This lead plaque was placed at the junction of the Kanawha and Ohio Rivers in 1749 by Captain Pierre Joseph Céloron de Blainville. Five other plates were laid along other tributaries of the Ohio River to assert France's claims to all the lands watered by those rivers. Under its 1609 charter, Virginia claimed those lands, too. News of the lead plates reached Williamsburg and young George Washington was sent west to expel the French. This is the only plaque that survives intact.
Céloron Plate Transcription
“In the year of 1749, of the reign of Louis the 15th, King of France, we Céloron, commander of a detachment sent by Monsieur the Marquis de la Gallissonieré, Governor General of New France, to reestablish tranquility in some Indian villages in these provinces, have buried this plate at the mouth of the River Chinodahichiltha on the 18th of August near the River Ohio, otherwise Beautiful River, as a monument of the renewal of the possession we have taken of the said River Ohio, and of all those which empty into it, and of all the lands on both sides as far as the sources of said rivers, as enjoyed or ought to have been enjoyed by the kings of France preceding, and as they have there maintained themselves by arms and by treaties, especially those of Ryswick, Utrecht, and Aix la Chapelle.”
The Céloron plate is one of the most important artifacts to survive from Virginia’s colonial period and one of the most treasured among the museum pieces held at the VHS. Over the years, corrosion has occurred on the piece, despite the care taken in its display. The plate is endangered by the fluctuating humidity levels found in our environment, as well as the lead’s reaction to other materials, such as Plexiglass. The VHS is currently seeking funds to purchase a specifically made case to safely display this endangered artifact.
(VHS accession number: 1849.1)
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