Local History

Monacatootha: Fearless Indian Chief of Beaver County

        The infancy of the American Indian in Beaver County is both sacred and obscure. Many of its residents claim some form of descendants from tribes that inhabited the Ohio Valley as well as Indians from the west and south. It is a well deserved and ornate heritage that has had both social and civil influence deeply rooted throughout the county.

         One particular character that created such a discerning and lavish testament is Monacatootha. In 1753 Beaver County was primarily occupied by the French. In order to terminate their influence and extinguish their political control, the English desperately needed to amalgamate Indian treaties and royal support from the English throne. To achieve this objective, they established well supported common communication, exceedingly lavish “trade” relationships, and military support against the French who were constantly threatening and plundering their occupied territory. To irritate instances further, a young Virginia militia commander, George Washington, was sent to establish cheery and healthy relations with the already hostile Indians who bitterly resented the growing French occupation. Washington met Monacatootha at Logstown (later, Legionville). The Iroquois Confederacy appointed two chiefs to preside over the Indians at Logstown: Monacatootha (over the Shawnees) and Tanacharison (over the Delawares.)

        A young and nervous Washington journeyed to the north to meet with high-ranking French commanders and to fully “discuss” the Ohio Valley situation.  After some considerable debate and meaningless attempts at negotiations, the French informed Washington that any Englishmen who attempted to trade or establish routes along the Ohio would be taken prisoner. Fearing for the lives of the men who worked along the banks of the Ohio, the Governor (Dinwiddie) sent Washington back to the area with a band of militia. With nervous energy, the  Indians awaited Washington’s return; the French withdrew their forces from Venango, which constituted around a thousand men; however, the French forces far outnumbered the English which ultimately compelled the Indians to side with the French out of fear and desperation.

         Witnessing these venomous actions in horror, Monacatootha , believing this a circumstance of trickery by the French, made it his solemn duty to retaliate and rise to the defense of his new friend (Washington). He emptied and burned his entire village, put his people in canoes, and proclaimed them as new members of Washington’s army. The message was candid and tense…to all the remaining Indians in the area that he would not succumb his people to French authority!  Almost every nation of the Iroquois Confederacy was united in the peaceful, but clever actions Monacatootha had undertaken against the white invaders. Even with his people despondent and indignant, Monacatootha took more vindicating actions for the perseverance of his culture and people; he assisted Washington in taking up arms with him at the Battle of Fort Necessity.  Despondent and humiliated, Washington surrendered to the French and returned to Virginia; however, Monacatootha and his people could not return to the Ohio Valley because of full French occupation. But his struggle for the perseverance of his people would not be extinguished. He journeyed to New York to protest the malicious “Wyoming Purchase”; Indians were fed alcohol and “signed” away their rights of land ownership over to white authority. As a direct result,  the Iroquois  Confederacy would not allow any white settlers into the Wyoming Valley. Years and many bloody massacres later, white settlers eventually cultivated these lands with savagery and violence, sadly.

        In 1755 General Braddock was sent from England to force the French to abdicate their established influence and locations in the region. But unlike his counterpart, he deeply resented the American Indians and labeled them as ignorant and crude barbarians. Washington was completely incapable of convincing Braddock that he desperately needed the Indians to fight the French; in grave error, he exiled them, save but a few.

        Some years later it was discovered that a British officer kept a journal of some of the military excursions of General Braddock which we find a mention of Monacatootha; he wrote: “Monacatootha, as chief of our Indians, being on the advance of the day before, was met by 70 Indians and some French who bound him and were going to kill him. An Indian of his own Nation being among them entreated that he might have his liberty which after some difficulty was granted.”

        After a deeper inquiry into the journal this officer asserts that the English were nervous and terrified of every “natural” sound that occurred. Not surprisingly, General Braddock refused to listen to any of Monacatootha’s suggestions in impugning French territory or implementing effective combat operations which the Indians had devised over time with their past incursions. As a result, General Braddock was defeated by the French forces (and aided by other Indian tribes who still supported the French) and consequently killed.

        Some months later, Monacatootha made an arduous and dangerous journey into Delaware Country. He reported his actions to the Pennsylvania Assembly and they inevitably declared war on the Delawares. Sadly, Monacatootha died in 1757; at the time he was living in Lancaster and was never able to return to his home along the Ohio. In his glorious honor, the borough of Monaca, Pennsylvania, takes his name.

        The contribution and influence of the Native Americans in Beaver County, Pennsylvania, is extensive, though not widely appreciated and known and virtually unspoken of in our schools. Consider the following compilation of names and places associated with our natural relatives: Aliquippa, (related to Queen Aliquippa); Beaver, (possibly named after King Beaver of the Delaware tribe; though this is controversial); Blackhawk, (it was once a village on Lisbon Road; now Ohioville); Chippewa (named after an Indian tribe of the Great Lakes region); Connoquenessing, (the creek); Crow, (Crow’s Run Road); Logstown (a northeastern section of Aliquippa; but it was originally located across the river from Harmony Township); Monaca, (the town named after Monacatootha); Ohio, (Ohioville Borough and Ohioville Village in Industry and the Ohio River; it is a Seneca name and means “good.”); Raccoon, (Raccoon Creek; it was originally called “raccoon stream” by the Indians); Sewickley, (New Sewickley Township, North Sewickley Township, Big Sewickley Creek; it is a Shawnee name.) How many do you know?

















Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *