The Fort at Historic Hanna's Town was built in 1773 and it was primarily used as a stop for travelers along the Forbes Trail. The Fort played a key role in the Revolutionary War and it deployed one of the first militia units after the battle of Lexington and Concord. It also was a headquarters for recruitment during the war. Along with the impacts it had on the Revolutionary War the fort was also used as the courthouse for Westmoreland County and it was used for protection from the Native Americans. Unfortunately, later during the war Native Americans and the British did burn down the town and fort on July 13, 1782. The land was then used for farming which helped to preserve what was left of the historic town and fort.
Historic Hanna’s Town was formed in 1773 and it was named
after Robert Hanna. The town was strategically built along the Forbes Trail
between Fort Ligonier and Fort Pitt. Along with the fort, a number of cabins
and taverns were constructed. The
community continued to grow as more people migrated westward. As the town grew
it became the seat for the courthouse of Westmoreland County. There were
between 200-300 residents that lived at Hanna’s Town.
The first use of the fort was to resolve conflicts between
the Virginians and Pennsylvanians. During the French and Indian War, many
Virginians moved north into Pennsylvania to help defend the Ohio Valley from
the French because Pennsylvania had no militia at this time. Pennsylvania was
founded by William Penn, who was a Quaker. Penn and many of the settlers in
Pennsylvania were Quakers, who did not believe in armed conflicts. Therefore,
Pennsylvania’s frontier was vulnerable to the French. William Penn had no power
to raise a militia for its defense. After the war was over the Virginians did
not want to leave the land as they claimed it for Virginia. This resulted in an
armed conflict between the two groups of people. This is one of the key points
as to why Hanna’s Town became the location for Westmoreland County’s first
courthouse. Thus, with a seat of government now established at Hanna’s Town,
the Pennsylvanians in Westmoreland County could now enact laws as well as raise
their own militia which signaled to the Virginians that their presence was no
longer needed. Consequently, the
Virginians returned back to Virginia. This enforced the Mason Dixon Line and
brought law and order to the area.
Hanna’s Town had a big impact in the Revolutionary War. The establishment
of the Hanna’s Town Resolves occurred shortly after the Declaration of
Independence was signed and the battle of Lexington and Concord was fought. It
was one of the first areas to form a militia to uphold their rights from the
British Crown. Citizens in Westmoreland County declared their intent to do what
was necessary to defend themselves against British oppression, including
self-defense. The fort made a flag that depicted a rattlesnake ready to strike the
British Crown, and also read, “Don’t Tread on Me.” The military unit and the
fort served as an important place for recruitment for the western front of the
war. Many soldiers that were recruited fought
against the British and Native Americans from Fort Detroit. The militia at Hanna’s Town was deployed in many frontier
battles during the Revolutionary War. Towards the end of the war on
July 13, 1782 a raiding party of British and Indians attacked the fort and
town. The people of the town retreated to the fort and took very little
causalities. The Indians and the British primarily focused on the destruction
of the town by burning it down and taking few prisoners. What remained was buried underneath farmers’
fields that eventually took over the land.
The British surrendered at Yorktown the year prior to the
attack on Hanna’s Town, but the British and Natives continued to attack the
frontier to weaken defenses and push the settlers back. Along with these
frontier attacks, that included Hanna’s Town, many other conflicts continued
with the British on land and at sea.
During the mid-20th century, the State of Pennsylvania
purchased the land where Hanna’s Town once stood and planned to use it as a
historical site. The Historical Society of Westmoreland County launched
archaeological studies to discover what was left of Hanna’s Town. Later the
group reconstructed the tavern, fort, and some other buildings on the original
site of Hanna’s Town. The Historical Society has now built a learning center
and has made Hanna’s Town their central headquarters. Now Hanna’s Town is a
place for tourism, where you learn about colonial history, specific to Western Pennsylvania.
There are many tours and reenactments at the site that contains many authentic
original buildings and artifacts to the era.