Treaty with the Delawares (1778)
In 1778, during the American Revolution, the Continental Congress sent representatives to negotiate a treaty with the Lenape (Delaware), who resided in the Ohio Country. British forces had spent the first several years of the war making their own treaties with the Ohio Country's American Indian peoples, hoping to secure the area west of the Appalachian Mountains for Great Britain.
Of all of the American Indians in the Ohio Country, the Lenape were considered to be among the friendliest towards white Americans. To maintain the Lenape support, the Congress agreed to a Treaty with the Delawares on September 17, 1778. Under this treaty the Americans in revolt and the Lenape agreed to assist each other against the British. The Congress also agreed to erect a fort on the Lenape's land to protect them from potential British attack. Named Fort Laurens, after the president of the Continental Congress, Henry Laurens of South Carolina, the Americans completed the structure by early December 1778.
Despite the Treaty with the Lenape, peaceable relations between Revolutionary America and the American Indian peoples of the Ohio Country did not last. In March 1782, Pennsylvania militiamen killed approximately ninety-six defenseless "Christian Lenape" at Gnadenhutten. The militiamen incorrectly believed that these Lenape, who had returned from a new Moravian settlement further west to gather crops, were responsible for attacks against whites in Pennsylvania. This event became known as the Gnadenhutten Massacre. The event helped convince the Ohio Country's American Indian population to support the British.
- Hurt, R. Douglas. The Ohio Frontier: Crucible of the Old Northwest, 1720-1830. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1996.