Fort Augusta, Pennsylvania was a stronghold in the upper Susquehanna Valley that was utilized from the French and Indian War to the close of the American Revolution. It was built on the site of Shamokin, the largest Indian town and trading center in Pennsylvania. Constructed with upright logs facing the river, and lengthwise logs in the rear, it was about 200 feet square. The main wall of the fort was faced by a dry ditch to about half its height. A triangular bastion in each corner permitted a crossfire that covered the entire extent of the wall. The main structure of the fort enclosed officers’ and soldiers’ quarters, a magazine, and a well, the last two of which are still preserved. it is said to have had 16 mounted cannons.
On July 8, 1736, Shamokin was described as having eight huts beside the Susquehanna River with scattered settlements extending over 700-800 acres between the river and the mountain. Terrified of vengeful white soldiers, the Indians burned their homes and abandoned the site in the days leading up to the French and Indian War. Within days, the British began construction of the fort in defense against the raids of the French and Indians from the upper Allegheny region.
During the American Revolution, Fort Augusta was the military headquarters of the American forces in the upper Susquehanna Valley. The activities of the Northumberland County Militia, the sending of troops to serve in George Washington’s army, and the support and protection of smaller posts throughout the valley were all directed from the fort, where Colonel Samuel Hunter, the last commandant, resided.
During its use, Fort Augusta, with its strength and strategic location, was never forced to endure a siege. After the war, Colonel Hunter was allowed to retain the Commandant’s Quarters as his property. Over the years, it gradually deteriorated, but his descendants continued to live there until 1848 when the log house burned. Four years later, Hunter’s grandson, Captain Samuel Hunter, built another home. Both men are buried in the Hunter-Grant Cemetery across the street.
In 1930, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania purchased the land on which the well and magazine are located, and, in 1931, acquired the larger tract, which included The Hunter House. The Fort Augusta property is now the headquarters of the Northumberland County Historical Society and a museum. A model of the fort was built in 1939 but was taken down in 1974. The model was rebuilt in 2013, which stands in the front of the museum. The museum is located at 1150 North Front Street, Sunbury, Pennsylvania.
©Kathy Weiser-Alexander, updated May 2020.