Maps of North America drawn by French cartographers as early as 1640 showed Lake Erie’s size, location, and configuration. The first European known to have reached Lake Erie and the Ohio country that it borders was the French explorer Adrien Jolliet in 1669. European discovery of the Ohio River, which borders the Ohio country on the south, was probably made by noted French explorer René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle , about 1670, although some historians dispute that claim. France soon established dominance over the Great Lakes region, the Mississippi Valley, and the western part of the Ohio region, building forts and sending fur traders and missionaries to work with the Native Americans. The English first reached the Ohio country through fur-trading expeditions from New York, traveling to Lake Erie as early as 1685 and to the Ohio River in 1692. However, it was not until the 1740s that rivalry between France and Great Britain became intense for control of the lucrative fur trade with the Native Americans of the Ohio country.
The French found themselves challenged by fur traders pushing westward into Ohio from the colonies of Virginia and Pennsylvania. This expansion culminated in 1748 in construction of a British fort and trading post at the Miami people’s village of Pickawillany, near present-day Piqua, in the heart of French-controlled territory. Many of the local Native Americans became allies and trading partners with the British.
In 1749, seeking to improve their lagging trade with the local native groups, the French sent a military expedition commanded by Pierre-Joseph Célèron de Blainville to the Ohio country. Visiting the various peoples, Célèron attempted, but failed, to elicit promises from the chiefs not to trade with the British. In 1752 the French sent a force of about 250 Native Americans to raid Pickawillany, killing a number of traders and native people, confiscating goods, and partially demolishing the British fort.
The use of force increased French prestige among the Ohio tribes, who sided with France when it fought Britain for control of the North American colonies in the French and Indian War (1754-1763). Britain won the war, and under the terms of the Treaty of Paris in 1763, the French ceded to Britain most of their territory and forts in North America, including all of the Ohio country.
Immediately after the French ceded the Ohio country, Native Americans led by the Ottawa chief Pontiac revolted, trying to drive out the British and restore the native peoples’ autonomy. Pontiac’s forces captured most of the British forts in the vast region north and west of the Ohio River, including Fort Sandusky on Lake Erie. However, after learning they would not get help from the French, Pontiac and the native peoples he led signed a treaty ending the war. The native groups of Ohio later sided with the British during the American Revolution (1775-1783). American troops attacked Native American settlements in the Ohio country, and the native peoples participated in attacks on American settlements across the Ohio River in Kentucky. When the war ended in 1783, Britain ceded Ohio to the United States, along with the area that now forms Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and the eastern part of Minnesota. "Ohio" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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