In 1754, the young George Washington (who had surveyed the site as an employee of the Ohio Company) was a Colonel in the Virginia Militia. He came to this site with troops under orders to push the French from territories claimed by the British colonies. Washington’s military failure and surrender at Fort Necessity (about 50 miles west of Cumberland) led to what Americans refer to as the French and Indian War.
In 1755, the British Army occupied the hilltop where the Church now stands and erected Fort Cumberland (named for the British Minister of War). The fort was 400’ by 120’ and served as the logistical headquarters for the army under the command of Gen. Edward Braddock. As such, it was the largest military installation in North America (up to that time). 5000 men, women and children lived and worked at Fort Cumberland at the height of its power in June and July of that year.
Braddock’s expedition ended in complete disaster in the Battle of Monongahela, and the community at Cumberland was plunged into deepest mourning. Under the leadership of George Washington, the fort continued to be garrisoned throughout that war.
All this time, the settlers in the area regularly joined the soldiers and their families in worship that was led either by a military Chaplain or, when none was present, by the Commander of the troops: George Washington. When the army left, the people continued to meet at the fort for their Church services.
The Fort was last used as a military installation in October of 1794 when then-President George Washington brought the Army of the United States here to suppress the Whiskey Rebellion.