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Lawrenceville: Washington Crosses the Allegheny


Wainwright's Island [has] long since wasted away, [but] it was on this island that [Christopher] Gist and [George] Washington landed after their perilous voyage across the Allegheny, full of heavy floating ice, on an improvised raft in 1753, while returning from their mission to the French commander, St. Pierre, at LeBoef, now Waterford, Pa.
Washington records in his journal December 27, 1753, that they built the raft with one poor hatchet and finished after sunset, putting a whole day in the work. The next day they launched it and getting aboard, pushed it off. He continues:

Before we were half way over we were jammed in the ice and in such a manner that we expected every moment our raft to sink and ourselves to perish. I put out my setting pole to try and stop the raft that the ice might pass by, when the rapidity of the stream threw it with so much violence against the pole that it jerked me out into 10 feet of water, but fortunately, I saved myself by catching hold of one of the raft logs.
Notwithstanding all our efforts, we could not get to either shore, but were obliged as we were near an island to quit our raft and make for it.
The two put in a miserable night, Gist having his fingers and toes frozen, but the channel between the island and bank froze so hard they had no difficulty in crossing in the morning and then made their way to the cabin of John Frazier, the English trader on the Monongahela, at the mouth of Turtle Creek. (6)


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