Baynton, Wharton & Morgan, the Philadelphia mercantile firm that joined with George Croghan, deputy Superintendent of Indian Affairs under Sir William Johnson, at the close of the French and Indian War in 1763 hoped to take advantage of trade with the Indians in areas formally controlled by the French. The company planned to take huge profits made as the first traders in new lands opened up to them by the Treaty of Paris in 1763 and reinvest their profits in speculative land ventures.
The firm began as Baynton & Wharton but became cash strapped due to losses incurred because trade in the colonies was achieved on credit. The only actual capital involved was that of the English manufacturers. Baynton & Wharton took on their clerk George Morgan who had a large inheritance from this father to improve their financial status. The company then became Baynton, Wharton & Morgan.
In addition to their attempts to gain a competitive edge on other traders they also saw the opportunity that land speculation promised. Because of their faith in the profitability in this speculative adventure Baynton, Wharton & Morgan joined with George Croghan, Indian trader along with Sir William Johnson, Superintendent of Indian Affairs and Benjamin Franklin to engage the Indians in selling them huge tracks of land for speculation and in Franklin’s case to provide collateral for a national currency scheme that Franklin hoped to offer Prime Minister Grenville in place of taxing the colonies to pay for the French and Indian War. This group of investors hoped to use Franklin’s influence to obtain necessary licenses for Indian trade and the patent of approval for their land speculation, goals which brought them in direct conflict with the settlers in the Cumberland Valley of Pennsylvania.
In an attempt to monopolize all trade with the Indians in March of 1765 Baynton, Wharton & Morgan loaded wagons using the military pass George Croghan had received from Col. Henry Bouquet, commanding officer at Fort Pitt, for gifts to aid him in his negotiations with the Indians. Bouquet authorized Croghan £3,000 sterling for these goods but Croghan spent far more than that.
In March 1765 the wagons set out from Baynton, Wharton & Morgan’s warehouses in Philadelphia carried Bouquet’s gifts but were also loaded with gun powder, lead, tomahawks, and scalping knives all of which were still illegal under the 1763 Proclamation and the Indian Trade Act.
On March 5, 1765 at Pawling’s Tavern located near present day Greencastle, Pennsylvania the wagons were emptied and loaded onto eighty one pack horses. This number of horses was about four times the average size of pack horse trains in this era. A typical train had twenty horses and two drivers with each horse carrying one hundred and fifty to two hundred pounds of goods.
As the pack train headed west the drivers were asked on two separate occasions to stop the train so that goods could be inspected and their legality confirmed; however, on both occasions the drivers refused. As a consequence of their refusal to stop the pack horse train they were attacked on March 6, 1765 by James Smith and ten Black Boys, so called because they painted their faces black to avoid identification. The Black Boys shot and killed four pack horses which brought the train to a halt. The drivers were informed that they could collect their personal belongings and return to Fort Loudoun. James Smith and the Black Boys proceeded to burn sixty three pack horse loads of George Croghan’s illegal contraband items. This incident caused a ripple effect on major issues such as negotiations for land and Ben Franklin’s currency scheme.
Despite the losses from Sideling Hill, Baynton, Wharton & Morgan went on to become a major player in trade and opened up Ohio to the settlers. They began to experience financial problems in 1767 due to unethical business practices. During this time the company went into bankruptcy and merged with another firm Simon, Trent, Levy & Franks which became part of an entity known as The Indiana Company who sought compensation as the “Still Suffering Traders” in the form of huge grants of land for losses due to Indian attacks.
Sir William Johnson negotiated these grants as part of the 1768 Treaty of Fort Stanwix. The Indiana Company which included the old Baynton, Wharton & Morgan firm were to receive 2.5 million acres of land but objections arose to the grant and approval was withheld.
This dispute also involved the state of Virginia and George Washington and was settled when the two groups were merged in the Grand Ohio Company in 1769 which ultimately collapsed at the start of the American Revolution in 1775.
Pennsylvania Archives Manuscript 19 Sequestered Bayton, Wharton & Morgan Papers 1725 – 1827.
Vandalia; The First West Virginia ? Anderson, James Donald, Volume 80 Summer 1979 pages 375 – 392.
The Benjamin Franklin Papers online 1765.
The New Regime, 1765 – 1767. Illinois State Historical Library. Edited by Clarence Walworth Alvord, Springfield, Illinois. 1916