George Washington Papers

To George Washington from William Trent, 19 February 1754 [letter not found]

Letter not found: from William Trent, Forks of the Ohio, 19 Feb. 1754. A newspaper account of this letter reads: “Letters from Messieurs Trent, and Gist,1 to Major Washington, of Virginia, give some Account of their Situation near the Ohio. The first Letter is dated Feb. 19, at Yaughyaughgany big Bottom. The 17th Mr. Trent arrived at the Forks of Monongohella2 (from the Mouth of Red Stone Creek, where he has built a strong Store House), and met Mr. Gist, and several Others:3 In 2 or 3 Days they expected down all the People, and as soon as they came were to lay the Foundation of the Fort, expecting to make out for that Purpose about 70 or 80 Men. The Indians were to join them and make them strong. They requested him (Major Washington) to march out to them with all possible Expedition. They acquaint him, that Monsieur La Force (ou, La Farce)4 had made a Speech to some of our Indians and told them, that neither they nor the English there, would see the Sun above 20 Days longer; 13 of the Days being then5 to come: By what Mr. Croghan6 could learn from an Indian in the French Interest, they might expect 400 French down in that Time: A Messenger sent from the French Fort had Letters for the Commanders of the other Forts to march immediately and join them, in order to cut off our Indians and Whites, and some French Indians were likewise expected to join them: When La Force had made his speech to the Indians, they sent a String of Wampum to Mr. Croghan, to desire him to hurry the English to come, for that they expected soon to be attack’d, and pressed hard to come and join them; for they wanted Necessaries and Assistance, and then would strike: They further write, that 600 French and Indians were gone against the lower Shawneese-Town,7 to cut off the Shawneese; 200 Ottaways and Chipawas came to Mushingum8 and demanded the White People there, and shewed them the French Hatchet; the Wayondotts, tho’ not above 30 Men, refused to let them kill them in their Town; but they expected every Day to hear they had cut off the Whites and likewise the Wayondotts.”

Maryland Gazette (Annapolis), 14 Mar. 1754.

Trent was engaged in constructing a storehouse for the Ohio Company at the mouth of Redstone Creek when he received his instructions from Dinwiddie to go to the Forks of the Ohio to begin work on the fort at that site. See Robert Dinwiddie to GW, Jan. 1754. Trent then proceeded immediately to the Forks where he was joined by Christopher Gist and other Ohio Company employees and began the process of recruiting men and supplies for the fort.

1For the newspaper description of Gist’s letter, see Gist to GW, 23 Feb. 1754. By the early 1750s Gist (c.1706–1759), a native of Maryland, had become a leading explorer, surveyor, and Indian trader. He was living in North Carolina when he was employed by the Ohio Company in 1750 to explore as far west as the Scioto River, and between 1751 and 1753 he carried out further explorations for the company on the Great Kanawha and Ohio rivers. Gist had accompanied GW on his journey to the French commandant. See Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 1:130–61. At the outbreak of hostilities in 1754 Gist moved his family from his plantation (Gist’s Settlement) in the Monongahela Valley near Redstone Old Fort back to Opeckon, his place across the Potomac River from the Ohio Company’s trading post at Wills Creek. Gist later served as a guide in Braddock’s expedition and beginning in 1755 acted as a captain of scouts in the Virginia Regiment commanded by GW.

2The Monongahela and Allegheny rivers meet at the site of present-day Pittsburgh to form the Ohio River. The confluence was generally called the Forks of the Ohio or the Forks.

3The Ohio Company storehouse on the right bank of Redstone Creek near present Brownsville, Pa., was erected by the company in late 1753 and early 1754 and soon became known as Redstone Old Fort. Ens. Edward Ward described it later as “a strong square Log house with Loop Holes sufficient to have made a good Defence with a few men and very convenient for a Store House, where stores might be lodged in order to be transported by water to the place where Fort Du Quesne now stands” (Darlington, Bouquet description begins Mary Carson Darlington, ed. History of Colonel Henry Bouquet and the Western Frontiers of Pennsylvania, 1747–1764. Privately printed, 1920. description ends , 42).

4Michel Pépin, called La Force, was French commissary of stores on the upper Ohio. Because of his skill as an interpreter and diplomat he was sent down the Ohio in the winter of 1753–54 to prepare the Indians for the French occupation. In the spring of 1754 he was captured by the British forces near Fort Necessity, and a number of British observers noted how serious the loss of his services was to the French. See GW to Dinwiddie, 29 May 1754. GW had encountered La Force in Dec. 1753 while he was carrying Dinwiddie’s letter to the French commandant (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 1:146–47). For a report of this speech, see Pa. Arch. Col. Rec. description begins Colonial Records of Pennsylvania. 16 vols. Harrisburg, 1840–53. description ends , 6:21–22.

5In MS this word reads “them.”

6Before 1754 George Croghan (d. 1782) was one of Pennsylvania’s leading Indian traders, land speculators, and Indian agents. His trade was virtually destroyed during the French and Indian War, but he continued to serve Pennsylvania during the war as commander of scouts and in supplying provisions to British forces. Trent and Croghan had been business partners since around 1745. By 1754 Croghan had moved his operations to a 4,000–acre tract on the banks of Aughwick Creek and to his plantation on Pine Creek 4 miles above the Forks of the Ohio. At the time this letter was written Croghan was at the Forks acting as an interpreter for Trent, who spoke no Indian languages.

7Lower Shawnee Town lay on both sides of the Ohio at its confluence with the Scioto River. Although a major Shawnee town, it was inhabited by Indians of other tribes as well.

8Muskingum, on Tuscarawas River, was about 5 miles east of present-day Coshocton, Ohio.

Index Entries