Updated Pictures of Fort Fetter, courtesy of Chet Feathers
Pictures of Fort Fetter, courtesy of Chet Feathers
This fort, erected within what are now the boundary lines of Blair county, Pennsylvania, came into the list of frontier defences in the year 1777. It was built not far from where the town of Hollidaysburg now stands, being somewhat to the southwest of that borough, and its location seems to have been on the banks or near to the banks of a creek flowing northward, which creek discharges its waters into what is called the Frankstown branch of the Juniata river. It is near McCahan's mill and was used for local purposes. Its location was not far distant from where appear on the Historical Map of Pennsylvania, the Indian path starting at the town of Bedford, running north, past Hollidaysburg, Fort Lowry, crossing the Juniata at or near Anderson's Fort and thence on northward into Centre county to where Milesburg now stands. This fort was a blockhouse used for local purposes. It appears nowhere from any of the Provincial records that it was authorized to have been built; nevertheless, it served its purpose and like all the others of like importance, it is entitled to its appropriate place, along with the rest of the unauthorized forts. Mr. Jones relates, in his Juniata Valley, that in the fall of 1777 Fetter's Fort was occupied with some twenty-five men capable of bearing arms, belonging to the Frankstown district. Among those were both the Coleman's, their own and a number of other settler's families. The Indians who had murdered the Dunkards, it appears, met about a mile east of Kittanning Point, where they encamped, in order to await the arrival of scattered forces. Thomas and Michael Coleman and Michael Wallack had left Fetter's Fort in the morning for the purpose of hunting deer. During the day snow fell to the depth of some three or four inches and in coming down the Gap, Coleman and his party crossed the Indian trail and discovered fresh tracks. It was soon determined to follow them, ascertain their force and then repair to the fort and give the alarm. They had followed the trail scarcely half a mile before they saw the blaze of the fire and the dusky outlines of the savages seated around the it. Their number, of course, could not be made out, but they conjectured that there must be in the neighborhood of thirty, but in order to get a crack at them, Thomas Coleman made his companions promise not to reveal their actual strength to the men in the fort. The available force, amounting to sixteen men, loaded their rifles and started in pursuit of the savages. By the time they reached the encampment it had grown quite cold and the night was considerable advanced, still some ten or twelve Indians were seated around the fire. They cautiously approached the men and with silence, the command was given. When within sixty yards a halt was called. The Indians appeared to be engaged in mixing paint and the others were talking. Their rifles were all leaning against a large tree and Thos. Coleman conceived the bold design of approaching the tree and securing their arms before attacking them. The achievement would have been a brilliant one, but the undertaking was deemed so hazardous that not a man would agree to second him in so reckless and daring an enterprise. When the word was given it was agreed that they should all fire and that each man should single out a particular savage to fire at. Aim was taken, the word was given, some three or four of the savages fell and those who were sitting around the fire, as well as those who were lying upon the ground instantly sprang to their feet and ran to the tree where their rifles stood. The boys did not even have time to reload their guns before they ran away. It appears that Wallack and Holliday were the only ones left to obey Coleman's orders. The number of the savages being large, they became frightened and ran to the fort. From this time on Coleman assumed command at the fort and was one of the principal men in this locality in resisting the Indians. This encounter with the Indians created alarm through the sparsely settled country. People from the neighborhood gathered their families into the fort under the firm impression that they were to be harassed by savage warfare, not only during the winter, but as long as the Revolutionary struggle was to continue. This cloud of war soon passed by and the people betook themselves again to their houses, before the holidays of 1777, where they remained without molestation. During these alarms and troubles which followed in the course of the war, Adam Holliday took a conspicuous part in defending the frontiers. He aided in erecting Fetter's Fort and afterwards expended his means into turning Titus' stable into a fort. This war fort was located on a flat nearly opposite the second lot below Hollidaysburg, and the two served as a place of refuge for all the settlers of what was then merely called the upper end of Frankstown district. He also, with his own money, purchased provisions and through his exertions arms and ammunitions were brought from the eastern counties. His courage and energy inspired the settlers to make a stand at a time when they were on the very point of flying to Cumberland county. In December, 1777, he visited Philadelphia, for the purpose of securing a part of the funds appropriated to the defence of the frontier. The following letter to President Wharton was given to him by Col. John Piper, of Bedford county: Bedford County, December 19th, 1777. "Sir: Permit me, Sir, to recommend to you for counsel and directions, the bearer Mr. Holliday an inhabitant of Frankstown, one of the frontier settlements of our county, who has at his own risk been extremely active in assembling the people of that settlement together and in purchasing provisions to serve the militia who came to their assistance. As there was no person appointed, either to purchase provisions or to serve them out, necessity obliged the bearer, with the assistance of some neighbors, to purchase a considerable quantity of provisions for that purpose, by which the inhabitants have been enabled to make a stand. His request is that he may be supplied with cash, not only to discharge the debts already contracted, but likewise to enable him to lay up a store for future demand. I beg leave, Sir, to refer to the bearer, for further information, in hopes you will provide for their further support. Their situation requires immediate assistance." The mission of Mr. Holliday was successful. He returned with sufficient means to recruit the fort with provisions and ammunition, and continued to be an active, energetic frontiersman during all the Indian troubles.