The Colonial Period: The English and the French

Anyone who has read the history of Europe during the 18th century knows that the French and English were not the greatest of friends.  There was the War of the Spanish Succession from 1702 to 1713, the War of the Austrian Succession from 1740 to 1748 (called King George's War in North America) and the French and Indian War in North America from 1754 to 1763.

The stronghold of the French was in Canada, while that of the British was New England and points South and West to the great barrier of the Allegheny Mountain.  Both the French and the English coveted the fertile lands, streams and rivers west of the mountains, particularly the forks of the Ohio River (present day Pittsburgh), which was a gateway to the Ohio Country and to the port of New Orleans.  Both nations laid claims to this country, but the French were first to occupy it because of their early trading with the Indians and since they could access it by boat from the north via Lake Erie.  They could portage their boats to French Creek and make an easy float down the Allegheny River.  The British had to trek over the mountains through hostile Indian territory to reach the Ohio Country.  The Indians generally favored the French because of their history of trading.

By the early 1750's only a few white men had traveled that far west.  There were Indian traders like Christopher Gist, Edmond Cartledge, Alexander McKee, and Peter Chartier.  Late in 1753 Lieutenant Governor Robert Dinwiddie of Virginia sent an eight man expedition headed by 21 year-old George Washington and guided by Christopher Gist to the forks of the Ohio to order the French to leave.  Although cordial with Washington, the French rejected his ultimatum.  Upon returning to Virginia, Dinwiddie sent Washington back with a force of Virginia militia to build a road to the forks .  Upon learning that the French had already built a fort at the forks, called Fort Duquesne, Washington built a small stockade by the Youghiogheny River, which he called Fort Necessity, to defend his force.   After the so-called Battle of Jumonville Glen, Washington was forced to surrender Fort Necessity.  This event has been considered the beginning of the French and Indian War.

The British crown was by then determined to eject the French from what it considered to be British territory at the forks of the Ohio River.  In the Spring of 1755, General Edward Braddock was sent from England with two regiments of British regulars to do the job.  His force advanced from Virginia, via Fort Cumberland, Maryland, building a military road along the old Nemacolin Indian path as far as the junction of the Monongahela and Youghiogheny rivers, only 10 miles from Fort Duquesne.  There his army suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of a mixed force of French and Indians.  General Braddock was fatally wounded and was buried four days later by his aide-de-camp, George Washington.  More can be learned about this British defeat at this website.                    

Emboldened by the British defeat and spurred on by the French, the Indians launched a reign of terror throughout Pennsylvania, including the area now known as Folmont.  They ravaged white settlements in the Shawnee Valley and points far East and South. 

TO BE CONTINUED...