Lucius R. (Lucius Robinson) Paige.

History of Hardwick, Massachusetts. With a genealogical register online

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Online LibraryLucius R. (Lucius Robinson) PaigeHistory of Hardwick, Massachusetts. With a genealogical register → online text (page 15 of 73)
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Excellency's most humble servant.

" Jonathan Waenee, M. G.

" His Excellency James Bowdoin, Esq." ^

The anticipated resistance to legal transactions a-t Worcester
occurred during the first week in September. " The Courts of
Common Pleas and General Sessions of the Peace being b}^ law
to be holden at Worcester, a body of insurgents to the number of
300 and upwards posted themselves at the Court-house in that
place. The judges were admitted to the door, where a line of
bayonets prevented their entrance. The chief justice remon-
strated with the rioters on the madness of their conduct ; but the
court were obliged to retire to an adjacent house, where they
opened agreeably to law, and adjourned to the next morning.
The violence of, the mob, however, soon obliged the Court of
Common Pleas to adjourn without day, and the Court of Ses-
sions to adjourn to the 21®' of November following." ^ The in-
surgents " were under the command of Capt. Adam Wheeler of
Hubbardston, though, when charged with being their leader, he
disclaimed both the office and the responsibility. His lieutenant
was Benjamin Converse^ of Hardwick. Other principal officers
were Capt. Hazeltine of Hardwick, and a Capt. Smith of Shirley.
Only 100 of the men were under arms. The remainder carried
bludgeons." ^ Benjamin Convers acted not only as lieutenant,
but also as adjutant. A demand for adjournment of the Court,
signed by him, has been preserved : —

" To the Hon^^^ Court of Common Pleas and Court of General
Sessions of the Peace for the county of Worcester, and to all the
Justices of the Peace in said county. The Petition of the Body
of People now collected for their own common good and the good
of the Commonwealth, to your honors humbly showeth : That we

1 Mass. Arch^ cxc. 230. the command of Job Shattuck of Groton

^ Minot's Hist, of Insurrections, Yip. 38, and the afore-mentioned Capt. Smith.

39. ... On the following day . . . they were

3 Benjamin Convers was engaged in a reinforced by a company of ninety men

similar affair, a week afterwards, as re- from the counties of Hampshire and

lated in the Hist, of Western Mass., i. 242 : Worcester, under the command of Adam

"On the 11th of September a hundred Wheeler and Benjamin Converse."

armed men assembled at Concord, under * Hist, of Western Mass., i. 242. .


are infonned that the Body of People that were collected on the
ground in Worcester yesterda}'^ did by their Committee prefer a
petition to your honors, requesting the Court of Common Pleas
and Court of General Sessions of the Peace to be adjourned or
dissolved, and your honors by your answer to the people then col-
lected agreed to adjourn the Court of Common Pleas ; notwith-
standing the people from different parts of the said county gen-
erally appearing and collected on the ground this day for the
purpose aforesaid do not consent to the answer that the said
Court have given, therefore by their committee of the body now
collected request that your honors do adjourn the Court of Gen-
eral Sessions of the Peace. And as in duty bound will ever pray.
Worcester, Sept. 6, 1786. The above petition signed in behalf
of the Body of People now present, and request answer in 30
minutes from the time of preferring. Signed at the request of
committee. Benj? Convers, Adjutant." ^

The ''Body of People," having compelled the courts to adjourn,
dispersed at the close of the second day, without committing essen-
tial violence to the peaceable citizens of Worcester. Their next
riotous assembly in this vicinity was at Springfield on the twenty-
sixth day of the same month, when they succeeded in preventing
the regular session of the Superior Court. This was selected by
the government, in the subsequent trials, as the first overt act of
treason on the part of the insurgents ; the forcible interruption of
the Courts of Common Pleas and of Sessions being apparently
regarded as minor offences. As John Wheeler'-^ was convicted of
treason on proof of his participation in this affair, I insert an
account of it by the historian of the insurrection : —

" It was determined by the insurgents to prevent their doing
business at Springfield, if possible ; and the Governor, on the
other hand, took measures to obviate their designs. Accordingly
he ordered the Court House to be taken into possession b}^ 600
men, under the command of Major General William Shepard.
This party were well officered and equipped, and contained the
most respectable characters for abilities and interest in the county
of Hampshire. On the day of the Court's sitting, the insurgents
also appeared, equal if not superior in numbers, but vastly infe-
rior in officers and arms. They were headed by one Daniel Shays,
who had been a captain in the late continental army, but had re-
signed his command for reasons quite problematical. They were

1 Mass. Arch., cxc. 236. Ilurdwick was present docs not distinctly

^ Whether any other inhabitant of ajujear.


highly incensed at government's taking possession of the Court
House previously to their arrival. They sent a request to the
Judges, that none of the late rioters should be indicted ; but re-
ceived a very firm reply, purporting that the Judges should exe-
cute the laws of the country agreeably to their oaths. In the
confusion, however, necessarily attending two such large bodies
of armed men, who, before they retired, amounted to more than
2,000, the court could transact but little business. On Wednes-
day, the panel of jurors not being filled, those jurjMiien who ap-
peared were dismissed. On the next day, which was the third
of their sitting, the court adjourned, after resolving that it was
not expedient to proceed to the county of Berkshire. The morti-
fication which the insurgents suffered from the Court House being
preoccupied by the militia, led them to several bold measures.
At one time they marched down upon the militia with loaded
musquets, and every preparation was made for an engagement ;
but they were dissuaded from an attack, as it was said, at the
instance of their commander." ^ After thus confronting each
other for four days, both parties retired, and Springfield once
more had rest.

About two months later, another struggle was imminent at
Worcester. " Orders were issued to Major General Warner, to
call out the militia of his division, and five regiments were di-
rected to hold themselves in instant readiness to march. Doubts
however arose, how far reliance could be placed on the troops of
an infected district. The sheriff reported that a sufficient force
could not be collected. The first instructions were therefore
countermanded, a plan having been settled to raise an army
whose power might effectually crush resistance, and the Judges
were advised to adjourn to the 23*^ of January following, when
the contemplated arrangements could be matured to terminate
the unhappy troubles."^ The following correspondence refers to
this transaction : —

" Worcester Dec. l***^, 1786. May it please your Excellency.
The Insurgents in this county, and a number from the county of
Hampshire, under the command of Daniel Shays, not exceeding
two hundred and fifty or three hundred men, proceeded on the
29"^ instant ^ as far as Shrewsbury "... most of whom
" marched out of Shrewsbury, on their return home. By express

1 Minot's Hist, of Insurrections, pp. 47, ^ The writer uses the word instant twice
48, erroneously.

^ Lincoln's Hist, of Worcester, p. 141.


received this day, I learn that Shaj^s met a reinforcement from
the county of Hampshire, and a number from this county, at
which time Shays ordered his men to halt ; and I have the great-
est reason to believe, b}'^ the best intelligence I have been able to
obtain, their intention now is, to prevent the setting of the Court
of Common Pleas in this town next week. On the 29*^ instant
the party from Hampshire marched through Hardwick ; uj^on ob-
serving the movement, I issued orders to the Commanders ^ of
the Regiments in the upper part of this countj^ to march, and I
proceeded on to this town, in order to obtain intelligence. On the
Insurgents proceeding homeward, I issued orders to the militia
that had marched, to return home, and hold themselves in readi-
ness to march on the shortest notice to Worcester." General
Warner adds that he had ordered all the regiments in the county
to be ready in like manner, but expi-esses grave doubts how many
would obey his orders, saying, " I believe not a number sufficient
to repel the force of the Insurgents in this county, exclusive
of those which will probably collect from the counties of Hamp-
shire and Berkshire. If it should be the opinion of j^our Excel-
lency, that the Court of Common Pleas in this county should be
protected the week ensuing, I conceive it will be necessar}^ to
send on a formidable force from the lower counties, and perhaps
some pieces of artiller}^ as I am credibly informed the Insurgents
have obtained some. I shall wait j^our further commands, which
will be executed without delay. In the mean time, I am, with
esteem, your Excellency's most obedient and very humble ser-
vant, Joxf Warner, M. G. His Excellency James Bowdoin,
Esq. N. B. I forward this by Major Asa Coburn, by express." ^
To this report of proceedings, the Governor replied : —
" Dec. 3. Sir, You are hereby directed to issue your orders
to the militia that yon may have ordered to march to the town of
Worcester for the support of the Court of Common Pleas and
Court of Sessions that are to set there on Tuesday next, not to
proceed upon that business, any former orders that you may have
received to the contrary notwithstanding. The above orders are
given from a suggestion in your letter, that the Court could not
be supported without some aid from the counties this way ; how-
ever, if, contrary to your expectation, your militia should have
turned out in such numbers and with such spirit as fully to con-

1 Colonel Paige and his field officers ^ J/ass. ^rcA., clxxxix. 46, 47.
responded as before ; but probably with
scanty, if any, support.


vince you that the Court can be effectually supported, you will
not be influenced by them. By advice of Council. Sir, Your
humble servant, J. B. Maj. Gen. Warner." ^
, The militia did not turn out in such numbers as to support
the Court ; but the insurgents held possession of the Court House
and of the town for about a week. On Sunday evening, Decem-
ber 3, a party which had quartered at Grafton entered Worces-
ter, "under the command of Abraham Gale of Princeton, Adam
Wheeler of Hubbardston, Simeon Hazeltine of Hardwick, and
John Williams, reported to be a deserter from the British army
and once a Serjeant of the continental line. They halted before
the Court House, and, having obtained the keys, placed a strong
guard around the building, and posted sentinels on all the streets
and avenues of the town, to prevent surprise. Those who were
off duty, rolling themselves in their blankets, rested on their arms
on the floor of the court room."^ The Court, being thus ex-
cluded from the Court House, was opened in a tavern, and ad-
journed to the 23d of January, as directed by the Governor. The
insurgents, however, remained in Worcester through the whole
week, suffering much from a severe snow-storm, which com-
menced on Monday evening, and were finally dismissed on Satur-
day, in the midst of another furious tempest, in which it is said
that " some were frozen to death," and many others narrowly es-
caped the same fate. Separate companies from the towns of
Ward, Holden, Spencer, Rutland, Barre, Hubbardston, Peters-
ham, and Belchertown, are mentioned by historians ; and, al-
though not specially named, it can scarcely be doubted that sev-
eral inhabitants of Hardwick accompanied Captain Hazeltine,
who was one of the active leaders.

Three weeks later, December 26, the session of the court at
Springfield was prevented ; and it was understood that the Court
of Common Pleas would not be permitted to hold its adjourned
meeting at Worcester on the 23d of January. The government
now adopted more vigorous measures to sustain its authority, and
organized an army of 4,400 infantry, besides four companies of
artillery, all under the command of Major-General Benjamin Lin-
coln. On the 4th of January, orders were issued to Major-Gen-
eral Warner to detach 1,200 men from the seventh division, and
to organize them into two regiments, for this service.^ He re-

1 Mass. Arch., clxxxix. 53. same volume, p. 67, is found " an esti-

2 Lincoln's Hist, of Worcester, p 142. mate of what it may cost to supply 5,000
2 Mass. Arch., clxxxix. 68. In the men, 30 days, with rations : —


ported tliat Colonel Timothy Newell had engaged to enlist one of
these regiments, with authority to appoint his subordinate officers.
Colonel Newell performed his engagement. Lieutenant-Colonel
John Cutler, of Colonel Paige's regiment, was his associate : and
one company was enlisted in Hard wick and New Braintree, under
command of Captain Edward Ruggles of Hardwick. As this
company served from January 22 until February 21, and shared
the perils and sufferings of that terrible night march from Hadley
to Petersham, which Minot styles " one of the most indefatigable
marches that ever was performed in America," and which resulted
in the utter and final dispersion of the rebel army, I copy the
names borne on the Pay Roll, preserved in the " Massachusetts
Archives," cxcii. 69 : —

Edward Ruggles, Captain.

Robert Voax.

Sampson Whitherly 1'' Lieut.

Zen as Haumer.

Wyman Hoit, 2<i Lieut.

George Wightington,

Jeduthun Spooner, Clerk.

Elijah Barns.

Samuel Shaw, Serg'.

Abuer Whipple.

Elisha Matthews, do.

William Tidd.

Joseph Hale, do.

Persival Hall.

Lemuel French, Fife-major.

George Whetherell.

John Stevenson, Drummer.

Benj^ Estabrooks.

John Doty (orderly), Corporal.

Moses Paige.

John Thompson, do.

William Davice.

James Woods, do.

Justice Warner.

Daniel Billing, do.

Isaac Denny.

Stephen Newton,

James Weston.

Moses Fay.

Lemuel Kenedy.

Samuel Clark.

General Lincoln's force was concentrated at Worcester on the
22d of January, and the court held its session the next day
without molestation. " Detachments of insurgents collected at
Rutland, New Braintree, Princeton, Sterling, and Sutton, but,
intimidated by the military, hovered at a distance, while the
courts proceeded. On the 25"' of January, General Lincoln has-
tened westward for the relief of Shepard, and of the arsenal at
Springfield, invested by Shays and Day. Major-General War-

" 11 Bread 2^* £6000, specie : if paid in orders ou col-

1,/ ]{„ni, H lectors will be upwards of £15,000,

]j.i iJecf, 5 300 Barrels of Hum,

@70' perBl. £1050

Oj is nearest to £40 for 1000 750 Barrels of Flour, 15(iO

men per day. 5000 men, 30 days, is 225,000' Beef, dg S^'* 3124 = 5674."


ner was left in command at Worcester, with a regiment of
infantry, a corps of artillery, including Capt. Tread well's com-
pany, two field pieces, and a party from the legionary battalion
of volunteer cavahy." ^ With this force General Warner pro-
tected Worcester, and dispersed large bodies of insurgents at
New Braintree, and at the barracks in Rutland. Meanwhile,
General Shepard, with about a thousand men, had taken post at
Springfield, for the protection of the arsenal. On the 25th of
January Shays approached with a still larger force. General
Shepard " sent one of his aids with two other gentlemen, several
times, to know the intention of the enemy, and to warn them of
their danger. The purport of their answer was, that they would
have possession of the barracks; and they immediately marched
onwards to within 250 yards of the arsenal. A message was
again sent to inform them, that the militia were posted there by
order of the Governor, and of Congress, and that if they ap-
proached nearer they would be fired upon. To this, one of their
leaders ^ replied, that that was all they wanted ; and they ad-
vanced one hundred yards further. Necessity now compelled
General Shepard to fire; but his humanity did not desert him.
He ordered the two first shot to be directed over their heads ;
this, however, instead of retarding, quickened their approach ;
and the artillery was at last pointed at the centre of their col-
umn. This measure was not without its effect. A cry of murder
arose from the rear of the insurgents, and their whole body was
thrown into the utmost confusion. Shays attempted to display
his column, but it was in vain. His troops retreated with pre-
cipitation to Ludlow, about ten miles from the place of action,
leaving three of their men dead, and one wounded on the field." ^
Two days later. General Lincoln arrived at Springfield, and
immediately pursued the insurgents, who fled to Pelliam, and he
took post at Hadley. After vainly attempting to secure a ces-
sation of hostilities. Shays withdrew from Pelham, and marched
to Petersham, on the 3d of February. At eight o'clock in the
evening of the same day. General Lincoln commenced that " in-
defatigable " march through Shutesbury and New Salem, which

1 Lincoln's Hist, of Worcester^ p. 149. orders in the most peremptory manner,

2 This " leader " was John Wheeler, of and made answer that tliat was all he
Hard wick. In a letter from General wanted." Independent Chronicle, Febru-
Shepard to Governor Bowdoin, January ary 1, 1787.

26, 1787, he says, " A Mr. Wheeler, who ^ Minot's History of Insurrections, pp.
appeared to be one of Shays' Aids, met 110, 111.
Mr. Lyman, after he had delivered my


he described in his report dated at Petersham, February 4 : —
" We arrived here about nine o'clock, exceedingly fatigued by a
march of thirty miles, part of it in a deep snow, and in a most
violent storm. When this abated the cold increased, and a great
part of our men were frozen in some pai't or other ; but I hope
none of them dangerously so, and tiiat most of them will be able
again to march in a short time." ^ The surprise was complete.
The insurgents fled, without attempting any defence, some to
their homes, and others through Athol, beyond the limits of
the State. Tliis was a crushing blow to the insurrection. Al-
though a guerilla contest was carried on a few months longer
in the western counties, no large number was ever again gath-
ered in opposition to the government. The immediate effect
was described by General Warner in a report to the Governor ;
" Worcester, Feb. 10*^ 1787. His Excellency J. Bowdoin, Esq.
Sir, General Lincoln, on his leaving this countj^ left under my
command the troops which were raised in my Division, with a
request that I would discharge them as speedily as might be
consistent with safety. I have hitherto conceived it expedient
to keep the greater part of them in service, as many of the in-
surgents in this county retain an unsubdued and uncurbed
spirit of rebellion and insolence. There has not, indeed, of late
been any large collection of insurgents within this county ; but
small numbers have been collecting in diverse parts of the county,
to the annoyance and terror of the friends to order and regularity.
Thoroughly to subdue this spirit appears to me to be of the
highest importance. For this purpose I have kept detachments
in such parts of the county as I have conceived would best tend
to the accomplishment of the design. Numbers have been cap-
tured ; numbers have voluntarily submitted, and thrown them-
selves on the mercy of government ; and numbers there are,
which still remain to be reclaimed. I have, in my proceedings
with them, endeavored to conform to the proposals offered by
Major General Lincoln, and approved of by the General Court,
not having received any particular directions upon the subject.
... I have the honor to be, with the highest esteem, your Ex-
cellency's most obedient humble servant, JoN'^ Warner, M. G." "

It remained for the government to disperse the predatory bands
which still infested various parts of the country, and to deal

1 Independent Chronicle, February 8, ^ Mass. Arch., cxc. 3G6.


judiciously with the conquered insurgents. The first was accom-
plished with comparative ease, by means of an overpowering
mihtary force, but what disposition to make of the offenders was
a problem difficult of solution. A previous offer of amnesty to
non-commissioned officers and privates, who would lay down
their arms and take the oath of allegiance, had been generally
disregarded ; but it was now renewed to such as would submit
on or before the 21st day of March, and was accepted by large
numbers, among whom were at least sixty inhabitants of Hard-
wick : — David El well, Frederick Wicker, Gideon Carpenter,
Lemuel Willis, Ezra Winslow (" neither of the above three
persons used any arms against the government, as they affirm "),
David Pratt, Symonds Whipple, Samuel Sibley, Samuel Clifford,
Thomas Elwell, James Paige, Jr. (p. 1*25) ; Ephraim Tucker,
James Robinson, Adonijah Dennis, Samuel Dennis, Constant
Mirick, James Pearce, Nathaniel Gleason, Silas Newton, Calvin
Oakes, Isaac Robinson, Eleazar Dexter, John Dexter ("these
took and subscribed the oath of allegiance before the Act of the
General Court was received," p. 126) ; Nathaniel Haskell, Sam-
uel Hopkins, Joseph Robinson, Job Dexter, Gideon Brimhall,
Timothy Newton, George Haskell, Abner Weston, Ebenezer
Childs, Eli Freeman, Robert Prout, Zephaniah Spooner, Israel
Roach, Thomas Clark, Benjamin Carpenter, James Rogers,
Samuel Haskins, Jr., Aaron Johnson (sworn "on or before the
21«* day of March, A. D. 1787," p. 130) ; William Smith,
Thomas Reed Smith (March 23, 1787, p. 161) ; Arthur Rawson
Q' physitian, declares he never took up arms against government,
only acted as physitian ") ; Benony Shurtleff, Ebenezer Law-
rence (" declare they never took up arms, but were only in some
degree aiding and assisting," March 25, 1787 ; p. 169) ; Jona-
than Parkhurst, David Whipple, David Warren, Caleb Bryant,
Experience Luce, John Gorham, Stephen Gorham, Joseph Gor-
hara, Barzillia Flagg, James Wing, Ichabod Dexter (September
10, 1787, p. 209) ; Seth Taylor, John Harris, Nathan Wheeler
(September 29, 1787, p. 216"). i

Several others in Hardwick, who had not taken up arms, w^ere
politically involved in this insurrectionary movement.^ The
Sheriff of Worcester County, in a letter to the Governor, says :
" I take leave to transmit the names of a number of their princi-
pal leaders and commanders ; their names are as followeth, viz.,

1 3fass. Arch., cxc. 125-216. to county conventions, have already been

2 Martin Kinsley, and other delegates mentioned.


Adam Wheeler, Hubbardston, Benjamin Convers, Ichabod Dex-
ter,^ Samuel Dexter, Simeon Hayselton, and Seth Taylor, all of
Hardwick, Oliver Watson, Spencer, Abraham Gale, Henry Gale,
Norman Clark, all of Princeton, Abraham Holman of Templeton,
all in the County of Worcester." ^ And on the 19tli of January,
1787, the Governor issued his warrant for the arrest of sundry
persons in Worcester County, " deeming the safety of tlie Com-
monwealth to be inconsistent with their personal liberty ; "
among these were Benjamin Convers and Captain Simeon Hazel-
tine. The sheriff made return that he had arrested some of the
persons named, adding that the said Convers and Hazeltine " are
not to be found within my jurisdiction." ^ They and some others
had been so actively and prominently engaged under arms, that
they were not entitled to the amnesty offered, and dared not take
the hazard of a trial for treason.

A more sad fate was reserved for one of the Hardwick insur-
gents. John Wheeler, a Revolutionary soldier, who enlisted
under Captain Daniel Shays, in 1778, serving as sergeant, and
afterwards as quartermaster sergeant, was lieutenant of Captain
Edward Ruggles' company at the outbreak of the insurrection.
He attached himself to his former leader, and became his aide-de-
camp. He was described to me by his contemporaries, many
years ago, as a skilful, brave, and energetic officer, — much supe-
rior to his chief. He shared the excitements and perils of the
contest until early in February, 1787, when he was taken pris-
oner."* The papers, descriptive of his trial, conviction, sentence,
and pardon, are preserved, and are here inserted : —

" Hampshire ss. At the Supreme Judicial Court, begun and

Online LibraryLucius R. (Lucius Robinson) PaigeHistory of Hardwick, Massachusetts. With a genealogical register → online text (page 15 of 73)