Western Lands and the American Revolution

By Thomas Perkins Abernethy | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
VANDALIA

WITH the opening of the year 1769 Samuel Wharton and William Trent were making final preparations to depart for London in order to plead the cause of the "suffering traders," alias the "Indiana Company," before the ministers of King George III. Their expenses on this journey were to be paid jointly by William Franklin, George Croghan, John Baynton, George Morgan, and Robert Callender; but they were leaving their financial affairs in a sad state. Morgan was in the Illinois country trying to rescue the firm of Baynton, Wharton and Morgan from the receivership into which it had been thrown in 1767.1 Since the end of the French and Indian War they had been the only English traders in the Illinois, but in July, 1768, William Murray, representing the Franks-Gratz interests, arrived to compete with them. Murray was a man of considerable address and a kinsman of Lord Dunmore. He knew the problems he had to face, for he had served as captain of the British forces stationed at Fort Pitt during recent years. That he intended to make a considerable sojourn in the West is indicated by the fact that he took his wife and two young sons with him to Fort Chartres and that Michael Gratz was seeking "Masters for the Little Ones" to follow them to the frontier. His passage down the Ohio was facilitated by Lieut.-Col. John Wilkins, the commandant of troops assigned to the Illinois region, who transported his merchandise in boats belonging to the King's service, and Murray exulted to Gratz that "this affair will save us something clever in Batteaumen's Wages & Provisions." Murray immediately bought land and wrote his partners that if they had a few industrious Germans to settle on it, the Illinois would be the finest country in the world, "allowance for ague excepted."2

Although Wilkins had signed a contract with Baynton, Wharton and Morgan to throw his commercial patronage into their hands, the contract to supply the Illinois troops with rations had gone to the Franks' com-

____________________
1
Ohio Company MSS., Dec. 30, 1768, H.S.P.; Samuel Wharton to William Franklin ( 1769?) Franklin MSS., XLVIII, 147, A.P.S.
2
C. W. Alvord, The Illinois Country ( Chicago, 1922) pp. 283-285; Alvord, Trade and Politics, pp. 342-349; Byars, Gratz, p. 87; Wm. Murray to B. & M. Gratz, April 24, 1769, ibid., pp. 93-94.

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