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George Morgan (merchant)

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Title: George Morgan (merchant)  
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Subject: History of Missouri, Gnadenhutten massacre, White Eyes, Samuel Wharton, George Morgan
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George Morgan (merchant)

George Morgan (1743–1810) was a merchant, land speculator, and United States Indian agent during the American Revolutionary War, when he was given the rank of colonel. He negotiated with Lenape and other Native American tribes in western Pennsylvania to gain their support for the Americans during the war. An associate of the Lenape chief White Eyes, Morgan cared for his son George Morgan White Eyes for several years after White Eyes died.

Early life and education

George Morgan was born in Philadelphia to Evan Morgan, an immigrant from Wales, and Joanna Biles. Like his older brother John Morgan, who became a physician and the co-founder of the University of Pennsylvania Medical College, George was likely educated at the classical Nottingham Academy in Chester County, Pennsylvania.[1] He graduated from the College of New Jersey (Princeton).[2]


During the American Revolutionary War, George Morgan was commissioned a colonel and assigned to Fort Pitt to oversee diplomacy with Native Americans in the area: Lenape, Shawnee and others. The American rebels hoped to gain them as allies, or at least convince them to be neutral and not ally with the British. While there Morgan worked closely with the Lenape chief White Eyes; the two became trusted friends.

In 1777 there were allegations made to the Continental Congress against Colonel Morgan that he had collaborated with Alexander McKee and others against the American cause. McKee was the former British deputy Indian superintendent and had escaped from captivity at Fort Pitt. Morgan was cleared of these charges in 1778.[3][4]

In November 1778 Chief White Eyes accompanied American forces on an expedition against the British at Detroit. He died that month, with the Americans' reporting he had contracted smallpox. Years later Morgan wrote to Congress saying that the American militia had killed White Eyes in Michigan, and that American officials had covered up the murder.

In 1783 Morgan reported on Indian affairs to the Continental Congress, accompanied by White Eyes' 12-year-old son, named George Morgan White Eyes, for whom he was caring. The Congress authorized him to care for the boy for another year.[5] In view of the chief White Eyes' service to the Americans, Morgan helped secure funding from the Continental Congress for the education of George Morgan White Eyes, who graduated from the College of New Jersey (Princeton University) in 1789.[6]

After the Revolution, Morgan moved to the Ohio River Valley in hopes of becoming a land speculator. While in Ohio, he gathered paleontological specimens which he sent to his brother John, a founder of the American Philosophical Society, based in Philadelphia.[1] To his disappointment, in 1784 the new United States government claimed much of the territory which he hoped to claim.

In 1788, the Spanish offered to let Morgan create a colony in their territory on the western bank of the Mississippi River, formerly controlled by France as part of New Louisiana. He chose the location of present-day New Madrid, Missouri. Morgan mapped out his new colony, naming the roads and designing the plans. Disappointed by the lack of Spanish concessions, he left after a few years and returned to Pennsylvania.

According to a Pennsylvania Historical marker in the Canonsburg, Pennsylvania area, "Here was the home, 1796-1810, of the noted Indian trader and agent. Site is marked by a monument. It was here that Morgan was visited by Aaron Burr. His conspiracy was first made known to [President] Jefferson by Colonel Morgan."[7]

Morgan died in Pennsylvania in 1810.


Further reading

  • Penick, James, Jr. The New Madrid Earthquake 1811–1812. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1976.

Further reading

  • Savelle, Max. George Morgan: Colony Builder. New York: Columbia University Press, 1932.
  • Schaaf, Gregory. Wampum Belts and Peace Trees: George Morgan, Native Americans, and Revolutionary Diplomacy, Golden, Colorado: Fulcrum, 1990.

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