Archaeological and Historical
WASHINGTON'S CAMP SITES ON THE OHIO
BY GUY-HAROLD SMITH
Ohio State University
In the autumn of 1770 George Washington made a
journey into the interior of North America in the
interest of the Virginia soldiers who had fought in
the Indian wars, and had been promised western lands
as reward for their services. Also Washington had
personal reasons for making this reconnaissance of the
lands along the Ohio River. He had the foresight to
envision the development of the trans-Appalachian
country and characteristically he was interested in ac-
quiring some of the choice lands before they were pre-
empted by others. The story of Washington and the
Ohio valley has been told elsewhere,1 therefore we will
be content to follow him down the Ohio River and
back again to Fort Pitt at the junction of the Alle-
gheny and Monongahela Rivers.
Washington began his journey to the Ohio River on
October 5, 1770, but he did not begin the actual de-
scent of the river until the 20th of the month. The
intervening fifteen days were consumed in the journey
to the junction of the two rivers which jointly become
the Ohio, and by certain other journeys and stop-
overs which delayed him somewhat. He spent some
time with Captain William Crawford who was Wash-
1 Archer B. Hulbert, Washington and the West, New York, 1905.
2 Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications
ington's western representative, and at Fort Pitt it was
only logical that a few days would be required to outfit
the party for the river journey.
Washington's river party consisted of himself, Dr.
Craik who accompanied him from Mount Vernon, Cap-
tain William Crawford, his western agent, Joseph
Nicholson, Robert Bell, William Harrison, Charles
Morgan, Daniel Reardon, and two Indians, one called
Pheasant and the other left unnamed. On leaving Fort
Pitt they were joined by Colonel George Croghan,
Lieutenant Robert Hamilton, and Alexander McKee.2
These last three Washington left at Logstown, about
18 miles below Fort Pitt.
The accompanying map showing the location of
Washington's camp sites was originally prepared for
the Geographical Committee of the Washington Bicen-
tennial Commission. In its preparation the author has
had access to four transcriptions of that part of Wash-
ington's journal which pertains to the "Tour to the
2 Spelled Magee by Washington.
3 Jared Sparks, The Writings of George Washington, Vol. II, Boston,
1858. This transcription omits that portion of Washington's diary which
Washington's "Tour to the Ohio," Old South Leaflets, Vol. II, General
Series No. 41, Boston. The copy omits the entries from Nov. 3 to 16 in-
Archer B. Hulbert, Washington's "Tour to the Ohio" and Articles of
"The Mississippi Company." Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications,
Vol. 17, 1908, pp. 431-488. Hulbert has published all of Washington's
journal which covers the trip into the Ohio valley including the record from
November 6 to 17, which has been seriously damaged.
John C. Fitzpatrick, Editor, The Diaries of George Washington, 1748-
1799, Boston, 1925. Volume one includes Washington's journals through
the year 1770, and the record of his Ohio journey of the autumn of 1770
is entirely transcribed. Fitzpatrick and Hulbert's copies of the diaries have
proved most useful to the present writer.
Washington's Camp Sites on the Ohio River 3
Saturday, October 20.
On the afternoon of October 20, 1770, Washington
left Fort Pitt on his most westward journey into the
interior of North America. From his journal a simple
entry permits us to locate with fair accuracy his camp
site. He wrote,
"At two we dind at Mr. Magee's and Incamped 10
Miles below, and 4 above the Logs Town."
In his briefer diary entitled "Where and how my
time is Spent" the entry for October 20 is as follows:
"Set out for the Big Kanhawa with Dr. Craik, Captn.
Crawford and others. Incapd abt 14 miles off."
Cramer's Navigator4 gives "Loggstown" as on the
right bank of the Ohio 18 1/2 miles below Pittsburgh,
therefore the four miles "above the Logs Town" given
in Washington's detailed journal makes his day's trip
14 1/2 miles. This camp quite certainly was on the north
side of the Ohio near where Economy, Pennsylvania,
Sunday, October 21.
The final paragraph of his journal states that,
"From Racoon Creek to little Bever Creek appears to
me to be little short of 10 Miles, and about 3 Miles
below this we Incamped; after hiding a Barrl. of Bis-
quet in an Island (in Sight) to lighten our Canoe."
The Little Beaver Creek enters the Ohio River a
little over a half mile above the Ohio boundary. Three
miles below the mouth of the river places the camp site
near the downstream end of Babbs Island and about
one mile above East Liverpool. Hulbert suggested
4 Zadok Cramer, The Navigator, Pittsburgh, 1818, p. 69.
4 Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications
Baker's Island about eight miles farther down stream.
This certainly is too far. The footnote in Fitzpatrick's
copy states, "This would have carried Washington
nearly if not quite over the State line into Ohio." This
obviously is short of the distance actually covered.
In his entry for the following day he observes that
he came to the mouth of Yellow Creek about eight miles
down stream from his camp site, and this is substan-
tially the correct distance if we place the camp one mile
above East Liverpool.
It appears thus far that Washington's party held
their canoes close to the north shore for nearly all of
his observations on streams are about those which enter
from the north, and the fertile lands which he described
are chiefly along the north side of the Ohio River.
Monday, October 22.
On the next day the party made rapid progress down
the river covering twenty-eight miles from the last
camp. They reached "... Mingo Town; Situate on the
West Side the River a little above the Cross Creeks."
This camp was located about two miles below Steu-
benville just above Cross Creek in Ohio where Mingo
Junction is now located.
Washington states that this is seventy-five miles
below Pittsburgh. This distance checks almost exactly
with the 74 3/4 miles shown in Cumings' Western Pilot5
for 1836, and the 76 1/4 miles given in Cramer's
Navigator.6 There can be little doubt about this camp
site of the night of October 22.
5 Samuel Cumings, The Western Pilot, Cincinnati, 1836.
6 Cramer, Op. cit.
Washington's Camp Sites on the Ohio River 5
Tuesday, October 23.
Washington's account states that they passed the sec-
ond set of Cross creeks and about three miles below
this ". . . at the lower point of some Islands . . ." the
Indians told them about land here being marked. After
discussing this briefly he closes his account with "At
this Place we Incampd." This places the site near the
downstream end of Pike Island, but we have no way
of knowing on which side they camped.
A portion of his entry for October 23 is devoted to
the news that two traders had been killed, but Wash-
ington reserved space for his usual comments about the
character of the land and the streams which enter
the Ohio. Thus far he learned either from the Indians
or a member of his party that all of the land eastward
to the Red Stone, a tributary of the Monongahela, was
claimed by three Virginians.
Wednesday, October 24.
Washington's entry of October 24 states that, "Two
or three Miles below the Pipe Creek is a pretty large
creek on the West side, called by Nicholson, Fox Grape
Vine, by others Captema Creek . . . at the Mouth of
it... we came abt. 3 Oclock in the afternoon, and find-
ing no body there, we agreed to Camp."
This site just above the mouth of the Captina Creek
on the Ohio side is one of the most easily located.
Nicholson and one of the Indian guides went up the
Captina to inquire at the Indian camp about the death
of the traders. It is apparent that Washington was a
little hesitant about going farther down the river until
he could learn more of the details about the death of the
two white traders.
6 Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications
From the Indian women they learned that only one
trader had lost his life and he had been drowned in
attempting to cross the Ohio. Early the next morning
they were off again on the downstream journey.
Thursday, October 25.
Washington's entry for October 25 states that
"About half way in the long reach we Incampd, opposite
to the beginning of a large bottom on the East side of
From this involved statement it is a little difficult to
fix the location exactly. The camp probably was on
the Ohio side of the river opposite the West Virginia
city of Sistersville.
On this date Washington observed the abundance
of game mentioning in particular the wild turkeys and
From time to time he noted briefly the passing
weather and on this occasion he recorded seeing a large
number of fallen trees at the entrance to a tributary
valley. The Indians called the stream "broken Timber
Creek." Washington explained that the timber had
been destroyed by a hurricane.
Friday, October 26.
His downstream progress can be checked quite defi-
nitely, for among other landmarks he mentions three
islands formerly called the Three Brothers.
"About 12 Miles below the three Islands we In-
campd just above the Mouth of a Creek which appears
pretty large at the Mouth and just above an island."
This item from his more elaborate journal gives the
distance by a downstream measurement from an indefi-
Washington's Camp Sites on the Ohio River 7
nite location. The three islands mentioned by Washing-
ton and later known as the Three Brothers are of vary-
ing dimensions and occupy a section of the river
approximately four miles in length. However, the
Navigator7 gives the Third Brother a specific distance
of one hundred and seventy miles below Pittsburgh and
thirteen miles above the mouth of the Muskingum. In
The Western Pilot Cumings8 gives the Three Brother
Islands a distance of one hundred and fifty-eight miles
below Pittsburgh with the mouth of the Muskingum
sixteen miles farther downstream. Washington states
that his party camped twelve miles below the islands,
so this would place his camp four miles above the mouth
of the Muskingum. In his briefer diary the following
statement is recorded: "Incampd at the Mouth of a
Creek about 4 miles above the Mouth of Muskingum,
distant abt. 32 miles." This places his camp just above
the mouth of the Little Muskingum and not Duck Creek
as suggested in Fitzpatrick's transcription.9 Hulbert10
gives the correct location just above the mouth of the
Saturday, October 27.
On this day Washington and his party moved down-
stream past the mouth of the Muskingum, the Little
Kanawha, and "a cluster of Islands." This cluster
must have been the higher portions of Blennerhasset's
Island which was to become of peculiar interest in con-
nection with the activities of Aaron Burr.
7 Cramer, Op. cit., p. 82.
8 Cumings, Op. cit., p. 20.
9 Fitzpatrick, Op. cit., Vol. I, p. 421.
10 Hulbert, Op. cit., p. 463.
8 Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications
"About 8 Miles below little Hockhocking we In-
camped opposite to the Mouth of the great Hockhock-
ing." This entry places his camp site on the West
Virginia shore of the Ohio River.
Sunday, October 28.
The camp of Sunday, October 28, is very uncertain.
Washington reports meeting Indians about four miles
below his camp of the previous night. He was delayed
by idle councils with the Indians who finally moved
downstream with his party in order not to delay the
journey. Fitzpatrick11 reports the move as three miles
but Hulbert12 gives six miles. In either case the loca-
tion cannot be exact. In a footnote Hulbert gives Pond
Creek as the location, and this makes the site only three
miles below the place where Washington met the
In the entry for the following day Washington
states that "Opposite to the Creek just below wch. we
Incampd, is a pretty long bottom, and I believe tolerable
If this bottom is the one now known as "Long Bot-
tom" his camp was probably just below the mouth of
what is now Pond Creek, which enters the Ohio from
the West Virginia side.
If he camped six miles below the bottom in which
he met the Indians his camp may have been on the Ohio
side just below the mouth of Shade River.
Monday, October 29.
The entry for this day is a little indefinite but certain
11 Fitzpatrick, Op. cit., p. 423.
12 Hulbert, Op. cit., p. 465. Jared Sparks's transcription omits the num-
ber of miles entirely. The copy in the Old South Leaflets gives six miles.
Washington's Camp Sites on the Ohio River 9
landmarks which can be identified indicate that he made
rapid progress downstream. He passed the rapids at
the point of the Great Bend. He writes that "for two
Miles and a half below this the River Runs a No. Et.
Course, and finishes what they call the "Great Bent.
Two Miles and an half below this again we Incampd."
From his camp of the night before this site is thirty-five
miles downstream, a very long distance to make in a
single day considering that he did not set out until after
On which side he camped we cannot be sure, but
probably on the West Virginia shore, for the next
day's entry refers to the wide bottom on that side reach-
ing to the point of the Great Bend. His allusion to
having camped in it places the site on the West Virginia
side but the exact place along the river cannot be
Tuesday, October 30.
From the entry of Wednesday, October 31, we learn
that his camp of October 30 was five miles above the
mouth of the Kanawha River. He wrote: "I sent the
Canoe along down to the junction of the two Rivers abt.
5 Miles, that is the Kanhawa with the Ohio." This site
probably was on the West Virginia side, for during that
day he had been exploring the land on the south side of
the river. As Washington approached the Kanawha
he made a critical examination of the terrain. On this
date he landed and made an excursion some distance
from the river where he found the ". . . Land grown up
with Hicky. and oaks of different kinds, intermixed
with Walnut, etca. here and there."
10 Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications
Wednesday, October 31.
During the day of October 31 Washington spent
some time exploring the lands in the open angle formed
by the Ohio and Kanawha Rivers. From his camping
place of the night before he states that "We steered
nearly East for about 8 or 9 Miles, then bore South-
wardly, and Westwardly, till we came to our Camp at
the confluence of the Rivers." It is clear then that his
camp on the night of October 31 was at the junction of
the Kanawha with the Ohio, on land now included in
the city of Point Pleasant, West Virginia.
Thursday, November 1.
"We judgd we went up this River about 10 Miles
to day." In this manner Washington gives the approxi-
mate location of his camp site. Presumably it was on
the east side of the Kanawha, for practically all of his
recorded observations show that he spent some time
examining the lands to the east of the river.
Friday, November 2.
His progress up the Kanawha was indeed slow on
the first day of November, but on the second he did not
go half so far as on the preceding day. "We proceeded
up the River with the Canoe about 4 Miles more, and
then incampd and went a Hunting." Some of the party
went four or five miles farther upstream but there is no
evidence that the camp was moved. Again we may
assume that the camp was located on the east side of
Saturday, November 3.
Washington camped a second time at the mouth of
Washington's Camp Sites on the Ohio River 11
the Kanawha River. On November 3 he recorded:
"We set of down the River on our return homewards,
and Incampd at the Mouth."
Also from this day's record we know that Washing-
ton ascended the Kanawha only fourteen miles, for on
his downstream journey to the Ohio he gave the direc-
tions and distances which total exactly fourteen miles.
Sunday, November 4.
The journey up the Ohio began on November 4 on
which date the party made about twenty miles, reaching
the bottom in which they camped on October 27. Wash-
ington recorded observing the bottom above Point
Pleasant and the bottom along the horseshoe-shaped
course of the Ohio. Continuing he writes that "After
passing this bottom and abt. a Mile of Hills, we entered
into the 3d Bottom and Incampd. This bottom reaches
within about half a Mile of the Rapid at the point of
the Great Bent."
Monday, November 5.
Washington and Captain Crawford walked about
eight miles along the base of the hills which parallel
the south side of the river, and probably joined the re-
mainder of the party just below the rapids in the Great
As they made their way upstream they came to a
bottom which Washington described on October 29.
This gives us a key to the location of his camp for the
night of November 5. In his journal he wrote, "A little
above this Bottom we Incamped...." The point indi-
cated on the map is somewhat indefinite, but the camp
was probably located on the south shore.
12 Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications
Tuesday, November 6.
Five miles upstream they came to Kiashuta's camp
and were detained all day in a lowland on the east side
of the Ohio. In his journal he recorded, "We left our
Incampment a little after daylight, and in about 5 Miles
we came to Kiashutas Hunting Camp. . . ." A little
further on he added, "I was detained at Kiashuta's Camp
all the remaining part of this day." This move of only
five miles is one of the shortest on his Ohio River
Wednesday, November 7.
The Washington journal covering the ten-day period
from November 7 to 16 has been greatly injured, thus
the location of the camp sites becomes increasingly dif-
ficult. Fortunately his briefer diary entitled "Where
and how my time is Spent" gives some assistance in
making the locations.
The camp of November 7 cannot be located with
certainty. In the diary he wrote, "Reached the Mouth
of Hockhocking--distant abt. 20 Miles." From the
mutilated journal we glean the following:
". . . ile or two, we passed a good smart . . .
on the East side, this Bottom . . . opposite to
Great Hockhocking above which, and opposite to
Dela . . . Hunting Party, we Incamped."
From these two entries we may conclude that his
camp was near the mouth of the Hocking River. From
the fragmented sentence we note that he located the
camp opposite to the Delaware hunting party. This
probably means that his camp was on the Ohio shore
above the mouth of the Hocking River. This would
Washington's Camp Sites on the Ohio River 13
free him from their idle conversations and permit him
to get an early start the next day.
Thursday, November 8.
Exact locations become difficult where the mutilated
journal permits of several interpretations.
". . .st below the Mouth of Mus . . . Incampd" has
been interpreted by Hulbert13 as "Just below the mouth
of Muskingum we Incamped." In the shorter diary
Washington wrote that they "Came within a Mile of
the Mouth of the Muskingum 27 Miles." On that day
he and Crawford explored the hills back to the south of
the river, and the Indian guide brought them to the
river lower down than they planned. This probably
means that the camp was on the south side of the river
and about a mile below the mouth of the Muskingum.
Friday, November 9.
The party made only about seventeen miles and
reached a section along the river later designated as the
Three Brothers. Washington's journal carries the brief
record: "Incampd by the 3 Islands." Not only stormy
weather but a bear hunt delayed the party for that day.
Obviously only an approximate location can be made of
the camp for the night of November 9. Washington's
estimate of the upstream distance was too high by ap-
proximately two or three miles.
Saturday, November 10.
Because of the continued rain, Washington's party
did not start out until noon and made only twelve miles,
according to his diary, to the lower end of the long
13 Hulbert, Op. cit., p. 475.
14 Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications
reach where he camped. As a matter of fact his esti-
mate of the distance is in error by about three miles.
The distance traveled was only nine miles, hence the
rapid current must have affected his estimation of the
This location is made from the brief entry in his
diary, "Arrivd at the lower end of the long reach abt 12
Miles, not setting of till 12 O clock."
Sunday, November 11.
From the journal which was injured it appears that
the party negotiated the long reach on November 11,
for the fragmented sentence reads as follows, ". . . we
got . . . head of the long reach abt . . ." In the briefer
journal he states simply, "Came about 16 Miles after
hard working the greatest part of the day." The long
reach measures almost exactly sixteen miles in length,
thus his camp can be located in a general way, but
again the side of the river cannot be determined.
Monday, November 12.
High water delayed the party again on November
12, and caused Washington to consider having the
horses brought to Mingo Town just below the modern
city of Steubenville. From his briefer journal we learn
that they made only five miles against the strong cur-
rent. His camp probably was at about the position of
New Martinsville, West Virginia.
"Only got about 5 Miles . . ." from the diary is all
that we have to make the location, for his entry in the
journal is devoted to the weather and the conditions of
the river in flood.
Washington's Camp Sites on the Ohio River 15
Tuesday, November 13.
From the briefer journal we learn that Washington
"Reached the uppermost broken Timber Creek distant
about 7 Miles, contending with a violent Currt. the whole
day." The stream referred to was mentioned in the
longer journal in the entry of October 25. This can be
identified as Sunfish Creek in Belmont County in Ohio.
It is possible then that Washington may have camped
on the Ohio side of the river at or near the mouth of
Wednesday, November 14.
Washington's briefer journal states that they "Came
to the Captening or Fox Grape Vine Creek distant about
10 Miles." In the longer but mutilated journal he men-
tions a distance of eleven miles. A measurement of
the river course between Sunfish Creek and Captina
Creek shows that the distance is only a little over eight
miles. Washington states definitely that he got out on
the west side and walked through a neck of land below
the mouth of the Captening (modern Captina Creek).
It is probable then that he camped on the Ohio shore
just above the mouth of the aforementioned creek.
Thursday, November 15.
The weather had improved and the party was mak-
ing better time upstream. In the briefer journal Wash-
ington recorded: "Reached Weeling (on the West)
where there had been an Indian Town and where some
of the Shawnas are going to settle in the Spring, distant
from our Incampment 12 Miles." His estimate of the
distance from their last camp is a few miles under the
actual distance covered even if we assume that he
16 Ohio, Arch. and Hist. Society Publications
camped on November 15 two or three miles above the
mouth of Captina Creek. As a matter of fact Washing-
ton gives elsewhere in his journal a list of places and
distances which he made at Fort Pitt from Thomas
Hutchins' compilation, and from this record the dis-
tance may be derived by taking the difference between
the distances of the two places below Pittsburgh. This
difference is nineteen miles. A careful measurement of
the distance on the modern accurate maps shows it to
be just short of nineteen and a half miles.
Since Washington mentioned the Wheeling River on
the west side of the Ohio it is probable that he camped
on that side.
There is still an alternative location to be considered.
The stream now called the McMahon Creek enters the
Ohio from the west side about four and a half miles
below the Wheeling Creek of Ohio. This stream is
nearly fifteen miles above the Captina. In the record
for the following day Washington mentions that they
traveled upstream thirteen miles and camped a short
distance below the mouth of two cross creeks. I am
inclined to the opinion that Washington camped at the
mouth of McMahon Creek on the Ohio side of the river,
for thirteen miles upstream places his next camp ap-
proximately where he states it was, just below the second
Friday, November 16.
As Washington continued upstream he took time to
ascend the hills near Wheeling, West Virginia, where
he could see the Wheeling River meandering through a
bottom of fine land. On the downstream journey he
observed two sets of cross creeks and it was just below
Washington's Camp Sites on the Ohio River 17
the second set that he camped on November 16. ". . . A
little below the 2d cross Creeks, we incampd distance
from our last 13 or fourteen Miles," is the record from
his longer journal. The distance from McMahon Creek
to Short Creek in Ohio, which is one of the cross creeks
referred to by Washington, is almost exactly thirteen
miles. The shorter diary is not very enlightening, for
the entry "Got within 13 miles of lower cross Creeks,
13 Miles," not only confirms the statement in the journal
but also contradicts it. From the more extended account
of the adjacent lands in his journal we may conclude
that his camp was just below the lower set of cross
Saturday, November 17.
At about three o'clock Washington arrived at Mingo
Town on the Ohio side of the river about three miles
below Steubenville. This was where he camped with
the Indians on the night of October 22. Here he hoped
to be met by the Indian who had been sent ahead to
bring the horses from Fort Pitt. The floods had
so delayed him that he passed through Mingo Town
". . . only the morning before. . . ." This probably means
the morning of the previous day.
Sunday, November 18.
Washington was still at Mingo Town on November
18. His very brief entry for that date relates his bar-
gaining with the Indians to take his canoe to Fort Pitt,
for which he agreed "to pay 6 Dollars and give them a
Quart Tinn Can."
18 Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications
Monday, November 19.
The Indians set off with the canoe on November 19
but Washington was detained at the Mingo camp. This
gave him time to make an extended entry in his journal
including a corrected list of places and distances which
he had made at Fort Pitt prior to his downstream jour-
ney. He had copied these distances from the record of
Thomas Hutchins, who later became geographer to the
Tuesday, November 20.
The horses arrived at one o'clock and Washington
set out at two "and got about 10 miles." He probably
traveled eastward overland directly toward Fort Pitt,
and camped about five or six miles east of the Ohio-
Wednesday, November 21.
On Wednesday, November 21, Washington reached
Fort Pitt, a distance of about twenty-five miles from the
camp of the night before. His entry for this date is
concerned chiefly with the character of the land and its
On November 22 Washington spent the whole day
at Fort Pitt settling his accounts and entertaining
friends. The following day he set off for Mt. Vernon
which he reached on December 1 after having been
absent from home nine weeks and a day, on his longest
journey into the interior of North America.
On this "Tour to the Ohio" Washington penetrated
the Ohio country as far west as the junction of the
Kanawha and Ohio Rivers. On thirty-one consecutive
nights from October 20 to November 19, 1770, he
Washington's Camp Sites on the Ohio River 19
camped upon the banks of the Ohio and Kanawha
Rivers. Of these thirty-one camp sites only thirteen
can be located with certainty and of these, two sites
were used on two or more different occasions. For
example, he spent four nights at Mingo Town, one on
the downstream journey and three on his return.
Five additional sites can be located with less cer-
tainty, but either from direct statement in the journal
or from the context it is possible to give the probable
side of the river chosen for the camp.
Of the remaining thirteen camps eight can be lo-
cated in a general way, that is, the approximate position
along the river can be given. Either because Washing-
ton failed to be explicit in his journal or because of the
accident which destroyed portions of the record for ten
days we are unable to determine the side of the river
on which he camped.
Five positions shown on the map are so uncertain
that they cannot be regarded as definite in any sense
whatever. The position along the river probably is
within five miles of the actual site, but it is still a very
approximate location even as shown on the small scale
In this year of the bicentennial celebration of the
birth of George Washington it would be an appropriate
undertaking of the communities along the Ohio River to
attempt to mark these sites used by Washington in so
far as they can be located.