Copyright
Walter Hill Crockett.

Vermont, the Green mountain state (Volume 1) online

. (page 21 of 34)
Online LibraryWalter Hill CrockettVermont, the Green mountain state (Volume 1) → online text (page 21 of 34)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


topher Yates. A halt was made for the night at San-
coick, on the Walloomsac River near the village of
North Hoosick, N. Y., and on the following morning the
posse set out for the farm of James Breakenridge, several
miles distant.

Meanwhile the Bennington settlers had been warned
of the approach of the New York posse, and about
three hundred men assembled at the Breakenridge farm,
arriving several hours in advance of Sheriff Ten Eyck.
The Breakenridge family sought refuge with a neighbor.



324 HISTORY OF VERMONT



The house was prepared for defence by providing a
strong barricade for the door and loopholes in the walls,
and within a garrison consisting of an officer and
eighteen men was stationed. About one hundred and
twenty men were posted in a wood behind a ridge, where
only their heads and the points of their muskets could
be seen rather indistinctly through the trees. This
force was stationed near the road along which the
Sheriff's posse must march. The remainder of the
party of defenders was stationed behind a ridge in a
meadow, within firing distance of the house, but out of
sight of the New York party. These preparations
were made as the result of action previously taken,
whereby Mr. Breakenridge and Mr. Fuller, against
whom judgments had been rendered by the New York
authorities, were taken under the protection of the town
of Bennington, and a committee had been appointed to
see that their farms were properly defended when an
attempt should be made to evict them.

The garrison in the Breakenridge house had been fur-
nished with a red flag to be raised over the chimney
as a signal when help was needed. The forces had been
located so that the Albany posse would march into an
ambush, where it would be subjected to a cross-fire, pro-
vided fighting became necessary.

At a bridge over the Walloomsac, about half a mile
from the Breakenridge farm, Sheriff Ten Eyck's party
was halted by six or seven armed men. After a parley
it was agreed that a few men, headed by Major Cuyler,
might advance and consult with Mr. Breakenridge.
The latter informed the Albany officials that the town-



RESISTANCE TO NEW YORK AUTHORITY 325

ship had taken his farm under its protection, and in-
tended to keep it. Therefore Cuyler informed Breaken-
ridge that "whatever blood should be spilled in opposing
the King's writ would be required from his hands."

It was agreed finally that Breakenridge should con-
sult with his friends, and that the Mayor and his party
should return to the bridge, where, within half an hour
they should be informed of the result of the conference.
At the end of that period it was announced on behalf of
Breakenridge and his friends that possession "would be
kept at all events." Sherifif Ten Eyck then ordered his
posse to more forward, but only a few would accom-
pany him, about twenty or thirty, it is said, and those
obeyed with apparent reluctance.

When the Sherift' and his party approached the house
a parley was held with the leaders of the opposing force,
and Robert Yates, a lawyer, attempted to argue in be-
half of the New York position. The settlers acknowl-
edged that they were under the jurisdiction of New
York, but claimed that they had been unfairly used in
the matter of land titles, and said that word had been
received from their agent in England giving strong
assurances that a decision would be rendered soon in
their favor, and advising them in the meantime not to
relinquish possession of their property.

Perceiving that arguments were of no avail. Sheriff
Ten Eyck seized an axe and demanded entrance to the
Breakenridge house, threatening to force the door if
refused. The garrison replied: "Attempt it and you
are a dead man." The demand was repeated, only to
be answered by hideous groans from within. . At this



326 HISTORY OF VERMONT

point some of the party defending the settlers displayed
their hats on the muzzles of their guns, making the
force of the defenders appear more numerous than it
really was, while others presented their guns at the
Sheriff's posse.

Seeing that he had marched into an ambuscade, and
considering prudence the better part of valor, Ten Eyck
made a hasty retreat, fearing that bloodshed might re-
sult if he pressed the matter further. The Sheriff then
attempted to evict one Fuller, but most of his posse de-
serted, and the attempt was abandoned.

Ira Allen says that this episode "cemented the union
of the inhabitants, and raised their consequence in the
neighboring colonies." That the members of Sheriff
Ten Eyck's posse refused in any considerable numbers
to follow him in an offensive movement against the in-
habitants of Bennington, is proof that the great body of
New York people were not in sympathy with the policy
of evicting from their homes the settlers on the New
Hampshire Grants. Ira Allen expressed this idea when
he wrote: "The people on the Grants rightly consid-
ered their controversy was not with the great body of
the people, only with the Governor and Council, who
were but a small part of the community. This distinc-
tion was kept up during the whole dispute in all the
publications against the tyranny of the rulers of New
York."

Governor Dunmore issued a proclamation November
1, 1770, ordering the arrest of Simeon Hathaway, Moses
Scott, Jonathan Fisk and Silas Robinson, charging that
they were among the principal authors of and actors in



RESISTANCE TO NEW YORK AUTHORITY 327

"the last mentioned visit." The Sheriff, aided by John
Munro, succeeded in arresting Silas Robinson early on
the morning of November 29. He attempted to make
no other arrests, but returned with great speed, fear-
ing that his prisoner might be rescued. Robinson with
fifteen others was indicted, but he was the only man
arrested, and after being confined in jail for nearly a
year he was released on bail.

The little company of farmers gathered in James
Breakenridge's corn field, on the border of the twenty-
mile line, on that October day in 1769, probably was as
peaceable a body of "rioters" as ever was assembled
anywhere; but the occasion is rendered notable because
it was the first open resistance offered to the attempt
of New York to deprive the settlers in what is now the
State of Vermont of their hard earned property. Men
actually assembled with arms in their hands as a pro-
test against the partition of a farm honestly bought
and diligently tilled; and among their leaders was the
parish clergyman, Jedediah Dewey, and Moses Robin-
son, later Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Governor
and United States Senator. No doubt to the gentlemen
from Albany this very mild resistance of a few pioneer
farmers and their minister to the representative of a
powerful and aristocratic province seemed the height of
absurdity and folly ; but the resistance begun in Benning-
ton on that autumn day, against such tremendous odds,
was destined to continue until the right of the settlers
on the New Hampshire Grants should triumph over the
might of the officials and the great land holders of New
York.



328 HISTORY OF VERMONT

Several ejectment suits were brought at the June term
of the Circuit Court at Albany, in 1770, among them
being two for lands in Shaftsbury, claimed by Maj.
John Small, a reduced army officer, the defendants being
Isaiah Carpenter and Justin Olin. It is in connection
with these suits that Ethan Allen makes his first appear-
ance in Vermont history. There is some doubt as to
the time of his arrival here. Hiland Hall and the Allen
Memorial volume give the date as about 1769. In a
statement relative to an affair on Otter Creek, in 1773,
Allen declared that he had *'run these woods these seven
years," and some writers give 1766 as the date of his
coming to Vermont. It is by no means impossible that
he may have come into the New Hampshire Grants on
several occasions prior to his coming here to abide.
This supposition is rendered the more probable from the
fact that his cousin. Remember Baker, settled in Arling-
ton in 1764, and many early settlers came from that
part of Connecticut in which Allen resided.

The records show that Ethan Allen, eldest child of
Joseph and Mary Allen, was born at Litchfield, Conn.,
January 10, 1737. This record has been disputed, other
Connecticut towns contesting for the honor of being
Ethan Allen's birthplace, but in the absence of positive
evidence of their untrustworthiness, the records must
stand. Ethan was the eldest of eight children, and
when he was quite young the family removed to Corn-
wall, Conn. In the spring of 1755, Joseph Allen, who
had been an industrious farmer of moderate means, died.
Ethan, at that time, was a youth of eighteen years.
After the death of Joseph Allen the family removed to



RESISTANCE TO NEW YORK AUTHORITY 329

Salisbury, Conn., where Ethan worked on a farm for
several years. Ira Allen, his brother, writing many
years after to Samuel Williams, the Vermont historian,
declared that at the time of his father's death Ethan
was fitting for college. Other authorities declare that
he studied to fit himself for college with a clergyman
named Lee, at Salisbury. His writings indicate that his
reading must have been somewhat extensive, and that
he was familiar with the general events of history.

W^hile a young man, Ethan Allen obtained an interest
in iron mines in the northern part of Salisbury, near
the Massachusetts line. On January 23, 1762, Ethan
Allen and Mary Brownson were married and soon after
removed to a home just over the Massachusetts border,
in the township of Sheffield. The first iron furnace in
Salisbury was built upon the outlet of Wanscopommuc
Lake, two miles east of "Old Ore Hill," so-called, by
Samuel and Elisha Forbes, Ethan Allen and a Mr.
Hazeltine. The articles of copartnership may be found
in the town records of Salisbury. This iron ore deposit
had a high reputation for the superior quality of the ore
produced. During the Revolutionary War cannon, can-
non balls and bomb shells were manufactured here for
the use of the Continental army; and the famous ship
Constitution, which figured prominently in the War of
1812, was equipped with cannon made at Salisbury.
Probably Allen accumulated some money in the iron
business, as he was able a few years later to obtain
rather extensive land holdings in Vermont.

It was the most natural thing in the world that a man
of Allen's adventurous temperament should have been



330 HISTORY OF VERMONT

interested in the settlement of the New Hampshire
Grants and in the stirring events that attended the con-
troversy with New York. One of his intimate personal
friends was Dr. Thomas Young, who lived in the dis-
trict known as "The Oblong," just over the New York
line from Salisbury. In the same region dwelt Benja-
min Ferris, a Quaker, who was a proprietor in several
of the townships granted by Governor Went worth. It
is not improbable that Allen may have known Ferris,
and that the latter, not being of a warlike nature, may
have been willing to dispose of some of his holdings in
the new country after the troubles over land titles be-
came serious.

As has been stated, this was an era of land specula-
tion, and Ethan Allen and his brothers became interested
in the buying and selling of lands in the region known
as the New^ Hampshire Grants. Ethan acquired hold-
ings in Poultney, Colchester, Essex, and Jericho, some
of which he purchased from the original grantees, in-
cluding Caleb Lawrence, Samuel Burling, Edward Agar
and the Bogarts, most or all of them being residents of
New York.

The Hartford Courant, in June, 1773, printed an ad-
vertisement of Ethan Allen & Co., which began with the
following announcement : "Lately purchased by Aliens
and Baker a large tract of land on both sides of the
mouth of Onion River and fronting westerly on Lake
Champlain, containing about 45,000 acres, and sundry
lesser parcels of land further up the said river." The
advertisement, in alluring terms, described the fertile soil,
the salubrious climate, the abundant water power, the



REvSISTANCE TO NEW YORK AUTHORITY 331

variety and value of the timber and the abundance of
fish and game, closing with the statement: "Whoever
inclines to be a purchaser may apply to Ethan, Zimri,
and Ira Allen on the premises, or to Heman and Levi
Allen in Salisbury."

In his "History of Vermont," Ira Allen states that
his brother, Ethan, was appointed agent by some of the
people of the New Hampshire Grants who were inter-
ested in preparing a defence against the ejectment suits
brought by New York claimants. The first step taken
by the new agent was to go to New Hampshire and
obtain copies of the royal orders and instructions
authorizing the granting of lands, also copies of town
charters issued by Governor Wentworth. His next step
was to go to Connecticut and secure the services of Jared
Ingersoll, an eminent attorney. Mr. Ingersoll had
accepted the office of stamp agent for Connecticut, under
the Stamp Act, upon the advice of Benjamin Eranklin,
but was compelled by force of public opinion to resign.
About this time he was appointed an Admiralty Judge.

Mr. Ingersoll accompanied Allen to Albany for the
trial of the ejectment suits, and Mr. Silvester of that
city was secured as associate counsel. Attorney Gen-
eral John Taber Kempe and James Duane appeared as
counsel for the plaintififs. The presiding judge was
Robert R. Livingston, and with him was associated
Judge George D. Ludlow. Judge Livingston was the
holder of a New York patent to thirty-five thousand
acres of land in the township of Camden, so-called, with-
in the present limits of Vermont, but this was land not
previously granted by New Hampshire. Mr. Duane,



332 HISTORY OF VERMONT

counsel for the plaintiff, however, was Judge Liv-
ingston's brother-in-law, and was largely interested in
lands, the title to which depended for its validity upon
the decision in this particular suit.

The first case was that against Josiah Carpenter.
The trial was held June 28, 1770, the plaintiff appear-
ing, to quote Ethan Allen's words, "in great state and
magnificence." The plaintiff claimed to hold the lands
in dispute under title of a soldier's grant made by Gov-
ernor Colden, and dated October 30, 1765. Mr. Inger-
soll, for the defendant, presented the royal orders
authorizing Governor Wentworth to make grants of
land in the province of New Hampshire; and produced
the charter of the township of Shaftsbury, bearing date
of August 20, 1761, almost four years earlier than the
date of the plaintiff's New York patent, and also pre-
sented the defendant's title to the land which he
occupied.

Judge Livingston refused to admit the defendant's
evidence, taking judicial notice that New York always
had extended to the Connecticut River, and holding that
no evidence had been given to the court showing that
New Hampshire ever had included the lands in question,
or ever had authority to grant such lands. The court
having held that the charter of Shaftsbury granted by
Governor Wentworth could not be received as legal
evidence, Mr. Ingersoll saw, to quote Ira Allen's words,
"that the cause was already prejudged." There was no
further attempt to defend the case, and judgment was
rendered for the plaintiff in all the ejectment suits en-
tered at this term of court. To quote again from Ira



RESISTANCE TO NEW YORK AUTHORITY 333

Allen, ''Thus a precedent was established to annihilate
all the titles of land held under New Hampshire grants
west of Connecticut River."

During the evening following the day of the trial it
is related that Messrs. Kempe and Duane, counsel for
the plaintiff, and Goldsbrow Banyar, a holder of New
York titles to Vermont lands, exceeding in quantity six
townships, called on Ethan Allen, and during the con-
versation Attorney General Kempe suggested that it
would be well to advise the people settled on the New
Hampshire Grants to make the best possible terms with
their landlords, adding that might often made right.
Allen replied with the Delphic expression, ''The gods of
the valleys are not the gods of the hills." When Kempe
asked for an explanation of the saying Allen replied
that if the Attorney General would accompany him to
Bennington the phrase would be explained. Following
his advice to the settlers with more substantial argu-
ments, Kempe proposed, according to Ira Allen's "His-
tory of Vermont," to give Ethan Allen and other men
of influence in the New Hampshire Grants large tracts
of land to secure the friendship of the leading men
of the region, and to bring about the pacification of the
district. This proposal was rejected, as one might
naturally expect, for whatever may have been Ethan
Allen's faults, he was not the type of man to accept
bribes.

At the close of the Revolutionary War, John Munro,
an active New York partisan, living in Shaftsbury,
made application to the English commissioners for re-
imbursement for losses sustained during the war on



334 HISTORY OF VERMONT

account of his friendship for the British cause. His
lands in Vermont and New York had been confiscated
and, according to the poHcy of the British government,
he was entitled to compensation for his losses. The
commission granted redress for those in New York, but
refused to compensate him for his losses in Vermont
on the ground that his title was not good, the land in
question having been included in the grants made by
Governor Wentworth of New Hampshire. This de-
cision of a British tribunal afifords a notable illustration
of the quality of justice dispensed in Judge Livingston's
court in the case of Small vs. Carpenter, coming as it
did, from a source by no means prejudiced in favor of
the Vermonters. On account of his partisan decision.
Judge Livingston may be ranked with the New York
Governors who disobeyed the orders of the King's min-
isters in granting again lands previously granted and
occupied, as the persons chiefly responsible for the long
and bitter controversy between the men of the Green
Mountains and the government of New York.

When Ethan Allen returned to Bennington a conven-
tion was called to consider an extremely serious situa-
tion, threatening, as it did, the eviction of a great num-
ber of settlers. To acquiesce in the decision of the New
York court meant financial ruin. To resist the enforce-
ment of the decision practically meant revolution.
Nevertheless the one hundred men present adopted a
resolution not to surrender their lands until a final de-
cision had been rendered by the King, and voted that, if
necessary, force should be used to protect their rights
and property.



RESISTANCE TO NEW YORK AUTHORITY 335

As a matter of necessity, committees representing
the towns in the vicinity of Bennington and in the settled
region to the northward, were called together in con-
ference to devise methods for the protection of their
homes from the New York officers and land claimants;
and gradually these meetings or conventions, few
records of which have been preserved, assumed a cer-
tain measure of authority over public afifairs, particu-
larly in relation to the land controversy. As the field
of operations enlarged, some kind of military organiza-
tion became necessary. As early as October, 1764, the
people of Bennington had organized a militia company,
and after it became evident that the New York authori-
ties intended to eject the settlers holding New Hamp-
shire titles, other companies were formed. These local
companies were organized into a military association, of
which Ethan Allen was elected Colonel Commandant,
and the Captains included Seth Warner, Remember
Baker, Robert Cochran and Gideon Warren. The Gov-
ernor of New York having threatened, it is said, to
drive into the Green Mountains those who opposed his
authority, this organization took the name Green Moun-
tain Boys, a name destined to become highly honored
and to live long in history.

The attempt to dispossess the settlers on the New
Hampshire Grants met with scant success. Early in
January, 1771, a deputy sherifif from Albany, accom-
panied by John Munro of Shaftsbury, and twelve other
men whom Munro had secured, having learned that
violent resistance was not unlikely, proceeded to the resi-
dence of Isaiah Carpenter to serve a writ of possession.



336 HISTORY OF VERMONT

The party found the door locked and were refused ad-
mission, the owner threatening to blow out the brains
of any' person attempting to take possession. The door
was forced, and Carpenter was seized with a loaded gun
in his hands. Two other New Hampshire claimants
were found in the house, and two guns were seized, one
being loaded with powder and kidney beans. Carpenter
was left in possession upon agreeing to make terms with
the holder of the New York title by May first of that
year, or to surrender possession. Apparently Carpenter
left, for it is recorded that Mayor Small's tenant did not
remain long, as he became alarmed, fearing for his per-
sonal safety.

On the same day that the writ of possession was
served on Isaiah Carpenter, the New York deputy,
accompanied by Munro and three other men, gained
entrance to the house of Samuel Rose, the officer being
admitted before his identity was known. Rose being
absent from home at the time. Mrs. Rose was left in
possession on condition that the property should be held
for the plaintiffs.

Early in the year 1771 the men of the New Hamp-
shire Grants began active measures of resistance to the
New York officers. One Samuel Willoughby, a Con-
stable of Albany county, having served a writ of eject-
ment upon the wife of Thomas French, in the absence
of her husband, was overtaken on May 16 by French
and certain other "rioters" of Princetown, a New York
grant in the valley of the Battenkill. These men were
armed with clubs and held a club over the head of
Willoughby, threatening to kill him unless he would



RESISTANCE TO NEW YORK AUTHORITY 337

carry out the writ of ejectment. It is further stated
in an affidavit that the threat was made that Willoughby
should be tied to a tree and flogged if he did not leave
the place.

A few days later, on May 21, Samuel Pease, a Con-
stable from Albany, came with orders to arrest Thomas
French on a charge of rioting. When the town was
entered the Constable's party was met by "a number
of rioters," two of whom carried guns, the others being
armed with clubs, and a shot was fired at them out of
the woods. When French's house was reached a much
larger party of "rioters" was found, the members of
which vowed that the Constable should carry no man out
of town, but that if he did happen to carry one of them
to jail that building would not be allowed to stand three
weeks; and in addition to the foregoing threat they
cursed the "rascally Yorkers."

It appears that Constable Samuel Willoughby made
another attempt to serve executions, going to Benning-
ton, where he stayed the night of May 23. On the fol-
lowing morning he found that his horse had been shot
and killed. Justice of the Peace John Munro secured
affidavits concerning the "rioting," to which reference
has been made, and sent them to Goldsbrow Banyar at
Albany, hoping that the authorities might be able to do
something speedily to prevent "riotous behavior." In
a letter accompanying the affidavits he said: "Every
person that pretends to be a friend to this government
is in danger of both life and property." He observed
that every act of friendship shown to the people in that
region "seems to raise their spirits as if the whole gov-



338 HISTORY OF VERMONT

ernment were afraid of them. They assemble them-
selves together in the right time and throw down all the
Yorkers' fences, etc., as we are called, and drives the
cattle into the fields and meadows, and destroys both
grass and corn, and do every mischief they can think
of."

During the summer of 1771, William Cockburn, a
deputy of the New York Surveyor General, was sent to
survey the New York grant known as Socialborough
and divide it into lots. This township comprised the
New Hampshire grants of Rutland and Pittsford,
chartered by Governor Wentworth ten years earlier, and
occupied by settlers. In a letter written by Mr. Cock-
burn from Albany, to James Duane, the principal pro-
prietor of Socialborough, he related some of his experi-
ences. He had begun the survey but was stopped by
James Mead and Asa Johnson, acting in behalf of the
settlers in Rutland and Pittsford, and was threatened
with shooting. In his letter he said "Your acquaintance
Nathan (perhaps Ethan) Allen was in the woods with



Online LibraryWalter Hill CrockettVermont, the Green mountain state (Volume 1) → online text (page 21 of 34)