ALTOONA, Pa (WTAJ)– Dozens of families celebrated the nation’s birthday at Fort Roberdeau, learning the country’s history and reciting the Declaration of Independence.
Fort Roberdeau is a historic fort built during the Revolutionary War in 1778. Its purpose was to protect lead mines in the area from the Native Americans loyal to Britain. Lead mines provided the materials needed for ammunition, which is what the Continental Army needed.
The fort featured many activities, including Native American storytellers, visiting different history stations, and reading the Declaration of Independence. The Fort Roberdeau Director Glenn Nelson said they’ve been doing these 4th of July activities for over a decade.
“We’re celebrating the living history,” Nelson said. “We have men representing the majors that would serve at Fort Roberdeau at the time. We also have militiamen, who were locals who served at the fort. Everyone can see on the grounds what took place at Fort Roberdeau during the Revolutionary War.”
Actors involved with Fort Roberdeau describe that people are fascinated by how things were done back in the day. A doctor at Fort Roberdeau, John Bollinger, said that he would be the only doctor for miles considering in the 18th century, their only modes of transportation were walking or horse.
“I would be here if there were an injury,” Bollinger said. “There was no fort doctor. The nearest doctor was near Macalevee Sword down in Huntingdon County, and you have to send for them. Everything you see in my office he would be packed on horseback and brought with me.”
Bollinger described that doctors back then would go to school; however, it was not as advanced. Some possible medicines used would be dandelion, willow bark, or tree moss.
In addition, Bollinger would be the doctor, surgeon, and apothecary (pharmacist) for everyone. He described that his main goal was to treat the symptoms because of the lack of resources available.
Nelson said that the younger kids had an eye-opening experience at the site. They’re fascinated by the way everything was done before technology.
Another staple of their celebration is the reading of the Declaration of Independence. They recite the document every year to salute to the first step of the country’s independence and demonstrate how far the country’s come since 1776.
“Part of the purpose of rereading the Declaration of Independence is so the public can hear the document from beginning to end declaring our independence from the King of England and Great Britain,” Nelson said.
Fort Roberdeau was also the designated Blair County’s Bicentennial Project, which allowed the fort to be reconstructed in 1976 using federal dollars. Bollinger says this is part of the county’s history just as much as America.
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“Not only is this a part of American History, but it’s also a part of Blair County’s history,” Bollinger said. “At that time, we were even a part of Blair County. I believe we were still a part of Cumberland or Huntingdon County.”
To donate or volunteer at the historical site, visit their website.