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where Pittsburgh began
In the late 1740's English fur trade William Trent built a trading post where the Allegheny and Monongahela come together to form the Ohio River. He conducted an active trade with neighboring Indian tribes and became wealthy in the process. The French noted the English presence and began to construct a string of forts in the area in the early 1750's, starting at Fort Presque Isle near present-day Erie, Pennsylvania, followed by Fort Le Bouef near present-day Waterford and Fort Machault on the Allegheny River in present-day Franklin County.
In the autumn of 1753, Robert Dinwiddie, Liutenant Governor of the Virginia Colony, sent George Washington to the Ohio Valley to deliver a letter to the French commander, asking them to leave, and to assess French strength and intentions. After Washington was politely rebuffed by the French, Dinwiddie sent Virginians to build a fort on the site of Trent's trading post. Work began on February 17, 1755, but the workers and soldiers were forced to surrender to a French force on April 18th. The French then proceeded to build their own fort, which they named for Ange de Menneville, marquis de Duquesne, the governor-general of New France.
The British made two efforts to regain control of the position, one by George Washington later in 1754 and another larger venture under Edward Braddock in 1755. Both efforts ended in disaster. A force under John Forbes reached the fort on the night of November 24, 1758, but the French had already evacuated and destroyed the post. The British built a new fort, which was named in honor of William Pitt, the British Prime Minister. The capture of the fort marked a turning point in the French and Indian War, and secured all of the lands between the Ohio River and the Great Lakes for the British.
Fort Pitt remained under British control until outbreak of the Revolutionary War, at which time it was taken by the colonists. The town which gre up around the fort became known as Pittsburgh. The fort itself is long gone, but its outlines are now marked by brick pathways in Pittsburgh's Point State Park.
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This page was last updated on May 22, 2017.