Arts & Culture

Discover All Things Regional in Central PA’s art and culture scene. Join hosts Cary Burkett and Joe Ulrich as they make artistic discoveries throughout the midstate. From music and visual arts to theatre, museums, literature and more! Listen every Wednesday and Friday on witf 89.5 and 93.3 for features highlighting the best and brightest cultural happenings in the region.

Sunbury: Small Town with Big History

Written by Cary Burkett, Arts & Culture Desk and WITF Host | Apr 3, 2015 9:07 AM

Scale model of Fort Augusta

Sixty miles upriver of Harrisburg on the Susquehanna River, the town of Sunbury is situated just below where the west branch of the river meets the main branch from the east. It's the county seat of Northumberland County.

For a small town, it boasts some outsize history. When Pennsylvania was still a British colony, it was home to one of the largest Native American settlements in Pennsylvania.

During the fighting known as the French and Indian War, the region came under threat of attack.  After the Penn's Creek Massacre in 1755 near what is now Selinsgrove, Fort Augusta was constructed in what is now Sunbury in 1756 to defend the entire region.

It was the largest Provincial fort, strongly built and well designed to withstand a storming attack. While large French cannon placed on the ridges above might have reduced the fort in short order, apparently the only time this was considered, the guns brought along were too small, and no attack was ever made. Some believe that if the fort had been taken, it might have altered the course of the French and Indian War.

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John L. Moore

John L. Moore, a retired newspaperman, has written eight books collecting stories from Pennsylvania's colonial days, a series called Frontier Pennsylvania. He is also on the board of the Northumberland County Historical Society, whose headquarters is located in The Hunter House, on the site of old Fort Augusta. 

The Hunter House contains a museum of artifacts, many of them recovered from a series of archeological digs made at the site. There is also a recently restored large model of the fort in front of the museum.

John L. Moore took us on a tour to uncover some other interesting episodes in Sunbury's history, including a trip to the Hotel Edison, the first commercial structure in the world to be lighted with Thomas Edison's electrical system. You can hear our audio feature with him below.


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