George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Thomas Mifflin, 10 March 1790

From Thomas Mifflin

In Council Philadelphia March 10th 1790

Sir

I have the Honor of transmitting to your Excellency a Letter which has been addressed to the Executive of this State by several very respectable Inhabitants of the County of Washington in Pennsylvania; in which they represent “that many mischiefs have taken place in that County for several years past from the hostile incursions of the Indians, and that from the present aspect of Indian affairs in the western and South western Countries, the same are likely to continue,” and request “the interposition of Council with the President of the United States in behalf of the Inhabitants of Washington County.”1

Mr Ryerson a Member of our Legislature who has subscribed that letter will have the Honor of waiting on your Excellency and will give, if it should be thought proper, full information on the Subject.2 I have the Honor to be with the greatest respect Your Excellencys most obedient and most humble Servant

Thomas Mifflin

LS, DLC:GW.

1The letter from the Washington County citizens to Mifflin, 25 Jan. 1790, also stated: “Among many other murders and robberies practised by the Savages on the inhabitants of Ohio and Monongahela Counties in Virginia, and Washington County in Pensylvania, we shall only particularize those which happened in the latter, in the Course of the last year. We name Mr Thomas and two of his neighbours, whose names we do not at this time recollect, and One Crow, that were killed. The former three, lived on Dunkard Creek and were killed last Spring, the latter lived on the head waters of Wheeling Creek and was killed in the month of Septemr 1789. while hunting a little way from home. Besides thes⟨e⟩ there were two other persons, (brothers to the last mentioned one killed) wounded at the same time⟨.⟩ Crow was buried by some of Mr Ryersons people⟨.⟩ In addition to the foregoeing we shall only add that the frontier Inhabitants of Washington County have been broke up, and were obliged to Shelter themselves in Block houses, or oth⟨er⟩ places of security, at one season or another, almost every year for ten years past or up⟨wards⟩.

“We therefore ‘request the interposition of Council with the President of the United States in behalf of the frontier Inhabitants of our County to protect them against further depredations’ from the Indians which we apprehend will take place in the spring if some means of defence is not provided for them.” The letter is signed by Alexander Addison, James Ross, Thomas Ryerson, and Henry Taylor (DLC:GW). The victims were probably Captain William Thomas and Joseph Cornbridge and his wife and two children who were killed on Dunkard’s Creek on 23 April 1789 (John Evans to Beverley Randolph, 25 April 1789, in ASP, Indian Affairs, description begins Walter Lowrie et al., eds. American State Papers. Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States. 38 vols. Washington, D.C., Gales and Seaton, 1832–61. description ends 1:84). GW replied to Mifflin’s letter on 15 Mar. 1790.

2Thomas Ryerson, a longtime resident of Washington County, was appointed associate judge in the Washington County Court in April 1789 and was again elected to the Pennsylvania general assembly in 1790 (Crumrine, Washington County, description begins Boyd Crumrine. History of Washington County, Pennsylvania, with Biographical Sketches of Many of Its Pioneers and Prominent Men. Philadelphia, 1882. description ends 242, 249, 471). On 15 Mar. 1790 GW noted in his diary that Ryerson had presented Mifflin’s letter and its enclosure to him. “This letter I sent to the Secretary of War to be laid before Congress” (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 6:46). The letters were transmitted to the House of Representatives on 16 Mar. (DHFC, description begins Linda Grant De Pauw et al., eds. Documentary History of the First Federal Congress of the United States of America, March 4, 1789-March 3, 1791. 20 vols. to date. Baltimore, 1972—. description ends 3:329; Knox to U.S. House of Representatives, 16 Mar. 1790, DLC:GW).

As a result of a deluge of complaints similar to those of the residents of Washington County from other frontier counties, on 13 April Henry Knox informed the county lieutenants of Washington County in Pennsylvania and Harrison, Randolph, Ohio, Monongahela, and Kanawha counties in Virginia that the president had authorized the lieutenants “in certain cases of imminent danger, to call out, for the protection of the county, certain species of patrols, denominated scouts, at the expense of the United States.” This authority continued until mid-July 1790 when, by GW’s order, it was withdrawn because of the expense and because the administration was in the process of reorganizing the army on the frontier in preparation for Josiah Harmar’s campaign against the northern tribes. See Knox to the county lieutenants, 17 July 1790, ASP, Indian Affairs, description begins Walter Lowrie et al., eds. American State Papers. Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States. 38 vols. Washington, D.C., Gales and Seaton, 1832–61. description ends 1:102–3).

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