Washington and Guyasuta: When Giants Truly Walked
When necessary, two disparate individuals can often forge a relationship
because of a commonality, be it a mutual cause, a belief, a similar
situation, or a character trait. Leadership, and the responsibility that
inherently accompanies it, can be one of those binding elements.
George Washington and Guyasuta must have recognized
the great leadership abilities in one other because
these two titans, who crossed paths in southwestern
Pennsylvania, couldn't have been a more unlikely pair to
establish a relationship. Yet history tells us that
these two men, whose lives are woven like a subplot in
the story of this land's early history, regarded each
other with deep respect.
Forget Oscar and Felix, Washington and Guyasuta were
an even odder couple. George Washington was born in 1732
and was raised as part of the landed gentry of Colonial
Virginia. When he was merely 17, Washington was
appointed the official surveyor for Culpepper County,
Virginia, and was later made a major in the Virginia
Warrior of the Mingo People
In contrast, Guyasuta, whose name has also been
interpreted as Kiasutha, was one of the most powerful
Native American chiefs of that era. He is believed to
have been born in 1724 into the Seneca tribe in New
York, which was one of six tribes in the Iroquois
nation. During his childhood, Guyasuta moved into the
Ohio Country. He was described as a great warrior and
skillful hunter and most probably belonged to a
mixed-blooded tribe referred to as the Mingo people who
lived along the banks of the Allegheny and Ohio Rivers.
Guyasuta's name is translated to mean "It Stands Up
He and Washington first met in 1753, when the French
began to encroach into the "Ohio Country," territory
that the British claimed for the Virginia and
Pennsylvania colonies. Washington was dispatched by the
lieutenant governor of Virginia, Robert Dinwiddy, who
had received orders from the British government to warn
the French to withdraw. Washington, who was only 21 at
the time, and the members of his eight-man expedition
were led by Guyasuta on his journey from Logstown (now
Harmony Township) to Fort LeBoeuf (now Waterford,
Pennsylvania) near the shores of Lake Erie.
The commander of Fort LeBoeuf, Jacques Legardeur de
Saint-Pierre, received Washington and his men with
hospitality but dismissed Washington's demand that the
French vacate the land.
A year later hostilities erupted between the French
and the British over this disputed land. This bloody
conflict became known as the French and Indian War and
would bring Washington and Guyasuta together a second
The French and Indian War
While the Iroquois aligned with the British, Guyasuta
cast his lot with the French. In 1755, General Edward
Braddock led an expedition for the British to capture
Fort Duquesne, now the site of Point State Park. George
Washington was among those men under Braddock's command.
Initially, the bloody battle favored the British, but
the French and Indian forces, of whom it is believed
that Guyasuta was a member, regrouped and defeated the
British, consequently killing General Braddock.
George Washington presided over his general's burial
as the chaplain was severely wounded in the conflict.
During the summer of 1758, General John Forbes led an
expedition over the Alleghenies. A part of this group
was led by Major James Grant, who advanced on Fort
Duquesne ahead of the expedition. The French and Indians
at the fort got wind of his approach and met Grant
outside the fort in battle (on what is now Grant
Street). Guyasuta is believed to have fought in this
battle, which ended in the defeat of Grant. However, the
British eventually prevailed over the French, seizing
the disputed land.
In opposition to the British policies after the war,
Pontiac, the Ottawa chief, led an uprising in 1763, in
which Guyasuta was a major leader. Pontiac was
unsuccessful in his attempt to capture Fort Detroit, but
he and Guyasuta conspired to take Fort Pitt. Colonists
in western Pennsylvania took refuge in Fort Pitt when
Pontiac's War began, and by the summer of 1763, it was
reported that more than 500 people were crammed into the
On June 22, the fort was attacked by the Indians.
With the fort under siege, Colonel Henry Bouquet was
dispatched from Carlisle by the British to relieve those
surrounded in Fort Pitt. When Guyasuta and the other
Indians learned of Bouquet's approach, they left the
area of the fort and met the British in open engagement
at Bushy Run, where the British triumphed.
Eventually, Pontiac's War, which at one time had been
known as Pontiac and Guyasuta's War, with Guyasuta
having played such an integral role in the uprising, was
When it became clear that the British were here to
stay, Guyasuta helped with the peace negotiations of
1764 and 1765. He was particularly instrumental in the
release of prisoners taken during the uprising. After
the war's conclusion, it was reported that Guyasuta was
a frequent visitor to Fort Pitt and acted as a liaison
between the British government, settlers, and Native
When revolution broke out in the colonies, Guyasuta
chose to remain neutral, but as the conflict raged, he
was forced to choose sides and fought for the British in
battles at Ligonier and in the burning of Hannastown.
When this war found the colonists the victors and once
again, Guyasuta worked to establish peace in the region.
The great chief is believed to have died in 1795, and
there are conflicting reports as to where he is buried:
some say near the Allegheny River in Sharpsburg and
others, on land granted to his nephew, Cornplanter, near
the Kinzua Dam on the Allegheny River.
While Washington's influence in the area's history is
more conspicuously acknowledged by the numerous streets,
landmarks, and towns bearing his name, Guyasuta's
influence has not gone unnoticed. There is a Boy Scout
camp bearing his name and a life-sized statue of him at
the intersection of Canal and Main Streets in
Sharpsburg. There is even a bar in Sharpsburg named
after him called The Guyasuta Lounge.
Perhaps the most significant and newest tribute to
two of this area's most influential players is the
"Point of View" monument installed in 2006 on
Pittsburgh's Mount Washington. Created by artist James A.
West, the bronze sculpture depicts an October 1770
face-to-face meeting of Guyasuta and George Washington,
when the two met for the third time to discuss future
settlement along the Ohio River.
While both of their lives intersected over this land,
sometimes in conflict, they are forever united through
their influence on our history and the legacy of their
leadership, which continues to echo across Southwestern
Pennsylvania, even to this day.
Written by Jan Palko
Return to Top