Border War & Indian Disputes

Logan & Thomas, 1737-1746

Logan as President — The death of Governor Gordon [in 1736] left Pennsylvania without a governor for two years. James Logan, William Penn's agent in America, and the staunch friend of the proprietors, was then President of the Council, and as such he took control of the province until a new governor should be appointed. Evidently the sons of Penn were satisfied with him, for they made no haste to replace him. But there could be no law-making, according to the charter, without a governor to sign the bills. So, though the Assembly met as usual, no laws were passed. All it could do was to advise and aid Logan in his duties.

A Border War — During Logan's term of office there was trouble on the disputed border between the domains of Penn and Lord Baltimore. No one living in this region could tell whether he was in Pennsylvania or Maryland. Thus some Germans who had settled beyond the Susquehanna thought at first that their farms were in Maryland. Then they changed their minds and decided that they lived in Pennsylvania and owed no duties to Maryland.

This led to a sharp contest. At first the sheriff of Baltimore set out with three hundred men to drive the Germans from their farms. But when they found that the sheriff of Lancaster County was out with a stronger force they marched home again. Another invasion of this kind led to a fight, in which one man was killed and the leader of the Marylanders wounded and captured. Several Germans were then seized and, taken to Baltimore as hostages for Cressap, the captive. There were other conflicts in which men were wounded and taken prisoners, the petty war keeping up for about a year.

The King's Order — The news of this state of affairs reached England and in 1737 there came an order from the king that all such conflicts should be stopped by the governments of the two provinces. Yet border fights went on till in the end the Penns' and Baltimores' made a compromise in London, and word was sent to America that these useless fights must cease. But many years were to elapse before the border question was finally settled.

Governor Thomas Appointed — Logan's administration ended in the appointment of George Thomas, a planter of Antigua, in the West Indies, as governor of Pennsylvania. In 1738 he reached Philadelphia and entered upon his duties. He came at a time when the era of peace was near its end and war was close at hand. And Thomas was a very different man from Gordon. Hasty in temper, he soon stirred up trouble for which there was no need. England declared war against Spain in 1739, but before this declaration was made Thomas sent a message to the Assembly demanding that it should vote for money and men to defend the province.

The Assembly Declines — The Quakers were no longer in the majority in the province, but they still were in large majority in the Assembly, and they had the same feeling about war as of old. War was declared while the debate went on, but Thomas had not succeeded in getting money voted for war when the Assembly adjourned in 1740.

Pay for the Troops — Governor Thomas now took the law into his own hands and raised a company of troops for three months. Many of these were "redemptioners," men who were working out their passage money, and who thought in this way they could get rid of this obligation. In the next session the Assembly voted three thousand pounds for the King's use, but on the condition that these servants should be discharged from the troops and no more of them be enlisted. The governor would or could not consent to this and he angrily vetoed the bill.

In the next session the Assembly voted twenty five hundred pounds to pay the masters who had lost their servants. As peace soon came between England and Spain, this should have ended the matter had not both sides been angry and stubborn. The feeling was made worse by a letter written to London by Governor Thomas, in which he found bitter fault with the Quakers. A copy of this was sent back by the agent of the province and fell into the hands of members of the Assembly. Their wrath was great and the whole province was in a ferment.

An Election Riot — All this led to a sharp contest in the Assembly election of 1742. There were two parties in the field, the "Gentlemen's Party," which supported the governor and was strong in the city, and the "Country Party," on the side of the Assembly, which had a majority in the rural section.

On election day a large number of Germans came into the city to support the Assembly. The other party brought a body of seventy sailors from the ships in the harbor. These marched through the market, knocking down all who came in their way. When the poll was opened for the election the sailors mounted the stairs leading to the voting room and drove off the voters of the Country Party with clubs. This was more than the Germans would bear. Seizing what weapons they could find, they rushed on the sailors and drove them away. Fifty were captured and locked up in the jail. The others fled to their ships.

When the vote was counted it was found that the Country Party had elected all the old members of the Assembly and completely defeated their opponents.

Peaceful Conditions — The result of the election brought on a state of peace and harmony. The governor had been badly defeated and from that time he acted in a different way. He signed bills which he had before refused, and the Assembly paid up his salary which they had held back. The quarrels were at an end and peace continued during the remainder of Thomas' term.

The Lands of the Indians — It proved difficult to keep [European] settlers from occupying lands belonging to the Indians. All the land bought by William Penn and his agent James Logan had been paid for in blankets, ammunition, and other goods that satisfied [them]. Though [they] were usually drunk at the time of the trade they were never cheated, and felt that they had been treated fairly. The various purchases extended from Duck Creek in Delaware to the "Forks of the Delaware," at the place where this river is joined by the Lehigh.

The Indians had given title to all this, but just to the north lay the fertile district occupied by the Minisink, or Wolf, tribe of the Delawares, and this region [they] claimed as their own. Logan warned all settlers to keep out of this land, but this they were not disposed to do. The Penns had sold a tract of ten thousand acres, to be taken up in any unsettled part of the province, and land speculators chose the Minisink country. Plots of land were drawn for in a lottery and many settlers went there, in defiance of the Indian claim.

The Walking Purchase — To gain title to this land a base trick was played upon the Indians in 1737, one that they never forgave. Thomas Penn agreed to it, and by doing so brought deep disgrace upon his name. We have spoken of the tradition of William Penn's "three days' walk" [under heading New Land Bought from the Indians], which was only half taken. An old deed, or a copy of one, was found, in which the three days' walk was spoken of, and the Indians were quite ready to agree to the remaining day and a half's walk. It was to begin at Wrightstown in Bucks County, and run northward in a line parallel to the Delaware River.

The [naive and trusting Indians] supposed that the walk would be made in the easy-going way taken by William Penn, with stops to rest and chat. But they had now to deal with a man of different character. Walkers were advertised for, prizes being offered to the one who should walk the farthest in the given time. The governor was to select three and the Indians three others.

Everything was done to make the walk a long one. Trees were marked to guide the walkers, underbrush was cut away, food was placed along the road, and horsemen followed the walkers, with liquors and other refreshments. On the first day one of the whites was tired out and before sunset the Indian walkers left in disgust, saying that they were being cheated. "No sit down to smoke," they said; "no shoot a squirrel; but run, run, all day." At noon of the second day one of the walkers had reached a point sixty or seventy miles above the starting point and thirty miles north of the Lehigh River, far beyond the Lehigh hills, the expected stopping point. To make the fraud worse, the line from the point reached to the Delaware slanted far upwards to the northwest, thus taking in all the Minisink lands.

The Indians Refuse to Leave — The Indians, feeling that they had been grossly cheated, refused to give up their homes. They sent word that the lands were theirs, they were being robbed of them, and they would fight anyone who tried to take them. Thomas Penn knew well that the Assembly would not support him in his base trick and did not ask for a military force to help him drive out the Delawares. He took another plan. The Iroquois Indians claimed that the Delawares had been conquered by them and were their subjects, so a council was held at Philadelphia in 1742 at which chiefs of the various Iroquois tribes were present.

The Delawares Ordered Out — The chiefs were entertained for several days and valuable presents given them. As might be supposed, they decided in favor of the whites, and harshly ordered the Delawares to remove. "How came you to sell land at all?" said the Iroquois sachem. "We conquered you. We made women of you. You know you are women and can no more sell land than women. You ought to be taken by the hair of your head and shaken until you recover your senses. You are women, take the advice of a wise man and remove at once. We give you two places to go to, Wyoming or Shamokin. Do not deliberate but move away and take this belt of wampum."

The Outcome of the Walking Purchase — The Delawares could not resist their two powerful enemies. They had to obey these harsh orders. But they were determined to be "women"’ no longer. They had kept peace and honor with the whites and had been basely robbed of their ancestral lands. The time was coming and was near at hand when they would repay the false whites in blood for this base treatment.

War Declared — In 1744 war was declared between England and France. As usual, it extended to America, and the people of the colonies took an active part in it. The war did not extend to Pennsylvania, but Governor Thomas thought it best to be ready. This time he did not ask the Assembly for aid, but by the help of Franklin raised a force of ten thousand men. These were to be armed at their own expense and choose their own officers. Franklin was selected as colonel of the Philadelphia regiment, but was unable to serve. One thing of interest done by him was to design a Pennsylvania flag for the use of the regiments. On it was the shield of the province and a lion holding a scimitar.

The Governor Resigns — In 1746 ill health caused Governor Thomas to resign. Since the end of his hostile relations with the Assembly he had got along Penn Treaty Wampum Belt. Very well with it and a longer stay on his part would have been acceptable. For the succeeding three years the province got along without a governor, under Anthony Palmer, president of the council; then, in 1749, a new governor was appointed.

— History Of Pennsylvania by Charles Morris (1913)


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