As you drive down Highway 19 through Waterford, you will pass what was Fort Leboeuf. Technically, the fort was in the middle of where the road is now, but now, it is marked with a historical museum on one side of the street, and a statue of the most recognizable face in America on the other side: George Washington. However, he is not wearing the garb of the Revolution for which we remember him.

The statue features Washington in a British uniform, commemorating his first assignment for the British Army. In 1753, at 21 years old, he was asked to deliver a message to the French to stop constructing a fort and leave the area 60 miles down the Allegheny River in what is now Franklin, Pa. Unfortunately, this mission was a failure, as the French refused, and the tensions between the British and French would lead to the French and Indian War one year later. For Washington personally, the trip almost cost him his life.

We spoke with Donald Pearce of the Fort Leboeuf Historical Museum to find out the story of Washington’s first task for the British Army in the premiere episode of YourErie Roots.