Colonel George Croghan: Diplomat and Intercultural Advisor

The Trader – Robert Griffing

            George Croghan was a fur-trader who moved to the Pennsylvania colony in 1741 leaving his home in Ireland. Croghan’s ability to navigate the Pennsylvania woods and make significant inroads to the Ohio Country made him a useful tool of relations for the Pennsylvania Colonial Government, and the British Government. Croghan used tools that he saw used by the French fur traders to establish his own fur trading posts in the Appalachian Mountains and in the Ohio Country. George Croghan learned Mohawk, Onondaga, and Lenni Lenape languages and was made an Onondaga Council Sachem.  Croghan became an Indian Agent for the British Government, working with other notable Indian agents including Sir William Johnson, Christopher Gist, and Captain William Trent.

            In 1742, Croghan began his life as a trader working for Edward Shippen, a well-known Pennsylvania businessman and land speculator who was well known throughout the Pennsylvania colony. Shippen entrusted Croghan to move trade goods from Lancaster to a fur trader named Peter Tustee employed by Shippen who lived along the Allegheny River. Croghan would then transport furs and deer skins back to Lancaster for shipment to England. Croghan would begin to invest the money he earned into purchasing trade goods creating his own trading ventures into the Ohio country, trading with the Seneca along the Cuyahoga River near Lake Erie.[1] Croghan was dealing in trade goods in areas claimed by the French for their trade, the Iroquois Confederacy had agreed to only trade with the French, so long as the French could keep their hunters and villages with trade goods. The Seneca, along the Cuyahoga, would continue their trade with Croghan, since there was nothing stated in the agreement with the French that would restrict them from trading with English traders.[2] Croghan’s inroads with the Seneca in the Ohio Country helped him to establish a good trade relationship among the Seneca and other Iroquois groups.

Major Croghan – University of Southern Florida

Croghan would continue his trade with the Seneca after war broke out between England and France in 1744. That year, the French who had agreements with the Ottawa at Fort Detroit, sent a war party of Ottawa Natives to pillage, and capture British traders in the Ohio Country near Lake Erie[3]. The attacks by the Ottawa, never materialized, and Croghan took advantage of the void of trade goods in the region. While Croghan worked with the Seneca at Cuyahoga, he began to learn and master the languages of the Iroquois, which then helped him to expand his ability to work with more Native groups in the region. In April of 1745, the French sent a French Trader and a Native ally to the village to capture Croghan, the Seneca protected Croghan and sent his enemies away empty-handed.[4] Croghan arrived back at Tustee’s post to find that all of his goods that were stored there had been taken by Shawnee who had been encouraged by the French to do so.

Upon Croghan’s return to Philadelphia, he met with Shippen and other representatives from the Pennsylvania Colony, reporting the French encroachment into the region and this new pact with the Shawnee. The Pennsylvania Government sent Croghan back to the Ohio Country with gifts for the Shawnee who had been friends of the British to help sway them to remain on the British side.[5] This was the colony’s first attempt at negotiation with the Shawnee and they entrusted Croghan to carry out this negotiation. Croghan’s work secured a neutrality with the Shawnee.

Croghan had established himself as a capable go-between for the colonial governments. He established a new trading post near the Forks of the Ohio (present day Pittsburgh). Croghan regularly visited the Native village at Logstown. Logstown was a village along the Ohio River that had been established by the Shawnee, it however had a shared Native population of Shawnee and Seneca. “On August 2, 1749, the three most important Iroquois chiefs’ resident in that area, in return for an immense quantity of Indian goods, confirmed him in the title of 200,000 acres in the vicinity of the Forks of the Ohio”[6] Further negotiations would establish the permissions of Native leaders to establish a British military fort at the Forks of the Ohio. This fort construction would not begin until 1754 and was built by the Ohio Company, established by Christopher Gist, William Trent would lead he construction at the site beginning in January of 1754.

After the Seven Years War began, Croghan’s fur trade business would collapse, in 1756, Croghan took on a commission as Deputy to Sir William Johnson as Deputy Superintendent of Indian Affairs for the British Government. Johnson recognized the work that Croghan had done as a trader to establish relations with Native groups in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and the Ohio Country and felt that using his established contacts would further help the British fight the French and gain allies with more Native groups. Croghan would remain in this position throughout the war, and his relations in the Ohio Country would be put to the test when a rebellion among Native groups began at Fort Detroit led by Pontiac, an Ottawa leader.

In 1765, George Croghan wrote a letter to Benjamin Franklin discussing Pontiac’s Uprising. Croghan wrote, “I returned from England last winter, when I found the General not a little distressed—In that, all his endeavours had hitherto failed, with respect to gaining the Ilinois. I therefore thought it the Duty of my Department, to propose to him that I would use my best endeavours with the Natives (with whom I had been long acquainted and flatterd myself, had some influence) to obtain their consent to His Majesty’s Troops, peaceably, possessing that Country.”[7] Croghan actively worked to end the uprising, working with his established contacts to bring an end to hostilities. His work would continue after the uprising had ended to establish a lasting peace, and negotiate agreements between native groups and the British governments.

Bibliography:

Croghan, George. “Founders Online: To Benjamin Franklin from George Croghan, 12 December 1765.” National Archives and Records Administration. National Archives and Records Administration, 2002. https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Franklin/01-12-02-0197.

Wainwright, Nicholas. “Hockley, Trent, and Croghan.” Essay. In George Croghan: Wilderness Diplomat, 22–46. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, 1959.

Wainwright, Nicholas. “George Croghan and the Indian Uprising of 1747.” Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies 21, no. 1 (January 1954): 21–32.


[1] Wainwright, Nicholas, “George Croghan and the Indian Uprising of 1747,” Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies 21, no. 1 (January 1954): pp. 21-32. Page 23.

[2] Wainwright. Page 23

[3] Wainwright. Page 24

[4] Wainwright. Page 26

[5] Wainwright. Page 26

[6] Wainwright, Nicholas. “Hockley, Trent, and Croghan.” Essay. In George Croghan: Wilderness Diplomat, 22–46. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, 1959. Page 28

[7] George Croghan, “Founders Online: To Benjamin Franklin from George Croghan, 12 December 1765,” National Archives and Records Administration (National Archives and Records Administration, 2002), https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Franklin/01-12-02-0197.

Author:

Greetings! I am Shawn MacIntyre, and I grew up with a love of history. When most kids were watching cartoons I was watching documentaries. After a long career in public safety, I chose to return to college to seek a new career path bringing history to the public. In April 2019. I graduated from Point Park University with a Bachelor's Degree in History, Magna Cum Laude. My new path is to make learning history fun, exciting and accessible to everyone. I invite you to join me on my journeys to historic destinations, learn interesting facts about the past, and spark a love for history!

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