Virginia Lt. Governor Robert Dinwiddie was concerned about the French and their movements along the Ohio Valley. Because of that, he sent a young Major George Washington to deliver a message, demanding that they leave the region and stop their intimidation of English traders. Accompanying him were Jacob Van Braam (a friend who was fluent in French) and Christopher Gist (a trader who was familiar with the Ohio Valley region). They left Virginia in the autumn of 1753 and traversed the rivera to areas of Appalachia. He met with Cpt Jacques Legardeur de Saint-Perre at Fort LeBoeuf. The Captain responded by letting it be known the Ohio Valley was undeniably the claim of France. Washington’s trip to and from the Appalachian region took a few months in which he traveled close to nine hundred miles.
The Ohio Company was founded in 1749 and had ties to Dinwiddie, Washington and other prominent members of society. It was created to develop the Ohio Valley. The original grants included 200,000 acres in the Kanawha and Monongahela River areas. The French’s claim to the area was an economic threat, to say the least.
After his trip in 1753, Washington took pen to paper to write a detailed account of the journey. Dinwiddie helped him publish the account. This publication was sent not only to Americans but also to British and it detailed the French force’s encroachment upon the Ohio Valley. The publication was a huge success and George Washington became somewhat of a household name because of it.
You can read more about the Journal: HERE.
In the Spring of 1754, George Washington was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. He was also given a mission to return to Ohio, with a command of 160 militia, and to demand the exit of the French from the area. They met a troop of 35 French soldiers. During the skirmish, 13 of those soldiers were killed and the other 21 were captured. Washington would later write: “I fortunately escaped without any wound, for the right wing, where I stood, was exposed to and received all the enemy’s fire, and it was the part where the man was killed, and the rest wounded. I heard the bullets whistle, and, believe me there is something charming in the sound.”
In response, a force of 600 French soldiers and 100 Native allies marched from Fort Duquesne to meet Washington at Great Meadow. Eventually, Washington would surrender. The Battle of Great Meadows proved to be the only time that Washington surrendered to an enemy in battle.
In 1770, Washington made another journey to the Ohio River Valley, this time to look after military grants awarded by proclamation in 1754 to the officers and soldiers who served in the French and Indian War. The survey contained 52,302 acres or eighty square miles and was subdivided as follows: 9876 acres, including the present side of Point Pleasant, to Andrew Lewis, 5000 acres for George Muse, 5000 acres for Peter Hogg, 8000 acres for Andrew Stephens, another 3000 acres for Peter Hogg, another 5026 acres for George Muse, 3400 acres for Andrew Waggener, 6000 acres for John Poulson, 6000 acres for John West. On the lower side of the Kanawha River, 13,532 acres for Hugh Mercer and 10,990 acres for George Washington
According to some traditions, Washington named Point Pleasant on this trip when he called it a “pleasant point”. However, according to most history books, the city was named after Camp Point Pleasant, established there by General Andrew Lewis at the time of his battle with the Native Peoples in 1774. Its name was likely given because of the beautiful confluence of the Ohio and Kanawha rivers.
I had seen the name Vandalia several times over the course of my life in West Virginia. but I never knew the origins. Upon seeing the word again on a map in one of the murals, I thought I would look it up to know more.
Below are excerpts from a post on the WVU website.
“Vandalia,” it is true, exists as a town in seven states; but it was in present-day West Virginia that the name and the vision it represented were to become the most familiar. It almost became the 14th British colony, and it would have been a big one. It would have been the only colony without a seacoast, and it would have been based on vast acres of timber, water resources and plentiful wild game; it has been described as the biggest real estate venture in American history.
Despite opposition from such diverse and powerful individuals as Virginia’s Governor Dunmore and Col. George Washington (who had their own land-grant dreams), and an unlikely coalition within the House of Commons in London, the Vandalia scheme came within a few days or weeks of success, only to fail because of an event 600 miles away which can only be described as unpredicted and unpredictable.
Trappers and hunters on the frontier had been periodically raided and robbed of their cabins and furs by the French and Indians during the seven-year struggle that ended with peace in 1763, and they petitioned for redress first in the form of money, later in the form of grant. They organized themselves into companies or groups that today would be called developers or speculators – and not necessarily in the best sense of the word. They hired lawyers in Philadelphia to carry their cause to the Crown. And they had powerful backing with which to counter Dunmore, Washington and others. They had Benjamin Franklin and his son, William, later royal governor of New Jersey; they had distinguished Wharton family of Philadelphia; Sir William Johnson, superintendent of Indian affairs for the King in the northern colonies; the influential Walpoles of London; and equally powerful coalitions within the House of Commons, the House of Lords, Virginia’s House of Burgesses, and the King’s circle of advisors. (The adage that “politics make strange bedfellows” did not originate with the Vandalia proposal, but it certainly applied.)
The grant they first sought would have been called Indiana; a section later added was known as the Walpole Purchase; and at all stages of the scheme – which lasted from the mid-1760’s until 1773 – from one-third to two-thirds of what is now West Virginia would have been included.
In its final form Vandalia would have begun at Pittsburgh, come down the Monongahela to the Mason-Dixon Line, then east along the northern border of Monongalia and Preston counties to the crest of Allegheny Mountain, which it would have followed generally southwest through the Lewisburg sector into the Cumberland Gap country of eastern Tennessee, then west of the Kentucky River, down that stream to the Ohio, and finally back up the Beautiful River to Pittsburgh.
The petitioners had come to recognize the strong influence of Queen Charlotte on her husband, George III, and knew that she was deeply interested in her genealogy, and that she proudly traced her blood lines back to those colorful rascals, the Vandals. So they discarded the Indian label, named their proposed colony Vandalia to flatter the Queen, and gained a powerful ally. Vandalia it would be, and the capital would be Point Pleasant. Step by step, the petition was approved at every governmental level. It had cleared the desk of the top legal authorities, and was prepared for the King’s approval.
But in one of history’s classic examples of poor timing (at least from our viewpoint) Sam Adams had his lads – most of them rough-and-ready member of the Sons of Liberty – chose this particular moment to dress themselves as Indians, and show their disdain for the tax on tea – and for the British colonial policy in general – by boarding a ship in Boston Harbor and dumping its cargo of tea overboard. News of the deed reached London just about the time the now fully approved Vandalia Charter was probably on its way to the King for his signature. But the monarch by now had had more than enough of the colonists’ rebellious attitudes and actions. He certainly was not about to cooperate with any more of their requests, and surely was not going to grant another colonial charter. The rest is history.
Efforts to perpetuate the name – and the geographic entity – persisted until after the United States was formed. The scheme died in 1773, but the dream did not; and when statehood was granted 90 years later, there were those who would have preferred “Vandalia” to “West Virginia” as the name of the 35th state.