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 endeavoring
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, 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 Fort Cumberland, 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."
Gist knew the meaning of such hints from men of this stamp in the lawless
depths of the wilderness; but quieted their suspicions by letting them know
that he was on public business, and on good terms with their great man,
George Croghan, to whom he despatched a letter. He took his departure from
Logstown, however, as soon as possible, preferring, as he said, the
solitude of the wilderness to such company.
At Beaver Creek, a few miles below the village, he left the river and
struck into the interior of the present State of Ohio. Here he overtook
George Croghan at Muskingum, a town of Wyandots and Mingoes. He had ordered
all the traders in his employ who were scattered among the Indian villages,
to rally at this town, where he had hoisted the English flag over his
residence, and over that of the sachem. This was in consequence of the
hostility of the French who had recently captured, in the neighborhood,
three white men in the employ of Frazier, an Indian trader, and had carried
them away prisoners to Canada.
Gist was well received by the people of Muskingum. They were indignant at
the French violation of their territories, and the capture of their
"English brothers." They had not forgotten the conduct of Celeron de
Bienville in the previous year, and the mysterious plates which he had
nailed against trees and sunk in the ground. "If the French claim the
rivers which run into the lakes," said they, "those which run into the Ohio
belong to us and to our brothers the English." And they were anxious that
Gist should settle among them, and build a fort for their mutual defence.
A council of the nation was now held, in which Gist invited them, in the
name of the Governor of Virginia, to visit that province, where a large
present of goods awaited them, sent by their father, the great king, over
the water to his Ohio children. The invitation was graciously received, but
no answer could be given until a grand council of the western tribes had
been held, which was to take place at Logstown in the ensuing spring.
Similar results attended visits made by Gist and Croghan to the Delawares
and the Shawnees at their villages about the Scioto River; all promised to
be at the gathering at Logstown. From the Shawnee village, near the mouth
of the Scioto, the two emissaries shaped their course north two hundred
miles, crossed the Great Moneami, or Miami River, on a raft, swimming their
horses; and on the 17th of February arrived at the Indian town of Piqua.
These journeyings had carried Gist about a wide extent of country beyond
the Ohio. It was rich and level, watered with streams and rivulets, and
clad with noble forests of hickory, walnut, ash, poplar, sugar-maple, and
wild cherry trees. Occasionally there were spacious plains covered with
wild rye; natural meadows, with blue grass and clover; and buffaloes,
thirty and forty at a time, grazing on them, as in a cultivated pasture.
Deer, elk, and wild turkeys abounded. "Nothing is wanted but cultivation,"
said Gist, "to make this a most delightful country." Cultivation has since
proved the truth of his words. The country thus described is the present
State of Ohio.
Piqua, where Gist and Croghan had arrived, was the principal town of the
Twightwees or Miamis; the most powerful confederacy of the West, combining
four tribes, and extending its influence even beyond the Mississippi. A
king or sachem of one or other of the different tribes presided over the
whole. The head chief at present was the king of the Piankeshas.
At this town Croghan formed a treaty of alliance in the name of the
Governor of Pennsylvania with two of the Miami tribes. And Gist was
promised by the king of the Piankeshas that the chiefs of the various
tribes would attend the meeting at Logstown to make a treaty with Virginia.
In the height of these demonstrations of friendship, two Ottawas entered
the council-house, announcing themselves as envoys from the French Governor
of Canada to seek a renewal of ancient alliance. They were received with
all due ceremonial; for none are more ceremonious than the Indians. The
French colors were set up beside the English, and the ambassadors opened
their mission. "Your father, the French king," said they, "remembering his
children on the Ohio, has sent them these two kegs of milk," here, with
great solemnity, they deposited two kegs of brandy,--"and this
tobacco;":--here they deposited a roll ten pounds in weight. "He has made a
clean road for you to come and see him and his officers; and urges you to
come, assuring you that all past differences will be forgotten."
The Piankesha chief replied in the same figurative style. "It is true our
father has sent for us several times, and has said the road was clear; but
I understand it is not clear--it is foul and bloody, and the French have
made it so. We have cleared a road for our brothers, the English; the
French have made it bad, and have taken some of our brothers prisoners.
This we consider as done to ourselves." So saying, he turned his back upon
the ambassadors, and stalked out of the council-house.
In the end the ambassadors were assured that the tribes of the Ohio and the
Six Nations were hand in hand with their brothers, the English; and should
war ensue with the French, they were ready to meet it.
So the French colors were taken down; the "kegs of milk" and roll of
tobacco were rejected; the grand council broke up with a war-dance, and the
ambassadors departed, weeping and howling, and predicting ruin to the
When Gist returned to the Shawnee town, near the mouth of the Scioto, and
reported to his Indian friends there the alliance he had formed with the
Miami confederacy, there was great feasting and speech-making, and firing
of guns. He had now happily accomplished the chief object of his
mission--nothing remained but to descend the Ohio to the Great Falls. This,
however, he was cautioned not to do. A large party of Indians, allies of
the French, were hunting in that neighborhood, who might kill or capture
him. He crossed the river, attended only by a lad as a travelling companion
and aid, and proceeded cautiously down the east side until within fifteen
miles of the Falls. Here he came upon traps newly set, and Indian
footprints not a day old; and heard the distant report of guns. The story
of Indian hunters then was true. He was in a dangerous neighborhood. The
savages might come upon the tracks of his horses, or hear the bells put
about their necks, when turned loose in the wilderness to graze.
Abandoning all idea, therefore, of visiting the Falls, and contenting
himself with the information concerning them which he had received from
others, he shaped his course on the 18th of March for the Cuttawa, or
Kentucky River. From the top of a mountain in the vicinity he had a view to
the southwest as far as the eye could reach, over a vast woodland country
in the fresh garniture of spring, and watered by abundant streams; but as
yet only the hunting-ground of savage tribes, and the scene of their
sanguinary combats. In a word, Kentucky lay spread out before him in all
its wild magnificence; long before it was beheld by Daniel Boone.
For six weeks was this hardy pioneer making his toilful way up the valley
of the Cuttawa, or Kentucky River, to the banks of the Blue Stone; often
checked by precipices, and obliged to seek fords at the heads of tributary
streams; and happy when he could find a buffalo path broken through the
tangled forests, or worn into the everlasting rocks.
On the 1st of May he climbed a rock sixty feet high, crowning a lofty
mountain, and had a distant view of the great Kanawha, breaking its way
through a vast sierra; crossing that river on a raft of his own
construction, he had many more weary days before him, before he reached his
frontier abode on the banks of the Yadkin. He arrived there in the latter
part of May, but there was no one to welcome the wanderer home. There had
been an Indian massacre in the neighborhood, and he found his house silent
and deserted. His heart sank within him, until an old man whom he met near
the place assured him his family were safe, having fled for refuge to a
settlement thirty-five miles off, on the banks of the Roanoke. There he
rejoined them on the following day.
While Gist had been making his painful way homeward, the two Ottawa
ambassadors had returned to Fort Sandusky, bringing word to the French that
their flag had been struck in the council-house at Piqua, and their
friendship rejected and their hostility defied by the Miamis. They informed
them also of the gathering of the western tribes that was to take place at
Logstown, to conclude a treaty with the Virginians.
It was a great object with the French to prevent this treaty, and to spirit
up the Ohio Indians against the English. This they hoped to effect through
the agency of one Captain Joncaire, a veteran diplomatist of the
wilderness, whose character and story deserve a passing notice.
He had been taken prisoner when quite young by the Iroquois, and adopted
into one of their tribes. This was the making of his fortune. He had grown
up among them, acquired their language, adapted himself to their habits,
and was considered by them as one of themselves. On returning to civilized
life he became a prime instrument in the hands of the Canadian government,
for managing and cajoling the Indians. Sometimes he was an ambassador to
the Iroquois; sometimes a mediator between the jarring tribes; sometimes a
leader of their warriors when employed by the French. When in 1728 the
Delawares and Shawnees migrated to the banks of the Ohio, Joncaire was the
agent who followed them, and prevailed on them to consider themselves under
French protection. When the French wanted to get a commanding site for a
post on the Iroquois lands, near Niagara, Joncaire was the man to manage
it. He craved a situation where he might put up a wigwam, and dwell among
his Iroquois brethren. It was granted of course, "for was he not a son of
the tribe--was he not one of themselves?" By degrees his wigwam grew into
an important trading post; ultimately it became Fort Niagara. Years and
years had elapsed; he had grown gray in Indian diplomacy, and was now sent
once more to maintain French sovereignty over the valley of the Ohio.
He appeared at Logstown accompanied by another Frenchman, and forty
Iroquois warriors. He found an assemblage of the western tribes, feasting
and rejoicing, and firing of guns, for George Croghan and Montour the
interpreter were there, and had been distributing presents on behalf of the
Governor of Pennsylvania.
Joncaire was said to have the wit of a Frenchman, and the eloquence of an
Iroquois. He made an animated speech to the chiefs in their own tongue, the
gist of which was that their father Onontio (that is to say, the Governor
of Canada) desired his children of the Ohio to turn away the Indian
traders, and never to deal with them again on pain of his displeasure; so
saying, he laid down a wampum belt of uncommon size, by way of emphasis to
For once his eloquence was of no avail; a chief rose indignantly, shook his
finger in his face, and stamping on the ground, "This is our land," said
he. "What right has Onontio here? The English are our brothers. They shall
live among us as long as one of us is alive. We will trade with them, and
not with you;" and so saying he rejected the belt of wampum.