Historical Markers
Augusta Town Historical Marker
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Augusta Town

Pittsburgh Region


Marker Location:
US 40, 3 miles SW of Washington

Dedication Date:
May 28, 1947

Behind the Marker

Battles along the eastern seaboard may have determined the ultimate outcome of the American Revolution, but the war also resolved longstanding borders disputes between Pennsylvania and her neighboring colonies. While the marker"Yankee-Pennamite" conflict in the Wyoming Valley threatened the territorial integrity of northeastern Pennsylvania, another land dispute broke out between Pennsylvanians and Virginians in the southwestern corner of the colony. As with former disputes, the problems at Monongahela grew out of vaguely worded seventeenth-century charters drafted by the English crown as well as eighteenth-century economic problems.

In Virginia's original "sea to sea" charter of 1609, King James had granted the Virginia Company lands without clear northern or western borders. Indeed, the charter, in theory, extended all the way west to the Pacific Ocean. Virginia also made undefined claims to lands to the north. These northern claims, however, were never an issue until a century and a half of tobacco farming had depleted the soil fertility of Virginia's Tidewater plantations, and Virginia planters had piled up huge debts to English and Scottish merchants, debts that they often blamed on the British mercantile system. Eager to expand their colony and control the area around the forks of the Ohio River, wealthy Virginians formed land companies and pressed Virginia's claims to the north.

Like the frontier dispute in northeastern Pennsylvania, the boundary conflict in the southwest also spanned the better part of two decades. Interestingly, a young George Washington was engaged in land surveying and speculation in the Ohio Valley that created a crisis over ownership of land west of the Pennsylvania boundary. After the American Revolution, he would also be involved in the resolution of the Wyoming problem. Thus, the links between private enterprise and public service in Pennsylvania's internal revolution were critical in shaping the American Revolution itself.

Washington explored the Ohio Country as a young surveyor in the 1740s. During the French and Indian War, a decade later, he was present at markerGeneral Braddock's devastating defeat on the Monongahela River in 1755. In 1773, Washington urged Virginia's new governor, Lord Dunmore, to take an aggressive stance to protect the colony's access to the headwaters of the Ohio River. By then, Virginia and Pennsylvania land claimants were jostling with each other south and west of markerFort Pitt. While the Pennsylvanians declared the territory to be part of Westmoreland County, Virginia insisted that the region was part of their colony's Augusta County. Sheriffs, tax collectors, and other provincial officials appointed by both colonies alternatively protected and harassed settlers in the disputed area.

The ongoing hostilities between white colonists threatened their relations with neighboring Indian tribes, which were complicated enough in eastern Ohio because of the diversity of native groups and their own local rivalries. Because of the logistical and commercial importance of the Ohio's headwaters, the land dispute captured the attention of imperial officials in London. Lord Dunmore was at first content to settle the matter by negotiating with the Indians through personal agents like Col.John Connolly and George Croghan, native Pennsylvanians who relocated to Virginia.

In 1774, however, Dunmore decided to take matters into his own hands. Leading an armed force on a major campaign into the Ohio Valley, the Virginia governor won concessions from the Delaware, Mingoes, and Senecas who inhabited the contested territory. Although the Penns had better access to the royal court in London, their attention was diverted by the territorial dispute taking place in the Wyoming Valley. Thus, Virginia gained a stronger foothold in southwest Pennsylvania.

The arrival of the American Revolution in 1775 forced both Virginia and Pennsylvania to take a broader view of their interests. Both states appointed commissioners to establish a provisional boundary, using the Mason and Dixon Line as a model. According to that boundary, Fort Pitt, soon to be Pittsburgh, remained in Pennsylvania territory. In return, Virginia received boundary concessions along the Ohio River. This compromise seemed to suit the basic needs and interests of the existing settlers as well as those of the two states.

A year later, in 1776, Virginians organized the first county court west of the Monongahela River, at Augusta Town, in present-day markerWashington County - then known as "Augusta County." In the 1780s, the Virginians relinquished their claims after surveys confirmed that the territory should be part of Pennsylvania. As peace returned to the eastern seaboard, and as migration into the Appalachian West began in earnest, the disputes between Pennsylvania's and Virginia's sheriffs, grand juries, and other officials receded into local memory.
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