The Fight over Land Expands The fight over land moved to the Ohio River Valley. A group of colonists, mostly from Virginia, had been “given” the same land as a group of Frenchmen. The British colonists wanted to farm the rich soil. The French wanted to trap beavers and trade their furs. In 1753, the French began to build forts near Lake Erie to enforce their claim of land in the Ohio River Valley. The British asked the governor of Virginia to write a letter to the French telling them to stop building the forts and to move back to Canada. Virginia Governor Dinwiddie sent a letter to the French demanding that they leave the area or be taken prisoner. The French refused to leave.
In 1754, Governor Dinwiddie followed through on his threat. Hoping to stop the French from completing work on Fort Duquesne and winning control of the land and resources in the Ohio River Valley, he sent a small militia (armed force) under the command of a young colonel named George Washington. Washington met French soldiers before he got to Fort Duquesne and he fired on them. The French leader was killed and the French troops fled.