Ohio History Journal

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A Gallipolis Manuscript (1790)


(Translated from the original French by Laurence J. Kenny, S. J.

St. Louis University.)

The accompanying document is a copy of a manuscript

heirloom that has been cherished for more than a century among

the descendents of Pierre Antoine Laforge, one of the early

French settlers of Gallipolis. It brought them into possession

of the "modest inheritance" referred to at its close, and it has

given substance and vraisemblance to the tales of pioneer days

told around the wintry firesides of several old Missouri homes,

and especially to the story of their lost-and-found-grandsire.

The student of Ohio history will also find interest in the

document. It is of no small historic value; not that it affords

many new data, but for the reason that certain misconceptions,

which have gained currency with the years, will be completely

discredited in the light of its first-hand evidence.

For instance, all our historians, in explaining the breaking-

up of the settlement, dwell upon what McMaster denominates

a "most shameful piece of land-jobbery".    There is perfect

unanimity among these writers in ascribing the disruption of

the colony to the invalidity of the emigrants' titles to their

homes. The present document, on the contrary, lets us into the

mind of one of the leading colonists, where we find no trace

of worry over invalid land titles, but there is pain and worry

a-plenty over another matter. His hopes and fears and those

of his associates are exposed to our view; and we find there a

difficult, yet an all-sufficient, reason to account for the removal

of the settlers from the banks of the Beautiful River of that

date. The Indians, by whom they were completely surrounded,

were on the war-path; General St. Clair, sent to repress them,

had been defeaed; some of he French colonists themselves had

fought as officers under St. Clair; and it was too much to expect