1655 - 1718

MARTIN CHARTIER

Chartier was a French-Canadian explorer and glove maker. Having lived much of his life amongst the Shawnee, he was considered a 'white Indian.' Chartier accompanied Louis Jolliet on two of his journeys to Illinois Territory and went with René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle on his 1697-1680 journey to Lakes Erie, Huron, and Michigan. He assisted in the building of Fort Miami and Fort Crèvecoeur where, on April 16, 1680, along with 6 others,  he mutinied, looted, and burned Fort Crèvecoeur and fled. In a 1682 letter, La Salle stated that Martin Chartier 'was one of the those who incited the others...' But, as is often the case, that wasn't the full story. In fact, the men employed by La Salle were in fear for their lives due to Iroquois raids but La Salle refused to retreat to Montreal's safe haven. Many complained of grave mistreatment. Some hadn't even been paid for 3 years.

In the spring of 1692, Chartier led a group of 192 Shawnee and an unknown number of Susquehannock (Conestoga) Indians east to Cecil County, Maryland on the Potomac River. The Shawnee were relocating after a series of violent conflicts with Illinois and Miami Indians. The Susquehannocks, having recently been defeated by the Iroquois, formed an alliance with the Shawnee and, with the help of Chartier, intended to use the Susquehanna River to transport furs for the growing North American fur trade. Although he was French by birth, Chartier wanted to exploit the rivalry between the French and the British to benefit his Shawnee family.

Colonial officials suspected Chartier of aiding the French and ordered his arrest for being a spy. He was eventually released. Chartier and his band of Shawnees felt unwelcome in Maryland and moved north into Pennsylvania in 1694. His good relationship with the provincial government as he often acted as interpreter and liaison between them and the Indians. 

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Chartier and his Shawnee community invited the Susquehannocks, who'd been decimated by war and epidemic, to live with them. The Susquehannock and Shawnee appeared before William Penn April 23, 1701, at which time Penn granted them formal permission to coexist. They established Conestoga Town, not far from present-day Washington Boro. Their descendants were massacred by the Paxton Boys in December 1763.

In 1717, Governor Penn granted Chartier a 300-acre tract of land where he and his son, Peter, established a trading post near a Shawnee village on Pequea Creek. Martin died in April 1718 on his farm in Dekanoagah (Washington Boro). Future Philadelphia mayor, James Logan, said of Chartier that 'he was a very decent man but too generous to grow rich.'

Today, a marker stands at the corner of River Road and Charlestown Road in Washington Boro. Some say it marks his grave.

Blue Rock Heritage Center

2251 River Road

Post Office Box 6

Washington Boro, PA 17582

©2020

Blue Rock Heritage Center

Admission is free.

Donations are appreciated.

Open by appointment for

large groups.