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Travelers' tip leads to excavation of Fort Crawford site

Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
Harvey Booth, president of the Burrell Group, on Wednesday, July 17, 2013, shows the four arrowheads found so far on the Parnassus property that once was the location of Revolutionary War-era Fort Crawford in New Kensington. Booth is having the site excavated in search of Colonial artefacts.

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By Braden Ashe
Friday, July 19, 2013, 1:01 a.m.

As New Kensington bar lore has it, the Fort Crawford excavation in Parnassus is the FBI's latest attempt to secure the missing remains of infamous union boss Jimmy Hoffa.

In reality, Burrell Group President Harvey Booth is preparing the property for development, all the while hoping to uncover another type of buried treasure.

Booth is digging at the site of the Revolutionary War-era fort for a pair of Colonial brass cannons and a brick well that supposedly sank into the earth after the fort ceased operations in 1793.

The existence of the artifacts was touted by a pair of gentlemen whom Booth met as they were passing through town several years ago.

Booth has taken their word to the bank and shelled out $20,000 for the project.

“We're going to lease the property for development when it's done, but we still need to find the cannons for the dig to be worth it,” he said with a smile.

While he's yet to uncover the cannons, Booth has stumbled across three musket balls and more than two dozen arrowheads at the former munitions-supply and refuge post.

Erected in 1778, Fort Crawford was built above the mouth of Pucketa Creek as a rallying point for Army scouts who patrolled the region for hostile American Indians. The excavation site is located between Industrial Boulevard and Church Street near Logans Ferry Presbyterian Church.

The stockade fort was named after Col. William Crawford, an American soldier and surveyor who fought in the Revolutionary and French and Indian wars.

Crawford, who worked as a Western land agent for George Washington, was burned at the stake along what is now Ohio's Sandusky River in 1782 by Delaware Indians. The execution was in retaliation for the Gnadenhutten massacre, in which Pennsylvania militiamen killed about 100 Native Americans in Ohio, according to the Massy Harbison-Fort Hand Chapter of Daughters of the American Revolution.

The organization recognized Fort Crawford as a historical landmark in 1942.

When Fort Crawford was abandoned in 1793, Native Americans used a portion of the surrounding grounds as a burial mound.

“There's a lot of really interesting history here,” said Booth. “It's wild to think about what can be found here.”

The five-man crew excavating the site discovered a well last week, although its cement composition indicates it was probably constructed at least a century after Fort Crawford was shut down, according to Charles Booth, Harvey's father and owner of the Burrell Group insurance agency.

“It's not our well,” he said. “The one we're looking for has to be brick if it was used in the fort's heyday. We're going to keep digging.”

Harvey Booth said the search for the cannons and well began about a month ago and will conclude next week when their contractor finishes preparing the land for development.

Booth, who purchased the property more than 15 years ago, wants to lease the land to developers.

“Hopefully, we get some return investment on it,” he said. “This treasure hunt's expensive. I've spent about a grand for each one of these arrowheads.”

Booth contracted Brunner Excavating of New Kensington for the project. The crew has dug and leveled the property with pay loaders, plows and excavators.

Booth is unsure of the cannons' value or what he'll do with them if they're found.

“I haven't even thought about it, really,” he said. “I'd probably give one to the town and keep the other one for myself. Who knows what something like that may be worth?”

Braden Ashe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4673 or

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