Page images
PDF
EPUB

went. They were kindly received and strings of wampum were exchanged in token of friendship.

They had just signed a treaty, when four Ottawas came with presents from the French. The presiding chief at the council immediately set up the flags of France and England side by side and, addressing the Ottawas, said:

“ The path of the French is bloody and was so made by them. We have made a road plain for our brothers, the English, and your fathers have made it foul and crooked and have made some of our brethren prisoners. This we look upon as an injury done to us."

With this speech he indignantly turned his back on the Ottawas and left the council. The French flag was removed, and the emissaries who bore it were ordered to return to their Gallic friends at Sandusky.

Gist was delighted with the magnificent country, and, bidding his English companions and the dusky barbarians farewell, he went down the valley of the Little Miami to the Ohio and along that stream almost to the falls. Here he turned southward and penetrated the famous blue-grass region of Kentucky, with its wonderful forests, climbed over the mountains where were the headwaters of the Yadkin and the Roanoke, and after a journey of seven months returned to Lawrence Washington

at Mount Vernon, who was chief director of the Ohio company, bringing with him a vast amount of valuable information.

The council with the western tribes was not held until June, 1752. Gist went as agent of the Ohio company. Colonel Fry, Lieutenant Stevens and another Virginian represented that colony as commissioners. Although friendly relations with the western tribes were established, the Indian chiefs refused to recognize any English title to lands •West of the Alleghany mountains. They were equally firm with the French and informed both the contending powers that they were troubling themselves over a matter that did not concern them. A shrewd Delaware chief said to Gist:

“ The French claim all the land on one side of the river, and the English claim all the land on the other side of the river; where are the Indians' lands?”

The question was difficult to answer. Gist did not attempt it, but said evasively:

“ Indians and white men are subjects of the British king, and all have equal privileges of taking up and possessing the land in conformity with the conditions prescribed by the sovereign.”

The Ohio company sent out surveyors to explore the country, make definite boundaries and prepare settlements. George Washington, through

his brother, who was chief director of the Ohio company, easily secured the position of surveyor. Noah Stevens went with him and shared his wanderings and trials in the mountains.

George had displayed great skill as a woodsman, and, when but a boy, he had a company of surveyors under him tracing lines and boundaries on which nations were to pour out their blood. English traders penetrated into the Ohio country to the domain of the Miamis and even beyond; but the jealousy of the French was roused. They saw with alarm their waning influence, and the growing popularity of the English among the Indians. They regarded the English as intruders and presaged the ultimate destruction of their fortified line of communication between Canada and the Gulf of Mexico. In 1753, they seized and imprisoned some of the surveyors and traders, and about twelve hundred French soldiers were employed to erect forts in the wilderness between the upper waters of the Alleghany River and Lake Erie. One of these was erected at Presque-isle, now Erie, on the southern shore of the lake of that name. Another was reared at Le Boeuf, on French Creek, now Waterford, and a third was constructed at the junction of French Creek and the Alleghany River, on the site of the village of Franklin.

These fortifications and hostile demonstrations caused many complaints and remonstrances from the Ohio company, whose lands lay within the chartered limits of Virginia. The governors of Virginia and Pennsylvania had received instructions from England to repel the French by force of arms if necessary. Governor Robert Dinwiddie, who was one of the company, determined before resorting to hostile measures to send a letter of remonstrance to the French commander, and decided that Major George Washington, at this time scarce twenty-one years of age, should be the bearer of the message.

George Washington, evincing great military genius and possessing influential friends, at the age of nineteen years was commissioned major of militia, charged with defending the colony against incursions of the Indians, and he had entered on the duties of the office with a zeal which showed a wonderful adaption to such matters. Dinwiddie sent for Major Washington.

Noah Stevens was at the headquarters of the young continental officer, when the instructions came for him to repair at once to the governor.

“Will you come with me?” asked Major Washington.

“ Certainly.”

“A matter of considerable importance is to be discussed, and if I am to make another campaign

into the wilderness, I would like to have you accompany me.”

"I shall be happy to do so,” Noah Stevens answered, and they set out at once for Williamsburg. Entering the gubernatorial mansion, they were shown at once to the room of the governor. On entering the apartment with the young major, Noah saw a bald-headed Scotchman, about sixtythree or four years of age, with thin, sandy hair, stoutly built, and of an extremely nervous temperament, seated at the table. His pale blue eyes at once rested on the young major. Young Washington was full six feet in height, strongly built, with a florid complexion and every indication of good health and great physical strength.

“The work I require of you, Major Washington, is very important,” said the governor eying the youthful Virginian.

Major Washington nodded his head and waited in respectful silence. .

"You are aware of the encroachments of the French upon the territories of Virginia and Pennsylvania in the valley of the Ohio,” resumed the governor.

“I am, sir.”

“We have been instructed by the home government to resist their encroachments to the last; but I have decided, before proceeding to harsh

« PreviousContinue »