George Croghan was a man of many talents. He was an Indian agent and trader, and he was a land speculator with a grand vision of how westward expansion should evolve. His dreams exceeded the real and practical yet in the end he died a pauper after he amassed and lost several fortunes.
Croghan immigrated to America from Dublin Ireland in 1741 where he settled in Pennsboro west of Harris’s Ferry near present day Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Croghan was first employed by Conrad Weiser, Indian agent and later Lancaster County magistrate to help him carry a present to the Indians in Ohio in 1748. Shortly thereafter, Croghan assisted the Pennsylvania government in expelling Scotch-Irish settlers from the Cumberland Valley.
The outbreak of the French and Indian War in 1755 destroyed Croghan’s prosperous trading business. He was given a captain’s commission to command the Indian contingent during Braddock’s campaign, but he quickly retired from the service. At this juncture Sir William Johnson to whom he was distantly related appointed him deputy Superintendent of Indian Affairs.
In 1763 Croghan traveled to England on unspecified private business and did not return to the American colonies until 1765.
Upon his return he was immediately dispatched to Illinois. After seeing this country Croghan believed Illinois should be opened for settlement as quickly as possible. He devised a grand scheme and believed he could convince Col. Henry Bouquet that trade with the Indians should be opened up whether there was a new treaty or not. He noted this was to keep the French from regaining their lost influence. He thought he would profit immensely from this design of his as a trader and a land speculator because he was the first to see the value of Illinois. These plans of Croghan’s had some urgency because he was deeply in debt. Some placed his debts from the French and Indian War at about £8,000 sterling or about one quarter of the entire debt of all the traders combined.
Croghan’s financial state provided the motivation for his trade and land schemes which brought him into direct conflict with William and James Smith. The goods he transported on Col. Henry Bouquet’s military pass in violation of the Proclamation of 1763 were intended to help his negotiations for much of Illinois. The Sideling Hill affair markedly affected these negotiations.
At the beginning of the Revolution he was a supporter of the Patriot’s cause but later became an object of suspicion. In 1778 Croghan was proclaimed a public enemy by the state of Pennsylvania and his place as an Indian agent was given to George Morgan of Baynton, Wharton & Morgan.
In the end he never paid his debts in full and continued to reside in Pennsylvania. Croghan died at Passyunk in 1782.
A Selection of George Croghan’s Letters and Journals Relating to Tours into the Western Country. November 16, 1750 – November 1765. Bancroft Library http://www.archive.org/details/selectionofgeorg00crogrich
George Croghan and the Westward Movement 1741 – 1742, Volwiler, Albert T. Pennsylvania Magazine of History and biography # 4 October 1922
Benjamin Franklin Papers online, 1765 http://franklinpapers.org/franklin/framedVolumes.jsp
Chapter V: Race: The Permanent Pennsylvania Frontier, 1763 – 1768 in Creating Pennsylvania: The Politics of the Frontier and the State, 1682 – 1800. Spero, Patrick. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Pennsylania. 2009
The New Regime 1765 – 1767. Illinois State Historical Library. Edited by Clarence Walworth Alvord, University of Illinois Volume XI Springfield, Illinois. 1916