The property on which Belmar
Landing sits and the immediate surroundings have a long history.
Beginning in the early eighteenth
century, western Pennsylvania became the centerpiece in the struggle between the
French and British empires for control of the fur trade and settlement of lands
to the west. This conflict periodically erupted in small armed skirmishes and
led to the construction of three forts in nearby Franklin over a short span of
thirty-four years representing three different regimes ( French – Fort Machault
( 1753 ), British – Fort Venango ( 1760 ) and American – Fort Franklin ( 1787 )
In order to stake their claim to the
region, the French commissioned an expedition in 1749 from their base in Quebec
through western New York to the site of present day Warren, Pa. and then down
the Allegheny ( known as the “Belle Riviere” or Beautiful River by the French )
to Pittsburgh. Captain Bienville de Celoron led this expedition and Father
Bonnecamps served as both a missionary and navigator. The purpose of this
expedition was to establish relations with the Indians in the area and make
clear to both Indians and outpost British traders and settlers that this land
was France’s. Along the way, the expedition buried inscribed engraved lead
plates at key points to stake France’s claim to the region. The lead plate
buried at Warren was recovered and sent by the Seneca Indians to their allies,
the British. This is a translated excerpt of the inscription on this plate :
In the year 1749, of the reign of Louis the 15th,
King of France, we Celoron, commander of a detachment sent by Monsieur the
Marquis de la Galissoniere, Governor General of New France, to reestablish
tranquility in some Indian villages of these cantons, have buried this Plate
of Lead ….. as a monument of the renewal of the possession we have taken of
the said river Ohio and of all those which empty into it, and of all the
lands on both sides as far as sources of the said rivers, as enjoyed, or
ought to have been enjoyed by the kings of France preceding, as they have
there maintained themselves by arms and by treaties, especially those of
Ryswick, Utrecht, and Aix la Chapelle.
One of these lead plates, never
recovered, is buried approximately one mile downriver from Belmar Landing on the
opposite shore of the river.
On August 3, 1749, the expedition left
Franklin and headed south on the Allegheny River. After passing the “Riviere
aux Boeufs” ( French Creek) and another creek on the left ( East Sandy Creek
), the expedition reached a bend in the river about nine miles below Franklin,
on the left or eastern bank. On this bend in the river lay a large boulder,
nearly twenty-two feet in length and fourteen feet wide, on the face of which
were hieroglyphics. It was regarded by the natives attached to the expedition
as an “Indian God” and held in superstitious reverence. Celeron deemed it a
good place to bury his second leaden plate. Celeron recorded the event as
follows : “Buried a leaded plate on the south bank of the Ohio river four
leagues below the Riviere aux Boeufs, opposite a bald mountain and near a large
stone, on which are many figures crudely engraved.”
This “Indian God Rock” still
exists today and can be seen across the river from the southern end of Belmar
Landing or can be inspected by crossing the river at Belmar on the Alleghany
Valley Trails bike trail network and riding or walking to the site.
Several years later, a young officer in
the service of the British, George Washington, passed through the area on his
way to Fort LeBouf in Waterford, Pa. in order to formally notify the French that
the frontier was claimed by the English crown. On December 4, 1753, he
passed up the trail which is now Old State Route 8 and arrived in Franklin.
The struggle for the region continued
into the 1760’s until the French, suffering several defeats and lacking
sufficient support from their homeland, retreated to Canada. With the
departure of the French, the Indians were left to deal with the growing
settlement by the British, and soon Americans. Indian friction in the area
continued until the early 1800’s.
The property on which Belmar Landing is
located was first settled by John Foster, an immigrant from Maryland, in
1812. The portion of the property along the river ( now Belmar Landing ) was
farmed as evidenced by the stone fences that can be seen in places.
Eventually, the Foster family also cleared some pastures at the top of the hill
( across which you drive to reach Belmar Landing ). Subsistence farming, combined
with some timber harvesting ( lumber was floated in rafts to Pittsburgh ) was
the sole means of survival until the discovery of oil.
In 1859, Colonel Drake drilled Drake
Well near Titusville, Pa. The excitement quickly spread down the Oil Creek
Valley approximately 20 miles northeast of Belmar Landing. In 1860, a well was
drilled on the property immediately downriver and adjacent to Belmar Landing.
This well flowed oil at a rate of 350 barrels of oil per day and opened up what
came to be known as the “Foster Third Sand Pool”. Drilling across Belmar
Landing and on both sides of the river quickly spread, gradually to wells on the
top of the hills.