George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Harrison County, Va., Field Officers, 2 February 1790

From Harrison County, Va., Field Officers

Virginia Harrison County february 2d 1790.


The alarming prediciment in which this County now stands as touching the State of Indian affairs and the Small prospect of protection from his Excellency Arthur St Clair, hath moved us the Subscribers to mett this day in councell in order to concert measures as far in our power to calm the minds of our Exposed fronteers, who Expects early in the Spring to be again Harrassed by the Savages.1

It appears to us by the address of the general Assembly of Virginia dated the 30th of October 1789 that official Information has been given to Your Excellency of the Indians wanton Barbarity on the fronteers of this State.2 we also have the Strongest assurance, that the members of the general assembly from the Western district did apply by a Subsequent address Separate and apart from the Said address Sent by the general assembly, which we trusted would have fell into Your hands before Governor St Clair left Newyork, which now appears to us not to be the Case. therefore the fronteers is left defenceless the people who lays exposed in complaining they are neglected, that the interior parts of the United States has Enjoyed peace Since the Year 1782. that Government has got thoughtless about the lives of their citizens &c.

We would undertake to give a full detail of the various Incursions made on the fronteers of this county, but expects our County Lieutenant will hand this petition to your Excellency who we believe will better Satisfy Your Inquireys than our detail.

We presume the aforesaid address of our Legislative Body and the Separate address Sent by the members of this Western district fully takes in our Wishes, as touching the mode of present and futer Relief.

therefore in the name and behalf of our Suffering fellow Citizens over whome we preside as field Officers of the militia, pray that Your Excellency would take our distressed Situation under your Parential Care and grant us Such Releife as you in your Wisdom shall think proper and we in duty Bound shall pray &c.

Benjamin Wilson Colo.

Geo. Jackson L. colo.

William Robinson Major

Copy, DLC:GW; copy, DNA: RG 233, First Congress, Records of Legislative Proceedings, Reports and Communications Submitted to the House; copy, DNA: RG 46, First Congress, Reports and Communications Submitted to the Senate.

1Harrison County, established in 1784, is in what is now the northwest corner of West Virginia. The 1790 population of some 2,080 people, mostly scattered along the West Fork of the Monongahela River near Clarksburg, the county seat, with a smaller number on the Ohio near the mouth of the Little Kanawha River, was particularly exposed to Indian attack. GW referred this letter to Henry Knox who reported back to the president on 26 Feb. 1790. See his letter of that date to GW.

2This address, drawn up in the Virginia house of delegates in October 1789, reads: “It has been a great relief to our apprehensions, for the safety of our brethren on the frontiers, to learn from the communications of the Secretary at War, that their protection against the incursions of the Indians has occupied your attention.

“Knowing the power of the Federal Executive to concentrate the American force, and confiding in the wisdom of its measures, we should leave the subject unnoticed, but from a belief that time has been wanting to gain the proper intelligence, and make the necessary arrangements of defence for a country so far remote from the seat of government. Many members of the General Assembly now present, have been either witnesses of the recent murders and depredations committed by the savages, or have brought with them information, the truth of which cannot be questioned. It is unnecessary to enter into a detail of those hostilities. Permit us only to say, that those parts of Kentucky, and the southwestern and northern counties lying on the Ohio and its waters, which have generally been the scene of Indian barbarity, are now pressed by danger the most imminent.

“We have been induced to suppose it possible, that for the purpose of affording effectual relief, it may be found expedient to carry war into the country of the Indian enemy; should this be the case, we take the liberty of assuring you that this Commonwealth will cheerfully sustain her proportion of the expenses which may be incurred in such an expedition.

“The same causes which induced us thus to offer the treasure of Virginia, have occasioned another proceeding, which we think proper to communicate to you; it is indeed incumbent on us to make this communication, least in case of silence it might be interpreted into a design of passing the limits of State authority.

“Chiefs of the Chickasaw nation have solicited the General Assembly for a supply of ammunition; the advanced season of the year, and their anxiety to return home, owing to the perilous situation of their nation, who were in daily expectation that hostilities would be commenced against them by the Creeks, have determined them to stop here, and not to proceed to New York, the place of their original destination.

“The resolution which we have now the honor of enclosing you, will therefore be executed in their favor; and we trust that our conduct, from the peculiar circumstances of the case, will be acceptable to yourself and the Congress of the United States; and being approved, that we shall receive retribution for the expense we have thereby incurred” (Journal of the House of Delegates, description begins Journal of the House of Delegates, of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Begun and Held at the Capitol in the City of Richmond, on Monday, the nineteenth of October, in the Year of our Lord, One Thousand, Seven Hundred and Eighty-Nine, and of the Commonwealth the Fourteenth. Richmond, [1789]. description ends 1789, 24–25). The enclosed resolution was undoubtedly one of 23 Oct. stating that the chiefs of the Chickasaw nation, who had intended presenting their case against the Creek to GW, had been deterred from their journey beyond Richmond by the distance to New York, the weather, and “the pressing exigence of their affairs.” The house of delegates resolved that the Chickasaw should be furnished with powder and lead “as their necessities may require and the public can conveniently spare” (ibid., 8–9). See also Inhabitants of Kentucky to GW, 8 Sept. 1789 (entry for letter not found), n.1.

Index Entries