Fort Zeller (1723-1763) - A settler home fortification and refuge first established in 1723 as a log home defense. In 1745 it was rebuilt as a stone home defense and probably served as such until the end of the Indian troubles in 1758 or 1763. It continued as a residence into recent times. Also known as Zeller's Fort, Heinrich Zeller's Fort
The Zeller family immigrated from England to New York City in 1710. The family was French Huguenot having been expelled from France and Holland because of their beliefs and accepted by Queen Anne of England and offered sanctuary in the new world. Only the mother and two sons arrived in New York, the father having died before arrival. The mother was known as Lady Clothilde de Valois Zeller and her two sons as Jean Henri and Jean Zeller. They first settled in New York but moved into Pennsylvania along with a group of like-minded people. The area became dominated by German-speaking people and the family adopted the German language, German ways and they Germanized the family name.
The Zeller family home was first established 14 Jun 1723 as a log structure built over the output of a spring. The house was rebuilt in 1745 just north of the original log house and constructed with stone on the outside and with heavy timbers and plaster walls inside. Settler protections included a unique, for the time, iron door latch for the front door, stone and heavy timber construction, securable window shutters and a running spring under the house. The house was, for all intents and purposes, fireproof and impervious to Indians armaments of the day.
The fort was used as a refuge for the Zeller family and neighbors during Indian hostilities and by the Pennsylvania colonial militia when it was deployed in the area. By one account, an Indian attack took place and the lone occupant of the home at the time, Christine Zeller, managed to dispatch three Indians who entered through or under the spring room door. She did this by luring them in, one at a time, taking an ax to the head of each and dragging the bodies into the fort.
It is difficult to establish a date for either the start or the end of the use of the dwelling as a fortification but it would seem that the original dwelling was a defense from the outset and that it probably was thought of as defense through 1763. With the end of Pontiac's War in 1763, the Indian conflict in Pennsylvania shifted to the western part of the state and away from Lebanon County.
Must See! Pennsylvania's oldest existing fort structure of its type. Almost the entire structure is a museum filled with period artifacts and antiques.
Access and tours are given by appointment. On private property in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania.
A memorial containing a replica of the original land grant is mounted on a large boulder at the entrance to the property of Fort Zeller Road.
Visited: 25 Apr 2012