Peters Creek Early European History

Peters Creek Early European History

French and British fur traders were the first Europeans to venture into western Pennsylvania during the early 1700's. At this time the upper Ohio River Valley was claimed by both France and England. Peter Chartiers, a fur trader, and the half-breed son of a Frenchman and a Shawnee woman, came to western PA in 1734 and took up residence with the Shawnee. Supposedly, he is the only native American to receive a land patent in this area. Peters Creek, Peters Township and Chartiers Creek are all most probably named in his honor.

Enoch Wright Cabin
Peters Twp, Washington County

Oliver Miller Homestead
South Park County Park

Many of the early settlers in the Peters Creek valley settled along creek bottoms. These lowlands were often very fertile due to soil deposited during regular flooding. These streams also supplied a reliable source of drinkable water, plenty of protein in the form of abundant fish and energy to power gristmills.
In 1758 British General John Forbes settled the question as to whether western PA would be British or French territory by taking Fort Duquesne at present day Pittburgh. Migration to western PA remained slow, however, because native Americans also claimed this area as their territory. Raids often forced early settlers to seek shelter in local forts such as Cox's Fort near James Chapel Methodist Church in Union Twp. In 1795 the Treaty of Greenville was signed which ended native American claims. In addition, both Pennsylvania and Virginia claimed this territory. Until this dispute was settled in 1781, early settlers didn't know whether land patents granted by either state would be valid. As we now know Pennsylvania won that dispute.

James Chapel Methodist Church
Union Twp, Washington County

Pittsburgh - Early 1800's
Gateway to the West

Migration across the Allegheny Mountains began in earnest once these disputes were resolved and the town of Pittsburgh, with a population of only 300 in the first US Census of 1790, became known as the "Gateway to the West".

History is the story of individuals and groups of people struggling to find a better life. Life for the early settlers to the Peters Creek Valley was typical of those leaving the relatively civilized east to settle the western wilderness. Many of the challenges they faced were quite different from those we face today. How do you think your life would be different if you were growing up in western Pennsylvania in the late 1700's? How might it be the same?