Located on a knoll along the east side of Route 441, 900 feet from the present shoreline of the Susquehanna, a collection of 26 or more native longhouses dominated the ridgeline during the late 16th century. North of this knoll the land drops abruptly into Witmer's Run. About 500 yards east rises another knoll. This was the site of an earlier village known as the Funk Shenks Ferry village.
WASHINGTON BORO SITE
By 1600, the Schultz site was largely abandoned and they moved to what became their largest town in the area. This site was inhabited at the time of John Smith's 1608 connection but it's unlikely he traveled this far upstream. John Keller uncovered numerous graves as he dug for his house foundation in 1875. In 1931, Donald Cadzow unearthed 79 burials. Next, John Witthoft discovered a butchery and cooking area in 1949. Other excavations over the years established the village to be 250,000 square feet which could house 1,700 people.
When the Washington Boro site depleted their resources, the group appears to have split in two. One moved upstream near Bainbridge. The other, the Roberts site, was established on about 3 acres about 600 yards east of a sharp turn of Witmer Road. On a rise about 90 yards above the Conestoga River, the site is estimated to have housed about 900 inhabitants. The Swedish pastor, Johannes Campanius, early in the 17th century, said, "They live on a high mountain...there they have a fort, a square building surrounded by palisades. There, they have guns, and small iron cannon."
In 1873, beyond Staman's Run, John Staman excavated an unusual burial. It contained an iron helmet, pike, cutlass, iron axe, iron hoe, two small canonnbals, and a ceramic vessel. The helmet, since, has been verified to be of Swedish origin (circa 1620) and its presence signifies the depth of Swedish influence over this area during that period. Later excavations in 1971 reaped other burials, some of which were Susquehannock and others being Shenks Ferry. Other artifacts included a Rhenish jug with three seals denoting the city of Amsterdam, dated 1630.
About 500 yards south of the Shultz site, another village (or, fort, in this case) was established after the Washington Boro and Roberts sites. In 1968, 60,000 square feet was excavated by bulldozer. The tribe gathered here about 1645 and remained about 20 years. Rampant pillaging during the late 1800s was responsible for many lost artifacts. Some 550 storage pits, an extensive stockade, and at least 19 longhouses have been recorded (of an estimated 90). The stockade wall is believed to have covered 12.5 acres and the population is estimated to have reached 2,880.
OSCAR LEIBHART SITE
The Strickler site was abandoned by 1665 and the Susquehannocks moved to the other side of the river. Excavated in 1956 by Fred Kinsey, a brass candlestick was discovered among the artifacts. The stockade covered about 221,000 square feet and house a population of about 1,200. The site is actually recorded on the 1670 map of Augustus Hermann. An unnamed French Jesuit documented approximately 300 warriors here in 1671. The smaller size of this site and far fewer artifacts suggests a period of decline for the Susquehannocks. The site was abandoned in 1674.
BYRD LEIBHART SITE
Less than a mile south of the Oscar Leibhart site, a new town was established by the Susquehannocks. By this time, they were paying tribute to the Iroquoian Confederacy. Situated on a hilltop 100 feet above the river and about 800 feet west of the present shoreline, this is probably the 'fort' referred to as the northern boundary of Maryland when, in 1680, William Penn petitioned Charles II for a land grant: "Mr. Penn's land shall lie North of Sadquehannah Fort...for it is the boundary of Maryland Northward." Outside the stockade, evidence shows 4 distinct native cemeteries.
After returning from Maryland in 1690, the Susquehannocks set up an inland village. William Penn visited here in 1701 to sign a peace treaty with them. This site rests about 400 yards west of the marker placed there. The 200 or so inhabitants longed for isolation which is why they placed themselves away from the busier waterways. In 1972, excavations revealed 3 houses and about 90 graves. The houses were smaller than those of earlier sites and spaced further apart. No stockades or palisades were found. Sadly, this was also the site of a massacre when the Paxton Boys murdered 6 Susquehannocks in 1763.