Copyright
American Historical Society George Thornton Fleming.

History of Pittsburgh and environs: from prehistoric days to the ..., Volume 1 online

. (page 28 of 81)
Online LibraryAmerican Historical Society George Thornton FlemingHistory of Pittsburgh and environs: from prehistoric days to the ..., Volume 1 → online text (page 28 of 81)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


to the western extremity of Lake Superior and from Hudson's Bay to a
line running through the northern part of the United States from Maine
to Minnesota, but none of the boundaries were accurately defined.*'^

Father Lambing was referring to the boundaries of the French pos-
sessions acknowledged by the English. This in the North. The French
territory in the South figures in history as Louisiana.

Garneau and Lescarbot have asserted boundaries for New France,
the latter claiming virtually the continent. Garneau's are much as we
have learned them. It will be sufficient to call attention to his records
as they place the trans-Allegheny region within the confines of the
French.'

"Pittsburgh, Canada," is unthinkable as a geographical term. Not so
Fort du Quesne, Canada, for that was a reality. With the English
conquest came the name, Pittsburgh. In like manner one may cite
Port Royal, changed to Annapolis; Frontenac to Kingston, and Presq'



^"Historical Researches in Western Pennsylvania," principally Catholic, by Rev. A.
A. Lambing, in "American Catholic Researches," Vol. I, p. 17. A paper read before the
Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania, December 13, 1883; revised and annotated
by Father Lambing and published in Vol. I, No. i, supra.

8"L'Histoire du Canada;" "Description, etc.;" F. X. Garneau, English Edition, hy
Andrew Bell, Montreal, 1862. Cf. pp. 112-113. See bibliography as given by William
Bennett Monro, "Crusaders of New France," 1918, pp. 329-231. Charlevoix, "Hbtoire
et Description, etc" (Shea's translation), most applicable, Cf. also Parkman's works.



Digitized by



Google



NEW FRANCE IN AMERICA 207

Isle to Erie, and remember that hundreds of French names have re-
mained, chief among these, Detroit, St. Louis and New Orleans.

While La Salle was foremost among the pioneers in the Far Country
and the most conspicuous of the pathfinders of his era, he was not the
only one, yet of all the most intimately connected with the history of
the Upper Ohio region and that of the Great Lakes. What he accom-
plished was due altogether to Frontenac's vigorous support, for without
the Iron Governor's friendship, as that great Frenchman has been called,
La Salle's feats of daring and endurance had not been possible. Upon
La Salle's explorations was founded securely the French claims to our
region, for it is watered by the tributary streams of the great rivers he
discovered.

So we must give space as all historians do to the intrepid martyr,
Rene-Robert Cavelier, the Sieur de la Salle, the cultured, aristocratic,
domineering nobleman, sacrificing ease and wealth, bearing with marvel-
ous patience repeated and overwhelming misfortunes, enduring extreme
physical hardships in forest travel and on lake and river so much so that
he at times exhausted his Indian guides — ^why? — that he might accom-
plish his single purpose of extending the name and power of France in
the Western World. So he labored for twelve years in the face of jealousy
and detraction at home, treachery in his own ranks, bankruptcy, ship-
wreck and massacre, before his canoes were fairly out of the Illinois
river into the long desired Mississippi in February, 1682. True, Mar-
quette, the priest, and Joliet, the trader, had preceded him nine years,
sailing down the great river to the mouth of the Arkansas, and returning
satisfied that the Mississippi flowed into the Gulf of Mexico. La Salle
was stimulated by a greater purpose than the discovery of a passage
to China. He was adding a continent to the dominion of France.
Through him alone the lilies of France floated triumphantly on the
shores of the Gulf, April 9, 1682, and the immense Valley of the Missis-
sippi was indisputably French soil, named by him Louisiana in honor
of his sovereign, Louis XIV. It was a proud day for La Salle and the
redoubtable Tonti, his lieutenant — ^yea, and for France, when with their
followers they reached the spot where the great river debouches through
three channels into the Gulf. In thorough Gaul manner they set up the
insignia of their country and took possession in the name of their King,
chanting in deep solemnity the Te Deum and the ExaudiaU and in the
name of God raising their banners. "Louis le Grand ; Roi de France et
Navarre I Vive le Roi."

La Salle himself did not live to develop and govern the new domain
of Louisiana. But the line of posts down the Illinois and the Mississippi
which united the French possessions in Canada and Louisiana; the
fortification of Detroit (1701) with its control of Lake Erie and the
portages to the Ohio tributaries; the prosperous colony of seven thou-
sand inhabitants in the lower Mississippi Valley, which grew up with
New Orleans (founded in 1718) as its capital, — ^all were the outcome of
La Salle's vast labors. If Champlain was the father of New France,
La Salle was its elder brother. These two, together with the energetic,
farseeing governor of Canada, the Count Frontenac (1672-1682, reap-



Digitized by



Google



2o8 HISTORY OF PITTSBURGH

pointed 1689-1698), form the trio who created the French power in the
New World, and whose plan the empire building, had it not been
thwarted by the narrow and bigoted policy of the court of Versailles,
might have made not only the St. Lawrence and Mississippi Valleys
but all of America above the tropics an enduring colony of France.

Champlain, the acknowledged "Father of New France," had early
advocated expansion westward- He himself was an explorer and dis-
coverer. Nicolet and St. Lusson followed him, and between them the
frozen shores of Hudson Bay and those of the unsalted sea, Superior,
there floated the golden fleur-de-lis of their country. With pomp and
pageant, and no one to oppose, those men claimed the vast Northwest
for their sovereign, Louis XIV. It was vastly different in the region
of the Ohio. There the French explorer and his retinue, the armed forces
of the Louises, ran counter to a virile race, a distinct race and an enemy.
We shall see the course of empire develop, but it was not Gallic.

The chief purpose of the French in the part of America they settled
was trade. The most profitable article of trade was furs, especially the
skins of the beaver. The unbroken forests of Northern America were
teeming with animals, large and small, all protected by rich fur coats.
In their own country and on the European continent, the people were
eager to trim their coats and mantles with fur, and to wear fur hats.
Fur was in great demand; fur traders were needed. The Indians of
America were the fur hunters. In the course of a century after the
first settlements the traders among the Indians were numbered by the
thousands. Champlain and the French pioneers thought it best to have
the Indians meet the whites once a year, generally at Montreal, where
they held an annual fair. The first was in 161 1, only three years after
the settlement of Quebec. The story of the early French traders is
pertinent to the history of Pittsburgh, because these traders and their
attendants came into our region as they penetrated farther and farther
into the vast extent of wilderness claimed by France, their "New France
in America."

It was not long until the fur dealers went to the Indians, instead of
having the Indians come to them. . They took liquor with them in large
quantities, and naturally secured good terms when the Indians were ofF
their guard. Indeed, the French ceased to depend upon the Indians,
and trapped the beavers and hunted the moose for themselves. As
the demand for beaver skins increased in Europe, the number of French
settlers who shouldered their guns and took to the forest life likewise
increased. These were called coureurs de bois, "forest rangers." They
grew rapidly in number and ranged as far as the Mississippi and even
to the Rocky Mountains. The Colonial government fixed a price and
ordered the dealers to buy all skins offered for sale, thus each ranger
felt sure of a market. Two motives called the trapper into the wild.
One was the desire to make money ; the other was the love of adventure,
the lure of the unknown that lurked in the shades of the forest and the
courting of danger. But the rulers and the priests did not approve of
this rush to the greenwood, prairies and mountains. At one time, when
the number of people in the colony was 10,000, fully 800 men had become



Digitized by



Google



NEW FRANCE IN AMERICA 209

coureurs de bois. The evils were serious. The colony lost its young
and strong men ; families lost fathers or sons and often fell into want ;
farms were uncultivated, and became again part of the wilderness.
The coureurs de bois themselves changed in character. They became like
the Indians of whom they saw so much. They grew vain and lazy. They
decked themselves in finery and strutted around the towns on their
return home. They would do no work themselves and they looked down
on all who toiled with their hands. Letters to France said : "From the
moment a boy can carry a gun, off to the woods he goes. The father
cannot restrain him and dares not offend him."

The king tried to stop the Canadian colonists from turning traders by
passing strict laws; one, that no one could enter the forests as a trader
without a permit, and only twenty-five permits were to be given each
year. But the voice of their king seemed far away to the ears of the
dwellers of New France. The call of the wild was near and persistent,
and hundreds obeyed it. The coureur de bois usually dressed like the
Indian by whose side he tramped through the wilderness. He wore
leggins and moccasins of deerskin, and an eagle's feather in hs cap. His
skin was as sun-tanned as the red man's. Sometimes the coureur de bois
preferred French fashions to the Indian. Then he wore a faded velvet
coat with lace ruffles, somewhat the worse for wear. At all times he
loved to cut a gallant figure.

Two great evils grew out of the fur trade, one a matter of money.
The beaver market became overstocked. The trading company in
France that handled the skins could not sell them, so fast they came, and
fell into financial difficulties. The colony of New France was heavily
in debt. Beaver skins answered as money, and there were far too
many. The overstock must be reduced, so three-quarters of all the skins
stored in the warehouses were taken out and burned and this helped
money matters in some degree. Alas for the useless sacrifice of all those
harmless little creatures of the forest !

The other evil wa» the sale of brandy that was bound up with it.
Brandy was the pay the Indians demanded. If the French traders
refused them liquor, they would sell their peltries to the Dutch or the
English and get the beloved drink from them. This the French knew,
and so the bartering of brandy for beaver went on. A drunken Indian
was a very dangerous creature. He often rushed along, killing whoever
happened in his way. Thus it came to pass that the wilderness trading
posts often became the centers of much crime.

The soldiers in Canada entered into the fur trade. Their pay was so
small that they were anxious to add to it in every way possible. So
brandy was freely sold to the Indians at all military posts. These gar-
rison posts should have been noted for law and order. Yet several of
them, on account of the drunken revels of the Indians, became as places
of wild disorder. In the early days of the colony a man who sold liquor
to an Indian was whipped ; later the evil trade went on unchecked.

During the seventeenth century and on down to the English conquest
of Canada, most Canadian men served as soldiers for a time. When

Pitts.— 14



Digitized by



Google



2IO HISTORY OF PITTSBURGH

disbanded they either turned coureur de bois or they married to settle
down as patient tillers of the soil. Trapper, soldier, and Jesuit priest
went into the Canadian wilds with different aims. But they all aided
in one great work, — ^the charting of the mighty wilderness that stretched
from their own dooryards along the safe St. Lawrence into the vast
unknown lands to the north and the west.

Had the French controlled the Ohio Valley and the southern shores
of Lakes Erie and Ontario, as they would undoubtedly have done with
the Iroquois as allies, it is most likely that they would have succeeded
in their long struggle to confine the English within the narrow strip
between the Alleghenies and the Atlantic. Then the vast continent
above the Gulf of Mexico would have been developed under French
instead of English institutions. The French ideas of colonization are
fully apparent in the regulations made by Richelieu in 1627-1628 for
the Hundred Associates of .New France and by the ministers of Louis
XIV. when the colony of New France became a province of the Crown in
1663. None but Frenchmen and those of the prevailing religion of
the Mother Country were allowed in the colony. The land was in the
hands of great proprietors who rented strips for cultivation along the
river banks in exchange for labor on their big estates, or payment in
produce. The government was administered by the officers of the Com-
pany, or the Crown, without the direction, or even the advice, of any
representative assembly. Hence there was no local government. Justice
was dispensed by the magistrates without trial by jury.

The self rule which was practically enjoyed by every English colony
on the seaboard was entirely unknown in Canada. There prevailed there
that system of paternalism which treated the inhabitants of the colony
like irresponsible children under the firm paternal hand of the governors
sent out by the King of France. The inhabitants were directed by the
governors, not only what taxes to pay, with what ports to trade, what
laws to obey, what worships to perform, but what tools to use, what seeds
to plant, at what age to marry, and given stringent and specific directions
in family regulations. This absolute and paternal rule promoted military
efficiency but did not attract colonists. The colony in spite of lavish
expenditures by the Crown did not flourish. During the seventeenth
century the English population along the Atlantic coast grew to 400,000.
The French in Canada barely reached 18,000. There were three chief
posts in the colony — Quebec, Three Rivers, and Montreal — ^all on the
St. Lawrence, at intervals of ninety miles. The sparseness of the popu-
lation did not permit of agriculture, which could be carried on only
in the neighborhood of the forts which served as protection from the
Indians.

Westward, all through the valley of the St. Lawrence and along the
shores of the Great Lakes there roamed the coureurs de bois, the hunters
and trappers, veritable wood rangers who defied the trading laws of
the King's governor at Quebec. The story of these wild Frenchmen
must have a large chapter in any history of New France in America.

Then there is the story of the missionaries, for the Jesuit priests played
a great part in New France, altogether as important as the Puritan min-



Digitized by



Google



NEW FRANCE IN AMERICA 211

isters in New England. Throughout the whole of the seventeenth
century the priests kept side by side with the explorer and the trader
in the march to the west. The accounts of their triumphs and martyr-
doms were annually sent home to the superior of their order in France.
These reports, known in literature as the "Jesuit Relations," were pub-
lished anew in 1900, edited by a noted American historian, making a
formidable library of seventy-two volumes, with French and English
pages opposite, and they form one of the most valuable sources for the
study of the French regime in North America. They treat only slightly
of our section of the Ohio Country. Bonnecamps' journal, soon to be
noted in this history [Chapter XII], is given in full in Volume LXIX.*

The English colonies on the seaboard were utterly indifferent to the
early explorations of the French in the west. They were occupied with
their own problems of developing agriculture, building up commerce,
and more or less engaged in disputes with King and proprietors regard-
ing the precious rights of self-government. They were indeed slow to
realize the menace of the French power gradually surrounding them
with a long chain of forts and military posts, extending from the St.
Lawrence to the mouth of the Mississippi; in other words, walling in
the English with the Appalachian ranges. For, though the charters of
several of the colonies extended their western boundaries to the Pacific,
the Allegheny Mountains in Pennsylvania, three hundred miles only
from the sea, actually formed the western boundary which the English
colonists were over a century in reaching, and a half century in crossing
with permanent settlements. This is truer of Virginia than Pennsyl-
vania, for Pennsylvania was later colonized than Virginia. When the
Virginians were still defending their peninsula against the Indians and
for years after Penn established his Quaker colony on the Delaware,
what the French fur traders, missionaries and explorers were doing at
the head of the Great Lakes or along the Mississippi seemed too remote
for notice.

There had been some exceptions to the general indifference of the
English colonies to the progress of the French, but they were about
French territory in the Hudson Bay region and in Acadia, the oldest
permanent French settlement in America, antedating Jamestown eight
years and Plymouth Rock sixteen years. However, the expeditions
against Acadia and the fighting around Hudson Bay prior to 1710 were
of slight importance for the possession of the North American continent
compared with the mighty struggle for the region between the Upper
Hudson and the St. Lawrence and the vast area between the Alleghenies
and the Mississippi. The efforts of the French to push their frontier
to Lake Champlain and the Hudson are likewise of slight importance
in our history of Western Pennsylvania and the West except that similar
efforts were made and were successful right on ground now in the heart
of the city of Pittsburgh, and the events that led to the Seven Years War
in Europe — ^the French and Indian War in America — ^were those that
took place hereabouts.



^Consult also in this connection Muzzey : "An American History," pp. 84-87.



Digitized by



Google



212 HISTORY OF PITTSBURGH

It is a well acknowledged fact of history that as long as the Stuarts
occupied the English throne their colonial governors received little
support against the machinations of the French in America. The royal
brothers, Charles II. and James IL, of England, were cousins of Louis
XIV. of France, and as they had received millions of pounds from
Louis to combat their own parliaments they could not consistently oppose
Louis' governors in New France. With the expulsion of the Stuarts
and the accession of William of Orange in 1689 there came a great
change. William was a deadly enemy of Louis from the days of 1672
when Louis made his shameful attack on the Netherlands. Then, too,
religion entered, for William was the leading Protestant prince of
Europe and the champion of the reformers whom Louis was straining
violently to overthrow. England rallied to William's support, spurred
by the fear of the absolute power of France unless Louis could be
curbed. Then began the mighty struggle between the two countries
for the colonial and commercial supremacy of the world — "A Century
of Warfare," to use Parkman's phrase, and in the various wars the
American colonists performed their part valiantly and suflfered greatly.
In the eventful years between 1689 and 181 5 England and France had
been at war seven times — in all of sixty years duration and covering
lands and oceans from the forests of Western Pennsylvania to the jungles
of India and from the Caribbean Sea to the Nile.

There were three wars which in their termination by the respective
treaties affected the trans-Allegheny region rather than by actual hos-
tilities. These were King William's War, 1689-1697; Q^een Anne's
War, 1702-1713; and King George's War, 1744-1748; all parts of general
European conflicts. Other names in history designate these wars as
the War of the Grand Alliance ; the War of the Spanish Succession, and
the War of the Austrian succession, terminated respectively by the
treaties of Ryswick in 1697, Utrecht, 1713, and the inglorious one at
Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748. All these treaties are mentioned in our his-
tories and in the correspondence between the French authorities in
Canada, and the governors of Pennsylvania and Virginia, particularly.
They are recorded also on Celoron's plates, as will be shown.

The death of Frontenac in 1697 had brought only a lull in the savage
raids upon New England and New York. The war known as Queen
Anne's, breaking out in 1701 in Europe, with hostilities the next year
in America, was brought to a close by the treaty of Utrecht. It was
a humiliating defeat for Louis XIV. and made England the foremost
maritime power of the world. France then surrendered to England
Acadia, Newfoundland and the Hudson Bay territory. Many statesmen
in the English colonies in America strongly urged that the English de-
mand the whole of the St. Lawrence Valley and free their colonies once
for all from the danger of French and Indians from the north and west.
But the Mother Country was content to get title to what was granted ;
territory that had been in dispute for a century; and also to secure
he undisputed control of the Iroquois Confederacy. So the French held
on to the great river of Canada and the Great Lakes for another half
century. In their expulsion, the history of Pittsburgh begins, for the



Digitized by



Google



NEW FRANCE IN AMERICA 213

spark was lighted here and the blaze spread to all inhabited North
America and raged for seven years across the sea.

The peace of Utrecht was only a truce as far as the English colonies
in America were concerned, for it decided nothing as to the possession
of the vast territory west of the Alleghenies. However, the truce lasted,
owing to the death of Louis XIV in 1715, and because two peacefully
disposed ministers came into power — Walpole in England, and the
Cardinal Fleuri in France. Indian raids promoted by the French oc-
curred at times on the frontiers in America until the middle of the
eighteenth century and betokened trouble, but no hostilities occurred
until King George's War burst upon the colonies in 1744, a real French
war, ingloriously ended by the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748.

But the English colonists were becoming more and more disturbed
by the menace of the French occupation of the vast Western Country
beyond the Alleghenies. There was danger to all the frontiers, much
as there had been to Nw England and New York previously. British
sailors were warned away from the mouth of the Mississippi, and the
Spaniards incited the Southern Indians against the English. Everywhere
there was entreaty to the Mother Country to come to the aid of the
colonists.

The French were active. They held forts at Crown Point and Niag-
ara; had armed vessels on Lake Champlain; occupied Detroit for the
control of Lake Erie and the portages of the Ohio Country, and increased
their posts along the Mississippi and pushed forward the settlement of
Louisiana. Both sides were waiting for the overt act of war, which
striking the spark, each realized an incipient blaze would burst into a
mighty flame. It came in 1754, when the French and English at the
same moment were attempting to gain possession of the Ohio Valley,
and that first act was in what is now Pittsburgh — ^right at our "Point,"
the ever famous "Forks of the Ohio." The French, with the English
penned in by the mountains, could control the water routes to the Mis-
sissippi which the English greatly desired.

Celoron de Bienville to this end played his part and he must be
accorded a chapter in our strange history. This will follow.

Muzzey, a recent English historian, has been mentioned and quoted at
some length. Describing conditions in French Colonial Canada compared
with the English Colonies, observes :

The two powers brought thus face to face to contend for the mastery of America,
differed from each other in every respect. The one was Roman Catholic in religion,
absolute in government, a people of magnificent but impracticable colonial enterprises;
the other a Protestant, self-governing people, strongly attached to their homes, steadily
developing compact communities. There was not a printing press or a public school in
Canada, and plow and harrow were rarer than canoe and musket. The 80,000 inhabi-



Online LibraryAmerican Historical Society George Thornton FlemingHistory of Pittsburgh and environs: from prehistoric days to the ..., Volume 1 → online text (page 28 of 81)