Notes on Thomas Cresap & Oldtown

Reference in C&O Canal Companion:
Historical Sketch, p. 3-11 and Canal Guide Mile 166.7

To be added

Mile 166.7:

Cresap's "fort" or stronghouse was seated on Alum Hill, which lies between the canal and the river. The more contemporary "Moore House" on this hillock is owned by the National Park Service and leased out. If you follow the driveway past the Moore House, you'll find interpretative displays describing Cresap and his lands. The field opposite the markers is likely where Braddock's forces camped on their way from Cox's to Wills Creek (Cumberland).

Correction to the box for "Oldtown, Maryland":

The text describes Charles Lewis as a "British captain." At the tender age of 19, he was actually a newly-minted captain in the Virginia militia, serving in a detachment under his brother Andrew Lewis that marched up from Fredericksburg in October of 1755.

Stationed at Fort Cumberland, Captain Lewis accompanied a party of men down to Oldtown on December 2nd, "to gather corn from the deserted fields," which occasioned his comments on the pleasing landscape. Lewis was young enough to receive some paternal advice from Colonel George Washington, barely 4 years his senior, who advised more discretion in his drinking habits in a letter the following spring.

Charles Lewis survived the French and Indian Wars, but was killed leading his men 19 years later at Point Pleasant on the Ohio River in the single major battle of "Lord Dunmore's War" against Chief Cornstalk (October 10, 1774).




Thomas Cresap's letter to Governor Samuel Ogle concerning his trade with the Indians, 1749,
as transmitted by the Governor to the Lower House of the Maryland General Assembly

The Governor communicates to Mr. Speaker the following Message;
viz. Gentlemen of the Lower House of Assembly, May 22, 1749

The inclosed Letter to me from Col. Cresap, relating to the Behaviour of the Indians,
I have thought proper to lay before your House, for your Consideration. Sam. Ogle. L. H. J.

To his Excellency Samuel Ogle, Esq; Maryland.
May it please your Excellency, I Have just now received Advice by a Man of Credit from the Ohio, that the Indian Chiefs, who intended to have waited on your Excellency last Fall, were all ready to set out on their intended Journey; but the Pennsylvania Traders industriously set on them, and told them, that they would be put in Prison and hanged, for the Man of Mr. Parker 's that was killed by the Indians; and many other frightful Stories; which deterred them from their intended Journey. I have had sundry Companies of Indian Warriors passing and re- passing, some of which have been very insolent and saucy; in particular, a Company of about 44, who had three Women and two Boys Prisoners with them, taken from the Catawbees, while the Men were out hunting. The Men coming home at Night from their Hunt, to their great Surprize, found their Wives and Children, some killed and some taken away; they pursued the Enemy, and in some Days came up with them, and fought them for a considerable Time; but being overpower'd by a superior Number, they drew off for a Time, and then came up again, and attacked them twice more; and by what I can learn from them, would have overcome them, if a Company of 25 Warriors of the Six Nations had not met the others who had the Prisoners; who say they killed three of the eight Catawbees, and the rest made their Escape: They say they were 6o in Number of the Five Nations; but whether it was with the 25 or no, I am not sure ; but if it was without, they must have left 40 odd Men at least These Indians stayed at my House four Days, and complained of Hunger; I gave them at their first coming two Bushels of Meal, and one Bushel of Corn; and as it was bad Weather, I took the three Captains in my House to lodge; they being very naked for Cloaths, complained that they had lost their Cloaths and Guns almost all in Fight ; and one of the Captains told me, that he was Conasadago's Brother, who was the Speaker at the Treaty of Lancaster. They held several Councils here, and told me that I was their Brother, and that they had given me this Land, and that they had no Powder or Lead to carry them home; but that I must give them Powder and Lead and p. 50 Knives and Flints and Stockings and Tommyhawks, and mend their Kettles and Guns; on which I gave them 20 lb. Weight of Powder, and some Lead; but they not being satisfied, called another Council, and wanted more Victuals: I then gave them two Flitches of Bacon, and four Bushels of Meal; they complaining they wanted on the Road, and in Hopes of being rid of them; but stayed, and eat up the Victuals given them. They then called a third Council, and wanted me to give them a Cow, which I told them I could not do; at which they began to be mad, and told me I was not good: On which I told them, if they wanted to fight to let me know, for if they killed my Cow I would kill them; and so quitted theirCouncil, and loaded my Guns, expecting to have had a Fight: They went to their Cabin, loaded their Guns, and fired off several, and ran about shouting and whooping all Night. Next Morning I found several of my Hogs shot with Arrows; they stole sundry Things, and went off. When they came to my House, they brought two fine large pacing Mares, which were worth at least 20 1. each, which they had stole as they came along: I told them, that there were several white Men coming armed to fetch the aforesaid Mares, and therefore I thought it their best Way to let the Creatures go; but they would not hearken to me : For instead of letting them loose, they hoppled them, and kept them close by their Cabbins 'till they went off, and then took them away with them. The Burden is so great on me in supporting these Indians, that my Patience is quite tired out; so that if the Government will not allow me something towards the Expence, I must, tho' contrary to my In- clination, of Necessity enter into a Quarrel with them, at the Risque of my own Life, and Family's also; which may cost the Government more than allowing them 30 or 40 l. per Year, or perhaps less, for three or four Years to come; and it may in that Time be over. I shall Tomorrow Morning set out to finish the Meridian Line; but hope to see your Excellency the Beginning of next Month.

I am, in all Respects, Your Excellency's most humble Servant,
Thomas Cresap. March 17, 1749

Text from the Archives of Maryland, Volume 46, Proceedings and Acts of the General Assembly May 10, 1748 - December 14, 1751, published in 1929, with J. Hall Pleasants as the editor, under the direction of the Maryland Historical Society, page 415. [On-line at Maryland State Archives]

The Maryland Gazette reports on the death of Thomas Cresap, Jr., 1756

ANNAPOLIS, April 29th

Last Saturday there came to Baltimore-Town, from Cono-
cocheague, at the foot of the North-Mountain, Forty-one
Persons, viz. 6 Men, 5 Women, and 30 Children, with
some of their Cattle, to avoid the Fury of the Enemy, and
settle at Mr. Lawson's Works. One of the Men had just
removed his Family to a Hill within Sight of his House,
when the Indians came and burnt his Houses, destroy'd his
Plantation, and kill'd his Cattle. He says that Thomas and
Daniel Cresap (Sons of Col. Cresap) went out about three
Weeks since, with sixty People, dressed and painted like In-
dians, to kill the Women and Children in the Indian Towns.
and scalp them, while their Warriors are committing the
like Destruction on our Frontiers.




We mentioned in our last that Mr. Thomas Cre-
sap, junr. and his Brother, with a Party of Men,
painted and dress'd like Indians, were gone out in
Pursuit of the Enemy : Since which we are in-
formed by Capt. Dagworthy (who came to Town
Yesterday from Fort Cumberland), That on the
23rd of April, as Mr. Cresap and his Party lay in
Ambush near the Little-Meadows, they saw a
Party of Indians coming by them ; but one of the
Party firing too soon, alarm'd them, and they
fled as fast as possible into Thickets, leaving
their Horses and Baggage, which our People took
and brought off with them ; among their Baggage
one Scalp was found. One of the Indians taking
a different Course from the Rest, Mr. Cresap, and
two others run after him near a Mile, when the
Indian finding that Mr. Cresap gain'd on him and
would overtake him, he dodged behind a large
Tree, and Mr. Cresap stopp'd behind one smaller,
and they fired at one another so near together that
it could not be distinguish'd which fired first.. Mr.
Cresap was shot with large Shot in the Breast, and
the Others of his Party coming up, he told them,
Not to mind him, he was dead Man, but to pursue
the Enemy; and then dropp'd down dead. The
Indian was shot thro' the right Breast, but was not
dead when they came up to him, and so they
dispatch'd him with a Tomahawk, and scalp'd
him. Mr. Cresap's Body they buried as privately
as they could. He was a young Widower, and
has left two little Children ; and his Death is la-
mented by all who knew him.




We have received a Letter giving a particular Account of
the Death of Mr. Thomas Cresap, junr. who was shot by an
Indian on St. George's Day last ; but the Substance of that
unhappy Loss, having been already publish'd, makes it unne-
cessary to publish the Letter. We mentioned that Mr.
Cresap got behind a Tree, which was a Mistake, the Indian
only was behind a Tree, and fired a Bullet and seven Swan-
Shot into Mr. Cresap's Breast, the Bullet went quite through
his Body. It is suppos'd they mortally wounded another
Indian, as they saw him fall three Times ; but he got into
a Lawrel Swamp, and disappear'd. These are suppos'd to
be the same Body of Indians who kill'd Capt. Mercer and
Lieut. Carter (mentioned in our last Gazette), as our Party
found in their Baggage Mr. Carter's Hat, which was
known at Fort Cumberland. The Indian whom they kill'd
and scalp'd, appear'd to have been an old Warrior.

Text from the Maryland Gazette. The only alteration has been to replace the archaic "f" with the modern "s". The Maryland Gazette, published in Annapolis, carried frequent reports of the actions on the frontier, as well as reports received from European cities on the progress of the Seven Years' War.

Thomas Cresap to Governor Sharpe during Pontiac's Rebellion, 1763

Old Town July 15 1763

May it Please your Excellency I take this opportunity in the highth of Confusion to acquaint you with our unhappy & most wretched situation at this time being in Hourly Expectation of being massacred by our Barberous & Inhumane Enemy the Indians we having been three days successively Attacked by them Viz. the 13, 14 & this Instant on the 13th as 6 men were shocking some wheat in the field 5 Indians fired on them as they came to do it & others running to their assistance. On the 145 Indians crep up to & fired on about 16 men who were sitting & walking under a Tree at the Entrance of my Lane about 100 yards from my House but on being fired at by the white men who much wounded some of them they Immediatly Runn off & were followed by the white men about a mile all which way was great quantity of Blood on the Ground the white men got 3 of their Bundles containing sundry Indian Implements & Goods about 3 hours after several gunns were fired in the woods on which a party went in Quest of them & found 3 Bears killd by them, the Indians wounded one man at their first fire tho but slightly. On this Instant as Mr. Saml Wilder was going to a house of his about 300 yards Distant from mine with men & several women the Indians Rushed on them from a Rising Ground but they perceiving their coming Run towards my House hollowing which being heard by those at my house they Run to their assistance & met them & the Indians at the Entrance of my lane on which the Indians Imme- diatly fired on them to the amount of 18 or Twenty & Killd Mr. Wilder. The party of white men returned their fire & Killd one of them dead on the spot & wounded severall of the others as appeared by Considerable Quantity of Blood strewed on the Ground as they Run off which they Immediatly did & by their leaving behind them 3 Gunns one pistole & sundry other Emplements of warr &c. &c. I have inclosed a List of the Desolate men women & Children who have fled to my House which is Inclosed by a small stockade for safety by which you see what a number of poor Souls destitute of Every necessary of Life are here penned up & likely to be Butchered without Immediate Relief & Assistance & can Expect none unless from the Province to which they Belong. I shall submitt to your wiser Judgment the Best & most Effectual method for such Relief & shall con- clude with hoping we shall have it in time.

I am Honnourable Sir
Your most Obedt Servt
Thos Cresap

Text from the Archives of Maryland, Volume 14, Correspondence of Governor Horatio Sharpe, William Hand Browne, Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore, 1895, page 14. [On-line at Maryland State Archives]


  • Journal of Captain Charles Lewis, October to December 10, 1755. Posted on the New River Notes Web site.
  • Thomas Cresap, Maryland Frontiersman, by Kenneth P. Bailey, The Christopher Publishing House, Boston, Massachusetts, 1944.
  • The Papers of George Washington, Colonial Series, Volumes 1-5, edited by WW. Abbott and Dorothy Twohig, et al, University Press of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia, 1983-1988. [These volumes, with their detailed annotations, contain many references to Cresap and "Old Town."]
  • The Great Experiment, George Washington and the American Republic, John Rhodehamel, Catalog of an exhibition organized by The Huntington Library, San Marino, California, Oct. 1998-May1999, Yale University Press, New Haven. [One of exhibition items, as shown on page 14, was the "stem of a calumet" from the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, which the caption identifies as having been shared by Washington with an Indian chief during his 1748 trip to the western frontier, presumably at Oldtown.]
  • A Maryland Boy in Lee's Army, Personal Reminiscences of a Maryland Soldier in the War Between the States, 1861-1865, George Wilson Booth, privately published in 1898, reprinted with new Introduction by Bison Books/University of Nebraska Press, 2000. [Includes account of the Chambersburg Raid and the crossing at Oldtown, pages 128-133.]

Also on the Web:

  • See General Kelley's account of the skirmish at Oldtown as part of his official report after the battle at Evitt's Creek, and Colonel Gilmor's account of the 1864 skirmish and crossing at Oldtown as part of the Chambersburg raid, both in this collection.



| Home | C&O Canal | Historical Sketch | Falls Region | Piedmont and the Sugar Lands | Blue Ridge & Great Valley | The Endless Mountains |