In 1747, a number of prominent Virginia planters, including two brothers of George Washington, formed the Ohio Company of Virginia, also known as the Ohio Land Company, primarily to invest in lands to the west of the Appalachian Mountains. They hoped to purchase a large tract, subdivide it and sell portions to settlers for profit. A secondary interest was to participate in the lucrative fur trade, which then was largely the preserve of the French.
A charter, which secured rights to 200,000 acres near the forks of the Ohio River, was granted to the company by the British crown in 1749. In return, the Virginians promised to settle 100 families in the area and erect a fort to protect them and the British claim to the area.
In 1750, Christopher Gist was sent into the Ohio Country to explore it and conduct a survey to prepare for settlement. On the basis of his report, the company selected an area in western Pennsylvania and present-day West Virginia.
The interest of British colonists in these western lands quickly became known to the French, who had no interest in sharing the region with their rival. They responded by constructing a string of forts in the contested area (see New France). The effort to control the Ohio Country was the most direct cause of the French and Indian War.
Efforts by the Ohio Company were thwarted first by the war with France, then later by the Proclamation of 1763, a British policy intended to restrict the American colonists to areas east of the Appalachians. In 1770 the claims of the company were exchanged for two shares in the new Vandalia Company.
NOTE: A separate organization, the Ohio Company of Associates, was formed after the War for Independence and was responsible for the establishment of Marietta (1788), the first settlement in the Northwest Territory.
See French and Indian War Timeline .
See also Indian Wars Time Table .