George Croghan

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George Croghan
Born c. 1718[1]
Died August 31, 1782
Passyunk, Pennsylvania
Resting place
St. Peter's Church, Philadelphia[2]
Other names The Buck, Anagurunda, King of the traders[3]
Occupation Fur trader, Indian agent, Onondaga Council sachem[4] land speculator, judge
Religion Anglican[5]
Spouse(s) Susannah's mother unknown, Catharine (Takarihoga) was Mohawk Chief Nickus's daughter[6]
Children Susannah, 1750-1790; Catharine (Adonwentishon), 1759-1837[7]

George Croghan (c. 1718 – August 31, 1782) was an Irish-born fur trader in the Ohio Country who late 19th-century historian William M. Darlington first recognized as the region's key figure,[8] flying in the face of the traditional view of Croghan as a scoundrel of little historical consequence. Despite their momentous rivalry beginning in 1754 and ending with a military coup in 1777, Croghan plays no role in the latest Washington biographies, and certainly not a central one in French and Indian War books written to date, rendering them obsolete.

Ohio's recorded history begins with Croghan's actions in the mid-1740s as fur trader, Iroquois sachem, and go-between for Pennsylvania, according to Alfred A. Cave, who concludes that the treason charge that ended Croghan's career was trumped up by his enemies.[9] Western Pennsylvania became the focal point of events in August, 1749 when Croghan purchased 200,000 acres from the Iroquois, exclusive of two square miles at the Forks of the Ohio for a British fort (a map accompanying the text for the first Croghan historical marker may be found on the Critical Comments page of the website).[10] Croghan soon learned that his three deeds would be invalidated if they fell into Pennsylvania, sabotaged that colony's effort to erect the fort, and led the Ohio Confederation to permit Virginia's Ohio Company to build it and settle the region,[11] thus setting the stage for the entrance into Ohio Country of the young man who would eventually supplant him there, George Washington.

Beginning in 1756, for fifteen years Croghan served as Deputy Indian agent under Sir William Johnson, called the "Mohawk Baron." In present-day New York he manned the farthest frontier post while the French held Ohio Country and briefly lived until 1770 on a quarter of a million acres. His resignation was reluctantly and conditionally accepted in 1771 to establish Vandalia, a fourteenth colony including parts of present-day West Virginia, southwestern Pennsylvania and eastern Kentucky, and he continued on emeritus status as a borderland negotiator.

While working to keep the Ohio Indians neutral in the Revolutionary War, Pittsburgh's president judge and chairman of the Committee of Safety was accused of treason by Pittsburgh's General Edward Hand, banished from the frontier, and not allowed to return after he cleared himself in a November, 1778 trial.[12] Except for a few scholars, this injustice, Croghan's death in 1782, and his thirty years as the pivotal figure in Ohio Country history has attracted little interest.

Early life and career[edit]

Not much is known of Croghan's early life, including the names of his parents.[13] He was born in Ireland, around 1718. The best evidence for Croghan's age is found in the treasonous Filius Gallicae letters written early in 1756 by an otherwise anonymous author. France's friend claimed to be nearly 38 years old, among other self-descriptions that pointed to Croghan, but a secret British investigation exposed the fraud.[14] Apparently Croghan's father died young and his mother married Thomas Ward.

Croghan emigrated from Dublin, Ireland to the province of Pennsylvania in 1741; his family, including George's half-brother Edward Ward and kinsmen who worked for him, also emigrated to the colony. Relatives remaining in Dublin included merchant Nicholas Croghan (likely a brother of George);[15] cousin Thomas Smallman's mother; and grandfather Edmund Croghan, if still living. Plans to visit Ireland to pursue an inheritance from Edmund were abandoned during Croghan's 1764 journey to London.[16]

Within a few years after reaching America, Croghan became one of Pennsylvania's leading fur traders. A key to his success was establishing trading posts in Native American villages, as the French traders did. At the time, the usual British practice was to wait for the Indians to come to a trading post they set up for their own convenience, in major crossroads.[17] He learned at least two Native languages, Delaware (an Algonquian language) and probably Seneca (an Iroquoian language), which were spoken by the two major groups of people in the region.[17]

He traded and wintered in a largely Seneca village at the mouth of Lake Erie's Cuyahoga River, today's Cleveland, Ohio, learning Native American languages and customs so well that by 1746 he was one of fifty sachems on the Six Nations' Onondaga Council.[18] King George's War beginning in March, 1744 reduced French trade goods and influence on the frontier, a void filled by francophobe Croghan, who established forward bases at Sandusky and Pickawillany. He organized the Indian revolt against the French in 1747.[19] At the same time a "council fire on the Ohio River, independent of the Six Nations," [20] was lit by the chiefs sent to oversee Mingo and dependent Ohio Country nations, undoubtedly Croghan's initiative, as subsequent events show.[21]

During this time, Croghan's primary business partner was William Trent, a trader. The son of the founder of Trenton, New Jersey, he may have supplied capital to set up their trading. Their partnership was temporarily suspended when Trent joined the military to serve in King George's War (1744–48). The two men bought property on Conedogwinet Creek in present-day Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. Croghan developed a plantation there which served as his home and base of operations from about 1745 until 1751.[22]

King George's War, 1744–1748[edit]

Britain's blockade of French ports made the few French trade goods reaching Ohio Country prohibitively expensive; it was such a bonanza for the Pennsylvania traders that the French became alarmed. They knew that Indian trade and diplomacy were closely linked, and Croghan's activities threatened French influence among the regional natives. The trader established his first headquarters in the Ohio County at a Seneca village on the Cuyahoga River, the site of present-day Cleveland, Ohio. (Together with the Mohawk, the Seneca were among the Six Nations of the Iroquois League.) As Croghan expanded his trading network westward toward Detroit, held by the French, French-allied Indians were urged to attack him.

In April, 1745 the Seneca protected Croghan from capture, but elsewhere French-allied Natives robbed a canoe-load of Croghan's furs.[23] The following year the Iroquois appointed Croghan to its Onondaga Council, an honor extended to William Johnson a few years earlier and to the French fur trader Louis-Thomas Joncaire de Chabert (1670–1740) two decades before that.[24] Philippe-Thomas Joncaire, son of the earlier trader, was Croghan's and Johnson's principal French opponent in the Ohio region. By 1746 Johnson and the Six Nations had acquiesced to Croghan's dominant role in Ohio Country affairs.

Early in 1747, five French traders were murdered by Seneca and Wyandot warriors at the Wyandot village of Sandusky on Lake Erie, beginning an Indian revolt against the French fomented by Croghan.[25] The Wyandot Chief Nicholas Orontony led it first, followed by Memeskia (or "Old Briton" as Croghan named him),[26] known by the French as La Demoiselle, who was a Piankeshaw Miami chief. Although unsuccessful in driving out the French, the participating bands moved closer to the British. Reports claimed that Croghan had encouraged the uprising so that the Natives would trade with him and not the French. Old Briton relocated to Pickawillany on the Great Miami River, where Croghan built a stockade and trading post.[27]

With the help of Mingo chiefs Tanacharison (Half King) and Scarouady, Croghan organized an Ohio Confederation of tribes. At the same time he brought the Miamis into an alliance with Great Britain, formalized in a July, 1748 treaty at Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Andrew Montour, a conference interpreter, became Croghan's closest associate until dying in 1772. The other interpreter, Conrad Weiser, Pennsylvania's Indian agent, subsequently held an Indian conference at Logstown on the Ohio River that acknowledged the independence of the Ohio Confederation. Later, the colony followed Weiser's recommendation to appoint Croghan as its negotiator with the Ohio Country Indians.[28]

At the August, 1748 Logstown conference, Weiser told the recently allied tribes that Britain had signed a peace treaty with France. As a result, the English had no war supplies for them and distributed presents instead. The French attacked pro-British tribes and when rumor of Celeron de Bienville's 1749 expedition to claim the Ohio Valley for France and to drive out the English traders reached Governor James Hamilton (Pennsylvania), he dispatched Croghan to Logstown to investigate.[29] By partial coincidence, days before Celeron reached Logstown its Mingo chiefs sold Croghan 200,000 acres (810 km2), excluding 2 square miles (5.2 km2) at the Forks of the Ohio for a British fort. Although biographer Wainwright failed to adequately grasp its historical significance, he knew his subject well enough to call it "a momentous event in his life."[30]

Virginia's Ohio Company agents Col. Thomas Cresap and Hugh Parker made overtures to the Indians at Pickawillany, which Croghan opposed in November, 1749.[31] A year later he and Montour began aiding Virginia by guiding its scout Christopher Gist on a tour of Ohio Indian villages. Croghan's 200,000 acres (810 km2) in Indian deeds motivated his shift in allegiance. Sometime in 1750 he realized that such large grants were against Pennsylvania statutes, but permitted in Virginia.[32] Having alerted Governor Hamilton to the Mingo plea for a fort at the Forks of the Ohio, then backtracking, Croghan seemed to reverse himself yet again. During a conference at the end of May, 1751, he formally recorded the Mingo chiefs' request for the fort, but when Andrew Montour was called before the Pennsylvania Assembly for confirmation, he denied it. The colony's plans for a fort evaporated and Pennsylvania "defaulted its leadership in the West to Virginia's Ohio Company."[33]

Evidence that Croghan suborned Montour's testimony that the Indians did not want a British fort is found in the June, 1752 conference at Logstown, with Croghan on the Indian Council and Andrew Montour acting as translator. The Indian Confederation gave Virginia's Ohio Company permission to build a fort and settle one hundred families on 500,000 acres (2,000 km2) in today's Western Pennsylvania. Midway in the conference Pickawillany was attacked by a French force led by Charles Langlade; Old Briton was killed, boiled, and eaten.

For Croghan, "the year 1753 was far worse, for it saw the virtual end of the Indian trade due to warfare. Early in the spring, Canada's Governor Duquesne, opened his campaign to drive the English out of the Ohio Valley."[34] Consistent with Croghan organizing it, in October, 1753 Scarouady officially appointed him leader of the Ohio Confederation during a conference held at Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Croghan represented the Confederation in communications to and from Pennsylvania, and received its presents for the tribes.[35] At year's end, when 21-year-old George Washington made his diplomatic journey to the French at Fort Le Boeuf, Croghan, about 35, had been in Ohio Country for twelve years, quickly becoming the pivotal figure among its traders, Indians, and colonial agents.

The Seven Years' War[edit]

The Seven Years' War (1756-1763) in North America, or French and Indian War, unofficially began in 1754 with the Jumonville Glen engagement and effectively ended in 1760 with the capture of Montreal. Its cause, French forces occupying the Ohio Country and expelling or arresting British fur traders, has obvious connections to Croghan, including the 1752 destruction of Pickawillany, Old Briton, and the British alliance with his Miami. Soon after Washington returned from delivering Virginia Governor Dinwiddie's summons to the French, Croghan was in Ohio Country gathering intelligence, helping to build the Ohio Company stockade commanded by William Trent, and supplying the Indians with food, rum, and weapons. When the French reached the Forks of the Ohio early that spring, Croghan's half-brother Ensign Edward Ward was in charge and forced to surrender.

At the end of May when the Half King murdered Jumonville shortly after conferring with Croghan and Montour, they were in Winchester, Virginia where Governor Dinwiddie commissioned them as captains under Col. Washington. Croghan was to supply flour for the expedition and advise Washington on Indian affairs, but Washington alienated his Indian allies during a crucial conference at Gist's plantation and blamed Croghan for the subsequent defeat at Fort Necessity.[36] The Half King and Queen Aliquippa took their people to Croghan's plantation on Aughwick Creek, where the Queen died and the Half-King grew fatally ill that winter.[37]

During the Braddock Expedition in 1755, Croghan, as always assisted by Montour, led eight Indian scouts, the same group with the Half King at Jumonville Glen a year earlier. Like Washington and at his urging, General Braddock alienated the other friendly Indians, yet Montour and the handful with Croghan attended the gravely wounded general. Teamsters Daniel Boone and Daniel Morgan fled on horseback as Croghan pressed Braddock to relinquish command[38] and, despite the general's refusal, apparently took charge. He got Braddock off the battlefield with the help of Braddock's aide, the 23-year-old Washington. Washington's account differs and his biographer James Flexner does not mention Croghan being present,[39] but captains Croghan and Montour were there, outranked the General's aide, and were ill-treated as his subordinates in 1754, yet they all worked together to save Braddock, with Croghan the more likely leader in the emergency. It was a familiar role, one Croghan assumed on the Pennsylvania frontier a year earlier,[40] and during the almost continuous crises in Ohio Country before and after until 1777.

In 1755, friendly Indians again sought refuge at Aughwick. Croghan fortified it as Fort Shirley, one of four he built on the frontier. In 1756, he relocated to the New York frontier, beginning a 15-year career as Deputy Superintendent of Indian Affairs under Sir William Johnson.

With Montour at his side and in command of 100 Indians on an overlooking hilltop, Croghan witnessed in July, 1758 General James Abercrombie's calamitous frontal assault on Fort Ticonderoga. Afterwards Croghan wrote Johnson that he feared a similar "thrashing" for Gen. John Forbes advance forces nearing Fort Duquesne, unaware of Major James Grant's bloody defeat five days earlier.[41] Before joining Forbes on November 20 with fifteen Indian scouts, Croghan's management of the Indians at Easton, where he acknowledged being an Indian himself, produced a treaty that stripped the French of local allies and forced them to burn Fort Duquesne.[42]

Forbes assigned Croghan and Montour the dangerous task of bringing in recalcitrant regional Delawares, something Edward Shippen said not even Sir William Johnson could handle better.[43] Placed under Col. Henry Bouquet's command early in 1759, Croghan gathered intelligence about the French force at Venango, "700 troops and about 950 Indians." About to overwhelm Pittsburgh in July, they were instead ordered to relieve Fort Niagara, where they were ambushed and defeated by William Johnson.[44]

Preliminary treaties that Croghan negotiated with thirteen western tribes over the next two years were formalized in the September, 1761 conference at Detroit presided over by Johnson. Croghan's diplomacy countered Seneca efforts to enlist the western Indians in an anti-British alliance by organizing them, as he had in 1748, into a confederacy independent of the Six Nations.[45] Unfortunately, General Jeffrey Amherst considered the cost of maintaining peace with the Indians exorbitant, cutting Indian Department expenses to the bone (Croghan wrote that he served "the King for nothing").[46] More seriously, Amherst severely limited the gunpowder and lead the Indians needed to feed their families and acquire necessities through the fur trade. Amherst ignored Croghan's intelligence that an Indian war was imminent. The last straw for the Indians was news that the French had ceded all Indian territory to the British in the Treaty of Paris, prompting Pontiac's Rebellion and Croghan's journey to London seeking confirmation of his Indian deeds and reparations for trade losses.

Pontiac's Rebellion[edit]

When Indian attacks engulfed Ohio Country in 1763, Croghan was in Philadelphia advising Governor Hamilton on Indian affairs and selling real estate. He galloped to Lancaster where word reached him that his business partner Col. Clapham had been killed in the region's initial attack, their Sewickley Creek trading post burned along with Croghan Hall near Pittsburgh, and that Fort Pitt was under siege.[47]

General Amherst in New York ordered Croghan to Fort Pitt to investigate the causes of the uprising and Col. Bouquet to relieve it with a few hundred semi-invalids. Croghan provided Bouquet with the latest intelligence from Carlisle and at Shippensburg calmed the fearful residents, recruited and armed twenty-five men to garrison abandoned Fort Lyttleton, and hired locals to carry ammunition and supplies from Fort Loudon to Bedford. Arriving there on June 12 and further travel west too dangerous, he fed starving families and bolstered the garrison of seven soldiers under a grateful Captain Lewis Ourry. A few weeks later Indians attacked fifteen men mowing Croghan's fields within a mile of the fort, scalping two. Fed up with military superiors, Croghan refused Bouquet's order to march with his column when it left Bedford on July 27 and instead on August 2nd set out for Philadelphia to pursue private interests.[48]

Denied leave by General Amherst to travel to London, Croghan resigned as Deputy Indian agent, something Amherst also found unacceptable shortly before sailing for London himself. Croghan with two officers recently besieged in Ft. Detroit and recalled to testify about the Indian rebellion set sail on the Britannia, but the ship wrecked off the Normandy coast in January, 1764.[49] As Croghan's ship floundered in the English Channel and he traveled to Le Havre, visiting the tomb of William the Conqueror on the way, Philadelphia was invaded by 250 Paxton Boys, frontiersmen bent on killing hundreds of friendly Indians who had taken refuge in the city. Fifty Paxton Boys had recently butchered 22 Conestoga Indians, the last of that peaceful, Christian tribe, and were seeking further vengeance for Pontiac's War and earlier Indian raids, but were halted by city officials, including Benjamin Franklin who wrote a "Narrative of the Late Massacres."[50] Similarly motivated vigilantes, the Black Boys, would bedevil Croghan upon his return to Pennsylvania.

The traditional view of Croghan as a marginal, improvident scoundrel does not accord well with the months spent in London, where "he was the personification of wealth and power."[51] If the Lords of Trade declined Croghan's request to transfer his Indian grant of 200,000 acres (810 km2) from the Ohio to the Mohawk River valley, repay the suffering traders from treasury funds, or permit an Illinois colony, the Lords agreed to free the Indian Department from military control and to consider moving the Proclamation Line of 1763 to the Ohio River.[52]

Soon after returning to America, Croghan was ordered by Johnson to accompany Col. Bouquet's expedition against the Ohio tribes, but he was too busy buying and lavishly furnishing newly purchased Monckton Hall near Philadelphia. He assigned the negotiations to his assistant, Alexander McKee.[53] Col. Bouquet, while traveling east after his victorious 1764 Ohio campaign, became alarmed when he crossed paths with the carrier of Croghan's letter informing Alexander McKee in Pittsburgh that the Indian Department was now independent of local military control. Outraged on learning that it was true, the usually reserved Bouquet called Croghan "illiterate, imprudent [or "impudent," sources vary], and ill bred" in a letter to General Gage complaining of Croghan's "ridiculous display of his own importance.".[54] Bouquet quickly recanted, however, acknowledging that Croghan was the best person to pacify Illinois Country,[55] but an uncritical acceptance of the earlier disparaging remarks continues to distort Croghan scholarship, most notably Nicholas Wainwright's. From 1764 until 1777, when military control of Ohio Country Indian affairs was reestablished by Washington and Croghan was banished from the frontier, Croghan kept the peace, unofficially after 1771 and with the exception of the Shawnees during Dunmore's War in 1774.

In a 1765 prelude to the Revolutionary War, Croghan's first shipment of Indian presents and trade goods to Pittsburgh provoked armed rebellion. Their justification: Pennsylvania had proscribed trade with the Ohio Indians before a peace was established and as a Crown Indian agent, Croghan was prohibited from engaging in Indian trade. Led by James Smith, a young captive at Fort Duquesne when captured Braddock soldiers were tortured to death within hearing distance, "the 'Black Boys' had attacked his convoy, burned most of his presents and threatened his life if he ever returned to Cumberland County."[56] Unless "severeely punished," Croghan predicted in a letter to Bouquet, the militant frontiersmen would bring "an End to Sivil & Military power."[57]

Despite Black Boy opposition, Croghan accumulated enough goods to open trade with the Ohio Indians in Pittsburgh and set off for Illinois Country. The party was attacked near the mouth of the Wabash River by eighty Kickapoo and Mascouten warriors. Two of Croghan's men and three Indians were killed, Croghan tomahawked, the camp plundered and the survivors hurriedly marched to Vincennes and eventually Ouiatenon.[58] There in a conference on July 13, Croghan reconciled the Ottawa, Piankashaw, Miami, Ouiatenon, Mascouten, and Kickapoo Indians to British rule, a peace confirmed shortly afterward in a grand council that included Pontiac. The principals journeyed to Detroit where Croghan conducted an even larger conference that brought the Potawatomi, Ojibway, Wyandot, and Wea tribes into the British economic orbit, with Pontiac "playing an important part in the proceedings."[59] At the time, Croghan was celebrated as a national hero for bringing in Pontiac and ending the Indian war.

Croghan led a group of speculators, including Benjamin Franklin and his son William Franklin, the latter an observer at the 1748 Logstown conference, pursuing land in the Ohio Country, the Illinois Country, and New York, where on September 6, 1765, Croghan was awarded a grant of 10,000 acres (40 km2).

George Croghan's Otsego Patents

Spring, 1766 found Croghan resuming his mission to the Illinois tribes on the Mississippi. Seventeen bateaux left Pittsburgh on June 18, one carrying Croghan and his party, another carrying Captain Harry Gordon and Ensign Thomas Hutchins on a river mapping expedition, two carrying provisions for Fort Chartres, and thirteen carrying Baynton, Wharton, and Morgan trade goods.[60] During his August conferences at Fort Chartres Croghan successfully negotiated with 22 tribes, soon augmented by three Indian nations under French influence.[61] Weak from malaria, Croghan accompanied Gordon and Hutchins to New Orleans, where he sailed for New York with stops at Mobile, Pensacola, Havana, and Charleston,[61]

Later life[edit]

His ship reached New York on January 10, 1767 and two days later Croghan joined Samuel Wharton in urging Gen. Gage to establish an Illinois colony. When Gage refused, Croghan publicly resigned as Deputy Indian agent.[62] Laid low by illness, he spent February recuperating at Monckton Hall and March in visiting Johnson, who convinced him to withdraw his resignation. Sent to Fort Pitt in May, Croghan defused an Indian war over squatters and illegal trade. Governor John Penn detained Croghan in Philadelphia on his return east with questions about the Indians to accompany the Mason and Dixon survey, writing: "It would be very difficult to manage this business without his assistance."[63] In fact the Indians halted the survey before it was completed, an ultimately vain attempt to keep Croghan's 1749 grant for 200,000 acres from falling into Pennsylvania.

A hard year for Croghan's Indian diplomacy followed: Frederick Stump's murder and scalping of Indians on the Susquenhanna in January,[64] the Black Boys' pledge to kill Croghan on his way to an Indian conference in Pittsburgh in March,[65] and hostle Lord Hillsborough's assumption of American affairs in London.[66] A quiet retreat was Lake Otsego's outlet and headwater of the Susquehanna River, the site of Croghan's New York six chimney "hutt" and Croghan Forest, 100,000 acres (400 km2) surveyed in September, 1768.[67]

Ahead of the Fort Stanwix Treaty in November, 1768 the Six Nations sold Croghan 127,000 acres (510 km2) in New York for himself and numerous tracts for his friends. Crown recognition of these and other pre-treaty sales became the first of three Iroquois demands at the conference. The second condition was that a grant of 2,500,000 acres (10,000 km2) "on the Ohio to Trent and his associates was to be part of the treaty. Third, should the Penns seize the 200,000 acres (810 km2) which the Indians had granted 'our friend Mr. Croghan long ago,' they requested the king grant Croghan as much land elsewhere. William Johnson was censored by the Crown for aiding Croghan's private land dealings and they went unconfirmed.[68] Facing bankruptcy, "He drew bills payable on Samuel Wharton in London"[69] for thousands of pounds to patent his New York land. Crippled with gout and hounded by creditors, Croghan sought refuge in Croghan Forest, now more than 250,000 acres (1,000 km2), but even its remoteness offered insufficient legal protection when the Wharton bills were returned for nonpayment in February, 1770.[70]

Croghan Hall, reached July 2, 1770 offered the ailing George a refuge from lawsuits and debtors' prison, but he could do little more than watch as settlers poured into the Ohio Country on land he considered to be his. Pennsylvania appointed officials for newly established Bedford County in 1771, which "did not come within" twenty miles (32 km) "of Pittsburgh" according to Croghan, perhaps applying the distance in a degree of Irish longitude to Pennsylvania. He "looked on these officers as agents of oppression."[71] Among those buying land from Croghan's 1749 Indian grant was George Washington through his agent William Crawford.[13] "I am likely to sell another tract to Coll. Washington and his friends," Croghan wrote to Joseph Wharton, Jr. and to Michael Gratz, "I have sold a parcel of lands to Coll Washington,"[14], but there were no further sales to him beyond 1,500 acres (6.1 km2) in today's Perryopolis, Pennsylvania. Crawford surveyed land near Chartiers Creek for Washington that Croghan claimed when his survey of an Indian deed fell far short of the 100,000 acres (400 km2) called for and he had it redone. More than twenty years later, in 1784, and despite presenting a laughable patent, Washington won a court case against Chartiers Creek families who had bought their land from Croghan. Washington's document was dated July 5, 1775,[15] two years after his land dispute with Croghan began, and was from Lord Dunmore aboard a British warship on the James River, signed a few days after Washington had assumed command of the Continental army besieging Boston.[16]

Croghan's luck appeared to change when the Crown agreed to a new inland colony, Vandalia, with him as Indian agent and its largest land owner. Crown agents were restricted from forming such ventures, however, so Croghan resigned from the Indian department on November 2, 1771.[72] Alexander McKee took his place as deputy agent, with Croghan "on call when Indian affairs were critical."[73] Cousin Thomas Smallman was taken into a fur trading partnership and Croghan "made a major effort to liquidate his debts."[73] Although failing to sell any of his New York acres, Barnard and Michael Gratz remained Croghan's agents, creditors, primary suppliers and friends, if not as faithful as Andrew Montour whose murder in January, 1772 was a severe loss. Fort Pitt was abandoned that fall, something Croghan turned to advantage by having McKee tell the Indians that it was done to please them. If it started grimly with Montour's death, 1772 ended with "the news that the Privy Council had overruled Lord Hillsborough and approved Vandalia."[74]

A year passed with Vandalia still in limbo and Croghan, borrowing money and pawning his plate, spent £1,365 for provisions and presents for 400 Indians who attended his November conference regarding the proposed colony. "Convinced that the powerful Vandalia project had fallen through, Lord Dunmore, governor of Virginia, decided to make good his colony's western claims. Presumably, when Dunmore visited Pittsburgh in the summer of 1773, he met Croghan, for he agreed to recognize the validity of Croghan's Indian grant."[75] Dunmore appointed an associate and nephew of Croghan as his western agent. Dr. John Connolly, fully supported by Croghan, "claimed Pittsburgh for Virginia in January, 1774, and called up the militia. The first men to appear at the parade ground for the initial muster came from Croghan Hall."[76] Virginia's claim was opposed by Pennsylvania's General Arthur St. Clair, the Penn's chief official west of the Alleghenies. "Flushed with confidence, Connolly became increasingly arbitrary and high-handed. He even presumed to treat Croghan . . . in an overbearing manner."[77]

Dunmore's War[edit]

Dunmore's War broke out in the Pennsylvania area in the spring of 1774, when frontiersmen led by Michael Cresap killed two Shawnee warriors, and Daniel Greathouse led other pioneers to kill the family of Logan, old Shikallamy's son. Croghan kept the Seneca and Delaware neutral, but his cooperation with St. Clair in defending the frontier prompted Connolly to accuse him of deserting Virginia. Shawnee chief Cornstalk, not wanting war, had three chiefs escort the traders from his villages to Croghan Hall. Connolly ordered 40 militiamen to capture or kill the Indians and they succeeded in shooting one of the Shawnee chiefs after they had escaped across the Allegheny. St. Clair, echoing other Pennsylvanians, said that Croghan was "indefatigable in endeavoring to make up the breeches."[78]

That August deputies of the Six Nation brought the news of Sir William Johnson's death. He had died in July, the day before a sheriff's sale put over 50,000 acres (200 km2) of Croghan's New York land on the auction block. Bids totaled £4,840 despite the pall Johnson's death cast over the proceedings. Many of the bids were never paid and the sheriff absconded with most of the money collected, leaving only £900 for Croghan. He raised $6,000 in Virginia to buy directly from the Iroquois 1,500,000 acres (6,100 km2) on the eastern bank of the Allegheny River. Samuel Wharton sent encouraging news about Vandalia, including the arrival of a large shipment of goods for gifts to the Indians and land payments, temporarily stored at Georgetown because of Dunmore's War.[79]

Governor Dunmore reached Pittsburgh in September, pausing in his campaign against the Shawnee to grill Croghan concerning "Connolly's accusations about inciting the Shawnees to attack Virginia and siding with Pennsylvania against Virginia. Croghan easily disproved the charges and was reinstated in Dunmore's good graces."[80] After bringing his war to a successful close that fall, Dunmore left 75 militia under Connolly to garrison Fort Pitt, renamed Fort Dunmore. The Virginia governor also adjourned the Augusta country court from Staunton to Pittsburgh, where he appointed Croghan to serve as president judge.

American Revolution[edit]

Croghan chaired Pittsburgh's Committee of Correspondence formed in May, 1775 after the battles of Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts. The following month he was hosting an Indian conference to ratify Dunmore's treaty of peace when Connolly was arrested by Pennsylvanians and carried off to prison at Hannastown. Croghan and his committee objected and Connolly was released, only to join Lord Dunmore and other Loyalists aboard a British man-of-war and "dream of returning to Pittsburgh at the head of invincible British legions."[81]

On July 10, 1775 Croghan purchased 6,000,000 acres (24,000 km2) between the Allegheny and Beaver rivers from the Six Nations. Two days later, Congress established an Indian Department with the trader Richard Butler as its Pittsburgh agent. When Butler retired in April, 1776, Croghan lobbied for his position, but George Morgan was chosen as Indian agent and, still resentful for the failed Illinois trading venture a decade earlier, "had absolutely no use for Croghan."[82]

During the summer of 1777, Croghan visited Williamsburg at the expense of the Gratz brothers to obtain a clear title to land he had sold them. After conferring with Governor Patrick Henry about frontier defenses, he returned to Pittsburgh with dispatches for General Edward Hand, who greeted him with suspicion. A Loyalist conspiracy had been uncovered. Colonel George Morgan, the Indian agent, Alexander McKee; Simon Girty, and others were under arrest. General Hand examined Thomas Smallman's papers and although there was nothing to indicate Croghan was disloyal, Hand ordered him to Philadelphia. Two weeks after his arrival, the city was captured by the British. Croghan, too ill with gout to escape, was hauled before General Howe and castigated for chairing Pittsburgh's Committee of Safety and keeping the Lake Indians neutral. Ordered to take lodgings in town, where he was kept under constant supervision by two British officers, Croghan learned that Monckton Hall was burnt after the battle of Germantown, "another severe financial blow."[83]

When the British evacuated Philadelphia in June 1778, they left Croghan behind on parole. Returning Pennsylvania officials accused him of collaborating with the enemy, but Croghan cleared himself in a November 12, 1778 trial. General Hand refused to let him return to Croghan Hall in western Pennsylvania, and Croghan spent the next two winters in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.[84] In an effort to pay off debts, Croghan mortgaged Croghan Hall to Joseph Simon. He deeded 74,000 acres (300 km2) of his Indian grant to the Gratzes, who paid his bills and financed another trip to Williamsburg to have his Indian titles recognized, without success. Bedridden with gout upon his return, Croghan wrote few letters to family and friends. In May 1780, he moved to Philadelphia, where he learned his western properties were within the boundaries of the new state of Pennsylvania.[85]

Croghan died at his home in Passyunk Township, on August 31, 1782. By then he was such an obscure figure that his death was not reported in newspapers. He was buried in the churchyard of St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Philadelphia. The marker on his grave was deteriorated by the elements, and the location was unmarked for many years.[86] In 2008, the Sons of the American Revolution added a new marker.[87]

Croghan's estate[edit]

Historical marker honoring Croghan in Cooperstown, New York.

While the total value of his personal estate was valued at only £50 13s.6d, his extensive land holdings were "conservatively estimated at £140,000." Except for some specific bequests, his June 12, 1782 will left his entire estate to his daughter Susannah. Susannah Croghan Prevost died in 1790, survived by six of her twelve children.[88] For decades, they pursued their claims to Croghan's often clouded deeds in numerous lawsuits. "For some years, the hopeless involvements of his estate kept courtrooms abuzz, and, when that ceased and his contemporaries died off, the man's name and fame faded away into the obscurity from which he had emerged."[89] Wainwright's poetic conclusion seems to validate the traditional view of Croghan as irrelevant, an absurdity that explains the biographer's inept interpretations of his facts and the blindness of many to Croghan's crucial role in history.

Native American history continues to be made by Croghan descendants. To this day the female line of Croghan's Mohawk daughter Catherine are inheritors of her position and power in the Turtle Clan. "Catharine Adonwentishon was head of the Turtle clan, the first in rank in the Mohawk Nation. Her birthright was to name the Tekarihoga, the principal sachem of the Mohawk nation."[80]

Speculation in western New York lands and clouded titles resulted in many unscrupulous transactions. In 1786 William Cooper and his partner Andrew Craig "by questionable methods . . . purchased the Otsego lands [40,000 of Croghan's acres] for only £2,700."[90] Cooper laid out the town of Cooperstown, New York and built his mansion, Otsego Hall, on the former site of Croghan's residence. William Franklin and the Prevost heirs watched bitterly as the property increased in value twentyfold. "Andrew Prevost, Jr., wrote Franklin on December 12, 1812: 'We have lost an immense property from the infamous advantage taken by Cooper and others without your knowledge by a forced Sale under your Title.'"[91] William Cooper's son, the author James Fenimore Cooper, presented his family's side of the dispute in his Chronicles of Cooperstown (1838).[92]

A diversion from Croghan's under-appreciated role in history, but important legacy for some, is how his name was pronounced. The governor of Canada, the Marquis de Vaudreuil, in a letter to the Minister of France on August 8, 1756, referred to “George Craon’s fort.”[93] Although biographer Robert. G. Crist concludes that, given the Gaelic origins of the surname, the pronunciation was “Crone," his evidence is less than conclusive: a financial account by one of Croghan's clerks mistakenly headed "Crohan and Trent" and "a Frenchman who encountered Croghan in the Erie region in his account puts the name presumably as he heard it, "Croan." Noting the possibly faulty memory of descendants using the hard g pronunciation favored by Croghan scholar Margaret Pearson Bothwell, Christ dismisses them and "the practice in Ireland today," where the name is pronounced "CROG-han." "CRO-ghan" seems to be the standard English pronunciation, but Christ cites Nicholas B. Wainwright's "Crowan" as an intermediate step between "something like 'Crohan,' and in further simplification, 'Crone.'"[94] Significantly, a study of Croghan's dialect by a linguist specializing in Irish, Michael Montgomery, written more than thirty years after Crist, does not find the dispute worth mentioning.


  1. ^ Frederic, 73
  2. ^ Wainwright, 310.
  3. ^ Wainwright, 49, 310, 29.
  4. ^ Wainwright, 13.
  5. ^ Wainwright, 113.
  6. ^ Wainwright, 34, 138.
  7. ^ Wainwright, 34, 264.
  8. ^ Campbell, 134
  9. ^ Cave, 12
  10. ^ Wainwright, 41
  11. ^ Greenwood, 5-7
  12. ^ Wainwright, 307
  13. ^ Wainwright, 3.
  14. ^ Wainwright, 107.
  15. ^ Wainwright, 260
  16. ^ Wainwright, 207.
  17. ^ a b Michael J. Mullin, "Croghan, George", American National Biography Online, February 2000.
  18. ^ Hanna, 30.
  19. ^ Wainwright, 15.
  20. ^ Aquila,194.
  21. ^ Greenwood, 3.
  22. ^ Wainwright, 8–13.
  23. ^ Wainwright, 8.
  24. ^ Wainwright, 13
  25. ^ Wainwright, 3
  26. ^ Anderson, 28-29
  27. ^ Wainwright, 14–15.
  28. ^ Wainwright, 18–21
  29. ^ Wainwright, 27
  30. ^ Wainwright, 28
  31. ^ Wainwright, 30
  32. ^ Anderson, 30
  33. ^ Wainwright, 41-44
  34. ^ Wainwright, 49-50
  35. ^ Wainwright, 55
  36. ^ Wainwright, 65
  37. ^ Wainwright, 75-78
  38. ^ Wainwright, 93
  39. ^ Flexner, 129-130
  40. ^ Volwiler, 800
  41. ^ Wainwright, 145
  42. ^ Wainwright, 151
  43. ^ Wainwright, 153
  44. ^ Wainwright, 165
  45. ^ Wainwright, 182
  46. ^ Wainwright, 195
  47. ^ Wainwright, 196-198
  48. ^ Wainwright, 198-200
  49. ^ Wainwright, 204
  50. ^ Silver, 203
  51. ^ Wainwright, 206
  52. ^ Wainwright, 207-208
  53. ^ Wainwright, 210-211
  54. ^ Wainwright, 120
  55. ^ Volwiler, 177
  56. ^ Volwiler, 179
  57. ^ George Croghan's Journal, 18-19
  58. ^ Volwiler, 185-186
  59. ^ Volwiler, 188
  60. ^ Volwiler, 195
  61. ^ a b Volwiler, 197
  62. ^ Wainwright, 239
  63. ^ Wainwright, 244
  64. ^ Wainwright, 248
  65. ^ Wainwright, 251
  66. ^ Wainwright, 253
  67. ^ Wainwright, 256
  68. ^ Wainwright, 257
  69. ^ Wainwright, 267
  70. ^ Wainwright, 271
  71. ^ Wainwright, 277
  72. ^ Wainwright, 281
  73. ^ a b Wainwright, 282
  74. ^ Wainwright, 283-284
  75. ^ Wainwright, 286
  76. ^ Wainwright, 287
  77. ^ Wainwright, 283
  78. ^ Wainwright, 189-191
  79. ^ Wainwright, 292-293
  80. ^ Wainwright, 294
  81. ^ Wainwright, 295
  82. ^ Wainwright, 296-299
  83. ^ Wainwright, 300-301
  84. ^ Wainwright, 302-303
  85. ^ Wainwright, 305-305
  86. ^ Wainwright, 310; Volwiler, 334. Volwiler, writing in 1926, did not know where Croghan was buried.
  87. ^ "George Croghan", Find-a-Grave
  88. ^ Wainwright, 307-307
  89. ^ Wainwright, 310
  90. ^ Volwiler, 329-330
  91. ^ Volwiler, 331
  92. ^ Wolwiler, 331
  93. ^ Stevens and Kent, 94
  94. ^ Crist, 3


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  • Merrell, James H. Into the American Woods: Negotiators on the Pennsylvania Frontier. New York: Norton, 1999. ISBN 0-393-04676-1.
  • Montgomery, Michael. "A Tale of Two Georges." Focus on Ireland, Jeffrey Kallen, ed. Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamin Pub. Co., 1997.
  • Silver, Peter. Our Savage Neighbors, How Indian War Transformed Early America.New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company, 2009. ISBN 978-0-393-33490-6
  • Sylvester Stevens and Donald Kent, eds. Wilderness Chronicles of Northwestern Pennsylvania. Harrisburg, PA: Pennsylvania Historical Commission, 1941.
  • Volwiler, Albert T. George Croghan and the Westward Movement, 1741–1782. Cleveland: The Arthur H. Clark Company, 1926.
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External links[edit]