A Chronology of the Colonial History
of North America
Edward J. Dodson
[This chronology is developed from the series of books on the
European conquest of North America written by Historian
Allan W. Eckert]
The story of how
Europeans and the European-Americans born in North America fought
for control over the land and its natural bounty with the people
whose forefathers had lived on the continent for thousands of years
is told by historian Allan W. Eckert in a manner matched by few
other historians. His books on the period from roughly 1740 thru
1830 are referred to as the Narratives of America. I have
read and studied them all, making use of Eckert's vivid descriptions
in my own teaching. The document that follows comes almost entirely
from Eckert's books. I have undertaken to prepare these notes for
those who teach and study the history of North America. We are all
deeply indebted to Allan Eckert for his enormous contribution to our
understanding of what these people endured and accomplished, what
they thought and felt, and the legacy they left for us to address
and, in some sense, remedy in the quest for the just society.
It is neither the intention nor the desire of the
author to champion either the cause of the Indians or that of the
whites; there were heroes and rascals on both sides; humanity and
atrocity on both sides; rights and wrongs on both sides. ...The
facts speak amply for themselves, and whatever conclusions are drawn
must be drawn solely by the reader. [Allan W. Eckert / 1988]
- What is now West Virginia was dominated by the Xualae tribe
until the mid-1500s; other tribes then began to arrive and erode
- The five tribes occupying the territory from Hudson River
valley westward to the Great Lakes -- the Seneca, Cayuga,
Onondaga, Oneida and Mohawk -- unite to form the Iroquois
Confederation. One of those most responsible for this union was
said to be the chief, Hiawatha.
- In retaliation for providing protection and assistance to the
Hurons, the Erie tribe is annihilated by the Iroquois League. The
Hurons fled and resettled in Michigan.
- The area from the southern shores of Lake Michigan to the Ohio
River was dominated by people called the Miami.
- The area from the Mohawk Valley across southern New York and
down into Pennsylvania was dominated by people called Seneca,
Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida and Mohawk. These tribes forged a
confederation of tribes called the Iroquois League.
- Along the Atlantic Coast and into the area where Philadelphia
and Wilmington arose, the people called Lenni Lenape attempted to
live in peace with the European arrivals, going so far as to
change their name to honor Lord De La Warr. From then on they
became as the Delawares.
- A major outbreak of plague killed tens of thousands of
indigenous people all along the Atlantic coast, making much easier
the takeover of this territory by the Europeans.
- British investors established the Royal African Company and
proceeded to take the slave trade away from the Dutch.
- The people called Huron, who had competed for territory around
the great lakes, were defeated by the Iroquois and forced to
migrate to the region of Lake Michigan.
- To help stem the expansion of the Iroquois into the Ohio River
region, the Miami invited a fierce tribe of mercenary warriors,
the Shawnee, to live in a region near the Ohio River and act as a
buffer between themselves and the Iroquois.
- The Mahican tribe, who for a very long period occupied both
sides of the upper Hudson River to Lake Champlain and eastward,
were finally defeated by the Mohawks and forced to move beyond
- The Xualaes are attacked and exterminated by the Cherokee.
- Sieur de St. Lusson declares: "I hereby take possession
for France of lakes Superior and Huron and of all other countries,
streams, lakes and rivers contiguous and adjacent to those already
discovered as well as those yet to be discovered which are bounded
on one side by the seas of the North and of the West, and on the
other side by the South Sea, and in all their length and breadth."
- The Cherokee are, in turn, attacked by the Iroquois and driven
from the territory they had gained from the Xualaes.
- The Delaware people living on the upper Susquehanna River,
concerned with the increasing encroachment of Europeans, invited
the Shawnees under Chief Opeththa to join them (the Shawnees
arrived two years later and more followed).
- The French build a fort along the strait -- or detroit -- which
separates Lake Huron from Lake Erie.
- William Penn and the Quakers negotiate a treaty with the
Delawares to purchase the land north and west of Philadelphia. The
treaty contains the ambiguous wording: "as far as a man can
go in a day and a half."
- The people called Tuscaora, occupying territory in the
Carolinas, apply for admission to the Iroquois League in order to
obtain protection from the Shawnees.
- War erupts between tribes in the Green Bay region between the
Huron and Ottawas on the one hand and the Fox, Sac and Mascouten.
The French allow the Huron and Ottawas protection at the detroit
- William Johnson is born in County Meath, Ireland.
- The French rebuild Fort St. Louis, originally constructed by
LaSalle on the Illinois River.
- British traders make their first appearance in the Ohio River
area, establishing a trading post on the Wabash River.
- An Ottawa infant, born a month earlier, is finally named.
Obwondiyag, pronounced in the Ottawa tongue, Oh-pahn-tee-yag,
grows to become known to European Americans as Pontiac.
- Pressured by the increasing number of Europeans settling near
them, the Delaware are forced to move their villages from the
upper Susquehanna to northwestern Pennsylvania and into Ohio.
- The Shawnees establish a new village on the Ohio River, for the
first time building cabins in the style of the European colonists
instead of their usual wegiwas.
- The Proprietary of Pennsylvania, desiring to expand
Pennsylvania to accommodate new settlers, inform the Delaware of
their intent to establish boundaries based on the 1701 treaty.
They then clear a path due west of Philadelphia and hire a runner
to begin a sustained run for a day and a half. He covers 150 miles
under what is laughingly called the "Walking Treaty."
- The Huron, upset with French traders and fearful of the
Chippewas and Ottawas, move from the region of the detroit to the
western end of Lake Erie, at Sandusky Bay. They soon began doing
business with English traders.
- William Johnson emigrates to North America to manage lands
owned by his uncle, Peter Warren, up the Hudson River to the
- The Mohawk who would be known to whites as Joseph Brant is born
and named Thayendanegea.
- William Johnson is adopted in the Mohawk tribe. Johnson traded
with the Mohawks fairly and learned their language. He was given
the Mohawk name, Warraghiyagey --
- William Johnson is appointed by Governor George Clinton of New
York Colony to the post of Superintendent of Affairs of the Six
Nations (the Iroquois League).
- By their self-proclaimed right of conquest, the Iroquois sell
to the British land west of the Allegheny Mountains stretching to
the Ohio River -- territory not occupied by the Iroquois but by
the Shawnees and other tribes. The British conveniently ignore the
fact that the Iroquois have no legitimate claim to this land and
that none of the occupying tribes are party to the transaction.
- France and England open the War of the Austrian Succession. In
North America, the English (under Massachusetts Governor William
Shirley) capture the French fortress of Louisbourg on Cape Breton,
- The Governor of New France, Marquis de al Galissoniere, writes
to the French colonial minister: "It is true that Canada and
here dependencies have always been a burden; but they are
necessary as a barrier against English ambitions; and to abandon
them is to abandon ourselves; for if we suffer our enemies to
become masters in America, their trade and naval power will grow
to vast proportions and they will draw from their colonies a
wealth that will make them preponderant in Europe. ..."
- Upon the death of the Ottawa chief Winniwok, killed in a raid
against the Cherokees, Oh-pahn-tee-yag (Pontiac) becomes war
- The Treaty of Aix-al-Chapelle is signed, ending King George's
War between England and France.
- Virginian John Findley leads a group over the Blue Ridge
Mountains and discovered a passage through the mountains and into
the interior, which he named the Cumberland Gap after the Duke of
Cumberland, prime minister of England.
- The English monarch, King George, grants 500,000 acres in
western Virginia to the Ohio Land Company.
- The governor of New France sends an exploratory force of some
230 men under Captain Pierre Joseph de Celoron de Bienville down
the St. Lawrence and into the interior to reinforce France's
territorial claims by planting lead markers at key points along
the river that stretches 1,000 miles from its beginnings at the
coming together of the Allegheny and Monongahela. This river,
known today as the Ohio, was called (among other names)
Spay-lay-wi-theepi by the tribal peoples living along its shores.
- King George of England grants to the principals of the Ohio
Company, 500,000 acres of land west of the Alleghenies. They hire
a prominent frontiersman, Christopher Gist, to lead an expedition
to survey the lands claimed. Guided by a minor Delaware chief
named Nemacolin, they carved out a trail through the wilderness,
thereafter known as the Nemacolin Trail.
- At a grand council held in Albany, New York, the Mohawk chief
Tiyanoga, addressed George Clinton, governor of New York Colony: "You
tell us that the French mean to take over our lands and they tell
us that you mean to do the same. But it is only the English, not
the French, who are building log homes in the deep woods that hve
never before heard the cry of a tree bitten by an axe. [The
French] build stores at which we can trade, but then they leave,
or else only a few stay. But the English build homes and stick
blades into the ground and expose the heart of the mother who is
the earth, and you do not leave even then."
- At another grand council at Albany, in which the English
colonials seek to get a commitment from the Iroquois to fight with
them against the French, a very old Oneida chief, Sconondoa,
"Are there none here who remember when the cry "The
Iroquois are coming!" was alone enough to make the hearts of
the bravest warriors of other tribes fail within their breasts?
Are there none here who remember when this land was all ours and
that though other tribes were round about, they were there by our
forbearance and there was none who could stand before us; are
there none here who remember that from the green sea to the east
and the blue sea to the south, to the land of always-winter in the
north and the land of always-summer in the west, they feared us?
But then came the men in their boats and they brought us gifts.
They asked for our friendship and we gave it to them. Then they
asked for just a little land and we foolishly gave it to them.
Then, when they asked us for more land and we would not give it to
them, they asked us to sell it to them and because they had goods
that were new and powerful to us, we sold them some. Then they
asked us for more land and when we would not give it or sell it,
they took it from us and we talked and talked and always it was we
who gave in and signed a new treaty and took gifts for what was
taken, but the gifts were cheap and worthless and lasted but a
day, while the land lasts forever."
...Can you not see that it makes no difference whether these
white men are of the French or the English or any other of the
peoples from across the sea? All of them threaten our very
existence. All of them! When they came here they had nothing. Now,
like a great disease they have spread all over the east until for
twelve days' walk from the sea there is no room for an Indian to
stay and he is made unwelcome. Yet this was not long ago all
Indian land. How has it gone? As these white men have stained the
east and the north with their presence, so now they extend
themselves to the west and the northwest and the southwest,
forcing all Indians to take sides for them or against them,
whether they are French or English, but in such a game the Indian
- Upon the death of the Baron de Longueuil, the Marquis Duquesne
is sent to New France as the new governor.
- The French begin construction of a series of forts to protect
their interests, extending from Fort Niagara at the southern shore
of Lake Ontario, to Fort Presque Isle on the shore of Lake Erie,
then south to French Creek, where they constructed Fort Le Boeuf.
In response, the governor of Virginia, Robert Dunwiddie, appoints
George Washington to the rank of major in the colonial militia and
sends him west to deliver a message of protest to the French.
Washington departs Virginia late in November, reaching the French
installation of at Venango in mid-December. A month later he was
back in Williamsburg with his report. The tales of his exploits
establish his reputation as a heroic figure.
The next section covers the
beginning of the Seven Years' War,
called by European-Americans the French and Indian