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George Croghan

George Croghan came to the new county as part of the 'second wave' of Euro~American settlers, but he was never actually a resident of the county. George Croghan was perhaps the first land speculator from the East (i.e. Philadelphia) to sense that Bedford County would become a choice destination for other settlers. He, like Charles Cox, William Trent, the Reverend Dr. William Smith, Israel Pemberton and others who came after him, purchased extensive tracts of land in the frontier regions of the state. These land speculators made great profit by then selling smaller portions of those large tracts to families who wanted to actually reside on the land. In one way, the casual observer might abhor these land entrepreneurs for engaging in underhanded deals, buying land cheaply then dividing it up and selling it more expensively just to make a profit. But, in another way it can be observed that the land speculators, such as George Croghan, were in fact often praised by the people to whom they sold small tracts of land. They saved those secondary purchasers the hardship of having to go through the hassles of obtaining a warrant for a tract of land, having it surveyed and then patented. George Croghan, and his fellow land speculators of the 1700s, thusly served as the 'middleman' between the settlers and the provincial government.

The introduction to George Croghan as an entrepreneurial land speculator is not intended to imply that that was the entire substance of his life. George Croghan made a living as a fur trader, and through his rapport and connections with various of the Amerindian tribes in the frontier, he later served as a diplomat to those tribes for the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly. He formed a trading partnership with William Trent Jr., the son of the founder of Trenton, New Jersey (who, it is possible, financed the partners' initial trading concerns). Croghan made his home between 1745 and 1751 along the Conedogwinet Creek in present-day Cumberland County. He also obtained tracts of land near Lake Otsego, in the province of New York, and in the Ohio Valley in the vicinity of present-day Pittsburgh, where he established homesteads.

Prior to the French and Indian War, George Croghan established a trading post along the Aughwick Creek near the present-day village of Shirleysburg, Huntingdon County. In September 1755, about two hundred Iroquois warriors, who had supported Colonel George Washington's army during his disastrous defeat at Fort Necessity, fled eastward and congregated at Croghan's trading post on the Aughwick. For their safety Croghan had the post fortified. The Half-King and Queen Aliquippa were part of the group that sought refuge at Croghan's post, and it was while there that the two became ill and died. The incident was the start of Fort Shirley. The trading post cum fort in the Cumberland County frontier was strengthened by a division of Colonel John Armstrong's provincial army led by Captain Hugh Mercer. It was Mercer who named the fortification: Fort Shirley. Colonel Armstrong, in 1756, utilized Fort Shirley as his advance outpost in his campaign against the Amerindian village at Kittanning.

After the fortification of his post on the Aughwick Creek, Croghan headed north into the province of New York. He found employment assisting Sir William Johnson as the Deputy Superintendent of Indian Affairs ~ a position he would hold for fifteen years. Prior to 1768, through his dealings with the Amerindians in western New York and Pennsylvania, George Croghan came into possession, by grants and purchases from those Amerindians, roughly three million acres: 127,000 acres in New York, 2,500,000 acres in the Ohio River Valley and 200,000 acres on the Pennsylvania frontier. The Pennsylvania provincial authorities gained the lands encompassing the southwest corner of the present-day state in November 1768 as part of the Treaty of Fort Stanwix (aka the New Purchase). Although the Treaty called for the province to compensate Croghan for any lands it confiscated from him with lands elsewhere, that stipulation was not honored.