Walter Hill Crockett.

Vermont, the Green mountain state (Volume 1) online

. (page 23 of 34)
Online LibraryWalter Hill CrockettVermont, the Green mountain state (Volume 1) → online text (page 23 of 34)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

away like so many cowards, and quit our country to a
number of cringing polite gentlemen, who have, ideally,
possessed themselves of it already."

After relating the manner in which the New York
authorities had disobeyed the orders of the King relative
to regranting the lands already granted by New Hamp-
shire, the letter says : "They style us rioters for oppos-
ing them, and seek to catch and punish us as such, yet


in reality themselves are the rioters, the tumultuous, dis-
orderly, stimulating faction, or, in fine, the land rob-
bers; and every violent act they have done to compass
their designs, though ever so much under pretence of
law, is, in reality, a violation of law. * * *

"We do not suppose, may it please Your Excellency,
we are making opposition to a government as such; it
is nothing more than a party, chiefly carried on by a
number of gentlemen attorneys (if it be not an abuse
to gentlemen of merit to call them so) who manifest a
surprising and enterprising thirst of avarice after our
country; but for a collection of such intrigues to plan
matters of influence of a party, so as eventually to be-
come judges in their own case, and thereby cheat us out
of our country, appears to us so audaciously unreason-
able and tyrannical that we view it with the utmost de-
testation and indignation, and our breasts glow with a
martial fury to defend our persons and fortunes from
the ravages of these that would destroy us; but not
against Your Excellency's person or government."

The letters from the settlers were referred to a com-
mittee of the Council, which reported the first day of
July. In this report emphasis was laid on the kindness
and forbearance shown, and the decision was reached
that "the right of the New York patentees was incon-
trovertible," and that the settlers had no real cause for
complaint. The committee concluded, however, that in
order to afiford all the relief possible, and in order to
show "Great tenderness for a deluded people," all prose-
cutions on behalf of the Crown should be suspended
until the King's pleasure should be known, and that


during the same period the recommendation should be
made to the owners of contested lands that they sus-
pend all pending suits growing out of land controversies.
This report having been adopted by the Council, the
agents returned to Bennington.

A public meeting was held at the meeting house in
Bennington on Wednesday, July 15, "a numerous con-
cource of the inhabitants of the adjacent country" being
present. The result of the mission to New York was
received with much favor, peace was recommended for
the whole of the New Hampshire Grants, and the agents
were given a vote of thanks for their diligence. The
cannon brought to Bennington to be used against Gov-
ernor Tryon's expected invasion was fired in his honor.
Captain Warner's company fired a salute of three vol-
leys, and healths were drunk in honor of the King, Gov-
ernor Tryon, the Council of New York, and the Hart-
ford Courant report says that to the other toasts was
added one to the confusion of Duane, Kempe, and their
associates. The large gathering on this occasion in-
cluded persons from neighboring provinces, which indi-
cates that some New York neighbors may have been
present to add to the harmony of the meeting.

Governor Tryon wrote again on August 11, 1772, to
the people of Bennington and vicinity, expressing his
satisfaction at "the grateful manner" in which the news
of the action of the Council had been received. In the
same letter, however, he expressed his displeasure at the
dispossession of several New York settlers in the Otter
Creek valley and demanded that the people of the Grants
reinstate, forthwith, families evicted.


Ethan Allen, acting as clerk for a committee of the
inhabitants of Bennington and the adjacent region, on
August 25, 1772, replied at considerable length to Gov-
ernor Tryon's letter, setting forth that the New York
settlers, dispossessed on Otter Creek, had driven off set-
tlers holding title under grants from New Hampshire
before establishing themselves there. The letter de-
clared that this act was "a notorious breach of the Tenth
Commandment of the Decalogue, which says 'Thou
shalt not steal'." Allen argued that to reinstate the
New York settlers would be "apparently immoral, and
most flagrantly cruel and unjust." The letter further
declared that the people whom Allen represented in-
tended strictly and religiously to adhere to two proposi-
tions: "Firstly, the protection and maintaining our
property ; secondly, to use the greatest care and prudence
not to break the articles of public faith or insult govern-
mental authority."

Two days later, on August 27, a general meeting of a
committee representing the towns of Bennington, Sun-
derland, Manchester, Dorset, Rupert, Pawlet, Wells,
Poultney, Castleton, Pittsford and Rutland, was held at
Manchester, at which time Allen's reply to Governor
Tryon was read and approved. This reply was consid-
ered by the New York Council, "highly insolent, and
deserving of sharp reprehension," and the Council ad-
vised the Governor that the opposition had become so
formidable that the aid of regular troops was needed for
its effectual suppression.

Governor Tryon on October 7 wrote Lord Hills-
borough, asking in a vague and indirect way for the aid


of royal troops. He declared that the New Hampshire
proprietors who had offered to confirm their titles under
New York authority upon payment of half fees, "are
very importunate, and begin to be so much sowered and
disgusted that there is much reason to apprehend as they
find the Bennington people and the adjacent country
daily increase in strength and uninterrupted by Govern-
ment, they will soon reject any offers from this country,
and combine in opposition to this province; besides, the
partition line between this Government and Massa-
chusetts Bay being still unsettled, by the aid of those
borders the opposition may reasonably be expected to
be very formidable, too much so for militia forces to

Lord Dartmouth replied to this communication in a
letter which was virtually a rebuke, declaring that the
military force "ought never to be called in to the aid of
the civil authority, but in cases of absolute and unavoid-
able necessity, and which would be highly improper if
applied to support possessions, which, after order issued
in 1767 upon the petition of the proprietors of the New
Hampshire townships, may be of very doubtful title."

When Ira Allen and Remember Baker, accompanied
by five men, made their first visit to the town of Col-
chester, they found at the lower falls of the Winooski
River a New York surveying party of eight men under
command of Benjamin Stevens, Deputy Surveyor of
Lands. According to evidence laid before the New
York Council by Stevens, the New York party were
without provocation stripped of their property and
effects, insulted and threatened, and the petitioner John


Dunbar thrown into the fire, bound and burned, and
otherwise beat and abused in a cruel manner. Ira Allen
states that "they were released without any trial or cor-
poral punishment on account of the subsisting negotia-
tions and they promised not to return again."

Allen also relates in his "History of Vermont" that
during the friendly correspondence between Governor
Tryon and the people of Bennington and vicinity, Wil-
liam Cockburn, a New York surveyor, who had been
compelled to leave the vicinity of Rutland and Pitts ford
the previous year because he had attempted to make sur-
veys there, was privately sent to make additional sur-
veys within the Grants. By traversing the wilderness
Ira Allen was able to discover Cockburn's destination,
and Seth Warner, Remember Baker and a party went in
pursuit. The surveyor was found in Bolton. He was
tried by court martial, declared guilty, his surveying in-
struments were broken, and he was banished from the
district on pain of death if he returned. Allen says:
"The correspondence then going on between the Gov-
ernor (Tryon) and the people for the restoration of
peace and friendship, saved Mr. Cockburn a severe

Capt. David Wooster, later a Major General in the
Continental army, held a New York grant for three
thousand acres in what is now the town of Addison,
located not far from the fort at Crown Point, N. Y.
Learning that several families had settled on land he
claimed to own, asserting their right to do so, by virtue
of a New Hampshire grant, he visited the place in Sep-
tember, 1772, providing himself both with writs of eject-


ment and leases for those who would acknowledge him
as their landlord. These leases were rejected, Wooster
testifying in a deposition that the settlers, thirteen in
number, "declared they would support themselves there
by force of arms, and that they would spill their blood
before they would leave the said lands; whereupon the
deponent proceeded to serve two declarations of eject-
ment on two principle ringleaders, and thereupon some
of their party presented their firelocks at the deponent,
declaring it should be death for any man that served a
declaration of ejectment there, but the deponent being
well armed with pistols proceeded to serve said eject-
ments, notwithstanding they continued their firelocks
presented against him during the whole time. That
after the deponent had served the said ejectments,
they declared with one voice that they would not attend
any court in the province of New York respecting their
lands, and asked the deponent how he would get posses-
sion after he had got judgments against them, who re-
plied he should bring the High Sheriff to put him in
possession, to which they replied they would suffer no
Sheriff to come upon the ground, to which the deponent
replied that if they resisted the civil officer he would
apply for the assistance of the regular troops which
were hard by, as it was their duty to assist the civil
authority, and that it was high treason for them to fire
on His Majesty's troops, to which they answered that
if His Majesty's troops came to assist the civil officer
to put any men in possession there, they should have
hundreds of guns fired at them, and that they further
said it was the universal agreement of the people in


that country, as the deponent understood in its whole
extent from north to south, to defend themselves by force
of arms, in opposition to every attempt in support of the
titles to lands there under the province of New York and
that they could raise multitudes of men for that purpose,
sometimes mentioning a thousand, sometimes two thou-
sand, and sometimes five hundred men."

Col. John Reid received from Governor Dunmore of
New York a grant of seven thousand acres of land
situated on both sides of Otter Creek in Panton and
New Haven, this land having been granted about ten
years earlier by Governor Wentworth. When Colonel
Reid came into his new possessions, he drove off settlers
holding lands under New Hampshire Grants, captured a
saw mill, one hundred and thirty saw logs and fourteen
thousand feet of pine boards, according to Ethan Allen's
letter to Governor Tryon, and by the aid of a man named
Buzzell, so terrified twelve inhabitants of New Haven
that they abandoned their possessions. Soon after the
original settlers rallied and were able to secure posses-
sion, but later they were attacked by Reid's steward
with an armed party and driven off.

Ethan Allen, Seth Warner, Remember Baker, and
more than one hundred armed men appeared at Reid's
settlement on August 11, 1773, and notified the Scotch
emigrants who had recently arrived there that the land
did not belong to Colonel Reid, and warned them to
depart. The huts of the settlers were burned and the
mill demolished, the millstones being broken.

Some of the affidavits furnished in connection with
this affair give a vivid description of the occurrence.


although couched in rather unusual language. On the
day following this Otter Creek episode James Hender-
son wrote to a Mr. Mackintosh at Crow^n Point as fol-
lows: "Our Houses are all Brunt Down. The Grist
mill is All Put Down. The Mill Stones Brock and
Throns in To The Crick, The Corn is all Destroed By
There Horses, and When it Was Proposed That We
Should Build houses and Keep Possion, They Threat-
ened to Bind some of us To a Tree and Skin us Alive.
Therefore we think its imposable To us To Live hear
in Peace." Evidently the conclusion reached was
abundantly justified by the facts, as cited.

According to the affidavits, after the millstones had
been broken and thrown into Otter Creek, Remember
Baker came out of the mill with the bolt cloth in his
hand, which he cut into pieces with his sword and dis-
tributed among his associates as trophies of victory.
Being asked for his commission, Baker held up his
mutilated hand showing where a thumb had been cut off
in the fight with Munro's party, and this he called his

Other depositions tell of burning houses, stacks of
hay and corn sheds; and that when Baker was asked
if he did not think the Governor and Council of New
York would take notice of "such doings," replied that
"he despised everything they could do; that their (his)
people could assemble a great number of men in arms
and that they could live in the bush and were resolved
never to allow any person, claiming under New York
to settle in that part of the province."


It appears that the "New England Mob," as one de-
position described the party, was at the Otter Creek set-
tlement two days; that there were present one hundred
and ten persons, according to one deponent; that they
destroyed six houses, or huts, and the mill, broke the
millstones, and destroyed most of the wheat, corn and
hay "in a riotous and mobbish manner." It appears
that Ethan Allen commanded one party and Remember
Baker another, the latter arriving on the morning of
August 12.

Lieut. Adolphus Benzel, Inspector of Woods, Forests
and Unappropriated Lands on Lake Champlain and in
Canada, writing from Crown Point on September 27,
1773, informed Governor Tryon that John Readers had
been "most inhumanly beaten," first with a large hickory
stick and afterwards with birch rods on his bare back,
compelling him to beg for his life; and that Allen and
Baker were present at the flogging.

The New York officials did not make good progress
in their attempts to enforce their decrees. As early as
April 11, 1772, Justice of the Peace Benjamin Spencer
of Durham, a New York township, which included much
of the present town of Clarendon, informed Mr. Duane
that the settlement of the town had been hindered by
the riotous spirit of the New Hampshire men. In the
course of his letter he said: "You may ask why I do
not proceed against them in due course of law, but you
need not wonder when I tell you it has got to that ; they
say they will not be brought to justice by this province
and they bid defiance to any authority in the province.
* * * One Ethan Allen hath brought from Connec-


ticut twelve or fifteen of the most blackguard fellows he
can get, double armed, in order to protect him, and if
some method is not taken to subdue the towns of Ben-
nington, Shaftsbury, Arlington, Manchester and those
people in Socialborough and others scattered about the
woods, there had as good be an end of the government."
Writing again to Mr. Duane in May, 1773, he informed
him that "the tumults have got to such a height, both
in Socialborough and from Bennington to Manchester,
that I cannot travel about to do any lawful business,
indeed I cannot with safety travel two miles from home."
A little later Justice Spencer formed a more intimate
acquaintance with Ethan Allen and his "blackguard
fellows" as the result of a visit. According to a deposi-
tion made by Spencer, corroborated by the statements
of others, on the night of Saturday, November 20, 1773,
the door of his house was broken down, and Ethan Allen,
Remember Baker and others entered the room where he
was sleeping, compelling him to dress and hastening the
process by a blow on the head with a gun. Spencer was
then taken to the house of Thomas Green, about two
miles distant, where he was kept under guard until the
following Monday morning. At that time, escorted by
a party estimated by Spencer to number from one hun-
dred and thirty to one hundred and fifty men, he was
taken back to his home. Upon their arrival Remember
Baker erected what was called the judgment seat, and
after Ethan Allen had addressed the assemblage, Allen,
Baker, Seth Warner and Robert Cochran took their
seats as judges. The prisoner was required to remove
his hat and stand before them. He was then charged


with applying to the New York government for a title
to lands and with inducing other persons to do likewise ;
with consenting to act as a Justice of the Peace con-
trary to the orders and rules established by the settlers
of that region; with issuing a warrant against a New
Hampshire settler for a trespass ; and with using his in-
fluence to induce people to render obedience to the gov-
ernment and laws of New York. Baker and others, it
is said, insisted that the prisoner should be whipped, but
this was not done. Not having a New Hampshire title,
Spencer's house was adjudged a nuisance and was set
on fire. He declared in his deposition that the party set
the house on fire in two places "and soon after broke
and took the roof entirely ofT with great shouting of
joy and much noise and tumult." It was said that Allen
and Baker declared with curses that "they valued not
the government nor even the Kingdom."

Crean Brush, from the Grand Committee on Griev-
ances, reported to the New York Assembly on February
4, 1774, that a "number of lawless persons calling them-
selves the Bennington Mob" had seized, insulted, and
terrified magistrates and other civil officers, rescued
prisoners for debt, assumed military commands and
judicial powers, burned and demolished houses, beat and
abused the persons of many of His Majesty's subjects
and expelled them from their possessions, "and put a
period to the administration of justice, and spread terror
and destruction throughout that part of the country
which is exposed to their oppression."

It was recommended, therefore, that a proclamation
be issued offering a reward for the apprehension of the


ringleaders of the mob. This report being accepted by
the Legislature, Governor Tryon, on March 9, 1774,
offered rewards of one hundred pounds each for the
arrest of Ethan Allen and Remember Baker, and fifty
pounds each for apprehending Seth Warner, Robert
Cochran, Peleg Sunderland, Silvanus Brown, James
Breakenridge, and John Smith.

When the news of the action of the New York authori-
ties reached the Grants, a meeting of the committees of
the towns west of the Green Mountains was held on
March 1, 1774, at the residence of Eliakim Wellers, at
Manchester, and was adjourned to the third Wednesday
of March at the house of Capt. Jehiel Hawley, in Arling-
ton. A committee of seven was appointed to prepare
resolutions in answer to the action of New York. Hav-
ing prepared a report, it was signed by Nathan Clark,
chairman, and Jones Fay, clerk, and it was published in
the Connecticut Courant at Hartford, and in the Nezv
Hampshire Gazette at Portsmouth.

The resolutions called attention to the fact that all
the troubles and difficulties of the settlements had been
due to "an unequal and biased administration of law."
Objection was made to permitting the New York offi-
cials to set themselves up as "great sticklers for good
order and government," when they did not hesitate to
violate the orders of the King, and some of them had
acted as judges in cases in which they were personally

Declaring, their loyalty to the King, whom they recog-
nized as their "political father," they expressed their re-
liance upon him for the protection of the property; and,


having purchased their property in good faith, they an-
nounced their determination to maintain these grants
"against all opposition" until His Majesty's pleasure
should be known. They declared that their only resist-
ance to government was *'the law of self preservation,
which the law of God and nature enjoins on every intelli-
gent, wise and understanding being." It was asserted
that attempts to indict their friends and neighbors as
rioters were "contrary to the good and righteous laws of
Great Britain."

Therefore, it was resolved by the convention: "That
as a country we will stand by and defend our friends and
neighbors so indicted at the expense of our lives and
fortunes. * ^ * That for the future every neces-
sary preparation be made, and that our inhabitants hold
themselves in readiness at a minute's warning to aid and
defend such friends of ours, who, for their merit to the
great and general cause are falsely denominated rioters ;
but that we will not act anything more or less than on
the defensive and always encourage due execution of
law in civil cases, and also in criminal prosecutions that
are so indeed."

On March 9, 1774, the same day that Governor Tryon
offered rewards for the apprehension of the leaders of
the men of the New Hampshire Grants, the New York
Legislature passed an act "for preventing tumultuous
and riotous assemblies in the places therein mentioned,
and for the more speedy and effectual punishing the
rioters," and its cause was said to be "a spirit of riot
and licentiousness" that had prevailed in parts of the
counties of Charlotte and Albany. Very stringent regu-


lations were adopted, to be applied where three or more
persons were assembled "riotously and tumultously."
Any person hindering or obstructing the proclamation
to disperse any person improperly assuming judicial
power; confine, assault or beat a civil officer, or terrify,
hinder or prevent such officer from performing his
duties; burn or destroy grain, corn or hay in any en-
closure; with force demolish or begin to demolish any
dwelling house, barn, stable, gristmill, sawmill or out-
house, in either of the said counties, should be adjudged
guilty of felony and suffer death without benefit of

It was further enacted that as Ethan Allen, Seth
Warner, Remember Baker, Robert Cochran, Peleg Sun-
derland, Silvanus Brown, James Breakenridge and John
Smith were the principal ringleaders in the riots and dis-
turbances, they should be ordered to surrender them-
selves within the space of seventy days after the first
publication of the order in the Nezv York Gazette and
Weekly Mercury. The penalty for failure to comply
with this order was that they be adjudged attainted of
felony, and suffer death without benefit of clergy.

Under ordinary circumstances the publication of such
a barbarous statute might be expected to produce a reign
of terror, but the people of the New Hampshire Grants,
and their outlawed leaders, went about their business
as usual. The story is told that after a price was set
upon his head, Ethan Allen rode into Albany in daylight,
alighted at a public house, called for a bowl of punch,
drank it, mounted his horse and rode away, although a
large crowd had assembled. While the story lacks posi-


tive proof of its authenticity, Allen's boldness, and the
fact that the settlers on the Grants had many friends in
Albany, lends an air of plausibility to the tale.

The seven outlaws responded in a vigorous remon-
strance, which bears evidence of having been written
by Ethan Allen. The document opens with a declara-
tion that the cause of opposition to the government of
New York is a determination to defend the lives and
property of the settlers. It is stated that the settlers
will be orderly and submissive to government if the New
York patentees will remove their patents, if the settlers
are quieted in their possessions, and if prosecutions for
rioting are suspended, but adds significantly:

"Be it known to that despotic fraternity of law makers
and law breakers that we will not be fooled or fright-
ened out of our property. * * * If we oppose civil
officers in taking possession of our farms we are by

Online LibraryWalter Hill CrockettVermont, the Green mountain state (Volume 1) → online text (page 23 of 34)