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October 7, 2014: Wade P. Catts

The Continental Powder Works on French Creek
Wade P. Catts

Some points from Mr. Catts’ interesting and informative talk at Washington Memorial Chapel:

  • The Continental Power Works and Gun Factory were located in East Pikeland Township
  • This project was largely funded by the American Battlefield Protection Program
  • In the early years of the Revolutionary War, all gun powder was imported
  • January 1776 - it was decided a powder works would be built on an East Pikeland property
  • February 1776 – Congress approved funding for the powder works
  • June 1776 – powder works operational
  • December 1776 – gun factory built on site, also barracks
  • March 1777 – powder works explodes, probably by accident
  • 22 September 1777 – French Creek gun factory torched by British. Several thousand weapons destroyed.
  • Ingredients for gun powder: sulfur, charcoal, saltpeter (potassium nitrate)
  • Before 1984, thinking was that little could be learned from battlefields. Investigations at Little Big Horn, where the path of individual weapons were traced, changed all that.
  • This investigation of the powder works project used soil cores, trenching, metal detection, magnetic gradiometry, hand excavation, and ground penetrating radar.
  • Evidence was found of the powder mill, graining mill, salt peter house, drying houses, gun factory, stamping mill, store houses, barracks, and raceway, as well as other buildings.
  • Today you can take a walking tour of this important early industrial complex. Signage explains the various sites.