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Ohio As A Part Of France
by [?]

If the people of Ohio were Eskimos in the ages before history began, and then thousands of years after, but still thousands of years ago were Aztecs, there is no doubt that when history first knew of them they were Frenchmen. The whole Great West, in fact, was once as much a province of France as Canada; for the dominions of Louis XV. were supposed to stretch from Quebec to New Orleans, and from the Alleghanies to the Mississippi. The land was really held by savages who had never heard of this king; but that was all the same to the French. They had discovered the Great Lakes, they had discovered the Mississippi, they had discovered the Ohio; and they built forts at Detroit, at Kaskaskia, and at Pittsburg, as well as at Niagara; they planted a colony at the mouth of our mightiest river, and opened a highway to France through the Gulf of Mexico, as well as through the Gulf of St. Lawrence; and they proclaimed their king sovereign over all.

In Ohio they had a post on the Maumee, and everywhere they had settlements at each of the forts, where there was always a chapel and a priest for the conversion of the Indians. With the French, the sword and the cross went together, but very few of the savages knew that they were either conquered or converted. From time to time they knew that companies of picturesque strangers visited their towns, and promised them the favor of the French king if they would have nothing to do with the traders from the English colonies on the Atlantic, and threatened them with his displeasure if they refused. When these brilliant strangers staid among them, and built a fort and a chapel, and laid out farms, then the savages willingly partook of the great king’s bounty, and clustered around the French post in their wigwams and settled down to the enjoyment of his brandy, his tobacco, his ammunition, and his religion. When the strangers went away, almost as soon as they had promised and threatened, then the savages went back to business with the English traders.

The company of Frenchmen who visited our Miami Indians at their town of Pickawillany, on the head waters of the Miami River in 1749, was of this last sort. It was commanded by the Chevalier Celoron de Bienville, and it counted some two hundred Canadians and French troops, officered by French gentlemen, and attended by one of those brave priests who led or followed wherever the French flag was carried in the wilderness. Celoron was sent by the governor of Canada to lay claim to the Ohio valley for his king, and he did this by very simple means. He nailed plates of tin to certain trees, and he buried plates of lead at the mouths of the larger streams. The leaden plates no one ever saw for a hundred years, till some boys going to bathe found them here and there in the wave-worn banks; but if the Indians could have read anything, or if the English traders could have read French, they might have learned at once from the tin plates that the king of France owned the “Ohio River and all the waters that fell into it, and all the lands on both sides.” As it was, however, it is hard to see how anybody was the wiser for them, or could know that the king had upheld his right to the Ohio country by battle and by treaty and would always defend it.

In fact, neither the battles nor the treaties between the French and English in Europe had really settled the question of their claim to the West in America, and both sides began to urge it in a time of peace by every kind of secret and open violence. As for the Miamis and their allies among the neighboring tribes, they believed that God had created them on the very spot where Celoron found them living, and when he asked them to leave their capital at Pickawillany, and go to live near the French post on the Maumee, they answered him that they would do so when it was more convenient. He bade them banish the English traders, but they merely hid them, while he was with them, and as soon as he was gone, they had them out of hiding, and began to traffic with them. They never found it more convenient to leave their town, until a few years later, when a force of Canadians and Christian Indians came down from the post on the Maumee, and destroyed Pickawillany.