of local historians that the “original” site of the fort lay on the south bank of the Ohio at the mouth of Mill Creek or Nash Run. As a result of the word “Bottom” they hold a strong conviction that the fort was located along the river at the mouth of a stream; yet, no physical evidence has ever been presented to convince historians of this suggestion. The ancient site of this historic relic is veiled in the tapestry of the brush, trees, and earth that is Georgetown, patiently anticipating rediscovery.

      Despite its location or the spelling of its name, it is without question that Reardon’s Bottom was a significant military 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 and the development of Beaver County and the Ohio Valley region is unprecedented, as well as sadly unpopular in writing and symposium. Reardon’s Bottom is not a closed chapter in our history; on the contrary, it is my hope that historians, local and national alike, will give this subject more attention and detail, and even bequeath the land and the name a higher sphere of national and local merit.

References:

Denver and Eugenia Walton and Bob Bauder, Rivers of Destiny, Beaver County Historical Research and Landmarks Foundation for the Beaver County Bicentennial, 1999, p 58.

Denver and Eugenia Walton and Bob Bauder, Rivers of Destiny, Beaver County Historical Research and Landmarks Foundation for the Beaver County Bicentennial, 1999, p 60.

Thomas J Malone, John Bever, Pioneer Surveyor, East Liverpool Historical Society, 1975, p 31.

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