Bridgeville historical society focuses on Washington's trip to present-day Erie
The Bridgeville Area Historical Society interrupted its series of “Second Tuesday” workshops dealing with the history of Bridgeville High School this month and focused instead on George Washington's 1753 mission to Fort Le Boeuf.
The society recently submitted a proposal for funding to establish a significant permanent exhibit dedicated to George Washington's seven visits to Western Pennsylvania in the 18th century and the impact they had on this area.
In support of this proposal, we decided to dedicate a series of the “Second Tuesdays” to the preparation of videos dedicated to these visits.
The facilitator presented a chronological series of slides depicting the 1753 adventure.
In the 18th century both France and England laid claim to the Ohio Country.
In 1753, the French exploited their claim with a major invasion. They established three major forts — Presque Isle (Erie), LeBoeuf (Waterford), and Machault (Franklin). The fort (Duquesne) at the forks of the Ohio was scheduled for construction and occupation in 1754.
In response, Virginia Gov. Robert Dinwiddie dispatched 21-year-old Maj. George Washington to the Ohio Country to deliver an ultimatum to the French advising them that England (Virginia) had sovereignty over that land. Washington engaged experienced scout and frontiersman Christopher Gist to accompany him.
Gist and Washington traveled on horseback to Logstown (now Ambridge) where a major Indian village existed. They spent several days there, meeting leaders and acquiring intelligence about the French, and then proceeded north.
When they reached Fort Machault, the French commander there advised them to continue on to Fort LeBoeuf, where they met Commandant Legardeur de St. Pierre.
Washington presented Dinwiddie's letter to St. Pierre, then waited three days before he got a formal reply. He spent the time profitably, generating a detailed report on the layout of the fort, the number and location of artillery pieces, and the disposition of the troops manning it.
Eventually the French presented their response, a courteous but arrogant statement that the combination of their might and their claims made it obvious that the Ohio Country was an inherent part of New France. They strongly advised the English to be satisfied to stay east of the Allegheny mountains.
The trip back to the Forks of the Ohio was full of adventure. An Indian took a shot at Washington and Gist at short range but missed. Later Washington fell off a raft trying to cross the ice-filled Allegheny River and nearly drowned. They eventually made their way back to Virginia and safety.
Back in Williamsburg, Washington was received as a hero, and the Virginians' resolve to resist the French invasion was intensified. The stage was set for the young major to make his second trip to this area and to kick off the “first World War.”
This is indeed a remarkable story; its sequel will be investigated in June. The May “Second Tuesday” workshop — set for May 8 — will return to our review of the history of Bridgeville High School, this time focusing on the 1950 and 1951 classes.