Commission to Locate the Site of the Frontier Fort.

Report of the Commission to locate the site of the frontier forts of Pennsylvania (Volume 2) online

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Senator- 2l8t Di«t, of Pa.



The Map is a reduced copy of a part of Father Bonnecamp's Manascript
Map of the route of Celeron's Expedition, now deposited in the Archives of
the Department de la Marine in Paris.

<> Indicates the places where leaden plates were buried.

* Points where latitudes and longitudes were observed.

^ Sites of Indian villages.

The degrees of longitude are west of the meridian of Paris, and are indi-
cated by the figures in the outer division of the scales on the eastern and
western extremities of the map. Those on the inner divisions are leagues,
in the proportion of twenty to a degree.


R. Aux Pommes.
Lac Tjadikoin.
R, Kananougon.
La Paille Coupfie.

Village de Loups.

R. Aux Boeufs.

R. an Vermillion.

R. Au Fiel.


R. Kanououara.

Ancien Village de Chaouanons.

R. de Sin h iota.

Village de Loups (a)

Village de Chiningue.

Fort des Miamis.

Apple River. Chautauqua Creek.
Lake Chautauqua,
Conewango Creek.
Broken Straw Creek.

S Village of Loup Indians, called by the
English, Munceys.
French Creek ( Beef or Buffalo River. )
Mahoning Creek.
Gall River. Clarion River.
Wheeling Creek.
Ancient Village of Shawanese.
Scioto River.
Site of Pittsburgh.
Site of F ort Wayne.

Map of a Voyage made on the Beautiful River, in New France, 1749, by
Rev. Father Bonnecamp, Jesuit Mathematician.

The English translation of Toute cette part de lac ciest inconue is "All
this part of the lake is unknown."











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MAP. 17^3,













By George Dallas Albert.



Tlie coutentiou between Great Britain and France for the
possession of the territory which is now Western Pennsyl-
vania, began about the middle of the last century. The
treaty' of Aix la Chapelle, signed October 1st, 1748, while it
nominally closed the war between those two countries, failed
to establish the boundaries between their respective col-
onies in America; and this failure, together with the hostile
and conflicting attitude of the colonists in America, were the
causes of another long and bloody war.

The Ohio Company was an association formed in Virginia
about the year 1748, under a royal grant. The nominal ob-
ject of the charter association was to trade with the Indians,
to divert it southward along the Potomac route, and to
settle the region about the Ohio with English colonists from
Virginia and Maryland. That it was intended to be a
great barrier against the encroachments of the French, is
manifest. Its privileges and concessions were large and
ample. (1.)

All the vast extent of this country from the Mississippi
to the Allegheny mountains, bordered by the great lakes
on the north, had been explored, and to a certain degree


occupied by the French. They had their forts, trading post)^
and missions at various points, and they tried by every pos-
sible means to conciliate the Indians. It was apparent that
they would shortly extend their occupancy to the most ex-
treme tributaries of the Ohio, which they claimed by virtue
of prior discovery. (2.) And while the English by their fur-
traders and agents and now by the active co-operation
of their Virginia colonists under the auspices of this com-
pany, sought to gain a permanent occupancy of the Ohio
Valley, the French began actively to assert their claims
to the same region. Thus the formation of the Ohio Com-
pany, the intrusion of Indian traders, and the occupancy of
some colonial families at the favorite trading posts on the
Ohio and its tributaries, hastened the action of the French
in taking possession of this region under their persistently
asserted claims.

Thereupon to counteract the designs of the English, the
Governor-General of Canada, the Marquis de la Galissoniere,
(S) sent Celoron (4) in 1749 down the Allegheny and Ohio
rivers, to take possession of the country in the name of the
King of France. His command consisted of 215 French and
Canadian soldiers and 55 Indians of various tribes. The prin-
cipal officers under him were Contrecoeur, (5) who afterwards
built Fort Duquesne, Coulon de Villiers, (6) and Joncaire-Cha-
bert. (7.)

Provided with a number of leaden plates, they left La
Chine, above Montreal, on the 15th of June, 1749, and as-
cending the St. Lawrence to Lake Ontario, they coasted
along its shore till they reached Fort Niagara on the 6th of
July. Pursuing their course they arrived at a point on
the southern shore of Lake Erie, where they disembarked.
(8.) By means of Chautauqua creek, a portage, Chautau-
qua Lake and Conewango creek, they came, on the 29th,
to the Allegheny river, near the point now occupied by the
town of Warren, in Warren county. Pa. The first of the
leaden plates was buried at this point. (9.) By these per-
sisting inscriptions and proclamations made with much
oermony. they asserted their nominal possession of the


Ohio, regarding ihe Alleglieuy as but a continuation of that
river. Notwithstanding their endeavors to strengthen the at-
tachment of the Indians to their cause, they found that all
along the Allegheny there was a strong bias in their feelings
in favor of the English. Continuing their descent of the Alle-
gheny and the Ohio^ and entering some of the tributaries of
the latter, they deposited at various points these plates, each
differing in some minor particulars from the others. When
they came to the mouth of the Miami river, they ascended that
stream, and thence crossed by a portage to the head waters of
the Maumee, descending which they reached Lake Erie and
returned to Montreal, arriving there on the 10th of Novem
ber, 1749.

The way thus opened, the French visited the Allegheny
river region, but did not establish permanent posts there.
They, however, made constant etfort to conciliate the Indians
and to arouse them in an antagonism against the English.
Their affairs were committed to Joncaire-Chabert, who was
vigilant in his labors with the natives. He occupied mostly
the house at the mouth of French creek, or Venango, which
had been built by John Frazer, a Pennsylvania trader, whom
Celoron found there, and whom he drove off. (10.)

The Governor-General of Canada, (Marquis de la Jonquiere),
having died in 1752, he was succeeded by the Marquis du
Quesne. This energetic official was hindered by difficulties in
his anxious desire to occupy this region by force, but at length
the movements of the English hastened his action. Early in
January, 175.S, an expedition consisting of three hundred men
undei' command of Mons. Babeer (Babier) set out from Quebec,
and journeying by land and ice, arrived at Fort Niagara in
April. After resting there fifteen days, they continued their
course by water to the south-eastern shore of Lake Erie. Dis-
embarking at Chadakoin [Chautauqua], at the mouth of Chau-
tauqua creek, where Celoron had disembarked four years be-
fore, they prepared to build a fort. The command of the ex-
pedition was here assumed by Monsieur Morin, who about the
end of May, arrived with an additional force of five hundred
whites and twenty Indians. (11.) The Chautauqua creek had
been adopted as the route by Celoron, but now finding it too


shallow to float cauoes or batteaux, he passed further to the
west and came to a place which, from the peculiar formation
of the lake shore, they named Presqu' Isle, or the Peninsula.
This is now the site of the City of Erie. Here the first fort,
which was named Fort la Presqu' Isle, was built. (12.) It was
constructed of square logs, was about one hundred and
twenty feet square, and fifteen feet high, but had no port-
holes, and was probably finished in June, 1753.

When the fort was finished it was garrisoned by about one
hundred men, under command of Captain Depontency. The
remainder of the forces commenced cutting a road southward
to the headquarters of Le Boeuf river, or French creek. This
was a distance of about fifteen miles, and is the site of the
present village of Waterford, Erie county. Pa. Here they
built a second fort, similar to the first, but smaller. (13.)

The season was too late to build the third fort, which they
had been ordered to do; and thereupon, after leaving a large
force of their men to garrison these two forts, the rest re-
turned for the winter to Canada. (14.)

The tidings of these things startled the middle colonies, and
especially alarmed the Governor of Virginia, who late in the
year 1753, despatched a messenger to demand of the French
an explanation of their designs. George Washington, then a
youth who had but shortly attained his majority, was the per-
son selected for the mission by Governor Dinwiddie. He per-
formed his duty with the greatest tact and to the satisfaction
of his government. With seven of a party besides himself,
among whom was Christopher Gist (15) a person admirably
adapted for such a service, he started out on the 15th of No-
vember from Wills creek — the site of Fort Cumberland, in
Maryland — which was the limit of the road that had been
opened by the Ohio Company. Traversing the country by
way of Logstown on the Ohio, below the forks of the river, he
with some friendly Indians whom he had engaged to accom
pany him, pursued the Indian path to Venango. This place,
an old Indian town, was the advance post of the French. Here
he saw the French flag flying over the log house which had
been built by Frazer, but from which he had been ejected. It
was now occupied by Joncaire. He was hospitably enter-


tained, and was referred to the commauding officer whose
headquarters were at Le Boeuf, the fort lately built, a short
distance above on French creek. Thither Washington went,
and was received with courtesy by the officer, Legardeur de
Saint-Pierre, To the message of Dinwiddle, Saint-Pierre re-
plied that he would forward it to the Governor-General of
Canada; but that, in the meantime, his orders were to hold
possession of the country, and this he should do to the best of
his ability. With this answer, Washington retraced his steps
with Gist, enduring many hardships and passing through many
perils, until he presented his report to the Governor at Wil-
liamsburg, the 16th of January, 1754.

Washington on his way back, early in January, 1754, at
Gist's settlement, (16) met seventeen horses, loaded with
materials and stores for a fort at the Forks of the Ohio, and
the day after, some families going out to settle. These parties
were under the auspices of the Ohio Company, which having
imported from London large quantities of goods for the Indian
trade, and engaged settlers, had established trading posts at
Wills creek, (the New Store), the mouth of Turtle creek,
(Frazer's), and elsewhere; had planned their fort at the Forks
of the Ohio, and were proceeding energetically to the con-
summation of their designs.

A company of militia was authorized by Virginia early in
January, 1754, to co-operate with the Ohio Company in their
occupancy. William Trent was commissioned, by Governor
Dinwiddle, Captain; John Frazer, who had his trading house
at Turtle creek on the Monongahela, after being driven from
Venango, was appointed Lieutenant, and Edward W^ard was
appointed Ensign. (17.)

Trent was then engaged in building a strong log store-
house, loop-holed, at Redst one. He was ordered to raise one
hundred men. Returning he left Virginia with about forty
men, intending to have his force recruited by the way. His
objective point was the Forks; and he was instructed to aid in
finishing the fort, already supposed to have been begun by the
Ohio Company. He proceeded to Gist's and thence by the
Redstone trail to the mouth of Redstone creek; where after
having built the store-house called the Hangard, (18) he pro-


eeeded to the Forks of the Ohio, where he arrived on the 17th
of February. Here he, with Gist, George Croghan, and others,
proceeded shortly to lay out the ground and to have some logs
squared and laid. Their tenure, however, was of short dura-
tion. The Captain having been obliged to go back to Wills
creek, across the mountains for provisions. Lieutenant Frazer
being absent at Turtle creek at the time, and Ensign Edward
Ward in command, the French, under Contrecoeur, April 16th,
1754, suddenly appearing in great force demanded the sur
render of the post. (19.) Resistance was out of the question;
and on the day following, having surrendered the post. Ward,
with his party ascended the Monongahela to Redstone, now
Brownsville, where the store-house had been previously

The French, as soon as the season allowed them to begin
operations, had come down from Canada in force, and early
in the spring had erected a fort at where French creek unites
with the Allegheny. This was the third in their series begin-
ning at Lake Erie — Presqu' Isle and Le Boeuf being the other
two. This fort was called by the French, Fort Machault, (20)
but the English usually referred to it as the French fort a1
Venango. It was completed in April, 1754, under the imme
diate superintendence of Captain Joncaire. It was not so
large a work as either of the other two, but was suited to the
circumstances and for the practical purposes for which it was
erected. The object of these forts was not so much to form
centres of defensive or aggressive warfare, as to be depots for
the stores landed from the lake for transportation to Fort
Duquesne which, it was early seen, was to be the real centre
of operations. They were not remarkable either for strength
or engineering skill; they had no earth- works of imxjortance,
and were all of the same plan. The occupants, with the ex-
ception of a small garrison, were generally workmen; and this
was specially true of Le Boeuf, where canoes aud batteaux
were prepared for the transportation of troops, munitions and
provisions to Fort Duquesne.

This part of tlie opei-ations of the French was, properly
speaking, only the preparation for what they had in view; the


real work was to be doue aL tlie couduence of tin? Allegheny'
and Monongahela rivers. (21.)

The French having duly obtained possession of the Forks of
the Ohio, immediatelj' began the erection of a fortification
which was strengthened from time to time as danger of an at-
tack increased. It was called Fort Duquesne, in honor of the
Governor-General of Canada. (22.)

Orders were despatched from the British cabinet, about
this time to the Governors of the Provinces, directing them to
resort to force in defense of their rights, and to drive the
French from their station on the Ohio.

The King in council, decided that the valley- of the Ohio was
in the western part of the Colony of Virginia; and that the
march of certain Europeans to erect a fort in parts of his
dominions was to be resisted; but the cabinet took no effective
measures to support the decree. It only instructed Virginia,
hy the whole or a part of its militia, at the cost of the Colony
itself, to build forts on the Ohio; to keep the Indians in sub
jection; and to repel and drive out the French by force. A
general but less explicit circular was also sent to each one
of the colonies, vaguely requiring them io aid each other in
repelling all encroachments of France on *'the undoubted"
territory of England. (23.)

The active operations against the French were thus carried
on by the Virginians. The Province of Pennsylvania did not
co-operate or in any way assist the Colony of Virginia, al
though the representatives of the Proprietors always asserted
that this region was within the limits of their charter grant.

After Washington returned from his embassy to the French,
and had made his report, the utmost activity prevailed in Vir-
ginia, and the House of Burgesses, relying on the King to pro-
tect the boundary of his dominions, voted means to assist their
(rovernor in carrying on an aggressive campaign.

Washington received from Dinwiddle a commission, first as
Major, and shortly after as Lieutenant-Colonel, and was or-
dered with one hundred and fifty men to take command at
the Forks of the Ohio, to finish the fort already begun there by
the Ohio Company, and to make prisoners, kill or destroy all
who interrupted the English settlements. (24.)


While his specific orders were such as we have stated, they
had been given prior to the surrender of the post by Ward,
and were not applicable to the changed condition of affairs
caused by that event.

To more effectively prosecute their campaign, the Virginia
Assembly voted an additional sum of money from the public
treasury, and the Governor was induced to increase the mil-
itary force to three hundred men, divided into six companies.
Colonel Joshua Fry was appointed to command the whole.
With this appointment Washington's commission had been
raised to a lieutenant-colonelcy, as stated.

Washington, with his raw recruits raised for this purpose,
as soon as the relaxing winter allowed him to move, started
from Alexandria, Virginia, April 2d, 1754, with two companies
of troops, and arrived at Wills creek, (Cumberland), 17th of
Ai>ril, having been joined on his route by a detachment under
(/aptain Stephen. While remaining here for additions to his
forces, he learned of the surrender of the fort under Ward to
the French. Agreeing at a council of w^ar that it would be
unadvisable for them to advance with the prospect of taking
the fort without reenforcements, it was resolved to advance to
the mouth of Bedstone creek on the Monongahela, make a
road passable thus far, and there raise a fortification. This
point was only 37 miles from the Forks of the Ohio; but the
undertaking, with the forces at his command, was one of peril,
and its results uncertain and not possible to be foreseen.
However, on the 25th of April, 1754, he sent a detachment of
00 men to open a road. The main body of his forces joined
this detachment on the 1st of May. The road had to be cut
as they proceeded, trees felled, rocks removed. Fording deep
streams, cutting an opening through the mountains, dragging
the few cannon, and while the season was cold and wet,
without tents, without a supply of clothes, often in want of
provisions, their progress was thus very slow and toilsome.
On the 0th of May, he reached a place called the Little
Meadows, (25) which was about one-third the distance to the
mouth of Redstone creek, and about half the distance to the
place called the Great Meadows. ITis intention was to reach
Redstone, there to take up a strong position, await the arrival


of Colonel Fry with reenforcements, and from thence descend
the Monongahela to the Forks. Here more than two days
were spent in bridging the Little Yough. Having effected a
passage through the mountains, he reached, May 18th, the
Youghiogheny. This place is called the Great Crossings.
They remained here several days, while Washington, with
five men in a canoe, descended the river to see if it was navi-
gable. (26.)

His hopes and his voyage ended at the Ohio-Pyle Falls.
They crossed this river without bridging, and on May 24th.
they arrived at the Great Meadows. (27.) On the morning of
that day Washington had received word from Tanacharison,
(Half King), the Seneca, his friend, to be on his guard, as the
French intended to strike the first English whom they should
see. He thereupon hastened to this position. (28.)

That same evening the Half-King's warning was confirmed
by a trader, who told him the French were at the crossings of
the Youghiogheny. (29.) Washington immediately began to

On the 27th, Christopher Gist came in from his place, and
reported that a detachment of 50 men had been seen at noon
the day before, and that he afterwards saw their tracks within
five miles of the camp.

Seventy-five men were immediately despatched in pursuit of
this party, but they returned without having discovered it,
but between 8 and 9 o'clock that night, a messenger came in
from Half-King, (Tanacharison), who was then camped with
his followers, six miles off, with the report that he had fol-
lowed the tracks of some Frenchmen to ah obscure retreat;
and he believed all the party were concealed within a short
distance. Fearing a stratagem, Washington put his ammuni-
tion in a place of safety; and leaving it under the protection
of a strong guard, he set out in the darkness and rain with 40
men, and reached the camp of his friendly Indians late in the
night. A council washeld. Itwas agreed thatthey should march
together and attack the enemy in concert; and that to do
this they should proceed in single file after the manner of the
Indians. Early in the morning they discovered the position of
the enemy. A plan of attack was agreed upon: the English


occupied what might be called the right wing; the Indians the
left. He thus advancing came so near the French without be-
ing discovered, that the surprise was a success. The French
flew to their arms. The firing continued on both sides about
fifteen minutes. The French were defeated, with the loss of
their whole party. Ten men were killed, including Jumon-
ville, their commander, one was wounded; La Force, Drouillon,
two cadets, and seventeen others were made prisoners. The
Indians scalped the dead. Washington's loss was one killed
and two or three wounded. The wing where Washington
fought received all the enemy's fire, and it was that part of the
line where the one was killed and the others wounded. He
was not harmed. This engagement, fought in the darkness of
the morning of May 28th, 1754, was the first engagement of
w'ar in which Washington took a part. (30.)

The prisoners were marched to the Great Meadows, and
from thence conducted over the mountains. Two days after
this affair Colonel Fry died at Wills creek. The chief com-
mand then devolved on Washington. As soon as the news of
the capture of the party under Jumonville reached Fort Du
(juesne, a strong party was organized to advance against the
English. Washington lost no time in enlarging the intrench-
ment and erecting palisades. This fortification he called Fort
Necessity. (31.) With the arrival of Major Muse with the
residue of the Virginia regiment, and of Captain Mackay of
the Royal army, with his company of 100 men from South
Carolina, the force then numbered about 400 men. Leaving
Captain INIackay with one company to guard the fort. Wash-
ington with the rest pushed over Laurel Hill, cutting the road
with extreme labor through the wilderness, to Gist's planta-
tion. (32.) This was about 13 miles distant, and two weeks

Online LibraryCommission to Locate the Site of the Frontier FortReport of the Commission to locate the site of the frontier forts of Pennsylvania (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 57)