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Chapter VI: Ohio

        The earliest European exploration of what was to become the Great Northwest Territory of the United States was done by the French in the 17th century, and this land, called New France, was claimed for the Sun King, Louis XIV of France. Towards the middle of the eighteenth century, English settlers moving west began to encroach upon the land that the French claimed. Each country took action to enhance its positions and to attempt to end up with as much territory as they could. The English attempted to further their claim by making treaties with the Indians and by establishing commercial enterprises, which would allow new settlements on Indian land, and new trading ventures with the Indians. A treaty reached with the Indians at a conference in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in 1744, was apparently widely misunderstood by both sides. The English understood that they were allowed to start settlements west of the Alleghenies. The Indians would later vehemently deny that they had made any such concession.79
        In 1749 the French tried to bolster their claim by sending an exploratory party down the Ohio River. At the mouth of each main tributary, they deposited lead plates engraved with a claim on all of the territory that that tributary drained. The plate at the mouth of the Great Kanawha River across the Ohio River from Gallia County is still in place and can be seen at the Point Pleasant State Park. In 1753 the French began to erect a chain of forts from Lake Erie to the Ohio River. This would start a series of events that was to culminate in the French and Indian War (1754-1760).80
        The French were able to convince their Indian allies to fight with them to prevent encroachment on Indian lands by the English settlers. Although the Indians had become uneasy because of the lead plates the French had deposited, their main contact with each other was mostly that between friendly trading partners, and the Indians did not perceive them to be a threat to take their land. The early battles in the war were won by the French, but the English side eventually was able to field an army of nearly 30,000 troops from England to fight alongside about 20,000 Colonists, and in 1763 the French were decisively defeated.81
        The French surrender and subsequent departure left the Indians angry and bitter. They had become accustomed to receiving regular gifts from the French and had become dependent on them for clothing, arms, and other European goods which they obtained through trading. But they had grown to hate the British. In their commercial contacts with the British they felt they were treated with condescension and they were also afraid of losing their land to British settlers. In 1763, the year the war ended, the great Ottawa chief, Pontiac, organized an uprising that involved simultaneous assaults against a number of forts. It was successful against all but three (Fort Pitt, Niagara, and Detroit). Eight forts fell and their occupants were for the most part massacred or taken prisoners. Col. Henry Bouquet was sent west with an army to quell the rebellion, and on his way to relieve Fort Pitt, he met the Indians in the two-day Battle of Bushy Run, and thoroughly defeated them. He followed up by invading the territory that is now Ohio and forced the Indians to accept a truce and return all of their prisoners. Following this there was a period of relative peace that lasted several years and settlers began to pour over the Allegheny Mountains. Prior to the French and Indian War the Allegheny Mountains had been the dividing line between the European settlers and the Indians. After the war the new dividing line was to become the Ohio River.82
        In 1770, George Washington and his friend, Captain Valentine Crawford, embarked on a journey down the Ohio River from Pittsburgh for the purpose of viewing lands to be apportioned among soldiers who had served in the French and Indian War. This was a time of relative peace between the settlers and the Indians, and he remarks in his journal about several peaceful encounters with Indians he met along the way. The journey takes him as far as the mouth of the Great Kanawha River, where it empties into the Ohio just across from Gallipolis. He had encamped on the Virginia side on November 1, and he had proceeded up the Great Kanawha about 10 miles, when his journal reads: “Proceeded up the river with the canoe about four miles farther, and then encamped, and went a hunting; killed 5 buffaloes, and wounded some others, and three deer. This country abounds in buffalo and wild game of all kinds, as also in all kinds of wild fowl, there being in the bottom a great many small grassy ponds, or lakes, which are full of swans, geese, and ducks of different kinds.” 83
        On descending towards the Ohio River again, he describes finding a sycamore tree about sixty yards from the river that measures forty-four feet and ten inches in circumference three feet above the ground. This corresponds to a diameter of close to seven and one-half feet. Fifty feet away is another sycamore measuring thirty-one feet around. Then at the mouth of the Great Kanawha he is marking favorable tracts of land for the soldiers, and he makes this observation: “I also marked at the mouth of another run lower down on the west side, at the lower end of the long bottom, an ash and hoopwood (tree) for the beginning of another of the soldiers surveys, to extend up so as to include all the bottom in a body of the west side.” The “run” referred to may have been the Chicamauga Creek that runs through the town site of Gallipolis, or possibly Raccoon Creek further south in present day Clay Township, although the latter is probably too big to be considered a run. Washington is impressed by much of the land along the river bottoms because of its potential for growing crops, but dismisses much of the hilly landscape further away from the river, as being mostly suitable for grazing.84
        This is as far as Washington went. From there his party paddled their way back upstream to Pittsburgh, up the Monongahela, and then overland back to Mount Vernon. When Washington made these observations, the land was, as yet, completely untouched by Western civilization. The breaking out of hostilities with Indians again, a few years later, would forestall any attempt at early settlement. The Indians would claim that they had never agreed to any settlements to the west of the Appalachian Mountains, and over the course of the next few years relations between the Indians and the settlers would again deteriorate. Random Indian raids on isolated settlements became more and more common, and many settlers were massacred or carried off as prisoners.
        By 1774, the situation had become serious. The adventurous settlers who had come over the mountains to build their homes suddenly perceived themselves to be vulnerable, and many sent their families back over to the eastern side of the mountains. Others gathered for protection at the settlement at Wheeling, which is on the Ohio River in what is now West Virginia. On April 30, about thirty miles north of Wheeling, a group of Virginia militia lured close family members of the beloved and peaceful Mingo chief, Logan, into what amounted to an ambush, and slaughtered them. This precipitated the outbreak of a full-fledged conflict that came to be known as Lord Dunmore’s War. (This is the same Lord Dunmore, whose fleet carried Stephen Chappell to New York the following year).85
        When news of these conditions on the frontier reached the Virginia capital at Williamsburg, the Colonial governor, Lord Dunmore, began preparations to send relief. However, it would take time before an army could be raised and supplied, and over the next few months, there was widespread panic among the settlers, as more and more Indian raids took place. Local militia would set out numerous times to attack the roving bands of Indian warriors and during the summer months Fort Fincastle was constructed at Wheeling, directly across the Ohio River from Pultney Township in Belmont County. The town of West Wheeling, Ohio, where John Wise would later settle was directly across the Ohio River from the fort.
        Lord Dunmore’s plan of attack involved bringing two separate armies to the area. One army, under General Lewis, was to come from the Greenbriar area of Virginia, overland to the Ohio River, and Lord Dunmore would command a second army that would descend down the Ohio River. After a difficult nineteen day march Lewis’ army arrived opposite Gallipolis at Point Pleasant, Virginia (now West Virginia), on September 30. He had expected Lord Dunmore to meet him there, but without telling Lewis, Dunmore had changed his plans. Nine days later Lewis learned that instead of the rendezvous at Point Pleasant, he was to march for Chillicothe to meet up with the second army. However, the following day, with Dunmore’s army still in Wheeling, the Indians attacked. The Battle of Point Pleasant was a fierce and closely fought battle. The Indians, under their leader Cornstalk, were a formidable force. The Virginians fought with their backs up against the two rivers, but held their ground and in the end it was the Indians who had to withdraw. Lewis’ army suffered well over 200 casualties, but won the battle.86 Peter Kinder, who would later fight at Guilford Courthouse, was one of the participants in this day’s action.
        While this was happening on the frontier, things were heating up in Massachusetts. In July the port of Boston had been closed, and by late fall the colony had essentially divided into two armed camps, and it was becoming obvious that war was approaching. It was strongly suspected by the Americans that Dunmore had been advised by the British government while en route to meet General Lewis, not to be too vigorous against the Indians, whom they may need to count on as allies when war broke out. It is also maintained by some of General Lewis’ officers that Dunmore was aware of the situation at Point Pleasant and deliberately changed his plans to allow the Indians to attack Lewis’ troops. A chance remark made by one of Dunmore’s officers to Captain John Stuart, one of General Lewis’ officers, was later recounted to the General, and General Lewis firmly believed that Dunmore was well aware of the impending danger at Point Pleasant and he had delayed marching to his aid because the British were already planning an alliance with the Indians against the colonists. Because of this, local tradition and many historians point to Point Pleasant as the first battle of the Revolutionary War.87
        Dunmore subsequently met the Indian chiefs near Chillicothe and negotiated a settlement. Prior to this treaty, he had already sent General Lewis and his troops home. According to the terms of the treaty, the Ohio River would again be designated as the border between the colonists and the Indians. In spite of the treaty, however, the area west of the mountains would continue to be dangerous territory for settlers. The Indians would this time ally themselves with the British in the coming war, and settling this land would have to wait. This region would be a war zone, not only throughout the Revolutionary War, but even for some time after.
        A garrison was built and maintained at Point Pleasant until 1777, when it was abandoned because of its remote location away from the main theater of the war. Before it’s abandonment it was the scene of one more drama. Cornstalk, along with another Indian, Red Hawk, came to the fort and discussed the disposition of the Indian tribes in the war. Cornstalk indicated that he was opposed to joining the British in the war, but that the general feeling among all of the Indians was to oppose the settlers, and that he would have to go along with them. The commander of the garrison detained the Indians as hostages. While there as a prisoner, Cornstalk’s son came to visit him. The next day, two men from the fort were out hunting deer, when one of them was killed by some Indians. Although they were not in any way connected with these Indians, Cornstalk, his son and Red Hawk were then killed in reprisal.88
        The Wheeling area would remain a hotbed of activity during the Revolution. Three times during the course of the war, the fort would come under siege, and each time would survive. In 1776, the fort, first named Fort Fincastle, had its name changed to Fort Henry when Patrick Henry became governor. It had been constructed hastily during the Dunmore War. George Rogers Clark had made the original plans, but it was completed under the direction of William Crawford, the brother of Valentine Crawford, who had accompanied Washington on his trip down the Ohio. It wasn’t going to be long before the fort was needed.
        Indian raids and massacres increased after the Cornstalk murder. There were only four reasonably secure forts in this area that were held by the Revolutionaries; these were the forts at Pittsburgh, Point Pleasant, Redstone (on the Mononganhela River in Pennsylvania) and Fort Henry in Wheeling. The settlers had gathered around these areas. At Wheeling a small village had grown up around the fort. On September 1, 1777, Fort Henry was attacked at dawn by an Indian army. They lured twenty-seven men out of the fort by staging a small skirmish, and then ambushed them. The remaining thirty-three men, along with all the women and children staged a spirited defense of the fort against three hundred and eighty Indian warriors. After a twenty-three hour battle they suffered only one wounded, while killing an estimated one hundred Indians. The Indians then slaughtered the farm animals, burned the village, destroyed the crops, and left.
        For the next several years the frontier remained a very unstable place. The British governor, Hamilton, at Detroit had put a bounty on all white settlers who did not espouse the Tory cause. The Indians were paid on a per scalp, or per prisoner basis. Women and children were not excluded. The military requirements of the eastern seaboard were such that little could be spared to protect the frontier. Further west, Gen. George Rogers Clark had considerable success against both the Indians and British, and actually managed to capture the infamous Governor Hamilton, but the immediate area of the upper Ohio Valley was never secure during the entire war.
        In September 1781, there was another raid on Fort Henry. Again men from the fort were lured out into the open by two Indians, who were making derisive gestures towards the fort. When the men from the fort pursued, they were ambushed, and most were killed. As in 1777, those who remained inside the fort were unharmed. It was in 1782 though, that the most serious threat to the fort was repelled.
        Cornwallis’ surrender at Yorktown had taken place in October of 1781, but no peace treaty with Britain had been signed, and in the west the war continued on. In the summer of 1782, with Indian raids continuing around them, a force of men from Westmoreland and Washington Counties in Pennsylvania was assembled to begin an offensive campaign against the Indians. William Crawford, brother of Valentine Crawford, led this force to the region of the Sandusky River in what is now north central Ohio. Their attempt to catch the Indians by surprise failed, and they were met by a strong Indian force, that was reinforced on the second day of battle by British regulars from Detroit. A nighttime retreat allowed the main force to escape, but during the night Col. Crawford became separated from the main body, and became lost. He was captured by a group of Delawares, and brought to a nearby Indian village where he was tortured. He was tethered to a stake, shot in his flesh and set afire. His ears were cut off, and he was scalped while still alive. Squaws then placed hot coals on his head. A companion, who witnessed the spectacle, later escaped, and told the story.
        The Indians, emboldened by their success, now sought to bring pressure against some of the strongholds, and so it was that in September 1782, they brought 260 warriors along with 40 British soldiers to again attempt to capture Fort Henry. Col. Ebenezer Zane, who had been the first settler in Wheeling in 1770, had rebuilt his house, as a blockhouse, because his first two houses had been destroyed in the previous two battles. This was to play an important part in protecting the fort. On September 11, the siege began. This would prove to be the most serious attempt on the fort. The invading army had been detected and a surprise attack was thwarted, and so a full frontal assault against the fort was undertaken. There were only twenty men in the fort and a few others in the Zane blockhouse, at the time of the attack. In the two-day battle no defenders were killed. Repeated attempts to storm the stockade were repelled by furious gunfire from the fort and blockhouse. In the end the invaders were forced to retreat back across the Ohio. This was essentially the last battle of the Revolutionary War. The last shots fired by the British army were fired here. It is ironic that in a war so well known for the battles up and down the eastern seaboard, the first and last battles would be fought on the distant Ohio River, only about 150 miles apart.89
        Although the British were now officially out of the war, they continued to encourage the Indians to resist the white settlers and the upper Ohio Valley still was not safe. They had refused to abandon the fort at Detroit because of a dispute with the Americans over monetary matters, and they perceived it to be still in their interest to keep the Indians hostile. The new American government did not want to allow settlement west of the Ohio until title to the land had been obtained from the Indians, and until the land had been surveyed and offered up for sale. To this end they evicted squatters all along the banks of the Ohio until surveying had been completed in 1787. In 1788 the first permanent white settlement was allowed at Marietta. Settlers attempting to move up the Muskingham Valley from there, however, still were being subject to Indian raids. It was felt that military subjugation of the Indians would be required.
        In 1790 the Indians had also begun to attack boats carrying settlers down the Ohio River. An army of 1000 men was sent into the interior of Ohio under Col. Harmar, and the Indians soundly defeated them. In Sept. 1791, an army of 2300 men under the governor of the territory, Gen. St. Claire, met another disastrous defeat. Some military historians maintain that this was the single worst defeat ever suffered by an American army. It was then that General ‘Mad’ Anthony’ Wayne was sent out from the East, and in 1793, he routed a large Indian army in northwest Ohio. This victory resulted in a peace treaty in 1795 that opened a large part of Ohio to settlement, with the Indians being restricted to the northwestern sector.90
        As can be ascertained from the above, the earliest settlements northwest of the Ohio were still vulnerable to Indian attacks until General Wayne’s victory. Gallipolis, established by French settlers in 1790, was thus still vulnerable, as were the initial settlements in Belmont County. The Wise, Bickel and MacMillan families that came to these two counties did so only after danger from Indian attacks was past. With the required population of 5000 adult males in 1798, Ohio was made a territory, and just five years later was admitted to the union as the seventeenth state.

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