SUSQUEHANNA TOWNSHIP, Pa. (WHTM) – The area now known as Fort Hunter was first settled in 1725 by Benjamin Chambers, who later moved west and founded Chambersburg. His brother-in-law, Samuel Hunter, acquired the property, and it became known as Hunter’s Mill. But in 1754 the French and Indian War broke out, and the British decided to establish forts along the Susquehanna River. Fort Hunter was one of them.
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It wasn’t a very big fort, basically a 10′ by 14′ log blockhouse surrounded by a stockade. It served primarily as a supply fort, funneling material and soldiers to other forts further north.
The war ended in 1763, and the fort was abandoned. Its precise location was quickly lost.
The land went through different owners, starting with Captain Archibald McAllister in 1787 (who started construction of the mansion), his son John in 1833, two generations of the Boas family, and finally Margaret Wister Meigs in 1933.
Meigs sought to conserve Fort Hunter and turn it into a museum of American History. In 1980 her four children transferred the land and buildings to Dauphin County.
In 2006 the Archeology Section of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission began conducting excavations at Fort Hunter. Their main goal-try to figure out the exact location of the fort. They centered their search in the area around the mansion. As they dug down they found postholes, a well, buttons and gun parts.
In short, they found more than enough artifacts to prove the fort was there. So far though, in spite of some tantalizing evidence, they still haven’t been able to conclusively establish the precise location of the fort. It’s quite likely at least part of it is under the mansion. But in addition to more recent artifacts, in a deeper layer, they turned up stone projectile points, dating back more than 9,000 years. Fort Hunter has seen human visitors for a very long time.
Today Fort Hunter is part of the Dauphin County Park System. Most buildings have been restored and are open to the public. Special events happen all year round, from musical events to history walks to activities for kids. It’s a far cry from when Fort Hunter was just a lonely outpost guarding the area in a time of war.