A State of Being was once the subtitle of this site, an affirmation of a place, its people, and its past. Its present is a time of existential threats caused by humans: climate change, the Sixth Mass Extinction, nuclear warfare, genocide, racism, et cetera. Along with other U.S. citizens, per capita, Ohio Country residents put more carbon into the atmosphere than the rest of the world and suffer the fewest consequences, for now. Urgent, fundamental change is required to limit unnecessary deaths and destruction, starting with Ohio Country.
Wikipedia’s map of Ohio Country and its timeframe “a name used in the mid- to late 18th century,” are problematic, as are the unfortunate incidents colored red, almost all during the Revolutionary War.
Aside from Lake Erie, Ohio Country’s least vague boundary is the Appalachian watershed to the east and south. Not only is its size greatly diminished, crucial earlier battles are excluded. Wikipedia’s timeframe for the region, mid- to late 18th century coincides with the career of George Croghan. For more than thirty years, beginning with King George’s War (1744-48) and ending during the Revolutionary War, Croghan’s is the through story for Ohio Country history. Significantly, New York’s State Department of Education placed the first historical marker for Croghan in 1956 despite him living in today’s Cooperstown for only a year.
Col. George Croghan (circa 1718-1782)
Veteran of King George’s, the French and Indian, and Revolutionary War, George Croghan’s 1749 grant includes most of Rostraver Township. Nearby Gratztown, named in 1780 for Croghan’s Jewish agents, was Croghan’s Sewickley Old Town trading post and anchored his local deed. Presumable purchasers were William Crawford for George Washington in today’s Perryopolis and modern Smithdale’s 1758 pioneer, George Weddell. Once a Monongahela Indian village, Weddell’s terrace farm overlooked the former Shawnee town and Croghan’s trading post, burnt by Wolf and other Delawares during Pontiac’s 1763 conspiracy, with partner Col. Clapham among the five killed.
An Irish immigrant and Pennsylvania fur trader in 1741, King George’s War found Croghan nearly engrossing Fort Detroit trade, fomenting an Indian revolt, and joining William Johnson on the Iroquois’ Onondaga Council. Croghan organized and led the Ohio Confederation at Logstown that Pennsylvania recognized as independent of the Six Nations and appointed Croghan its colonial agent. A few days before Celeron’s 1749 expedition reached Logstown, Croghan purchased his 200,000 acres from the Iroquois, later learning that the deeds would be void if in Pennsylvania.
He and Andrew Montour guided Virginia’s Ohio Company scout Christopher Gist in 1750 and arranged its 1752 Logstown treaty. Pennsylvania plans for a fort at the Forks of the Ohio had been abandoned in 1751 when Montour testified that the Indians did not want it. Virginia’s 1754 stockade was commanded by Croghan’s business partner William Trent and surrendered by half-brother Edward Ward.
A captain in charge of the Indians under Col. Washington, then under Gen. Braddock, Croghan could do little to capture Fort Duquesne, but William Johnson’s Deputy Indian Agent in 1758 hurried from facilitating the Easton Treaty to his Indian scouts at the head of Gen. Forbes’ column for its fall. He worked with Col. Bouquet and built the first Lawrenceville Croghan Hall, burnt during Pontiac’s Rebellion. Croghan brought Pontiac to Detroit in 1765 and, except for the Shawnees during Dunmore’s War, kept the Ohio tribes pacified thereafter.
Pittsburgh’s president judge, Committee of Safety Chairman, and person keeping the Ohio tribes neutral was exiled for treason in 1777 by General Edward Hand, who prevented Croghan’s return when cleared in a 1778 Philadelphia trial. The frontier lost its shield and the fourteenth state, with Pittsburgh its capital and Croghan the largest land owner, Indian agent, and likely governor.
Pennsylvania, Fort Pitt Museum, and the Daughters of the American Revolution declined Croghan’s historical marker for its most appropriate site, Point Park, and Pittsburgh’s Morton Brown responded, “the City does not prefer to simply deny your request outright.” When Westmoreland County ruled out Cedar Creek Park, Croghan’s pivotal story found public expression for the first time here.
Placed November 2012 by Greater Monessen Historical Society
and Rostraver Township Historical Society
A Pennsylvania historical marker honoring George Croghan was dedicated on April 17, 2021 at his house on property he purchased in 1745 a few miles west of today’s Harrisburg. By comparison, requests to announce the dedication of Croghan’s Rostraver marker were ignored by all the regional newspapers, including Monessen’s. A region does not have to celebrate its history, but it loses touch with reality when what happened in the past is suppressed. It is crucial to combat what Gore Vidal called our national amnesia at this time of existential crises for the planet.
There are only two major Croghan biographies, but they contain ample evidence of his central importance in American history, a fact not found in general histories of the period or any biography of George Washington. Until 1777, Croghan had far more influence than Washington on the frontier and great success in his endeavors there, particularly in keeping the peace with Native Americans. He was an adopted Seneca by 1746 and a sachem with a seat on the Iroquois ruling body, the Onondaga Council, where his dominance is seen in Iroquois demands at the 1768 Ft. Stanwix Treaty. Falling into the Allegheny River in winter returning from his 1753-54 mission to the French, the murder of Jumonville, fall of Ft. Necessity, Braddock’s Defeat, and friendly fire incident under Gen. Forbes are the background for Washington’s impact on Ohio Country after 1777, seen in red on the Wikipedia map above.