Oscar Jewell Harvey.

A history of Wilkes-Barré, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania : from its first beginnings to the present time, including chapters of newly-discovered early Wyoming Valley history, together with many biographical sketches and much genealogical material (Volume v.3) online

. (page 60 of 111)
Online LibraryOscar Jewell HarveyA history of Wilkes-Barré, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania : from its first beginnings to the present time, including chapters of newly-discovered early Wyoming Valley history, together with many biographical sketches and much genealogical material (Volume v.3) → online text (page 60 of 111)
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calling a meeting of those Companies on the 1 7th of this month, for certain purposes — amongst
others, to take measures tor counteracting the machinations of the State of Pennsylvania!"

On May 14, 1786, Dr. Wm. Hooker Smith, Samuel Hover and Abraham
Westbrook, residents of that part of the township of Wilkes-Barre which is
now the township of Plains, wrote to Col. William Montgomery at Northum-
berland, as follows :t

"My conscience and my oath to the State bind me to inform you that I wrote to Esquire
[William] Shaw on the subject of a design of forming a itew Slate, which is to include Wioniing,
and also to include the Genesee and territory of lands claimed by New York. The principal
*See "Pennsylvania Archives", First Series, XI : 106. tSee "Pennsylvania .\rchives", First Series. X : 760.


agents live in the States of New York and Connecticut. I am become acquainted not only with
those agents, but their whole plan of proceedings, by means of letters which I have intercepted!
I have neither money nor horse fit to ride, or I would have gone to the Governor (sic.) and Council
myself. Col. John Franklin and Capt. Solomon Strong are the principal actors. Strong lives
in the State of New York, and is now gone up to Wysox, where he pretends to have a large share
in a town [Claverack] which was laid out under Connecticut. Strong has told me and a number
of others that he went twice to Varmount before he could prevale with General Allen to come
to Wioming. * * *

"Esquire [William] Shaw informed me that he expected to send fifty men here to take,
if possible, Allen and many others whom I described. Yesterday Franklin and Allen left and set
out to go to Connecticut, in order to attend a meeting of the Susquehanna Proprietors. Pray
stop the intended force. If they are set out, send after them and call them back. I wish that
this matter may lie still & my proceedings remain a Secret until the minds of the Governor &
Council are made manifest to me and the undersigners (who are the only Persons in the settle-
ment acquainted with my discoveries), who are hearty in the Cause. Whenever we shall get
orders from authority we will take and deliver to the authority at Sunbury the following per-
sons: Ethan Allen, John Franklin, Solomon Strong, James Finn, John Jenkins, and Christopher

"Their Designs is, if possible, to persuade the people on the West Branch to joyn them.
Franklin & Jenkins did engage James Finn*, a Baptist minister, some time back to make a visit
to the West Branch and to preach about amongst the people there, and feel out their minds in
regard to a new State. If Allen, Franklin & Strong were removed the others would do but a
Little. The longer the matter is delayed, the stronger they get. They have some ammunition
stored, and some provision in store. A timely exertion would perhaps prevent a deal of trouble
and bloodshed. Allen and Franklin and Strong have used many arguments & strategems to seduce
the People and prejudice them against Pennsylvania; but to little purpose.

"I have put up many advertisementsf urging the people to attend to their Duty agreeable
to their Ingagements. Allen and Franklin and Strong made it their business to go from district
to district and pull down my papers which were put up, and repeatedly threatened my life —
which I disregard. I expect Captain Schott, & we will soon call the people together. The people
in general are determined to adhere to Pennsylvania. I have, with unwearied labor & argument
got the people to believe that Pennsylvania will do us Justice. If we were properly organized
with authority we would Exert ourselves when the above men arrive. If they should have force,
and we think it not prudent to attempt taking them, we shall call on you for assistance.

"I send you copies of the papers which I had put up in each District."

Dr. Smith forwarded to Colonel Montgomery by an express the foregoing

letter, accompanied by a second letter, reading in part as follows:

"There will be no danger of letters being intercepted. The Bearer is unsuspected. Strong
and his associates say that you are leading us wrong; that districts must be first set off by the
Assembly before we can with propriety elect, and that we ought to wait until the next sitting of
the Assembly and insist that we ought to have security from the State that they will do us
justice. * * * In the greatest Hurry — my hand, head and mind is confused!"

Immediately on receipt of these letters Colonel Montgomery, on May
17th, at Northumberland, wrote to the Supreme Executive Council a sensible
lucid and forceful letter reading as follows: J

"As a citizen of Pennsylvania, & much more as a civil officer, § I consider myself under the
strongest obligation to lay before you the information I have received respecting the state of things,
& the measures now pursuing, at that part of the Country called Wyoming.

"As you will perceive by the letters inclosed, Col. Ethan Allen from Vermont, at the sol-
icitation of a certain Capt. Solomon Strong of the State of New York, has arrived there, who,
with Col. John Franklin, a liver at Wyoming, has been endeavoring to take off & divert the people
(who had entered into recognizances before Esquire Shaw) from their allegiance to this State,
& to go into measures for erecting a new State — which is to include a part of this and part of
New York State. However wild the scheme, I believe they have made many converts at Wyo-
ming, particularly among the late-comers and half-share men, as they are called; who, having
no chance of pleading an early occupancy, or regular settlement [of the land], of course cannot
flatter themselves with having any plea to hold their improvements under the jurisdiction of
this State.

"Besides the above letters sent me by an Express. I have had the opportunity of being
more fully informed of the same things by William Shaw, Esq., and Thomas Grant, Esq., who

*The name of James Finn first appears in the records of Westmoreland, or Wyoming, in the year 1777, at which
time he was a taxpayer in the "North District" (Exeter and Providence) of Westmoreland. In 1787 he resided near
the confluence of the Lackawanna and Susquehanna Rivers. Pearce, in his "Annals of Luzerne County" (page 301)
says: "In 1786 the Rev. Mr. Gray made special efforts in Pittstown Township, and in the Fall of that year a con-
gregation [of Baptists] was organized there by the Rev. James Benedict. In 1787 this congregation was attached
to the Philadelphia Association. Mr. Benedict was succeeded by the Rev. James Finn, and he by the Rev. William
BLshop. who settled in Luzerne County in 1794. The Rev. James Finn died at Tunkhannock, Pennsylvania, in 1797,
prior to December 2, and Solomon Finn of Pittston became E.xecutor of his estate.

tUndoubtedly the "Serious Address" printed on page 1500.

tSee "Pennsylvania Archives," First Series, XI : 108.

§At this time Colonel Montgomery was President Judge of the Com-ts of Northumberland County.


are just arrived from there; so that, with me, the matter is beyond all doubt that a new Independ-
ent State is intended, and that speedily. Col. Ethen Allen and Franklin are 'now gone to meet
The Susquehanna Company in Connecticut, & are expected to return in four or five weeks. What
the consequences will be or where it will end is not easy to foresee; but I conceive it would be
sound policy, & will be found absolutely necessary, to take the most speedy & effectual measures
to send up there such a body of troops as would support & give countenance to all who would
desire to continue in their allegiance to this State, confirm the wavering, & check the giddy in
their mad career.

"If this could be done, so that the world would see the State only meant to support the
peaceable Inhabitants having title & property to be disposed of in Courts of Law, it would prob-
ably divide those people among themselves, & facilitate a full establishment of the jurisdiction
of the State there. If our General Assembly, at their ne.xt meeting, go on to set that district off
as a separate County, I believe it would tend to the same happy purpose, as it will open the way to
some of the honors & emoluments of a County, which will operate as a counterpoise to the honors
and emoluments expected in a New State. And, indeed, submission to Government, circum-
stanced & situated as they are — subject to a great number of petty suits, & no Justice of the
Peace nearer than fifty miles — is a real difficulty, & should be removed as soon as possible.

"What troops (if any) will be raised is not for me to determine, but I sincerely believe
none can be more unfit for this business than militia — for a variety of reasons which I need not men-
tion. But, convinced I am, that unless something is done — and that speedily and effectually
— a new State will be attempted to be created within a very short time; while a vigorous and timely
opposition, on liberal principles, may crush the whole scheme & establish Peace in that unhappy

"William Shaw, Esq., who also writes you on this business, sends you a copy of an inter-
cepted letter, properly authenticated, which lays open their whole scheme. The letters and papers
inclosed [herewith] will also shew their design, & the pains taken by the Signers to prevent the
people being mislead. They sent them to me by a special Express, and wished that it might
not be generally known how they came by some part of their information that they had communi-
cated so fully, as it would render their situation very insecure unless they received timely and
effectual support.

"I hope his Excellency, the President, & the Honorable the Supreme Executive Council,
will pardon my plainness on this occasion, as I look upon the affair to be of so much importance
& of so serious a nature as to render a scrupulous attention to ceremony improper."

Justice William Shaw, of Northumberland, who had come to Wilkes-Barre
on official business early in April, 1786, returned to his home about May 1st.
He came again to Wyoming, arriving here on May 14th and leaving three days
later for the home of Colonel Montgomery, near Northumberland, where, on
May 18th, he wrote to the Supreme Executive Council in part as follows:*

* * * "Unluckily on the 27th [of April] Col. Ethan Allen came to Wyoming, who
alarmed them by telling them he despised their treating with Pennsylvania ; that he had formed
one new State, and with one hundred Green Mountain Boys and two hundred Riflemen he could
make that a new State in defiance of Pennsylvania. On the 10th Instant I received a letter
from a settler there nearly to the same purport of one inclosed by Col. Wm. JNIontgornery, Esqr.,
which I shewed to a few, who advised I should again go up to Wyoming, which I did, and the
14th arrived there. I found a number that did not seem to be so familiar as formerly. I also meet
with a number who appeared to be much in favor of, and wished to comply with, the Laws of the
State — one of whom produced to me the copy of a letter he had intercepted and taken, which he
made oath before me was a true one, a copy of which I inclose. The man is a person who may
be rehed on, but wished his name might not be made known, lest some of the enernies of the
state would take away his life for it. On the evening of the 14th the Sheriff of this^ County
[Thomas Grant] f arrived at Wioming, and on the three following days served several Writs, but
most of them on whom they were served refused to give bail bonds, and on the 17th a number of
them collected and ordered the sheriff to leave the place in two hours, or they would abuse him.
On the same evening we left the place.

"The schemes of the Proprietors of The Susquehannah Company is discovered by the
inclosed copy of a letter from Joseph Hamilton to John Franklin, which perhaps it might be good
policy in the Government to endeavour to prevent by raising and sending some men there ; which
would be a means of encouraging those that are friendly to the Government and Laws of this
State, and a discouragement to those who are wavering. Much will depend on the firmness
of the soldiery and the disinterestedness of the OSicers."

A "legally warned" meeting of The Susquehanna Company was held at
Hartford, Connecticut, Wednesday May 17, 1786, the General Assembly of
the State being then in session at Hartford. Ethan Allen and John Franklin
attended the meeting of the Company which was presided over by Col. Gad

*See "Pennsylvania Archives", First Series, X: 7 64.
tSee {*) note page 1509.


Stanley as Moderator; Samuel Gray, Esq., filling the office of Clerk. Among
other transactions the following resolutions were adopted:*

(1) "Then Voted, That all persons settled under the authority of the State of Pennsylvania,
and now actually inhabiting upon that tract of Country situate upon the westerly waters of the Sus-
quehannah River, and purchased of the natives by the company called The Susquehannah Com-
pany, be, and the same are hereby, fully established and confirmed in their full and absolute
possession of the lands by them actually possessed under the said State of Pennsylvania.

(2) "Voted. That this Company, conscious of the equity of their title to the lands bona
fide purchased of the natives, and situate upon the waters of the River Susquehannah, wilt support
and maintain their Claims to the lands aforesaid, and effectually justify and support their settlers therein.

(X) "Voted, That Samuel Gray, Esq., Col. Thomas Dyer and Col. Ebenezer Gray, be
and they are hereby, appointed a Committee, with full power and authority to make out a list
of all such persons as are proprietors of the said Company, and have paid their taxes agreeably
to the votes of the said Company; and that all persons that have neglected to pay their taxes
and shall neglect to pay the same by the first day of September next, shall be, and the same are
hereby, excluded from any right, interest or property within the Territory aforesaid. Said list
of. proprietors to be completed by the first day of September next.

(4) Voted, That the Committee of the said Company be, and hereby are. fully authorized
to apply to the Honorable General Assembly of this State for such justice as shall be due to said
Company, and for such other advantages, benefits and emoluments as said Assembly may see
cause to grant to the said Company; and further, to do and transact other matters necessary to
be done for the benefit of said Company, according to their best discretion.

(5) "Voted, That Col. John Franklin, Gen. Ethan Allen, Maj. John Jenkins and Col.
Zebulon Butler be, and they are hereby, appointed a Committee with full power to locate town-
ships within the territory aforesaid (agreeable to the votes of the said Company), in the room
and stead of the former Committee appointed for that purpose; and the said Committee are also
hereby fully authorized and empowered to inquire into the claims of all persons now settled at
Wyoming, and such as shall make out their claims in pursuance of the votes of said Company.
Said Committee are hereby authorized to quiet them in such lands as they shall find them justly en-
titled to, agreeable to the votes of said Company. And that Col. John Franklin be, and is hereby,
appointed Clerk of said Committee, and directed to keep fair records of the proceedings of the said
Committee, and the transfers of all property in said settlement. And that said Clerk transmit,
from time to time, fair copies to the Clerk of this Company of all such locations of townships,
and the names of such as shall be admitted proprietors by such Committee in virtue of the auth-
ority aforesaid.

"Col. John Franklin was then duly sworn before Samuel Gray, Justice of the Peace, faith-
fully to execute the office of Clerk of said Committee, according to the above vote."

Of the foregoing votes, or resolutions, the first three were given out to
the public and were printed in certain Connecticut newspapers in May, 1786,
and soon thereafter were reprinted in a few newspapers in New York, Philadel-
phia and elsewhere. The fourth and fifth votes were not made public until a con-
siderable number of years later.

Miner, commenting on the foregoing votes, states (in his "History of
Wyoming," page 388) that "it was doubtless politic, as well as liberal, to quiet
the Pennsylvania settlers [on the West Branch of the Susquehanna] in their
possessions; although the formal resolve to do so may now excite a smile. A
declaration that the Company would 'effectually justify and support their settlers,'
shows the boldness and earnestness of their proceedings. Wyoming was in a
state of comparative repose. Hundreds of scattered settlers, who had been
expelled by the war — many of them boys, now grown up to manhood — returned
to claim their own or their fallen fathers' possessions. New adventurers, at-
tracted by the wonderful tales of [Wyoming's] richness and beauty, came in to pur-
chase; while a productive year, diffusing plenty, restored cheerfulness and in-
vigorated industry. Frame buildings began to take the places of log huts."

Colonel Franklin, referring to local conditions at this period, states in
his "Brief": "We in a short time increased our numbers to upwards of 600
effective men, and were determined to support our claims and interest, until
decided by a legal course of law. We were also determined to oppose any auth-
ority from Pennsylvania residing among us, until we could have a regular es-

*See Miner's "History of Wyoming", page 387; "Pennsylvania Archives". Second Series, XVIII : 108. 659.


tablishment on Constitutional principles, and our lands be in some way secured
to us. * * * I will remark that a large number [of settlers] on the West
Branch of the Susquehanna River had proposed to join us and extend the claims
of The Susquehanna Company into that part of the country. A committee
[of those settlers] was appointed in 1786, and sent to Wyoming for that purpose."

Miner, referring to the above statement ("History of Wyoming," page
389), says: "It will be admitted that, in the actual posture of public affairs —
the promised Green Mountain Boys, with Ethan Allen to head them, the Wolcotts,
and Barlow and Hosmer and Judd to back them, by aid from Connecticut, the
proposed auxiliaries from the West Branch, and 600 enrolled, effective men
on the ground, with a civil government in operation, and a military organiz-
ation complete — it was time for Pennsylvania to throw aside such agents as
Patterson and Armstrong, and to exercise her utmost wisdom and vigilance."

At Northumberland, May 20, 1786, Thomas Grant*, Sheriff of North-
umberland County, wrote to President Benjamin Franklin, at Philadelphia,
in part as follows:!

"As an officer of Government I think it ray indispensible duty to inform Council of the
Treatment which I lately received at Wyoming. Declarations of Ejectment, & sundry other
processes, were put into my hands against People living at & near Wyoming in order to the Ex-
ecutry of which I arrived at that place on the fourteenth instant. The fifteenth I spent mostly
in making Enquiries respecting the disposition of the Inhabitants, the next day I arrested John
Paul Schott, who declared he would not submit nor pay any respect whatever, to my arrest.
This he did in the presence of Mr. Shaw, before whom he had not long before entered into Recog-
nizance. Sundry others whom I had arrested behaved in the same manner as Schott, & de-
clared against any submission

"I had information at sundry times of persons who had declared they would take my life,
but on the next day (the Seventeenth) I observed some people collecting at one Yarington's.
& soon after a greater number appeared at Schott's. Being told that their Intentions were against
me, I went towards my lodgings, but was overtaken by them on the way. They accosted me
with the most insulting language & concluded by saying the orders of the settlement were, that
I should leave the place in two hours with my damned writs or abide by the consequences. One
of them struck with a stick William Wilson, the man who accompanied me. & made towards me ;
but, having pistols, I declared I would blow his Brains out if he advanced. I however made to
my lodging. & posting myself in the door, declared I would shoot the first man that advanced.

"After some time one of them sired to speak to me in private. I agreed on condition
that the Rest would retire. They retired a little, but while I was in Conversation with the one
who came in. they returned & order'd the Landlady to turn out the damned Pennamite Rascal
or they would shoot through every door & window of the house. Much insulting and abusive
language was used by them, &, as they were armed with Clubs and pistols, I was obliged as well
for my own safety as for the protection of the woman and poor children, to submit to their terms
viz.: That I would execute no process whatever, and would leave the place in two hours. On
my giving them my honor that I would comply, they returned to Yarington's to see that I complied.
I cannot help observing that I have every reason to iDelieve that my life depended on my compliance.

"To mention every insult & contempt that was showed me during the time I was there,
would far exceed the bounds of a letter. It was impossible to execute the Laws of Pennsylvania
in those parts without armed force to support the officers. It is now knowing publickly that their
intentions are to form a new State. Ethan Allen, with a great number of new adventurers, are
at the head of this business, and since their arrival every idea of submission to the laws of Penn-
sylvania has vanished."

At Northumberland, also on May 20th, Col. William Montgomery wrote

to the Supreme Executive Council, in part as follows :t

"Since the letter of the 1 7th a meeting was had of the Justices, the Sheriff, the Lieutenant
of the County, & a number of other principal Gentlemen, where, upon consideration of the In-
telligence from Wyoming, they intirely concur in sentiment (respecting the danger) with the

♦Thomas Grant was bom November 20. 1758. near Fort .Augusta, in what subsequently became the towTl of
Sunbury. His father was Alexander Grant, a native of Scotland, who emigrated to Pennsylvania and settled near
the Susquehanna River, opposite Shamokin Island, prior to the erection of Northumberland County. Thomai Grant
was elected Sheriff of Northumberland County in 1 785 , and again in 1 788. He was a member of the General .\ssembly
of Pennsylvania in 1796 and 1814. and was at one time a Captain in the Pennsylvania militia. His wife was a dau,i;hter
of Robert Martin. Esq.. of Northumberland, referred to on page 309, Thomas Grant was initiated into Lodge No.
22. '.Ancient York Masons, at Sunburv, September 8, 1786, and was Treasurer of the Lodge in 1792 and Junior Warden
in 1800. He died lune 16, 1815. His son, Thomas Grant. Jr.. was Worshipful Master of Lodge No. .22 in 1821, and
his grandson, William Thomas Grant, held the same office in 1857.

tSec "Pennsylvania Archives," First Series. XI : 1 10. tSe? "Pennsylvania Archives", First Series, X : 765.


representation in my letter & that of William Shaw, Esq., and are clearly & decidedly of opinion:
That no time — not a moment — should be lost; that there is the greatest & most eminent danger
of a dismemberment of the State; that the party under Ethan Allen, John Franklin & Solomon
Strong increase daily; that, from the nature of their views, they will be a combined force acting
constantly and in concert — as their encroachments, like the feudal system of old, will furnish
the reward of their adherents and followers; and no person in The State, however remote from
the present scene (if within the above limit — the 42° of Latitude) can hope to continue a Penn-
sylvanian, without the most speedy, effectual and vigorous exertion of Government in suppressing
this dangerous insurrection.

"There appear still a number of people at Wioming who talk in a favorable strain. Whether
they are sincere, God knows; but if there are any sincere friends there they should not be lost.
Their timely support might have a powerful tendency to divide the party and the more readily
crush the scheme. It is also the opinion of all present that it is extremely proper to give you this
timely information by a person of Intelligence, and for that purpose [we] have unanimously

Online LibraryOscar Jewell HarveyA history of Wilkes-Barré, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania : from its first beginnings to the present time, including chapters of newly-discovered early Wyoming Valley history, together with many biographical sketches and much genealogical material (Volume v.3) → online text (page 60 of 111)