The following is the first of a four-part installment. The article in full originally appeared in The New Polis in January, 2019.
“Damn it, he’s an Injun!”
The settlers on the upper waters of the Monongahela often went in canoes and flat-boats to Fort Pitt, where they exchanged skins, furs, jerked venison, and other products of the wilderness for ammunition and necessaries. Jesse Hughes and Henry McWhorter made a trip together. One day they put ashore where a number of children were playing, among them a little Indian boy. The incident which followed I will give in McWhorter’s own words. [i.e., Henry McWhorter, the author’s great grandfather]
“The instant that Jesse caught sight of the little Indian boy his face blazed with hatred. I saw the devil flash in his eye, as feigning great good humor, he called out, ‘Children, don’t you want to take a boat ride?’ Pleased with a prospective glide over the still waters of the Monongahela, one and all came running towards the boat. Perceiving Hughes’ cunning ruse to get the little Indian into his clutches, I picked up an oar, and gruffly ordering the children away, quickly shoved the boat from the bank. When safely away, I turned to Hughes and said, ‘Now, Jesse, ain’t you ashamed?’ ‘What have I done?’ he sullenly asked. ‘What have you done? Why, you intended to kill that little Indian boy. I saw it in your every move and look, the moment you got sight of the little fellow.’ ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘I intended when we got into mid-stream to stick my knife in him and throw him overboard.’ When I remonstrated with him about this, he said, ‘Damn it, he’s an Injun!’”
For Jesse Hughes the day of actual conflict had passed. The red warrior no longer haunted the Virginia wilderness, but desultory bands of friendly Indians, degraded by the vices of the white man’s civilization (5) still lingered round their former homes and the graves of their people. These spent much of their time in wandering about through the white settlements and often indulged in drunken carousals. Against these beings, Jesse continued to glut his insatiate thirst for Indian blood….
Jesse’s awful vow of his younger days, “to kill Injuns as long as he lived and could see to kill them,” was fearfully and savagely kept in the eventide of his life. The laws for the protection of life were ineffective on the border and were seldom enforced when the victim was a “despised redskin.”
About April 1, 1779, David Morgan (1721-1813), a euro-christian colonialist, murdered two Lenape Indian men on a piece of western virginia frontier land on which he had made a property claim and had started farming. His farm was close by, about a mile, the small fort the new invasive euro-christian community had built. Already by the mid-1750s, during the north american portion of the Seven Years War of England with France (in U.S. histories the north American portion is commonly called the “French and Indian War”), a series of forts were constructed along what is now the eastern boundary of west Virginia on a line due south of the Fairfax Line —a couple of hundred miles east of what was to become David Morgan’s property claim a quarter century later.
While many of these were military garrisons built under orders of the Virginia governor, the majority were settler constructed forts, built by each local invader-settler enclave and designed to protect settler enclaves against Indian resistance to invader presence in Native territory.
The part of that european war played out in north America was one to determine whose Right of (christian) Discovery was to prevail over the lucrative Native lands of the Ohio River valley. So these forts (both civilian and military) marked the advancing anglo-christian frontier—each falling into disuse as the frontier passed them by and as english christian folk penetrated ever deeper into Native territory. By the mid-1770s Morgan had himself participated in building one of these front-line forts along the Monongahela River, one of the upper watersheds to the Ohio.
David Morgan: Indian Killer
I killed seven Indians in my life.—David Morgan, in his family Bible
After Morgan’s murder of these two Lenape men, in an act considered ghastly and grotesque by Indian People to this day, fellow colonialists flayed the skin of the victims and used their tanned hides for making souvenir curios, including, we are told, the cover for a book of christian history. That book became a treasured holding at a christian graduate school of theology a century after the murders, a prized gift from a local methodist minister.
In a previous essay I documented that school’s history of shame with regard to the covering of that book and their secretive disposal of the cover in 1974 after 80 years of keeping it on public display. This essay attempts to describe the larger context of horror that would generate such an atrocity.
David Morgan, a scion of a notable welsh quaker immigrant family, had been among the first euro-christian settlers on the upper Monongahela in 1774. He had undoubtedly walked the land more than two decades prior as a surveyor with a crew working on behalf of Lawrence Washington and the Ohio Company scouting out lucrative speculative lands on the company’s behalf. In the process Morgan would have become privy himself to prime choices in Native land—as surveyors generally did.
A friend and neighbor to Jacob Prickett, Morgan would have helped in constructing Prickett’s Fort, the civilian fortified refuge for these invasive settlers built in 1774. Morgan, Prickett, and the others in that initially small enclave of euro-christians were actually squatters on Indian land, a common euro-christian practice that persisted into the 20thcentury. Their “property” claims were effected by occupation at that date; only in 1776 was their property “ownership” ratified by the new national congress in Philadelphia.
Of course, Indian people of that region were not a part of the congress’ deliberations in 1776 and would have only begun to hear word of mouth about this new government by 1779. And, of course, notions of property, individual rights of ownership, or private property would have entirely foreign to the Natives who lived and hunted on that land.
What was David Morgan’s claim to this land, and what were the circumstances of these killings? Who were these two Indian men and what were they doing? What else is going on in David Morgan’s world as he draws aim with his rifle on the first Indian he kills? The answers are incredibly complex and multifaceted, buried beneath deep layers of colonialist romance and self-serving colonialist histories.
Getting at some of this history is difficult, requiring a thorough excavation of the exotic colonialist narrative. Yet we have some basic knowledge with which to begin. We know that a man died and was skinned, simply because of the documented history of the book held in the library of Iliff School of Theology that was covered with the tanned skin of one of these victims. Indeed, it becomes quickly apparent that there were two victims killed that day. We know when the incident happened, 1779, and we know where it occurred, near Rivesville in modern W. Virginia. And we know that David Morgan was the perpetrator—at least of the murders.
This essay is an attempt to explicate further why this could occur and how it may have played out. As a narrative, my interpretive history here breaks decidedly with the christian colonialist telling of history, and there is no doubt that it will leave some readers unhappy and unconvinced.But it deserves to get a hearing, and I will argue that it is has a high degree of probability as historical explanation.
I suspect that David Morgan killed one Indian man in cold blood. Ambush. That would have been easy enough. But then he discovered a second man and found himself in a second, unexpected fight. Having fired his rifle at his first victim, he no longer had a loaded weapon, so he was forced to engage in a hand-to-hand fight. This narrative, however, cannot be satisfied merely with the solving of a crime. Rather, it must look at the whole social context of these murders in euro-christian colonial north America and pay attention to the dominant social imaginary shared across euro-christian north America about Indian Peoples.
The prime question—since the beginning of the euro-christian invasion—has to do with how the colonial settler population is always able to rationalize their christian faith and upbringing given the violence they systematically perpetrated against the people who already lived on this continent. In this case they proudly flouted their violence in one of their most sacred religious venues—namely, the methodist school of theology where I taught for 32 years.
It was not the case that we Indian folk were not yet considered human. Euro-christian people had decided that point for themselves in the 1550-51 Valladolid debate between two academically inclined spanish catholic bishops, intellectuals of the late renaissance. And from the beginning, euro-christian invaders were unquestionably able to communicate with Native Peoples as fellow human beings. The separatist pilgrims at Plymouth had Tisquantum, who had been kidnapped and had lived some time in England, learning the language; Hernán Cortés had Doña Marina, whose intellect allowed her to quickly learn Cortés’ language.
Indeed, we are told that Morgan spoke bits and pieces of three Indian languages, including the language of the two victims he murdered. So euro-christian folk knew full well that Indian Peoples were, like themselves, rational human beings quite capable of precise communication, even as they devised a narrative to accord Indians less-than (savage) status.
At some level they fully knew they were in violation of their own code of “commandments,” as in “thou shalt not steal,” “thou shalt not covet anything that is thy neighbor’s,” and “thou shalt not kill.” In the case of Morgan and the upper Monongahela Valley, the same basic knowledge had to be true as well. Namely, Morgan, William Crawford, George Washington, much like Governor John Evans and the Rev. John Chivington nearly a century later, all knew full well that they were pushing Natives off of the land in order to take Native lands to make room for euro-christian invasive settlement.
The murder and displacement of Native Peoples did not just happen, however. There was, at some level, a self-conscious plan and execution—even if the result was a lingering habitual behavior in the greater euro-christian public. As christian folk, though, the invaders needed to create some fiction about their invasion that could / would justify and excuse their violence, particularly their violence over against the Native inhabitants of the land they so coveted. Even as David Morgan was a consumer of the narrative, the story that spread recounting his murder of two Indians immediately became part of that much larger constructed narrative of christian excuse and denial.
Versions of the David Morgan Indian-killing legend proliferated very quickly after the event. Most of these stories were highly romanticized versions, particularly adding details precisely to exonerate and heroize the protagonist. By early 1779 Morgan would have been 57, no longer a young man, so the tale of his hand-to-hand combat with a younger, stronger Indian man adds to the heroic narrative. All these variant accounts reach out and grab a euro-christian authence in such a way that the violence in no way requires exoneration but rather just the opposite, generates christian exhilaration and celebration.
Indeed, the romance continues to express sympathy for heroes like Morgan and continues to cast Indians as permanent enemies, savages, and casts the White christian settler category as righteous, just, and even pious. This is the continuing foundation of american exceptionalism, the trajectory of that social imaginary into our own time.
More than one historian writing in our contemporary times has called the Morgan tale “thrilling.” Jack Moore, author of the essay on the earliest printed version of the Morgan story, calls it: “One of the most exciting and enduring stories of pioneer adventure in West Virginia” and identifies Morgan as still a hero in the state. And the extended Morgan family continues to have large reunions that recount their Davids, Zackquills, and Morgan Morgans, reunions that caught public attention even a century ago and more.
The simplest and most unadorned version of the David Morgan killings is one recited by his son Stephen in a press interview in 1808 while his father was still alive. Stephen already addresses one aspect of that romantic exaggeration and puts the lie to another by simple omission—even as he engages in some exaggeration of his own.
Some historians have asserted that my father killed three Indians in the fight at our homestead in 1779. He was responsible only for the death of two Indians; they were of the Delaware Nation, and about thirty years old. One was very large, weighing about two hundred pounds; the other was short and stocky, weighing about one hundred and eighty pounds. My father (David Morgan) was six feet one inch tall, and at that time weighed one hundred and ninety pounds, about. It has been published that my father tomahawked and skinned the savages. This is not true. He left one Indian alive, but dying, and returned to the fort and to his bed, which he had left less than an hour before, where he remained for the remainder of the day. The oft’ made statement that he attempted to escape to the fort by flight is not true. He did not run a single step with the expectation of getting away from the savages. The running he did was done to gain an advantage over the enemy, and this he accomplished.
Although Stephen fails to confirm it at all, many other versions of the story place Stephen (at about age 18) at the farm only seconds before the first murder. Indeed, most versions of the story place Morgan’s two youngest children on the site and have Morgan leaving the protection of the fort to check on his children and ultimately to rescue the kids.
It would seem that Stephen would certainly not fail to mention his and his sister’s presence that day and his father’s presumed heroism in rescuing both children from Indian attack. So we can readily dismiss this factoid as a later addition to the narrative intended precisely to increase its heroic value. Differing versions, while they might usually include the children-factor, add a number of other details that also seem to function as narrative justification for the killings and to heighten the heroic romance of what became the legend.
Some, but not all versions, speak of David Morgan suffering some illness requiring him to leave his sickbed to engage this enemy—again, seemingly added to increase the sense of the heroic. In some, Morgan has a vision while in bed at the fort warning him of the danger to his children. A couple of versions add a detail about Morgan finding the Indians actually inside his home.
The number of Indians killed also varies from two to three up to five.For almost all of this, there is no real evidence whatsoever. Indeed, the stories that accompanied the “Iliff book” to its repository in Denver were even more the product of romance fantasy.
The earliest printed version of the narrative found its way into the U.S. Magazine in Philadelphia only a bit more than a month after the alleged event, yet even this early version must raise serious concern for historicity. The magazine posted a “letter” from an unnamed author writing from “Westmoreland” and dated April 26 and reporting the event happened about April 1.
Two problems arise immediately for the careful historian. First off, the letter is posted from “Westmoreland” and not from Prickett’s Fort or Rivesville, the immediate neighborhood of the event. The oral narrative must have travelled down-stream very quickly, no doubt, but what is the relationship between the reporter in this letter and those who were actually present for some parts of the event? Since Morgan was alone with the two Indian men he killed, he was the only surviving immediate witness. Others evidently rushed to the scene upon hearing Morgan’s report, but they could only function as eyewitnesses to the scene itself after the fact and the activities of the colonialists in killing the wounded man and deprecating both of their bodies—scalping, skinning, tanning the skins, etc.
So where was Westmoreland and how accurate might this letter writer’s version be? Westmoreland today is a county that is part of the Pittsburgh metropolitan statistical area, but in 1779 it covered a much larger area—including Ft. Pitt. It was the first county of Pennsylvania entirely located west of the Alleghenies, established in 1773.
So the author of this letter could have lived in a smaller settlement south of Pittsburgh, closer to what is now the border between Pennsylvania and West Virginia, but still would have been some distance away from Prickett’s Fort and Morgan’s farm where these killings happened, which raises questions about the possible accuracy of the narrative on its face.
It could only have been third hand, at best. It is much more likely, however, that the letter came from the commercial and governing center of the county, from the county seat of Westmoreland County, a small colonialist settlement some 30 miles east of Pittsburgh called Hannastown. Hannastown was the crossroad for all euro-christian communication and business trafficking with eastern outposts like Philadelphia. It, and not Pittsburgh, was the early hub of government in western Pennsylvania, the location of all court proceedings and the hub for postal services.
So the letter probably originated from a point 30 miles east of the river and 90 miles north of Rivesville. Since the author does not forward any written documentation, we are necessarily dealing with his writing down of a second hand oral account. Moreover, the letter author had by his claim written an earlier letter in which very little detail was yet shared. The second letter comes after the author was able to piece together more of the details, raising again the question of euro-christian colonial orality and historical accuracy.
The “letter” would have been a third-hand narrative at best, then, and had undoubtedly been shaped and enhanced by the reigning social imaginary of that time and place. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, there is certainly evidence that the Philadelphia based editor of the magazine was a colonialist patriot zealot, a fanatic anti-Indian diehard who was capable of heavy handed editing of any text. Hugh Henry Brackenridge (who was still located in Philadelphia at the time) would have had plenty of rationale to edit (and emend) the “letter” extensively, and indeed he has a history (in retrospect) of doing exactly that. We will necessarily come back to a discussion of Breckenridge’s editorial proclivities when we turn to the death of William Crawford.
David Morgan, Surveyor
In his manner of living and defending himself and others, he [David Morgan] was no different from his contemporaries. I certainly would not class him an Indian-fighter, no more than I would class Jacob Prickett, Frederick Ice, or Nathaniel Cochran as such. He was a Christian, a patriot, a soldier, a surveyor, and a very good farmer, the profession of which he is most proud, and a loving, and most times, a too indulgent parent.
–Stephen Morgan 1808, speaking about his father
So what was the socio-political milieu in which this murder happened? What shaped the social imaginary of the day?
There were several ways of generating great wealth in the colonial amer-christian period. The principal means all involved land in one way or another. Robert Morris, the main financier of the revolutionary war, made his wealth in land speculation, speculating in Native lands on the ever shifting frontier, as did a vast array of other “fathers” of America. Once the speculative purchases became less frontier-like and more euro-christian populated, the land speculators made huge profits in platting their lands for new towns and communities.
Lawrence Washington created the town of Alexandria, platting the land and then selling plots at an enormous profit. Ranking military officers stood to gain considerable reimbursement for their leadership by way of land grants from colonial, and then state, governments. At the head of armies roaming the frontiers, they also had opportunity to eye the best lands for investment and settlement. Trade accounted for considerable wealth, of course, but even trade is predicated on land as a resource to produce what is traded. Even the transatlantic trade in human bodies was ultimately predicated on occupying and using Native lands upon which those ensnared bodies were forced to labor.
About the most profitable job a young colonialist could have in colonial north America was that of surveyor, especially when appointed the head of a survey crew. The surveyor was working on the cutting edge of the advancing euro-christian frontier, and his work set him up for making very lucrative speculative land investments. It was a good setup for locating and claiming some of the best investment grade properties and generated great wealth for many of the U.S.’s founding fathers.
The enormous wealth of George Washington (until Donald Trump he was considered the wealthiest of all U.S. presidents—and the wealthiest american at the end of the 18thcentury) is directly related to these sorts of speculative land investments. Already at a very young age, Washington was sent out with a surveying crew working for what was a family business, the Ohio Company, a land speculation business started in the 1740s by a consortium led by Washington’s two older brothers, Lawrence and Augustin.
A good and trustworthy surveyor might also be compensated with a goodly share of the land speculated. Andrew Jackson was not a surveyor but aligned himself with a partner who helped him scope out and nail down properties across the southern frontiers that he had ravaged as the head of armies. Between Jackson’s prowess as conqueror and his surveyor/political partner, both men became enormously wealthy, a wealth that helped propel Jackson to the presidency.
According to his son, David Morgan (1721-1813) was “a christian, a patriot, a soldier, a surveyor, and a very good farmer.” Stephen Morgan self-consciously resists labeling his father as an “Indian-fighter” in spite of the vast and romantic heroization of his father already in his own day. Looking back from 1808, Stephen muses that what his father did (killing Indians) is what everybody did in those early years of euro-christian invasion as these christian newcomers began settling what would become Marion and Monongalia Counties.
Yet, David Morgan is still widely remembered as “Indian fighter,” “Indian slayer,” and frontiersman to this day in West Virginia. Even the names “frontiersman,” “pioneer” or “settler”—rather than more accurate legal descriptions like “squatter” or “trespasser” on Native lands—signifies a noble endeavor in the building of America. At the same time, we should take careful note of Stephen’s classification of his father as surveyor, his early occupation and one he continued to practice from time to time even after establishing his farm in Rivesville.
There are two things to remark about surveying as a colonial occupation that can help sort out aspects of this colonial invasion. First off, surveyors in those colonial days were most always officials appointed by a territorial government or by land holding consortiums working with government issued proprietary land grants, meaning implicitly that they were plum jobs given out to young men from more highly regarded families.
Morgan came from such a family. As a result at the age of 25, Morgan was part of the famous team of surveyors who established the so-called “Fairfax Line” in 1746. Some have even suggested that he was one of the “Gentlemen Commissioners” representing one side or the other, but I found no evidence to corroborate that notion.
It was, in any case, an illustrious group of some 40 men, including Peter Jefferson, Thomas Jefferson’s father, as one of the lead surveyors—representing the Virginia Colony with Thomas Lewis and Benjamin Winslow representing the grant holder, Thomas (aka lord) Fairfax. Theirs was an arduous journey—for non Natives—across a rugged western landscape, still at that time a couple hundred miles east of the land Morgan would claim as his own by 1774. Then, in 1748 Morgan joined the young George Washington on that Ohio Company survey team into the Monongahela and Ohio Valleys, sent out by Lawrence Washington. So Morgan could well have walked the land more than twenty years before he moved in and staked his colonial claim to a lucrative farm.
Secondly, an appointment as a surveyor in the colonial frontier put that person in a prime position to capitalize big time with prime purchases of land. They were often the first, and most invariably the first formal, euro-christian parties to enter into frontier lands that were still in possession of their Native inhabitants, American Indian communities, and had not yet been claimed as the “private property” of any christian invader. Thus, even as the surveyor increased the wealth of the territorial governor or the land consortium partners who appointed him, he too stood to have the singular fortune of investing in prime pieces of frontier lands.
As a surveyor, David Morgan did not live in the same aerie as Washington or Jackson or even William Crawford (Washington’s partner in crime). Yet he too had ample opportunity to scope out his own homestead and the economic foundation to generate considerable (if middling) wealth. He had less interest, we are told, than his younger brother Zackquill Morgan, the builder of nearby Morgantown, in developing a land business and earning the greater wealth it might promise. He maintained a frontiersman persona, eschewing the more elitist sophistication of either his father or his brother, but was undoubtedly David’s early career surveying on the frontier that eventually brought him and his brother to the Monongahela River Valley.
We need to be clear that land was the principal medium of economic exchange in these early years of christian conquest of the continent—even as paper currency came more and more into play. One of the key areas of contestation in the early legislative congresses focused precisely on how to create legislation either to enhance the colonial landed elite or how to thwart those desires in favor of spreading landed property around more democratically.
Robert Morris and the Federalist party won those battles, but it cost them the presidential election in 1800. But then even those republican thinkers finally capitulated to the interests of the elites. Surveying, land speculation, and colonialist greed for constant supply of new Native lands for euro-christian settlement, then, must play a role in the social milieu that allowed for such rapacious christian conduct of violence.
Tink Tinker is Professor Emeritus at Iliff School of Theology. His publications include American Indian Liberation: A Theology of Sovereignty (2008); Spirit and Resistance: Political Theology and American Indian Liberation(2004); and Missionary Conquest: The Gospel and Native American Genocide (1993). He co-authored A Native American Theology (2001); and he is co-editor of Native Voices: American Indian Identity and Resistance (2003), and Fortress Press’ Peoples’ Bible (2008).
Lucullus Virgil McWhorter, The Border Settlers of Northwestern Virginia, from 1768 to 1795: Embracing the Life of Jesse Hughes and Other Noted Scouts of the Great Woods of the Trans-Allegheny. (Hamilton, O.: Republican Pub. Co., 1915), 159f., recounting his great grandfather’s tale of Jesse Hughes, one of the most famous West Virginia frontiersmen—pioneer, scout, hunter, and Indian killer of renown.
Winston Churchill famously called the Seven Years War the first world war in his History of the English Speaking Peoples, London: Cassell and Company, Ltd., 1956.
A useful listing of these forts constructed in what is now West Virginia can be located on-line at: http://www.northamericanforts.com/East/wv.html#din. Note the claim of Rufus B. Stone, “Broadhead’s Raid on the Senecas,” Western Pennsylvania History Magazine, 7 (1924): 90f.: “A cordon of forts had been erected extending from the Delaware to the Susquehanna and then from the Susquehanna to the Allegheny. The original seventeen was enlarged to fifty, says Fisher, but the Pennsylvania Archives contain a list of eighty-four.”
The Fairfax line was the western most boundary of Virginia’s Northern Neck, the 1649 land grant held by Thomas (“lord”) Fairfax. Fairfax and his family were deeply intertwined with that of Washington. George’s brother Lawrence was married to one of Fairfax’s daughters; George himself was taken under wing by Fairfax and mentored, particularly in the arts of surveying; and George maintained a very close relationship with Fairfax’s son William and his wife, with whom Washington was evidently smitten romantically.
This is widely reported and has become a fixed part of the hagiographic myth of David Morgan. To wit, Jack B. Moore. “The Earliest Printed Version of David Morgan and the Two Indians.” West Virginia History, 23 (1962): 101-115: http://www.wvculture.org/hiStory/journal_wvh/wvh23-2.html. In an 1808 interview, his son Stephen does indeed report that David had killed seven Indians prior to the incident at Rivesville: “Before the fight at our homestead, he had fought and killed seven Indians in singlehanded combat.” Interview with Stephen Morgan, Monongalia Gazette (Morgantown, Virginia, now W. V.), October 1808, as cited in Glenn D. Lough, Now and Long Ago: A History of the Marion County Area(McClain Printing Co.: 1997; orig., Morgantown Print and Binding Co: 1969), 521f.; the Stephen Morgan interview is also posted on-line at: http://www.geocities.ws/kward79/david1.html.
TTinker, “Redskin, Tanned Hide: A Book of Christian History Bound in the Flayed Skin of an American Indian: The Colonial Romance, christian Denial and the Cleansing of a christian School of Theology,”Journal of Race and Ethnicity in Religion, Volume 5, Issue 9, 2014: http://www.raceandreligion.com/JRER/Volume_5_(2014)_files/Tinker%205%209.pdf.
Anthony J. Hall, Earth into Property: Colonization, Decolonization, and Capitalism(McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2010). Hall traces the massive global conversion of “commons” into private property over the very few centuries of euro-christian colonialism. He captures the spirit of what we are discussing here, the conversion of American Indian commons (Indian land) into the legal structure of private property, real estate. It should be noted that Indian languages lacked words for either “own / ownership” or for “property,” private or collective. The land that nurtured the people could never be reduced to property. Rather, she was recognized as having her own personhood.
In this regard, one should also note the work of Anthony Anghie on the development of international law under euro-christian imperialism. The quickest introduction to his analysis of the legal processes invented by euro-christians to facilitate land theft might be his essay, “The Evolution of International Law: Colonial and Postcolonial Realities,” Third World Quarterly, 27 (2006): 739-753. Available on-line at: https://collections.lib.utah.edu/dl_files/fb/5e/fb5ecb0217f1089ce9d43ca244de1c422bb752cb.pdf. Property becomes the euro-christian legal designation that emerges particularly in their early modern period. And here we must remember John Locke’s chapter v: “On Property,” in the Second Treatise on Civil Government; and note my critique of Locke: T. Tinker, “John Locke: On Property,” in Beyond the Pale: Reading Christian Ethics from the Margins, edited by Stacey Floyd-Thomas and Miguel de la Torre (WJK, 2011), 49-60.
My wife, Dr. Loring Abeyta, took it upon herself to engage in some follow-up research on my behalf. She tracked down the contemporary Prickett’s Fort Foundation and called its director to ask for resources and advice on a project about David Morgan—without mentioning my name. He was a bit reserved, having already spoken to another party about the matter earlier in the day. “Someone named Wolf, a methodist minister, who also mentioned something about a book and about Sand Creek.” In any case, the director was terribly protective of Morgan’s reputation and not very forthcoming other than to recite the entire christian colonialist romance legend, with all the later additions to the oral history. The point here is that Morgan is still heroic in the eyes of folk in West Virginia, and this director was carefully defending the established narrative, the christian colonialist telling of the history. And the Wolf guy? Tom Wolfe, the current president of Iliff, is much more committed to transparency than Iliff has been in the past. It was a mere coincidence that he made his call the same day as my wife.
To wit: Jack B. Moore. “The Earliest Printed Version of David Morgan and the Two Indians.” West Virginia History, 23 (1962): 101.
Lindsey Fleming, “Morgan family plans 100th reunion,” Tribune Business News, Jun 4, 2007, p.1.
Interview with Stephen Morgan, Monongalia Gazette. At the time of the interview, Stephen Morgan was sheriff of Monongalia County and about 46 years old; and his father would have been about 87 years old. One should not think in this context of late 19thcentury western sheriffs, but in terms of the office in english and eastern colonial political and social terms and particularly in terms of U.S. frontier military responsibilities. This would have been a position of considerable social status, as it was a generation before, when Stephen’s uncle, Col. Zackquill Morgan, David’s younger brother, held the comparable title of County Lieutenant.
For a quick survey of different versions of the story, see: Jack B. Moore. “The Earliest Printed Version of David Morgan and the Two Indians.” West Virginia History, 23 (1962): 101-115.Moore continues romanticizing the narrative as we have already noted. Moore, however, does not seem to know of this 1808 report by Stephen Morgan in the Monongalia Gazetteinterview.
This was only four years after the general euro-christian settlement began with the opening of the Pennsylvania land office—for granting land warrants, in 1769. Chapter One: “Old Westmoreland,” in Edgar W. Hassler, Old Westmoreland: A History of Western Pennsylvania During the Revolution(J.R. Weldon & Co, Pittsburgh, 1900). http://www.pa-roots.com/westmoreland/oldwestmoreland/chapter01.html. The general settlement of the country west of the Alleghany Mountains did not begin until the Pennsylvania land office was opened for the granting of warrants, in the spring of 1769.
Hannastown, located prominently on the trans-Alleghany road to Philadelphia and points east, served as the county seat until its destruction by british forces in 1882 in the last military battle of the revolutionary war. Until then, a lawyer like Huh Henry Brackenridge would travel from Pittsburgh to Hannastown to perform all courtroom duties, until 1782 when the county seat shifted to Greensburg, a few miles to the south. So the 1779 letter would have been posted from Hannastown.
Interview with Stephen Morgan, Monongalia Gazette.
Steve Inskeep, Jacksonland: President Andrew Jackson, Cherokee Chief John Ross, and a Great American Land Grab(Penguin, 2015).
David Lee Ingram, “The History of the Fairfax Line,” Surveyors Historical Society,The Virtual Museum of Surveying, 1999 on-line publication: http://surveyhistory.org/the_fairfax_line1.htm#history. The Fairfax Line determined the western extent of Fairfax’s Northern Neck land grant. And it should be noted that young Washington was a family friend of the Fairfax family. Indeed, his older brother Lawrence was married to a Fairfax daughter.
Ingram, “History of the Fairfax Line.”
Roger G. Kennedy, Mr. Jefferson’s Lost Cause: Land, Farmers, Slavery, and the Louisiana Purchase(Oxford, 2004).