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Brief Biographical / Historical Sketch

Biography

Ephraim Douglass was a carpenter, trader and eventually a soldier in the Revolutionary War. In 1769, he was employed in a variety of occupations at Fort Pitt, including carpenter, blacksmith, and clerk. Douglass spoke several American Indian dialects and in 1771 began trading with local tribes. Later that year, he established a business with Devereaux Smith that included trading outposts in the Indian Territory surrounding Pittsburgh. The partners opened another store in Kittanning, Pennsylvania, in 1776, where a fort was under construction. Later that year, Douglass joined the Eighth Pennsylvania Regiment at Fort Kittanning and was appointed quartermaster. In January of 1777, he marched across Pennsylvania with the regiment to join the Continental Army in Amboy, New Jersey, leaving his business in the care of his brother, Joseph.

Douglass became aide-de-camp to Major General Benjamin Lincoln, but was captured by British forces just four months after leaving Fort Kittanning. He spent three years as a prisoner of war, rejoining the Continental Army in 1780. In 1783, Douglass was called upon to act as a peace emissary on behalf of the United States government. He traveled to Forts Detroit and Niagara to meet with American Indian leaders, but failed to reach any formal agreements.

After returning to civilian life, Douglass settled in Fayette, Pennsylvania, where he held several public offices. He was later appointed brigadier general of the Pennsylvania militia and fought in the Whiskey Rebellion. Ephraim Douglass died on July 17, 1833.

One of Douglass's associates, Richard Butler, briefly became a partner in the business at Kittanning. Butler, also a member of the Eighth Pennsylvania Regiment, fought in the battle of Saratoga and the battle of Monmouth. After the siege of Yorktown, George Washington chose Butler to receive the sword of the defeated British general, Charles Cornwallis. In 1791, Butler was killed by American Indians during the battle of Wabash in the Ohio Country.