Professor's Portrayal Brings Young Washington to Life

Article excerpt

Many people think of George Washington as a stately president.

In a presentation at West Overton Museums near Scottdale, Kevin Kopper, history professor at Wesmoreland County Community College, portrayed Washington as an intense young man who played a pivotal role in local history.

The year was 1753. The land now known as Southwestern Pennsylvania was then the dividing line between two empires, the French and the British, who vied for control of the Ohio Valley.

The British were alarmed that the French were building forts throughout the Ohio Valley, including Fort Le Boeuf, near Erie. Gov. Robert Dinwiddie, of Virginia, and the Virginia Council decided to send Fort Le Boeuf's senior officer a formal demand for the withdrawal of all French forces.

Dinwiddie dispatched George Washington, a 21-year old major in the Virginia militia.

Dinwiddie's message demanded the French make an imitate withdrawal to Canada.

On the evening of Dec. 14, Washington received the reply to Dinwiddie's demand. Washington would be allowed to return home, but any further trespassing would be met with force. Washington had little choice but to return to Virginia.

Kopper said that this trip showed several aspects of Washington.

"Washington was a surveyor on this journey," he said. "He wanted to be a gentleman, a landowner. He studied the land as much as possible, with the intent of making a family farm and making a living. …