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Ohio Company Papers

What's online?

The entire collection is scanned and online.

What’s in the entire collection?

According to an article published in PITT: A Quarterly of the University of Pittsburgh (Winter, 1941-42), the "Ohio Company papers in the Darlington Library are a part of the Mercer collection referred to by some historians as 'the lost records of the Ohio Company.'" The collection contains manuscripts used by George Mercer to prepare his Case of the Ohio Company, which documented the Company’s actions in the Ohio territory, and are the highlight of the collection. The Case of the Ohio Company was published by George Mercer in 1769 in pamphlet form, but the manuscript copy of the Case in this collection is distinct from the published version in many respects.

The Darlington collection includes the only known manuscript copy of the Case of the Ohio Company. The journals kept by Christopher Gist, recorded during his three scouting missions into the Ohio territory in the 1750s as a field agent of the company, are part of both the published Case reproduced in Mulkearn’s book and the manuscript Case in this collection. The collection includes two different manuscript copies of the Gist journal used by William M. Darlington to publish (posthumously) his 1893 book on the subject.

The collection also includes debt notes and correspondence related to business conducted by the Ohio Company in Virginia, Maryland and western Pennsylvania. The notes include the name and residence of the debtor and the debt holder, the date that the debt was entered into the public record through the county clerk, and the amount. Also present are materials related to various legal cases brought against debtors.

About the Ohio Company

The Ohio Company, founded in 1747, represented the trading and land prospecting interests of a handful of Virginia planters. Thomas Lee was appointed president, Nathaniel Chapman served as treasurer, and John Mercer was both secretary and general counsel. In that year, John Mercer’s son, George Mercer, was appointed the company’s representative in England. In 1748 the British Crown approved a land grant to the company to be administered by the Colony of Virginia. The grant covered the Ohio territory, a colloquial term for what is now modern day West Virginia, much of Ohio, western Pennsylvania and parts of Maryland. Governor Robert Dinwiddie, a member of the company, required that the company develop trade with the Indians, erect forts, and settle one hundred families to secure the grant. The company employed frontiersman Christopher Gist to survey the area of the grant in 1750. Two years later, Iroquois leaders signed a treaty at Loggstown, Pennsylvania, a large Native American settlement on the Ohio River near present-day Ambridge, Pa. Gist was the representative of the Ohio Company and Colonel Joshua Fry represented the Colony of Virginia at the negotiations. The Ohio territory was also claimed by the French, who began erecting forts in the Ohio Valley in reaction to the Treaty at Loggstown and other factors. By the beginning of the French and Indian War in 1754, the Ohio Company’s efforts were largely stymied, despite its continued existence until its formal dissolution in 1779. Other members of the company included Virginians George Mason, brothers Lawrence, Augustine, and George Washington, Governor Robert Dinwiddie, and British merchant John Hanbury.

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