Clark County, Ohio

History and Genealogy



The First White Men


From The History of Clark County, Ohio
Chicago: W.H. Beers & Co., 1881 - Page 253


About the middle of the eighteenth century, the French Government claimed and held the whole extent of country west of the Alleghany Mountains, from the far north to the Gulf of Mexico on the south, excepting the territory of the Spanish dominion on the extreme southwest.

This vast stretch of empire was penetrated by their bands of armed adventurers over the watery highways of the St. Lawrence, and the great lakes on the northeast, and through the Mississippi River on the south.

At various points, far distant from each other were "posts" or military establishments, with the "ancient and honorable (?) post trader, as a necessary adjunct in each case.

There is a tradition that there used to be a "trader's" station somewhere near the "forks of Mad River," and that the Indians settled in a little community around it. Just where this store was located (if it ever existed), is now unknown, as its history is nothing more than the rumor of a tradition that used to be common among the Indians.

"The 'Ohio Company' which had been formed in 1748, now dispatched (1753), Christopher Gist as an agent to explore the country and make a report of the result of his discoveries. As a pretext for this dangerous enterprise, he went in the capacity of a trader whose ostensible object was to carry on a friendly traffic with the Indians, but in fact to gain over their good will to the English, by presents of arms and trinkets, whereby an alliance might be secured in case of a collision between the English and French colonies."*

From this it will be seen that Gist was nothing more or less than a spy, and as such he explored the country north and west of the Ohio, and found various posts occupied by the French and Indians. Gist's account of this journey, with his report to the Ohio Company, was printed soon after his return, and is one of the earliest records of the state of affairs then existing; this work is now very rare and valuable, only three or four copies of it being known to be in existence in this country; from the language of the writer, it is inferred that he was the first man who explored those portions of the valleys of Mad River and Buck Creek, which are in this county. †

Imlay's America is the title of a book published in the latter part of the eighteenth century, by an officer of the old Continental army, and extensively circulated as standard literature; from this work the following is taken: "Mr. Gist in his explorations in 1753, visited this French fort, a mere trading-post with a stockade. By him the stream was called Mad Creek, and now it is called Mad River." From these accounts, together with many plausible traditions, it may be fairly concluded that one of the early French trading-posts was located within the present limits of this county.

Some of the accounts of Old Piqua mention a trader's store, and many of the relics found in a certain corner of the Indian town are of such a character as to indicate the existence of an establishment of that kind.

From about 1770 to the time of Gen. Clark's expedition, and for many years after this territory was a sort of middle ground between the British lines on the lakes, and the settlements of Kentucky.

That these lands were explored by parties of land-hunters in the interests of Judge Symmes, and those associated with him, and by other bands of prospectors, it is well known, in fact the territory was open for the inspection of any straggling individuals or parties of adventurers who were willing to take the chances of loosing [sic] their scalps for the sake of securing a home and good farm.


* History of Mississippi Valley
† James Smith was the first white man to pass through the valley, accompanying a party of Indians. The journey occurred in 1760, and Smith saw elk and buffalo." From an old account, this was Col. James Smith, who was captured by the Indians in 1755, and lived with them many years. The statement that he was first is no doubt erroneous.














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