GEORGE CROGHAN’S JOURNAL
APR. 1763 TO SEPT. 1764
Jim Greenwood, Editor
Copyright © December, 2008
The Monongahela Press
25 Mulberry Street
Belle Vernon, PA 15012
George Croghan’s Journal, April, 1763 to September, 1764 is published with permission of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Part of the HSP’s Cadwalader Collection, the original manuscript was discovered in 1939 by new staff member Nicholas B. Wainwright. While examining the Cadwalader family’s archives, he found an old trunk of Croghan’s papers with him when he died in 1782. One result, Wainwright’s 1959 George Croghan,Wilderness Diplomat, remains the most recent major contribution to Croghan scholarship.
Albert T. Volwiler’s excellent 1926 biography, George Croghan and the Western Movement, seemed dated to Wainwright, its extensive background material and grand theme too impersonal, yet despite much new information, Wilderness Diplomat muddled the overall picture of Croghan. Wainwright hoped that new materials on Croghan in the years to come would “explain areas of his life and character which still remain in shadow.”1
Nearly fifty years have passed with Croghan’s years in Ireland still a blank, his first wife’s name unknown, and the year of his birth uncertain. His current status is found in the response of a Fort Necessity National Park Service guide who, when asked about him, replied that Croghan’s name is not among those engaged in the 1754 battle, and recalled him as a wheeler-dealer. While not untrue, there is a lack of historical perspective, Gore Vidal’s National Amnesia, that seems to afflict the entire country, including historians.
General Braddock’s disastrous 1755 campaign revealed the fallibility of British arms and the growing gulf between Britains and Americans. Irish-born George Croghan with his handful of Indians at the head of
Braddock’s column epitomized the distinction, as did Private Tom Fossit, who said he shot the General, a claim largely validated nearly fifty years later when he pointed out to workmen the otherwise forgotten grave.
Typical of too many colonial frontiersmen, Fossit hated Indians and the traders like Croghan who supplied them, as did James Smith, an eighteen-year-old captured by French-allied Indians in 1755. Still lame from running the gauntlet, Smith saw the French and Indians return to Fort Duquesne with Braddock’s captured soldiers, heard their screams as the savages tortured them to death.
Two years after the Paxton Boys massacred the last of the Conestoga tribe in 1763, Smith was leading the Black Boys of Conococheague in a raid on a British supply train headed for Fort Pitt. They cut Forbes Road and vowed to kill Croghan for illegally trading with the Indians. Often called the initial engagement of the Revolutionary War, the incident was recreated in Hollywood’s 1939 Allegheny Uprising, starring John Wayne as James Smith and Brian Donlevy as a villainous fur trader.
Hollywood revisited the period and theme of renegade Indian trader, played by a despicable Howard De Silva, in Cecil B. De Mille’s 1947 movie about Pontiac’s May, 1763 rebellion. Unconquered stars Gary Cooper and George Croghan’s name is mentioned in the film along with other historical traders, adding a touch of verisimilitude to the harrowing adventures of Cooper and co-star Paulette Goddard. Were they documentaries, Allegheny Uprising and Unconquered would be remiss for not acknowledging Croghan’s central role in the incidents dramatized.
The two films bracket Croghan’s seven months in
London in 1764 and reveal a lack of popular regard for him. Similarly, as Volwiler wrote in the mid-1920s, “historians have generally neglected his work entirely, or have barely mentioned his name. In contrast, Daniel Boone, a much less important figure in the history of the West, has been apotheosized.”2 Despite Wainwright’s 1959 biography, interest in Croghan’s role in history continues to decline. Volwiler’s charge of neglect now extends into the twenty-first century in documentaries such as The War That Made America and When the Forests Ran Red. Recent books, The Crucible of War for one, are myopic regarding him.
Croghan was a national hero in 1765 for bringing Pontiac to Detroit and reconciling the hostile Illinois tribes to British occupation. His dangerous mission is found in Croghan’s Journal from May 15 to September 26, 1765, published in Pittsburgh by Neville Craig in 18463 and earlier elsewhere. May, 1766 found him again descending the Ohio River to take over French forts on the Mississippi and treat with the hostile tribes there, accompanied by Captain Harry Gordon who charted the rivers, Andrew Montour, George Morgan who was to establish trade, and other companions. An epic journey, it ended in New York via New Orleans.
His 1763-64 Journal has entries for a Pennsylvania silver mine, Croghan’s sea voyage and January English Channel shipwreck, names and addresses in England, financial accounts, and a Mr. Donnellah’s genteel tips for Croghan’s stay written at Fort Pitt in April, 1763. Soon after Croghan returned, Col. Henry Bouquet called him “illiterate, impudent, and ill-bred,”4 a peevish comment that many historians have taken as gospel and that Croghan’s Journal easily refutes, assuming reasonable standards are applied.
[Title page and account]: “Journal. Mem: / Cash paid / For Mr. Peters —-Ł 200:0:0 / for Mileu[?]—350:0:0 / for Do. Do. Evens[?]—-140:0:0 /// G.B. at Mr. Cusack’s Coleman / Street——“
[p. 1] [Susquehanna River West Branch silver mine]. “22nd Dec 1763 / The Distance between the great Island [Lock Haven, Pa.] and Chinkicalamoose [Chinklacamoose Indian Village, Clearfield, Pa.], is computed to 75 Miles, and a level Rich Country to the partings of the Road about 20 Miles; but from thence the whole way till you arrive at Chinkicalamoose is Mountainous and the Indian Path formerly Travelled is almost grown up, which Renders it difficult to be found at present.
“Chinkicalamoose, stood near a Plain in a bottom 4 Miles long upon the River; the land on the Opposite side of the River to it is but indifferent. The River here is about 150 Yards across.
[p.2] “About half a Mile above where, the town stood, On the North side of the River, is what the Indians call the Chinkicalamoose Mine, where it is said there is Silver Oar found.
“It is situate upon the River in a Bank about 30 feet high & about half a Mile along the River, it was first discovered by the freshes washing the Bank, which show’d the Oar Interspersed with Cole, in several parts of the Bank, and is looked upon by the Indians to be one of the Richest in their Country; for which reason they seem jealous of white peoples traveling that way and a Charge was given many years ago
[p. 3] “by the Chiefs of the Six Nations to their People, not to discover it to any White Man on pain of being put to Death. It was said that one John Petty formirly an Indian
Trader had dug in this Bank & brought off some of the Oar, but being discovered by the Indians, was obliged to leave the Woods, & quite his Trade with them, they threatening to kill him if ever seen near the Bank, & set some young Men to Watch it for this purpose. If to judge from the appearance of the Oar, it must be rich & valuable, but a trial of it must discover the Quallity.
[p. 4] “Begun to the Eastward of said Mine, near a Gully, and a large white Oak Tree; marked on the South Side with a Turkey’s foot, and on the North side with the figure of a spread Eaglet, from thence Run North 400 yards to the Top, to the Top of an Hill, to two White Oak Trees mark’d A upon each.
“from thence Run West 400 yards to the foot of said hill; to a white Oak Tree mark’d H on the North side and a blaze on the West side; contnue to Run West 200 yards further, across a small bottom, to a large White Oak tree, mark’d G on the North side
[p. 5] “23rd / and a small blaze on the West, from thence Run South 400 yards to a White Oak tree at the Mouth of a small Run, which emptiees into the West Branch, mark’d on the West side T and on the South a blaze.
“from thence Run East along the River side to the place of beging.”
[p. 6] 23rd Dec. 1763 / “We left Philadelphia & arrived the 24th at New Castle where we were detained till the 27th by Mr. Wharton who was preparing the Ship Papers same day arrived on Board the Britanica at Brady Island.
29th Sunday took our Departure from the Capes of Delaware. The Gale not fair. Nothing remarkable happened, the Weather Blustry & West; till after we struck
Soundings in the English Channel the 25th Jany. at 2 o’Clock in the Morning. The same day at 12 o’Clock we spoke with a Belfast Sloop, at 8 o’clock a Light was discovered to the
[p. 7] “Southerd a few Leagues which Capt. Tillett took to be Cillis [Callais] and immediately put about Ship being apprehensive of danger on the Rocks North of Cillie [Callais], & Turn back a Considerable distance after which he concluded it had been only a ships lights which we Discovered, & then resumed his former Course. 26th at 12 o’Clock we spoke with a Dutch Ship which told us that Usshent [?] bore West off us 8 Leagues, the Capt. had no regard to the intelligence he recd. from Either Vessel.
[p. 8] “The consiquence of which proved almost fatal to us as we then were much nearer the French Coast than the Capt. imagained at 12 at night the Wind blue hard and at 12 we were obliged to Lay to and Continued so to do the 27th untill 12 o’Clock when we were all much surprized by a sailor calling out we were just runing upon the Land, the Capt. with much difficulty wore the Ship and stood streight in for the French Land as he said the land we made was Hort Point [Point du Hoc?]; and at 6 o’Clock we fell in with the Land from which we cou’d not get clear
[p. 9] “the Wind and Tide both strong against us, some time after we were drove almost on Land which some of the Crue said was Plymoth this gave us all great Joye to think we were so near a Good Harbour, but upon coming a little nearer to our great mortification we found it to be
the Island of Guarnsey [Guernsey], here our distress seemed insurmountable as the Wind blue a perfict Hurrican–the Seas running Mountains high and no Possibility of making a
[p. 10] “Our anxiety increased even to great fear with knowing how dangerous these Islands and Rocks were. The Capt. who before seemed to dare all kind of Danger sank into the greatest dispair & in short was all most useless not withstanding the pressing importunity of Mr. Croghan & all of us to do his Duty and leave the Event of this horrid Scene to Divine Providence. The Ship wore from this Land with much difficulty
[p. 11] “but it was not the End? Seven times did we in this dreadful Storm fall in with these Islands and Rocks this Day and so often did the Most Mercafull God Protect us from falling untimely Victoms to the Merciless Waves of the Sea, never was the Assistance of the Lord more appearently displayed and Granted for the Preservation of his People, Contrary to all human Probability.
[p. 12] “Nor can I omit mentioning another instance of it. Night with all its gloomy terrors was drawing on and the Storm still Voeilent, the Sailors Quite Wrought out with sore Labour and fatigue and in short every one of us, as no body cou’d be spared from Working his utmost when we discovered the Gar [?] ness [Chausey] an Island of Rocks between the Island of Jersey (wch. we had before weathered) and the Cost of France, here nothing
[p. 13] “Nothing but instant death presented itself to Our faiding Eyes, but God Who before so often remarkably save’d us was still present with us and the griates reprobate among us cou’d not but acknowledge that the faint endeavors of our own, cou’d not avert the impending stroke, the Ship passed of Several Rocks which the Sailors saw under her Bottome and wore off the others
[p. 14] “that stood above the surface of the Watter. Thus were we providentially clear of the Islands and Rocks and at 7 at night we Anker’d in 10 Fadom Watter in sight of France. Next morning the 28th We put out a Signal of Distress and fired Several Guns, but saw no sign of any Boat from the Shore; tho they knew our distress as they Afterwards told us. The Gale Continued. One of our
[p. 15] “Ankers Started and the Cable of an other broke. The Ship then drove fast towards the Shore having only one Small Anker dragging after at 11 o’Clock A.M. we agreed to Hoist out the Boats and strive to save our selves by geting, we got the Boats ready by 12: & reach the Shore Safe Leaving the most of Effects on Board: the Ship soon Struck Rocks and drove in pieces
[p. 16] were soon to shore, when We made the lound’s Barbary Shore we were met by Hundreds
of the Rabble and poor people who live by the Wrecks that are made on their Coste, the[y] told us that the[y] were all sure we wou’d be Drounded out of our Boats as the[y] never had seen an instance of Boats making the Shore in so stormy Weather and Passing over a Chain of Rocks, after what Baggage we had was over halled and looked at we were conducted to
[p. 17] “to Monsier Nevcrouier’s House the Lord of the Manner who was absent but we were very politely treated by his over Seer, and was viseted by a Priest & his Curate who gave us good advice in every thing. 29th: Mr. McDonald spoke French and was of Infinate Service to the Capt. in saving any part of the Ship’s Cargo that drove on Shore. The Clergy and other
[p. 18] “Gentlemen of Distinction Visited us and were very Genteel. 30th we got Horses and Men hired at at great
Expence to carry us to the next Town on our way to Callis [Callais]. 31st. we stay’d for the Capt. to settle his affairs with the officers of the Admeralty. 1st Febry. Set out for Parree a Small Borro, four Leagues, the Road bad & the country very poor tho we passed many Gentlemens Houses of Distinction. we arrived
[p. 19] “at Parree at 9 o’Clock P.M. here the entertainment was tolerable, and two Troops of Horse Stationed in this Place, we got aquainted with the Officers who very genteely offer’d an Escort of their Dragoons which we accepted of, and the 3rd we set out for St. Lo and arrived there at 4 o’Clock P.M. 4th we tarried at St. Lo and on the 5th we set ot for Ariha [Caen] Escorted by two Dragoons from St. Lo. We past a Borro, called B-yoe, these Small towns are all Walled in and Fortified. Ariha [Caen] is one of the Prettiest Towns in France where there are a number of
[p. 20] “English Gentlemen, at the Academy. 6th We staid to get fresh Horses and was shewn all the Curiosities of the place by Mr. Williams an English Gentm. who was home with his Family with whom we Brackfasted and Dined. The Aby and Churches are very Magnificent Buildings, and furnished with the Best Paintings as in France and the most Curious works cast out of Brass and Iron, Wm. the Conkuraur Lay’s in the aby of the Benedict, and his Wife in the Nunery or Benedicten Abby. The Country here
[p. 21] “is very Beautiful but at this Season of the Year it is Generally over flowed. I have found the French hitherto troublesomely Complisant and Deceitfull and not to be
trusted. The Nine tenths of them are Beggirs and the most miserable Writches that ever Existed. 7th at 9 o’Clock P.M. we arrived at L’un fleura [?] a very pretty little Town on the
River Seine 4 Leagues from the mouth of the River or from Havir degrase [Havre de Gras] for which last we set set out in a Boat on the 8th at 12 o’Clock and reached it at at 4: where we got a
[p. 22] “Small Sloop Just Seting out for the Isle of White [Wight], this Town is extremely well fortified and the Shippen lay’s in an artificial Bason which effectually securs it from the force of the Storm, Several English Merchants are settled here. at 1/2 after 4 o’Clock P.M. we set out in the Small Sloop for Portsmoth [Portsmouth] and as we were favoured with a fair Gale reached it in 20 hours to our no little satisfaction after feeling
[p. 23] “feeling the dangerous effects of a Winter Passage, and Experiencing the fatigue & heavy expense of travelling thro’ part of France.
Capt. Daniel Clavres Do.
To 6 pr. Mens silk hoes 12/ Ł3:12:0
To 6 pr. Do. Womens @ 9/6 2:17:0
To Silver Ware as p Bill 29:11:0
A Sale Sett in Gould 4:04:0
1 pieces Creict 7:00:0
1 Do. Calico 3:15:0
[p. 24] Mr. John Johnson Do.
6 pair Silk hoes @12/ Ł3:12:0
6 pair Do. Silk & Worsted @6/6 1:19:0
A Sett of fishing Tachelry 1:05:0
A simiter 3:03:0
Mr. Guy Johnson
6 pr. mens Silk hoes @ 12/ Ł3:12:0
6 pr. Silk & Worsted @ 6/6 1:19:0
6 Pr. Womens Tread Do. 1:10:0
6 pr. Womens Silk @ 9/6 2:17:0
1 pices Fine China 7:00:0
1 pices Callico 3:15:0
30 yards Narrow Silver Laces 6:00:0
6 Table Cloaths 7:10:0
For M. McKee
A Gould Watch Ł15:15:0
For Joseph Spears
A Gould Watch Ł27:06:0
[p. 25] Account with the Alevcrand [?]
To Cash paid by Mesrss.
Baynton & Wharton 500:00:0
To a Mistake in a former
Sattlement of one hundred
pounds & f. Intrest for
Six years 136:00:0
To a bill pd. M. Barclay
of 200 pd Sterling 345:00:0
[p. 26] Richard Peters Esq.
By My bond Ł800:00:0
- Lynsur [?]
[p. 27] Geo: Croghan
[p. 28] [following accounts x’d out]. Mis poly [illegible] at
Mrs. [illegible] / Budgess [?] Utrect [?] / how Expended
To Coll. Armstrong Ł40: 0:0 Money Recd.
To jl [?] Taylor 30: 0:0 43:10
To hatters [illegible] 10: 0:0 50: 0
To [illegible] fitters [?] 5: 0:0 150: 0
Cash in hand 5: 0:0 213:10
[illegible] Act. 38: 0:0
Stockings & Boots 5: 0:0
Expenses when I 20: 0:0
first come to
London to livery 10: 0:0
Taylor Ł60: 0:0
Hosemaker 5: 0:0
butler 5: 0:0
hatter 5: 0:0
Mess sett. 60 :0:0
[illegible] 12: 0:0
Cash 25: 0:0
pistoles 4: 4:0
[illegible] 11:11:0 [end of accts. x’d out]
Cash Received Ł150 pd.
p. 29 [Account]
Taylor actt. Ł60:10:0
Liverys 10: 0:0
butler 7: 0:0
Hater 3: 0:0
barber 4: 0:0
Stockings 5: 0:0
Shoemaker 7: 0:0
Cash 5: 0:0
pistoles 5: 0:0
Taylor 2: 0:0
Supers 106: 5:0
[written by Mr. Donnellah] “To — A Few Memorandumes which may Be of Use to a Stranger on his First arrival in London in other Parts of England. Fort Pitt April 15th, 1763.
[p. 30] Sundry Expenses in London
Taylor’s Bills Ł110: 0:0
other Nesisary 55: 0:0
Disatt[?] & Logens[?] 171: 5:0
Cash in hand 90: 0:0
Cash received 20: 0:0
Do. 105: 0:0
Do. 100: 0:0
Do. Geh: [?] 100: 0:0
Do. W:ct [?] 100: 0:0
Do. 50: 0:0
Do. 36: 0:0
Do. 70: 0:0
[p. 31] [Donnellah continues] “To a stranger who comes to London either for business with the Secretarys of State; or Lords of Trade; or for Pleasure, I would by no means recommend to him to live in the City because it is so far from the sate of his business, that he cannot be in time there of a morning. The Best Place for him to stop his Post Chaise at & for Convenient Lodging is Haddock’s Baglio at Charring Cross where he may have a genteel Appartment at any hour of the Day or Night & is the exact center of St. James End of the town & it is
[p. 32] “just by Privy Guarding where the Lords of trade meet to do Business in a morning. it is also just by the Parliment House & also the Secretarys of States office where my Lord Hallifax meets to do Business. His house is in Downing Street Westminster. Mr. Gerrard Hape [?] Milton is my Lords Secretary & a Great Favourite. It is also near the Park where all Genteel Company meet about one
o’Clock & near the War office where Mr. Johnson is Second Clarke & near King Street Westminster where Mr. Hunt formerly of Boston
[p. 33] “but last from New York now lives; he is a great favourite with Charles Townsend the present Secretary of War who is Principally consulted upon the American affairs by the
Parliement; He & Lord Hallifax being supposed to know most of the American affairs of any great Men in England; Mr. Hunt and Johnson are generally of an evening at Hungerford Coffee house in the Strand near Charring Cross & in a Morning at Forrest’s Coffee house Charring Cross you may
[p. 34] “meet them; These Two Gentlemen can best inform you whether the Parliament has done any thing in the American affairs also I would consult Johnson in what manner I should apply either to the Lords of Trade or Lord Hallifax first. In Mr. Donnelson in Manchester Building Westminster Bridge is a great Favourite with Lord Hallifax & lives with him; Mr. Crucifix of Mr. Robert Wilmotts St. James House who I write to, can best instruct you how to get his interest
[p. 35] “My Lord Hallifax is of the Mountague Famely & has several Daughters. Lady Mountagues, Mr. Nugint Member for Bristol lives in Parliament Street Westminster. Stop as soon as you have been a Few Days in London I would advise to take a Private Lodging, a genteel First Floor in Pall Mile or near St. James. St. James Coffee house is a Very Genteel one just by the Kings Pallace. I would recommend
[p. 36] “to you the First thing as you are a stranger to the Streets to get the very first Week a good London Servant &
make him go with you every where the Best Place to hire a Genteel
Carrige is at Stubbs Duke Street St. James & it is much cheapper than a Chair or Hackney Coach you have it for so much a month; my Brother Gilbert Donnellah lives in Manchester Build-
[p. 37] “ings who I request you will see & give him my Letter & the [illegible] I request you will call on him of a Morning: about ten o’Clock. Captn. Darcy is very intimate with Mr. Nugent Member for Bristol & is to be met with or heard of at Georg’s Coffee house the Top of St. James
Mays Markett or at Colecrafts the Agent in Charnell Row Westminster or at the War office White Hall; or at Parkers
[p. 38.] “the Globe Tavern in the Strand: or at St. James or the Smyrna Coffee house & Pell Mell. Mr. Samuel Toucht [?] of London is an Eminent Merchant & consulted in the American affairs: General Webb you may easely hear of at the War office & it may be of service: General Stanwisx
lives just by Goldes Squaire; Mr. Kilby [?] the Contracter for Provisions who resided at St Mary’s now lives in St. James Street London; Mr. Wm. Colebrooke of Broad
[p. 39] “Street near the Change Basket is one of the Contracters & Mr. Israel Nesbit of Bishop Gate Street & Franke are the others: Mr. Crucifix will draw you a sketch of a Memorial for Lord Halifax as it his sphere of Business. I would advise with him on all occasions as my accounts went on, as you will find few of Better abilitys in that way; or more sincerity: During your weeks of Business if you chuse to go to Bath for a few
[p. 40] “Days I will trouble you with a letter for Mrs. Vesey my Aunt & also a few Kisses or a Present for a Muff & Tiffelt [?] & I dare say you will be very genteely received
you may easely go in one Day Post from London: I am convinced you will find Bath very agreeable [Donnellah entry ends]
[p. 41] [ Croghhan’s handwriting] “Mr. Richard Neaves Mercht. / St. Mary Hill / Mr. Moses Franks Ballster / Squair / Governer Pownal Goulden / Squaire, Mr. Allen Do. Do. / Gineral Monckton / South adly street / Major Gates Garralt St. Johns / Coll. Lee att Mr. Weightmans / Wine Mercht. in Compton St. / St. Ann’s. / Mr. Adcock Seal Engraver in / Alders gate Street
[p. 42] “Mr. Cruisefix Secretary att / Mr. Robert Willotts St. James / House / Messr. Burton at Ferleis [?] Mercht. / Coleman Street / Mr. James Atchinson att the / Secretarys of States office Whitehall / Messrs. Howe-Mastersman & arche / in white Hart Court Greace / Church Street /
Mr. William Evens Jeweller / in Woods Close Near St Johns / Turnpike / Gilbert Donnellan Esq. / Manchester Buildings Westminster / John Pownal Esq. in / Crown Point king St. Westminster
[p. 43] St. Martins Lane [crossed out] / att Mr [crossed out] / Councelor Jackson, / Lower Stair Case kings / bench Walks in ye Temple / up one pair Stears / Doar Right hand / Messr. Wagering Spring Garden / New Guilding [?] / att / king. / Mr. Millos [?] Taytor [?] in / Lancaster Court in f. / Strand [in faint ink] Msssr. Boyle Sign of [illegible] / opuscit the [two illegible lines]
[p. 44] [account x’d out] “Coll. Geo: Armsrong To / To Two Tracks Land on Dunings / Cash Ł480:0:0 / To 20 [amount and following lines illegibly crossed-out]
[p. 45] [crossed out]. “Geo: Croghan / by Cash pd. [illegible] Brother [?] William Ł15:0:0 / By Cash from Mr. Case [?] 166:0:0 / By Cash for Sea Stores 94:12:5 /
Ł275:12:5 / By Bills [illegible] / [column of figures on left] 105, 100, 50, 70, 35, 65, [totaling] 425. [on right] Taylors Bills 110:0:0 / Mess account 171:0:0 / other Nesessarys 54:0:0 / Cash in hand 70:0:0 [totaling] Ł405:0:0
[p. 46] [crossed out]. Cash of Coll. Armstrong 440:0:0 / Cash lent him 43½ Gunies 44:15:6 / Do. 5½ gunies for Jackett 5:15:6 / Going to New Markett 60:0:0 / do. Cash 15 Gunies 15:15:0 / Do. 10 Gunies 10:10:0 / do. Bill 100:0:0 / do. 10 half Jows [?] 78:0:0 / two Watches 27:6:0 To [illegible] Jewelor 38:10:0 / [sub-totaling] 320:12:0 / To 6 half Joes[?] 10:10:0 / To 10 Gunies 10:10:0 To Mr. Mills 34:13:9 / [totaling] 376:11 / 440:0:0 / [minus] 376:11:9 / [giving] 63:8:3 / 440 / [minus] 382:19:3 / [giving] 57:0:9
[p. 47] Expense Account Feby. 16, 1764 / Tay Sugar Butter Bread Cheese oyl vinigar & peper with oysters Ł1:1:0 / [illegible] & port wine 1:0:0 / [Feb.] 17th diner 2[?]:4:0 / [Feb.] 18th Diner 0:8:0 / Sundrys bought by John 1:10:0 / Lodgings 1:4:0 / actt. att Golden Cross 3:11:6 / Cross acount 1:11:6 / Johns acounts 4:11:0 / [sub-totaling] Ł15:1:6 / March 9th Johns actt. 4:2:7 / Lodging 4:4:0 / Rum brandy Sugar Tea & Lemons & orings 1:1:0 / the Golden Cross Bill
2:10:10 / [totaling] Ł27:8:1 / Fowd.[?] 10th of March from the 15th. of Feby. 1764
[p. 48] Brought over Ł27:8:1 / Do. acounts 6:7:5 / Golden Cross Actt. 1:7:6 / [sub-totaling] Ł35:5:0 / March 19th Do. actt. 1:4:6 / March 24th Do. Actt. 2:18:6 / Golden Cross Actt. 4:8:6 / March 27th do. actt. 1:19:6 / 6 Dozen Wine from Mr. Adner [?] 10:10:0 / 1 Dozen Wine and 1 Dozen beer Castle 2:10:0 / March 31st do. actt. 2:1:11 / April 2nd do. actt. 2nd do. actt. 1:1:11 / [sub-totaling] Ł62:5:0 / April 8th do. acct. 3:2:6 / Golden Cross actt. 3:15:0 / Daltons actt. 0:15:6 /
Mi[illegible] [illegible]int 7:10:0 / [sub-totaling] Ł77:0:0
[p. 49] Brought over Ł77:6:0 / Do. Expenses in france & the Road to London 23:15:0 / April 18th Sundry Expenses 2:19:0 / April 21st Sundrys 2:5:0 / [sub-totaling] Ł100:5:0 / May 3rd Sundries 3:12:3 / May 12th Golden Cross 11:3:0 / Castle Tavaran 3:1:6 / Daltons account 2:1:6 / [sub-totaling] 126:3:3 / June 27th Expenses / Ju [illegible] house 9:4:6 / Cross account 5:14:6 / Board Wages to Servants / for 8 Weeks 5:10:6 / [sub-totaling] Ł146:11:3 / house Expenses 5:10:9 / Globe Bill 4:3:0 / house Rent 15:0:0 [totaling] Ł171:5:0
[p. 50] White Satten plain / Blew Satten with white
flowers / yallow Satten plain / or plain yallow Taby / 29 yards for Sack & play Coatt / Thow Colerd Luttstring [?] / Govirnor pownall Lives / in Greatt poland Street opesit / Malirow Street att aBow / Window / Lord Hillsborrow att / hanover Square [?]
[p. 51] [also p. 27, where list of names appears upside down]. Mr. Hoops / [illegible] [illegible] Cair of Mr. John Brown [?] / Mercht. in Liverpool / Milldred & Roberts fair Church / Street / Lord Hallifax Great Geo: Street / Lord Shelburne Hill Street” [Journal ends]
These financial accounts, journal entries, lists of names and addresses in Croghan’s Journal are hardly those of “a man illiterate, impudent, and ill-bred,”5 as Colonel Bouquet wrote in a December 22, 1764 letter to General Gage. Bouquet was venting a pique against the Irishman that Croghan’s biographers repeated and that Wainwright apparently believed, seriously flawing his analysis of his subject’s life.
Wainwright’s Wilderness Diplomat begins with George Croghan fleeing “his native Ireland during the potato famine of 1741.”6 The potato famine began in 1845 and while there was a severe Irish famine in 1740-41, few of the starving poor migrated except as indentured servants. There is reason to believe that George Croghan was from a higher class.
He was from Dublin, a Church of England man, and educated, despite Wainwright’s assertion that “When he addressed himself to his contemporaries, his native background stood out like a beacon–orally, in his strong Irish brogue, and, on paper, in a handwriting and spelling so unschooled as to approach illiteracy.”7 Historical linguist Michael Montgomery cites Bouquet and Wainwright on Croghan’s illiteracy, but wonders: “Could Croghan, a most crafty fellow by all reports, have tried to present the facade of a naive, unlettered flunky who merely followed orders to the best of his limited abilities?”8 The speculation is better than the premise, but Croghan was no one’s flunky.
Although Croghan’s facade was not that of a flunky, the linguist’s probing into why Croghan’s “misspellings are so numerous and seemingly contradictory”9 does suggest cultural power relations in play, particularly bigotry towards the Irish.
Consider the Croghanisms in the following letter from Fort Pitt:
Capt. George Croghan to Col. Henry Bouquet,
Fort Pitt, March ye. 12th 1765. Sr/ before
this Rachess you you will No Doubt, be better
infomd. of the Subject I Write you on then I am att
present, Inclosed is a Copy of a Letter I
Received this Day from Mr. McCullach from
Bedford Letting Me know the unparralld.
Insulance of the pople of Cumberland County
attacking about 100 horses Loaded with goods
belonging to Capt. Callinder & Company Near
Fort Loudon greatt part of wh. was ye. presents I
purchased for the Indians, Such a horrad Crime
Shure neaver can be forgiven them or there
Must be an End to Sivil & Military power you
will See by Mr. McCullach Leter how they had
the impudance to go to Mr. Grant & ask him by
what athourity those [p. 160] goods was going out
to the Indians and when he Tould them by yr.
orders to him they Sett of and Distroyd.
them. I Make No Doubt butt the perpetretars of
this pices of Insolance will be found out and
Seveerly punished. I have Wrote ye. Gineral
on this Subject & Inclosed him Mr. McCullah Leter
if Traders will Nott be permited to bring up goods
to Trade with the Indians when Matters are Setled
with them and a Trade opend. I Cant Tell what
Construction ye. Indians May putt on itt, as they are
a very Jelous popel and will allways Judge
Wrong in Such Cases where they Meet with any
Disapointments, and what goods is hear is Very
ordinary being Old Shopkeepers & Much Damidg.
& No amunisions of any kind wh. is an artickle
they Can Nott Do without, tho in my opinion they
Should Neaver be permited to purchess butt a
Small quantity att a Time of that artickle ther
is butt five Indians Come in hear as yett but
about the 20[th] I expect all those Nations and as
Soon as I have had a Conference with them I
will write you fully what I transact with them / I
am Sr. / with Great Esteem / your Most Humble
Servant / Geo: Croghan.”10
Volwiler mentions Croghan’s humor after the usual assessment of his education, “so meager that he was pronounced illiterate by Bouquet. One finds the spelling in Croghan’s letters amusing, provided it is not necessary to decipher many of them.”11
Humorous for more than colloquial spelling, Croghan’s letters are early examples of Irish comic irony, raised to an art form by Finley Peter Dunne’s Mr. Dooley in the nineteenth century. Outrage at the “horrad Crime” of the Conococheague Black Boys diverts attention from Croghan “violating the Pennsylvania edict which had closed the fur trade,”12 and not so secretly trying to profit from it. As Superintendent of Indian Affairs Sir William Johnson’s Deputy, Croghan lived lavishly on an annual salary of Ł200 and was generous to Indians, the needy, his family, friends and visitors.
It seems obvious that he exaggerated his Irishness in
speech and writing as a challenge to bigotry, yet most historians have preferred to interpret it as involuntary, a shameful sign of a peasant background rather than ethnic pride. Sir William Johnson’s recent Irish biographer, Fintan O’Toole, feels Croghan’s over the top brogue is a sign of a Gaelic Catholic upbringing, and claims that Croghan had:
. . . strong Jacobite sympathies, suggesting that he
was originally Catholic, and his sometimes
bizarre, idiosyncratic and phonetic use of
English suggests that he may well have been
brought up speaking Gaelic as his first language.
He was the same age as Johnson, and left
Ireland during the severe famine of 1741.13
Johnson was born in 1715, which would make Croghan twenty-six when he emigrated, according to O’Toole. Montgomery says he was born in 1717, but neither cite a source for their dates. Montgomery accepts Hanna’s information that Croghan was a member of the established church and says that he was more likely a native speaker “of English rather than Irish.”14
O’Toole’s evidence for Croghan’s Jacobitism is less than convincing: in 1762 Croghan presided over the Fort Pitt St. Patrick’s Day party, was toasted as St. Patrick himself,15 and at some point “He had stood up and proposed ‘a toast to King James’s Health,'”16 the Old Pretender still alive in Rome. Apparently Jacobites were present, for, “When one drunken officer had objected, calling Croghan a ‘damned rascal,’ he had been shouted down and forced to ‘drink a bumper for refusing.'”17
James Kenny, a dour anti-papist trader in Pittsburgh and something of a nightmare himself, thought it was treasonous when he heard the story from Frederick Post and later had a terrible dream about what O’Toole calls “Croghan’s moment of madness.”18 Kenny’s bad dream along with hangovers and perhaps sore ribs from laughter were the only dire consequences of the celebration.
An anonymous pamphleteer published an attack on Croghan in London in 1755, calling him a papist and traitor. Then, early in 1756, four letters from a purported treacherous Catholic calling himself Filius Gallicae to the French ambassador to Great Britain were intercepted in Ireland; “Secretary of State Henry Fox wrote, ‘Capt George Croghan, an intriguing, disaffected person, and Indian trader in Pennsylvania was very much suspected.'”19 A secret investigation comparing handwritings cleared Croghan.
He was not a traitor, Roman Catholic, or Filius Gallicae, but Croghan was otherwise so accurately described that he became the prime suspect. Filius Gallicae claimed to be nearly thirty-eight years old, a curiously specific detail that may mean the author knew Croghan’s birthday. If so, he was born early in 1718, with unreferenced support for the year found in Westsylvania Pioneers, 1774-1776.20
There is no evidence that he was ever a Catholic, few of whom would have named their Irish sons George. English speaking Irish Anglicans would, however, to repeat Montgomerey’s inference in “A Tale of Two Georges” about Croghan and the Irish trader George Galphin.21 Speculation about Croghan’s Catholicism and Jacobitism are of a piece with assumptions of an impoverished background in Ireland.
A faithful Anglican and British subject up until the Revolution, Croghan was also that new thing, an American, for whom it was possible to be St. Patrick on St. Patrick’s Day, an Indian when among Indians, and a gentleman before the Lords of Trade.
Trumpeting his lobbying success in London upon his return, the Indian agent boldly assumed authority to open trade as quickly as possible, prompting Bouquet to write General Gage that the motive for Croghan’s eagerness was so obvious that he need not mention it. But making money was the least of Croghan’s ambitions and it was his presumption more than his ethics that irritated Bouquet. The Swiss Colonel was surely foremost in Croghan’s thoughts when he wrote a Dec. 4, 1764 letter to deputy Alexander McKee in Pittsburgh taking credit for the Indian Department’s independence from “Officers Commanding at any of the posts which I make no doubt will be no small mortification to some people.”22
News of its contents seemed to accompany the letter as it was carried west to Fort Pitt. At Fort Loudon, returning from his Muskingum camp where the Ohio Delaware and Shawnees he had defeated at Bushy Run abjectly sued for peace, Bouquet met the carrier of Croghan’s letter to McKee and learned something of its contents. He immediately wrote to Captain Murray at Fort Pitt ordering him to intercept the letter and if it had any message to the Indians, not to deliver it,23 but a crest-fallen Bouquet soon had to acknowledge Croghan’s coup.
Bouquet’s bitter December 22, 1764 letter to General Thomas Gage mentions the impropriety of his interfering in regard to Pontiac, continuing:
. . . the officers will be glad to have no further
concern with Indian Affairs, but it is to be regretted
that powers of such importance should be trusted to
a man illiterate, impudent, and ill-bred, who
subverts the purposes of government, and begins
his functions by a ridiculous display of his own
importance and an attempt to destroy the harmony
which should subsist between the different branches
of the service.24
Wainwright and Nelson have “imprudent” for Hanna’s and Volwiler’s “impudent.” Croghan’s generosity, high living, and land obsession was not prudent, but Bouquet’s scornful remarks are noteworthy for their wounded tone, not veracity.
Bouquet’s assertion that the officers will be glad to have no further concern in Indian affairs rings false, as does his charge that Croghan is subverting the purposes of government, unless they are to incite Indian wars like Pontiac’s. The other two charges, regarding Croghan’s lack of importance and attempt to destroy the harmony between the services, are absurd. Little harmony existed between the Army and Indian services leading up to Pontiac’s Rebellion, which is why it occurred. The British Board of Trade was not alone in recognizing Croghan’s importance, Bouquet quickly recanted.
With admirable conciseness, Hanna allows readers to draw their own conclusions about Bouquet’s regret over the empowerment of Croghan by immediately citing a letter written two weeks later:
On January 5, 1765, Bouquet wrote Gage,
recommending Croghan as the person most
suitable to negotiate with the Western Indians
for the British control of the French posts on
the Wabash and in the Illinois country.25
While “military leaders, such as Stanwix, Monckton, and their major of brigade Horatio Gates, all spoke well of Croghan,” Bouquet “blew hot and cold,”26 disparaging his influence with Indians at Presque Isle in 1760 and accounting practices at Fort Pitt, nonetheless ordering subordinates to follow Croghan’s advice in Bouquet’s absence. They had collaborated since the Forbes campaign in 1758, peacefully securing French posts thanks to the deputy agent’s handling of the Indians.
Croghan ingratiated himself with influential people, particularly army officers like Bouquet, helping them “obtain choice ground,”27 and providing hospitality. Bouquet, “swimming in ease and plenty,”28 rested at a house Croghan rented in Carlisle. “Bouquet wrote him, ‘I think it very convenient to find that you have a house wherever I go.'”29 Croghan’s friend, Captain Harry Gordon, writing to Bouquet about “The Affair of the Riot on your Frontiers” to express his regret that Croghan should have given him “the smallest Cause for Displeasure,”30 does his best to ease the strain between the two former friends.
In the same paragraph, Gordon tries to salve any resentment Bouquet might feel over General Gage’s transferring to Croghan the mission of pacifying the tribes, delayed by Pontiac’s Rebellion:
. . . the Military and His Department should act
in a mutual good Understanding, altho’ that
seems more Theoretical than possible in
Practice. Any success he can have, cannot
diminish the Consequence of yours It was only
following out, and taking the Advantage of the
other, Such was my opinion of his being sent,
and such have I spoke & wrote of it, and Such I
shall, let his Success be good or bad yet I think
the former is the most probable.31
Bouquet’s hurt feelings may have been partly assuaged by the fact that the British military expedition sent from Louisiana to occupy the Illinois country was quickly beaten back by Indian attacks.
Both Gordon and Bouquet bought property from Croghan, touched on in Gordon’s March 11, 1765 letter from New York to Bouquet:
Our Expectations of the Packet being over, she
now appears, strange Accounts from England.
There is no Minority about taxing and playing
the Devil with poor North America. That proud
Island I knew would be in a Flame at the
Addresses from this & the other Colonies, I
knew it would, and I told them, their Jehu
Manner would never doe, . . . My Stay here
has deprived me of seeing our Survey made on
Susquehannah will be a Disadvantage to me.
The Vendue of the Plantation has produced
nothing No Butter will stick on my Bread, That
I little Regard, as long as I have the Friendship of
Croghan’s friends often found the butter not sticking to their bread, or worse, that the frontier land he sold them or used as security for loans had no clear title.
It was primarily to gain recognition for his land claims that Croghan set sail for London late in 1763. At Fort Bedford the previous July, Col. Bouquet ordered the Indian agent west with his Highlanders to relieve Fort Pitt, but the Deputy Indian agent refused, claiming bad health and that he was not needed since it was a time of war, not negotiation. For the first time, he would not participate in a major Ohio country campaign and a significant engagement, the battle of Bushy Run, won by a desperate, frontier tactic.
General Jeffrey Amherst, whose Indian policies precipitated the war and who now thought genocide insufficient punishment for the hostile tribes,33 conveniently wrote Croghan not to negotiate until the Indians were crushed. An adopted Indian and friend of Indians, Croghan did not share Amherst and Bouquet’s goal, made explicit when the besieged commander at Fort Pitt, Capt. Simeon Ecuyer, followed their suggestion to spread smallpox among the tribes.34
Croghan traveled to Philadelphia to consult with the merchants who had experienced losses in Pontiac’s Rebellion and in the 1754 outbreak of war, then to Johnson Hall on the Mohawk River to ask leave of his boss, Sir William, to go to London. Referred to General Amherst in New York, his request was denied and his resignation refused. Amherst said he “would as soon consent to a
battalion’s going home as part with the Irishman,”35 but the flattery was unavailing and Croghan booked passage to England.
Retracing his steps, first to Johnson Hall where he and Johnson planned a lobbying campaign before the Board of Trade in London to reform the Indian Department and if possible make it independent of the military, Croghan then returned to Philadelphia. He met again with the “suffering traders” of 1754 and 1763 whose claims he would present to the Lords of Trade.
Prior to sailing, he concluded his affairs in a swirl of activity. He met the new governor, John Penn, nephew of Thomas, and sold 2,165 acres to the Penns so they could lay out the town of Bedford. Half-brother Edward Ward was given authority to purchase a New Jersey copper mine and
pew money was paid to one of the Anglican churches for Croghan’s thirteen-year-old daughter Susannah. Funds were also provided for “Suky’s” board and education before he set sail for England.
It is probable that Croghan and passengers Colonel George Armstrong and French-speaking Lieutenant James McDonald, both recently besieged by Pontiac at Detroit and recalled to testify about the rebellion, were on deck watching the Britannia clear the Capes of Delaware on December 29, 1763. As the continent receded, Croghan may have recalled seeing it for the first time in 1741 as a young man from Dublin, twenty-three-years-old if Filius Gallicae and the co-authors of Westsylvania Pioneers 1774-1776 are correct.
About forty-five-years-old when shipwrecked, Croghan’s account exhibits literary qualities befitting the dramatic event, whereas his silver mine entry is simply clear
and concise. His journey through France reveals a concern for and appreciation of history and culture not likely to have been developed on the American frontier, where the French had placed a $1,000 price on his head.
Hitherto, he tells us, he had not trusted the French and continues to count nine tenths of them as beggars, but in letters from London to William Johnson and other friends, it is the the English lords of state who earn Croghan’s deepest scorn. They were rogues, their words mere froth as they kept him waiting for months before taking up their business with him.
Success in getting his and Johnson’s suggestions for changes in the Indian Department approved did not alter his low opinion of British government. From Croghan’s perspective, the official investigation of Pontiac’s Rebellion, Captain Harry Gordon was among those called to London
to testify, could only conclude that Amherst and his policies were responsible for the war. Empowering Johnson and Croghan would set things right and avoid future conflicts with the Indians.
Although the Board of Trade’s approval was tentative, an exit strategy in case things went wrong, the Indian agent seized the opportunity to bring peace to the frontier. Historians are unequivocal and unanimous in recognizing Croghan’s unmatched ability in managing Native Americans. Had he been listened to, Pontiac’s Rebellion would have been averted, even though, as he told the Board, “To treat Indians with propriety and address is perhaps of all tasks the most difficult.”36
Their management had as a “first essential to win their love; that required a long acquaintance with their
peculiarities and an ability to flatter their vanity in order to gain their confidence.”37 The Lords of Trade were impressed, but required Croghan’s signed statement that he had become an Onondaga councilman in 1746 and had influence over Six Nations land sales. “The Indians had to be kept in awe of English might,”38 he warned the Lords, or they would hold whites in contempt and grow increasingly insolent.
It was the right note of flattery, but only a year earlier the Board of Trade had established the Ohio watershed as Indian country and now they were being asked to make the river the frontier. They would consider it. Croghan’s projected Illinois colony was rejected as costly, troublesome, and premature; his petition to redress merchant trade losses in 1763 was denied and the one for the “suffering traders” of 1754 delayed. “Still another disappointment was the refusal of the Board of Trade to confirm him in a 200,000 acre Indian grant in the Mohawk country in exchange for his Indian grant on the Ohio,”39 a 1749 purchase that motivated Croghan’s aid to the Ohio Company and support for Virginia’s claim to western Pennsylvania. British recognition of Croghan’s 200,000 acres would become one of the Six Nations’ demands in the 1768 Fort Stanwix Treaty, also disapproved by the Board.
The Crown awarded Croghan a 10,000 acre grant of New York land, which he recklessly expanded to 250,000 acres and began to develop as a permanent residence. He soon exhausted his funds. Among the creditors traversing Croghan Forest to visit his New York frontier homestead was his Indian daughter’s future husband, Joseph Brant, sent by the Iroquois to collect for 150,000 of the acres Croghan
bought. When the bubble of his finances once more burst in 1770, he was extremely ill, but to avoid lawsuits traveled to Pittsburgh and Croghan Hall, living there until 1777. James Fenimore Cooper’s father acquired much of the New York property, founding Cooperstown and building a mansion on Croghan’s plantation at the foot of Lake Otsego.
Johnson’s deputy resigned late in 1771 to promote a new British colony, Vandalia, that included today’s West Virginia, where he would be the Indian agent and largest land owner. As late as 1775 and outside Vandalia’s borders, Croghan purchased six million acres of Iroquois land in what would become Pennsylvania, to take effect when the Native Americans chose to leave, a sign of Anagurunda’s continued influence with the Iroquois confederation.
Nearly everyone of importance bought land from Croghan, including George Washington, whose agent William Crawford surveyed a 1,500 acre tract near the Youghiogheny River in 1767 and purchased it for the Virginian.40 William Crawford’s brother Valentine developed the plantation,41 according to Frederic, “as a secondary seasonal Mt. Vernon,”42 a typically overblown interpretation that, along with a lack of references, are problems with Westsylvania Pioneers, 1774-1776.
Washington’s declined to purchase additional land from Croghan and the two speculators were soon locked in a bitter ownership dispute over mutually claimed property in Pennsylvania’s Chartiers Creek watershed. Twenty years after the debacle at Fort Necessity, Croghan’s fault according to Washington, their rivalry had reached a critical pass, as had North American affairs in general.
The British response to the December, 1773 Boston
Tea Party, the Intolerable Acts of 1774, punished Massachusetts and brought war a step closer. Vandalia would be a fourteenth colony to fight. The promised grant withered on the vine and Virginia under Lord Dunmore moved aggressively to claim Pittsburgh and the region, aided by Croghan.
If Dunmore’s War against the Shawnees in 1774, seen by some as Britain’s attempt to foment “jealousies and feuds between the colonies”43 and inflame the frontier, did not cause Croghan’s conscience to bother him, it should have, but the seamless shift to heading Pittsburgh’s Virginia Committee of Correspondence and then Safety gave him a sense of still influencing events, of being in control.
Vandalia now required a successful Revolution and Croghan did his part by insuring the neutrality of the Delawares and the Ohio country Indian frontier, in spite of Congress rejecting his application to be their Ohio Valley Indian agent and appointing George Morgan. Some of the politics of the period is found in The Westslyvania Pionners, 1774-1776, where General Washington is said to favor Virginian interests by ordering the Pennsylvania regiment organized to defend the frontier east, a march over the Alleghenies in the dead of winter. Croghan was also ordered east, to Philadelphia, by Pittsburgh’s General Edward Hand.
John Connolly, Alexander McKee, Simon Girty and other Croghan associates proved to be loyalists. Connolly was captured by Marylanders, and later McKee, Girty, and others violated their paroles and escaped to Detroit. At the time of their desertion, Croghan was in Williamsburg conferring with Governor Patrick Henry about the frontier’s
defenses. General Hand examined Croghan’s papers, his cousin and trading partner Thomas Smallman’s, and other associates’, an understandable precaution. Despite nothing disloyal being found in Crogan’s service to the patriot cause, Virginia, and Commander in Chief Washington, the old, sick, Committee of Safety chairman was accused of treason, a charge trumped up by his enemies.44 Who were they?
Two weeks after being ordered to Philadelphia, the city was captured by the British and Croghan, too ill to flee, was arrested and confined to a hotel under the constant surveillance of two British officers. General Howe grew increasingly angry as reports from the frontier reached him detailing Croghan’s damage to British interests, but he was persuaded to leave the ailing man behind when evacuating.
Upon Congress resuming authority in the city, Croghan was accused of collaborating with the enemy. He successfully defended himself in a November 12, 1778 trial45 and removed to Lancaster, forbidden to return to Croghan Hall by General Hand, who also prevented Croghan from communicating with kinsman and partner Smallman.
Croghan spent the last two years of his life in Philadelphia, dying in Passyunk on August 31, 1782, with funeral and burial at the Episcopal Church of St. Peter’s.46 A photograph of his grave stone is on the internet, one of about 471,000 returns when his name is typed into a search engine. Many of them are about “The Hero of Fort Stephenson” during the War of 1812, a son of William Croghan, the Revolutionary War officer who emigrated from Ireland at thirteen in our subject’s care. Most of the web sites, however, are about the elder George Croghan, hardly obscure but certainly neglected.
Wainwright perpetuates the myth of Croghan’s obscurity in his 1959 biography and creates new ones, the Irish Potato Famine that his impoverished subject fled, for example. Poetically, Wainwright describes Croghan’s return to poverty in his last years. He also tells us how Croghan’s gardener brought his body to St Peter’s from the Passyunk residence, that James Forrest was his servant, that Ann Gallagher was his nurse, and that his physician, Dr. Abraham Chovet, often visited his invalid patient and friend, whose estate was “conservatively estimated at Ł140,000,”47 about the size of Thomas Jefferson’s debts when he died.
The disconnect between the evidence he provides and some of Wainwright’s conclusions is striking. An instance is Croghan’s abandoned plan for his journey to Britain to include a side trip to Dublin, “where he hoped as the heir of Edmund Croghan, his grandfather, to recover landed property.”48 It is one of only a few facts about Croghan’s Irish background, none of which indicate poverty, but it does show that Croghan’s nostalgia for the olde Sod was not deep. Wainwright has more serious interpretive failures for the years 1749 to 1752, a turning point in early American history.
After noting Croghan’s importance in King George’s War (1744-48), talking about Celoron’s 1749 expedition claiming the Ohio Valley for France that prompted Croghan’s 200,000 acre purchase at the forks of the Ohio excluding two square miles at the point,49 and showing how Croghan raised Thomas Penn’s expectations of a Pennsylvania fort there, Wainwright draws wrong conclusions. He shows Croghan backtracking with Penn on the Indian request for a Pennsylvania fort in 1750 and
guiding, along with his nearly constant companion Andrew Montour, the Ohio Company scout Christopher Gist through Ohio, unaware of his mission,50 according to Wainwright. Legal in Virginia, Croghan’s large grant was forbidden in Pennsylvania, yet Wainwright seems not to see it motivating Croghan’s crucial aid to Virginia, home of the hated Long Knives from a Native American perspective.
Early in 1751 Thomas Penn ordered Croghan to hold a treaty at Logstown to confirm that the Indians wanted a fort, which was done. Interpreter Andrew Montour was called before the Quaker dominated Assembly to verify the treaty, but he testified that the Indians did not want a fort, that it was all Croghan’s idea.51 Along with Governor Hamilton, Penn felt imposed upon and the stone fort that he wanted Croghan to build was not constructed. Wainwright’s obtuse conclusion is that “Croghan’s moment had passed,”52 but the wily, ambitious trader would not have thought so.
It was a major turning point in American history, inviting speculation. Volwiler supposes “Croghan, not Washington would have been sent to warn the French to leave Venango and Le Boeuf,”53 since they were within Pennsylvania’s charter. More importantly, a stone Pennsylvania fort built in 1751 or 1752 might have kept the French at bay, the Ohio Indians as allies, and the frontier protected. But Croghan favored Virginian control of western Pennsylvania and the result was a series of predictable tragedies that became a model for the emerging nation and its frontier, embodied in the father of his country, George Washington.
Western Pennsylvania’s Whiskey Rebellion and red state, blue state battles before and since were still in the
future when 22-year-old Col. Washington marched against the French in 1754. His lies about this seminal event in American history, how many men he surrounded Jumonville with,54 when he got the French summons,55 and his claim of not knowing what assassinate meant in the surrender terms at Fort Necessity, required a Cherry Tree myth to cover-up, and the suppression of rival George Croghan. Historians created as corresponding myths to Washington’s inability to tell a lie, Croghan’s dishonesty, illiteracy and obscurity, poor substitutes for his voluminous writings and pivotal role in Ohio country events between 1747 and 1777.
Wainwright’s 1959 biography came as American history was slowly emerging from a long, dark period of parochialism and worse. There were few female historians as yet to bring a new perspective:
Elizabeth Perkins, in her study of historical
experience and memory in the Ohio Valley,
notes that ‘as the original combatants died off,
new generations of historians and writers
shaped their accounts along increasingly racist
and nationalistic lines.56
The still incomplete demytholization of Washington was in its infancy in the 1950s, when Wainwright wrote. He may have felt uncomfortable revising history or simply been overwhelmed by the complexity and scope of Croghan’s life. For whatever reason, Wainwright grossly underestimates Croghan’s importance in shaping frontier history.
Volwiler, writing Croghan’s story in the 1920s, reflects isolationist politics grounded in the slaughter of
World War I. He chides historians for focusing on battlefield heroics rather than normal activities such as trade, as if the nearly constant state of war that Croghan and Americans after his time endured is unusual. Volwiler recognizes Croghan’s aid to Virginia between 1752 and 1754, but rather than his Indian deeds attributes it to Croghan’s shrewdness in not offering open resistance.
Volwiler is sensitive to Croghan’s plight if not his motivation. The Iroquois put him on their Onondaga council and all the nations held him in the highest regard, yet their interests suffered as he served chronologically Governor Dinwiddie, Col. Washington, General Braddock, Col. Bouquet, Lord Dunmore, and Dr. John Connolly. They all shared disdain for Indians and therefore Croghan, but Bouquet stands out as the most competent military leader; he was made the first non-English British general and was then sent to a west Florida pest hole where he died of fever in September, 1765, fortunately for the American Revolution.
Both the frontier and nation were at a formative stage when Croghan’s persuaded the Ohio Indians to allow Virginians to settle in their territory. He would spend the next twenty-five years condoling Native Americans and negotiating peace after the series of tragedies that ensued.
Although neither biographer holds Croghan accountable for the bloodshed, Volwiler’s emphasis on Croghan’s role as a trader and frontier land developer is more useful than Wainwright’s fascination with his subject’s financial shenanigans, which are blown out of proportion.
An exception is Croghan’s responsibility for the 1751 collapse of the fur trade, which Wainwright minimizes by citing over-expansion as the cause and Volwiler attributes
to French depredations. Following the poor trading year of 1749, Croghan returned to his Pennsborough plantation on April 30, 1750 with “the greatest quantity of skins ever heard of,”57 filling the London warehouses so that few were needed in 1751. Again it is Wainwright supplying the information and not seeing the obvious, that Croghan’s boom precipitated the bust of a collapsed market.
Croghan lost his Pennsborough properties in 1752 when Richard Peters foreclosed the mortgages, but the havoc was general. As when the outbreak of war broke the chain of credit upon which the fur trade relied, ruined traders offered cheap rum or cheaper moonshine for skins and despairing Native Americans, unable to barter for necessities, exchanged their devalued pelts and sometimes the clothes on their backs to get drunk.
Before leaving London in 1764, Croghan spent several days conferring with Thomas Penn about Pennsylvania and Native American affairs, continuing to serve both their interests and the conflicting ones of Virginia. By bringing the Virginians into Ohio country and taking their side in the first major conflict between what we now call red and blue states, Croghan profoundly altered frontier, American, and world history.
Had Croghan been illiterate, impudent/imprudent, ill-bred, dishonest, and obscure, his contributions would be all the more remarkable, but such a Croghan makes early American history incoherent, as do the myths about Washington. A better understanding of the nation’s formative years is essential as the dynamics begun then between colonists, immigrants, and Native Americans continue to work themselves out, defining our country.
- Nicholas B. Wainwright. George Croghan; Wilderness Diplomat. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1959, p. 316, (hereafter cited as Wainwright).
- Albert T. Volwiler. George Croghan and the Western Movement, 1741-1782. Originally published 1926. Lewisburg, PA: Wennawoods Pub., 2000, p. 334, (hereafter cited as Volwiler).
- Neville B. Craig, Esq., ed. The Olden Time. Vol. One. Originally published 1846. Lewisburg, PA: Wennawoods Pub., 2002, pp. 403-415.
- Charles A. Hanna. “George Croghan: The King of the Traders,” The Wilderness Trail: Or, the Ventures and Adventures of the Pennsylvania Traders on the Allegheny Path. Vol. Two. Originally published 1911. Lewisburg, PA: Wennawoods Publishing, 1995, p. 32, (hereafter cited as Hanna).
- Wainwright, p. 3.
- Ibid., p. 4.
- Michael Montgomery. “A Tale of Two Georges,” Focus on Ireland, Jeffrey Kallen, ed. Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamins Pub. Co., 1997, p. 245, (hereafter cited as
- Sylvester K. Stevens and Donald H. Kent, eds. The Papers of Col. Henry Bouquet. Series 21651. Harrisburg, PA: Pennsylvania Historical Commission, 1943, pp. 159-160, (hereafter cited as Stevens).
- Volwiler, p. 23.
- Wainwright, p. 216.
- Fintan O’Toole. White Savage: William Johnson and the Invention of America. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2005, p. 232, (hereafter cited as O’Toole).
- Montgomery, p. 231.
- O’Toole, p. 299.
- Ibid., p. 300.
- Wainwright, p. 106. 20. Harold Frederic & William C. Frederick III. The Westsylvania Pioneers, 1774-1776. Butler, PA: H.
Frederic, 2001, p. 73, (hereafter cited as Frederic).
- Montgomery, p. 231.
- O’Toole, p. 215.
- Hanna, p. 31.
- Ibid., p. 32.
- Wainwright, p. 177.
- Ibid. p. 191.
- Ibid., p. 122.
- Stevens, p. 155.
- Ibid, p. 156.
- Wainwright, p. 201.
- O’Toole, pp. 245-46.
- Wainwright, p. 302.
- Ibid., p. 207.
- Ibid., p. 209.
- Ibid., p. 207.
- Ibid., p 277. “I am likely to sell another tract to Coll. Washington and his friends.”
- Frederic, p. 75.
- Ibid., p. 67.
- John Lewis Peyton. Peyton’s History of Augusta County, Virginia. Staunton, VA: Samuel M. Yost & Son, 1882, p. 155, (hereafter cited as Peyton).
- Alfred A. Cave. “George Croghan and the Emergence of British Influence on the Ohio Frontier,” Builders of Ohio, a Biographical History. Athens, OH: Ohio State University Press, 2002, p. 12.
- Wainwright, p. 303.
- Ibid., p. 310.
- Ibid., p. 306.
- Ibid., p. 207.
- Peyton, p. 75
- Wainwright, p. 37.
- Ibid., p. 44.
- Volwiler, p. 77.
- Jim Greenwood. Jumonville Glen, May 28, 1754: Day of Infamy. Belle Vernon, PA: Monongahela Press, 2002, p. 11.
- Ibid., p. 24.
- Colin G. Calloway. The Shawnees and the War for America. New York, NY: The Penguin Library of American Indian History, 2007, pp. 275-76.
- Volwiler, p. 68.
- Wainwright, p. 32.
Events have their confluences as surely as the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers. November, 2008 marks the 250th anniversary of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and a watershed presidential election pitting red against blue states, as always, over racial issues. George Washington’s role in both events is well known, but not Irish-born trader and Indian agent George Croghan’s. Myths distort their stories, inflating Washington’s, diminishing Croghan’s.
An immigrant on the Pennsylvania frontier in 1741, he entered the fur trade. Working from a Seneca village on Lake Erie, today’s Cleveland, Ohio, he was taking business from the French when King George’s War broke out in 1744. Croghan sparked an Indian revolt against the French, brought two Illinois tribes into an alliance with England, and renamed La Demoiselle, the Twightwee or Miami sachem, Old Briton. Chief Memeskia was killed and eaten in a French attack on his village, Pickawillany, in 1752.
At the time Croghan was on the Iroquois council negotiating the Logstown treaty that allowed the Ohio Company to settle and build a fort in what would become western Pennsylvania. His motivation was a 200,000 acre grant there that the Iroquois sold him in 1749 as Celeron’s expedition approached claiming the region for France. Had Pennsylvania built the fort in 1751 that Thomas Penn wanted and Croghan cleverly foiled, his grant would have been disallowed, so his indispensable aid went to Virginia.
Youthful Washington’s appearance as envoy and soldier became the focus of subsequent events, yet even into the Revolution Croghan’s frontier role was pivotal if contradictory as head of Pittsburgh’s Committee of Safety, Virginia partisan, and friend of Native Americans. A still divided nation sorely needs his visionary diplomatic skills.