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Digging for artifacts reveals historical site

By Staff | Jul 25, 2018

BARB BARRETT/The Luminary Gary Fogelman of Muncy is with one of the John Brady descendants who came to help with the public archaeology dig in early June at the new Fort Brady heritage park. They are sifting the silt from the test pits to see if there are remaining flints or signs left behind from the original homestead.

MUNCY – A new park has arrived in Muncy. It is well maintained and historically significant to Lycoming County. The new Brady Heritage Park is another community development project sponsored through the Muncy Historical Society. “This is exciting stuff for Muncy,” announced director, Bill Poulton. “This is the site of Captain John Brady’s homestead.”

On June 7th, 12 descendants of the Brady family were at the new Brady Heritage Park site that was once the village site of Fort Brady, digging test pits. Captain John Brady was a Revolutionary War hero who was killed by the Indians while protecting the walls of Muncy.

The development of the Fort Brady Heritage Park, located at the northwest corner of North Market Street in Muncy, is turning into a public park with trails, interpretive panels and a public archaeological dig. Deb Hill a member of the Northcentral chapter of Archaeology said, “This is the stockaded village site for Fort Brady,” as she dug out a test pit with Darlene Borts, a descendant of John Brady who came from Wellsboro.

Several test pits were dug “below the plow zone” to see if there were any remaining sediment, brick or flint. “We dig down to virgin soil,” added Hill.

The event was timed with the Brady family reunion that occurs every three years and lasts for four days in Shippensburg according to Borts. “We meet at the log cabin homestead which was rebuilt in Shippensburg where the original family came from.” John Brady was the son of Hugh and Tanna Brady and fought during the Revolutionary War in the Glade Run area.

BARB BARRETT/The Luminary Darlene Borts of Wellsboro and a descendant of the John Brady family is with Deb Hill of Montoursville, an archaeologist, as they dig up a test pit at the original site of the Brady Homestead that is set to be a public trail in the borough of Muncy.

Using flat edged shovels several local archaeology members and the Brady descendants spent most of the morning exploring and sifting through soil for artifacts. “This was a joint community effort with the Muncy Historical Society, the Northcentral Archaeology Club, and the John Brady Family,” said Robyn Van Auken who led the test dig with Gary Fogelman of Muncy. “We received a grant and some donations for the excavation,” she said. The group dug small holes in a grid system around the homestead site in order to determine its beginning and end. “This will give us an idea of where the Fort may have been,” said Van Auken.

Interpretive signage will be added to the center of the site. In the spring of 2019 the archaeology chapter will do a “full blown excavation at the ongoing site.”

The Brady descendants said they enjoyed visiting Muncy and they began their day with an overview of frontier life in 1778 and 1779 at the museum before visiting the Brady Heritage Park and walking the new trails.

While some of the visitors stayed at the archaeological site, others traveled via car caravan to the Brady Ambush marker and then on to the Hall’s Cemetery with a visit from Henry Lebo, a soldier under Captain John Brady’s command, and portrayed by Bill Corson of Muncy.

The group was assisted by Brian S. Auman, a landscape architect from Lewisburg who helped clear garbage from the site and laid down the infrastructure. Auman also assisted with the Muncy Heritage and Canal Park on Pepper Street. “We are now implementing the big picture with this park, connecting the public with the Susquehanna River and its resources. Muncy now can become part of the Susquehanna Greenway system,” Auman said.

Gary Fogelman, well known for his arrowheads, found a gravel path that led from a spring to the fort. “The spring was destroyed in the 1930s and re-routed by the Civil Army Corp of Engineers.”

Harvey Katz, an ecologist and member of the Muncy Historical Society said the soil horizon is about one and half feet below the top soil organisms, and is mixed with silt from the river. “This slowly built up over the years,” he replied. Discovering smooth rounded stones shows moving water. “We are finding lots of rocks in the stream bed. This (Glade Run) is a very active area geologically.” Katz also noted that there have been waste chemicals that got buried in the canal systems from industrial activity.

Although Fort Brady played an important part in the early settlement and the history of the West Branch Valley, its exact location wasn’t discovered until 1937 according to an excerpt from Now and Then, Muncy Historical Society’s news source.

After the dig, the Brady descendants met at the Muncy Historical Society for lunch and a museum tour before departing for Shippensburg. The descendants who came to Muncy traveled from Virginia, Nevada, Oklahoma, three different areas of Texas, Maryland, and Idaho. Robert Brady and Ruth Ann Edney said they came from San Antonio and visited the Brandywine Museum the day before. “The Brady family is of Scotch and Irish heritage,” Edney said.

They ended their day “with a visit to Route 87 and a brief summary of the First Great Runaway of 1778, the mortal wounding of James Brady, and the Second Runaway of 1779.” They also went to the Samuel Wallis homestead and learned about the role of Fort Muncy during the American Revolution.

Most recently The Muncy Bank and Trust Company presented a check for $5,000 to support the Fort Brady Heritage Park project and the 3rd Pops at Pepper Street outdoor concert performed by the Williamsport Symphony Orchestra at 232 Pepper Street in Muncy. The donation will provide support for the Muncy Historical Society’s plan to develop the former Brady Homestead and Brady Fort property into a public park with trails and interpretive panels to guide visitors through the site’s history. The 4th Pops at Pepper Street concert is being held on August 4th and is free to the community.