Posted by: unclesamshistory | December 5, 2011

The Lead Plate Claim

The Lead Plate Claim

We tend to think of western Pennsylvania as being settled by the British. But who was really here first, after the Native Americans that is? A French Canadian by the name of Pierre Joseph Celoron de Blainville in 1749 led an expedition from Montreal across the Great Lakes and by following the waterways came down the Allegheny River with two hundred sixteen French Canadians and fifty five loyal Native Americans all in a huge flotilla of boats and canoes.

Celoron was not new to exploring these wilderness regions. Nine years before he had taken a force of cadets, regulars and Indians down into Mississippi to subdue the Chickasaw nation who had allied themselves with the British. But this trip down the Allegheny River was to cement the French claim on the territory.

As was the custom in Europe a copper plate was nailed to a tree at the mouth of each major tributary. This had the French seal and a claim to the land. Besides the copper plates a lead plate was also buried at this point. Again asserting the French claim to the land. History tells us most of the copper plates were torn from the trees by the Indians traveling with Celoron and one of the six lead plates to be buried was taken by an Indian traveling with the group.. This plate ended up in British hands. Two more have been found in the early 1800s which leaves three unaccounted for. What a treasure it would be to unearth one now.

When Celonor and his party reached Logstown, an Indian village just down river from present day Pittsburgh, he found English traders. In a rage that they would dare trespass on French soil he ordered them out of the territory, surprisingly they left without a struggle. Continuing down the Ohio River he buried plates at the mouths of the Muskingum and Kanawha rivers. Then again came upon English traders at the mouth of the Scioto River. These were not as easily intimidated and they refused to leave, and were backed up by the Indians they were trading with.

. Interested in history? You may want to check two books on western Pennsylvania fictional history, based on actual events: Frontier Preacher and Frontier At Three Rivers. Both available from Amazon or your local book seller


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