American Historical Society George Thornton Fleming.

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

. (page 36 of 81)
Online LibraryAmerican Historical Society George Thornton FlemingHistory of Pittsburgh and environs: from prehistoric days to the ..., Volume 1 → online text (page 36 of 81)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

cers and soldiers under Dinwiddie's proclamation, the schemes and application of the
proprietors of Walpole's grant, were obstacles not to be overcome. Col. Mercer
remained six years in London, without making any apparent progress in the object of
his mission, and at last he agreed to merge the interests of the Ohio Company in those
in Walpole's or the Grand Company, as it was called, on condition of securing to the
former two shares in the latter, amounting to one thirty-sixth part of the whole. These
terms were not approved by the members of the Ohio Company in Virginia, nor was it

sQiartiers Creek.

Digitized by



clear, that Col. Mercer's instructions authorized him to conclude such an arrangement
While the subject was still in agitation, the Revolutionary War came on, and put an
end, not only to the controversy, but to the existence of the two companies. Thus the
Ohio Company was in action only about four years, having never in reality revived
after its first check, at the commencement of hostilities with the Fernch and Indians on
the frontiers. All persons concerned were losers to a considerable amount, though at
its outset the scheme promised important advantages both to individuals, and to the,
country at large. The original records and papers of the Ohio Company are now in the
possession of Mr. Charles Fenton Mercer, of Virginia, by whose politeness I have
been favored with the use of them in drawing up this brief outline.

The story of Walpole's grant chronologically must come after the
account of Pontiac's Conspiracy. Washington and Gist returning from
Le Boeuf on January 6, 1754, after passing Gist's Plantation a caravan
of seventeen horses and some families going out to settle. These parties,
says Judge Veech, were settling under the auspices of the Ohio Com-
pany. Quoting a paragraph of the grant's terms, Veech says :

It will be seen that this grant did not, in its terms, embrace Fayette county terri-
tory; yet, in the loose interpretations of that early period, the Company attempted set-
tlements within our limits, which for many years afterwards were supposed not to be
included in Penn's Charter, but to be pare of the vast and undefined royal domain of
Virginia. The incipient movements of this company provoked the French and Penn-
sylvanians to jealousy, and to stir up the Indians to hostility; thereby at once raising a
cloud upon its prospects, which eventually produced a torrent of blood which obliterated
all its labors. Still, to this Company Fayette county is much indebted, not only for
many scenes of historical interest, but to its early settlement, by means of the easy
access, caused by the making of Braddock's road; which as we have seen, was but an
improvement of the Company's road, originally opened by Nemacolin.

It is said that Col. Cresap, of Maryland, the "Commissioner" of the Nemacolin
road, was one of the company. It is certain that Gen. Washington's brothers Lawrence
and John Augustine were largely interested in it, as well as their more illustrious
brother, were anxious for its success. Christopher Gist was the Company's agent, to
select the lands and conciliate the Indians. The Company having imported from
London large quantities of goods for the Indian trade, and engaged several settlers,
had established trading posts at Will's Creek, (the New Store), the mouth of Turtle
Creek, (Frazier's,) and elsewhere; had planned their fort at the "Forks of the Ohio,"
(Pittsburgh) and were proceeding energetically to the consummation of their designs;
• - designs which, although they did not originate, yet they served to hasten the great
and decisive contest for supremacy over the land we now inhabit, between two very
dissimilar branches of the great Teutonic race« The parties whom Washington met,
were the pioneer heralds of the conflict

Veech does not say where they settled and histories of our region
do not tell what became of them. De Villiers destroyed Gist's improve-
ments and no English settlers remained in the region west of the AUe-

Among the many names commemorated in the history of Western
Pennsylvania none is entitled to a larger share of reverence than Chris-
topher Gist, frontiersman, guide, explorer, surveyor and patriot, a man
of daring and action, inured to hardships, hence of great endurance. He
was a native of Maryland, of English descent. His father, Richard Gist,
was a surveyor for the western shore of Maryland and one of the com-
missioners for laying off the town of Baltimore. It was quite natural
for the son to become a surveyor. In 1750 and 1751, as the surveyor and
agent of the Ohio Company, Gist explored the greater portion of the

Digitized by



region now included within the boundaries of the States of Ohio, Ken-
tucky and West Virginia and parts of Western Maryland and South-
western Pennsylvania. These were the earliest explorations made so
far west for the single object of examining the country, and the first also
of which a regular journal was kept.

Christopher Gist was not the first white man about the Forks of the
Ohio, for the wandering trader was there long before him, but with
Washington, he was first to give an account of it. Conrad Weiser was
at Logstown in 1748, the year of the formation of the Ohio Company;
George Croghan was there in 1750 and 1751, and both kept accurate
journals, as was the custom in those days.

The first journal records the happenings on Gist's journey begfinning
October 31, 1750, at Thomas Cresap's, at what is now Oldtown, Mary-
land, on the Potomac, and ending at Gist's home on the Yadkin river in
North Carolina, May 19, 1751. He had journeyed to the Indians on the
Miami and with Croghan held conferences with them, exploring going
and coming.

This second journal begins November 4, 1751, setting out from the
Ohio Company's storehouse at the mouth of Wills creek, now Cum-
berland, Maryland, and ending March 29, 1753. He explored the head-
waters of the Monongahela and Youghiogheny and went down the Ohio
and Kanawha, which he spells Canhaway.

Gist's third journal begins November 14, 1753, and records the terrible
winter journey with Major George Washington to the French forts at
Venango, now Franklin, Pennsylvania, and Le Boeuf, flow Waterford,
Pennsylvania. They arrived at Wills creek on their return journey
January 4, 1754. While about this region Gist had a plantation at what
is now Mt. Braddock, near Uniontown.*

Contemporaneous with Gist and about the same age was William
Trent, a native of Chester county, Pennsylvania, born in 1705. In 1746,
when the colonists intended an expedition to Canada, Governor Thomas
appointed Trent captain of one of the four companies raised in Penn-

In 1749 Trent was a resident of Cumberland county, where he served
as a justice of the Courts of Common Pleas and General Sessions of the
Peace for that county. In 1750 he entered into a partnership with George
Croghan to engage in the Indian trade. This brought him to the border-
land as then known and here he was conspicuous for many years and
one of the best known traders in the far Indian country. In 1752 he was
with the Virgfinian commissioners, at Logstown, famous alike for its
treaties and its wild orgies, and the depot for large stores of Indian
commodities and furs. It was Trent who was directed by Governor
Dinwiddle to build a fort at the Forks of the Ohio, familiar to Pitts-
burgers always as "The Point." This was in 1753, but the work was not

*Cf. "Historical Collections of Pennsylvania;" Sherman Day, pp. 329-331. Our
Ptttsburgh historian, Wm. M. Darlington, published an edition of ''Gisfs Journals,"
with much pertinent matter, in 1893, which work has been acknowledged a fine contri-
bution to the historical bibliography of this region. Consult also all histories of Fayette
county, Pennsylvania.

Digitized by



• begun until February 17, 1754. The unfinished fort was surrendered
to the French under M. de Contrecoeur, April 17, 1754.

Ensign Edward Ward was left by Captain William Trent to finish
the fort begun at the Forks of the Ohio. This was on April 17, 1754.
Ward had but forty-one men, thirty-three of them soldiers. This fort
was intended as one of the stations of the Ohio Company which had
already erected several storehouses to carry on the trade with the Indi-
ans. The region about the Upper Ohio was then only used as a hunting
ground by the Mingoes and Shawanese and other Algonquins and as a
highway for parties at war of diflferent Indian nations in their expeditions
against each other. By reason of these frequent hostilities between the
more northern and southern Indians, the whites were retarded from
attempting settlements hereabouts. Near the "Forks" no attempts
were made until the Ohio Company made them ; and until after 1758, and
not to any g^eat extent till the Indians had nearly all left the region,
except a few straggling hunters and war parties who came occasionally
in search of game or the whites on whom to wreak their vengeance as it
pleased them. Captain Trent and Lieutenant Frazier absent, Ensign
Ward went ahead with his fort building, fearing no foe. However, the
French had not abandoned their determination to go down the river in
the spring and take possession as they had told Washington, in the pre-
vious winter while at the French forts.

Ward and his little band were not astonished when the swift run-
ning Allegheny bore into view one batteau after another until they
counted sixty. Three hundred canoes followed. It was the French
expedition under Contrecoeur of which Ward had warning. These were
the canoes Washington saw at Le Boeuf. (Journal 1753, Dec. 13). One
thousand French and Indians composed the French force; eighteen
pieces of cannon and an abundance of firearms was an adequate equip-
ment. Contrecoeur sent the Chevalier le Mercier to the English com-
mandant with the ultimatum to retreat peaceably or sufiFer the conse-
quences. Contrecoeur meant business and was prepared to do business.
Le Mercier finds a subordinate in command of the English and only a
handful of men. It is an easy conquest. Ward parleys and equivocates ;
he cannot act in the absence of his superiors. The Half King Tanachar-
ison had prompted this reply, but it was a vain plea. Ward surrendered.
He did the wise thing. He evacuated and took his tools and men away.
His retention of these tools was no mean concession. The French were
tolerably kind. Ward and his then arrived at Wills creek — ^now the
site of Cumberland, Maryland, on April 25th. We have records of Wash-
ington's letter to Governor Dinwiddle announcing the fact thus : "Sir —
Capt. Trent's ensign has this day arrived from the Fork of the Monon-
gahela, and brings the disagreeable account that the fort, on the i8th
instant was surrendered at the summons of Monsieur Contrecoeur." Then
follows a long letter giving Dinwiddle much information of events and

Washington sent the same letter to Governor Hamilton of Penn-
sylvania. He sent also copies of the Half King's speech to the gov-

Digitized by



emors, complaining how he and his ''brothers" had been treated by the
French. These letters were delivered to Washington by John Davidson,
who was present at Ward's surrender. Davidson, as will be remembered,
was Washington's Indian interpreter on his mission to Venango and
Le Bceuf.

Ward and his party were a sorry spectacle on arriving at Wills
creek. They had an alarming tale to tell — ^an ominous tale. Old St.
Pierre had given way to Contrecceur and the letter was full of zeal. He
was no foe to be despised.

The taking of Ward's unfinished fort at the Point was a bloodless
act, yet it was the first overt act in the memorable French War, 1754-
1758. The French retained possession until November 24, 1758, when
Forbes came.

The summons from Contrecceur to Ward has been preserved. It is
long and quite polite though forceful. Contrecceur insisted on a precise
answer. The summons begins — using that word in the singular form —

A summon by order of Contrecoeur, captain of the companies of the detachment
of the French Marine, commander-in-chief of his most Christian Majesty's troops, now
on the Beautiful River, to the commander of those of the King of Great Britain, at the
mouth of the River Monongialo.

Sir — Nothing can surprise me more than to see you attempt a settlement upon the
lands of the King, my Master; which obliges me now. Sir, to send you this gentleman.
Chevalier Le Mercier, captain of the Bombardiers, commander of the Artillery of Can-
ada, to know of you. Sir, by virtue of what authority you are come to fortfy yourself
within the dominions of the King, my Master. This action seems so contrary to the
last treaty of peace concluded at Aix La Chapelle, between his most Christian Majesty
and the King of Great Britain, that I do not know to whom to impute such a usurpation,
as it is incontestible that the lands situated along the Beautiful River belong to his
Christian Majesty.

I am informed, sir, that your undertaking has been concerted by none else than by
a company who have more in view the advantage of the trade than to endeavor to keep
the union of harmony between the crowns of France and Great Britain, although it is
as much the interest, sir, of your nation as ours to preserve it

Let it be as it will, Sir, if you come into this place charged with orders, I summon
you in the name of the King my Master, t^ virtue of orders which I got from my
General, to retreat peaceably with your troops from off the lands of the King (and not
to return or else I find myself obliged to fulfill my duty and compel you to it. I hope,
sir, you will not defer an instant and that you will not force me to the last extremity).
In that case, sir, you may be persuaded that I will give orders that there shall be no
damage done by my detachment

I prevent you, sir, from the trouble of asking me one hour of delay nor to wait for
my consent to receive orders from your Governor. He can give none within the
dominions of the King, my Master. Those I have received from my general are my
laws, so that I cannot depart from them.

If, on the contrary, sir, you have not got orders, and only come to trade, I am
sorry to tell you that I cannot avoid seizing you, and to confiscate your effects to the
use of the Indians, our children, allies and friends ; as you are not allowed to carry on
a contraband trade. It is for this reason, sir, that we stopped two Englishmen last
3rear, who were trading upon our lands ; moreover, the King, my Master, asks nothing
but his right ; he has not the least intention to trouble the good harmony and friendship
which reigns between his Majesty and the King of Great Britain.

The Governor of Canada can give proof of having done his utmost endeavors to
maintain the perfect union which reigns between the two friendly princes ; as he had
learned that the Iroquois and the Nippessingues of the Lake of the two mountains had

Digitized by



struck and destroyed an English family towards Carolina, he has barred up that road
and forced them to give him a little boy belonging to that family, which was the only
one alive, and which Mr. Welrich, a merchant of Montreal, has carried to Boston;
and what is more, he has forbid his savages from exercising their accustomed cruelty
upon the English and friends.

I could complain bitterly, sir, of the means taken all last winter to instigate the
Indians to accept the hatchet, and to strike us, while we were striving to maintain the

I am well persuaded, sir, of the polite manner you will receive Monsieur Le Mer-
cier, as well out of regard to his business as his distinction and personal merit. As you
have got some Indians with you, sir, I join with M. Le Mercier, an interpreter that he
may inform them of my intentions upon that subject

I am with great regard, sir, your most humble and obedient servant.


Done at our Camp, April i6, I754.<^

This is surely a remarkable document. The conclusion above the sig-
nature follows the stilted and usual form — quite the reverse of the truth.
Rightly could he have written, "Your conqueror, Contrecoeur.*'

We must admire M. Contrecoeur. He is polite, straightforward and
says what he means in plain language. The great harmony, etc., between
the "most Christian kings" was altogether a figure of speech.

M. Contrecoeur with one thousand men and eighteen cannon easily
took Ward and his forty-one prisoners but released them. Then arose
Fort Duquesne, and the border chain of French forts flying the fleur-
de-lis was complete. New France had spread into the province of Wil-
liam Penn, but Dinwiddie, claiming the country of the Forks, hating his
hereditary enemies, was keenly awake. Hence trouble and Braddock's
defeat and — ^history.

Ward's account of the affair appears in the following deposition :

Ensign Ward's Deposition before the Governor and Council, ye 7th of May, 1754.
Rec'd with his Letter, dated ye loth of May, 1754, Rec'd July 2, Read Do.— 1754.

Ma. Edwakd Ward, Cap't. Trent's Ensign, deposes and makes oath to the follow-
ing Particulars. That the French first appeared to him at Shannopins town about
two miles distant from the Fort, the 17th of April last, that they moved down within a
small distance from the Fort, then landed their Canoes, and marched their men in a
regular manner a little better than Gtm shot of the Fort That Le Mercier, a French
officer sent by Contrecoeur, the Commandment in Chief of the French Troops, came with
an Indian Interpreter called by the Mingoes the Owl, and two Drums, one of which
served for Interpreter between Le Mercier and him. Le Mercier presently delivered
him (Ward; the summons by the Interpreter, looked at his watch, which was about
two, and gave him an hour to fix his Resolution, telling him he must come to the
French Camp with his Determination in writing.

He says that half an Hour of the time allowed him he spent in Council with the
Half King, who advised him to acquaint the French he was no Officer of Rank or
invested with powers to answer their Demands and requested them to wait the Arrival
of the Principal Commander. That at the time the Summons was delivered to him
the Half King received a belt of wampum much to the same purpose.

That he went accompanied by the Half King, Robt Roberts, a private soldier, and
John Davidson, as an Indian Interpreter, that the Half King might understand every
word he (Ward) spoke at the French Camp. That he there addressed himself to the

^"History of Pittsburgh;" Ed. 1917, Craig, p. a "Olden Ttmc;" Vol. I, p. 83.
Col. Records Pa.;" Vol. VI, p. 29. •'History Indian Wars," etc., Dc Hass, p. 60,
et seq.

Digitized by



Chief Cominander, Contrecoeur, and expressed himself agreeably to the above men-
tioned advice of the Half King, That the French Commander told him he should not
wait for an answer from any other Person And absolutely insisted on his determining
what to do that Instant, or he should immediately take Possession of the Fort by Force.
That he (Ward) then observing the number of the French, which he judged to be about
a Thousand and considering his own weakness, being but Forty one in all, whereof only
Thirty three were soldiers, surrendered the Fort with Liberty obtained to march off
with everything belonging Thereto by Twelve O'clock the next day.

He says that night he was obliged to encamp within 300 yards of the Fort with a
Party of the Six Nations who were in company with him, That the French Commander
sent for him to supper, and asked many Questions concerning the English Govern-
ment, which he told him he could give no answer to, being unacquainted with such
affairs. That the French Commander desired some of the Carpenters' Tools, offering
any money for them, to which he answered that he loved his King and Country too well
to part with any of them And then he retired. That next morning he rec'd the speech
of the Half King to the Governor, And proceeded with all his men towards Redstone
creek where he arrived in two Days, and from thence he marched to Wills Creek,
where he met with Col. Washington and informed him of every particular which had
happened, That Col. Washington thought fit to send back one of the Indians to the
Half King with a speech and to assure him of the assistance which was marching to
him. And by the advice of a Council of war dispatched him, an express to his Honour
with the other Indian and an Interpreter judging him the most proper Person having
been appointed by the Half King.

He (Ward) moreover adds that four days before the French came he had an
Account of their comeing and saw a letter that John Davison wrote to Robt Callender,
an Indian Trader to confirm the truth that they were to be down by that time. That
the Day following he sent a Copy of Davison's letter to C^pt Trent who was then at
Will's Creek, and went directly himself to his lieutenant who lived eight or ten miles up
Monongahela from the Fort at a place called Turtle Creek, it was late at night when he
got there, accompanied by Roberts, Thomas Davison, Samuel Adsill, and an Indian,
and Shewed him the copy of the Letter of which he sent a Copy the next Day to his
Captain. The Lieutenant told him he was well assured the French would be down but
said what can we do in the Affair. The morning after he sent for the Half King, and
one of his Chiefs, named Serreneatta, who advised him to build a stockade Fort, that
he asked his Lieutenant if he would come down to the Fort, which he answered he had
a shilling to loose for a penny, he should gain by his Commission at that time and that
he had Business which he could not settle under six days with his Partner; That he
(Ward) thereupon Answered that he would immediately go himself and have the
stockade Fort built And that he would hold out to the last extremity before it should
be said that the English had retreated like Cowards before the French Forces appeared,
and that he knowing the bad consequences of his leaveing as the rest would have done
would give the Indians a very indifferent Opinion of the English ever after. He fur-
ther says he had no orders from either his Captain, or Lieutenant how to proceed, and
had the last Gate of the Stockade Fort erected before the French appeared to him.

That he was credibly informed by an Englishman who attended the French com-
mandant that they had 300 Wooden Canoes, and 60 Battoes, and had four men to each
canoe and Battoe, that they had eighteen pieces of Cannon, three of which were nine
Pounders. That the Half King stormed greatly at the French at the time they (Ward's
men) were obliged to march out of the Fort, and told them it was he Order'd that Fort
and laid the first Log of it himself, but the French paid no Regard to what he said.

Sworn to by the above mentioned Ward before

The Governor in (Council the 7th of May 1754-

N. Wai.tho«, a. Con.

Teste. (Clerk of Council)

(Witnessed) 6

•Copy in '^Gist's Journals;" Darlinston, p. 275. Endorsed "P. R. O. B. T. Virgima,"
No. 21, Public Records Board of Trade.

Digitized by



In naming the fort Du Quesne, M. Contrecoeur honored the French
marquis who was then governor-general of New France, succeeding M.
de Gallisioniere. Du Quesne — or as we write it, Duquesne — lives in the
name of our Allegheny river front. He was never a Pittsburgher in the
sense that Forbes, Bouquet and Ward, or even Washington and Gist,
were — in a word, M. du Quesne was never here. The name is an honor
distinctively, a reminder of the years when the lilies of France, ere the
tricolor came, floating in the breeze where our three rivers join, signifi-
cantly betokened the sovereignty of Louis XV. of France and told as well
of the driving out of the French forces and the consequent loss of sover-
eignty to George II. of Great Britain and his grandson and successor,
George III. (in 1760), and this last event brought to the head of the
administration him whose name we bear — William Pitt.

Ensign Ward's arrival at Wills creek, now Cumberland, Maryland,
where Washington was with three companies, created consternation.
Expresses were immediately sent to the governors of Pennsylvania,
Maryland and Virginia, detailing the occurrences in the region about
the "Forks" and asking for reinforcements. In the meantime Washing-

Online LibraryAmerican Historical Society George Thornton FlemingHistory of Pittsburgh and environs: from prehistoric days to the ..., Volume 1 → online text (page 36 of 81)