Fort Laurens restoration announced

Fort Laurens restoration announced

Image Credit: Lori Feeney

After decades of effort, the Ohio History Connection announced plans to rebuild Fort Laurens in Bolivar. The announcement was made during the Revolutionary War Reenactment at the fort on July 16.

Megan Wood, the incoming executive director and CEO of the Ohio History Connection, said the goal is to have the majority of the project complete by 2026 when the United States will celebrate its 250th birthday.

The project will begin with archaeological work and a land survey. “We’d like to ideally, guided by the archaeology, rebuild on the site,” Wood said, adding the aim is to have an architectural rendering and additional details to share by July 2023.

Wood said the rebuild may not be complete by 2026, but progress will be visible and new exhibits for the museum should be complete.

In addition to reconstructing the fort, the project is to include an upgrade to the Tomb of the Unknown Patriot of the American Revolution, as well as to the grave site of the American soldiers who died at the fort, both of which are located on the grounds.

The nonprofit Friends of Fort Laurens organization has raised more than $370,000 through its Sponsor-a-Log program and other fundraisers to help rebuild the fort. Another $330,000 will come from new state funding supported by state Rep. Brett Hillyer and state Sen. Jay Hottinger.

Hallowed ground

"This is an incredibly important historical site," said Darrel Markijohn, representing the Zoar Community Association, which manages Fort Laurens. “It's not just a museum. It's not just a fort. It's a Revolutionary War battlefield. Where you are standing right now is where, in 1878, revolutionary battles took place. This is hallowed ground.”

Dee Grossman, executive director of the Tuscarawas County Convention and Visitors Bureau, also expressed gratitude.

“I’m getting goosebumps just thinking about being able to rebuild this fort,” Grossman said. "When I walked through that museum, I realized there are 21 Revolutionary War soldiers buried in there — 21 men who sacrificed their lives for our freedom. You cannot help but be thankful, and as we move this project forward, you're going to see some amazing stuff come out of the ground, literally. Then you're going to see some amazing stuff grow up from the ground as we rebuild the fort."

Fort Laurens is the site of Ohio’s only Revolutionary War fort. It was built in 1778 and named in honor of Henry Laurens, president of the Continental Congress. Initially, the fort was to serve as a staging area from which soldiers could launch an attack on the British at Fort Detroit.

Instead, the undermanned fort became a death trap. Frequent attacks by nearby Native American tribes allied with the British, a lack of supplies and a harsh winter resulted in the deaths of at least 30 men.

Fort Laurens currently

The Fort Laurens Museum currently rests on part of the original fort’s location, the perimeter of which was identified during archaeological work in the 1970s.

The museum and fort grounds are used throughout the year to host events including an annual Revolutionary War Reenactment and a monthly speaker series in the museum’s amphitheater. Educational outreach programs include Revolutionary War School Day each May and Archaeology Day in October.

How to join the effort

Those who would like to donate to the rebuilding project can do so through the Friends of Fort Laurens at www.friendsoffortlaurens.org or at www.ohiohistory.org/get-involved/donate/. More information on Fort Laurens events can be found on the fort’s Facebook page or at www.fortlaurensmuseum.org.

Fort Laurens is at 11067 Fort Laurens Road NW in Bolivar.