This Week in Pittsburgh History: George Washington Visits the “Burgh for the First of Seven Times”


ON HIS SECOND TRIP: In 1754, Washington helped start the French and Indian War by causing a skirmish with French soldiers. He and his men were then attacked (and many of his soldiers were slaughtered) at the hastily built Fort Necessity in Fayette County.

ON HIS THIRD TRIP: As the war continued, he returned with General Edward Braddock and colonial troops in 1755, bound for Fort Duquesne at the Pointe. His group were surprised and defeated near what is now Braddock Borough at the Battle of Monongahela.

ON HIS FOURTH JOURNEY: Washington was with General John Forbes when British soldiers built a road through Pennsylvania in 1758 to convince the French at Fort Duquesne to leave the city. The outnumbered French fled.

ON HIS FIFTH JOURNEY: He was not just a soldier. Washington was also a farmer and investor, and he owned real estate in the area, including acres near Canonsburg and what is now Perryopolis. In 1770 he stopped at Connellsville, visited Fort Pitt, visited a friend in Etna (then called Pine Creek), and took a canoe trip on the Ohio.

ON HIS SIXTH JOURNEY: In 1784, Washington did research for Virginia Governor Thomas Jefferson, who wanted him to study the feasibility of a canal connecting the Potomac River system to Ohio.

ON HIS SEVENTH JOURNEY: In 1794 Washington – then President – led a force of 12,000 American troops to Bedford, when it deemed it necessary to end the whiskey rebellion. It was the “first and only time that a sitting US president led troops on the ground,” according to historian Joseph Ellis.

But George Washington’s first visit, when he was only 21, is perhaps the most remarkable. He volunteered to do border diplomacy with the French, who were building forts in this part of the world.

ON HIS FIRST TRIP: Washington was a surveyor and diplomatic messenger, first coming to the Forks from Ohio – which he thought was wonderfully appropriate for a fort. After meeting the natives and courageous inhabitants of this wilderness, he and a small group traveled in miserable November weather to the French outpost of Venango and then to Fort LeBoeuf, near Erie. The French were not intimidated by this young colonial major with his message from the British powers.


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