A Chronology of the Colonial History
of North America


Edward J. Dodson

The hunger for land of their own pulled not only recent immigrants from the Old World but also the descendants of Europeans whose families had come to North America a century or longer before the French and Indian War erupted. Countless men, some alone, others accompanied by family, sought adventure or to escape a life in the East gone wrong. Still others were sent into the frontier as agents of wealthy English and colonial land owners, merchants or financiers.

The historian Charles Andrews described the period in North America that spans the first settlements in the 1600s to the beginning of the French and Indian War as a time of salutary neglect during which the European-Americans developed a strong sense of independence; and, at the frontier, the people who came and survived also developed a strong distaste for any government but of their making.

1771 (April)

  • Simon Kenton, born in Virginia to a family of tenant farmers, becomes enraged with another man over the affections of a young woman. Kenton, who is sixteen years of age, sneaks up on his adversary and attacks him ruthlessly. Believing he has killed the man in this fight, Kenton departs for the frontier toward Fort Pitt. Along the way, he takes the name Butler.

1771 (June)

  • Marmaduke Van Swearingen, a young Virginian who greatly admires what he sees as the free life of the indigenous warrior, is captured by a Shawnee hunting party. As, Weh-yah-pih-ehr-sehn-wah (Blue Jacket), he is adopted into the tribe and goes on to lead the life of warrior, and eventually, Shawnee warchief.

    Upon arrival at the Shawnee village Kispoko Town, Weh-yah-pih-ehr-sehn-wag is required to run a gauntlet of several hundred Shawnees to prove his courage.

1771 (July)

  • Simon Kenton teams, briefly, with several rough frontiersmen headed for the Can-tuc-kee hunting grounds far down the Ohio River. This group was headed by Jacob Greathouse, who hated the indigenous people greatly and proved capable of matching or exceeding whatever cruelty they might exhibit. Kenton is left behind when Greathouse and the others leave on a rescue mission to free a captured frontiersman from the Delawares.

1771 (November)

  • Simon Kenton joins two frontiersmen on a trip to Can-tuc-kee. After a successful hunt, they are surprised by a war party and one of the group is killed. Simon Kenton is forced to flee without clothing, weapons or food into the forest. Six days later he comes across Jacob Greathouse at the Spay-lay-wi-theepi (Ohio River) and is rescued.


  • Approaching a group of surveyors encamped on the north shore of the Spay-lay-wi-theepi in violation of an existing treaty the Shawnee warrior Peshewa is shot and killed. The Shawness now began a period of undeclared warfare in retaliation.

1773 (December)

  • Colonists of the Massachusetts Bay colony dump crates of tea into Boston Harbor as a protest against the Tea Act.

1774 (April)

  • A large group headed by Jacob Greathouse lures a group of Mingo braves and the family of Tal-ga-yee-ta (known as Logan to the English) into a trap, killing and in horrible fashion mutilating the bodies of many. Tal-ga-yee-ta, who had long remained neutral in the struggles between French and English and the other tribes, now declares that "his tomahawk would not again be grounded until he had taken ten lives for every one that was slain..."

1774 (May)

  • At Fort Pitt, Simon Kenton meets the frontiersman Simon Girty, who had been taken as a child prisoner by one of the Ohio River valley tribes and later released in a prisoner exchange. Kenton rescues Girty from a beating by a militia officer. Shortly thereafter, Kenton joins a company of militia being formed by George Rogers Clark.

1774 (July)

  • Sir William Johnson dies at his home in the Mohawk Valley after a long period of fevers and other illnesses, including syphillis. Johnson had called a council with the Iroquois to secure their support for English interests in any troubles to come between England and the colonials. Johnson's death left the Iroquois, and the Mohawks, in particular, in a precarious position in which they realized there was probably no possibility of emerging any longer as a powerful nation.

1774 (13 October)

  • Thayendanegea, now working with the new Superintendent of Indian Affairs, Colonel Guy Johnson, addresses the annual congress of the Iroquois nation. A major decision to be made was whether to support the British against the ‘American' colonials: "I do not pretend to know which is the wisest course for us. There are many things to consider before so grave a step should be made. In all matters, our chief concern must be our own future as six individual nations and as a great League. We are no longer as numerous or as powerful as we once were. The reason is partly that so many of our brave warriors and chiefs were killed when once before we found ourselves between two white forces bent upon one another's destruction. ...Should war break out aganst among the whites, we may be drawn into it whether or not we desire to be. We need therefore to study the strengths and weaknesses of those whites who would war against one another and, if we must fight, then choose, for the sake of the perpetuation of our nations, the side which will win. In whatever decision is made we must, above all else, remain united."

1774 (October)

  • Some 1,000 Shawnees, Mingoes, Delawares and Wyandots attack a force of Virginia militia at the Battle of Point Pleasant where the Great Kanawha enters the Ohio River. Among the Shawnee casualties is Pucksinwah, father of Tecumseh. The Shawnees pull back after the loss of only about twenty warriors. Back in their villages the Shawnee warriors, worried that the Shawmanese (the ‘long knives') would regroup and come against them, asked their chiefs to seek peace. A treaty signed at Fort Pitt thus ended Lord Dunmore's War and opened the lands along the Ohio to settlement.

1775 (March)

  • At a place known as Sycamore Shoals on the Watauga River, Richard Henderson of North Carolina, head of the Transylvania Land Company, purchases from the Cherokees for $10,000 in guns and provisions "all the land enclosed in the area bordered by the Appalachians to the east, the Ohio River to the north, the Mississippi to the west and the Cumberland River to the south." The Cherokees failed to disclose, and Henderson did not ask, that this territory was controlled not by the Cherokees but by the Shawnees.

1775 (19 April)

  • Conflict between the colonials and the British government erupts into armed rebellion at Concord and Lexington. George Washington is appointed commander of the Continental Army.

1775 (May)

  • At a meeting called by Colonel Guy Johnson and Sir John Johnson at Johnson Hall, on the Mohawk River, some 500 Loyalists formally oppose the measures adopted by the Congress assembled in Philadelphia.

1775 (10 May)

  • ‘American' forces under General Benedict Arnold and Colonel Ethan Allen capture Fort Ticonderoga on Lake Champlain.

1775 (June)

  • George Washington formally takes command of the Continental Army and begins to plan a campaign against the British.

1775 (12 June)

  • Colonels Guy Johnson and John Butler meet in council with the Iroquois chiefs to urge them to join the Loyalist cause.

1775 (17 June)

  • The British suffer defeat at the Battle of Bunker Hill outside of Boston, in Massachusetts.

1775 (July)

  • The Shawnee septs divide, with more than half the population leaving the Ohio River region to move across the Mississippi and permanently (they hope) away from the whites.

1775 (August)

  • Major General Philip Schuyler, commander of the Northern Department of the Contintental Amry, invites the ‘Indians' to a council at Albany. Virtually none of the major chiefs came; the Iroquois were mostly in Montreal meeting with the British.

1775 (September)

  • A force commanded by Ethan Allen attempts to take Montreal by surprise but is forced to retreat. Allen is captured.

1775 (2 November)

  • The British surrender Fort St. Johns to the ‘Americans' under General Richard Montgomery. Montgomery then marches against Montreal. Benedict Arnold at the same time appears on the St. Lawrence across from Quebec.

1775 (11 November)

  • Colonel Guy Johnson, accompanied by Thayendanegea, departs North America from Quebec for England on a mission to obtain increased support for the Loyalist cause.

1776 (January)

  • Thomas Paine's Common Sense is published, in which Paine declares: "The time has come for the final separation from England and arms must decide the contest."

1776 (7 January)

  • Continental troops under General Schuyler surround Fort Johnson, the home of Sir John Johnson. Johnson is taken prisoner, as are all the known Loyalists of the Mohawk Valley, and their property confiscated.

1776 (March)

  • General John Burgoyne takes command of a large reinforcement of British troops headed for North America to relieve Quebec and retake Montreal. Burgoyne is successful in both objectives.

1776 (June)

  • At the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, Richard Henry Lee of Virginia introduces the following resolution: "Resolved: that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states." A committee headed by Thomas Jefferson is assigned to prepare a declaration of independence.

    On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence is signed. As an inducement to citizens to join in the cause and fight for the Continental Army, the Ohio River lands are made part of a new Northwest Territory to be distributed on liberal terms following victory against England.

1776 (July)

  • Simon Kenton begins an extensive exploration of the Can-tuc-kee country, making "tomahawk claims" to tracts of land he finds particularly attractive. He reaches Boonesboro and develops a strong friendship with Daniel Boone, who is now in his mid-forties.

1776 (23 September)

  • Sir John Johnson reaches Montreal and is commissioned a colonel in the British army and placed in command of the New York and other Loyalists.

1776 (6 December)

  • The Virginia General Assembly declares the Transylvania Land Company and its puchase of land from the Cherokees illegal. Out of the Can-tuc-kee lands was created Kentucky County.

1776 (December)

  • Following his return from England, Thayendanegea moves into the village of Oquaga, a village on the upper Susquehanna of some three hundred Senecas, Cayugas, Mohawks, Onondagas, Oneidas, Tuscaroras, a few Delawares and a dozen for so Tory families.

1777 (April)

  • The Shawnees attack Boonesboro. Daniel Boone, drawn out of the fort, is seriously wounded and almost killed. He is rescued by Simon Kenton, who carries Boone across his shoulders back to the fort. The Shawnees keep up their pressure on Boonesboro until late May, when they return across the Ohio.

1777 (1 June)

  • General Burgoyne's force of 10,000 troops begins moving out of Montreal toward Lake Champlain. The plan iss to meet on the Hudson with Barry St. Leger (whose own force included 700-900 ‘Indians' commanded by Sir John Johnson) as well as a large army under General William Howe coming from New York City.

    Burgoyne's army marches south toward Albany, chasing the ‘Americans' under General Schuyler from Fort Edward.

1777 (2 August)

  • St. Leger's army opens an attack on Fort Stanwix, garrisoned by 900 ‘Americans'. A relief force is ambushed by Thayendanegea and Sir John Johnson at the Battle of Oriskany. Some 500 ‘Americans' are killed; the ‘Indians' suffer around 100 killed and another 100 Tories are killed.

1777 (15 August)

  • General Schuyler, dispatches a relief column under Benedict Arnold to Fort Stanwix. Schuyler then moves his main force closer to Albany. There he is met by General Horatio Gates with orders from George Washington to take over command from Schuyler.

1777 (22 August)

  • Tired of the long siege against Fort Stanwix, the Iroquois prepare to leave. St. Leger now has no choice but to do so as well. Weakened after the long march south from Lake Champlain, in September Burgoyne is surprised by a large Continental force and meets defeat at the Battle of Saratoga.

1777 (10 October)

  • Hokolesqua (Cornstalk to the whites), principal Shawnee chief, ventures under a flag of truce to Fort Randolph, to discuss the many violatons of the treaty of Fort Pitt. He and his son Elinipsico are put into the stockade and promptly murdered.

1778 (6 February)

  • A formal treaty is signed between France and the United States. France is now in the war against Britain.

1778 (February)

  • Daniel Boone, leading a group of saltmakers, is captured by a war party of Shawnees led by Blue Jacket. Boone is taken to the Shawnee village of Chillicothe and, because of his reputation and status as a frontiersman, is adopted into the tribe rather than tortured to death.

1778 (March)

  • Disgusted by the land greed and treachery of his fellow colonials, Simon Girty changes sides and joins the Tories fighting on behalf of the British empire.

1778 (May)

  • A force of some 400 Rangers and Tories under Colonel John Butler, supported by Senecas and Cayugas, swarm down the Mohawk Valley as well as down the Susquehanna across northern Pennsylvania. Many settlers are forced to abandon their cabins and farms; those who do not often pay the ultimate price for their folly.

1778 (August)

  • George Rogers Clark surprises the British garrisons at Forts Kaskaskia and Cahokia. During that month, Daniel Boone also escapes from the Shawnees and returns to Boonesboro.

1778 (13 September)

  • Simon Kenton, attempting to retrieve horses from the Shawnees at Chillicothe, is captured and his companion, Alex Montgomery, killed. Recognized, Simon is taken into captivity, beaten, then forced to run a gauntlet at Chllicothe. Forced to run twice, the second time he is hit with clubs and beaten until he is unconscious. A tribal council condemns him to death at the stake, at Wapatomica, the most central Shawnee village, where the majority of the nation could be on hand for the execution. Over the course of a week, Kenton is forced to run five more gauntlets. Facing his sixth gauntlet at Moluntha's Town, he decides to make his escape. While the Shawnees assemble in line, he breaks through and before they can react he is 70 yards out of the village. He outdistances his pursuers and is almost away, when he runs directly into a group of oncoming braves led by Blue Jacket, who sets off after him on horseback. Blue Jacket brings him down with the blunt end of his tomahawk and Kenton is dragged back to the village.

    Kenton's head wound is dressed and his injuries treated. Despite all that he endures, at another council his death sentenced is reaffirmed. Twice more he is forced to run gauntlets. Then, at Wapatomica, Simon Kirty arrives and intervenes to save Kenton's life. A vote is taken and Kenton receives a reprieve; in fact, this time the decision is that he be adopted into the Shawnee nation. For a time, his survival seems reasonably certain.