By John Schaffner
Reggie Langford has brought us many stories over the years.
His experiences in Viet Nam were featured several years ago on Memorial Day weekend, as was the Memorial he built at Catawba Island Cemetery. His fight with the Emerald Ash Borer and the Gypsy Moth also were newsworthy.
With 2012 being the bi-centennial of the opening volleys of the War of 1812, and the observance of the Battle of Lake Erie next summer, the amazing Reggie Langford shared with us his discovery of Fort Morrow when he was a Park Ranger at Delaware State Park back in the early 1970’s. He was there from 1967 to 1974, and while there he kept hearing rumors about a War of 1812 fort. He did some studying on it and learned about a brick tavern north of Delaware near the State Park that was on the road where Route 23 is today. He learned that the tavern was owned by Nathaniel Wyatt, who was one of the first settlers in the Norton area in the spring of 1806.
When hostilities broke out in 1812, the native Indians sided with the British. General William Henry Harrison ordered a Captain Taylor to build a palisade in the area. He decided to build it around an existing structure, which was Wyatt’s Tavern. It was called Fort Morrow.
Langford started looking for the fort in 1971. While walking near a farmer’s field and an old cemetery named, appropriately, Wyatt’s Cemetery, he spotted a groundhog hole and thought he saw some brick-like materials at the entrance. He started digging, very carefully, and discovered more brick.
He contacted Ohio State University professor Carl Phagan about his discovery and an anthropological dig was begun very shortly thereafter. According to Phagan’s findings, test excavations revealed the remains of a brick wall set on a sand foundation. The wall was about 14 inches thick and about 26 inches high. The test excavation also produced a number of artifacts such as assorted square nails, 2 musket balls, miscellaneous fragments of various types of china, spoons, pieces of early window glass, a gold-colored metal locket frame and an 1836 penny. Fort Morrow and Wyatt’s Tavern had been found at last.
That report was made public in April of 1974, the year Reggie left Delaware to become managing park ranger at South Bass Island State Park. However, Carl Phagan essentially confirmed that the groundhog, with a little assistance from Reggie Langford, had uncovered a long lost War of 1812 fort designed to protect the local settlers from the Indians.