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American History: General Arthur St Clair

posted by admin
September 9, 2017


General Arthur St. Clair  –  soldier, surveyor, NW Territory Governor, and Freemason

A native of Scotland,  and a major contributor to the early American history, has been overlooked and forgotten.  St Clair came to America in 1758  as a Major General to assist in the French and Indian wars.  He fought in the campaign to capture Quebec.   He married and settled in Boston,  but soon resumed his military career in Pennsylvania against the Indians.  There he bought land to which he added a home,  a mill, and other improvements.

Prior to the Revolutionary War he was appointed  surveyor for the District of Cumberland, and several other offices including Justice of the Court, Recorder of Deeds, and a few others.

When the War  broke out he was commissioned a colonel and  left his  700 acre home  to serve his country.  In 1776 he was  promoted to Brigadier General  and then Major General ,  assisted in engagements with General William Howe and  General George Washington and  shared in the horrors of Valley Forge as well as the victory crossing the Delaware River at Trenton . After the Benedict Arnold treason was discovered,  Gen. Washington put St. Clair in charge of West Point.   Later, he was  present at the surrender of Cornwallis .

After the war, he returned to his home in Pennsylvania,  and in 1783 was elected a member of the Council of Censors as well as Vendue Master of Philadelphia, and as a delegate to the Confederation Congress becoming its president in 1787. Because there was an 8 year gap between the founding of our nation and the ratification of the constitution (1781-1789) there were 8 people who held the position of elected president before George Washington . Sinclair was the 7th.  During which time, the Ordinance of 1787 erecting the Northwest Territory was passed  and he was chosen to be governor.   He was therefore instrumental in naming Cincinnati, Ohio and was a petitioner for charter of Nova Caesarea Lodge #10 in Cincinnati in 1791.

He  had contributed from his own funds to feed and clothe the troops during the War but was refused reimbursement by Congress.   While acting as superintendent of Indian affairs,  he wound up paying for supplies that the Confederation had encumbered that Congress would  not  cover either.     Due to all of this debt,  he was forced to sell much of his property and home to pay the debts,  thus  reducing him to poverty.  He died Aug 31,1818.   Attempts were made to help him in his final years , but all that ever came of it was a meager annuity from Pennsylvania  and,  35 years after his death ,  Congress finally allocated a sum for his surviving heirs.    Shameful treatment for a man who had done so much for the Republic.

On a plain sandstone monument , in the old cemetery at Greensburg is the inscription  tribute from his Masonic Lodge  "The earthly remains of Major-General Arthur St. Clair are deposited beneath this humble monument, which is erected to supply the place of a nobler one due from his country."     It remains as the only monument to his name and memory.  There are a few counties named after him as well as a couple of townships, but he never got the recognition in the history books that he should have .

This information is a condensed version of the research done by Grover Brunton,  33~, PSM

We have no knowledge whether Arthur St. Clair was any relation to the St Clair clan of the Rosslyn Castle in Scotland.    But you never know. He was  born in the same area:  Caithness,  Scotland.



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