Logstown4: Indian Land Grab Increases

George Washington came to Logstown, just downriver from modern-day Pittsburgh,  several times to add to his substantial land holdings.


When he died, he was holding more than 52,000 acres. All of it, of course, had at one time been Indian land.

Sound like alot of acreage?

That paled (a rather appropriate verb) compared to land scouted and surveyed by a later visitor.

Meriwether Lewis made an unwilling stop at Logstown just as he was beginning the famous Lewis&Clark expedition to explore what white men could do with 530 million acres of Indian land America just bought from the French.

But, before we get into that, let’s take a quiz to review information about Logstown covered in the first three parts of this series.


Do You Know Logstown Yet?

1. A hollow tree on the river bank at Logstown was so large that:

2. Logstown is best described as:


3. George Washington's Seneca name was Conotocaurious, which means:


4. Members of many Indian nations lived at Logstown, including the Shawnee and Lenna Lenape (Delaware), but the two chiefs in charge at the village represented who?

5. French companies and their employees wanted continued access to furs in this region. English companies, their customers and freelancing settlers wanted land. What did Indians want?


How did you do?

If you got all five right, you can treat yourself to a free keg of rum at the trading post.

Lewis & Pittsburgh

If not, don’t worry about it. You know enough now to read how Meriwether Lewis got past Logstown to become one of America’s biggest celebrities, and likely its first celebrity suicide.

His Corps of Discovery expedition boat was built in Pittsburgh. That was a mistake.

Meriwether Lewis hails passersby in St. Louis aboard a small boat with William Clark and Seaman, the dog Lewis got in Pittsburgh. They seem to need help, or maybe a haircut.

Lewis knew Pittsburgh. He had spent the late 1700s in military service here, battling and negotiating with Indians, and also putting down the much-romanticized rebellion by whiskey tax dodgers.

It was an unruly frontier town notorious for drunkenness at a time when heavy drinking was common everywhere.

In fact, Gen. “Mad Anthony” Wayne, despite his nickname, would not train young men here to fight Indians. It was too undisciplined. He set up the nation’s first military academy at the abandoned  Logstown site instead.

Fort Pitt, at the flood-prone Point, had been torn down in 1792. Fort Fayette, a smaller fortification, was built along the Allegheny River in what is now Pittsburgh’s Cultural District.

It was named for that French darling of the American Revolution (Lafayette). The fort was used to stage the so-called Indian Wars in the Ohio Territory, and also for boat building.

Lewis was stationed there. Then, he became President Thomas Jefferson’s personal secretary.

Jefferson had arranged for the U.S. to purchase 530 million acres in the Midwest from Napoleon Bonaparte. The emperor needed the $50 million francs ($11.25 million) to stage a comeback in Europe. He came back, but it only led to his Waterloo.

Science & Wilderness

Jefferson really wanted people with scientific backgrounds to explore the territory gained through the Louisiana Purchase, but he couldn’t find anyone with such knowledge who had the ability or inclination to spend a few years in the wilderness.

So, he turned to his secretary.

Lewis, the civilian, is said to have been a good dresser. Women seemed to run from him, though. Perhaps they sensed something wrong.

Lewis was a capable woodsman, and he proved a quick learner after Jefferson sent him to Philadelphia for crash courses from top scientists.

The first priority of the expedition was to find the so-called Northwest Passage, an imagined water route that would transport people and goods across the continent. No such rivers or series of rivers exists.

America’s Inferiority Complex

Another matter of longstanding importance to Jefferson was to prove to European intelligentsia that this continent was not inferior. Men of science in the Old World were claiming as much.

Inferiority was reflected in size. If a North American creature is smaller than its Old World counterpart, it is inferior.

If it is smaller, they deduced, it is because of North America’s climate. If it’s climate creates inferiority, then people living here for any length of time will also become inferior.

French scientists, in particular, falsely noted that American Indians were shorter than Europeans.

It was poor enough science, but it was really bad marketing.  America’s business plan was to develop land —  Indian land — and get Europeans to move here.

So, size mattered.

But, Lewis couldn’t even get started to gather big specimens .

Not Pittsburgh’s Proudest Moment

He explained it in a letter to the President.

It was not until 7 O’Clock on the morning of the 31st August (1803) that my boat was completed. She was instantly loaded, and at 10. a.m. on the same day, I left Pittsburgh, where I had been most shamefully detained by the unpardonable negligence of my boatbuilder.

On my arrival at Pittsburgh, my calculation was that the boat would be in readiness by the 5th of August. This term, however, elapsed . The boat was so far from being finished it was only partially planked on one side.

In this situation I had determined to abandon the boat, and to purchase two or three perogues (pronounced pee-rowgs, an Indian word for small flat-bottom boats) and descend the river in them, and depend on purchasing a boat as I descended, there being none to be had at Pittsburgh.

Lewis learned he would not likely find a big boat to buy downriver. Besides, the boatbuilder promised to have the vessel done by the end of the week.

However, a few days after, according to his usual custom, he got drunk. He quarreled with his workmen, and several of them left him, nor could they be prevailed on to return.

I threatened him with the penalty of his contract, and exacted a promise of greater sobriety in future, . . . which he took care to perform with as little good faith as he had his previous promises with regard to the boat, continuing to be constantly drunk or sick.


He never names the boatbuilder, nor where in Pittsburgh the boat was built. The town had at least eight watercraft manufacturers.

It’s been a subject of much historical research, but the picture remains as foggy as a drunk man’s memory.


River Keeps Sinking

As Lewis paced and fretted, the already-low Ohio River got even lower. River people told him to forget about joining William Clark and the rest of the expedition crew in Louisville, KY,  until the following spring.

When the boat was finally done, Lewis went into the river anyway.

Let’s read his journal:

Set out at sunrise,  2½ miles to a riffle; got out and pulled the boat over it with some difficulty.

9 o’clock reached Logstown riffle; unloaded and with much difficulty got over;  detained 4 hours.

. . .  supposed I had gotten over Logstown riffle, but we find ourselves stranded again;  suppose it best to send out two or three men to engage some oxen or horses to assist us.

Obtained one horse and an ox, which enabled us very readily to get over;  paid the man his charge, which was one dollar.

The inhabitants who live near these riffles live much by the distressed situation of a traveler, are generally lazy, charge extravagantly when they are called on for assistance, and have no philanthropy or conscience . . .

So, Lewis didn’t like the people he found at Logstown. He explained to the President that “riffle” was a word used by locals for shallow water flowing over a bar of stone or sand.

Going by inflation rate alone, the dollar the farmer received is equivalent to $21 today. That’s less than a AAA membership, and much less than today’s towing fees.

On the other hand, we have to remember that labor was much less valued then — back before labor unions.

Most men earned less than a dollar for a whole day’s work.

That’s why Lewis felt taken. And, he wasn’t sure how far he would get before he’d have to fork over another dollar to get pulled off the rocks again.

As it turned out, farmers and oxen rescued the nation’s discovery vessel four or five more times before it reached Wheeling.

An Explorer’s Best Friend

For many people, the best purchase Lewis made in Pittsburgh was a dog.

No, Lewis is not texting a journal entry into his smartphone. Look closer. It’s a paper notebook. Seaman waits patiently.

He bought a Newfoundland, an intelligent, gigantic breed from Canada, but rare in these parts. Lewis paid $20.

Originally bred to help fisherman pull in nets and carry loads, the dog was with the expedition from beginning to the end three years later.

Dozens of bronze statues are erected today along the route, most of which include Seaman.

That supposedly was its name, Seaman. In this case, Riverdog would have been more appropriate.

At one time, the dog’s name was thought to be Scannon.

That was the name read by an historian going over Lewis’ journals in 1916.  Then, in 1984, it became Seaman when another historian with better eyes took to reading the journals.

Lewis, who became governor of upper Louisiana,  carried the journals around with him for years, but he never got around to editing and publishing them.

That left it to others to figure out what he wrote.

Lewis first mentioned the dog as he left Pittsburgh. He said the dog was good at catching squirrels, and that fried squirrel makes excellent eating.

He also noted a buffalo calf once followed the dog around.  A full-grown buffalo bull also charged into camp one night, but Seaman drove it away.

It was a beaver that nearly killed the dog.

It bit into the dog’s leg, severing an artery. Lewis and Clark managed to stop the bleeding. The dog recovered in short order.

The same could not be said for Lewis himself.

He has been diagnosed by modern-day armchair psychiatrists as a manic-depressive (now bipolar), and/or suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Like many of today’s celebrity suicides, he called it quits at a room rented for the night.

Lewis, only 35,  was found shot in Tennessee while traveling to Washington, D.C.

Those who knew him best were sure it was suicide. They believed the innkeeper who said she heard him talking to himself like he was arguing a case before a judge.  Then the shots.

Former President Jefferson and his co-explorer Clark both said they were quite sure he killed himself.

Others suspected murder. Many conspiracy theorists still do.

As it happens, Clark is believed to have been trained at Legionville, the military academy built atop the remains of Logstown.

We’ll look into Legionville in the next post.

Did I miss something? Did I get something wrong?  Fill us in at comments section below.

Want More?

Lewis&Clark at Heinz History Center

More on Lewis&Clark 

More on Seaman

More on Lewis’ Mysterious Death


Next: Indian Killers Trained at West Point Prototype

Logstown3: Diplomacy on a Sea of Rum

Bill Hunt of Charleston, W.Va., portrays Montour for historical groups and schools. A clip of his presentation is at end of post.


His Name Is Everywhere,

His Memory Is Not


Let’s look at a man who stood out in a town of historic lions.

After reading the first two parts  of this series on Logstown, you know it was not so much an ideal Indian village as a company town. You also know young George Washington was a  land speculator who spent time there on business.

You don’t know the man with the name Montour.

It’s everywhere: Montour High School, Montour Creek, Montour Trail, Montour County,  Montoursville, Montour Falls, NY.

You’d think he was a distinguished gentleman, a proper model citizen.

He wasn’t.

In fact, if they were to do a movie of him, only actor Johnny Depp could do him justice.

Andrew Montour was very much like the fictional character Capt. Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Carribbean.

And yet, Montour was the only man trusted by both sides as pale-faced settlers pushed west, and Indians pushed back.

His grandparents had been Oneida, Seneca and French. He was fluent in English,  French, and six Indian languages.

More importantly, as an interpreter, he had the ability and the burden to communicate not what chiefs and governors said to each other, but what they meant.

Painting of Moravians telling Indians of their relationship with Jesus.

Missionary Diaries Revealing

Recently translated and digitized diaries of Moravian (German/Czech) missionaries indicate Montour may have developed his skills in a Susquehanna River town as wild as any pirate seaport.

Drinking, dancing, whoring and whooping went on day and night at Shamokin. Killing did, too.

It was a cosmopolitan village populated by refugees of many tribes, most speaking different language and dialects, during a time of particularly violent warring and raiding.

It’s not the same place as the city called Shamokin today. The village was 15 miles to the west, where Sunbury sits.

We get our first description of Montour from the man in charge of the missionaries. He hoped to get help moving among the Indians.

“Andrew’s cast of countenance is decidedly European, and had not his face been encircled with a broad band of paint, applied with bear’s fat, I would have certainly taken him for one.

“He wore a broadcloth coat, a scarlet damasque lapel-waistcoat, breeches, over which his shirt hung, a black Cordovan neckerchief, decked with silver bugels, shoes and stockings, and a hat.

“His ears were hung with pendants of brass and other wires plaited together like the handle of a basket. He was very cordial, but on my addressing him in French, he, to my surprise, replied in English.”

That was when he was in his early 20s. His flashy appearance, among Indian men, was not extreme. They take cues from nature. Male birds are more about display than female birds.

Montour had just happened to stop by his mother’s house. It was in an alcohol-free Indian village she operated 35 miles up the Susquehanna from Shamokin.

Madam Montour, as she called herself, was half French and half Algonquin. She was famous for her interpreting skills.

Working among men, and being half French, she also promoted style and beauty. She and her family, by this time, were decidedly pro British and anti French. They had moved to Pennsylvania from Canada.


Count Nikolaus von Zinzendorf,  a wealthy patron of the Moravian Church, wanted to hire Madam Montour. She recommended her young son.

The count and Montour then crisscrossed Pennsylvania, operating out of the Moravian headquarters in the idyllic Christian community founded at Bethlehem, PA.

Government Needed Him

Conrad Weiser, the main guy dealing with Indians for the Pennsylvania and Virginia governments, eventually enlisted Montour’s help, as well.

It wasn’t just Montour’s language abilities people wanted. He had considerable  respect and trust among tribes.

Indians didn’t call him by any of his European names: Montour, or Andrew, or Andre and Henri . To them, he was Sattelihu or Eghnisara, both esteemed tribal names.

Sattelihu apparently had proven many times he was a warrior. That was very important.

“His forehead was painted bright red, strange assortment of bright colored clothes . .  soft spoken and pleasant, perfectly fearless, with marvelous endurance, great tact, the gift of leadership, a chief and counselor of the Iroquois, trusted with important missions by them.”

Swimming in Rum

Montour, the literal embodiment of blended European and Indian cultures,  tried for 25 years to bring that blend to the world around him. Ultimately, he failed..

He struggled amid towering waves of rum that engulfed and swept away Indian friends. This frontier was one of the most dangerous places on Earth.

Weiser spoke highly of his interpreter,  but reported Montour’s drinking problems to the lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania.

“I must say something to you about Andrew M., not to ridicule him but to inform you how to act with him.

“In the first place, when we met at John Harris’ (for whom Harrisburg would be named). He called for so much punch that himself, the Half King (Tanacharison, a Logstown chief) and other Indians got drunk, the same at Tobias Hendricks’ (a Cumberland County settler). . .

Following a conference with Indian chiefs at Aughwick in Huntingdon County, Weiser said he tried in vain to get Montour to dress so they could move on to their next diplomatic destination.

“I left him drunk at Aughwick, On one leg, he had a stocking and no shoe, On the other, a shoe and no stocking.”



Montour, as he often did, raced after Weiser after he sobered up. He begged forgiveness.

Weiser, likewise, begged his bosses in Philadelphia to appreciate that Montour was invaluable — when sober.

Jack Sparrow’s  struggle with rum and sobriety is evident in the following clip. Coincidentally, Sparrow’s mother was an Indian maiden.

Sometimes, a Great Hero

Montour, or perhaps his Sattelihu ego, could play the hero, though.

The following comes from a diary of Martin Mack, who with his wife, Anna, were in Shamokin stepping over and around drunks to talk about Jesus.

They had been staying in Montour’s tiny bark hut for seven weeks. Most of that time, Montour was away in Philadelphia, trying to reverse his impoverished state. Sound like Jack Sparrow?

Fortunately for the Macks, he was home the evening of Nov. 2, 1745. Oh, by the way, he had yet another name. The Moravians called him Anderius.

. . . In the evening, 12 Indians arrived here by water who are coming from Canada. They are going to war with the Cherokees. Anderius knows them, there was a friend of his among them. Anderius said these Indians had come from very far away. They came from over 400 miles further away than Onondago (Syracuse, N.Y.)

They looked very bloodthirsty. They camped near Anderius’ hut. They soon prepared the place to dance. They got an empty barrel of rum. Knocked the bottom out of it and made a drum out of it.


They began according to their custom to celebrate. They shouted and danced for nearly two hours, during which time the enemy [Satan], to whom we are a thorn in his eye, was very occupied and would have loved to get rid of us.

They soon got rum to drink and became so full of it that they behaved like wild animals. They were close to pulling down our hut.

Just after midnight, four of them came in here who looked terrifying and bloodthirsty.

Anderius was afraid that they wanted to do harm to us. He took them out of the hut, but an hour later another one came and acted like a madman, picked up a large brand from the fire and said he wanted to burn the white people.


Anderius quickly stood up and grabbed the brand out of his hands. He [the Indian] went for his flintlock. Anderius, however, also took that away from him.

He grabbed a piece of wood and came towards us. Anderius took that and said he should leave.

He said he did not want to. So, he (Anderius) said he should sit down by the fire.

He sat down, but soon left. [He was later murdered by another of the visitors.]

Anderius was very worried that the drunken Indians would do us harm. We said to him that, if he thought we should, then we would spend this night in the bush. But he did not think this was advisable because it is so cold. (Anna had already gotten quite ill sleeping in the woods to avoid crazy drunks while Anderius was in Philadelphia).

So we stayed, commended ourselves to the watchfulness of the Lamb and wished that it would become day soon. Soon, they beat to death the one who wanted to kill us.


The next day Montour told the Macks he was leaving town, perhaps for good. He took them to old chief Shikellamy, who offered his large hut.

Young chief Shikellamy greets visitors to Conrad Weiser Park in Womelsdorf. It is said the chief once told Weiser he dreamed Weiser gave him a rifle. Weiser handed over his rifle, and said he dreamed Shikellamy gave him a river island. The chief gave him the island and said, “Conrad, let us never dream again.”


Seemingly Everywhere at Once

Where did Montour go? The better question would be, Where did Montour not go? He was constantly on the move.

He was the interpreter at dozens of conferences all aimed at either keeping the peace with Indians, or stirring them up to do battle with the French. The ultimate goal was getting Indian land for British developers. Montour wanted to be one of them.

He also organized many of those conferences. That was no easy task.  Some could have as many as 50 chiefs from a single tribe, each of whom had to be feted and honored. Hence the expression: “Too many chiefs and not enough Indians.”

The government Quakers in Philadelphia usually thought he was being too lavish. And, they didn’t want to be “buying” favors from anyone, or they didn’t want to be paying “blackmail.”

Often, he would use his own money or credit. That led to drawn-out bureaucratic struggles for repayment. And resentment. Resentment that would spill out when he was drunk.

He went with Weiser to Logstown in 1748, bearing considerable gifts they extracted from the Pennsylvania government.

It was to counter French efforts to re-establish their trading monopoly in the region.

I won’t bore you with the speechmaking and negotiations he interpreted at a dozen or more conferences that followed at Logstown, all of which ended in greater Indian attachment to the British, and less to the French.

The Spy Amongst Us

White leaders on the civilized East Coast didn’t know from one week to the next what the people in the wilderness were thinking or doing. That’s where Montour was most valuable. He was a top notch spy.

His loyalty to Britain, however,  was questioned by those put off by his fierce Indian looks. They did so at their own peril.

In 1755, he was again in Central Pennsylvania trying to learn which tribes and clans were heeding the French call for all-out war on British settlers.

Fourteen Delaware Indians from Kittanning raided a settlement below Shamokin. They killed or carried off 25 people, burning all the houses.

Scary? If you scare someone before you fight them, you have already won. This is a portrait of Six Nations Indian with war painted face.

Harris, the namesake of Harrisburg, raised a company of 46 men to go upriver and bury them. They found them already buried, so they continued on to Shamokin.

Weiser filed a report with the governor.

“They were seemingly well received, but found a great number of strange Indians, though Delawares (from the Ohio), all painted black, which gave suspicion.”

“Thomas McKee told his companions that he did not like them, and the next morning . . . he got up early, in order to go back, but they did not see any of the strangers. They were gone before them. Andrew Montour was there, painted as the rest.

Of course he was. Montour was everywhere.

“He advised our people not to go the same road they came, but to keep this side of the Susquehanna and go the old road; but when they came to the parting of the roads, a majority was for going the highest and best road, and so crossed the Susquehanna, contrary to Andrew Montour’s counsel . . .

“When they came to John Penn’s Creek . . . they were fired upon by Indians that had waylaid them. Some dropped down dead; the rest fled and made towards the Susquehanna, and came to this side and so (traveled) home as well as they could. Twenty-six of them were missing and not heard of as yet.”

Colonel John Armstrong wrote from Carlisle that no settlers were left in the region, and he didn’t trust Montour.

“Montour and Monaghatootha (chief Scararoudy) are going to the Governor (to give the intelligence they gathered). The former is greatly suspected of being an enemy in his heart. ‘Tis hard to tell.”


The Warrior Washington Wanted

He wouldn’t put on war paint just to spy.  He gathered warriors and led them in battle. At least once, he commanded a company comprised of white woodsmen and traders. The governor trusted them even less than the Indians.

Montour was with George Washington as he lost Fort Necessity. The future president tried several times after that to get Montour’s help. He confessed little patience or understanding with Indians.

Montour was with George Washington as he stirred up the French at Fort Duquesne. The French and their Indian allies came out and forced Washington’s surrender at Great Meadows, better known as Fort Necessity. It’s a National Park well with visiting.

Montour was among the few Indians who stayed with Major General Edward Braddock (and Washington) during the ill-fated attempt to take Fort Duquesne from the French in July 1755.

In fact, a month later, we hear Montour’s voice at a conference in Philadelphia blaming Braddock for the disaster.

Speaking for Scarouady, the Oneida war chief based at Logstown, Montour said:

We Six Nations must let you know that it was the pride and ignorance of that great general that came from England. [that caused the defeat]

He is now dead; but he was bad when he was alive. He looked upon us as dogs, and would never hear anything what was said to him.

We often endeavored to advise him and to tell him of the danger he was in with his soldiers, but he never appeared pleased with us, and that was the reason that a great many of our warriors left him and would not be under his command.

He goes on to say the colonists and Indians could defeat the French without any “help” of soldiers from the other side of the great ocean.

Montour Assures Forbes Success

The success of the followup effort a few years later by General John Forbes was assured by Montour’s work at a conference with Indians at Easton.

Tribes around Fort Duquesne agreed to withdraw support for the French. In exchange, the British would provide better trading posts, and keep settlers away. Yeah, right.

Like Jack Sparrow, there was a price on Montour’s head.

The French posted promises to pay anyone who killed him. The Iroquois countered that with a promise to go to war with the tribe of anyone responsible for Montour’s death.

Lacking Indian help, and with 6,000 British troops headed their way, the French blew up Fort Duquesne and said, “Au revoir.”

Of course, the British (mostly Scots) stayed and built massive Fort Pitt. Pittsburgh was born. The flow of settlers became a tsunami.

And, Montour did become a land developer, or at least a land owner.

He got a choice five-mile long island in the Ohio River. It came to be called Montour’s Island. Pittsburghers today know it as Neville’s Island.

For services to Pennsylvania and Virginia, he was awarded several thousand additional acres.

What was once Montour’s Island in the middle of the Ohio River is now the industrial enclave known as Neville’s Island.

The End of the Path

As he reached 50 years of age, his interpreting skills were not much needed any more. People were still talking, but no one was listening.

He would not have been inclined to tell Indians what palefaces were saying anyway.

Mostly, it was “Leave now! Go west!”

His reflexes may have left him, but his friend, rum, stayed loyal.

“The interpreter Montour was killed at his own house the day before yesterday by a Seneca Indian, who had been entertained by him at his house for some days,” wrote the commander of Fort Pitt on Jan. 22, 1772.

“He was buried this day near the fort.”

Did his drinking buddies learn a lesson as they watched Sattelihu and his braided brass earrings lowered into the ground?

Yeah, right.

“The Indians who came to the funeral,” the commander noted, “begged a few gallons of rum to drown their sorrows for the life of their friend.”

He gave it to them.


Want More?

Bill Hunt’s portrayal of Andrew Montour.

History of the Continuing Moravian Church 

Full text of Martin Mack’s Shamokin diary.

The best book on Madam Montour.


Did I miss something? Did I get something wrong?  Fill us in at comments section below.

Next: How Much Land Did Washington Get? Lewis&Clark Expedition Nearly Ends at Logstown.







Logstown2: Where Drowned Trees Went

Do you know Logstown?

Well, you know it better now after reading the first post of this series . You learned the Indian village downriver from Pittsburgh was more


company town than quaint Indian village.

Now, we’ll explore another reason for its name — other than the log cabins built there by a French fur-trading company.

Charles Dickens and Conotocaurious will act as our guides.

What? You don’t know Conotocaurious?

Wax likeness at Mount Vernon of 19-year-old George. The figures at the museum show him at various ages. They were created under the guidance of Jeffrey Schwartz, a forensic anthropologist from the University of Pittsburgh.

Sure you do. You carry his picture around.

His Iroquois name means devourer or destroyer of villages.

You know him by his English name: George Washington.

He was only 21 when the governor of Virginia sent him to this region to find any French official and formally tell him to get lost.

It was all about getting wealth; the rich getting richer and everyone else looking for a piece of the action. It was there for the taking. The British took it,  Indian land, that is.

Land is worth little, though, if people won’t settle there. Aren’t people afraid of Indians?

No problem. Build forts, safe havens, with government money when possible. Raise armies and militias, again with taxpayer money when possible, to get rid of the Injuns. They will go away., and the money will flow. And, that’s how it went down.

When the bills came due,  though, taxpayers didn’t want to pay. And, the United States was born.

Common sight along bends in the Ohio after it rips out trees upriver.

By the way, it’s only appropriate for the rich to get richer. It’s not greed. It’s good stewardship.

Isn’t it interesting, though,  that George’s face ended up on our money?

Believe it or not, it was not an unhandsome face.

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You Don’t Know Logstown

Do you know Logstown?


Probably not.

If you heard of it,  it’s been in romanticized terms. It’s usually said to be an important Indian village downriver from Pittsburgh, in the waning days of the noble red man’s preeminence here.

Come with me. We’ll see what it really was.



Joining us will be George Washington, Meriwether Lewis (of Lewis&Clark) and Charles Dickens. George, not yet President, will even sort through and expose “fake news.”

A knowledgeable Shawnee of our time will tell us what he knows of the place.

You’ll see the first U.S. basic training camp rise from the abandoned Indian site. Its main purpose? To train Pittsburghers how to kill Indians in an organized fashion.

A renowned religious sect then takes over the land. Its followers expect Jesus to show up there. They wait 80 years. He doesn’t, and he hasn’t yet. So, we have time to explore.

It appears Logstown could be viewed less as a quaint Indian village and more as a company town, the first in a series to sprout and whither over two centuries in that part of the Ohio River Valley.

As we look back, the first thing we have to do is dismiss some sage advice about forests. They say you may miss a forest if you’re looking at the trees. No matter. We intend to look at them.

The first one is a doozy.

We find it mentioned in a diary of a Jesuit priest, Father Joseph-Pierre de Bonnecamps. The length of French names are a bother, so we’ll call him Father Joe. He accompanied soldiers from New France (Canada) to Logstown. We’re talking 1749.

“We dined in a hollow cotton wood tree, in which 29 men could be ranged side by side.”

Sounds like something from “The Hobbit” or “Harry Potter.”

It is understood to mean Father Joe’s dinner mates sat in a circle, shoulder to shoulder. Average male width today is 18 inches. If it was similar then, the inside circumference of the tree was at least 43.5 feet, making the diameter inside about 14 feet.

Add several additional feet if you want elbow room, and a few more if left-handed people are seated at the table.


This painting by Robert Griffing is inspired by Father Joe’s report of an outsized hollow tree at Logstown. The big birchbark canoes in foreground were floated and carried down from Canada. Such big sheets of bark, light and flexible, were not available in Pennsylvania. Indians here tended to stash their heavy dugout canoes rather than try to carry them. With few navigable streams going east and west, they did a lot of walking.


Do you think Father Joe may have had hallucinogenic mushrooms at dinner?

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Originally posted 2018-05-15 15:21:05. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Pitt, Why the Hogwarts-Like Cathedral?

Just Ask

Why did Pitt decide to build a high-rise to house itself? At the time it was built, I would guess it might have been relatively easy to spread out with lower buildings instead. I’m not aware of any other similar high-rise universities. Was high-rise a fad? — Wayne Narr, Houston


The Answer

There are four main reasons why a towering Hogwarts-like Cathedral of Learning is in Oakland to astonish the eye.

  • Oakland was already running out of room in the 1920s.
  • A tenacious visionary came from Davenport, Iowa.
  • Pitt was fully private then. It had no accountability to taxpayers and the people they elect.
  • Wealthy families contributed millions to make it happen. They overcame faculty opposition, the Great Depression and technical difficulties of blending Gothic architecture with a modern skyscraper.
Young people who grew up associating education with Harry Potter's Hogwarts are drawn to the vaulted confines of the Cathedral of Learning. Public tour information is available here.

Young people who grew up associating education with Harry Potter’s Hogwarts are drawn to the vaulted confines of the Cathedral of Learning. Public tour information is available here.

It took 11 years to build. What did we get for their efforts?

Well, we got a quirky skyscraper comfortably standing amid every city planner’s dream: greenspace.

After 90 years, the 535-foot tower is still the tallest education building in the Western Hemisphere. Granted, few have wanted to take higher learning so literally.

John Bowman did.

He was chancellor in 1921, having just come from the University of Iowa.


John Bowman

Pitt was already 137 years old. It was following an ambitious 1907 plan for a 42-acre campus on the side of Herron Hill.

But,  it had built only five relatively modest, classic Greek-style buildings. That architect envisioned underground escalators that would get students up and down the steep slope.

Bowman, remember, was from Iowa. A hillside campus did not appeal to him. Even if it would look like Greek temples perched between escalators.

It was right after World War I and enrollment skyrocketed. Temporary wooden buildings were set up.

Bowman looked down from Herron Hill and  imagined a single Gothic tower rising from a flat, 14-acre area known as Frick Acres.

It wasn’t exactly empty. It included nice homes, gardens, and tennis courts.

Frick Acres before it was cleared to make way for the Cathedral of Learning

Frick Acres before it was cleared to make way for the Cathedral of Learning

But, Bowman got help. Andrew and Richard Mellon liked the idea. That made other important people like it. Frick Acres  residents did not go willingly, but they could not stop “progress.” The Mellons bought the land and gave it to the university.

Pitt, with institutional grandeur, attributes the following statement to Bowman:

“The building was to be more than a schoolhouse; it was to be a symbol of the life that Pittsburgh through the years had wanted to live. It was to make visible something of the spirit that was in the hearts of pioneers as, long ago, they sat in their log cabins and thought by candlelight of the great city that would sometime spread out beyond their three rivers and that even they were starting to build.”

Blah, blah . . . Yeah, he was a romantic. And, a marketer.

A far more believable quote is attributed to Frank Lloyd Wright, the famed architect whose work is as far removed from a Gothic tower as one can get.

“It is the largest ‘Keep Off the Grass’ sign I have ever seen,” he grumbled.

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Originally posted 2016-02-03 00:12:02. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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