A Chronology of the Colonial History
of North America


Edward J. Dodson

[This chronology is developed from the series of books on the European conquest of North America written by Historian Allan W. Eckert]

The story of how Europeans and the European-Americans born in North America fought for control over the land and its natural bounty with the people whose forefathers had lived on the continent for thousands of years is told by historian Allan W. Eckert in a manner matched by few other historians. His books on the period from roughly 1740 thru 1830 are referred to as the Narratives of America. I have read and studied them all, making use of Eckert's vivid descriptions in my own teaching. The document that follows comes almost entirely from Eckert's books. I have undertaken to prepare these notes for those who teach and study the history of North America. We are all deeply indebted to Allan Eckert for his enormous contribution to our understanding of what these people endured and accomplished, what they thought and felt, and the legacy they left for us to address and, in some sense, remedy in the quest for the just society.
It is neither the intention nor the desire of the author to champion either the cause of the Indians or that of the whites; there were heroes and rascals on both sides; humanity and atrocity on both sides; rights and wrongs on both sides. ...The facts speak amply for themselves, and whatever conclusions are drawn must be drawn solely by the reader. [Allan W. Eckert / 1988]


  • What is now West Virginia was dominated by the Xualae tribe until the mid-1500s; other tribes then began to arrive and erode Xualae control.


  • The five tribes occupying the territory from Hudson River valley westward to the Great Lakes -- the Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida and Mohawk -- unite to form the Iroquois Confederation. One of those most responsible for this union was said to be the chief, Hiawatha.


  • In retaliation for providing protection and assistance to the Hurons, the Erie tribe is annihilated by the Iroquois League. The Hurons fled and resettled in Michigan.


  • The area from the southern shores of Lake Michigan to the Ohio River was dominated by people called the Miami.


  • The area from the Mohawk Valley across southern New York and down into Pennsylvania was dominated by people called Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida and Mohawk. These tribes forged a confederation of tribes called the Iroquois League.


  • Along the Atlantic Coast and into the area where Philadelphia and Wilmington arose, the people called Lenni Lenape attempted to live in peace with the European arrivals, going so far as to change their name to honor Lord De La Warr. From then on they became as the Delawares.


  • A major outbreak of plague killed tens of thousands of indigenous people all along the Atlantic coast, making much easier the takeover of this territory by the Europeans.


  • British investors established the Royal African Company and proceeded to take the slave trade away from the Dutch.


  • The people called Huron, who had competed for territory around the great lakes, were defeated by the Iroquois and forced to migrate to the region of Lake Michigan.


  • To help stem the expansion of the Iroquois into the Ohio River region, the Miami invited a fierce tribe of mercenary warriors, the Shawnee, to live in a region near the Ohio River and act as a buffer between themselves and the Iroquois.


  • The Mahican tribe, who for a very long period occupied both sides of the upper Hudson River to Lake Champlain and eastward, were finally defeated by the Mohawks and forced to move beyond Mohawk reach.


  • The Xualaes are attacked and exterminated by the Cherokee.


  • Sieur de St. Lusson declares: "I hereby take possession for France of lakes Superior and Huron and of all other countries, streams, lakes and rivers contiguous and adjacent to those already discovered as well as those yet to be discovered which are bounded on one side by the seas of the North and of the West, and on the other side by the South Sea, and in all their length and breadth."


  • The Cherokee are, in turn, attacked by the Iroquois and driven from the territory they had gained from the Xualaes.


  • The Delaware people living on the upper Susquehanna River, concerned with the increasing encroachment of Europeans, invited the Shawnees under Chief Opeththa to join them (the Shawnees arrived two years later and more followed).


  • The French build a fort along the strait -- or detroit -- which separates Lake Huron from Lake Erie.


  • William Penn and the Quakers negotiate a treaty with the Delawares to purchase the land north and west of Philadelphia. The treaty contains the ambiguous wording: "as far as a man can go in a day and a half."


  • The people called Tuscaora, occupying territory in the Carolinas, apply for admission to the Iroquois League in order to obtain protection from the Shawnees.


  • War erupts between tribes in the Green Bay region between the Huron and Ottawas on the one hand and the Fox, Sac and Mascouten. The French allow the Huron and Ottawas protection at the detroit region.


  • William Johnson is born in County Meath, Ireland.


  • The French rebuild Fort St. Louis, originally constructed by LaSalle on the Illinois River.


  • British traders make their first appearance in the Ohio River area, establishing a trading post on the Wabash River.


  • An Ottawa infant, born a month earlier, is finally named. Obwondiyag, pronounced in the Ottawa tongue, Oh-pahn-tee-yag, grows to become known to European Americans as Pontiac.


  • Pressured by the increasing number of Europeans settling near them, the Delaware are forced to move their villages from the upper Susquehanna to northwestern Pennsylvania and into Ohio.


  • The Shawnees establish a new village on the Ohio River, for the first time building cabins in the style of the European colonists instead of their usual wegiwas.


  • The Proprietary of Pennsylvania, desiring to expand Pennsylvania to accommodate new settlers, inform the Delaware of their intent to establish boundaries based on the 1701 treaty. They then clear a path due west of Philadelphia and hire a runner to begin a sustained run for a day and a half. He covers 150 miles under what is laughingly called the "Walking Treaty."


  • The Huron, upset with French traders and fearful of the Chippewas and Ottawas, move from the region of the detroit to the western end of Lake Erie, at Sandusky Bay. They soon began doing business with English traders.


  • William Johnson emigrates to North America to manage lands owned by his uncle, Peter Warren, up the Hudson River to the Mohawk Valley.

1740 (October)

  • The Mohawk who would be known to whites as Joseph Brant is born and named Thayendanegea.


  • William Johnson is adopted in the Mohawk tribe. Johnson traded with the Mohawks fairly and learned their language. He was given the Mohawk name, Warraghiyagey -- The-Man-Who-Undertakes-Great-Things.


  • William Johnson is appointed by Governor George Clinton of New York Colony to the post of Superintendent of Affairs of the Six Nations (the Iroquois League).


  • By their self-proclaimed right of conquest, the Iroquois sell to the British land west of the Allegheny Mountains stretching to the Ohio River -- territory not occupied by the Iroquois but by the Shawnees and other tribes. The British conveniently ignore the fact that the Iroquois have no legitimate claim to this land and that none of the occupying tribes are party to the transaction.


  • France and England open the War of the Austrian Succession. In North America, the English (under Massachusetts Governor William Shirley) capture the French fortress of Louisbourg on Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.


  • The Governor of New France, Marquis de al Galissoniere, writes to the French colonial minister: "It is true that Canada and here dependencies have always been a burden; but they are necessary as a barrier against English ambitions; and to abandon them is to abandon ourselves; for if we suffer our enemies to become masters in America, their trade and naval power will grow to vast proportions and they will draw from their colonies a wealth that will make them preponderant in Europe. ..."


  • Upon the death of the Ottawa chief Winniwok, killed in a raid against the Cherokees, Oh-pahn-tee-yag (Pontiac) becomes war chief.


  • The Treaty of Aix-al-Chapelle is signed, ending King George's War between England and France.


  • Virginian John Findley leads a group over the Blue Ridge Mountains and discovered a passage through the mountains and into the interior, which he named the Cumberland Gap after the Duke of Cumberland, prime minister of England.


  • The English monarch, King George, grants 500,000 acres in western Virginia to the Ohio Land Company.


  • The governor of New France sends an exploratory force of some 230 men under Captain Pierre Joseph de Celoron de Bienville down the St. Lawrence and into the interior to reinforce France's territorial claims by planting lead markers at key points along the river that stretches 1,000 miles from its beginnings at the coming together of the Allegheny and Monongahela. This river, known today as the Ohio, was called (among other names) Spay-lay-wi-theepi by the tribal peoples living along its shores.


  • King George of England grants to the principals of the Ohio Company, 500,000 acres of land west of the Alleghenies. They hire a prominent frontiersman, Christopher Gist, to lead an expedition to survey the lands claimed. Guided by a minor Delaware chief named Nemacolin, they carved out a trail through the wilderness, thereafter known as the Nemacolin Trail.


  • At a grand council held in Albany, New York, the Mohawk chief Tiyanoga, addressed George Clinton, governor of New York Colony: "You tell us that the French mean to take over our lands and they tell us that you mean to do the same. But it is only the English, not the French, who are building log homes in the deep woods that hve never before heard the cry of a tree bitten by an axe. [The French] build stores at which we can trade, but then they leave, or else only a few stay. But the English build homes and stick blades into the ground and expose the heart of the mother who is the earth, and you do not leave even then."


  • At another grand council at Albany, in which the English colonials seek to get a commitment from the Iroquois to fight with them against the French, a very old Oneida chief, Sconondoa, speaks:

    "Are there none here who remember when the cry "The Iroquois are coming!" was alone enough to make the hearts of the bravest warriors of other tribes fail within their breasts? Are there none here who remember when this land was all ours and that though other tribes were round about, they were there by our forbearance and there was none who could stand before us; are there none here who remember that from the green sea to the east and the blue sea to the south, to the land of always-winter in the north and the land of always-summer in the west, they feared us?

    But then came the men in their boats and they brought us gifts. They asked for our friendship and we gave it to them. Then they asked for just a little land and we foolishly gave it to them. Then, when they asked us for more land and we would not give it to them, they asked us to sell it to them and because they had goods that were new and powerful to us, we sold them some. Then they asked us for more land and when we would not give it or sell it, they took it from us and we talked and talked and always it was we who gave in and signed a new treaty and took gifts for what was taken, but the gifts were cheap and worthless and lasted but a day, while the land lasts forever."

    ...Can you not see that it makes no difference whether these white men are of the French or the English or any other of the peoples from across the sea? All of them threaten our very existence. All of them! When they came here they had nothing. Now, like a great disease they have spread all over the east until for twelve days' walk from the sea there is no room for an Indian to stay and he is made unwelcome. Yet this was not long ago all Indian land. How has it gone? As these white men have stained the east and the north with their presence, so now they extend themselves to the west and the northwest and the southwest, forcing all Indians to take sides for them or against them, whether they are French or English, but in such a game the Indian cannot win."


  • Upon the death of the Baron de Longueuil, the Marquis Duquesne is sent to New France as the new governor.


  • The French begin construction of a series of forts to protect their interests, extending from Fort Niagara at the southern shore of Lake Ontario, to Fort Presque Isle on the shore of Lake Erie, then south to French Creek, where they constructed Fort Le Boeuf.

    In response, the governor of Virginia, Robert Dunwiddie, appoints George Washington to the rank of major in the colonial militia and sends him west to deliver a message of protest to the French. Washington departs Virginia late in November, reaching the French installation of at Venango in mid-December. A month later he was back in Williamsburg with his report. The tales of his exploits establish his reputation as a heroic figure.


The next section covers the beginning of the Seven Years' War,
called by European-Americans the French and Indian War