Clara (Leonard) Holt: Preservationist of the French & Indian War ‘Camp of the 12 Springs’


Clara (Leonard) Holt was among several of our cousins who had connections to historic French and Indian War sites in southwestern Pennsylvania known as Fort Necessity (site of George Washington’s first battle, a loss to the French) and Braddock’s Grave (marking the burial site of a British general mortally wounded in an attack near Pittsburgh in 1755). Clara was the wife of John T. Holt and daughter of Reuben H. and Martha (Cunningham) Leonard.

An early educator in the family, Clara taught in one-room schoolhouses in Stewart and Springfield townships, Fayette County. The book she’s holding in this image may reflect a love of learning. Tragically, her husband was killed in a freak accident near Markleysburg, PA in 1919, while en route home from a stone quarry. He fell from his truck, driven by a son, and was run over and crushed to death. Clara outlived her husband by more than two decades, remaining in their home along the National Road (U.S. Route 40) in the mountains of Farmington, east of Uniontown.

Part of her 500-acre farm was located 12 miles east of Fort Necessity and considered historic property, referred to locally as the “Camp of the Twelve Springs.” During the war, Washington and his beaten army camped there after surrendering Fort Necessity on July 4, 1754, and the following year, General Braddock made his eighth encampment there on June 25, 1755. Later, Job Clark patented the land and kept a tavern at the site. An article in the Uniontown Daily News Standard reported in 1932 that “Outlines of the old springs and the tavern are still visible.”

Clara had what a newspaper called “considerable interest in the historical significance of the farm on which she lives.” Her sons made an effort to locate each of the 12 springs on the property. In 1932, she paid to have a commemorative marker produced and placed at the site of Twelve Springs. John Kennedy Lacock, an authority on the Braddock expedition, and professor of history at Harvard University, organized a dedication service on Sept. 11, 1932. Yet the site never fully captured the public’s attention. By 1937 John P. Cowan, park ranger and historian at Fort Necessity, wrote to the editors of the Daily News Standard saying “everybody has overlooked” the area. More about our family’s links to the fort and grave sites>>>

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