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Michael Cresap (1742-?)

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OVERVIEWEdit

The history of Michael Cresap is a controversial subject. This account places his life in a positive context, a view not shared by some. Cresap was blamed for one of the key events that led directly to Dunmore's War, the killing of Chief Logan's family by white settlers. Certainly Logan blamed Cresap for this event. Thomas Jefferson accepted Logan's account, but later in life retracted that position when pressed by Cresap's family. Others have said that Cresap was not present, and have painted him in a more positive light. There are always multiple sides to every story. Cresap died about a year after the Battle of Point Pleasant which concluded Dunmore's War. As a result, he was not around to defend his name, though family members and relations staunchly upheld him. This particlar version comes from Dodderidge and Doderidge, 1912:312, who viewed Cresap in a favorable light. The reader will have to make their own evaluation.

Michael Cresap, youngest son of Col. Thomas Cresap, was born June 29, 1742, in that part of Alleghany county, Maryland, which formerly belonged to Frederick county. His father, an English immigrant from Yorkshire, courageous, aggressive, capable and enterprising, gave his son a good education. Young Cresap was not successful in the mercantile business east of the mountains, largely because of his easy and generous disposition in allowing injudicious credits, so he came west early in 1774, bringing with him six or seven men to build houses and clear land in the Ohio valley. He made an investment at Redstone Old Fort, now Brownsville. But late in the autumn of the same year Cresap returned to Maryland in poor health. Spending the winter at home, he was back in the spring of 1775 in the Ohio valley with more young men to finish the work he had begun the year before. This time he got as far south as Kentucky, where he is said to have contemplated settling finally. But, being still sick, he determined to go home again to Maryland. Approaching the end of his journey he was met by a friend who told him he had been selected to command one of the two companies of riflemen required of Maryland by resolution of the Continental congress. This responsibility was not in harmony with the purpose that was carrying him home, but he accepted it, nevertheless. He led the first company of Maryland riflemen, some of whom were recruits from Pittsburg, to Boston, where they joined the American army under Gen. Washington. Here he was attacked by fever. Starting home he reached New York city on Oct. 12, but was not able to proceed further, dying there on Oct. 18, aged 33 years. His funeral the next day was " attended by an enormous concourse." A place was found for his body in Trinity church graveyard, on Broadway, where it still rests. But it might, possibly, be difficult to find the marking stone.

John J. Jacob, who wrote a life of Cresap, clerked as a boy for Cresap during his career as a merchant, and in 1781 he married'Cresap's widow, with whom he lived for 40 years. He had all of Cresap's books, papers and memoranda; he had known Cresap intimately, his character, nature, purposes, motives and conduct; he was personally familiar with the history of the events of Cresap's life, civil, commercial and military. He insists that Jefferson did Cresap a very great wrong in attributing to him many infamous Indian murders; and, moreover, that no evidence has ever been produced to prove Logan's alleged charge that Cresap was responsible for the murder of his family. " No idea," says Jacob, " was entertained by the Virginia Commissioners who settled the expenses of Dunmore's War, as that he was the murderer of Logan's family, or that he was a man of infamous character as an Indian murderer, or that he was the cause of the war." The commissioners held sessions at Pittsburgh, Redstone Old Fort, and Winchester, which were attended by Jacob, as the representative of Cresap, for the purpose of securing orders for payment of bills for goods sold by Cresap to Dunmore's soldiers. Therefore, when he writes of the sentiments of the commissioners he does so from knowledge gained by close personal association.

Throughout all his home life Michael Cresap had been associated with kindliness toward Indians. His father owned a landed estate of 1400 acres on both sides of the north fork of the Potomac river, in Virginia and Maryland, a few miles above its junction with the south fork. Here, as representative of the Ohio company, which made the first English settlement in Pittsburgh before Braddock's war, Col. Thomas Cresap had engaged Nemacolin, the famous Indian, to mark and lay out a road over the mountains from Cumberland to Pittsburgh. This Nemacolin did, and he did it so well that Gen. Braddock followed it when hemarched in 1755 to the attack on Fort Duquesne. While this road was ever afterward known as Braddock's road, its real name should have been Nemacolin's. So great was Nemacolin's affection for Col. Cresap and his family that he left his son George to live with them, and George liked it there so well that he stayed with the Cresaps all his life.

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