George Washington’s 1770 expedition to the Ohio country
This month, the Bridgeville Area Historical Society’s workshop series on George Washington’s impact on Western Pennsylvania focused on his 1770 expedition to the Ohio country. Now 38 years old and a highly successful Virginia country gentleman, he had been appointed to administer the disposition of 200,000 acres of land “on the Great Kanhaway” to the veterans of his 1754 Fort Necessity Campaign.
Accordingly, Washington, accompanied by Dr. James Craik, set out for the frontier on Oct. 5, 1770. Three days later, they arrived at the plantation of Col. Thomas Cresap, at Old Town, close to Fort Cumberland. Next, came the nostalgic trip over Allegheny Mountain on “Braddock’s Road,” through the Great Meadows, terminating at the plantation of Capt. William Crawford on the Youghiogheny River. Crawford had worked for Washington 20 years earlier during his surveying days and now served as his agent in land acquisition. They arrived there Oct. 13 and stayed three days before continuing on to Pittsburgh.
Arriving in Pittsburgh on Oct. 17, Washington and his companions, Craik and Crawford, lodged at Semple’s Tavern. There they met George Croghan, deputy indian agent and land speculator in the Ohio country. According to Washington’s journal, Croghan wanted to sell him property in the Raccoon Creek watershed, “five pounds sterling for one hundred acres.”
Traveling easily downstream in a large canoe, the expedition arrived at Mingo Town (now Mingo Junction) on the 22nd. There they met 60 Iroquois heading west to make war on the Catawbas. By Oct. 28, they were well beyond what is now Parkersburg, W. Va., when they met an old friend and occasional enemy, Kiasutha. Also known as Guyasuta, this Seneca chief had first met Washington in 1753 at Logstown and accompanied him part of the way north to Fort Le Boeuf. In 1758, he was an active participant in the defeat of Braddock’s Expedition.
By now, he and Washington were allies; he presented Washington with fresh meat – a quarter of a buffalo. The expedition reached its final destination, the confluence of the Kanhaway (Kanawha) River with the Ohio at what is now Point Pleasant, W. Va., on Oct. 31.
Washington spent the next five days in that vicinity, evaluating the land as potential agricultural sites and establishing crude bench marks to facilitate land surveying in the future. Heading back upstream, they encountered a flood, with the water rising more than 20 feet. They arrived at Mingo Town on Nov. 17.
Having had his fill of paddling upstream, Washington acquired horses and set off overland toward Pittsburgh. They proceeded on to Fort Pitt, following “branches of Raccoon Creek … and Shurtees Creek,” where they found “good meadow ground.” Shurtees, of course, is Chartiers, and we surmise the party followed Millers Run to the Catfish Path in what is now Bridgeville and then took the Path on to Pittsburgh.
Washington then retraced his steps back to Mt. Vernon via Crawford’s estate on the Youghiogheny and Cresap’s on the Potomac. He encountered “knee deep” snow on Allegheny Mountain. On Dec. 1, he reported: “Reached home, having been absent nine weeks and one day.”
The next workshop in the Second Tuesdays series will discuss the Bridgeville High School classes of 1958 and 1959, on Feb. 12, 2019.
John F. Oyler is a contributing writer. You can reach him at 412-343-1652 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more from him at mywutb.blogspot.com.