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By Jacklyn Valenta Member, Library Staff Community College of Beaver County
The first documented hero from the Beaver Valley area was the Indian Chief Monacatootha.
The first recorded mention of Monacatootha was in George Washington's journal of his trip to the Ohio Valley in 1753.
Washington was sent by Governor Dinwiddie to survey the land, deliver a message to the French authorities who occupied the area, and make friendly overtures to the Indians of the Ohio Valley.
The English wanted to rid the area of the French and to succeed, they needed the Indians' support.
George Washington met Monacatootha when he traveled to Logstown. The approximate location of Logstown is the area along the Ohio River known today as Legionville. The Iroquois Confederacy appointed Monacatootha and Tanacharison (also called Half King) to share leadership of the Indian Village of Logstown. Monacatootha supervised the Shawnees while Half King was leader of the Delawares.
From Logstown, Washington journeyed north to meet with the French Commander who informed Washington that no Englishman had a right to trade upon the waters of the Ohio and that anyone who attempted would be taken prisoner.
Fearing for the lives of the men working for the Ohio Company who were sent to build an English fort at the Forks of the Ohio, Governor Dinwiddie sent Washington and a small army of the Virginia militia back to the area.
The Indians who sided with the English nervously awaited Washington's return. In the meantime, the French traveled from Venango with over a thousand men and forced the men of the Ohio Company to withdraw and leave the area. After displaying such strength, they then demanded the Indians to support them. The French threatened to destroy them if they didn't.
The Indians seeing that the French showed more strength than the English, quickly withdrew their support and sided with the French.
Monacatootha, a man of principle, showed his steadfast support of Washington in a dramatic way. He sent a message to Washington stating that he was burning his village and bringing his people by canoes to join Washington's army. The only purpose of burning his village was to make a clear statement to all the Indians of the area that he would not change his mind and there would be no turning back.
With little support, Washington prepared himself for battle and hastily built Fort Necessity. He was ill prepared and forced to surrender to the French. A defeated Washington returned to Virginia with his troops. Monacatootha and the other Indians who supported Washington retreated to a place called Augwick. Unlike Washington, they could not go home. Their home was part of the French occupied territory and they were considered enemies of the French.
Monacatootha did not waste time licking his wounds after the defeat at Fort Necessity. He was soon on the move traveling to Onondaga (New York) to protest the fraudulent Wyoming Purchase. Indians had been fed alcohol and then told to sign some papers. They did not know they were selling their highly valued Wyoming Valley. The Onondaga Council let it be known that it would not allow any white people to settle there. Years later, two massacres did occur there when settlers tried to settle the land.
In 1755, General Braddock arrived from England prepared to do what the Virginia Militia was unable to do. The Indians who supported the British at Fort Necessity came again to aid the British in defeating the French.
General Braddock did not appreciate their friendly overtures. To him, they were savages and it angered him to see his troops fraternizing with the Indian maidens. Washington failed to convince Braddock that fighting the French here was completely different than fighting them in Europe and that he needed the Indian fighters.
Braddock sent all of the Indians away except for seven warriors.
A British officer kept ajournal of this military excursion which was later published. Through his writings, much is learned about the heroic Indian Monacatootha.
In his entry for June 18, 1755, he writes:
"Monacatootha, as chief of our Indians, being on the advance the day before, was met by 70 Indians and some French who bound him and were going to kill him. An Indian of his own Nation being among them entreated that he might have his liberty which after some difficulty was granted."
According to the journal, as each day passed, the soldiers started to become jittery and feared every noise and movement. To them, the terrain was like a jungle.
In his entry for July 6th, he writes about an incident where in confusion, the soldiers opened fire on their own returning Indians. He states:
"Unluckily one of them was shot by our own people. It was Monacatootha son who had brought in the scalp that same morning. When we halted, we had him buried with all the decency in our power. Old Monacatootha, his father, who is really a good man, was hardly able to support his loss. He said had his son been killed by the French it would have been trffling but what he regretted most was his being killed by our own people."
Braddock, who refused to listen to any of Monacatootha's suggestions, met with disaster and consequently was killed.
Months after Broaddock's defeat, Monacatootha made a dangerous journey into the Delaware country. He reported to the Pennsylvania Assembly on the widespread hostility and as a result, they declared war on the Delawares.
Monacatootha died in 1757. At the time, he was living in Lancaster, still unable to return to his home along the Ohio River.
Monacatootha was more than an Indian Chief. He was a fearless warrior who contributed much during the French and Indian War. He was respected by many, including George Washington.