The first settler in the county was James Le Tort, an Indian interpreter and trader who occasionally served as a government agent. He was French-Swiss, with the French coming from his father’s side. He was paid 12 pounds annually by the government for his services, and is said to have had an excellent reputation. However, in 1709 he was in jail for sundry offenses. He built his cabins at the headwaters of the Letort at a place known as Beaver Pond or Great Beaver Pond. It is believed that this is where the watercress beds are now located. See the section entitled Le Tort’s Cabin for more about the search for his cabin. Le Tort had been given a large tract of land from William Penn. He apparently established his cabins at Beaver Pond because there was a Native American village there that he wanted to trade with and it was the intersection of several major trading trails. He settled sometime just before 1920. However, the Native Americans, supposedly they were Shawnees, accused Le Tort of price gouging and were offended by Ann’s, Le Tort’s racist wife, persistent claims that the land belonged to her and her husband and her physical attacks with a broomstick when she felt that the Native Americans were loitering too much at the trading post. After Ann’s livestock began destroying the Native Americans crops, they burned Le Tort’s cabins down in 1720. However, Le Tort rebuilt his cabins, only to be pushed out of the area by the wave of Irish settlers and squatters who quickly moved into the area.
Both Mr. Shenk and Mr. Weigle agreed that Beaver Pond (Great Beaver Pond) was probably where the watercress farms are now located. Mr. Weigle had never heard of a Beaver Pond, but the name sounded familiar to Mr. Shenk. Mr. Weigle does remember hearing from what he referred to “a person who knew what they were talking about that” that no archeological evidence or other traces has ever been found of Le Tort’s cabin. The men hypothesized that this was probably because the remains were located under the watercress beds, which the owners of the watercress farms had flooded the meadow with. They also stated that there used to be a meadow around the watercress farms, which would have made this area a more desirable place for Le Tort to build. The farms are located where several springs, which are the headwaters of the Letort, are located. Mr. Darr as well placed the location of Beaver Pond at the watercress farms. When asked if he knew the location of Le Torts cabin he said that he did not but that he would guess that it was were the two branches of the stream come together in Bonny Brook. The cabin has been described variously as being at Great Beaver Pond, Beaver Pond, Bonny Brook, and at the headwaters of the Letort. Apparently he established his cabin there because it was the location of a Shawnee village and the intersection of several major trading trails.
Recommendation: While LeTort’s cabin apparently was not located along the current hiking trail, a marker about who LeTort was located somewhere along the trail might provide interesting information for passerbys.
Interview with Richard Darr, Interview with Ed Shenk and Herb Weigle, Carlisle History and Lore (Bosler Library); Cumberland County Geography (Dickinson Library); The history and topography of Dauphin, Cumberland, Franklin, Bedford, Adams, and Perry counties : containing a brief history of the first settlers, notices of the leading events, incidents and interesting facts, both general and local in the history of these counties, general & statistical descriptions of all the principal boroughs, towns, villages, &c., with an appendix (Dickinson Library); This is Carlisle (Bosler Library); Forts on the Pennsylvania Frontier (Dickinson Library). There are many additional books which mentioned LeTorts cabin, however, none of them differed from the sources listed here in the information which they provide.
History of Cumberland and Adams Counties (Dickinson College)
Carlisle History and Lore (Bosler Library)
200 Years in Cumberland County (Dickinson Library)
History of Cumberland and Adams Counties Pennsylvania (Dickinson Library)
Carlisle Old and New (Dickinson Library)
History of Cumberland County with Illustrations (Dickinson College).