This entry includes a virtual tour! Take the tour.
Backstory and Context
Out of all four forts build within modern-day Franklin, Pennsylvania's borders, the Old Garrison was perhaps the most successful. Fort Machault was destroyed by the French in an effort to keep it out of British hands, the British Fort Venango was host to a bloodbath that saw no survivors, and the American Fort Franklin was infamous for its chronic dilapidation and poor positioning. The Old Garrison alone was kept in good condition, staffed by capable men, and repurposed for continued civilian use after it was abandoned by the American military forces. It was placed along the banks of the Allegheny River and French Creek, as had those before it. These two waterways were major trade routes, and whoever controlled them could control a large swath of Pennsylvania by default. While its exact location is unknown, records from the time praise its strategic superiority to those before it. It is generally accepted that the fort was located at the confluence of French Creek and Allegheny, in line with the trajectory of Franklin's 10th Street. A state historical marker is located at the corner of 10th Street and Liberty Street and gives a brief history of the fort.
The Old Garrison's walls were around 16 feet high, and the inside area was thirty by thirty-six feet squared. This fort lacked the usual high towers and rows of ditches forts of the time used as obstacles to entry. Instead, logs were laid flat around the perimeter as a sort of fence. The Americans were not as friendly with the Native Americans as the French were. The French had encouraged trade with the Native Americans and planted corn outside Fort Machault as a peace offering. However, from their lack of standard defensive ditches and watchtowers, it’s clear that the Americans did not fear imminent attacks or anticipate another conflict similar to the French and Indian War, which had precipitated the construction and/or destruction of Machault, Venango and Franklin. The Old Garrison was occupied by the American military from 1796 to 1799, with little to report in the way of conflict.
Rather than tear the fort down (as had been the fate of Forts Machault, Venango and Franklin before it) the locals used the structure as a jail, starting in 1805. This makes it unique among the forts - Machault and Venango were burned, and Franklin eventually turned into a trading town. However, Franklin was also dis-assembled by the locals, who used the timber and stonework to build their homes and businesses. Old Garrison was not deconstructed, but rather was adopted as a structure of the town, and served as the jail house until 1819. The only reason this occurred was because Franklin was growing, and a new jail had been built. Even after Old Garrison was abandoned a second time, the locals left it alone. As a result, weather and changing topography conspired to knock the fort down and flood the site. Nowadays no mark remains of this fort, as everything is underwater, destroyed by the river it sought to control.
Busch, Clarence M. “REPORT OF THE COMMISSION TO LOCATE THE SITE OF THE FRONTIER FORTS OF PENNSYLVANIA.” ff39.Html, USGenWeb Archives, www.usgwarchives.net/pa/1pa/1picts/frontierforts/ff39.html.
Szuchie, and Gosffo. “Old Garrison - Franklin, PA.” Old Garrison - Franklin, PA - Pennsylvania Historical Markers on Waymarking.com, Groundspeak, Inc., 2020, www.waymarking.com/waymarks/wm3EAJ_Old_Garrison_Franklin_PA.