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tants of New France were overwhelmingly outnumbered by the 1^00,000 British colon-
ist But two facts compensated the French for their inferiority in numbers; first,
by their fortified positions along the St. Lawrence and the Great Lakes and at the head
of the Ohio Valley, they compelled the English, if they wished to pass the Alleghenies,
to fight on French ground ; secondly, the unified absolute government of New France
enabled her to move all her forces quickly under a single command, whereas the Eng-
lish colonies, acting, as Governor Shirley of Massachusetts complains, "like discordant
semi-republics," either insisted on dictating the disposition and command of the troops

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which they furnished, or long refused, like New Jersey and the colonies south of Vir-
ginia, to furnish any troops at all To make matters worse, the generals sent over from
England, with few exceptions, despised the colonial troops and snubbed their officers.

Farseeing men like Governors Dinwiddie, of Virginia, and Shirley, of Massachu-
setts, tried to effect some sort of union of the colonies in the face of the eminent danger
from the French. The very summer that the first shots were fired (1754), a congress
was sitting at Albany for the discussion of better intercolonial relations and the cement-
ing of the Iroquois alliance. At that congress, Benjamin Franklin, the foremost man
in the colonies, proposed the scheme of union known as the Albany Plan. A grand
council consisting of representatives from each colony was to meet annually, to regulate
Indian affairs, maintain a colonial army, control public lands, pass laws affecting the
general good of the colonies, and levy taxes for the expense of common undertakings.
A president general chosen by the king was to have the executive powers of appointing
high officials and of nominating the military commanders. He might also veto the acts
of the council. Franklin's wise plan, however, found favor neither with the colonial
legislatures nor with the royal governors. To each of them it seemed a sacrifice of their
rightful authority; so the colonies were left without a central directing power, to
cooperate or not with the king's officers, as selfish interests prompted.^

The events that brought about hostilities between France and Eng-
land began with the expedition of Celoron formally claiming the country
in the name of his sovereign. Dinwiddie, governor of Virginia, was
aroused and the futile embassy by Washington to the French forts fol-
lowed. Then events culminated in war. But first the story of Celoron's
expedition demands attention.

^**Aa American History;" David S. Muzzey, pp. 95-97.

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In the Name of the King.

The governor-general of New France in America in office when the
English traders prior to 1750 made inroads on the French traffic to the
west of the AUeghenies, was Roland Michel Barrin, Comte de la Galis-
soniere, sometimes mentioned as marquis. In the "Jesuit Relations"
his title is "Comte," count.

Like many other governors at Quebec he was an admiral, a high rank
to leave for civil duties in a pioneer country. New France was yet quite
new and as noted in Chapter XI, vast in extent. This country France
lawfully claimed by the right of discovery — ^good under the law of nations
in those warring times when kings found it necessary to have some basis
of agreement both for war and peace.

In 1747 the French had entered upon actual explorations of the regions
about the Allegheny and the Ohio. They ascertained the geography
of the country and the proximity of the English settlements on the west
of the Allegheny Mountains. They took active measures to extend their
trade among the Indians then ranging the region, well aware that when
this inevitable clash came these would prove most useful auxiliaries or
dangerous enemies. Agents of the Ohio Company came along about
this time, gaining influence among the Indians and it was obligatory
to counteract the English influence by every means possible.

It has been related in Chapter X how the French in 1745 fomented
disaffection among the Ohio Indians towards the English through Peter
Chartier, a French spy, and how his efforts resulted in the subserviency
of the Shawanese to the French cause. In 1748, after the treaty at Aix-
la-Chapelle, the French ministry began paying close attention to the
strength and resources of Canada and Louisiana. Between these far-off
lands there is, we know, an almost continuous inland water communica-
tion. Hence the design of uniting these extremities and unfolding the
means of subduing English power in North America.

De la Galissoniere was born at Rochefort in 1693. He entered the
navy in 1710 and served with distinction, becoming a captain in 1738.
His term as governor-general of New France lasted from September 19,
1747, to August 24, 1749.

Encyclopedia writers impress the fact that he was energetic and that
his administration was marked with severe disputes with the English
relative to territorial rights in Nova Scotia and the Ohio region. The
latter concerns us, for Galissoniere sent Celoron and his party in 1749,
warning off the English traders on the Ohio and depositing his leaden
plates and posting his "Proces Verbal."

That same year De la Galissoniere was one of the commissioners for
settling the boundaries of Acadia. He was an author and a devoted
student of natural science, of great heart and mind. He was low in
stature and deformed in person — in truth a hunchback. A more extended
notice of this wonderful man will be found in Chapter XVI, 'The French
Regime in Western Pennsylvania." Galissoniere was not, as far as we

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know, ever in the Ohio country. He was the forerunner of the equally
energetic Duquesne de Menneville and de Vaudreuil, the last of the gov-
ernors preceding English dominion in Canada.

January 17, 1750, the governor of Pennsylvania informed the council
that three letters of an extraordinary nature in French signed "Celoron"
were delivered to him by Indian traders who came from the Allegheny
informing him that this captain, Celoron, was a French officer and had
the command of three hundred French and some Indians sent during the
summer to the Ohio and Wabash and from Canada to reprove the Indi-
ans there for their friendship to the English and for permitting the
English to trade with them.

This was Pierre Joseph de Celoron, also spoken of as Sieur Celoron
de Bienville, He was a noted character in the French history of those
years on the frontiers. He was a good soldier, a chevalier of the Military
Order of St. Louis and a reliable man, and his story of this expedition and
his explorations is an unusual one and most interesting.

We have a full account of Celoron's efforts to legalize the claim of
France to our region. One especially is well known to historical writers
— ^this is the "Jesuit Relations" the caption, translated, "Account of the
voyage on the beautiful river made in 1749 under the direction of Mon-
sieur de Celoron, by Father Bonnecamps." The Pittsburgh historians,
William M. Darlington, Neville B. Craig, Rev. Father A. A. Lambing,
and Professor Thomas J. Chapman have studied the history of Celoron's
expedition thoroughly ; Parkman and all the history writers of the mid-
nineteenth century have given it much space; Ohio historians also,
Hildreth and Atwater, and Dr. De Hass of West Virginia. In later years
Judge Veech and Marshall must be mentioned, and in recent years Dr.
Reuben Gold Thwaites and Charles A. Hanna. All of these authors
will be accorded more or less credit in this chapter, and the French ac-
counts given as far as they could be obtained in the Pittsburgh Carnegie
Library. It is to be noted that all historians of Pennsylvania refer to
Celoron and the French manner and the ceremonies of asserting their
claims to the sovereignty of the region traversed by Celoron and his
command. *

We may note that, large as the figure Celoron cut in our history, we
have no commemoration of him in street or local geography.

The Journal or "Relation" of Father Bonnecamps and his map form a
curious exhibit. The strange Indian names he uses are unknown in
our history. His quaint but inaccurate map is to be noted in that he has
omitted entirely the Monongahela river. His "Relation" contains no
mention of the "Forks."

We find the name of the French commander spelled in two ways,
Celeron and Celoron, the latter in the Bonnecamps' narrative as trans-
lated by Dr. Thwaites, but Darlington and old historians of Pennsylvania
use the former spelling; Dr. Archer Butler Hulbert and Charles A.
Hanna follow Thwaites. Marshall says "Celeron" is incorrect. Mar-
shall found that M. Ferland has the name, "Celoron de Blainville."^

i"De Celoron's Expedition ;" in the "Magazine of Amn. History," Vol. II, p. 150,
citing Ferland, "Conrs d'Histoire du Canada;' Vol. II, p. 493.

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Isaac Craig, of Pittsburgh, son of Neville B. Craig, the historian,
queries: "Celeron or Celoron?" in a brief paragraph in the "Magazine
of American History" for February, 1878 (Vol. II, No. 2, p. 122), which
reads : "Which is the correct mode of spelling the name of the French
commandant who in 1749 buried the plates along the Ohio river? I
observe that Mr. Heckewelder in the January number follows Irving and
others and spells it .'Celeron ;' yet on the plates discovered it is clearly
'Celoron.' James R. Albach and Isaac D. Rupp, Pennsylvania historians,
agree with Neville B. Craig and Mr. Darlington. Mr. Marshall's finding
of the Journals and the spdling on the plates settle the spelling as

The first in order of the late authorities on Celoron's expedition to
be considered in this chapter will be Father Lambing, from the chapter
to be found in his magazine of the 'eighties of the last century, and
acknowledged to be standard history along the lines on which it was
conducted. Father Lambing said in his introduction that he would
not pause to discuss the rival claims of the English and French to the
territory — that of France by right of discovery and the English colonies
as part of the grants of the Crown to the original proprietaries. Here
and there, west of the mountains, a few hardy pioneers or traders had
built their cabins. Christopher Gist was one, and John Frazier another ;
but the English had not as yet made any permanent settlements, but
under the auspices of the Ohio Company in 1748 were about to attempt
settlements. It was in order to counteract these designs that Governor
Galissoniere sent Captain Celoron with his detachment to descend the
Ohio and take possession of the country in the name of the French
King. Celoron was like St. Pierre, a chevalier of the Order of St. Louis.
His detachment on this famous expedition was made up of eight sub-
altern officers, six cadets, an armorer, twenty soldiers, 180 Canadians,
thirty French Iroquois and twenty-five Abenakis. These latter were of
a tribe originally located in Maine, but many having been converted
by the early French missionaries, they had removed to Canada, the
better to practice their religion and be under the protection of the French.
The Iroquois were*most likely from the French missions, who had cut
loose by reason of conversion from their tribal relations in the Iroquois

The principal officers under Celoron were De Contrecoeur, Coulon
de Villiers and Joncaire. Of these men, the names of two are com-
memorated in Pittsburgh streets to this day^-Devilliers and Joncaire.
Father Lambing finds mention of Contrecoeur as "M. Pierre Claude de
Contrecoeur, Esquire, Sieur de Beudry, Captain of Infantry, Commander-
in-chief of the forts of Duquesne, Presq' Isle, and River au Boeufs."
Contrecoeur was in command of Fort Niagara at the time of Celoron's
expedition, but succeeded to the command of the detachment which had
been under M. St. Pierre. Contrecoeur's name runs through all the his-
tory of the French in the Allegheny Valley. We shall hear much of
him later; more of De Villiers, and we meet Joncaire at intervals.^

2"Baptismal Register Fort Duquesne;" Ed. by A. A. Lambing, p. 22.

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Celeron's subaltern was the same Contrecoeur to whom, five years later.
Ensign Ward was compelled to surrender at the Forks of the Ohio and
who gave the French fort that arose here the name Duquesne. It was
Coulon de Villiers to whom Washington capitulated at Fort Necessity.

Chabert Joncaire was a famous character on the frontier in the
French interest. Parkman tells of him, and the Pennsylvania Archives
and Croghan and other frontiersmen refer frequently to him as "J^^i^

Father Lambing acknowledges the great indebtedness of all the
history writers of his generation to Orasmus H. Marshall, of Buffalo,
New York, for what they know of Celoron's expedition from the learned
article which Marshall contributed to the "Magazine of American His-
tory" (Vol. II, pp. 129-150). Marshall, while in Paris, had the good
fortune to find in the archives of that city the original journals of
Celoron and Father Bonnecamps, who accompanied Celoron, and who
made a map of the country, which Marshall found also. On this map
the course of the expedition is traced, the Indian villages designated, and
the places marked where leaden plates were deposited. On his map
Father Bonnecamps styles himself a "Jesuit Mathematician," and from
this Marshall infers that he was the chaplain as well as a kind of sailing
master of the expedition, keeping a daily record of the courses and dis-
tances traveled, the latitude and longitude of the principal points, with
occasional brief notes of important occurrences. Marshall further notes
the reverend father was not always correct in his taking of the latitude
and longitude, probably not having been well equipped with reliable

Marshall says, while examining archives in the Department of the
Marine in Paris, he met with the original manuscript journal kept by
Celoron during the entire voyage, and in the Grandes Archives of the
Depot de la Marine, No. 17 in the Rue de TUniversite, the manuscript
diary of Father Bonnecamps. The map is in the Department Bibli-
otheque of the Depot de la Marine. It was also manuscript, 315^ by
34j4 inches square. It is always acknowledged as an important illus-
tration of the expedition. Some of the queer names on Bonnecamps'
map need explanation, and also his signs. River Aux Pommes is Apple
river; Tjadikoin is one of the many variations for Chautauqua. The
Loups, or "Wolves," were the Munsy clan of the Delawares. Atigue
is generally taken for Kittanning ; River le Beef is French creek, then the
river of "Beef;" Kanaonagon, Conewango creek; River au Vermillion
is the Clarion ; River Ranonouara is Wheeling creek. The words along
the south shore of Lake Erie state : "All this part of the lake is unknown."

The signs are interpreted thus: A black cross, a plate deposited;
three horizontal lines across a vertical, latitude and longitude taken; a
house marks a village. Degrees of longitude are west from the meridian

•"Account of the Voyage on the Beautiful River made in I749» under the direction
of M de Celoron," by Father Bonnecamps, S. J., in Vol. I^XIX, of "The Jesuit Rela-
tions;" edited by Thwaites, p. 151 it seq.

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of Paris. The inner figures on the east and west margins are leagues
in the proportion of twenty to a degree.*

Celoron was provided with a number of leaden plates, measuring
about eleven inches in length, seven and a half inches in width and an
eighth of an inch thick. The expedition left La Chine, near Montreal,
June 15, 1749, and ascended the St. Lawrence to Lake Ontario. Coasting
along its eastern and southern shores, the detachment reached Fort
Niagara, July 6th. Pursuing their course they came to a point on the
southeastern shore of Lake Erie, where the town of Portland now stands,
and here they disembarked July i6th. By means of Chautauqua creek
(which Bonnecamps spells Tiadakain), a portage, Chautauqua lake and
Conewango creek, they came to the Allegheny river near the site of
Warren, Pennsylvania, July 29th. The first of the leaden plates was
buried at this point. "At the foot of a red oak on the south bank of the
River Oyo and of Chanougan, not far from the village of Kanougon," as
Bonnecamps records. Simple statements of the facts of burying were
made each time by Celoron. The inscriptions on the plates were in
capitals and varied slightly, and ran about as follows in French, trans-
lated in English below. The indiscriminate use of the letters "u" and
"v" is to be noted, and "j" for "i*':

Van 1749. "Dv rcgne de Levis XV Roy de France novs Celoron, commandant dvn
detachment envoie par Monsieur le M'is de la Galissoniere commandant general de la
Nouvelle France povr retablir la tranquillite dans quelves villages sauvages de ces
cantons avons enterre ce plaqve au confvtent de TOhyo et de Toradakojn ce 29 Juillet
pres de la riviere Oyo autrement Belle Riviere pour monument de re renouvellement de
possession que nous avons pris de la ditte Riviere Oyo et de tovtes celles qui y tombent
et de tovtes les terres des deux cotes j usque avx sovrces des dittes rivieres ainsi qve'n
ont jovy ov du jovir les precedents Rois de France et quits sy sont maintenus par les
armes et par les traites specialment par cevs de Riswick, d'Vtrecht et d'Aix-la-Chapelle."

In the year 1749, reign of Louis XV, King of France, we, Celoron, commandant of a
detachment of Monsieur the Marquis of Galissoniere, commander-in-chief of New
France, to reestablish tranquility in certain Indian villages of these cantons, have buried
this plate at the confluence of Toradakoin, this 29th of July, near the river Ohio, otherwise
Beautiful River, as a monument of renewal of possesion which we have taken of the said
river Ohio, and all its tributaries, and of all the land on both sides, as far as the sources
of the said rivers ; inasmuch as the preceding kings of France have enjoyed (this pos-
session) and maintained it by their arms and by treaties, especially by those of Ris-
wick, Utrecht, and Aix-la-Chapelle.<(

The burying of leaden plates containing inscriptions as a means of
taking possession of new territory, which was peculiar to the French
in North America, appears to have been more extensively adopted in
this expedition than in any other, a circumstance which Father Lambing
thought added additional interest to the narrative. He thereupon pro-
ceeded to condense Marshall's account, noting several inaccuracies
therein and advancing some theories of his own. Marshall remarked

^Various historians use this map. A large one is to be found in J. H. Newton's
"History of Venango Cotmty, Pa." See also in Darlington's ''Gist," between pp. 374 and
275, and in "The Wilderness Trail;" C. A Hanna, Vol. I, p. 360, and frontispiece in
Vol. II, "Frontier Forts of Pennsylvania."

^"History of Western Penna.," etc.; Rupp, pp. 35-3^. "History of the Backwoods,
or the Region of the Ohio," by A. W. Patterson, Pittsburgh, 1843* p. 38. See Cdoron't
Journal in "Fort Pitt and Letters from the Frontier," Mary C Darlington, pp. 15-16.

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on the peculiar method of taking possession and cited the example of
La Salle in 1682 at the mouth of the Mississippi, thus proclaiming the
dominion of Louis le Grand, and even during the nineteenth century
when a French squadron took possession of some islands in the Pacific
Ocean. Father Lambing observes that this mode of taking possession
seems to have been peculiar to the French, and to have been employed
only within the territory of the United States, (with the exception that
Marshall cites).

The burial of the plates was not without ceremony. At the mouth
of the Conewango, all the officers and men were drawn up in battle
array, and their commander proclaimed in a loud voice : "Vive le Roi 1"
announcing that possession was taken of the country in the name of
their King. Then the royal arms were affixed to a tree and a Proves
Verbal was drawn up and signed as a memorial ceremony. This same
formality was adopted at the burial of each plate. The Proces Verbal
was similar, and each time was signed and witnessed by the officers
present. Translated the Proces was in the following form :

In the year 1749, we, Celoron, Chevalier of the Royal and Military Order of St
Louis, Commander of a detachment sent by order of the Marquis of Galissoniere, Gov-
ernor General of Canada, to the Ohio, in the presence of the principal officers of our
detachment have buried (here was inserted the name they gave the place of deposit) a
leaden plate, and in the same place have affixed to a tree the Arms of the King. In
testimony whereof we have drawn up and signed, with the officers, the present Proces
Verbal, at our camp the (day of month) 1749.

Celeron made a daily record ; of the first ceremony he recorded here :

We have also affixed in the same place to a tree the arms of the King in testimony
of which we have drawn up and signed the present "proces verbal."

Done at the entrance of Belle Riviere July 29th, 1749. All the officers have signed.

These written notices were inscribed on "white iron," or tin. The
Senecas of the region did not fail to keep a keen eye on Celoron's pro-
ceedings. Most naturally they were mystified and regarded the affair as
forboding trouble for themselves. What they thought and what became
of the tin notice will be narrated shortly. It was months afterwards that
they were enlightened and the secrets of the strange sign and stranger
cermonies explained to them.

It is to be observed that on the plate first buried, the connecting
stream with the Allegheny is called "Kan-a-ai-agon." Celoron in his
Journal spells "Chauougon," while Bonnecamps wrote it Kan-au-oagon
in his Journal and Kanaonagon on his map.

The first plate was brought to the attention of the English public
by a letter from Governor Clinton of New York, addressed to the Lords
of Trade in London, December 19, 1750, in which Clinton stated he would
"send their Lordships in a few weeks a plate of lead full of writing which
some of the upper nations of Indians stole from Jean Coeur (Joncaire),
the French interpreter at Niagara, on his way to the river Ohio, which
river and all the lands thereabouts, the French claim, as will appear by
said writing."

This plate, Clinton averred, gave the Indians so much uneasiness that

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they immediately dispatched some of the Cayuga chiefs to him with it,
saying that their only reliance was on Clinton and they earnestly begged
that he would communicate the contents thereof to them, which he had
done, much to their satisfaction and the interests of the English. The
governor concluded by saying that "the contents of the plate may be
of great importance in clearing up the encroachments which the French
have made on the British Empire in America."

The plate was brought by a Cayuga sachem to Sir William Johnson,
December 4, 1750, at Johnson's residence on the Mohawk river. The
sachem addressing him by his Indian titles, Brother Corlear and War-
ragh-i-ya-ghey (the first desijg^nating the governor of New York and the
second Johnson as superintendent of Indian Affairs), said: "I am sent
here by the Five Nations with a piece of writing which the Senecas, our
brothers, got by some artifice from Jean Coeur, earnestly beseeching you
will let us know what it means, and as we put all confidence in you, we
hope you will explain it ingeniously to us."

Johnson replied and through the sachem to the Confederacy, return-
ing a belt of wampum and explained the inscription on the plate. He
impressed on the sachem that it was a matter of the greatest consequence
involving the possession of their lands and hunting grounds, and that
Jean Coeur and the French ought immediately be expelled from the
Ohio and Niagara. The sachem answered that he had heard with great
attention and surprise the "Devilish Writing" he had brought, and
he fully approved of Johnson's remarks. The sachem promised that
belts from each of the Five Nations should be sent from the Senecas'
castle to the Indians on the Ohio to warn and strengthen them against
the French in their encroachments in that direction. The correspondence
between Governor Clinton and Governor Hamilton relative to the stolen

Online LibraryAmerican Historical Society George Thornton FlemingHistory of Pittsburgh and environs: from prehistoric days to the ..., Volume 1 → online text (page 29 of 81)