||This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (May 2011)|
The Ohio Company, formally known as the Ohio Company of Virginia, was a land speculation company organized for the settlement by Virginians of the Ohio Country (approximately the present state of Ohio) and to trade with the Indians there. The Company had a land grant from Britain and a treaty with Indians, but France also claimed the area, and the conflict helped provoke the outbreak of the French and Indian War. No lands were actually settled, and the company ended operations by 1776.
In the mid 18th century, many within the British Empire viewed the Ohio River Valley, a region west of the Appalachian Mountains thinly populated by American Indians, as a source of potential wealth. In the 1740s, British and Irish businessmen such as George Croghan and William Trent were moving into the area and competing with French merchants in the lucrative fur trade. Land speculators looked to the Ohio Country as a place where lands might be acquired and then resold to immigrants.
In 1747 a number of influential men organized the Ohio Company of Virginia in order to capitalize on these opportunities. The Ohio Company was composed of Virginians, including Thomas Lee as president, Nathaniel Chapman as treasurer (1709–1760), John Mercer as the company's secretary and general counsel, John's son George Mercer as the company's agent to England, two of George Washington's brothers, Lawrence Washington (who succeeded to the management upon the death of Lee) and Augustine Washington, Jr., as well as Englishmen, including the Duke of Bedford, Virginia Governor Robert Dinwiddie, and John Hanbury[disambiguation needed], a wealthy London merchant. A rival group of land speculators from Virginia, the Loyal Company of Virginia, was organized about the same time, and included influential Virginians such as Thomas Walker and Peter Jefferson (father of Thomas Jefferson).
In 1748, the British Crown approved the Ohio Company's petition for a grant of 200,000 acres (800 km²) near the "forks" of the Ohio River (present Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania). In July 1749, the governor and council of Virginia made the grant on the condition that the company would, within seven years, settle 100 families in the area and erect a fort to protect both them and the British claim on the land. A secondary purpose of this settlement was to establish a regular trade with the local Native Americans, necessary in order to maintain friendly relations. The organizers in 1752 signed a treaty of friendship and permission at Logstown with the main tribes in the region.
French and Indian War 
In 1748-1750 the Ohio Company hired Thomas Cresap who'd opened a trading fort and founded Oldtown, Maryland (now part of Cumberland) on the foot of the eastern climb up the Cumberland Narrows along what was soon to be called the Nemacolin Trail, one of only three mid-mountain-range crossings of the Appalachian Ridge and Valley system outside the Hudson-Great Lakes route, or southern Georgia-Mississippi-Western Tennessee plains route. Cresap was given a contract to blaze a mule trail over the mountains to the Monongahela River, and then to start widening this road into a wagon road. In 1750, the Ohio Company hired Christopher Gist, a skillful woodsman and surveyor, to explore the Ohio Valley in order to identify lands for potential settlement. He surveyed by estimating the Kanawhan Region and the Ohio Valley tributaries beginning in 1750, 1751 and 1753. His journals provide valuable insights of the greater Ohio Valley and the Alleghenies. Gist travelled as far west as the Miami Indian village of Pickawillany (near present Piqua, Ohio). Upon the basis of his report, the Ohio Company settled in an area in Western Pennsylvania and present-day West Virginia; Gist and Cresap both receiving sizable settlements on the west side of the mountains. In 1752 the company had a pathway blazed between the small fortified posts at Wills Creek (Cumberland, Maryland), and Redstone Old Fort (Brownsville, Pennsylvania); Cresap and Nemacolin had established the location in 1750, which overlooked Redstone Creek and the Iroquois' ancient Monongahela River ford.
The Ohio Valley was also claimed by France, however, as it was nominally part of the vast territory of New France. The French feared the British settlements would cut off the links between Quebec and the Mississippi Valley. To forestall British expansion, in 1753 the French began constructing a series of forts in the Ohio Valley. Robert Dinwiddie, governor of Virginia as well as a shareholder of the Ohio Company, responded by sending a military unit under the command of George Washington to the region, which led to the outbreak of the French and Indian War. The war and its sequel, Pontiac's Rebellion, prevented the Ohio Company from fulfilling its obligation to establish settlements.
Grand Ohio Company 
Ultimately, the Ohio Company was merged into the Grand Ohio Company, also known as the Walpole Company or the Vandalia Company, an organization in which Benjamin Franklin was interested. In 1772, the Grand Ohio Company received from the British government a grant of a large tract lying along the southern bank of the Ohio as far west as the mouth of the Scioto River. A colony to be called "Vandalia" was planned. However, the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War interrupted colonization and nothing was accomplished. The company, based in London, ceased operations in 1776. An entirely different "Ohio Company" was organized in 1786, composed largely of New England veterans who had certificates for land from Congress for their services during the Revolution.
- Nathaniel Chapman
- The Records of the Original Proceedings of the Ohio Company (1796, reprinted 2008)
- Abernethy, Thomas Perkins. Western Lands and the American Revolution. New York: Russell & Russell, 1959.
- Bailey, Kenneth P. The Ohio Company of Virginia and the Westward Movement, 1748–1792. Originally published 1939. Reprinted Lewisburg: Wennawoods Publishing, 2000. ISBN 1-889037-25-7.
- Procter, James, Alfred. The Ohio Company: Its Inner History. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1959.
- Randall, Emilius; Ryan, Daniel Joseph (1912). History of Ohio: the Rise and Progress of an American State 1. New York: The Century History Company. p. 211.
- Mulkearn, Lois, ed. George Mercer Papers Relating to the Ohio Company of Virginia. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1954. Collection of many original documents, including Christopher Gist's journal.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Ohio Company". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.