Page images

rivers of the country, - the St. Lawrence and the Mississippi. To clinch their hold they built fort after fort, until by this date they had a line of sixty, extending from Quebec to the Great Lakes, and thence down the Illinois and the Mississippi to the Gulf. Where many of those and succeeding forts stood, flourishing cities have since risen which still keep the old French or Indian names of Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis, Natchez, New Orleans. That shows the forethought of the French explorers. When they selected a spot to fortify, they seem to have thought not only of its military strength, but also of the possibilities of its growth as a centre of business and commerce.

138. The Ohio Company; Governor Dinwiddie's Messenger. - But at last, after all the important points had passed into the hands of the French, the English began to open their eyes to the danger which threatened them. They saw that unless they bestirred themselves, and moved into the rich territory west of the Alleghanies, they would lose the heart of the continent. To prevent such a disaster a wealthy London merchant, with certain influential Virginians, organized the Ohio Company for planting a colony of emigrants on the east bank of the upper Ohio. The French at once resolved to stop the movement, and began a new line of forts, extending southward from Erie on Lake Erie to the point where the Alleghany and the Monongahela rivers unite to form the Ohio. That point at the head of inland navigation was with good reason called the “Gateway of the West." Both parties knew its importance; both meant to seize and fortify it.

Meanwhile Governor Dinwiddie of Virginia determined to send

1 See Map, page 126.

2 There were two forts named St. Louis; that marking the site of the modern city of St. Louis was built by French emigrants after the war (1764), on territory then belonging to Spain.

3 The Ohio Company, whose chief manager, Lawrence Washington, died in the summer of 1752, received a grant of 500,000 acres on the east bank of the Ohio, between the Great Kanawha and the Monongahela rivers. The region is now embraced by West Virginia and Southwest Pennsylvania.



à messenger to Venango, one of the new line of French forts, - and warn off those whom he considered intruders. Whoever undertook such a journey must travel at least three hundred miles on foot, climb a succession of mountain ranges, cross rivers, as best he could, and risk his life among hostile Indians.

The governor, after due deliberation, finally decided to entrust this difficult and dangerous work to the brother of the late chief manager of the Ohio Company, a young man of twenty-one, who was a skilful surveyor, knew all about life in the wilderness, and did not know what fear meant. The name of that young man may still be read on a lofty limestone cliff in Virginia, where, when a lad, he climbed up higher than any of his companions dared, and cut it with his hunting-knife, — GEORGE WASHINGTON.

139. Results of Washington's Journey. - Washington performed the journey (1753), but the French commander sent back an unsatisfactory reply to the governor. The expedition had, however, two important results. In the first place, it may be said to have made Washington "a Western man,” for the journey seems to have impressed him with the immense value and future growth of that region. In time he came to hold more lands there than any one else in the country; and throughout his life he used his influence in every way to build roads and canals to open up and settle the West, or what was then known by that name. In the second place, the answer which Washington brought made it

i The English maintained that they had purchased the Ohio Valley region of the Iroquois Indians, who declared that they had conquered it many years before. There is no evidence that the Iroquois had any right to sell the land.

2 At Natural Bridge, in the mountains of Western Virginia. The walls rise over two hundred feet, and it is exceedingly difficult and dangerous to climb them.

3 George Washington was born at Bridges Creek, Virginia, on the Potomac, about fifty miles south of where Washington now stands. His father, soon after the birth of George, removed to an estate on the Rappahannock opposite Fredericksburg. Nothing remains of the old homestead at Bridges Creek; but a stone slab marks the site of the house, and bears this inscription: "Here, the 11th of February, 1732, George Washington was born.” Difference of reckoning now makes the Iith the 22d. Washington's great-grandfather, John Washington, emigrated from England to Virginia about 1657. It is generally thought that he belonged to one of the old Cavalier families that fought in behalf of Charles I. during the English Civil War. George Washington received a fair English education, but nothing more. He excelled in athletic sports and horsemanship, and was fond of life in the woods. He became a skilful surveyor, and found the work highly profitable. By the death of Lawrence Washington, an elder brother, George came eventually into possession of the estate at Mount Vernon, on the Potomac, a short distance below the present city of Washington. Washington's mission to the French commander at Venango first brought him into public notice. In 1759 he married Mrs. Martha Custis, a wealthy widow. From this time until his death, in 1799, he will stand prominent in this history. For a full account of Washington, see Washington and His Country," Ginn & Co.

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

evident that if the Ohio Company was to hold its own, it must do so by force. The Company accordingly began a fort at the

Gateway of the West”; but before they could complete it, the French drove them out, finished building it, and named it Fort Duquesnel in honor of the French governor of Canada. Washington then began a small fort, which he called Fort Necessity, about forty miles south of Fort Duquesne ; but the French came in overwhelming force, and compelled him to surrender it.

1 Duquesne (Du-kane').

[graphic][subsumed][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]
« EelmineJätka »