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Early French benchmarks

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I was reading this article in the January 2012 issue of "Lost Treasure" magazine. My first reaction was these plates weren't treasure, but benchmarks and witness posts. :o Anyhow, I thought my friends here may like the history of this, in case you haven't heard of it. Also let me know if you consider them benchmarks and witness posts too? Wouldn't it be nice to actually find one of these?

 

From 1743 to 1748, Britain and France fought King George's War. During this war, England blockaded New France, breaking down the French fur trade. The British became the major trading partners with Native Americans in the Ohio valley.

 

France claimed the Ohio Valley (and indeed the entire Mississippi basin) on the basis of the explorations made by La Salle in 1669 and 1682. Great Britain claimed the Ohio Valley on the basis of purchases from Native Americans in 1744. In fact, both the colonies of Virginia and Pennsylvania had claims on the Ohio valley, although in the 1740s and 1750s, Virginia was more active in pressing her claim.

 

In 1748, Comte de la Galissoniere, the governor of Canada, ordered Captain Joseph Pierre Bienville de Celoron (1693-1759) to strengthen the French claim on the Ohio Valley. Céloron carried out this mission in the summer of 1749 by means of an expedition through the contested territory. He set out from Montreal on June 15, 1749, in a flotilla consisting of large boats and canoes. The expedition included 216 French and Canadians and 55 Native Americans. On the shore of Lake Erie, at the mouth of Chautauqua Creek in present-day Westfield, New York, the expedition cut a road over the French Portage Road, and carried their boats and equipment overland to Chautauqua Lake, then followed the Chadakoin River and Conewango Creek to the Allegheny River, reaching it on July 29, 1749.

 

As it progressed, the expedition sought to strengthen France's claim to the territory by marking it at the mouths of several principal tributaries. At each point, a tin or copper plate bearing the French royal arms was nailed to a tree. Below, an inscribed leaden plate was buried, declaring the claims of France. This was a traditional European mode of marking territory, but it might have contributed to Native American anxieties about the intentions of the French, and thus ultimately had a counterproductive effect. When Céloron arrived at Logstown, in present day western Pennsylvania, he discovered some English traders there. Incensed, he evicted the traders and wrote a scolding note to the governor of Pennsylvania. He then hectored the Native Americans about French dominance of the region. This overbearing behavior offended the Iroquois in his party, some of whom returned to their homeland in present-day New York, tearing down copper plates as they went.

 

The party then preceded past the current site of Pittsburgh, and down the Ohio River. A plate was buried at the mouth of the Muskingum River on August 16, 1749 and the mouth of the Kanawha River on August 18, 1749.

 

In Lower Shawneetown at the Scioto River's mouth, he again encountered English traders. Céloron demanded that the English leave, but most refused.

 

Five months after the expedition began, it returned to Montreal, arriving November 10, 1749. Céloron's journal is archived at Archives of the Department de la Marine, Paris, France (Galbreath, 12).

 

In total, Céloron buried at least six lead plates. One was stolen by curious Indians almost immediately, possibly before it was even buried, and placed in British hands. Two more were found in the early 19th Century. Measuring about eleven inches long and seven and one-half inches wide, each lead plate was marked with an inscription as follows (Galbreath, 110-111):

 

L'AN 1749 DV REGNE DE LOVIS XV ROY DE

 

FRANCE, NOVS Céloron, COMMANDANT D'VN DETACHEMENT

 

ENVOIE PAR MONSIEVR LE MIS. DE LA

 

GALISSONIERE, COMMANDANT GENERAL DE LA

 

NOUVELLE FRANCE POVR RETABLIR LA TRAN

 

QUILLITE DANS QUELQUES VILLAGES SAUVAGES

 

DE CES CANTONS, AVONS ENTERRE CETTE PLAQUE

 

AU CONFLUENT DE L'OHIO ET DE TCHADAKOIN CE

 

29 JVILLET, PRES DE LA RIVIERE OYO AUTREMENT

 

BELLE RIVIERE, POUR MONUMENT DU RENOUVELLEMENT

 

DE POSSESSION QUE NOUS AVONS PRIS

 

DE LA DITTE RIVIERE OYO, ET DE TOUTES CELLE~

 

QUI Y TOMBENT, et de TOUTES LES TERRES DES

 

DEUX COTES JVSQVE AVX SOURCES DES DITTES

 

RIVIERES AINSI QV'EN ONT JOVY OU DV JOVIR LES

 

PRECEDENTS ROIS DE FRANCE, ET QU'ILS S'Y SONT

 

MAINTENVS PAR LES ARMES ET PAR LES TRAIT

 

TES, SPECIALEMENT PAR CEVX DE RISWICK

 

D'VTRECHT ET D'AIX LA CHAPELLE."

 

Translation: "In the year 1749, of the reign of Louis the 15th, King of France, we Céloron, commander of a detachment sent by Monsieur the Marquis de la Galissoniere, Governor General of New France, to reestablish tranquility in some Indian villages of these cantons, have buried this Plate of Lead at the confluence of the Ohio and the Chatauqua, this 29th day of July, near the river Ohio, otherwise Belle Riviere, as a monument of the renewal of the possession we have taken of the said river Ohio and of all those which empty into it, and of all the lands on both sides as far as the sources of the said rivers, as enjoyed or ought to have been enjoyed by the kings of France preceding and as they have there maintained themselves by arms and by treaties, especially those of Ryswick, Utrecht and Aix la Chapelle.".

 

The French continued to press their claim to the Ohio Valley, and colonial friction with the British finally contributed to outbreak of the Seven Years' War.

 

Here are links to more info and pics of the plate(s)

 

http://www.ohiohistorycentral.org/entry.php?rec=494

 

http://www.mariettaoh.net/government/monuments/monuments_4

 

http://www.wvculture.org/history/settlement/celeron01.html

Edited by LSUFan

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Great story. LSU.

 

Only three left to find! Would the French demand them back, or be happy with just that drainage basin? MEL

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Very interesting. Not a period or place I know anything about, but by odd coincidence I've just finished E.A .Poe's narrative Astoria about rival US & Canadian claims to fur trading outposts beyond the Rockies in the early 1800s.

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Well, it sure would be cool to find one of those plates!

 

But, since the locations weren't actually surveyed to any apparent degree of accuracy I'd say they are nothing more than a crude claim of ownership of land to which the people who left the plates had no claim whatsoever.

 

[Edited by moderator to remove off topic comments and potty language.]

Edited by Keystone

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One of those plates would be quite a find indeed! But I see no way to narrow down the search to a reasonable area, and lead doesn't show up well on metal detectors.

 

Regarding European vs native interaction, I just finished reading Orson Scott Card's alternate history/time travel fiction called PastWatch, the Redemption of Columbus. I don't believe his alternate scenario could have turned out so well so fast, but it is a very readable and thought provoking book.

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Regarding European vs native interaction, I just finished reading Orson Scott Card's alternate history/time travel fiction called PastWatch, the Redemption of Columbus. I don't believe his alternate scenario could have turned out so well so fast, but it is a very readable and thought provoking book.

 

I haven't read an Orson Scott Card book since the early books in the Ender's Game series. Based on your mention above, I picked up PastWatch at the library yesterday.

 

[i am now done taking this thread off topic.]

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