So all fingers are pointing toward southwestern Virginia for the eventual landing place of itinerant soldier William Tilson after his service in Canada during the French and Indian War. There's only one problem with that story: if he settled in Virginia, William just walked away from the family farm in Massachusetts, which he had just been handed by his grandfather only a few years earlier. Are we sure we are talking about the same William Tilson in published stories like this?
Actually, I'm finding several problems with this scenario, as we'll see over the next few days. But for now, let's just discuss one detail at a time. Today, let's look at the history of the war in which William Tilson served, the French and Indian War. If we rely on history to fill in our blanks, we'll realize that the land William chose to make his new home was territory with a clear sign: Can't Touch This.
If you grew up somewhere in North America, you might remember that war as the one in which the British—and their colonial subjects in the New World—used their military muscle to evict the French from their claims on land in the continent. To strengthen their numbers, each side solicited the allegiance of various Native American tribes across the eastern half of the continent. What is not as widely realized is that this was one set of battles encased within a larger war between the two colonizing powers which also raged across their own European continent.
The first salvos fired in North America, however, began in 1754, two years before Britain officially declared war on France in 1756, the opening shots of which became called the Seven Years' War. At the close of the entire war across all theaters, the concluding Treaty of Paris of 1763, drawn up that year in February, formally ended the conflict between Britain and France over control of North America.
However, because both sides had relied on Native American nations to strengthen their numbers, the many tribes involved also wanted recognition for their efforts—and concessions for their participation. Some of those details were subsequently worked out later that year in the Royal Proclamation of 1763. Pertinent to our pursuit of William Tilson's story is one consequence of the king's proclamation: that no British subjects were to settle in lands west of the Appalachians. Those were now reserved solely for their Native American allies.
If, as our story goes, William Tilson settled in southwestern Virginia in that same year—1763—can we rely on such a report? Let's check some other local accounts, tomorrow, to see whether we can find any verification of that assertion.
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