Ohio Country

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The Ohio Country with battles and massacres between 1775 and 1794 Ohio Country en.png
The Ohio Country with battles and massacres between 1775 and 1794

The Ohio Country (sometimes called the Ohio Territory [1] or Ohio Valley by the French) was a name used in the mid- to late 18th century for a region of North America west of the Appalachian Mountains and north of the upper Ohio and Allegheny Rivers extending to Lake Erie. The area encompassed roughly all of present-day states of Ohio, northwestern West Virginia, Western Pennsylvania, and a wedge of southeastern Indiana. [2]


It was disputed in the 17th century by the Iroquois and other Native American tribes. In the early 18th century, it became part of the New France administrative district of Louisiane. France and Great Britain fought the French and Indian War (1753-1763) over it in the mid-18th century, resulting in its cession to the British in the 1763 Treaty of Paris. During the following decades, several minor frontier wars, including Pontiac's Rebellion and Lord Dunmore's War, were fought in the territory. The Ohio Country became part of unorganized U.S. territory in 1783 with the Treaty of Paris. It was one of the first frontier regions of the United States. Several colonial states had conflicting claims to portions of it, including Connecticut, Virginia, New York and Pennsylvania. In 1787, the states' claims were largely extinguished, and it became part of the larger organized Northwest Territory. Most of the former area north and west of the Ohio River became the state of Ohio in 1803.

Colonial era

In the 17th century, the area north of the Ohio River had been occupied by the Algonquian-speaking Shawnee and some Siouan language-speaking tribes. Around 1660, during a conflict known as the Beaver Wars, the Iroquois seized control of the Ohio Country, driving out the Shawnee and Siouans, such as the Omaha and Ponca, who settled further northwest and west. The Iroquois conquered and absorbed the Erie, who also spoke an Iroquoian language. The Ohio Country remained largely uninhabited for decades, and was used primarily as a hunting ground by the Iroquois.[ citation needed ]

In the 1720s, a number of Native American groups began to migrate to the Ohio Country from the East, driven by pressure from encroaching European colonists. By 1724, Delaware Indians had established the village of Kittanning on the Allegheny River in present-day western Pennsylvania. With them came those Shawnee who had historically settled in the east. Other bands of the scattered Shawnee tribe began to return to the Ohio Country in the decades that followed. A number of Seneca and other Iroquois also migrated to the Ohio Country, moving away from the Anglo-French rivalries south of Lake Ontario. The Seneca were the westernmost of the Iroquois nations based in New York.[ citation needed ]

In the late 1740s and the second half of the 18th century, the British and the French angled for control of the territory. [3] In 1749, the Crown, via the government of Virginia, granted the Ohio Company a great deal of this territory on the condition that it be settled by colonists from the Thirteen Colonies. [4]

French and Indian War

With the arrival of the Europe]ans, both Great Britain and France claimed the area and both sent fur traders into the area to do business with the Ohio Country Indians. The Iroquois League claimed the region by right of conquest. The rivalry between the two European nations, the Iroquois, and the Ohio natives for control of the region played an important part in the French and Indian War from 1754 through 1760. After initially remaining neutral, the Ohio Country Indians largely sided with the French. Armed with supplies and guns from the French, they launched raids against their enemies via the Kittanning Path east of the Alleghenies. After they destroyed Fort Granville in the summer of 1756, John Penn ordered John Armstrong to destroy the Shawnee villages west of the Alleghenies in order to put an end to their raiding activities.[ citation needed ]

The British defeated the French in the war via a series of campaigns. Meanwhile, other British forces drove the French from Fort Duquesne and built Fort Pitt, the origin of the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In the Treaty of Paris (1763 Treaty of Paris, France ceded control of the entire Ohio region without consulting its native allies. Colonies such as Pennsylvania and Virginia claimed some of the westward lands by their original charters.[ citation needed ]

In an attempt to improve relations with the Native Americans to encourage trade and avoid conflicts with colonists, George III in his Royal Proclamation of 1763 placed the Ohio Country in what was declared an Indian Reserve, stretching from the Appalachian Mountains west to the Mississippi River and from as far north as Newfoundland to Florida. The British ordered the existing settlers either to leave or obtain special permission to stay and prohibited European colonists from settling west of the Appalachians.[ citation needed ]

American Revolution

The area was officially closed to European settlement by the Royal Proclamation of 1763. The Crown no longer recognized claims that the colonies made on this territory. On June 22, 1774, Parliament passed the Quebec Act; annexing the region into the province of Quebec. Colonists in the Thirteen Colonies considered this one of the Intolerable Acts passed by Parliament, contributing to the American Revolution.[ citation needed ]

Despite the Crown's actions, frontiersmen from the Virginia and Pennsylvania colonies began to cross the Allegheny Mountains and came into conflict with the Shawnee. The Shawnee referred to the settlers as the Long Knives. Because of the threat posed by the colonists, the Shawnee and other nations of the Ohio Country chose to side with the British against the American colonists during the American Revolutionary War.[ citation needed ]

Americans wanted to establish control over the region. In 1778, after victories in the region by the Patriot general George Rogers Clark, the Virginia legislature organized the first American civil government in the region. They called it Illinois County, which encompassed all of the lands lying west of the Ohio River to which Virginia had any claim. The high-water mark of the Native American struggle to retain the region was in 1782: the Ohio Nations and the British met in a council at the Chalawgatha village along the Little Miami River to plan what was the successful rout of the Americans at the Battle of Blue Licks, south of the Ohio River, two weeks later.[ citation needed ]

In 1783, following the Treaty of Paris, Britain ceded their claims in the area to the United States. The government immediately opened it to settlement by American pioneers, considering it unorganized territory. The Ohio Country quickly became one of the most desirable locations for Trans-Appalachian settlements, in particular among veterans of the Revolutionary War.[ citation needed ]

In the Treaty of Fort Stanwix and Treaty of Fort McIntosh the United States fixed boundaries between American territory and tribal lands. The Shawnee and other tribes continued to resist American encroachment into their historic lands. This resistance led to the Northwest Indian War after the Revolutionary War.[ citation needed ]

States' claims

Considered highly desirable, the area was subject to the overlapping and conflicting territorial ambitions of several eastern states:

Incorporation to the Northwest Territory

States' claims were ceded to the United States between 1780 and 1786. In July, 1787, most of Ohio Country, the southern peninsula of what is today the state of Michigan and westward Illinois Country were incorporated as the Northwest Territory. In 1803, most of what was formerly Ohio country north and west of the Ohio River was incorporated as the free state of Ohio.

See also

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The Shawnee are an Algonquian-speaking ethnic group indigenous to North America. In colonial times they were a semi-migratory Native American nation, primarily inhabiting areas of the Ohio Valley, extending from what became Ohio and Kentucky eastward to West Virginia, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Western Maryland; south to Alabama and South Carolina; and westward to Indiana and Illinois.

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Ohio Company

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 and to trade with the Native Americans. 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.

Treaty of Easton

The Treaty of Easton was a colonial agreement in North America signed in October 1758 during the French and Indian War between British colonials and the chiefs of 13 Native American nations, representing tribes of the Iroquois, Lenape (Delaware), and Shawnee. Negotiations over more than a week were concluded on October 26, 1758, at a ceremony held in Easton, Pennsylvania between the British colonial governors of the provinces of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and representatives of 13 Indian nations, including the Iroquois, who sent chiefs of three of their nations to ensure their continued domination of their Ohio Country region; the eastern and western Lenape (Delaware), represented by two chiefs and headmen; Shawnee and others. More than 500 Native Americans attended the outdoor ceremony, after lengthy negotiations to bring peace to the regions of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and the Ohio Country.

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George Croghan was an Irish-born fur trader in the Ohio Country of North America who became a key early figure in the region. In 1746 he was appointed to the Iroquois' Onondaga Council and remained so until he was banished from the frontier in 1777 during the American Revolutionary War. Emigrating from Ireland to Pennsylvania in 1741, he had become an important trader by going to the villages of Native Americans, learning their languages and customs, and working on the frontier where previously mostly French had been trading. During and after King George's War of the 1740s, he helped negotiate new treaties and alliances for the British with Native Americans.

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Susquehannock people, also called the Conestoga by the English, were Iroquoian-speaking Native Americans who lived in areas adjacent to the Susquehanna River and its tributaries ranging from its upper reaches in the southern part of what is now New York, through eastern and central Pennsylvania west of the Poconos and the upper Delaware River, with lands extending beyond the mouth of the Susquehanna in Maryland along the west bank of the Potomac at the north end of the Chesapeake Bay.

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The riverside village of Logstown, near modern-day Baden, Pennsylvania, was a significant Native American settlement in Western Pennsylvania, and the site of the 1752 signing of the treaty of friendship between the Ohio Company and the First Nations occupying the region in the years leading up to the French and Indian War—during which Logstown became nearly depopulated and abandoned. Being an unusually large settlement, and because of its strategic location, Logstown was an important factor of all parties developing the Ohio and tributary rivers.

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Conrad Weiser

Conrad Weiser, born Johann Conrad Weiser, Jr., was a Pennsylvania Dutch (German) pioneer who served as an interpreter and diplomat between the Pennsylvania Colony and Native American nations. Primarily a farmer, he also worked as a tanner, and later served as a soldier and judge. He lived part of the time for six years at Ephrata Cloister, a Protestant monastic community in Lancaster County.

Six Nations land cessions

The Six Nations land cessions were a series of land cessions by the Iroquois "Six Nations" and Delaware Indians in the late 17th and 18th centuries in which the natives ceded nearly all of their vast conquered lands as well as ancestral land within and adjacent to the northern British colonies of North America. The land cessions covered most or all of the modern states of New York, Pennsylvania, western Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia, Kentucky, northeastern Ohio and extended marginally into northern Tennessee and North Carolina. The lands were bordered to the west by the Algonquin tribal lands of Ohio Country, Cherokee lands to the south, and Creek and other southeastern tribal lands to the southeast.

Forbes Expedition

The Forbes Expedition was a British military expedition led by Brigadier-General John Forbes in 1758, during the French and Indian War.


Teedyuscung was known as King of the Delawares. He worked to establish a permanent Lenape (Delaware) home in eastern Pennsylvania in the Lehigh, Susquehanna and Delaware River valleys. Teedyuscung participated in the Treaty of Easton which resulted in the surrender of Lenape claims to all lands in Pennsylvania. Following the treaty, the Lenape were forced to live under the control of the Iroquois in the Wyoming Valley near modern-day Wilkes-Barre. Teedyuscung was murdered by arsonists on April 19, 1763 as he reportedly lay asleep as his cabin burned around him. This marked the beginning of the end of the Lenape presence in Pennsylvania. Teedyuscung's son Chief Bull conducted a raid on the Wyoming Valley that was part of a greater Indian uprising that resulted in the Lenape being forced to move west of the Appalachian Mountains by the Royal Proclamation of 1763.


  1. A misnomer since it was never an organized territory of the United States or of any other nation
  2. Some sources also include a small wedge of western Maryland's panhandle into the Appalachians in the description.
  3. MacCorkle, William Alexander. "The historical and other relations of Pittsburgh and the Virginias". Historic Pittsburgh General Text Collection. University of Pittsburgh. Retrieved 16 September 2013.
  4. "Addresses delivered at the celebration of the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the Battle of Bushy Run, August 5th and 6th, 1913". Historic Pittsburgh General Text Collection. University of Pittsburgh. Retrieved 16 September 2013.

Coordinates: 40°30′N82°30′W / 40.5°N 82.5°W / 40.5; -82.5