Benjamin Whitman.

Nelson's biographical dictionary and historical reference book of Erie County, Pennsylvania : containing a condensed history of Pennsylvania, of Erie County, and of the several cities, boroughs and townships in the county also portraits and biographies of the governor's since 1790, and of numerous r online

. (page 17 of 192)
Online LibraryBenjamin WhitmanNelson's biographical dictionary and historical reference book of Erie County, Pennsylvania : containing a condensed history of Pennsylvania, of Erie County, and of the several cities, boroughs and townships in the county also portraits and biographies of the governor's since 1790, and of numerous r → online text (page 17 of 192)
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from the King, my master. However, sir, in obe-
dience to my instructions, it becomes my duty to
require your peaceable departure ; and that you
would forbear prosecuting a purpose so interrup-
tive of the harmony and good understanding
which His Majesty is desirous to continue and cul-
tivate with the most Christian King, etc.

Robert Dinwiddie.



From the Fort on the River au Bojue, )
December IS, 1753. f
Sir: As I have the honor of commanding
here as chief, Mr. Washington delivered to me
the letter which you wrote to the commander of the
French troops. I should have been glad that you
had given him orders, or that he had been inclined
to proceed to Canada to see our General, to whom
it better belongs than to me to set forth the evi-
dence and the reality of the rights of the King,
my master, to the lands situate along the River
Ohio, and to contest the pretensions of the King
of Great Britain thereto. I shall transmit your
letter to the Marquis DuOuesne. His answer will
be a law to me. And if he shall order me to com-
municate it to you, sir, you may be assured I shall
not fail to dispatch it forthwith to you. As to the
summons you send me to retire, I do not think myself
obliged to obey it. Whatever may be your inten-
tions, I am here by virtue of the orders of my Gen-
eral, and I entreat you, sir, not to doubt one mo-
ment but that I am determined to conform myself
to them with all the exactness and resolution
which can be expected from the best officer. I do
not know that in the progress of this campaign
anything has passed which can be reputed an act
of hostility, or that is contrary to the treaties
which subsist between the two crowns ; the con-
tinuance whereof interests and pleases us as
much as it does the English. Had you been
pleased, sir, to descend to particularize the facts
i which occasioned your complaint, I should have
j had the honor of answering you in the fullest,
I and, I am persuaded, the most satisfactory man-
ner, etc. Legardeur de St. Pierre.
I [A 'further account of Washington's visit
will be found under the heading of Water-
! ford.]


Both sides were busily engaged during the
winter in preparing for the war which was
now inevitable. The French plan was to es-
tablish a chain of fortifications from Qiiebec
along Lakes Ontario and Erie and the waters


of French creek and the Allegheny to the
junction of the last-named stream with the
Monongahela, and thence along the Ohio and
Mississippi, to the Gulf of Mexico. Provi-
sions, arms and ammunition were sent from
Qiiebec to Presque Isle, and from there dis-
tributed to the lower forts.

As soon as the weather would permit in
the spring of 1754, troops were moved by bith
sides in the direction of the Ohio. The first
French detachment to reach Pittsburgh, then
known as the " Forks of the Ohio," was on
tiie 17th of April. It consisted of 1,000 French
and Indians, with eighteen cannon. Tiieir
route was from Presque Isle to LeBoeuf, thence
down French creek and the Allegheny. The
English had put up a stockade at the "Forks of
the Ohio," now Pittsburgh, during the winter,
which was unfinished and guarded only by an
ensign and forty-one men. This small body
immediately surrendered. On the 3d or 4th
of July, 500 English capitulated to the French
at Fort Necessity, in Fayette county, after an
engagement of about ten hours. The French
seem to have been uniformly successful in the
campaign of 1754. Deserters from their ranks
reported that the number of French and
Indians in the country during the year was
about 2,000. On the 9th of July, 1755, Brad-
dock's defeat took place near Pittsburgh, an
event which raised the French hopes to a
pitch of the utmost exultation, and seemed for
the time to destroy all prospect of English
ascendency in the West.

DuQiiesne, in a letter of July 6, 1755, says:
" The fort at Presque Isle serves as a depot for
all others on the Ohio. * * The effects are
put on board pirogues at Fort LeBoeuf. * *
At the latter fort tiie prairies, which are ex-
tensive, furnish only bad hay. * * At
Presque Isle the hay is very abundant and
good. The quantity of pirogues constructed
on the River AuBoeuf has exhausted all the
large trees in the neighborhood."

THE FRENCH IN 175(5-7 AND 1758.

A prisoner who escaped from the Indians
in 1756 described Fort LeBoeuf as "garrisoned
with 150 men, and a few straggling Indians.
Presque Isle is built of square logs filled up
with earth ; the barracks are within the fort,
and garrisoned with 150 men, supported chiefly
from a French settlement begun near it. The
settlement consists of about one hundred fami-

lies. The Indian families about the settlement
are pretty numerous ; they have a priest and
schoolmaster, and some grist mills and stills in
the settlement."' The village here referred to
w-as on the east bank of Mill creek, a little
back from the lake, almost on a line with Pa-
rade street.

No events of importance occurred in this
section in 1757 or '8. The forts were gar-
risoned by small bodies of men ; but a consider-
able force was maintained on the line between
tlie lake and the Ohio. The supplies for the
troops were brought by canoes, creeping along
the south shore of the lake, from Buff"alo. The
forts were allowed to get out of repair and
could easily have been captured.


An Indian spy employed by the English
in 1758 gave some additional particulars of
the fort at Presijue Isle. " It is," he said,
" square, with four bastions * * * The
wall is only of single logs, with no bank with-
in — a ditch without. * * * The magazine
is a stone hause covered with shingles, and
not sunk in the ground, standing in the right
bastion, next the lake. * * * The other
houses are of square logs."' Fort LeBoeuf he
described as of " the same plan, but very
small — the logs mostly rotten. Platforms are
erected in the bastions, and loopholes properly
cut; one gun is mounted in a bastion, and
looks down the river. It has only one gate,
and that faces the side opposite the creek.
The magazine is on the right of the gate, go-
ing in, partly sunk in the ground, and above
are some casks of powder to serve the Indians.
Here are two officers, a storekeeper, clerk,
priest and 150 soldiers, who have no employ-
ment." [See Waterford.]


The English made sufficient progress dur-
ing 1758 in the direction of the Ohio to com-
pel the French to evacuate Fort DuQiiesne on
the 22d of November. By this time the In-
dians had lost confidence in the triumph of
the French, and manj' were either siding witli
the English or pretending to be neutral. The
English finally besieged Fort Niagara below
Buffalo, com-pelling the French to withdraw
1,200 men from Detroit, Presque Isle and Ven-
ango for its defense. Its capture by the English
astonished and terrified the French in this sec-


tion. A messenger reached Presque Isle from
Sir William Johnson, the victorious English
commander, notifying the officer in charge
tliat the other posts must surrender in a few
days. The French began making hasty prepa-
rations for departure. Their principal stores
at Presque Isle were sent up the lake August
13, 1759, and the garrison waited a brief time
for their comrades at LeBceuf and Venango,
when the entire army left in batteaux for

The English did not take formal posses-
sion of Forts Presque Isle and LeBceuf until
17G0, when Major Rogers was sent out for
that purpose. A treaty of peace was signed
at Paris in 1763, b}- which the French ceded
Canada and confirmed the Western country
to the British Crown. The Indians did not
take kindly to the British, and eventually
made a concerted effort to drive them out of
the country, as detailed in another chapter,
hut failed of success.

Col. Bradstreet, with an army of 3,000,
arrived at Presciue Isle in August, 1764, and
met a band of Shawnees and Delawares, who
agreed to articles of peace and friendship.
These proceedings seem to have been entered
into by the savages merely as a deception, for
iu a short time they renewed hostilities. An-
other expedition, under Col. Boquet, was
fitted out, and punished the troublesome tribes
so severely that they were glad to accept the
conditions offered them.

The independence of the United States
was acknowledged by Great Britain in 1783.
By the treaty of peace the mother country
abandoned all pretensions to the western re-
gion. Her officers in Canada, however, still
retained a hope of the ultimate return of the
colonies to the protection of the British
crown. The English had, by this date, won
tiie confidence of the Indians, who were kept
iiostile to the Americans by representations
that Great Britain would vet resume posses-

sion of the country. As late as 1785 Mr.
Adams, our minister at London, complained
to the English Secretary of State that though
two years had elapsed since the definitive
treaty, the forts at Presque Isle, Niagara and
elsewhere on the northern frontier were still
held by British garrisons. The actual Ameri-
can occupation dates from 1795.


While the British occupied the countrj'
they put Fort Presque Isle in repair and kept it
up until after our National Independence was
acknowledged, soon after which it fell into
ruin. Its site was easily traceable as late as
1863, by mounds and depressions on the bank
of the lake near the mouth of Mill creek on
its west side.

The fort at LeBceuf stood within the pres-
ent limits of Waterford borough, on the brow
of the hill above LeBceuf creek, nearly in line
with the iron bridge across that stream. A
! ravine, which has since been partially filled
up, extended along its north side, down which
flowed a rivulet, leading Washington to de-
scribe the fort as standing on " a kind of an
island." Practically the same site was success-
ively occupied by the English and Americans.
The French road commenced at the mouth
of Mill creek, extended up that stream a short
distance, and then struck oft' to the higher
land, nearly following the line of Parade
street. A branch road led from the south
gate of the fort, and connected with the main
j road in the hollow of Mill creek. From the
I southern end of Parade street the main road
I ran across Mill Creek township to the present
I Waterford plank road. Leaving the latter,
I the French road took across the hills and ter-
1 minated at the gate of Fort LeBceuf, near
I where the Eagle Hotel stands. The route
known as the French road in Summit town-
ship is understood to be exactly on the line of
its historical original. The road was laid out
thirty feet wide, and was "corduroyed"'
throughout most of its length.


Purchase of the Triaxgi.e.

THE limits of Pennsylvania are describ-
ed in the charter granted by King
Charles II. to William Penn as " three
degrees of latitude in breadth, and five
degrees of longitude in length, the
eastern boundary being the Delaware river,
the northern the beginning of the three and
fortieth degree of northern latitude ; on the
south a circle drawn at twelve miles dis-
tance from New Castle (Delaware) northward
and westward unto the beginning of the for-
.tieth degree of northern latitude, and then by
a straight line westward to the limits of longi-
tude above mentioned."

The boundaries of the State were long a
subject of earnest and sometimes bitter dis-
pute. Fiftj- years before the grant to Penn,
King James f. granted to the Plymouth Com-
pany " all the land lying in the same latitude
with Connecticut and Massachusetts, as far
west as the Pacific ocean, not previously set-
tled by other Christian powers." Under the
construction placed upon this clause by Con-
necticut, more than one-third of Pennsylvania,
including the whole northern part, belonged
to that province. The dispute was finally
settled by the action of Congress, which ap-
pointed Commissioners in 1782, to investigate
the subject, who reported that "Connecticut
has no right to the land in controversv."


Pennsylvania and New York, in 1785, mu-
tually agreed upon commissioners to determine
and establish the east and west boundary line
between the two States, being the forty-sec-
ond degree of latitude. The con^missioners
who finally did the work, which was con-
firmed by the Legislatures of both States, were
Andrew Ellicott on the part of Pennsylvania,
and James Clinton and Simeon DeWitt on
that of New York. They surveyed the entire

line from the Delaware to Lake Erie, planting
a stone every mile, with the distance from the
river marked upon it, and marking mile trees
in the same manner. The distance from the
point of departure to where the north line of
Pennsylvania terminated on tlie shore of Lake
Erie in Springfield township, tiiis county, was
found to be 259 miles and eiglity-eight perches.

The charter of New York defined its west-
ern boundary as extending from the soutli
shore of Lake Erie to the forty-second degree
of latitude, on a line drawn from the western
extremity of Lake Ontario. In determining
this line it became necessary to agree whether
the " western extremity of Lake Ontario" in-
cluded Burlington bay, or was at the Penin-
sula dividing the latter from the lake. An-
drew Ellicott and Frederick Saxton, the sur-
veyors sent out to establish the boundary, de-
cided upon the peninsula as the proper point
from which to draw the line, and the western
boundary of New York was therefore fixed at
twenty miles east of Presque Isle. This left
a triangular tract, which was not included in
the charter of either State, and which was
variously claimed bj' New York. Massachu-
setts and Connecticut.


At an early period. Gen. William Irvine
was sent to the Northwest by the authorities
of Pennsylvania to examine into the quality
of its lands and report upon the best manner
of putting them into the market. While upon
this tour he was struck with the fact tiiat the
State had no harbor upon the lake, and the
great desirability of securing the one at
Presque Isle. On his return to the East he
interested a number of intelligent and pro-
gressive citizens in the project of purchasing
the Triangle. After a protracted negotiation,


New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut
released their claims to the United States gov-
ernment, and the latter, in turn, conveyed the
tract to Pennsylvania. The contract for the
sale of the Triangle, made between the Rep-
resentatives of the United States and Penn-
sylvania was ratified by Congress on the 4th
o'f September, 1788. On the 18th of April,

1791, the Governor was authorized by the Leg-
islature to complete the purchase. March 3,

1792, a patent was issued to the State, signed
by George Washington as President, and
Thomas Jefi"erson as Secretary of State. The
consideration was $151,()40.25, in Continental
certificates, which were much below par.



Pending the negotiations with the general
government, the State authorities proceeded
to secure a release of the Triangle tract from
the Six Nations, which was only effected after
a protracted effort. The conference for this
purpose with the chiefs and warriors of the
several tribes was held on the 9th of January,
1789, and the deed from the Indians appears
to have been signed sometime during the same
month.' The price paid to the Six Nations
was $2,000 bv Pennsvlvania and $1,200 by the
United States.

The cession of the Triangle gave offense to
a portion of the Indians, who claimed that they
had not been fairly represented in the council.
There was a great deal of talk among them of
resisting its occupancy by the State, and at one
time matters looked really serious. On the8d
of February, 1791, Cornplanter, Half Town.

and Big Tree executed a second instrument,
in which, after reciting the dissatisfaction
that existed among the Seneca nation, they
acknowledged the receipt of IStK) as full satis-
faction of all claims and demands by their na-
tion against the commonwealth.


The Triangle, which includes the city of
Erie and the Peninsula, extends some forty-
three miles in a straight line along the lake, and
is about eighteen miles in breadth along the
New York boundary, tapering from there to a
point in Springfield township, between four
and five miles east of the Ohio line. It em-
braces 202,187 acres, and the United States
received pay for it at the rate of three-fourths
of a dollar per acre. The townships included
in the Triangle are North East, Greenfield.
Venango, Harbor Creek, Greene, Summit,
Mill Creek, a small portion of Springfield,
about two-fifths of Girard and McKean, and
four-fifths of Fairview. The terminus of the
Triangle on the shore of Lake Erie was marked
by a stone in Springfield township. [See map.]

Some time ago a corps of engineers, repre-
senting both States, renewed the monuments
marking the boundary between New York
and Pennsj'lvania, many of which had been
destroyed or lost sight of. In the execution
of their task they made use of blocks of
Qiiincy granite, about four feet long and six
inches square at the top, set ordinarily at a dis-
tance of one mile apart. The letters '"Pa."
and " N. Y.," about two inches long, face
Pennsvlvania and New York respectively.




First Steps Toward the Settlement of Erie Couni

IN the year 1785 David Watts and William
Miles were sent under the auspices of the
State to survey the Tenth Donation Dis-
trict, embracing portions of Waterford,
Wayne and Amity townships. March 24,
1789, it was resolved by the General Assembly
that not exceeding 8,000 acres should be sur-
veyed at Presque Isle, LeBreuf and two other
places for the use of the commonwealth. This
was followed by the settlement law of the 8d
of April, 1792, which provided for the survey
of all the lands north and west of the Alle-
gheny and Ohio rivers and Conewango creek,
and their sale upon terms that will be stated
in another chapter. The Pennsylvania Popula-
tion Company, formed at Philadelphia ^Iarch
8, 1792, purchased a large tract of land in the
Triangle with the object of inducing settlement.
On the 8th of April, of the same year, the
Legislature passed and Gov. Mifflin approved
a bill for laying out a town at Presque Isle.


Rumors of Indian hostilities induced the
Legislature February 25, 1794, to authorize
the Governor to station a detachment of the
State troops at such place or places at or near
Presque Isle as might be necessary for the pro-
tection of the settlers. In accordance with its
provisions. Gov. Mifflin, on the 1st of March,
1794, issued a circular to the Brigade Inspectors
of Washington, Westmoreland and Allegheny
counties, requiring them to raise men to serve
eight months, unless sooner discharged, with
a stipulation that, if necessarj-, they should
continue in service till the next meeting of the
Legislature. Four companies were to be or-
ganized within the district, of whom one cap-
tain, one lieutenant, twoensigns, six corporals,
six sergeants and ninety-five privates were to
be detached for the Presque Isle expedition.
The command was given to Capt. tbenezer
Denny, of Allegheny county, who is pre-
sumed to have seen service in border warfare.

Gen. William Irvine and Andrew Ellicott
had been appointed commissioners to lay out
a road from Reading to Presque Isle. On the
day the circular was issued they were notified
that Albert Gallatin had been associated in
their appointment, and that they three were
to lay out the town contemplated by the act
of 1792. The Governor's instructions desired
them to " promote peace, order and friendship
with the peaceable Indians or British garrison,
should any intercourse * * be produced
by accident or necessity." Capt. Denny was
required "to comply with every lawful request
of the commissioners," and was further re-
minded that the objects of his appointment
were "strictly those of protection and



The troops took possession of " the forks
of French creek, about two miles below the
old post of LeBojuf," on or near the 11th of
May, where thej' built a small block-house,
pending the cutting out of the logs which
obstructed the navigation of the stream.
From this point, Gen. John Wilkins, of
Pittsburgh, who accompanied the expedition,
wrote on the day of their arrival that " the
British are determined to oppose the progress
of the State troops from LeBcpuf to Presque
Isle by sending a number of Indians and Eng-
lish to cut them off." In a few days more
the detachment reached LeBoeuf, where they
immediatel}- erected two small picketed block-
houses, which, Wilkins reported, "will make
them sufficiently strong until the re-enforce-
ment arrives under Capt. Denny." The
latter event did not occur until the 24th of

While these events were ni progress, a
letter reached Gen. Knox, Secretary ot War
under President Washington, from Gen.
Israel Chapin, the United States Commis-


sioner to the Six Nations, to the effect that
the British " feel very much alarmed at the
garrisoning of Presque Isle. * * If the
garrison destined for that place," wrote
Chapin, " is not very strong, it is doubtful
whether it will not be attacked." On the
9th of May, Gen. Knox wrote to Wilkins and
Denny, cautioning them to " proceed with the
utmost vigilance and precaution." The next
day, he addressed a communication to Gen.
Mifflin, stating that " affairs are critically
circumstanced between the United States and
the Six Nations," and giving it as the opin-
ion of the President, " on mature reflection,
that it is advisable to suspend for the present
the establishment of Presque Isle." In ac-
cordance with this suggestion, the Governor
rescinded all orders for drafting men, directed
the commissioners, who had not yet left
Pittsburgh, to postpone further proceedings,
and commanded Denny's detachment to
remain at LeBoeuf, "unless it should be found
necessary to retire from the station in order
to prevent an actual contest with the friendly

The people of the western counties were
highly indignant at the suspension of the
proceedings for settlement, and, without
knowing the reason that prompted Gov.
Mifflin, hotly condemned what they called his
timidity. The Governor, however, soon
righted himself by spreading the intelligence
abroad that he had acted in pursuance of a
special request from President Washington.


Three days after reaching LeBoeuf, Denny
asked for "a few militia," on the ground that
a number of his men at LeBcruf were ill with
the flux and others had to be detached. To
the Governor he reported on the 4th of July :
" Have been busy erecting a stockade post.
Moved the detachment in 3'esterday. Am
now beyond the power of any body of hostile
Indians. None have been around since the
party on the 24th. Hear firing almost daily,
but whether friends or foes is uncertain."
EUicott, who must have arrived soon after
Denny, wrote on the 1st of August: "The
Indians consider themselves as our enemies
and that we are their's. From this consider-
ation they never come near the garrison ex-
cept as spies and then escape as soon as dis-

covered." Denny notified the Governor on
the same date that they had four block-houses
at LeBoeuf, on two of which a six-pounder
was mounted, the others not being calculated
for cannon. Over each gate was a swivel.
The officers occupied their tents in the ab-
sence of more agreeable quarters. The sit-
uation he regarded as excellent, except that
there was a hollow way parallel with the
rear of the works and within gunshot that
would " cover any number of Indians." This
was examined every morning before the gates
were thrown open. The troops at the post
numbered one hundred and ten, inclusive of
officers. [See Waterford.]


A treaty of peace was concluded with the
Six Nations at Canandaigua, N. Y., on the
11th of November, in which they unreservedly
acknowledged the title of Pennsylvania to the
Triangle, and for themselves and their suc-
cessors released all claims upon the lands
within its limits. This happy conclusion was
much hastened by the terror of Anthony

Online LibraryBenjamin WhitmanNelson's biographical dictionary and historical reference book of Erie County, Pennsylvania : containing a condensed history of Pennsylvania, of Erie County, and of the several cities, boroughs and townships in the county also portraits and biographies of the governor's since 1790, and of numerous r → online text (page 17 of 192)