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Friends Speaker Series

Sponsored by the Sherrin H. and Bruce A. Baky Foundation

As part of the Friends mission to provide interesting and compelling programming for the public, the annual Speaker Series is held in cooperation with the Washington Memorial Chapel. This series, which runs from October through May, gathers an array of historians, scientists, authors, archeologists, actors and performers to share with the public their multiple points of view on history, the natural world and the ongoing commemoration of Valley Forge.

Presentations are held at Washington Memorial Chapel, on Route 23 in Valley Forge, on Tuesdays at 7 pm. Free and open to the public. A reception follows each talk.

For directions to the Chapel, visit

Tuesday, October 7
The ‘Unhappy Explosion’ of the
Continental Powder Works at French Creek

At a time when America’s industrial might was far in the future, the Continental Powder Works and gun factory at French Creek were crucial wartime operations in the early years of the American Revolution. Established in 1776, the powder stamping mill exploded in March of 1777 (sabotage perhaps?). The entire industrial complex was put to the torch by Crown Forces on September 22, 1777 and never rebuilt or reoccupied. Funded by a grant from the American Battlefield Protection Program (ABPP), East Pikeland Township is searching for the archaeological remains of the site. Recent archaeological investigations, including outstanding geophysics, have identified several of the foundations and the raceway associated with this complex, and a new trail system commemorates the story of this important early industrial complex.

About the Speaker

Wade Catts

Wade P. Catts, MA, RPA is an Associate Director of Cultural Resources with JMA in their West Chester office. He holds an undergraduate degree in Anthropology/ History and a Master’s degree in American History from the University of Delaware. A Registered Professional Archaeologist (RPA), he has worked in the field of cultural resource management for over thirty years, with expertise in historical archaeology, the archaeology of conflict, African American archaeology, rural sites archaeology, Delaware history, and the history of the Middle Atlantic.

His Revolutionary War historical and archaeological experience spans several states. In Pennsylvania he has worked at Valley Forge, the site of Camp Security (a British POW camp near York), and on portions of the battlefields at Brandywine, Paoli, and the “Battle of the Clouds”. In New Jersey his work has included researched at Morris County’s National Register-listed Beverwyck Plantation, and at the village of Raritan Landing, where British forces cantoned during the winter-spring of 1777. Recently his JMA team completed an archaeological survey and National Register nomination for the Short Hills battlefield near Plainfield, New Jersey, and he directed a survey of the battlefield at Princeton. In Delaware he has completed historical and archaeological studies of Cooch’s Bridge battlefield.

He is a former member of the New Castle County Historic Review Board, a member of national and regional professional archaeological organizations, and a member of the Company of Military Historians. He is the current president of the American Cultural Resources Association. With the assistance of a McKinstry Award from the Delaware Heritage Commission, he is completing a book of the history and archaeology of the Battle of Cooch’s Bridge, Delaware’s only Revolutionary War engagement. He resides in Newark, Delaware.

November 4
Richard R. Beeman
The Forging of American Independence, 1774-1776
Acclaimed historian and author Richard R. Beeman recalls the remarkable story of how a divided Continental Congress united for freedom.
December 2
Tim McGrath
Give Me a Fast Ship: The Continental Navy
The adventures of the sailors and the ships of America’s fledging Navy, as meticulously researched and masterfully told by author Tim McGrath.
January 6
Nancy K. Loane
’My Dear’: Officers’ Letters from Valley Forge
Author Nancy K. Loane shares new information about the encampment and the lives of the officers in the Continental Army, and those they left behind.
February 3
Scott Randolph
The Battle of Crooked Billet
Scott Randolph, the director and producer of the award-winning film “The Battle of the Crooked Billet,” discusses this little-known Bucks County battle.
March 3
Jesse West-Rosenthal
Archaeology at Valley Forge
Archaeologist Jesse West-Rosenthal presents a history of archaeology at Valley Forge, details of recent excavations, and a show-and-tell of selected artifacts from the encampment.
April 7
Joel T. Fry
The Bartram Family: Plant Collectors in the 18th century
Joel T. Fry, the curator of Bartram Gardens, shares the story of the careers and travels of John and William Bartram, famed natural scientists and plant men, and the family garden.
May 5