George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Adam Stephen, 4 October 1755

From Adam Stephen

Winchester Octr 4th 1755


Matters are in the most deplorable Situation at Fort Cumberland—Our Communication with the Inhabitants is Cut Off. By the best Judges of Indian Affairs, it’s thought there are at least 150 Indians about us—They divided into Small parties, have Cut Off the Settlement of Patersons Creek, Potowmack, Above Cresops, and the People on Town Ck about four miles below his house,1—They go about and Commit their Outrages at all hours of the day and nothing is to be seen or heard of, but Desolation and murders heightened with all Barbarous Circumstances, and unheard of Instances of Cruelty. They Spare the Lives of the Young Women, and Carry them away to gratify the Brutal passions of Lawless Savages. The Smouk of the Burning Plantations darken the day, and hide the neighbouring mountains from our Sight—Frazer has lost two of his Family and moves to the Fort to do the Arms.2

Ramsay the Cooper came up, and got Some money of Mr McLean by Commisary Dicks Directions, went down again to bring up his Sons, on Tuesday last, but has never been heard of Since, at home, or at the Fort—So there is another Cooper to be looked for.

I dispatched Barney Curran3 after Montour, who brought me an Account, that the last news rcevd from him was at Great Island in Susquehanna, where at the Earnest Sollicitation, and by the warm assistance of Monocatotha he had assembled 300 Indians, and was intended agt the French and Indians in their Interest at Winingo.4 He had Intelligence that there were very few of Either at that Place.

Deprivd of any hopes from that Quarter, I detachd two men well acquainted with the woods, to make the best discoveries they could, who have not yet returnd.

Unless Relief is Sent to the Back inhabitants immediatly None will Stay on this Side Monocasy5 or Winchester.

The Magazine is Securd, and a Well Set about in the Fort—So many Alarms prevented the Works going on with dispatch. I have reason to believe Capt. Dogworthy will look upon himself as Commanding Officer after You have joind the Troops.6 The Province he Serves has 30 Effective men in the Service. I was attacked by the Indians on my way down, and lost a man. I Savd my Bacon by retreating to the Fort—The party who conveyd me yesterday discoverd fourteen and fird upon them, but it was to late to pursue them.

It is by all means adviseable to Send up all the Recruits Immediatly, untill we have men enough, to keep the Enemy in awe, So that they keep without Reach of our Sentrys. I am with Respect Sir, Your most Obt hubl. Sert

Adam Stephen

We are intirly acquainted with the Routes and Courses of these Bodies of Indians, but have not Men to Spare to Intercept them—I detachd a party of 25 men under Lt. Bacon, who came up with them and prisoners, but was obligd to Retreat with the loss of two men.7

I was apprisd of the Indians designd Atack, and Sent to my Lord Farfax for 200 Miliatia—alarming the South Branch and all the Neighbourhood—I made a pressing demand of the Militia Sunday Seven night—I heard My Lord was very Urgent and assiduous in the Affair, but there is only a few Sent up under Capt. Vance8—Had my directions been Observed by Henry Vanmeter, or the Militia Come from Frederik The Lives and Liberty of 100 people would have been saved.


1Thomas Cresap’s fortified trading post at Shawnee Old Town was 15 or 20 miles overland from Fort Cumberland. Patterson, or Patterson’s, Creek flowed into the upper reaches of the Potomac River from the Virginia side between Fort Cumberland and Cresap’s; Town Creek emptied into the Potomac from Pennsylvania and Maryland a few miles downriver from the trading post. For a summary of the career of Thomas Cresap (1694–1790), an important land speculator and trader on the frontier, see GW’s Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 1:15.

2John Fraser, whom GW first met at Turtle Creek on his mission to Fort Le Boeuf in 1753, was a gunsmith. In 1758 he served as “Capt. of the Guides” in the Forbes expedition (Henry Bouquet to GW, 8 July 1758). According to another letter on the same day, “Jenny McClane, the Girl that lived with Fraser, was taken just by the Fort; the man that was with her had his Horse shot through, but carried him off” (William Trent to James Burd, Pa. Arch., Col. Rec. description begins Colonial Records of Pennsylvania. 16 vols. Harrisburg, 1840–53. description ends , 6:641). Adam Stephen, in a letter dated 22 Dec. 1756 to Governor Denny of Pennsylvania, referred to the woman as “a woman who once belonged to John Fraser (his wife or mistress) and has now, after being prisoner with Shingas, &c., thirteen months, made her escape from Muskingum” (Hanna, Wilderness Trail description begins Charles A. Hanna. The Wilderness Trail: Or The Ventures and Adventures of the Pennsylvania Traders on the Allegheny Path: With Some New Annals of the Old West, and the Records of Some Strong Men and Some Bad Ones. 2 vols. New York and London, 1911. description ends , 2:159). Jenny, or Jane, McLane was also known as Jenny, or Jane, Fraser.

3Barnaby Currin was a Pennsylvania trader. In 1750 he had accompanied Christopher Gist on his explorations for the Ohio Company. Currin was also associated with George Croghan in the Indian trade and was one of the “Servitors” who accompanied GW on his journey to Fort Le Boeuf in 1753 (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 1:130).

4Great Island, or Big Island, was on the West Branch of the Susquehanna River near present Lock Haven. It was located on trails leading directly to the Seneca country and to the Ohio and was a favorite stopping and meeting place for the Delaware, Shawnee, and Iroquois. There does not, however, seem to have been any permanent settlement there at this time. Monacatoocha wrote to Gov. Robert Hunter Morris on 11 Sept. that he was gathering a party of men to attack the French forts and, although there were only 23 there, more were coming every day. Andrew Montour was among those already present (Pa. Arch., Col. Rec. description begins Colonial Records of Pennsylvania. 16 vols. Harrisburg, 1840–53. description ends , 6:615–16). The proposed expedition evidently came to naught, probably because not enough men arrived. “Winingo” is Stephen’s rendering of Venango.

5The Monocacy River flowed past Frederick Town in Maryland to the Potomac.

6In 1746, when the British proposed a joint British-American assault against the French at Montreal and Quebec, John Dagworthy, a storekeeper in Trenton, N.J., became a captain in Gov. William Gooch’s contingent of troops from the middle colonies. Unlike in the conflict that broke out in 1754 when the commissions of the colonial officers came from the colonial governors, Dagworthy’s captain’s commission was from the king, making him in effect an officer in the regular British army, but only for the duration of the expedition. When the expedition to Canada failed to materialize, the American troops in 1747 were disbanded. See William Shirley’s proclamation, 2 June, Shirley to Benning Wentworth, 8 June, and to duke of Newcastle, 28 July 1746, all in Lincoln, Shirley Correspondence description begins Charles Henry Lincoln, ed. Correspondence of William Shirley: Governor of Massachusetts and Military Commander in America, 1731-1760. 2 vols. New York, 1912. description ends , 1:323–24, 326, 334n. See also duke of Bedford to Newcastle, 24 Mar., Bedford, James St. Clair, and George Wade to Newcastle, 31 Mar., Minutes of council meeting, 3 April, Newcastle to Shirley, to George Clinton, both 9 April, and George II’s instructions to St. Clair, 14 May 1746, all in the Dalrymple Papers, section IX, Papers in the Collection of Sir Mark Dalrymple, Microfilm, ViU; and “Proceedings and Acts of the General Assembly of Maryland” in Md. Archives description begins Archives of Maryland. 72 vols. Baltimore, 1883–1972. description ends , 44:400. It would seem that the disbanding of the American troops should have put an end to the matter, but Dagworthy used his captaincy in the aborted Canadian expedition to make his claim in the fall of 1755 that he outranked all officers at Fort Cumberland who held colonial commissions. Upon leaving Fort Cumberland on his march in June 1755, General Braddock made Col. James Innes, who held a regular commission, governor of the fort. Trouble did not begin until Innes went to North Carolina on personal business in September and indicated that the senior colonial officer present at the fort, Lt. Col. Adam Stephen of the Virginia forces, should act as commanding officer during his absence. It was at this point, according to Stephen, that Dagworthy began to insist that his earlier king’s commission as a captain entitled him to take precedence over Lieutenant Colonel Stephen and to assume command of all the troops at Cumberland. Dagworthy’s claim was particularly galling to GW, who stayed away from the fort lest Dagworthy directly challenge his own authority. GW bitterly complained to Dinwiddie and ultimately got his permission to go to Boston in Feb. 1756 to get William Shirley to settle the matter, which he did more or less to GW’s satisfaction in his Memorandum to GW of 5 Mar. 1756. For Dagworthy’s career, see Adam Stephen to GW, 25 Sept. 1755, n.4.

7Lieutenant Bacon was probably John Bacon, a lieutenant in Maryland’s Independent Company stationed at Fort Cumberland and commanded by Capt. John Dagworthy. Later this month GW ordered Bacon to supervise the building of forts on Patterson Creek in Virginia for the ranger companies commanded by William Cocks and John Ashby. On 8 April 1756 the Maryland Gazette (Annapolis) reported the rumor that Bacon had been killed by Indians about 4 miles from Fort Cumberland, and in a letter of 5 May 1756 to Cecilius Calvert, Governor Sharpe confirmed that Bacon “was scalped as he was returning from Colo Cresap’s to the Fort” (Browne, Sharpe Correspondence description begins William Hand Browne, ed. Correspondence of Governor Horatio Sharpe. 3 vols. Archives of Maryland, vols. 6, 9, and 14. Baltimore, 1888–95. description ends , 1:408–10). Fitzpatrick identifies Lieutenant Bacon as Richard Bacon (Writings of Washington description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed. The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745–1799. 39 vols. Washington, D.C., 1931–44. description ends , 1:226).

8William Vance, one of the early settlers of Frederick County, was a captain in the county’s militia, and Lord Fairfax was the county lieutenant of Frederick County. Vance and his men apparently stayed only a short time on the South Branch of the Potomac, though they seem to have been among the Augusta militiamen called out again in 1756.

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