Expanding Frontiers in British Colonial America 1750 to 1775 (National Institute)

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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course United States Migration Patterns  by Beverly Whitaker, CG. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).

The French and Indian War: The Proclamation Line

Both the French and the British claimed territory west of the Appalachians. The French erected posts at strategic points in the Mississippi River, and with the enlistment of Indians, made periodic raids against outlying British settlements. When France and Britain went to war on the Continent, full-scale combat erupted in America as well. The European phase ended in 1763; the Treaty of Paris forced the French to surrender all of Canada to the British (except for some islands in the St. Lawrence) and everything east of the Mississippi except the New Orleans vicinity.

The return of peace brought immediate renewal of interest in the vast trans-Appalachian West. Early in 1763 both individual and collective land claims were being made. As early as 1748 a group of wealthy English and Virginia investors had been granted 200,000 acres of land along the upper Ohio River, the plan requiring that a hundred families would locate there within seven years. Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania and Governor Thomas Pownall of Massachusetts had also advocated western development by means of such land grants. Although the coming of the French and Indian War quieted such enterprises temporarily, speculative interest did not fade, nor did the appeal of rich land resources as an alternative to land-poor Eastern farmers.

With hostilities ending on the American continent, the rush of settlers into a region reserved by treaty for the Indians (1758) alarmed the British who attempted to forbid settlement West of the mountains. Their attempted solution was to establish a Proclamation Line—a boundary along the crest of the mountains, west of which was to be set aside as Indian Hunting Grounds. Individuals were warned against making individual purchases from the Indians, and colonial governors were prohibited from issuing more land grants.

The Royal Proclamation Line of 1763 hampered the development of western land schemes. Rival land companies and incoming settlers sought lands on the western waters. There were petitions, correspondence, and court cases over who had first claim or best right to these lands. Land companies acquired large land tracts and then in turn awarded or sold land to the settlers, keeping their own private records (not public, government records). Seek these records at Eastern state or regional historical societies, manuscript collections at libraries, and Family History microfilms.

In 1768 the Treaty of Ft. Stanwix opened the whole region south and east of the Ohio River; it extended the Proclamation Line in such a way that the northern Indians gave up claims to that area as well as extending the southern portion of the line. The result was that an area of fresh land was open to white settlers. By 1771 the population at Ft. Pitt had reached 10,000 families.

Due partly to the presence of passable routes into the Interior, but also on account of surplus population in the Middle Colonies (Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, and North Carolina) contributed the most heavily to the migration into Kentucky and Tennessee. The western fringes of the middle colonies were populated by thousands of Germans along with large numbers of Scots-Irish. This second group wanted a hard-line policy with the natives and complained about both the peace-loving Germans and the Indian-loving Quakers. Settlers along the Carolina frontier were unhappy with what they considered to be injustices by colonial governments and local civil officials. In the late 1760s, one group began to take matters into their own hands, calling themselves Regulators. Their dissatisfaction eventually led to a two-hour battle at the Alamance River on May 16, 1771, between the forces of Governor Tryon and the Regulators. The Regulators were defeated, and most of them accepted pardons, having made clear their protest against arbitrary government. (Robert E. Riegel and Robert G. Athearn, America Moves West, 5th edition, New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1971, 38–41.)

In 1774 Lord Dunmore’s War was confined to one battle which removed the Shawnee obstacle to white settlement. But of course this resolved the Indian problem only temporarily. Moreover, for the next few years, attention was diverted by the American Revolutionary War.

Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course United States Migration Patterns offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at wiki@genealogicalstudies.com

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