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

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Elliott's Delight— Patent. Date April 20, 1786. 640>^ acres." This too
is in Croghan's grant.

In one of Croghan's other grants, in what is now wholly within the
boundaries of Pittsburgh and near his home on what is now 52nd Street,
burned at the siege of Fort Pitt in 1763, later rebuilt, the abstract of lots
begins thus, — ^The Proprietors of Pennsylvania to George Croghan.

Of record in patent same grantor to Conrad Winebiddle, date De-
cember 31st, 1787, that an application, No. 20, date April 11, 1769, re-
corded, etc., in "new purchase", (evidently by the Fort Stanwix treaty of
1768) there was surveyed to George Croghan five adjoining tracts on
January 26th and 27th, 1769, including, inter alia the premises described



^"History of Washington County, Pa. ;" Boyd Cnimrine, pp. 856, et seq. "Wash-
ington-Crawford Correspondence."



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GEORGE CROGHAN, KING OF THE TRADERS 5^9

in said Winebiddle patent for tract, named by him "Good Liquor":
"George Croghan to Conrad Winebiddle — Deed. Date.. December i,
1771. Deed book A, page 395, Westmoreland county. Consideration
£225."

Conveys a tract lying on East Side of the Ohio river, as the Alle-
gheny was known, containing 100 acres to line of property commonly
known as "Plumbers Tract," etc. Winebiddle "Good Liquor" tract was
bounded on South by Samuel Ewalt's claim.

Many more subdivisions of Croghan's original land are shown in ab-
stracts of the Lawrenccville district of Pittsburgh. These citations
answer the query —

Does it not appear that although all the land held by Croghan through
Indian titles was conveyed in the original g^rant of the Six Nations to the
Penns at Fort Stanwix in 1768, subsequently by the treaty with the Dela-
wares and Wyandots at Fort Mcintosh in 1785, he nevertheless became
vested in all these lands as shown in the various abstracts of our Pitts-
burgh titles, but only by patent from the proprietors of Pennsylvania and
his claims to title to any land granted by the tribes were invalid and
never recognized in Pennsylvania, unless you can find them in the ab-
stracts of land south of the Monongahela and Ohio, by reason of the
compromise and recognition of Virginia titles, that is, patents from that
Commonwealth ?

Writing of these troublous times. Judge Veech says, referring to
Croghan's land-grab:

It was then, and for many years afterwards, an accepted belief that such sales con-
ferred a valid title. He (Croghan) proceeded to lay off his grant, or part of it, between
Raccoon and Pigeon creeks, extending into the interior ten or fifteen miles. He had a
bade line run, which is, perhaps yet known as Crpghan's line, and was trying to sell in
lots of not less than ten thousand acres at five pounds per hundred. This brought him
and his retainers and dependents into conflict with the chartered rights of Pennsylvania
in that direction. Altogether, therefore, the Penn Proprietaries had a combination of
perplexities and influences against them which nothing but stubborn right could resist;
and the times were not yet auspicious for its predominance. It is no wonder, then, that
they were willing, for the present at least, to make the Monongahela their boundary.8

Croghan, in a letter to Bouquet, described the limits of the land at the
Forks of the Ohio which the Indians had "given" him, saying: "Beginns
att ye Narrows above my house and down ye River to ye Two Mile Run
and up ye Run to the Heads thereof."

In the Indian deed of 1768 it was provided that if any of the lands
granted should be within the charter grant to William Penn, then Crog-
han should have the right to locate the same number of acres on other
ungranted lands, which were at this time ceded by the Indian chiefs to
Great Britain. In it is easy in the light of the above to see why Crog-
han's landed interests should render him loyal to Virginia sovereignty



8''The Secular History in its Connections with the Early Histoiy of the Presby-
terian Church of Southwestern Pennsylvania;" an address by H<». JTames Vecdi in
''The Centenary Memorial of the Planting and Growth of Presbyterianism in Western
Pennsylvania and Parts Adjacent," 309, q. v. Also reference Ibid.; "Washington's
Journal of 1770^" and "Pennsylvania Archives/' Vol IV, pp. 421-425.



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S70 HISTORY OF PITTSBURGH

over the Ohio region. He had much to gain by the settlement of the
boundary dispute in favor of Virginia, nevertheless he took advantage of
the proviso as to other ungranted lands, in case the Fort Pitt region was
Pennsylvania territory, and took up 100,000 acres in the province of New
York, lying between Lake Otsego and the Unadilla river, for which he
obtained a survey in 1769, but continuing to sell his rights on the south
shore of the Ohio between the Yough river and Raccoon creek to whoever
would purchase, and he offered the same to Washington in 1770. Crog-
han obtained other grants in New York amounting to nearly 200,000
acres. He was a land-grabber preeminent among the many of those days.

For five years Croghan was engaged in land operations in both prov-
inces with Trent, Baynton and others, as narrated in this chapter. It is
worthy of mention that Croghan built a house at the foot of Otsego Lake
in 1769, a "hutt" he called this also, and afterward other houses on the
site of Cooperstown. In sight was the large, round, smooth boulder
known as Council Rock, described by Cooper in "The Deerslayer." Crog-
han spent much time on his Otsego Lake land, but, always improvident
and needy, mortgaged them to William Franklin, son of the great Benja-
min, who foreclosed in 1773 and took possession, passing title to William
Cooper and Andrew Craig. Cooper was the father of James Fenimore
Cooper and there are men who believe that Croghan's romantic career
and experience furnished the material and the character for "Leather
Stocking" and many of Cooper's frontier stories.

It was on account of Croghan's land operations around Pittsburgh
that he first came into disfavor with the Pennsylvania authorities. It
was much to Croghan's advantage to have the western boundary line of
Penn's grant limited to a point east of Fort Pitt, otherwise his Indian
grants were void.

Colonel William Crawford, the agent who located much land for
George Washington, consulted James Tilghman, secretary of the Penn-
sylvania land office, and Tilghman's opinion was strongly adverse to
Croghan's claims, stating that Croghan had no right to any land as yet —
"nor can he tell whether he ever will have it from the crown," in other
words, a confirmation of the Indian grants by George III. to make them
valid.

Croghan disposed of some of his immense holdings in the south shore
region. The Emmett manuscript collection in the New York Library
contains a receipt from Croghan to Alexander Ross for land on Raccoon
creek and on the Ohio river. This Ross was a Scotchman and a Tory.
His estates were confiscated by the Colonial government during the
Revolution and that settled his title to the Logstown land.* With all his
scheming and craftiness, Croghan died bankrupt. None of his south
shore titles were good.

Croghan's name is not retained in the designation of any locality. In
our street nomenclature Weiser's has been handed down in the street re-



»See "The Wflderness Trail ^ C A. Hanna, Vol. II, Chaps. I and U; especially II,
pp. 64. 82, 84.



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GEORGE CROGHAN, KING OF THE TRADERS 57i

naming is part of the North Diamond. Gist has for years been remem-
bered in a small street. Christian Frederick Post, like Croghan, has none.
Croghan was active in securing the attachment of the Indians to the
British interests up to 1776, but he took no active part in military events.
He died in Passayunk, Pennsylvania, now part of Philadelphia, in 1782.
Previously he had been summoned to appear in Philadelphia to answer
a charge of treason and show cause why his estates should not be con-
fiscated and himself attainted. This seems not to have been done, per-
haps on account of his death soon after the summons.

There is after all something pathetic in the story of George Croghan.
a frontiersman of a lifetime. Surviving the vicissitudes of flood and for-
est, the perils of many a lonesome journey, a landed gentleman, a shrewd
and far-seeing business man, he died almost a pauper.

Opinions of Croghan 's character vary. Lytle quotes Governor Morris
saying Croghan was not one of "those low sort of people as being too
ignorant to be employed as spies, but not all too virtuous, referring to
the Indian traders as a class.'' Lytle describes Croghan as a man of
somewhat erratic temperament and varied fortunes; that he came to
Pennsylvania in 1742 and was licensed in 1749, though he had previ-
ously been engaged in that avocation. Lytle attests that Croghan mani-
fested a willingness in addition to his business pursuits to perform serv-
ices for and make himself useful to the government.

Hanna speaks rather well of Croghan and it will not do to classify him
with the ordinary Indian trader of his times. Hanna says : "His experi-
ence as an Indian trader and agent, as negotiator and diplomat, would
furnish material for many interesting volumes, and the value of his work
in getting the Western Indians into the English alliance was greater than
all others combined. Though at times unjustly an object of suspicion to
the authorities of Pennsylvania and the neighboring colonies his services
in the French war were of much value to that province and had his efforts
and advice previous to the war been properly recognized probably there
would have been no French war.^®

There may be a disposition to pronounce Croghan's name as spelled,
but this IS erroneous. Some historians specify that it is pronounced as
though spelled Krohun, but the most accepted pronunciation is Krawn.
He was in nowise related to Colonel George Croghan, U. S. A., bom
near Louisville, Kentucky, in 1791, a distinguished officer and the uncle
of the late Mrs. Schenley.

Parkman says of Croghan, writing of the ruin of the Indian cause,^^
that Croghan's mission was a critical one, but so far as regarded the
Indians, Croghan "was well fitted to discharge it, having been for years
a trader among the Western tribes, over whom he had gained much
influence by a certain vigor of character joined to a wary and sagacious
policy, concealed beneath a bluflf exterior."



loSee "History of Huntingdon County, Pa.;" M. S. Lyttlc, pp. 18, 21-22, et al.
*The Wilderness Trail;'* Hanna, Vol. II, as to relationships.

iiChapter XXX "Conspiracy of Pontiac;" Vol III, Champlain Edition, p. isa



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572 HISTORY OF PITTSBURGH

Croghan and William Trent were said to have been brothers-in-law,
but how is not clear. Trent's wife was Sarah Wilkins, daughter of one
of the Wilkinses, who were Indian traders. Trent was for several years
a partner of Croghan's. We have some account of Trent furnished by
Darlington in "Gist's Journals" (p. 249), as follows:

Captain William Trent was bom in 171 5 in Chester county, Pa. In 1746, Gov-
ernor Thomas of Pennsylvania appointed him captain of one of four companies raised
in Pennsylvania, for an expedition against Canada. December, 1747, the time of his
company having expired, he was honorably discharged. In 1749 he was appointed by
Governor Hamilton a justice of the Court of Common Pleas and General Sessions of
the Peace for Cumberland county. In 1750 he formed a partnership with George
Croghan to engage in the Indian trade ; 1752, he was commissioner to I/>gstown ; 1753,
he was directed by Governor Dinwiddie to build a fort at the Forks of the Ohio. Feb-
ruary 17, 1754, he began the erection of the fort. April 18, the fort was surrendered to
the French under the command of M. de Contrecoeur; 1755, Captain Trent entered the
service of Pennsylvania and was a member of the Proprietary and Governor's Council;
1757, he again entered the employ of Virginia; 1758 he accompanied Forbes' expedition
against Fort DuQuesne, and by his knowledge of the cotmtry rendered important serv-
ice. 1763, his large trading-house near Fort Pitt was destroyed by the Indians ; he took
refuge in Fort Pitt and during the siege was employed in military duties by the com-
mandant. Captain Ecuyer. At the Treaty at Fort Stanwix the Indians were induced to
make a deed of land to Trent At the beginning of the Revolutionary War, Congress
gave him a major's commission.

Trent made an expedition from Logstown to Pickawillany, a Miami
village on the west side of the Big Miami river at the mouth of Loromies
creek. This tribe in the transactions with the Indians at and about Fort
Pitt is usually referred to as Twightwees. Trent kept a journal of this
expedition, which was published some thirty years ago by the Western
Reserve Historical Society of Ohio.

The grant made to Trent at Fort Stanwix was at the mouth of the
Little Kanawha river and ran northeast to the Laurel Hill, or Ridge, as
we call it, in Western Virginia, followed the ridge to the Monongahela
and thence "down the stream of the said river by the several courses
thereof to the boundary line of the province of Pennsylvania, thence
westerly along the course of said province boundary line as far as the
same shall extend, and from thence by the same course to the River
Ohio, according to the several courses thereof to the place of beginning."

It is evident that this deed was drawn by a practical conveyancer and
it is interesting to note how much of the present State of West Virginia
is conveyed. It is what is legally termed a Deed Poll, and is dated No-
vember 3, 1768. Trent is named second in the list of grantees. The
names of the other grantees are Robert Callender, John Gibson, Joseph
Simon, George Croghan, Thomas Smallman, Joseph Spear, John Ormsby
and George Morgan, all traders and pioneers and all sufferers in Pon-
tiac's war with other traders to the total of £85,916, 10 shillings and 8
pence, "lawful money of New York." It is very evident the traders were
close figttrers, and dieir business acumen and methods were not to be
despised.

This council in 1768 was a full one, and the sachems and chiefs of the
Six Nations (the Iroquois) were convened, we are told, "by his majesty's



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GEORGE CROGHAN, KING OF THE TRADERS 573

orders, and held the council under the presidency of his superintendent of
Indian affairs in North America, Sir William Johnson."

The grant of land was in consideration of the g^eat losses and dam-
ages as totaled above, which were sustained by sundry traders in the
spring of 1763, when the Shawanese, Delawares and Huron tribes of
Indians. "Tributaries of the Six Nations" (mark the language), did seize
upon and unjustly appropriate to themselves the Goods Merchandize, and
effects of the Traders. Therefore, in strictly legal phraseology, "The said
Sachems and Chiefs did give, grant, Bargain and sell unto us, our Heirs
and assigns forever, all that Tract or Parcel of Land," etc.

It is also evident the conveyancer was a trifle careless in the use of
capital letters, but that was then the custom.

The grantees held numerous meetings in Pittsburgh prior to the
Revolution, bothered themselves about the squatters on their land, made
arrangements for the sale of the lands "so that the purchase would be
easy," organized a company and imagined themselves well remunerated.
Trent even went to England in 1769 and was informed by Dr. Franklin,
Lord Cambdin (Camden?) and others that it was unnecessary to make
application to the crown, or king in council for a confirmation of the
Indian grant, but that all he had to do was to return and take possession
of it.

Lord Hillsborough was opposed to confirmation and the crown made
a g^ant to "a company of gentlemen" which included the Indian g^nt
to the traders.

Trent tells that these purchasers "stiled" themselves the "Grand Ohio
Company." This was in 1775. The war came on and in 1779 Virginia
declared by express legislative enactment that all sales and deeds by
Indians for land within the limits of the colony were void and of no effect.

These lands were within Gist's surveys and they were again surveyed
and all not in possession of settlers, following the precedent of Congress,
were granted to officers and soldiers of the Continental army.

Virginia adopted the idea and her unappropriated lands, vast in area,
were granted as bounties to officers and soldiers in both the State and
Continental establishments. A major-general got 15,000 acres and a
brigadier, 10,000. Washington, we know, was well taken care of with
large grants, some of them in Fayette and Washington counties, Penn-
sylvania. To the same bounties in lands run our titles in Northwestern
Pennsylvania known as the Donation lands.^^

But Trent failed in his land-grabbing in spite of all he and his part-
ners could do, just as Croghan failed when his grant of about all of Pitts-
burgh and the southern portion of Allegheny county was declared void.

Some extracts from Croghan's journals show Croghan's leaning
towards land :

The French had a very great influence over these Indians, and never fail in telling
them many lies to prejudice of his Majesty's interest, by making the English nation
odious and hateful to them. I had the greatest difficulties in removing these prejudices.



i2'<Gist's Journals;" Darlington, pp. 245-249. Trent-Croghan relationship, see p.
557, ante.



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574 HISTORY OF PITTSBURGH

As these Indians are a weak, foolish, and credulous people, they are easily imposed oa
by a designing people who have led hitherto as they pleased. The French told them as
the southern Indians had for two years past made war on them, it must have been at the
instigation of the English, who are a bad people. However, I have been fortunate
eqough to remove their prejudice, and in a great measure, their suspicions against the
English. The country hereabouts is exceedingly pleasant, being open and clear for
many miles; the soil very rich and well watered; all plants have a quick vegetation,
and the climate very temperate through the winter. This post has always been a very
considerable trading place. The great plenty of furs taken in this country, induced the
French to establish this post, which was the first on the Ouabache, and by a very advan-
tageous trade they have been richly recompensed for their labor.^s

He could describe things in most excellent language, though it had to
be rewritten on account of his peculiar spelling. He wrote from the
Miami villages the same year :

Within a mile of the Twightwee village, I was met by the chiefs of that nation,
who received us very kindly. The most part of these Indians knew me, and conducted
me to their village, where they immediately hoisted an English flag that I had formerly
given them at Fort Pitt. The next day they held a council, after which they gave up all
the English prisoners they had, then made several speeches, in all which they expressed
the great pleasure it gave them, to see the unhappy differences which embroiled tiie sev->
eral nations in a war with their brethren, the English, were now so near a happy
conclusion and that peace was established in their country.

The Twightwee village situated on both sides of a river called St Joseph's. This
river, where it falls into the Miami river, about a quarter of a mile from this place, is
one hundred yards wide, on the east side of which stands a stockade fort, somewhat
ruinous. The Indian village consists of about forty or fifty cabins, besides nine or ten
French houses, a runaway colony from Detroit, during the late Indian war, they were
concerned in it, and being afraid of punishment, came to this post, where ever since they
have spirited up the Indians against the English. All the French residing here are lazy,
indolent people, fond of breeding mischief, and spirited up the Indians against the
English, and should by no means be suffered to remain here. The country is pleasant,
the soil rich, and well watered.^^



i«"Joumal of 1750;" pp. 26-27.
i*"Joumal;" pp. 29-31.




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