George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Henry Knox, 30 December 1790

From Henry Knox

War Office, 30th December 1790.

The secretary of War, to whom the President of the United States was pleased to refer the Memorial of David Mead and other inhabitants of Cusewauga on french Creek.

Respectfully reports,

That the object of the said memorialists, representing about thirty families, is, that the garrison of the troops of the United States, occupying Fort Franklin, near the mouth of French Creek, where it joins the Allegheny river, may abandon the said Fort Franklin, and be placed in their settlement, thirty miles up the said Creek.1

The secretary of War observes on this memorial, that as the people of the whole frontier on the east of the Allegheny consider themselves as greatly protected by the said post against any incursion of Indians down the said Allegheny that it would be highly improper to remove the garrison.

That Fort Franklin has been constructed at the expence of much trouble, and is in itself considered as an excellent defence against indian attacks, which would in addition to its situation be a good reason against evacuating of it.

It is probable in a short process of time, that the United States may think proper to establish a garrison at Presque Isle on Lake Erie in which case the settlers high up French-Creek may receive cover from the troops of the United States.

The secretary of War therefore submits the opinion, that a letter written by him to the memorialists informing them, that their memorial cannot be granted at present.

All which is submitted to the President of the United States.

H. Knox
secy of War


1Knox enclosed the memorial, dated 24 Aug. 1790, received from a committee of settlers living on upper French Creek in northwestern Pennsylvania, which reads:

“The Memorial and Petition of a Committee of the Inhabitance of Cussewauga on French Creek Respectfully Sheweth.

“That a Settlement is formed on French Creek about Thurty Miles up from the Mouth and from the Post called Fort Franklin, in The Heart of an Extensive Country of Excellent Lands capable of being a Compact Settlement the whole way to Lake Erie—That the situation of Fort Franklin is near the Mouth of French Creek surrounded with mountains & Barrans so that no Settlement of any Consequence ever can be near it—That your Memoralists are under Apprehensions of Dainger from a Nation of Indians called Chipeways who have lately Thretned Distruction to the Garrison, and Settlement Both, That the remote Situation of the Post and Settlement from each Other makes it Impracticable for the one to afford any Assistance to the Other in case of Necessity—Whereas if this post was Established in or near the Settlement, they Apprehend Many Advantages would Arrise to the Publick as well as the safety of the People, that in case of Invasion, Both would Opperate on the Defensive together—and a Supply of Provisions could be had from the Inhabitance for the Garrison, and the settlement of this part of the Country would be so much more Incouraged, that in a Short Period the Expence of any Post we Beg leave to Suggest will be Unnecessary, and Also we are Authorised to engage that in case a post is Established here that for the Immediate Accomodation of the Troops, a number of Teams shall be furnished, and as many Boards as are Necessary to Accomodate the Garrison will be Advanced all Gratis.

“Therefore your Petitioners Request that the Honourable Congress will be pleased to Order a post Established in or near the said Settlement and they as in Duty Bound will ever Pray.” The memorial was signed by Robert Fitz-Randolph, David Mead, Joseph Dickson, Thomas Ray, John Mead, Matthew Wilson, John Baum, John Gregg, and Robert Hillson (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters).

David Mead enclosed the petition in a letter to Pennsylvania senator William Maclay, dated 24 Aug. 1790: “Inclosed I have sent an Application to Congress for the Establishment of a post in this Settlement. I am totally unacquainted With matters of Form in such cases, But if any thing is improper in the Address or Otherwise I must Beg you to make the Necessary Appologies, and bring the matter to a Decision as soon as Possible. I Apprehend when you take the matter into Consideration you will in a moment deside that many great Advantages from the removal, of the Troops at Fort Franklin and Establishing a post at Cussewauga (or fixing a post there at any Rate) will arrise to the Publick and Also to the Safety and increase of the Settlement, a Short explanation of the situation of the present post is set fourth in the Petition, your Brother Samuel & Other Commissioners were lately at my House who can give you a more perticular Description of the Country. However you will find it a Fact, that not more than three or four Plantations can ever be within several Miles of Fort Franklin for Mountains and Barrans, which is generally the case near the Allegheny River, But about Eight or Ten Miles up French Creek the good Land Begins and is Extensive Indeed at present almost unknown, that a post near the heart of this Fertile Country would help to Encourage the Settlement that in a Short time may be Compact to Prisquisle. In case this post succeeds (for the Immediate Accomodation of the Troops[)] a subscription of about one hundred Days works of the Inhabitants is already subscribed over & above the Boards & Team work mentioned in the Petition. upon the whole the Garrison in its present situation appears to me of Little Consequence I found it the Other day without one pound of meet and had then been eight Days without & but one Keg of Flower on hand. this Information I recd from the Commanding Officer, who said he had given timely Notice to the Contractors, in this Situation was it in the settlement and in Dainger of Invation an Immediate supply of Provision could be had from the Inhabitants” (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters).

Maclay may have delivered this letter and the enclosed petition to GW, on 2 Dec. 1790, when he noted in his diary that he “called on the President” (Bowling and Veit, Diary of William Maclay, description begins Kenneth R. Bowling and Helen E. Veit, eds. The Diary of William Maclay and Other Notes on Senate Debates. Baltimore, 1988. description ends 335). The region involved had been familiar to GW since his mission to Fort Le Boeuf in 1753. Tobias Lear transmitted the petition, along with Mead’s letter to Maclay, to Knox on 22 Dec. 1790 (DLC:GW). In response to Knox’s report, Lear responded that he was “commanded by the President to inform the Secretary of War, that the President agrees in opinion with the Secretary upon his communicating to David Mead and the other Inhabitants of Cusseuaga on French Creek . . . that their memorial cannot be granted—and the President directs the Secretary to make the communication accordingly” (Lear to Knox, 30 Dec. 1790, DLC:GW).

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