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Ohio Company of Virginia

a venture to establish settlements in the Ohio River Valley that sparked a war

The Ohio Company of Virginia was formed in 1747. Its members included London merchants and wealthy Virginians, including Lawrence and Augustine Washington, brothers of George Washington.

In 1749, King George II granted the company 200,000 acres west of the Allegheny Mountains in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, and on both sides of the Ohio River. In return, the king expected the company to distribute the property among one hundred families. The company also had to construct a fort to guarantee the colonists' safety.

Ohio Company lands highlighted on map of Ohio
Ohio Company lands highlighted on map of Ohio

In 1750, the company hired Christopher Gist to survey the land. Gist provided one of the first and most detailed descriptions of southern Ohio and northeastern Kentucky. Based partly on Gist's survey, the company's investors decided to settle south and east of the Ohio River in present-day Pennsylvania and West Virginia. The company began trading with Indians, building storehouses and roads, and establishing forts. In 1753, a settlement called Gist's Plantation was founded near Mount Braddock, Pennsylvania.

map of the Ohio Company's holdings in Ohio
map of the Ohio Company's holdings in Ohio

The Ohio Company's venture did not set well with the French, who had long claimed the Ohio Country as their territory. In 1753, 1,500 French soldiers entered the disputed area and established several forts, including Fort Le Boeuf and Fort Venago. Robert Dinwiddie, the Lieutenant-Governor of Virginia, upon hearing of France's actions, sent George Washington and Gist to Fort Le Boeuf to convince the French to evacuate the Ohio Country. The French commander refused, and "the fight was on."

In 1754, the French captured the British trading post at Logstown and another site operated by William Trent on the headwaters of the Ohio River as well. It was on the latter site that the French subsequently established Fort Duquesne. In response, George Washington built Fort Necessity. In July 1754, a combined force of French soldiers from Fort Duquesne and their Native American allies attacked Fort Necessity, signaling the start of the French and Indian War (1756-1763). The French captured Washington's men and sent them back to Virginia in disgrace.

The war blocked efforts to settle the Ohio Territory, especially since most of the Native Americans in the region supported the French. Although the British ultimately emerged as the victors, the Ohio Company's investment never paid off; it went out of business in 1792.

Ohio History Central

George Washington
Christopher Gist
French and Indian War

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The Robinson Library >> Ohio River and Valley

This page was last updated on July 07, 2018.