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William Crawford

Frontiersman William Crawford (September 2, 1722-June 11, 1782) was born in present Jefferson County. He was a farmer, soldier, and surveyor, and the land agent of George Washington.

Crawford first saw the upper Ohio Valley during the French and Indian War, as a militia soldier under Gen. Edward Braddock in 1755 and with Gen. John Forbes during the capture of Fort Duquesne in 1758. After the French and Indian War, Crawford fought during Pontiac’s Rebellion and served as a major in Virginia Governor Dunmore’s army during Dunmore’s War; in the summer of 1774 he directed the construction of Fort Fincastle (later Fort Henry) at Wheeling. He was commissioned colonel in 1776, and served under Washington during the Revolution at the battles of Long Island, Trenton, Princeton, Brandywine, and Germantown.

Washington had known Crawford since his youth, and often employed him as his chief surveyor. Crawford had accompanied Washington and Dr. James Craik, later surgeon-general of the Continental Army, on their canoe journey down the Ohio River in October 1770 in search of valuable bottomlands. The next year, Crawford surveyed thousands of acres in present West Virginia, including 2,314 acres in Wood County, known as Washington Bottom, and 10,000 acres at the confluence of the Ohio and Kanawha rivers in Mason County. These tracts were registered by Crawford for Washington in 1772.

Colonel Crawford’s death was tragic. He led a force of 500 militia against the Wyandot Indians at their village at Sandusky, Ohio, in June 1782. His force was defeated and retreated in panic. Crawford was captured by the Delaware, who mistakenly blamed him for the treacherous murder of about 100 Moravian Christian Indians at Gnadenhutten the previous February. He was tortured and burned at the stake.

Written by Philip Sturm


  1. Butterfield, C. W. The Washington-Crawford Letters. Cincinnati: R. Clarke & Co., 1877.

  2. Eckert, Allan W. That Dark and Bloody River. New York: Bantam Books, 1995.

  3. Scholl, Allen W. The Brothers Crawford: Colonel William, 1722-1782, and Valentine Jr., 1724-1777. Westminster, MD: Heritage Books, 1995.