Early Traders on the Upper Potomac

by Corinne Hanna

[Author's note: This is the longer version of an article published in Western Maryland Genealogy 19 (2003): 67-90. I descend from Franz Louis Michel, Israel Friend, and Ann Richardson Lane Cartledge.]

[My note: I have moved all of the footnote citations to their respective icons, as in the other web pages on this site; the original intent of these has been preserved. I hope this is not too inconvenient.]

In the Olympics there can be only one First Place. In real life, there were many who can be considered first, and all had a hand in what took place. The second and third pioneer was every bit as bold as the first. This essay will look at the first white group in the area of the upper Potomac River, the fur traders. It can be hard to pin down some of these men (and women because they did move around a lot. I will try to cover those who spent some or all of their careers westward of the Monocacy River.

The fur trade in North America began at a very early date. As early as 1580, European fishermen working on the Grand Banks traded with the Natives, and brought furs back as an extra source of income . The beaver was extinct in Europe, furs were light and easy to transport, and were a seemingly limitless resource. Many stories have been published about explorers, long-hunters, and other frontiersmen which tend to draw a line between these “occupations” and those who worked primarily as fur traders. Any man who encountered Natives on his travels would have engaged in some form of trade. Eons of custom among the Natives meant that they expected to talk, smoke, and trade with strangers encountered in the forests. A man who did not trade was considered suspect, and would not have survived for long in the wilderness. Trade in western Maryland grew out of a larger context, which will be looked at briefly here.


The early Swedes and Dutch of the Delaware River traded, but did not encroach on the Natives. By the 1670’s, the rise of the English in the area put pressure on the Natives by moving settlers westward, and upping the ante in competition with the French. As eastern areas were trapped out, the Natives moved into other territories to obtain furs that brought the desired trade goods.

The Beaver Wars of the 17th Century were motivated largely by the desire of the Iroquois League to push other tribes out of favored hunting grounds. The wars began about 1650, and ended during the 1680’s with many tribes being conquered and forced to move, including the Shawnee in Ohio & Susquehannock in Pennsylvania. The Iroquois League reserved Ohio, Kentucky, and much of western Pennsylvania & Virginia as their private hunting lands. Traders in Pennsylvania usually worked for companies licensed (and taxed) by the government to interact with the Iroquois from these areas. These traders had home bases, and families, in the east, and collected furs from their Iroquois suppliers. It should be pointed out that the Natives could trade with anyone they wanted. Licenses issued by Pennsylvania authorities were for the purpose of controlling trade from their end.

Much has been written about traders in Pennsylvania . It would be easy to assume that all early traders were from Pennsylvania. Their licensed and legal trade is easy to document. In actual practice, traders traveled everywhere, whether “permitted” or not.

Earliest French Influences

The French were active in the fur trade in the Great Lakes by the 1670’s. French traders commonly intermarried with Native women. They were not outsiders who traveled to barter, but lived primarily in western villages. However, by 1696 there were problems. The Jesuit missionaries protested the trader’s use of alcohol to manipulate the Natives, French officials balked at supplying large amounts of gift merchandise, and the European market had not yet adjusted to consume the number of furs that French traders had shipped. In that year of 1696, the French crown declared fur trading in the west to be illegal. Natives could still bring furs to Montreal, but this was impractical. French trading posts in the interior were not re-opened till 1718-1720, by which time a shift in trade patterns had occurred .

As early as the 1690’s, the English traders of the east were highly-suspicious of French influences in the west. The Pennsylvania Archives record many documents that malign the French. In 1702, the Swiss man Michel writes about attacks by Frenchmen upon his exploring party in Virginia, and the general mistrust of the French . The hostilities that erupted during the French and Indian war of the late 1750’s were a long time in the making.


In early historic times in Virginia, there was one tribe in the interior who controlled trade. After holding a monopoly for many years, they were attacked and defeated, scattering some of the locals. In the ensuing chaos, there were abuses of trade, instability and violence on the frontier. Virginia outlawed trade with the Natives. Trade then shifted south and became very lucrative in the Carolinas. Many Virginia men were traveling across the border, taking goods, reaping profits, and denying Virginia the opportunity to tax this commerce. In 1707 Virginia again made trade with the Natives legal. Trade routes into northern Virginia were a new avenue of development during the ensuing decades.

There were a few early forays into northern Virginia, though these traders/explorers were turned back. Franz Louis Michel was a Swiss mapmaker/explorer who traveled throughout the middle colonies during 1701-1708, seeking a site for a proposed Swiss colony. He carried trade goods, and sold them to the natives as he traveled. During his 1701-1702 trip, he kept a detailed and interesting journal. Later trips are described in letters .

On 24 Feb. 1707/8, it is recorded in the Pennsylvania Provincial Council that the Indians protested that “Mitchel”, a Swiss, Peter Bezalion, James LeTort, Martin Chartier, a “boy” from Phila., Frank from Canada, and a Frenchman from Va., had built houses upon the Potomac. Mitchel (Michel) was the leader. All were traders. Note the French names that had penetrated this area. Some of these names will be revisited later. They had made a trading camp at Harper’s Ferry in 1706 . Because they were not licensed to trade in this area, these men were evicted, and further white trade is not found along the upper Potomac till years later. This is an instance where a treaty with the Natives was enforced, and white encroachment was withdrawn. In 1717 the first settlement began in the Shenandoah Valley . Settlement did not go beyond the Shenandoah or west of the Monocacy River till the 1730’s.

Maryland Trade

The initial story of trading in Maryland begins on Chesapeake Bay. That area has already been studied by many authors, and will not be detailed here. The story of trading inland with Maryland Natives, particularly on the upper Potomac, has been neglected. The area now encompassed by Frederick County, and westward, had been set aside by treaty as Native hunting lands. Whereas the licensed Pennsylvania traders were employed by merchant companies, traders of western Maryland were individuals.

Pioneers of trade with the inland Natives included Casparus Augustus Herman, John Hans Steelman, and Jacob Young. Herman has been written about many times . John Hans Steelman was alternately known as John Hans, John Tillman, John Hanstillman and other variations by the clerks who inscribed his name in their records. He was a Swede born in 1655 and died in 1749 . Steelman was one of the first to trade in present Frederick Co., Md.

Jacob Young had a colorful history. He is referred to as an “old man” in 1677. How “old” he was may be subjective, since he did not die till circa 1711, in Cecil Co., Md. He had originated at New Amsterdam where he had a Dutch wife. It is said that he fled legal troubles and lived with the Natives for several years before migrating to the head of Chesapeake Bay. He was active in Maryland as early as 1678, when Augustine Hermen & Jacob Young were appointed commissioners to the Indians . He was licensed in 1680 to trade . In August of 1681 Maryland records mention Jacob Young as an interpreter for Northern Indians . In 1681/2, in Maryland, Jacob Young was prosecuted for having an Indian wife, among other charges . It appears that the authorities “threw the book” at him, though the charge of having an Indian wife is the most interesting. Marriage to an Indian was not legal. It is not clear how this was resolved.

Young got himself into trouble again in August of 1682, and was taken into custody "with greatest prudence and discretion in the secrett managemt thereof that you may in noe wise faile" . He was tried in Cecil Co., Md., and banished to Holland . However the banishment never took place, and in April of 1684 it is recorded "Mr. Jacob Young is soe sick and weake being all over his body broken out with boyles and sores that he is altogether uncapable of goeing or being carried upon any Journy or Voyage without apparent danger of his life which is humbly Certified." .

Young found his way back into good graces, and he is referred to several times as an interpreter, including dealings with Canadian Indians. An entry in August of 1689 says, "whereof Jacob Young formerly employed by this Province in affaires of this nature, as well known and skilled in the language and customes of the said Indians, hath been deemed by this House a person most fitt and capable to negotiate in the present juncture… assureing free and safe conduct for himselfe and whom else he shall think fitt to being with him." . In 1695 he kept a ferry and Ordinary (tavern) on the Susquehanna River .

Jacob Young typified the independent spirit of the traders of his era, and was acquainted with the other men discussed here. He dealt with the Susquehannock tribe of the Susquehanna River at the head of Chesapeake Bay. This tribe had been conquered by the Iroquois during the Beaver Wars, and confined to a small territory. They created their own niche as interpreters, and controlled local trade. Various groups traveled through the area, and the Susquehannock also traveled to meetings and trading posts. Many documents relating to treaties, deeds, or trades at this time include the names of Susquehannock chiefs as interpreters and signatories. As we will see a little later, the tribes and the traders of the upper Potomac all had roots in the Susquehannock territory.

An Englishman

Amos Nichols was an Englishman from the Delaware River, married to a Swedish woman . The family was in Pennsylvania as early as 1681 when his father, also Amos Nichols, had a grant from William Penn . In 1685/6, Amos purchased land in New Castle Co., on St. George’s Creek .

Amos Nichols had been trading as early as 1696, but had not paid taxes and/or duties on the goods he traded. On May 1, 1696, in the Maryland Assembly is recorded: ordered Col. Casparus Augustin Herman of Cecil Co. to take into custody Cornelius Comegys and Amos Nichols, persons living upon the frontiers and driving a secret trade with “fforaign” Indians… his Majesty’s customs are defrauded…. (In other words, the crown wasn’t getting it’s cut.) Again on 25 June 1696, a letter included in the Assembly records about traders mentions him: “I have known Col. Herman a long time, and he that trades for him on Susquehanna, Amos Nichols, is better known than trusted… . In light of his apparently shady business practices, it is understandable that he stayed out of the sight of record-keepers. I wonder how many others traded, trapped, explored, and even settled while intentionally staying out of official records? The “foreign” Indians were a band of Shawnee who had recently come to the area.

Nichols is referred to several times as owing debts, being a vagrant, and possibly inciting trouble among frontier Indians. In November 1697, Michael Judd, age 57, Innkeeper of Baltimore Co., "appearing to say about Amos Nicholls who giving account of one Thomas Browne and severall persons of the said County that have had dealings wth. the said Nicholls within this halfe year and concerning John Hanstillmans holding frequent correspondence wth. three French Indian Traders…" . This indicates their trading activities took them further west, into contact with the French.

It seems that Nichols just couldn’t behave himself. On March 1, 1699/1700, at the court of Chester Co., Pa., Amos Nichols, silversmith of Chester Co., and Andrew Neal alias Friend husbandman of New Castle Co., were accused of attacking Thomas Howell of Cecil Co. by force on Jan. 2, 1699 on Marcus Creek. And in another case on the same date, John Cocks, Enoch Enochson, Gabriel Neal alias Friend, and Amos Nicholes, made bond on behalf of Nicholes of Ridley, accused of forgery… . The cases were continued several times before being dismissed. The last four named men were related by marriage.

These troubles may have prompted him to move and begin a new life. In 1701, in Gloucester Co., N.J., the court ordered Amos Nicholson to post bond for good behavior, having lately come to Greenwich Twp . His reputation must have preceded him. He is not otherwise found in New Jersey except a mention in 1717 which refers to his wife Sarah as a “straggler” . It is probable he was living on the frontier, trading and trying to avoid entanglements. The 1721 joint estate of his nephews in N.J. mentions Indian debts incurred in the area of the upper Potomac, and debts owed by Amos Nichols . In 1724 he made a will in Chester Co., Pa., which mentions land owned by his brother-in-law John Friend in N.J., and money in the hands of Robert Love in Maryland. His will was proved in 1725 . By 1734 his sons and nephews were on the first list of persons living between Conococheague and Antietam Creeks in western Maryland .

John Nichols was among the first settlers of western Maryland, being named in 1736 on the survey of the Potomac near the site of Old Town, Maryland . Amos Nichols and other traders were based at the head of Chesapeake Bay. With the next generation, the center of the Maryland Indian trade would shift to Old Town, and the upper Potomac.

A few others

Traders on the Susquehanna River and on the upper Potomac River drew from the same group of men. The first real exploration of the upper Potomac involves trade with the Natives already there. It should be noted that there was a village of the Conoy (Ganawese) Confederation on the Potomac about 1701. All evidence says that they actually lived on the lower Potomac, and they are not found later among the Shawnee on the upper Potomac . They had seasonal fishing camps on the upper Potomac, with settled villages in the tidewater region, where their interactions with whites would have taken place. The Ganawese are mentioned on the Susquehanna River a few times in the 1720’s.

It should also be noted that a 1712 treaty set the Potomac as the southern boundary of Maryland . At that time the South Branch of the Potomac was understood to be this boundary. It was not till 1736 that a survey (by Virginians) claimed the much shorter northern branch as the “main” branch, and altered the Maryland claims.

Some traders came from a distance to be part of the action in the western lands of Maryland. The 1721 combined estate of three Dalbo brothers in West Jersey (New Jersey) says: personal estate totals L.122.15.3., including L.56.9. Indian debts; debts due from: Amos Nicholes of Chester Co., Pa., Major Bradford on Potomack in Maryland, and Mr. Bradley of Maryland . The Dalbo family had been killed by a smallpox epidemic. The mother of the Dalbo brothers and the wife of Amos Nichols were sisters of Andrew Friend.

John Bradford is mentioned frequently in Maryland records. To sample only a few: He is on the Potomac in 1717 . On Oct. 12, 1717, in Prince George Co., John Bradford, Gent. of same, made a deed to William Sheppard, carpenter, for 150 acres called "Sheppard’s Purchase" . On July 26, 1721, in Prince George Co., deed from William Fitzredmond, Gent., to John Bradford, Gent., for 300 acres called "Batchelor’s Hall" and 4 slaves, (mortgage) to pay in three years… witness James Moore . In the 1755 land taxes of Frederick Co. is found: John Bradford heirs, part "Seneca Landing" 52 acres, part "Long Acre" 52 acres, part "Elizabeth" 50 acres, part "Henry" 105 acres . He dabbled in trade up the Potomac, though apparently never lived there. Shepherd and Moore families are on the 1736 Winslow survey of the upper Potomac.

In the 1720’s a Thomas Perrin was licensed in Pennsylvania to trade with the Indians. John Perrin was on the upper Potomac by 1739 when he signed a petition . In November 1739 he received a warrant for 100 acres called "Perrin’s Adventure" in what became Washington Co., Maryland . John Perrin was taxed in 1753 on 222 acres called "Perrin’s Adventure" . By a deed dated 1757 in Maryland, Edward Cartledge a farmer of N.C., sells land to Joseph Chapline, and the deed is recorded on July 11, 1763 by John Perrin . In 1769 John Perrins makes a deposition stating he is age 58 .

Many traders had long family histories of interaction with the natives.

Martin Chartiere changed the face of the fur trade in Maryland. Originally a French Canadian, he lived along the Illinois River circa 1680-1688, and is mentioned in the journals of La Salle . During the Beaver Wars, the Shawnee tribe of south-western Ohio had been pushed west, to the Illinois River. Here Chartiere lived among them. He had a Shawnee wife, and his son Peter Chartiere also had a Shawnee wife . Indian women did the work of dressing pelts for the fur trade. They were very good at their work, which white women refused to do . It was a smelly job, to say the least.

Circa 1688-1692 Chartiere led the Pequea (Peckue/Piqua/Pickaway) band of the Shawnee as they wandered in the Midwest, looking for a place to settle. By 1692, he had brought them to the head of Chesapeake Bay, where their settlement caused a stir .

In March of 1692/3, "several Strange and unknown Indians with a Certain French man in their Company being lately come and seated them selves on or near the head of Land of Col. Casparus Herman at the head of the Bay in Cecil Co.; Capt. Jacob Young of Cecil Co. is hereby desired and requested to attend as Interpreter".  

Among the chiefs of this band was Opessa (Opethatha, Wapathatha. In 1697 he led most of the band to Pequea Creek in Pennsylvania. In 1700 and 1701 he made treaties with William Penn, reserving western Maryland as hunting lands. On 22 July 1701 Opessah spoke "on behalf of the youth of his Town"; he mentioned Nicole Godin, Martine Chartiere "an Inhabitant among sd. Shawanois at Peckaquea", and James LeTort .

The English were disturbed, and a bit confused, by this new band that had come eastward. The establishment thought they already had everyone under control, and the new element changed the equation. The newcomers are referred to as Shawano, Shawanese, Shevanolls, Stabbernowles, Chouans, Chowans, Asswekalaes, Chaouanons (French), the Southern Indians (though they did not come from the south), and other names. Among the mentions of Chartiere is this one in a May 1698 conference with Indians: "Martine Shartee a frrench man resident and married Among them; Capt. Hanse Steetman Interpreter; met at house of Capt. John Hanse; interpreters, Hendrick ‘N’ Peterson, Cornelius Comagys, Jno. Vrans Saelsmans, Jon. Thompson".  In May 1704, Chartiere was summoned to Philadelphia to be examined, because he was "a Frenchman who has lived long among the Shawanah Indians and upon Conestoga".  

Chartiere had been part of the trading camp at Harper’s Ferry that was evicted in 1707/8. On a 1708 map, Chartiere had a trading cabin at the mouth of the Monocacy . The same map shows the Native village of Canavest at the approximate location of present Old Town, Md. It was then a small Shawnee outpost. The same mapmaker returned in 1712 and found Chartiere still on the Monocacy.

Martin Chartiere died about 1718, in Pennsylvania. His son Peter Chartiere continued to trade in western Maryland and Pennsylvania. By the late 1720’s, the son was persuading villages to move westward, ahead of anticipated white settlement. Some of the traders did not like him taking their customers so far away, and in 1731 tried to lure them back to Susquehanna .

One of the most telling documents about the early traders is dated 1734. On May 1, the Shawnee sent a letter to the Pennsylvania Governor, saying: Sometime ago Edmund Cartlidge brought a letter…Edward Kenny, Jacob Pyatt, Timy. Fitzpatrick, Wm. Dewlap, and Jno. Kelly of Donegal (Pa.) come trading without license; Charles Polke & Thomas Hill are "pernicious"; other traders abuse and quarrel with them, being: Henry Bayley, Oliver Wallis, Jno. Young, Jas. Denning, Thos. Moren, Jno. Palmer; We only desire Jonas Davenport, Laz. Lowrey, James LeTort, Fras. Stevens, James Patterson, Ed. Cartlidge, and Peter Chartier "who we reckon one of us"; and once again ask that rum be limited. Signed by Nechikonner, Opockeetor, Cawkecawlen, Olanawkanor, Meelatainen. Witnesses, Jonah Davenport, James Le Tort, Larey Lowrey, P. Cheartier .

On the 1736 survey crew on the upper Potomac, there was a man named "Feer Chlerefs", at Conococheague. While the name is difficult to make out, I have not found any area settler to match this possible name, and Peter Chartier was known to be active in that area at that time. Winslow, who kept the surveying journal, was not terribly literate, and probably less so with French names. It is this author’s guess that this could be Peter Chartiere.

Chartier’s Creek in present Washington Co., Pa., is named for Peter Chartiere. He was alive as late as 1745. There is a suggestive document in 1778, when oaths of allegiance were given at Vincennes, Indiana Territory—among the mostly-French names was Piere Cartiee . The son of Martin was probably not alive this late, but this could be a grandson. Among those who migrated with Peter Chartiere from Maryland to western Pennsylvania was Loyparcowah, son of Opehassah (Opessa) in the 1730’s . Loyparcowah later went to Ohio.

Another Frenchman

Jacques LeTort has already been mentioned as among the traders who were evicted in 1707/8 from the area that is now Harper’s Ferry. He has been described as a French Canadian, who was in Pennsylvania as early as 1686. He and his wife Anne had two sons, James and Francis. Jacques Le Tort made a trip to England, and was aboard a ship that was captured by pirates. He was killed, but his widow Anne continued his trade in Pennsylvania .

In 1693, Anne Le Tort was accused of quot;trafficking with strange Indians, and sympathizing with France.quot; There was a hearing in 1694 . She was also accused of illegal trade with the Shallna-rooners (Shawnee) and with French Canadians . In May, 1696 Col. Casparus Augustin Hermann gave information concerning Peter Basilion and Le Tort… the latter does now live "back in the woods"about 30 miles away, where said Basilion formerly lived…  

The Le Tort family were the cause of the migration of the Shawnee from the Susquehanna River to Opessa’s Town (Old Town) on the upper Potomac. The son Francis was apprenticed to John Hans Steelman. In 1711 Francis stole trade goods. His employer went to Chief Opessa at Pequea Creek and made a plea to hunt down the runaway apprentice and the slaves he had taken away with him . Steelman offered young Shawnee hunters a bounty if they would bring him back, dead or alive Opessa spoke boldly against this—protesting the hunting of humans for money. Le Tort and the slaves were found and killed. Before the authorities, Opessa the Chief of the “Shawnois” through his translator Martin Chartier, spoke against this act .

Opessa was so incensed by the behavior of these young hunters, that he split his tribe. Part of his band followed him to a settlement re-named Opessa’s Town where the north and south branch of the Potomac meet . The split must have been traumatic. Three years later, in 1714, the Susquehannock chiefs reported to the Pennsylvania Governor that “Opessa the late king of their neighbors and friends the Shawnee had absented himself from his people for 3 years, and refused to return, though urged to do so; the Shawnee have finally elected a new king Cakundawanna” (aka Savannah) .

Anne Le Tort continued her trading activities. In a suit filed in 1712 in Cecil Co., Md., Andrew Friend and his partner Charles Mounts Anderson, bring suit against Anne LeTort, executrix of Nicholas Godin, another trader .

James Le Tort continued to be licensed as a trader. In 1727 the Natives in Pennsylvania were protesting the encroachment of settlers. James Le Tort began leading some of the remaining Shawnee of Pequea Creek westward in 1728 . Both James Le Tort and Peter Bazaillon traveled frequently to the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, on which trading trips they were sometimes absent for a year or two . James Le Tort was alive as late as 1742.

The First Settled Trader

It has been said that men explored this country, and the women settled it. The traders discussed so far moved up and down the river on occasional trips. The first to actually live in the upper Potomac area was Israel Friend. He was permanently settled there by the early 1720’s. His father Andrew Friend (aka Anders Nilson 1659-1748) was a Swede who was born and raised in Chester Co., Pa., and settled in Cecil Co., Md. near where the Shawnee first stayed when they came to the area . He was active in trading by 1712, as seen above .

In 1720, the Upper House of the Assembly of Maryland resolved that since “the Shaw-wan Indians have carried away three Negro slaves belonging to the petitioner; the Indians have been told by Andrew Neal, and other traders that they would be given a reward for returning the slaves…” . Andrew’s partner Charles Mounts Anderson was sent again in 1722 to make the same plea of the “Shuano” Indians on the Potomac River . There is no evidence the slaves were ever returned, and the issue persisted for many years.

Israel Friend was born circa 1693 near Chester, Pennsylvania . In 1720 he would have been 27 years old, a single man, ripe for adventure, and likely traveled and traded on his father’s behalf. His maternal grandfather, uncles, and cousins can all be shown to have interactions with the Natives. His father followed the Shawnee from Cecil Co., Md., to Opessa’s Town, and by 1721 his Dalbo cousins had done the same.

By 1724 he was married to a Shawnee girl known in family lore as Bokavar, later known as Sarah . By 1725 he had earned the trust of the Shawnee to a degree that he was also deputized to negotiate with them on behalf of Maryland . Further evidence of this esteem is borne out by the fact that the Natives granted him a deed in 1727 on Antietam Creek . In 1732 two of the Native signatories of that deed sent a letter to the Maryland Assembly . This letter has been excerpted in several books, but usually leaves out the phrase "for we are very much disturbed and I would have you not to press too much upon Us for We have given no body of Land yet but Israel Friend at the mouth of Andahetem…" They were concerned about encroaching white settlement. Their concerns were well-founded. In 1733 there were as many as forty whites squatting west of the Monocacy River .

Because the land contained in the 1727 deed was a part of lands set aside by treaty as an Indian Reservation, Israel Friend never paid taxes/fees to the Maryland government. He considered himself beyond their authority. Because of white pressure to open the area, in 1734 the Maryland Assembly confiscated the Native lands, including Israel Friend’s tract, and declared them under the “protection” (and taxation) of the Assembly . Subsequent ownership of the Antietam tract disappears from the records, and many writers have ignored the 1727 deed altogether, out of confusion about what to make of it. The deed is well-documented, and should not be overlooked. It’s confiscation is quite a contrast to the attitude of 1707/8 that confirmed Native rights to the territory. Quit rents collected on settled lands were a major source of the fortune of the Maryland Proprietor.

In 1734 Israel Friend purchased land across the river in Virginia . This three mile strip extended up the river above Harper’s Ferry. The stone house he built in 1737 still stands . Israel Friend was a guide for the Winslow surveying party that mapped the Potomac above Harper’s Ferry in 1736. This was the first survey of the river. The crew deserted, and laborers were hired as they moved upstream, including backwoodsmen and kinfolks of Israel. He died in 1750 , owning the largest ore bank in the area—land that was later developed into a major industry, and influenced the selection of the site for the armory at Harper’s Ferry.

Later Traders:

Charles Mounts Anderson was trading by the early 1700’s. His father Mans Anderson was a Swede who came to the Delaware River in 1639 . In 1662 he had a patent on the Elk River in Cecil Co., Maryland . In 1674 Mounts Anderson and Augustine Harman were involved in some of the same estates, in Cecil and Baltimore Counties . Mans had sons Christopher Mounts (adult in 1684), who died in 1710 and was survived only by daughters , and Charles Mounts Anderson. In August 1700, there is mention of a meeting between the “Shevanolls King Ophesaw”, and interpreters Boshaccus, John Hans (Steelman), and Christopher Mounts .

Charles Anderson is mentioned in September 1710, in Cecil Co., when the estate of innkeeper Thomas Kelton is due debts from Andrew Friend, Christopher Mounts, Charles Anderson, Capt. Hance Steelman, and many others . In 1722 Charles Anderson, Indian trader, "hereby Impowered to enter into articles of Friendship upon Potomack River… together with chiefs Pockaseta and Oneakoopa…"  He was given the same charge again in 1725, which mentioned his house on the Monocacy River .

Charles Anderson drifted westward. In January of 1729/30, in the court of Orange Co., Virginia, there is a lawsuit against his son, Joseph Mounts, Indian Trader, and others, including Edward Cartlidge . Charles used Anderson as his surname (son of Anders), but his son used the surname Mounts (son of Mans), as had his brother. Published sources say that in May 1734 partners Richard Paulson (Polson), Charles Anderson, and Josiah Jones surveyed 834 acres adj. Shepherd’s Island on the Potomac, near Jones Mill Creek . However a look at the surveyor’s original records shows that Joseph Mounts was the partner, not his father . On the 1736 survey, Charles Anderson is shown living opposite the mouth of the south branch of the Potomac . His is the next to the last white house; only John Nichols is further west. He is mentioned at this location as late as 1743 .

Trading Brothers

The Cartledge family was in Pennsylvania as early as 1682, when Edmund Cartledge Sr. had a grant from William Penn . The family were English Quakers. He crossed paths with another of our traders in 1687, in Chester County, when "Andrew Neales alius ffriend was Called to ye Barr upon a former Bill of Indicktment Exhibited against him …unlawfully ranging the woods and for driving peoples’ cattle and horses back into the woods ..." On the jury was Edmond Cartledge . Cartledge was on a jury again in 1693 when charges were brought against Andrew ffrind for scandal and defamation. One shilling in damages were assessed in that case . Edmund Sr. made his will in 1703, proved the same year, leaving wife Mary, daughter Mary, and also sons John and Edmund .

Edmund Cartledge (Jr.) was married by 1713 to Ann Richardson, lately the widow of Edward Lane . By 1717/8, brothers Edmund and John Cartledge were licensed as traders . The will of her father, Samuel Richardson in 1719, names Ann and her children by both husbands .

By 1721 the Cartledge brothers were dealing with Seneca (from the north) on the Monocacy River, as well as local Shawnee . About a year later, John Cartledge died. In 1733 Edmund Cartledge and James Matson were taxed west of the Monocacy . In 1734 a petition in western Maryland is titled "Inhabitants of the Great Marsh where Edmund Cartledge lives" and states the signers live between Conococheague and Antietam Creeks . The 1736 survey journal mentions a John Potts, then later mentions payment to hire a horse "from Potts to Cartlidges" .

Edmund Cartledge died circa 1740, when an inventory of his estate was filed in Prince Georges Co., Maryland . The appraiser was Capt. Thomas Cresap. He also had assets in Virginia, as shown by the 1744 assessment roll of Frederick Co., Va., which names "Cartlidge executor" owing 46 pounds of tobacco . His son Edmund (Jr.) went to North Carolina and is said to have been a trader there, too. In 1757 he sold land named "Hickory Tavern" on the wagon road at Garrison’s Spring, present Washington Co., Maryland .

The other known child of Edmund Cartledge was Christiana Cartledge, who married Oct. 4, 1734, at Philadelphia, to Charles Polke . Polke became well-known for his trading post at the mouth of Tonoloway Creek, on the Potomac , also marked on the 1736 survey. He is recorded as resupplying the 1736 survey expedition with quite a bit of rum from his trading post. In 1742 Charles Polke filed a petition regarding the estate of Edmund Cartledge . Polk’s trading post was mentioned in March 1747/8, in the journal of a young surveyor named George Washington, who called it a "disorderly" house .

Charles Polke died in 1753, leaving wife Christiana, and children William, Edmond, Thomas, Charles, John, and Sarah . The executor was Ralph Matson, who married the widow soon afterward. The appraisal of his estate is written as “Polbe”, the children written as “Polak”, and the executor as “Mason” . John Perrins was one of the appraisers.

The Maryland Monster

No treatise on traders on the upper Potomac would be complete without mention of Thomas Cresap. Though he was a late-comer, he was probably the most colorful character of his time. It’s widely-claimed that his trading post at Old Town circa 1741 was the first white presence there. However, in 1736 Charles Anderson and John Nicholls are at this location on the Winslow survey. Also, there are land transactions showing that Cresap was probably the fourth white man at Old Town . Cresap tried to name his trading post "Skipton", for his home in England, but the locals persisted in using Old Town, and it bears that name today. It is this author’s opinion of Thomas Cresap’s personality that he alone claimed to be the first and primary trader of the upper Potomac, and others have repeated his boast. Whatever the source of the claim, he was certainly the most interesting man of that time and place .

Different ages have been proposed for Thomas Cresap. In December 1732 , he made a deposition saying he was a planter, age 30, living on the Susquehannah River in Baltimore Co.(sic) The Rev. John Casper Stoever was a controversial Lutheran minister in Berks Co., Pa. During this time period he traveled extensively, and in 1735-1737 he christened five children of Cresap near the Susquehanna River . In 1742 Cresap’s children were re-christened at All Saint’s church in Frederick, Maryland .

Cresap was the point man in Maryland’s attempt to expand her border northward. He led a settlement into what is now Lancaster Co., Pa., which “disturbed” the Indians, and was driven out by force. For incentive, the Maryland Assembly had given him extensive land grants in Pennsylvania, in the same session that confiscated the Indian Reserve from the Shawnee and Israel Friend . He earned the nickname "Maryland Monster" for his aggressive activities, which were known as "Cresap’s War". He was ejected from Pennsylvania, and sought his fortunes in western Maryland.

Cresap always had trouble getting along. In 1744 a letter to Lord Baltimore says: "The Pennsylvanians have shewn their Rancor to Mr. Cresap in a very Extraordinary manner, for when it was proposed to meet the Indians at his house, they asserted very positively that the Indians hated him..." .

In 1744 the Treaty of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, attempted to draw a line between the settlers and the Indians. A few remote settlers were allowed to stay, but were required to "victual" the Indians. It mentions "all lands 2 miles above forks of Potomack near where Thomas Cresap has a hunting or trading cabin to the Pa. Line…" are given to Lord Baltimore. Cresap was nicknamed "Big Spoon" for giving out food, but by 1748 he wasn’t giving any more; the Maryland government provided supplies till 1751, then they reneged, too .

In September 1751, Christopher Gist writes about Indian Warriors of the Six Nations who came to Col. Thomas Cresap’s house, killed hogs, took corn, flour, bread, killed a beef. "…traders and I prevailed upon him not to shoot." Indians claimed it was no loss because they thought the Md. government would reimburse him . The program of "victualing" the Indians was breaking down. That same year, Cresap sent a petition to the Maryland Governor for damage done by the Indians during a five month period, and warned that he would take his own revenge if needed . Ironically, he sent this threatening letter by way of an Indian courier. In November 1751 he made an accounting of articles furnished to Indians, including White wampum, pockett compass, ribbon, tommyhawk, tobacco, tent, liquors, half bushel of wheat made into bread, black wampum, etc. Cresap also included a lengthy letter about the Indian situation, mentioning the Shannah Indians being invited to a council next spring, and opining, "I am certain from my own knowledge that the Indians put very little faith in any of the Traders, some telling them one thing & some another…" .

In 1749 this ambitious man was a founding partner in the Ohio Company, with a post opposite Ft. Cumberland, Md. They claimed a right of improvement against French claims to the Ohio Valley . His popularity never rose, though. In 1755 a woman traveling with Braddock’s army makes a diary entry of her arrival at the home of "a Rattlesnake Col. named Crisop." .

Old Town lay along a major war path, from the Iroquois "long houses" of Lake Erie, to the Cherokee lands of the south. During Cresap’s busiest years, it was traveled by different tribes. We could question the wisdom of maintaining a trading post there and supplying hostile warriors. Apparently, he did not care who he sold to. The time period when the Natives were his primary customers was short, too, as evidenced by a document dated 1757 . Col. Thomas Cresap, age 66, states he left his house at Old Town for fear of Indians. He says that Henry Enochs Jr. and Henry Enochs Sr., Jacob Lane, and William Lockhart, all of Frederick Co., Va., came to his house and stole his goods, itemized as 1000 pounds wheat flour, 5 bushels salt, 1 hogshead rum, 1000 pounds brown sugar, 5 gallons molasses, 1000 pounds bar lead, 60,000 nails, chinaware, drinking glasses, tools, kettles, etc. Other depositions were taken from Friend Cox, age 42, Davis Morgan, age 38., James Cox, age 19, and John Nicholls, age 48. The goods he itemized sound like he was supplying settlers, not Natives.

Cresap was an avid speculator in land on both sides of the Potomac, active in any civic affairs he could get his fingers into, and served as a surveyor and justice. In 1751 in Virginia, Thomas "Gressop" was responsible for the jailing of a man for a £ 2 debt . The 1761 taxable list of Old Town Hundred, in Frederick Co., Md., had a total of 63 names, including Joseph Mounts 2, John Nichols Jr. 2, John Nichols Sr. 2, Thomas Cresap 4 . The 1762 estate of Gabriel Friend includes payments to Thomas Cresap . In a very interesting document dated 16 July 1763 in Frederick Co., Maryland, James Martin, trader, gave a bond dated 22 July 1755, to turn over land on the South branch of the Potomac to Col. Thomas Cresap . The bond had been made eight years earlier, the land was in Virginia, but the bond recorded in deed books in Maryland.

Though Cresap’s wife Hannah Johnson may have been alive as late as 1774, in 1751 he was cohabiting with a woman named Elizabeth Lumme . Circa 1779 he married a woman named Margaret, who survived him. As many dates of death have been proposed as dates of birth. His estate was filed in April 1788 in Washington Co., Md.

His son Thomas had been killed by Indians in 1755. His son Daniel traded too, though the goods were not always the most beneficial. A 1754 document mentions Daniel Cresap selling rum, wine, cider, linen and thread . In a 1757 bill of sale, he sold one man 15 gallons of rum, 2 hogshead of cider, and an additional 5 gallons of rum to the customer’s wife .

Michael Cresap was no less fiery than his father. He spent the summer of 1774 marauding through western Virginia killing Indians. War was not declared till the fall, and many histories don’t even mention the massacre of Indian families by whites before the actual war, only the victorious battle in October. Later his activities were investigated. In 1799 Charles Polke of Shelby Co., Kentucky, says that in April and May of 1774 Cresap was murdering Indians . Lord Dunmore’s war of 1774 is sometimes called Cresap’s War. In 1775 he went off to skirmish with the British, and was killed  in New York. In 1785, George Washington filed a suit against the heirs of Michael Cresap .


We like to laud our pioneer ancestors, but the fact is they were completely human. The first bunch to brave the frontier were bold and reckless, and involved in their share of trouble.

Runaway slaves became an issue between the eastern white settlers, and the Shawnee living in the wilderness. This problem existed for decades before the 1720 and 1722 meetings mentioned above. If a slave could make his way to the mountains, he would be sheltered by the tribe. So many were running away that the Maryland and Virginia assemblies were feeling pressure from plantation owners. There were too many Shawnee (and other tribes) on the frontier to openly challenge their power. So, repeated pleas were made for the return of the supposedly captured slaves. The traders found themselves in the middle of this dispute. The Maryland Governor offered goods in exchange for each slave the Indians might return to the whites . The Virginia Assembly offered a gun and clothing as reward for returned slaves. In 1725 Maryland passed an act giving L.5 reward "to any person whatsoever either Indian or others", for returning runaway slaves . Another 1725 message to the "Shuano" at Opessa’s Town who were "entertaining" Negro runaway slaves offered three deer skins and a calico shirt and scarlet worsted stockings for each slave turned in at the house of Charles Anderson on the Monocacy .

This issue continued for many years. As late as 1754, a deposition was made in which Peter Tostee, James Dinnen, and George Croghan complain of being detained by French Shawanese at Shawnee town on the Allegany, robbed of skins and servants, and a Negro set free . These were probably part of the band earlier led by Peter Chartiere.

Nearly all the traders had scrapes with the law at one time or another. If not for these altercations, we might not know the names of some of the early traders. Unfortunately, the notorious are most often remembered by historians. The Cartledge brothers murdered a Seneca man on the Monocacy River in 1721/2 . They are mentioned in most histories of the area. Involved with the investigation of the murder were Susquehannock chiefs, including the ones who had granted the 1727 Antietam deed discussed above. While staying in a cabin on the Monocacy, the brothers had given rum to the Indians. An altercation broke out, and a Seneca man was killed. The Iroquois League intervened in this case.

Charles Mounts Anderson was arrested on September 16, 1735, in Orange Co., Virginia, for the murder of David Hopkins . Old court documents often leave much to be desired. In this case, after sitting in jail for some time, the charges were dismissed.

Amos Nichols seemed to get into trouble everywhere he went. Among his more notorious exploits were the claims made in 1697, that before a murder was committed in Cecil Co., he had been heard to claim that the Indians were planning "Mischief" and he was suspected as having a hand in this deed . He is described as a vagrant and wandering person, an evil-doer, guilty of a great many “heinous and notorious crimes and offences”, and is ordered to be arrested. Much of the testimony comes from an innkeeper in Baltimore Co., where apparently Amos had been “in his cups”.

Nor were the women exempt from these behaviors. In 1698, Sarah Friend (wife of Amos Nichols) and her sister Barbara Friend were brought to court for "abusing" a woman and beating and stoning two men . Their sister Brigit Friend Cox was accused on the same date of beating another man.

Not discussed above is why Thomas Cresap abandoned his attempts to lay claim to the upper Susquehanna River on behalf of Maryland, where he’d been promised vast acreage, and instead moved to far western Maryland. There had been fierce fighting, his house burned, and his little settlement was driven back south. He chose to re-invent himself on the frontier. Mentioned in some of the sources about him are stories about his flight to Virginia to avoid a debt, and his early attempts at fur trading. It seems he was not a very good trapper or trader, and when he did amass enough furs in this new enterprise for a shipment, the ship was captured by the French, and he went bankrupt. There are indications he proposed himself as an Indian interpreter/negotiator, but was rejected. At Old Town he could call himself a big fish in a small pond.


The period of the fur traders in western Maryland was short. Domination by the French in the "west", and the forbidding of trade in Virginia kept the focus of trading further to the north for many years. The 1720’s were probably the heyday of trade with the Natives along the upper Potomac. During the 1730’s there was an influx of white settlers, and by the time of the French & Indian war in the 1750’s, the Natives had moved away. Though theirs was a brief episode, they were the ones who explored the pathways for the settlers that followed. Creeks and mountains bear names given by the traders who first explored them. Most history books begin with the first patents issued in the late 1730’s. It is important to recognize that they were probably Chapter Two or even Chapter Three in the history of the Upper Potomac.