Ohio History Journal






[By permission of The Ohio Teacher.]


The school histories have always said much about the Meck-

lenburg Resolutions being the prelude to the Declaration of Inde-

pendence. Indeed some histories make so much of it that you

doubt if Thomas Jefferson would ever have mustered up cour-

age sufficient to pen the immortal lines beginning, "When in the

course of human events," etc., had he not had this brave pre-

cedent before him.

Now, a few years ago our esteemed friend and colleague,

Mr. W. H. Hunter, of Chillicothe, who has since passed over

the silent river, wrote in that fascinating, vigorous and facile

manner of his that the Mecklenburg Resolutions were not the

prelude to the Declaration of Independence at all. They were

a prelude all right, but when you talk about the prelude, that

distinction belongs to the Scotch-Irish members of the Hanover

Presbyterian Church in Dauphin county, Pennsylvania. In point

of time the Pennsylvania prelude has the prestige. For it was

on January 4, 1774, that these Scotch-Irish Presbyterians de-

clared in congregational meeting, that, "in the event of Great

Britain's attempting to enforce unjust laws upon us by the

strength of arms, our cause we leave to heaven and our rifles."

These Scotch-Irish were noted for their skill with the rifle. It

is said that the long German rifle in the hands of the Scotch-

Irish conquered the western wilderness. While these were no

doubt zealous Presbyterians who believed in the fiats of heaven,

yet from the tone of their declaration they seem to express the

sentiment of the general who told his men to pray, "but keep

their powder dry!"


The date of the Mecklenburg Declaration falls on May 20,

1775, nearly a year after the Hanover Declaration and fourteen


The Ohio Declaration of Independence

The Ohio Declaration of Independence.     405

months before the Liberty Bell "proclaimed liberty throughout

the land." That a convention of the inhabitants of Mecklenburg

county, North Carolina, met at this time and promulgated a

"Declaration" has been vigorously maintained and as stoutly de-

nied. Those who discount it say that it was not discovered that

they had such a meeting until 1818 and if it took that long to

find out they had a meeting it certainly did not have much moral

influence in sustaining Thomas Jefferson a year later in Phila-


It is not the purpose here to discuss the merits of either side

of this controversy. It is assumed that sometime about May

20, 1775, the representatives of the towns of Mecklenburg

county, North Carolina, did meet in Charlotte and proclaim that

"as the King and Parliament had annulled and vacated all civil

and military commissions, granted by the crown, etc., the pro-

vincial congresses directed by the Continental Congress are in-

vested with all legislative and executive power independent of

the Crown, and Parliament should resign its arbitrary preten-


The time is now about ripe for the ubiquitous Ohio man

with that insuperable ability of his for claiming the world and

all that is therein, to bob up serenely and demand recognition

for a "prelude" on Ohio soil.

The date of Ohio's "declaration" of independence falls mid-

way of the two preceding, November 5, 1774. The place and the

occasion briefly told are these:

With its source amid the fertile fields of Fairfield county,

the river Hock-hocking, which in Indian language means bottle-

necked, meanders, a modest brook, through the flats and graveled

terraces of its upper valley. Then suddenly, as if by an insane

desire to reach the sea, it plunges into the hills through whose

shale and sand beds it has chiseled its way for seventy miles.

Now curving its way by the fretted pine-lined rock-walls, now

rippling across its shallows and plunging adown its cataracts,

now narrowing to squeeze itself between the hills; then again

broadening and sleeping as it lazily wanders among its meadows,

passing prosperous farms and thriving villages; the steeple shad-

ows of three court houses falling upon its bosom, the cattle bath-

406 Ohio Arch

406      Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.


ing their bodies in its depths, the Waltons from town and farm

basking on its banks and awaiting results, the mill-wheel creak-

ing on its axle as the flood sweeps by, and coal-mines, the Alad-

din's Caves where dross is transmuted into gold, opening their

ebony portals upon its shores--this is the panorama you see

from the beginning until it mingles its waters with the amber

tide of "La Belle Riviere."

It is at the mouth of this picturesque little river that we

pause for a "Little lingering at a spot historic in Buckeyedom."

There is a sleepy little village here and to many of its inhabitants

it was news to be informed that within its precincts an American

army once camped under the generalship of a real live English


Nature has conspired to make this an attractive spot and

the chronicles of early travelers, passing up and down the Ohio,

never fail to make mention of it. George Washington, in his

celebrated journey down the Ohio in 1770, in his journal, under

date of October 27, says:

"Incamped at the mouth of the great Hock-hocking, dis-

tant from our last incampment about 32 miles." On his return

he reached the same camping grounds on November 7. The

weather, he adds, was a little "gloomy in the morning but clear,

still and pleasant afterwards." "The Indians," he continues, "say

canoes can go up it (the river) 40 or 50 miles."

Four years later almost to the day, this site was the scene

of some military activity that marks the spot an historic one.

The story of the murder of Logan's family has often been

narrated and need not be retold here. It is known that this ac-

tion precipitated an Indian war upon the frontier settlements of

Pennsylvania and Virginia. The Shawanese with their homes

upon the Scioto were the leaders in this uprising. At last, Lord

Dunmore, the royal governor of Virginia, resolved to carry the

war into the Indian country. Two armies of Virginia militia-

men, one under the command of General Andrew Lewis and

the other under Governor Dunmore himself, marched for the

Indian country. General Lewis reached the Ohio river at Point

Pleasant and Lord Dunmore, floating down the Ohio, landed at

the mouth of the Hocking. That this was the objective point of

The Ohio Declaration of Independence

The Ohio Declaration of Independence.      407

the army is gained from a letter of Colonel Crawford to George

Washington, dated September 20, 1774:

"I am this day to set out with the first division for the

mouth of the Hock-hocking and there to erect a post on your

bottom where the whole of the troops are to rendezvous."

Washington's Bottom was on the Virginia side of the river

and when the two divisions of Crawford and Dunmore reached

the place they crossed to the Ohio side, commenced cutting the

forest trees and erected a fortified camp of considerable extent.

There was also built a strong block-house in which to deposit the

surplus stores of provisions and ammunition during the absence

of the troops in their march to the Scioto. This fort, the fifth

one to be erected in Ohio, was named Fort Gower in honor of

Earl Gower.

While this was transpiring on the Hock-hocking, the

Indians, under the leadership of Cornstalk, left their Scioto

homes and suddenly fell upon the division of the army en-

camped at Point Pleasant. Here on Sunday, October 10, 1774,

after a desperate battle, the Indians were defeated and eagerly

turned back to their own villages. Lord Dunmore after leaving

a small detachment to guard the fort, started for the Pickaway

Plains. Ascending the Hocking, passing the sites of the present

cities of Athens and Nelsonville, he at last came to the falls of

the river where Logan now stands. There he struck across the

country. Before reaching the Indian town he was met by am-

bassadors from the Indians, suing for peace. General Lewis

was approaching from the direction of Point Pleasant by way of

Jackson. The Indians well knew as they had failed to overcome

the army divided, it was useless to attempt a battle when the

enemy was united. A great council was held, a treaty was made,

the Indians agreed to bury the tomahawk and the purpose of the

expedition was fulfilled. It will be remembered that Logan, the

primal cause of the war, refused to attend the council and when

sought out gave his reasons in that famous speech of his that

has been recited by schoolboys these many years.

No doubt there were white men disappointed with the treaty

also. There were men in both divisions of the army who had

little faith in Indian promises and who believed that there were

408 Ohio Arch

408        Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.


no good Indians but dead ones. (Cooper's Indians had not yet

been created.) At any rate the Virginia army retraced its steps

and on November 5th found itself again at Fort Gower. Here

the soldiers learned for the first time of the action taken by the

first Continental Congress which had assembled at Philadelphia,

September 5, 1774. Whereupon a meeting of the officers was

called, with the following results:

At a meeting of the officers under the command of his ex-

cellency, the Right Honorable the Earl of Dunmore, convened at

Fort Gower, November 5, 1774, for the purpose of considering

the grievances of British America, an officer present addressed

the meeting in the following words:

"GENTLEMEN: Having now concluded the campaign, by the as-

sistance of Providence, with honor and advantage to the colony and

ourselves, it only remains that we should give our country the strongest

assurance that we are ready, at all times, to the utmost of our power,

to maintain and defend her just right and privileges. We have lived

about three months in the woods without any intelligence from Boston,

or from the delegates at Philadelphia. It is possible, from the groundless

reports of designing men, that our countrymen may be jealous of the

use such a body would make of arms in their hands at this critical

juncture. That we are a respectable body is certain, when it is con-

sidered that we can live weeks without bread or salt; that we can

sleep in the open air without any covering but that of the canopy of

Heaven; and that pure men can march and shoot with any in the known

world. Blessed with these talents let us solemnly engage to one another,

and our country in particular, that we will use them to no purpose but

for the honor and advantage of America in general and of Virginia in

particular. It behooves us, then, for the satisfaction of our country, that

we should give them our real sentiments, by way of resolves, at this

very alarming crisis."

Whereupon the meeting made choice of a committee to draw

up and prepare resolves for their consideration, who immediately

withdrew, and after some time spent therein, reported that they

had agreed to and prepared the following "resolves," which were

read, maturely considered, and agreed to, nemine contradiceate,

by the meeting, and ordered to be published in the Virginia


"Resolved, That we will bear the most faithful allegiance to His

Majesty, King George the Third, whilst His Majesty delights to reign

The Ohio Declaration of Independence

The Ohio Declaration of Independence.             409


over a brave and free people; that we will, at the expense of life, and

everything dear and valuable, exert ourselves in support of his crown.

and the dignity of the British Empire. But as the love of liberty and

attachment to the real interests and just rights of America outweigh

every other consideration, we resolve that we will exert every power

within us for the defense of American liberty, and for the support of her

just rights and privileges; not in any precipitate, riotous or tumultuous

manner, but when regularly called forth by the unanimous voice of our


"Resolved, That we entertain the greatest respect for His Excellency,

the Right Honorable Lord Dunmore, who commanded the expedition

against the Shawnese; and who, we are confident, underwent the great

fatigue of this singular campaign from no other motive than the true

interest of this country.

"Signed by order and in behalf of the whole corps.


[Taken from American Archives, 4th series, Vol. 1, p. 962.]

There has been much discussion as to the motives that

prompted these soldiers to make this proclamation. Some

argue that they had been disappointed with the expedition;

that Dunmore had acted with duplicity; that the whole

Indian trouble from the Logan murder at Yellowcreek to

the final act on the Pickaway Plains was a part of a general

scheme to keep the people's minds away from the idea of inde-

pendence, and that the men seeing they had been duped, pro-

claimed under the very nose of the royal governor their alle-

giance to American liberty.

410 Ohio Arch

410      Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.


As a matter of fact it doesn't make any difference whether

they had been fooled or not. Dunmore may have been guilty

of double dealing or he may not. It does not alter the situation

one whit, anyway you consider it. There is this to be remem-

bered only, that the Hanover Declaration, the Ohio Declaration

and the Mecklenburg Declaration were the straws showing which

way the wind was blowing. They were all indicative of the

rapidly growing spirit of liberty and independence in the colon-

ists and this spirit would manifest itself even in the presence of

a member of the British aristocracy who at the same time was

the King's representative.

"Twenty years after this period when the settler of the

Ohio Company took possession of their lands at the mouth of

the Big Hock-hocking the outlines of Dunmore's camping ground

was easily distinguished. A tract containing several acres had

the appearance of an old clearing grown up with stout saplings.

In plowing the fields for several years afterwards, mementoes

of the former occupants were often found, consisting of hatchets,

gun barrels, knives, swords and bullets, brought to light in the

upturned furrow. In one place several hundred leaden bullets

were discovered lying in a heap as if they had been buried in

a keg or box. A tolerably perfect sword is now to be seen in the

museum of the Ohio University at Athens, which was found

on the west side of the river near the roots of a fallen tree."

(Hildreth's Pioneer History.)