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Wishing the right of their sovereign, not merely to the river so discovered and its adjacent lands, but to all the country drained by its tributary streams, of which the Ohio was one; a claim, the ramifications of which might be spread, like the meshes of a web, over half the continent.
To this illimitable claim the English opposed a right derived, at second hand, from a traditionary Indian conquest. A treaty, they said, had been made at Lancaster, in 1744, between commissioners from Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia, and the Iroquois, or Six Nations, whereby the latter, for four hundred pounds, gave up all right and title to the land west of the Allegany Mountains, even to the Mississippi, which land, according to their traditions, had been conquered by their forefathers.
It is undoubtedly true that such a treaty was made, and such a pretended transfer of title did take place, under the influence of spirituous liquors; but it is equally true that the Indians in question did not, at the time, possess an acre of the land conveyed; and that the tribes actually in possession scoffed at their pretensions, and claimed the country as their own from time immemorial.
Such were the shadowy foundations of claims which the two nations were determined to maintain to the uttermost, and which ripened into a series of wars, ending in a loss to England of a great part of her American possessions, and to France of the whole.
As yet in the region in question there was not a single white settlement. Mixed Iroquois tribes of Delawares, Shawnees, and Mingoes, had migrated into it early in the century from the French settlements in Canada, and taken up their abodes about the Ohio and its branches. The French pretended to hold them under their protection; but their allegiance, if ever acknowledged, had been sapped of late years by the influx of fur traders from Pennsylvania. These were often rough, lawless men; half Indians in dress and habits, prone to brawls, and sometimes deadly in their feuds. They were generally in the employ of some trader, who, at the head of his retainers and a string of pack-horses, would make his way over mountains and through forests to the banks of the Ohio, establish his
head-quarters in some Indian town, and disperse his followers to traffic among the hamlets, hunting camps, and wigwams, exchanging blankets, gaudy-coloured cloth, trinketry, powder, shot, and rum, for valuable furs and peltry. In this way a lucrative trade with these western tribes was springing up and becoming monopolized by the Pennsylvanians.
To secure a participation in this trade, and to gain a foothold in this desirable region, became now the wish of some of the most intelligent and enterprising men of Virginia and Maryland, among whom were Lawrence and Augustine Washington. With these views they projected a scheme, in connection with John Hanbury, a wealthy London merchant, to obtain a grant of land from the British government, for the purpose of forming settlements or colonies beyond the Alleganies. Government readily countenanced a scheme by which French encroachments might be forestalled, and prompt and quiet possession secured of the great Ohio valley. An association was accordingly chartered in 1749, by the name of " the Ohio Company," and five hundred thousand acres of land were granted to it west of the Alleganies, between the Monongahela and Kanawha rivers; though part of the land might be taken up north of the Ohio, should it be deemed expedient. The company were to pay no quitrent for ten years, but they were to select two-fifths of their lands immediately; to settle one hundred families upon them within seven years; to build a fort at their own expense, and maintain a sufficient garrison in it for defence against the Indians.
Mr. Thomas Lee, president of the council of Virginia, took the lead in the concerns of the company at the outset, and by many has been considered its founder. On his death, which soon took place, Lawrence Washington had the chief management. His enlightened mind and liberal spirit shone forth in his earliest arrangements. He wished to form the settlements with Germans from Pennsylvania. Being dissenters, however, they would be obliged, on becoming residents within the jurisdiction of Virginia, to pay parish rates, and maintain a clergyman of the church of England, though they might not understand his language nor relish his doctrines. Lawrence sought to have them exempted from this double tax on purse and conscience.
"It has ever been my opinion," said he, " and I hope it ever will be, that restraints on conscience are cruel in regard to those on whom they are imposed, and injurious to the country imposing them. England, Holland, and Prussia I may quote as examples, and much more Pennsylvania, which has flourished under that delightful liberty, so as to become the admiration of every man who considers the short time it has been settled. * * * * This colony (Virginia) was greatly settled in the latter part of Charles the First's time, and during the usurpation, by the zealous churchmen; and that spirit, which was then brought in, has ever since continued; so that, except a few Quakers, we have no dissenters. But what has been the consequence? We have increased by slow degrees, whilst our neighbouring colonies, whose natural advantages are greatly inferior to ours, have become populous."
Such were the enlightened views of this brother of our Washington, to whom the latter owed much of his moral and mental training. The company proceeded to make preparations for their colonizing scheme. Goods were imported from England suited to the Indian trade, or for presents to the chiefs. Eewards were promised to veteran warriors and hunters among the natives acquainted with the woods and mountains, for the best route to the Ohio. Before the company had received its charter, however, the French were in the field. Early in 1749, the Marquis de la Galessonniere, governor of Canada, despatched Celeron de Bienville, an intelligent officer, at the head of three hundred men, to the banks of the Ohio, to make peace, as he said, between the tribes that had become embroiled with each other during the late war, and to renew the French possession of the country. Celeron de Bienville distributed presents among the Indians, made speeches reminding them of former friendship, and warned them not to trade with the English.
He furthermore nailed leaden plates to trees, and buried others in the earth, at the confluence of the Ohio and its tributaries, bearing inscriptions purporting that all the 1750.] GEORGE CROGHAN, A VETERAN TRADER. 37
lands on both sides of the rivers to their sources appertained, as in foregone times, to the crown of France.1 The Indians gazed at these mysterious plates with wondering eyes, but surmised their purport. "They mean to steal our country from us," murmured they, and they determined to seek protection from the English.
Celeron finding some traders from Pennsylvania trafficking among the Indians, he summoned them to depart, and wrote by them to James Hamilton, governor of Pennsylvania, telling him the object of his errand to those parts, and his surprise at meeting with English traders in a country to which England had no pretensions; intimating that, in future, any intruders of the kind would be rigorously dealt with.
His letter, and a report of his proceedings on the Ohio, roused the solicitude of the governor and council of Pennsylvania for the protection of their Indian trade. Shortly afterwards, one Hugh Crawford, who had been trading with the Miami tribes on the Wabash, brought a message from them, speaking of the promises and threats with which the French were endeavouring to shake their faith, but assuring the governor that their friendship for the English " would last while the sun and moon ran round the world." This message was accompanied by three strings of wampum.
Governor Hamilton knew the value of Indian friendship, and suggested to the assembly that it would be better to clinch it with presents, and that as soon as possible. An envoy accordingly was sent off early in October, who was supposed to have great influence among the western tribes. This was one George Croghan, a veteran trader, shrewd and sagacious, who had been frequently to the Ohio country with pack-horses and followers, and made himself popular among the Indians by dispensing presents with a lavish hand. He was accompanied by Andrew Montour, a Canadian of half Indian descent, who was to act as interpreter. They were provided with a small present for the emergency; but were to convoke a meeting of' all the tribes at Logstown, on the Ohio, early in the ensuing spring,
1 One of these plates, bearing date August 16, 1749, was found in recent years at the confluence of the Muskingum with the Ohio.
to receive an ample present which would be provided by the assembly.
It was some time later in the same autumn that the Ohio Company brought their plans into operation, and despatched an agent to explore the lands upon the Ohio and its branches as low as the Great Falls, take note of their fitness for cultivation, of the passes of the mountains, the courses and bearings of the rivers, and the strength and disposition of the native tribes. The man chosen for the purpose was Christopher Gist, a hardy pioneer, experienced in woodcraft and Indian life, who had his home on the banks of the Yadkin, near the boundary line of Virginia and North Carolina. He was allowed a woodsman or two for the service of the expedition. He set out on the 31st of October, from the banks of the Potomac, by an Indian path which the hunters had pointed out, leading from Wills' Creek, since called Cumberland Eiver, to the Ohio. Indian paths and buffalo tracks are the primitive highways of the wilderness. Passing the Juniata, he crossed the ridges of the Allegany, arrived at Shannopin, a Delaware village on the south-east side of the Ohio, or rather of that upper branch of it now called the Allegany, swam his horses across that river, and, descending along its valley, arrived at Logstown, an important Indian village a little below the site of the present city of Pittsburg. Here usually resided Tanacharisson, a Seneca chief of great note, being head sachem of the mixed tribes who had migrated to the Ohio and its branches. He was generally surnamed the Half-king, being subordinate to the Iroquois confederacy. The chief was absent at this time, as were most of his people, it being the hunting season. George Croghan, the envoy from Pennsylvania, with Montour his interpreter, had passed through Logstown a week previously, on his way to the Twightwees and other tribes on the Miami branch of the Ohio. Scarce any one was to be seen about the village but some of Croghan's rough people whom he had left behind—" reprobate Indian traders," as Gist terms them. They regarded the latter with a jealous eye, suspecting him of some rivalship in trade, or designs on the Indian lands; and intimated significantly that "he would never go home safe."