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CTSR History


Custaloga Town Scout Reservation has inherited from its early inhabitants a rich historical legacy that should not be further lost to the ravages of time.

Much has already been lost about the early inhabitants of Custaloga's Town. Many years and probably centuries before European settlement of this region there was a people of whom we know very little. All that remains of this civilization are various mounds and a few stone implements. After these people disappeared, the area was inhabited by the Seneca's of the Wolf Clan, under the leadership of Guyasuta (sic), who served as the League Deputy or "half king" on the Allegheny - Ohio. At this time, Custaloga, of the Wolf Clan of Delawares, arrived at the present site of Custaloga Town Scout Reservation.

Custaloga's name first appeared in western Pennsylvania's history in "George Washington's Journal of 1753". When Washington arrived at Fort Machault in the village of Venango, Custaloga was in charge of the wampum of his nation. This wampum was a message that was to be sent to the Six Nations if the French refused to leave the land.

Custaloga, or Kustaloga, was the chief of the Munsee or Wolf Clan of Delawares. He was living at Venango when Washington stopped there in November of 1753 on his way to Fort LeBouef. Custaloga's principal seat was Custaloga's town, located about 12 miles above the mouth of French Creek near the mouth of Deer Creek. He also ruled over the Delawares at the town of Cussewago, or Cassewago, at the present site of Meadville.

Custaloga and his Delawares sided with the French during the French and Indian War. He may have assisted Guyasuta (sic), or Guyasutha, and the French in defense of Fort Duquesne.

Following the French and Indian War the English took possession of the surrendered French forts. The Indians soon found that the English weren't as free with their gifts to the Indians as the French.

In 1763, Pontiac, chief of the Ottawas, developed a plan to drive the English to the sea. To carry out this plan, called Pontiac's War, he was ably assisted by Guyasuta (sic) and Custaloga.

In May 1763, almost every fort along the Great Lakes and Ohio were simultaneously attacked. On June 15, Fort Presque Isle was attacked and captured. On June 18, Fort LeBouef was captured and at about the same time Fort Venango was burned. On June 22, the siege of Fort Pitt was started. Custaloga and Guyasuta (sic) were involved with several battles on the Pennsylvania frontier. In August 1764, a peace was signed with the Senecas, Shawnees, and Delawares.

During October 15-20, 1764, Custaloga was present at council with Colonel Bouquet on the Tuscarawas in Ohio. At this council, hostages were returned that had been taken captive on Indian raids into Pennsylvania. This action ended the war with Pontiac.

During the peace, there were many problems with settlers moving into Indian Territory along the Ohio.

On April 26 to May 9, 1768, a council was held at Fort Pitt to address difficulties with settlements made on land of the Indians. Again, Custaloga was one of the chiefs present. The Land Purchase of 1768 lead to even more settlers in the region of the Allegheny Mountains and Ohio River.

During the Revolutionary War, Custaloga's Delawares may have maintained neutrality between the American and the British. On November 29, 1778, Colonel James Smith led an expedition from Fort Pitt to Custaloga's Town, but found the Indian town evacuated. After this date very little is recorded about Custaloga. Custaloga was not present at the signing of a peace treaty on September 17, 1778. Captain Pipe had become his successor as leader of the Wolf Clan of the Delaware. John Martin, who settled near Custaloga's Town in 1798, stated that it was in use at that time. In 1807, there was a village of 6 wigwams at Custaloga Town. When Mr. Heydrick settled the place in 18 19, only the remains of the wigwams could be seen. Very little is known of Custaloga after 1778. Some believe he lived in Ohio after he left Custaloga's Town and Captain Pipe became leader of the Wolf Clan of Delaware. References and for more information see the following

1. Eighty Years' History of Mercer County, Pennsylvania
2. Rupp, I.D., Early History of Pennsylvania, Wennawoods Publishing, 1995.
3. Sipe, C. Hale, The Indian Chiefs of Pennsylvania, Wennawoods Publishing, 1994.
4. Sipe, C. Hale, The Indian Wars of Pennsylvania, Wennawoods Publishing, 1995.
5. Wallace, Paul A. W., Indians in Pennsylvania, The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1970. 6. Washington's Journal, 1753.


How long Native Americans occupied Custaloga Town Scout Reservation is not known, but the area was inhabited by mound builders of whose history we know so little. Here they manufactured darts, hatchets, skinning knives, pipes, and their crudely shaped arrowheads. Many of these arrowheads and portions of their tools have been found at Custaloga Town.

The various nations of The Iroquois Confederacy found our valley protected by hills and settled here long before the French and Indian War. The Senecas were the main settlers here and were the Keepers of the Western Door for the Confederacy.

It is known that early in 1749 Captain Louis Celeron DeBienyille was appointed by the Governor of New France (as they called the territory in North American claimed by France) to make an expedition to lay claim to the land which the English were then settling. Celeron's expedition numbered about three hundred French soldiers, Habitants (Canadian settlers), and friendly Indians. They proceeded from the shore of Lake Erie through Lake Chautauqua and along French Creek through Custaloga's Town to present day Franklin. From here, they continued along the Allegheny and Ohio Rivers. Celeron's expedition buried lead plates along the route with an inscription claiming the land for France. One of these plates was uncovered at "Indian God Rock" near Franklin. It is believed that one was buried near Custaloga's Town, but it has never been found. Celeron called the creek "River aux Boeufs", probably because of the Woodland Bison which may have roamed this area. The creek was later called LeBoeuf River, the Venango River, and finally French Creek.

In 1753, representing the King of England, Governor Dinwiddie of Williamsburg, Virginia sent young George Washington, a surveyor 21 years of age, on a mission to the French at Fort LeBoeuf (Waterford). He was to find out whether the French intended to remain in this territory and to gather information concerning the number of forts, soldiers, and knowledge of their supplies. In December 1753, George Washington traveled through Custaloga's Town. Frontiersman Christopher Gist, Indian interpreter John Davidson, French interpreter Jacob Vanbraam, and Indian traders Henry Stewart, William Jenkins, Barnaby Curran, and John McGuire accompanied him. At Logstown, four Indian guides known as Half King, Jeskakee, White Thunder, and Guyasutha joined him. George Washington called the stream French Creek, the name it continues to bear.

Custaloga's Town was the home of a clan of Delaware known as the Wolf Clan and at various times by Senecas. Custaloga was a chief of the Delaware who lived at this location and other locations along French Creek and the Allegheny River. He also resided at Cussewago, the present site of Meadville. When the first settlers came to our Scout Reservation in 1795, six longhouses were still in use at the junction of Deer Creek and French Creek.

One of the first settlers to live here was John Martin Jr. who came from Maryland in 1796. He had a ferry across French Creek, which became an important shipping center at that time. Unloaded at Franklin the supplies were transported along French Creek en-route to LeBoeuf and Presque Isle. The early pioneers depended on John Martin to ship out their grain, furs, and lumber, and to receive their other supplies.

The first log cabin was built in 1794, and in 1820, the Heydrick Homestead was started which remains as a memory of Custaloga Town's great heritage. Dr. Charles Heydrick came from Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia and practiced medicine throughout Mercer and Venango Counties.

The brick for the Heydrick House was made on the farm and the stone blocks supporting the house were cut from local stone. The bricks lying flat and smooth on the basement floor are double width. All of the interior original walls are constructed of brick. This excellent construction is the reason we still have the building. The chimneys form a "Y" around the third story windows to make one chimney protruding from either side of the beautiful old home. There were four specious rooms downstairs with a fireplace in each room. There were five bedrooms on the second floor; four that had fireplaces made of native brick and stone. There are massive double windows throughout the house with casements about a foot wide. This home has been occupied by various generations of Heydricks who have kept the land under cultivation. The Heydrick Farm continued to be operated through 1946.

Several stories persist as to the burial site of Guyasutha and one of these stories places his burial at Custaloga's Town. John Martin claimed to have assisted in the burial of three Indians in the cemetery and one of them was a chief named 'Guy-a-soo-ter. Martin said, 'He himself made the chief s coffin and the Indians had requested a hole be cut in the wood above the chief s eyes so he could look out."

The descendants of Charles H. Heydrick erected a marker in 1915 to the memory of Guyasutha on his burial site with the following inscription:

Guyasutha -- A chief of the Delaware Indian had his town here known as Custaloga. He was buried here about 1810.

Although the Heydricks called Guyasutha a Delaware, it is now known that he was a Seneca of the Wolf Clan, His name means Crosses Standing in a Row'. Although he was not a hereditary chief, he exerted vast influence among his people and among the settlers. He was for many years the league deputy or half -king for the Seneca in the Allegheny-Ohio country. His Sister was Chief Cornplanter's mother.
In 1827, construction was started on an artificial waterway to connect the waters of Lake Ede with the Ohio River, which was suggested by George Washington in 1708. Several dams were built on French Creek below the canal to provide slack water navigation on the creek. The one located at our Scout Reservation was called Heydrick Dam. The building of this navigation system brought trade through our Scout Reservation and many stores, industries, and hotels were constructed at Utica located three miles South of the reservation. Slack water navigation was not very successful or profitable so within a few years it was abandoned.

The third school in the area was operated in the home of John Martin Jr. located on the Heydrick Farm and was taught by Miss Anna Moore.

In 1963 the Mercer County Council, Boy Scouts of America purchased the land, consisting of over five hundred acres, f or the development of a Scout Reservation named Custaloga Town. Jim Dunlop was president for four years during the fund drive and construction of the reservation. Carlton Hutchison was chairman of the camp fund drive. John Gross, the person who found this site, was the architect of buildings and camp layout. Vern Smith was camp development chairman for Mercer County Council.

Camp Hank Forker was the first camp to open on the reservation. Custaloga Town first opened to Scout camping in the summer of 1967, It replaced the Mercer County Council's Camp Kiondashawa and later became the home for the entire French Creek Council. The first Scout camp was held during the summer of 1968 with Dr. Frederick J. Brenner serving as Camp Director. Custaloga Town Scout Reservation was dedicated on Saturday, July 19, 1969 with Congressmen Joseph Vigorito as Master of Ceremonies and Brigadier General James L. Murray as principal speaker.

Custaloga Town Scout Reservation has the finest facilities for the outdoor Scouting program in all of Northwestern Pennsylvania. With the completion of French Creek Council's long range plan for the development of a Cub Scout camp on the reservation, it will be one of the most outstanding reservations operated under the name of the Boy Scouts of America.

October 30, 2012