Franklin Ellis.

History of Fayette County, Pennsylvania : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men online

. (page 4 of 193)
Online LibraryFranklin EllisHistory of Fayette County, Pennsylvania : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men → online text (page 4 of 193)
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CHAPTER IV.

THE FRENCH AND ENGLISH CLAIMS TO THE
TRANS-ALLEGHENY REGION— GEORGE WASHING-
TON'S VISIT TO THE FRENCH FORTS IN 1753.

The written history of the section of country em-
braced in and between the valleys of the Mononga-
hela and Youghiogheny Rivers, like that of all this
part of the State of Pennsylvania, commences at
about the middle of the eighteenth century. At that
time both France and England were asserting their
respective claims to the dominion of this wilderness
region west of the mountains ; and it was in the con-
flict which resulted from the attempts of each of
these rivals to expel the other, and to enforce their
own alleged rights by the fact of actual possession,
that the events occurred that are here to be narrated,
and which mark the beginning of the history of the
southwestern counties of Pennsylvania.

The claim which France made to the ownership of
this territory was based on the fact that the adventu-
rous explorer La Salle descended the Mississippi
River in 1682, and at its mouth, on the 9th of April
in that year, took formal possession, in the name of
the French sovereign, of all the valley of the mighty
stream, and of all the regions, discovered and to be
discovered, contiguous to it, or to any and all of its
tributaries. Sixty-seven years later (1749), Captain
Celeron, an officer in the service of the king of
France, and having under his command a force of
about three hundred men, penetrated southward to
the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela
Rivers, where he took and confirmed the French pos-
session of the v.allcys of these tributaries, burying
metallic plates, duly inscribed with a record of the
event, as evidences of actual occupation.

England, on the other hand, claimed the country
by virtue of a treaty made with the Six Nations at
Lancaster in June, 1744, when the Indians ceded to
the British king an immense scope of territory west
of the royal grant to Penn,'^ co-extensive with the
limits of Virginia, which at that time were of indefi-
nite extent. At a subsequent treaty held (in 1752) at
Logstown, on the Ohio, below Pittsburgh, one of the
Iroquois chiefs, who had also t.aken part in the Lan-
caster treaty, declared that it had not been the inten-
tion of his people to convey to the English any lands
west of the Alleghenies, but that, nevertheless, they
would not oppose the white man's definition of the
boundaries.

The Six Nations in council had also decided that,
notwithstanding their friendship for the English,
they would remain neutral in the contest which they
saw was imminent between that nation and the 1
French, both of which were now using every effort



1 snppospil at that t



Penn's Western 1






GEORGE WASHINGTON'S VISIT TO THE FRENCH FORTS IN 1753.



to strcngtlicn tliemsclves in the occupation of the
territory bordering the head-waters of the Oliio.

In the year 1750 the "Oliio Com))any" (acting
under an English charter and royal grant, the opera-
tion of whidi will be noticed elsewhere) sent its
agent, Cliristophcr Gist, to the Ohio River, to explore
the country along that stream, with a view to its occu-
pation and settlement. I'nder these instructions he
viewed the country along the west bank of the river,
from the mouth of the Allegheny southwestwardly to
the Falls of the Ohio (opposite the present city of
Louisville, Ky.), and in the following year (1751) he
explored the other side of the stream down to the
mouth of the Great Kanawha. In 1752 he was pres-
ent, as agent of the " Ohio Company," at the Logs-
town treaty, already mentioned, and took part, with
Col. Joshua Fry and the two other commissioners of
Virginia, in the proceedings with the chiefs of the
Six Nations.

These and other movements on the part of those
acting under authority of the British king, caused the
French to bestir thcmselvesv, and move more energeti-
cally towards the occupation of the country west of
the AUeghenies. Early in 1753 they began to move
southward from Lake Ontario through the wilder-
ness towards the Allegheny River, and on the 21st of
May in that year intelligence was received that a
party of one hundred and fifty French and Indians
" had arrived at a camping-jjlace leading from the
Niagara to the head of the Ohio.'" Again, on the
7th of August, a report was received " of the passage
of a large number of canoes, with French troops by
Oswego, on their way to the Ohio."

This intelligence of the aggressive movements of
the French caused the English home government to
adopt more energetic measures than had ])reviously
been employed to meet and resist their advance into
the Ohio River country. Among the official commu-
nications addressed by the Earl of Holderness, sec-
retary of state, to the governors of the several Ameri-
can provinces, w.-is one to Governor Dinwiddle of
Virginia, containing directions concerning the French
encroachments. The letter of the secretary was sent
by a government ship, and reached Dinwiddie in Oc-
tober, 1753. In pursuance of the instructions con-
tained, the governor appointed and commissioned
George Washixgton, then a youth of only twenty-



one years," but one of the adjutants-general of the
military forces of Virginia, as bearer of dispatches to
the commanding ofliccr of the intruding French on
the Ohio,'' — charged, also, with the duty of ascertain-
ing the numbers and efjuipmcnt of the French forces
there, what forts, if any, they had erected, and vari-
ous other items of military intelligence, which are
made clear in his letter of instructions, of which the
following is a copy:

" micrca-i, I have received information of a body
of French forces being assembled in a hostile manner
on the river Ohio, intending by force of arms to erect
certain forts on the said river within this territory,
and contrary to the dignity and peace of our sov-
ereign, the king of Great Britain.

"These are therefore to require and direct you, the
said George Washington, forthwith to repair to Logs-
town, on the said river Ohio, and, having there in-
formed yourself where the said French forces have
posted themselves, thereupon to i)roceed to such
place, and, being there arrived, to present your cre-
dentials, together with my letter to the chief com-
manding officer, and in the name of his Britannic
Majesty to demand an answer thereto.

" On your arrival at Logstown you are to address
yourself to the Half-King, to Monacatoocha, and the
other sachems of the Six Nations, acquainting them
with your orders to visit and deliver my letter to the

- Fulluwing is a copy of the cominiBsion :
"To Gr.onaE Wasiiisotox, Esqiii:k, onr of the Apjitants-Gexerai

OF THE TlKJOrS AND KulUKS IX TIIE COLOXY OF VlKOIXIA.

" I, ii'p jsiiig I'spfCial ti u»t anil conlWujico in tlie ability, conduct, .iml
li<lilily of you, the mill GEOliCE Wasuixoion, Imve appointed you my
cxpi-css messenger; and you are hereby ntitliori/.ed nnd eiupowei-ed
to jiroceed lieuce with all convonlollt and possible disputcli to tlie part



erOhio,
the CO



the 1



nch I



I fort



Imv gl e d t e ii 11




thii »» k o of tie 11


1 1


03 tie II 1


1 e JO


nud tl 1 1


1 1 1 1 c t


CilJ f 1 1


e (1 of J 11 tl


Oltlo" 1 I


lol 1 1 tie; » ono Ij


iscia 1 1 II


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«stl If 1 1 tW


si ton 1 J rn I an 1 1 s


paM 3 e t ene „ 8 b fc


I t i tIeOl o A otler


mime which the French pive to the Ohio, iind applied to the stream


e en to;ihe head of the .\IIegheny, wa.


" La Belle Kiviire,"— The Beauti-



lit of tlie French forces n-sitlcs, in
unler to deliver my letter ami nicsoijige to Iijm; hikI after waiting nut ex-
ceo.lin- uito wi-ck fur nn answer, you aro to tako your leave aud reiiiru

1 'I [111— it m I liavo set my hand and caused the grent seiil of
til- I 1,1 ii t I f iiiTixcd, at the ciry uf Wjlliauisburg, the seat of my
•:"\ - i i;ini)it, ilii- :;iiili day of Octol.er, in the twenty-seventh year of the
rtign ot his M:jrsiy Giurge the Second, King of Ureut Britain, &c., &c.,
aniioipie Duniini ITJ^.

"RoBF.nT DlXWIDDIK.*'

And the following wns the tenor of the Goveniov's pu6?;[>ort :

"Wherea», I have npiKiinted George Washington, Keqniro, \<y cnm-
mission under the great !<cul, my express messenger to the couiniandunt
of the French forces on the liver Ohio, and as he is charged with busi-
ness of great imiwrtancc to his Slajesty antl this dominion,
■ *■ I do herehy command all his Mnjosty's suhjects, and particularly re-
quire all iu alliance and amity uilli the crown of Great Biitain, ami all
others to whoni this passport may c^^me, agreeably to the law- of nations,
^• he aiding and assisting as a safeguard to the said George Wiishingloii
and his attendants iu his present pa»sago to and from tlio river Olfio, as
aforesaid.

"KOBEKT Dixwint)iK,"

3 He had previously sent a messenger on a similar errand. In a letter
to the Lords of Trade he said, *• My last to you was on the ICth of June,
to which I beg you to lie referred. . . . The person sent as a commis-
sioner to the commandant of the French forces neglected his duty, and
went no further than Logstown on the Ohio. lie reports the French
were then one hundred and iifty miles farther up the river, and I believe



24



niSTORY OF FAYETTE COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA.



French commanding cfBcer, and desiring tlie said
chiefs to appoint you a sufficient number of their
warriors to be your safeguard as near tlie French as
you may desire, and to wait your furtlicr direction.

"You are diligently to inquire into the numbers
and force of the French on the Ohio and the adjacent
country ; how they are likely to be assisted from Can-
ada ; and what are the difficulties and conveniences
of that communication, and the time required for it.

" You are to take care to be truly informed what
forts the French have erected, and where ; how they
are garrisoned and appointed, and what is their dis-
tance from each other, and from Logstown ; and from
the best intelligence you can procure, you are to learn
what gave occasion to this expedition of the French;
liow they are likely to be supported, and what their
pretensions are.

" When the French commandant has given you the
required and necessary dispatches, you are to desire
of him a proper guard to protect you as far on your
return as you may judge for your safety, against any
straggling Indians or hunters that may be ignorant
of your character, and molest you. Wishing you
good success in your negotiation, and safe and speedy
return, I am, &c.,

"Robert Dinwiddie.

" Wii.LlAMSBVlto, 30 OctoljCM-, 1753."

On the day of his appointment Washington left
Williamsburg, and on the 31st reached Fredericks-
burg, Va., where he employed Jacob Van Braam as a
French interpreter. The two then went to Alexan-
dria, where some necessary purchases were made.
Thence they proceeded to Winchester, whjre pack-
horses were purchased ; after which they rode to
Wills' Creek (Cumberland, Md.), arriving there on
the 14th of November. " Here," said Washington
in his journal of the tour, " I engaged Mr. Gist' to
pilot us out, and also hired four others as servitors, —
Barnaby Currin and John McQuire, Indian traders,
Henry Steward, and William Jenkins; and in com-
pany with these persons left the inhabitants the next
day""

The party, now including seven persons, moved
from Wills' Creek in a northwesterly direction, and
crossing the Youghiogheuy River into what is now
Fayette County, proceeded by way of Gist's place,^
to Frazier's, on the Monongahela, ten miles above its
junction with the Allegheny. They had found the
traveling through the wilderness so difficult that the
journey to this point from Wills' Creek occupied a
week. Referring to this part of the route, the jour-
nal says, " The excessive rains and vast quantities of

1 Christoplier Gist, agent of the "Oliio Company," who, a few montlis
previuiisly— in I7j3— had locate;! and liuilt a cabin nair tlie centre of
the teniti>ry of tlio present county of Fayette, at the place now known
as Mount Braddock.

- " According to the beet observation I could make," said Washington
in his journal, "Mr. Gist's new settlement (wliicli wo passed by) bears
about wcst-uorthwcrit, seventy miles from Wills' CreeUb."



snow which had fallen prevented our reaching Mr.
Frazier's, an Indian trader, at tlie mouth of Turtle
Creek, on Monongahela River, till Thursday the 22d.
We were informed here that expresses had been sent
a few days before to the traders down the river, to
acquaint them with the French general's death, and
the return of the major part of the French army into
winter quarters. The waters were quite impassable
without swimming our horses, which obliged us to
get the loan of a canoe from Frazier, and to send Bar-
naby Currin and Henry Steward down the Mononga-
hela with oua baggage to meet us at the forks of the
Ohio."

Crossing the Allegheny, Washington found Shin-
giss, the Delaware king, who accompanied the party
to Logstown, which they reached in twenty-five days
from Williamsburg. On their arrival they found the
Indian Monakatoocha, but the Half-King was absent,
hunting. Washington told the former, through his
Indian interpreter, John D.^vidson, that he had come
as a messenger to the French general, and was ordered
to call and inform the sachems of the Six Nations of
the fact. The Half-King^ was sent for by runners,
and at about three o'clock in the afternoon of the
25th he came in, and visited Washington in his tent,
where, through the interpreter, Davidson, he told him
that it was a long way to the headquarters of the
French commandant on the Allegheny. " He told
me," says the journal, " that the nearest and levelest
way was now impassable by reason of many large
miry savannahs ; that we must be obliged to go by
Venango, and should not get to the near fort in less
than five or six nights' sleep, good traveling." He
told Washington that he must wait until a proper
guard of Indians could be furnished him. " The
people whom I have ordered in," said he, "are not
yet come, and cannot, until the third night from this;
until which time, brother, I must beg you to stay.
I intend to send the guard of Mingoes, Shannoahs,
and Delawares, that our brothers may see the love and
loyalty we bear them."

Washington was anxious to reach his destination at
the earliest possible time, but, in deference to the
wishes of the friendly Tanacharison, he remained
until the 30th of November, when, as it is recorded
in the journal, "We set out about nine o'clock with
the Half-King, Jeskakake, White Thunder, and the
Hunter, and traveled on the road to Venango, where
we arrived the fourth of December, without anything
remarkable happening but a continued series of bad
weather. This is an old Indian town, situated at the
mouth of French Creek, on the Ohio, and lies near
north about sixty miles from Logstown, but more
than seventy the way we were obliged to go."

On the 7th the party set out from Venango for the

3 Tanacharison, the Half-King, was and always continued to be a firm
and steadfast friend of the English, but lie lived less tlian a jear fmm
tlie time when Wasliington met him at Logstown. His deatli occurred
at Uanislurg, Pa. (Ihou Ilarris' Ferry), in October, 1754.



GEORGE WASHINGTON'S VISIT TO THE FRENCH FORTS IN 1733.



French fort, and reached it on the 11th, having been
greatly impeded "by excessive rains, snows, and bad
traveling through many mires and swamps." On
the 12th, Washington waited on the commander, ac-
quainted him with the business on whicii he came,
and in the afternoon exhibited his commission, and
delivered the letter from Governor Dinwiddle. While
it was being translated he employed his time in tak-
ing the dimensions of the fort and making other
observations with which he was charged. In the
evening of the 14th he received the answer of the
commandant to the Governor; but although he wa.s
now ready to set out on his return, he could not get
away until the second day after that, as the French,
although treating him with the greatest outward show
of politeness, were using every artifice with his In-
dians to seduce them from their allegiance and friend-
ship to the English, and were constantly plying them
with brandy, which made the Indians loth to leave
the place. Washington could not well go without
them, and even if he could have done so, he would
have been very unwilling to leave them behind him,
subject to the dangerous influence of the French offi-
cers and French brandy.

Finally, on the 16th, he induced the Half-King and
other Indians to leave, and set out from the fort for
Venango, which was reached on the 22d. There the
chiefs were determined to remain fora time, and there-
fore Washington's party was compelled to proceed
without them, accompanied only by the Indian, Young
Hunter, whom the Half-King had ordered to go with
them as a guide. The journal of Washington narrates
theevents of this stage of the journey as follows: "Our
horses were now so weak and feeble, and the baggage
80 heavy (as we were obliged to provide all the ne-
cessaries which the journey would require), that we
doubted much their performing it. Therefore, myself
and the others, except the drivers, who were obliged
to ride, gave up our horses for packs to assist along
with the baggage. I put myself in an Indian walk-
ing-^dress, and continued with them three days, until
I found there was no probability of their getting
home in reasonable time. The horses became less
able to travel every day, the cold increased very fast,
and the roads were becoming much worse by a deep
snow, continually freezing; therefore, as I was uneasy
to get back to make report of my proceedings to his
Honor, the Governor, I determined to prosecute my
journey the nearest way through the woods on foot.
Accordingly, I left Mr. Van Braaui in charge of our
baggage, with money and directions to provide ne-
cessaries from place to place for themselves and horses,
and to make the most convenient dispatch in travel-
ing. I took my necessary papers, pulled off my
clothes, and tied myself up in a watch-coat. Then,
with gun in hand and pack on my back, in which were
my papers and provisions, I set out with Mr. Gist,
fitted in the same manner, on Wednesday the 26th."

On the following day the two tr:ivek'r.s fell in with



a jiarty of French Indians,' one of whom fired on
them, but fortunately missed. They took the fellow
in custody, and kept him with them till nine o'clock
at night, when they let him go, and they contin-
ued on their way, walking all nighl, to be out of
reach of pursuit. On the next evening at dark
they reached the Allegheny just above Shannapin's
town. In crossing the river on an improvised craft,
Washington was thrown off into the icy current,

, where the water was ten feet deep, but saved himself
by catching at the logs of the raft. They were then
obliged to land on an island, and to pass the night
there, but in the morning found the river sufficiently
frozen to enable them to cross in safety on the ice to
the left bank of the river. They suflered severely
from cold and exposure, and Gist had his fingers
and toes frozen, but they succeeded in reaching Fra-
zier's, at the mouth of Turtle Creek, on the Monon-
galiela, in the evening of the 30th of December.

The journal proceeds : " As we intended to take
horses here [at Frazier's], and it required some time
to find them, I went up about three miles, to the
mouth of the Youghiogheny, to visit Queen AUi-
quippa, who had expressed great concern that we
passed her in going to the fort. I made her a
present of a watch-coat and a bottle of rum, which

I latter was thought much the better present of the
two. Tuesday, the 1st of January, we left Mr.
Frazier's house, and arrived at Mr. Gist's, at Monon-

I gahela," the 2d, where I bought a horse and saddle."
From Gist's Washington proceeded on his return
journey, and, without experiencing any notable inci-

j dent or adventure (except meeting a party bound for
the forks of the Ohio for the purpose of building a
fort there, as will hereafter be noticed), reached Wil-
liamsburg on the 16th of January, 1754, and deliv-

] ered the letter of the French commandant to Governor
Dinwiddie.

The preceding narrative of the journeying of Gov-
ernor Dinwiddle's young envoy to and from the

1 Gist, howevor, in liis diao', does not nientiun any party or Indians,
but only the one who flrcd (Hi tlicni. He snj'9, '• Wo rose early in the
morning and set oTit al'ont two o'clock, and yot to ttio Murderingtown,
on the sonlhojist fork of Braver Creek. Hero we met an Indian whom
I thonpht I liad seen .it Joncuiro's, at Venango, when on our journey up
to tlie From h f.irt. This fellow called me by my Inilliin name, and pre-
(ended to be glad to See me. I thought very ill of the fellow, but did
not care to let the Mtgor (Wnsliingtun) know 1 mistru ted him. But he
soon mistrusted him as much as I did . . . It was very light and snow
was on tlio ground. The Indian nuele a stop and turned aliunt. The
filiijor saw him jwint his gun at us, and he fired. Sitid the Msjor, ' Aro
you shot?' 'Xo.'said I, upon which the Indian ran forward to a big
standing white*oak, and beg:tn luailing his gun, but wo were soon with
him. I wonld have kitkd Mm, but the l>LiJor tcoiilil not mjfer me. We let
him charge bis gnn. We found he put in a ball, then wo took care of



hiin."

- "Monongahela"
point on the river al
to a large scojio of
portion of the prese



as a name at that time applied not only to the
le mouth of Bedstone Creek, but also, indefinitely,
uutry adjacent to it, comprising a considerable
county of Fayette, between the rivers Mononga.
ny. As Gist's w



HISTORY OF FAYETTE COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA.



French fort " Le Bceuf," is given in these pages at
considerable length, less on account of the import-
ance of the events and incidents related, than be-
cause it has reference to the first and second appear-
ance of George Washington in the territory of Fayette
County, which he afterwards frequently visited, and
became largely interested in as a property owner.
AVithin this territory is the spot which has become
historic as his first battle-ground, and here were first
disclosed his highest military abilities, in the wild
and disordered retreat of Braddock's army from the
field of disaster on the Mouongahela.



CHAPTEE V.



FREXCII OCCrPATIOX AT THE HEAD OF THE OHIO
— WASHINGTON'S CAMPAIGX OF irOi IX THE
YOUliHIOGHENY VALLEY. '.

The result of AVashington's expedition was to show
beyond all doubt that the design of the French was
to occupy, in force, all the country bordering the head-
waters of the Ohio Kiver. Thereupon, Governor
Dinwiddle transmitted Washington's statement to
England, and meanwhile, without waiting for instruc- •
tions from the home government, commenced prepar-
ations for raising a force to be sent to the " Forks of I
the Ohio" (Pittsburgh), to take possession of that point,
and to construct a defensive work to enable them to i
hdld the position against the French. A party had ]
already gone forward from Virginia across the moun-
tains for the same purpose, it being the one alluded
to in Washington's journal of the trip to Le Bceuf,
where he says, " The 6th (of January, on his return !
from Gist's to Wills' Creek) we met seventeen horses
loaded with materials and storas for a. fort at the fork !
of the Ohio, and the day after some families going
out to settle." ' But these were not troops sent by
I)inwiddie, or under provincial authority; they were
merely employes and colonists going out under the
auspices of the "Ohio Company," to locate and to
build a fort or block-house for the protection of them-
selves and the company's interests on the frontier. !

The first military force that moved westward hav-
ing the Ohio River for its objective point was a com-
pany under Captain AVilliam Trent, which marched-
from Virginia in January, 1754. From Wills' Creek
Captain Trent moved his force of about thirty-three



Online LibraryFranklin EllisHistory of Fayette County, Pennsylvania : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men → online text (page 4 of 193)