7 Year Tea Party Winners: Susan Craft's winner of her trilogy novels - The Chamomile, Laurel, and Cassia is: Lucy Reynolds, The winner of a copy of The Backcountry Brides is: Tammy Cordery, the winner of a silver quill charm is: Kathy Maher, Choice of one of three books by Carrie Fancett Pagels in paperback: Joy Ellis, A Bouquet of Brides Collection by Pegg Thomas winner is: Becky Smith, Janet Grunst's Selah-Award winning novel, A Heart Set Free, is: Sherry Moe.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Making Revolutionary War History Come Alive by Cynthia Howerter

Last winter as my sister Pamela and I drove through Penn's Valley in Centre County, Pennsylvania, she told me that two young Revolutionary War soldiers lay buried within a stone's throw of the highway we were traveling on. A colonial history buff, my sister's comment intrigued me and I asked her to take me to their gravesite. Unfortunately, years had passed since Pamela last visited the graves and she couldn't remember their exact location.

I recently traveled again to Penn's Valley. And I remembered the soldiers. After scouring maps and historical references to the fallen men, my sister and I tried once more to find their graves. This time we succeeded.

Turning off the main highway onto a narrow dirt farm lane, we quickly came upon the grave site. Pamela had been rightone could clearly see the main highway from the burial site. I was stunned that I hadn't noticed the gravestone in all the years that I'd traveled that road.

The graves of Thomas Van Doran and Jacob Shadacre in Centre County, Pennsylvania

As a historian, I had to know the story behind the inscription on the grave marker. Thus began a search for Thomas Van Doran and Jacob Shadecre.

Penn's Valleylike all of the Pennsylvania back countryhad been hit hard by raiding Indians during the Revolutionary War, especially in 1778. The four Iroquois tribes that allied with the British conducted devastating raids, burning houses and barns, killing livestock and people, and abducting settlers.

After the settlers planted their crops in the Spring of 1778, Indian raids in this frontier area forced them to flee their farms and seek safety east of the Susquehanna River. Summer arrived and the abandoned crops were ready to be harvested. Warily, some settlers returned. But new Indian raids threatened to drive them from the area before the harvest could be completed.

On the eastern side of Pennsylvania, Colonel Daniel Broadhead and his 8th Pennsylvania Regiment left Valley Forge on June 11th. They had spent the harsh winter of 1777-1778 there with General George Washington. The Regiment marched to Carlisle, Pennsylvania, arriving on July 8th. News of recent Indian raids in Pennsylvania's back country reached Carlisle and resulted in Colonel Broadhead being ordered to march his regiment up the Susquehanna River and drive out the warriors so the settlers could safely return to their farms.

Broadhead's men left Carlisle on July 12th and followed the Susquehanna River northward until they reached the confluence of the river's North and West Branches about July 20th, the site of Fort Augusta.

At Fort Augusta, Colonel Broadhead gave orders to Captain John Finley to march his company of about twenty-five men to Penn's Valley. Thomas Van Doran and Jacob Shadecre, young soldiers in the prime of their lives, served in Finley's unit.

Captain Finley led his soldiers to Fort Potter in Penn's Valley. This small fort, built by General James Potter the previous year, stood on a knoll that provided a panoramic view of the surrounding area.

Correspondence written by General Potter at his fort near the end of July reveals that the farmers in this area had generally returned. On July 24th, Finley's men left the safety of Potter's Fort and spread out across the valley. Thomas Van Doran and Jacob Shadecre walked together to a farmer's fieldthe same field you see in the photo below.

Thomas Van Doran and Jacob Shadacre were killed in this field

There, within sight of the fort, five Indian warriors surprised the two soldiers and engaged them in a fight. A well-aimed bullet abruptly ended Thomas's life. Jacob tried to put distance between himself and the Indians, running about 400 yards as a warrior pursued him. The Indian caught up to Jacob and they engaged in hand-to-hand combat, fighting for their lives with knives. Jacob killed his attacker.

But his victory was short-lived. Another Indian fired a shot that stole Jacob's life. His body lay on the ground, barely fifteen feet from the warrior he had slain.

Fellow soldiers from Finley's company buried the two young men next to each other at the edge of the field.

DAR Monument and grave marker honoring Thomas Van Doran and Jacob Shadacre

In 1900, the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) erected the monument at Thomas and Jacob's graves, honoring the Revolutionary War soldiers who followed orders and gave up their lives on a sunny July day so that people like you and me could live on their property without fear of attack.

DAR grave marker honoring a Revolutionary War soldier

Photographs by ©2017 Cynthia Howerter

Award-winning author Cynthia Howerter grew up playing in Fort Rice, a Revolutionary War fort owned by family members, and lived on land in Pennsylvania once called home by 18th century Oneida Chief Shikellamy. Hunting arrowheads and riding horses at break-neck speed across farm fields while pretending to flee from British-allied Indians provided exciting childhood experiences for Cynthia and set the stage for a life-long love of all things historical. A descendant of a Revolutionary War officer and a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), history flows through Cynthia's veins.


  1. Thank you for sharing the history of the gravesites, and for the two young men who fought for their country and the freedoms of future Americans.

  2. Hi, Faith! You are very welcome. I'm so glad you liked the article.

  3. Cynthia, thank you for this awesome post. It is a great reminder for us all to remember the sacrifice that each individual made so that we all could be free.

  4. Hi, Elaine! You are welcome. We can never forget or fail to honor those who came before us.

  5. Great post, Cynthia. It makes me wonder how many more gravestones or other unnoticed reminders of American heroes are hiding in plain sight.

  6. Hi, Janet! I wonder the same thing after driving past this one for so many years.

  7. Another great post from my favorite historian!

    1. Oh, Susan, you are too kind - as usual. Thanks for always being so encouraging.

  8. Thank you for sharing about these brave men who died for America so long ago.
    Blessings, Tina

    1. Mrs. Tina, you are most welcome. Thanks so much for stopping by today.

  9. I enjoyed this peek into history! We need to be grateful for all the men and women who have fought for our freedom. As a military brat, that's dear to my heart. Thank you, Cynthia!

    1. You are so welcome, Sherry Carter! I never cease to be amazed at the courage of our soldiers - and their families.

  10. What an amazing story, Cynthia! And so well told! (And kinda sad ...)

    1. Thank you, Eva Marie! I was fortunate to have access to old accounts of the events that transpired involving Thomas and Jacob. The story behind the grave site marker brought new life to what appeared to be nothing more than old graves.


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