« PreviousContinue »
against this grant, and claimed the whole territory north of Massachusetts as far east as the Connecticut River, but Governor Wentworth, believing his authority was unquestionable, granted charters to fourteen townships by 1754, each to be six miles square, but the French War breaking out put a stop to further grants for the time being.
New York brought the matter before the king in council, and his majesty decided by royal decree that the Connecticut River was the dividing line between New York and New Hampshire, and in April, 1765, Lieutenant Governor Colden of New York issued a proclamation embodying a copy of an order of the king in council on the 22nd of July, 1764, declaring the boundary line
paid a stipulated sum for holdings, and had made such improvements as circumstances would admit, built log houses in which to live, improved the land and planted it for a future supply, yet on the grants issued by the governor of New York some of the pioneers were ejected with crops half grown, and this unjust action became the absorbing topic, which soon culminated in the appointment of a committee whose special duty was to attend to the defense and security of the settlers, so as to maintain the possession and title to their lands against the New York claimants.
In 1766, the colonists decided to send Samuel Robinson, who represented more than a thousand grantees, to England to
BACKBONE OF THE GREEN MOUNTAINS, SHOWING THE PEAKS OF KILLINGTON, PICO AND SHREWSBURY,
AND PART OF RUTLAND, VT. between New Hampshire and New York to present the claims and demonstrate the be the Connecticut River, and notifying injustice imposed upon them by the Govhis majesty's subjects to be governed ac- ernor of New York, and after presenting the cordingly.
settlers' side of the case, the king issued an This started a controversy over the order on July 24, 1767, that forbid maktitle to hundreds of settlers on the lands ing further grants within the disputed tergranted by Governor Wentworth, ritory, but this did not stop Governor Governor Colden proceeded at once Colden from issuing further grants, and, grant the land to others than the New as was charged, pocketing the proceeds; Hampshire claimants, including, of course, besides, writs of ejectment were taken out all the improvements they had made, his and served on many actual occupants. grants amounting to over two million Ethan Allen, of 'Ticonderoga fame, and acres. The inhabitants of the several town- his brothers had in the meantime secured ships had organized themselves into mu- a grant in Bennington township, to which nicipal communities.in conformity to their they moved, in company with several other charters, and had adopted laws for their persons from Connecticut, and Allen, a local goveruments. These settlers had man of extraordinary build, tall, powerful,
and with an indomitable spirit of freedom and much talent, naturally became a leader in their efforts to maintain their New Hampshire titles. The writs of ejectment were to be tried in Albany, and Ethan Allen was appointed an agent to manage ihe concerns of the defendants before the court. He obtained copies of Governor Wentworth's commission and instructions by which he was authorized to grant the lands, and the original grants to the persons cited before the court. But the papers were at once set aside, the whole process of the trial being a piece of formality fixed up by the king's attorney general for the New York claimants. After the court adjourned, the king's attorney advised Allen to go back and tell his friends to make the
the lands occupied by persons holding titles under the warrants granted by the New Hampshire governor, and if it became necessary to use force. This was a bold move, but they were bold, hardy men, and they adhered to their determination without regard to consequences. Action of ejectment continued to be brought before the Albany courts, but the settlers from past experience did not believe justice could be had from that tribunal, and did not appear at the trial, and judgment was of course obtained.
Then the sheriffs and civil magistrates came to execute the writs of dispossession, but the mountaineers felt at home on the soil which they had subilued by their own labor, and to drive one of them from his
MOUNTAIN RIDGE SHOWING MT. NICKWACKET AND PART OF RUTLAND AND PITTSTON, VT. best terms they could with their new land- home or deprive him of his hard-earned lords, reminding him of the proverb that substance was to threaten the whole com“Might often prevails against right." munity with an issue fatal to their dearest But Allen replied: The gods of the val- interests which every man deemed sacred as leys are not the gods of the hills." And his life. Their defensive organization was when an explanation was asked, he told the perfected and the oncoming of the sheriff king's attorney, “if he would accompany was watched, and the first place the sheriff him to Bennington the sense should be attempted to serve a writ of dispossession he made clear."
found the house surrounded by a body of The settlers having tried in vain by men ready to resist his attempts and defeat peaceful means to secure their rights, and his purpose. seeing, as they thought, the doors of jus- This circumstance, together with the tice shut against them, they resolved to names of the leaders of this “riotous and appeal to the last arbiter of disputes, and tumultuous assemblage, was reported to the inhabitants of Bennington immediately the Governor of New York, Lord Dunmore, assembled and came to a formal decision and the Governor issued a proclamation to defend their property rights, and to dated November 1, 1770, demanding that unite in resisting all encroachments upon the sheriff of Albany county apprehend
the offenders so they may be brought to condign punishment and authorized them to call to his assistance the posse comitatus. But proclamations had no terrors for these defenders of their homes.
he second attempt made was to serve a writ on James Brackenridge in Benvington township, but the sheriff found the house filled with armed men who showed the sheriff soine disrespect, and a few days later the sheriff returned with a posse, such as he could collect, but again he was confronted with still a larger party armed with muskets, when they demonstrated to the sheriff that it would be useless to try to eject anybody with his force. The sheriff appeared in other places and in some instances were successful, but they
been their adviser in state inatters and their representative at the Albany Court, was naturally chosen their leader with an appointment as Colonel Commandant. With several captains under him, the most noted of whom were Seth Warner and Remember Baker, committees of safety were chosen with full power to act in emergencies, and conventions of delegates representing the people assembled from time to time and adopted measures of defense.
When occasion required it Colonel Allen, with characteristic promptness, was enabled to draw out his volunteers in large or small numbers, and by the agency of his captains, who also had a force at call, the Green Mountain Boys presented a formidable force to the sheriffs and constables
could not evade the vigilance of the people who were now thorouglily aroused, kept a watchful eye on their movements, and when they caught an intruder, as they termed them, they resorted to a mode of punishment not particularly dangerous, but having no respect for the dignity of the official. This summary punishment was denominated chastisement with the twigs of the wilderness, which will hardly need an explanation. Open war now existed, and the Green Mountain Boys, a name chosen in derision and defiance of the governor who threatened to drive the settlers from their homes into the Green Mountains, thought it advisable to organize their forces and prepare for a systematic defense, and Ethan Allen, who had
whenever they appeared within the limits of the New Hampshire grants.
The convention representing the settlers called to discuss the problem, and they decreed that no officer from New York should attempt to take any person out of the terrritory on penalty of severe punishment; and it was forbidden that any surveyor should presume to run lines through the lands or inspect them with that inten. tion. This edict enlarged the powers of the military commanders and made it their duty to search out intruders and to chasten them according to the nature of their offense, some of them with forty strokes save one with blue birch wands, called by Ethan Allen “the twigs of the wilderness." A few settlers, claiming
titles under the New York grants ventured over the line, but they were forcibly dispossessed and the sheriffs and posse comitatus were watched with the greatest vigilance and pursued with eagerness whenever they dared to set foot on the forbidden soil.
The Green Mountain Boys had rendezvous in many places where they were quite secure from attack. Some were high up in the mountain side in natural and artificial caverns where they sometimes took the trespassers and tried them, not infrequently administering, punishment with
the twigs of the wilderness." Some of the settlers' log houses had cellars from which caves were built with secret passages, probably as a measure of safety
ment with the twigs of the wilderness was used; but the threat seems to have been very efficacious in driving away the New York claimants, sheriffs, and other officers of the law. They had no more respect for the one than for the other if they were trying to eject settlers, survey territory, or claim rights under a New York grant. And it is not surprising that they should be a unit in defense of their titles, for the history of Vermont records the fact that patents were issued by the governor of New York on April 3, 1771, in violation of the king's orders, and in face of the fact that grants for the same lands had been issued by the governor of New Hampshire ten years before. One grant covered forty-eight thousand acres. The patent was issued in the
against the Indians, but Thompson's names of forty-eight persons, each to have Green Mountain Boys made them figure one thousand acres; “but most of them, a quite conspicuously as their rendezvous. few days later, sold their grants to a few
In the use of the twigs of the wilderness New York speculators.” Another one was as a means of punishment the Green issued January 7, 1772, covering thirty Mountain Boys were following an example thousand acres and consisting of territory set by New York. Until after the com- chartered by the governor of New Hampmencement of the Revolution there was an shire September 5, 1761. Under one of officer of the city of New York denominated these grants Colonel Reid engaged a as "the public whipper,” and acts of the number of Scotch emigrants recently New York Assembly, in 1744 and 1762, arrived, and who knew nothing of the added special crimes for which the criminal controversy, to occupy the land as tenants. was to be whipped by the public whipper. Reid found the land occupied by many So it was not surprising that the pioneers settlers claiming rights under New Hampshould adopt the same kind of punishment sbire charters, and compelled them by for what they believed to be crimes—at least, threats to leave. This was the second inagainst justice. There are, however, few vasion by Colonel Reid, and on the nth of instances on record where corporal punish- August, 1773, Allen, Warner, and Baker
appeared upon the ground with over one hundred armed men, and informed the Scotch settlers that they had been imposed upon by Colonel Reid and that the land did not belong to him and warned them to depart. A short time was given them to remove their effects, when the huts were set on fire and burned to the ground. The original settlers had built a saw-mill, and Reid had put a grist-mill next to it. Not being able to destroy the grist-mill by fire without also destroying the saw-mili, they pulled down the former, broke the millstones and threw them down the falls into the creek.
The earnestness and fearlessness of the Green Mountain Boys' defense of their
get possession of the land held by the settlers and claimants under the New Hampshire charters of Rutland and Pittsford, and his name was at the head of a petition to the governor of New York for a patent of Durham, and was in consequence decidedly objectionable to the Green Mountain Boys.
The active efforts of the newly appointed officers to exercise and establish their authority over the New Hampshire claimants increased the apprehensions of the settlers, who held under New Hampshire charters. If the Yorkers could fully establish their jurisdiction and authority over the territory covered by these two New York patents, they would not only deprive the
chartered rights are well illustrated in the following incident:
One Duane had secured a New York grant covering 14,265 acres, and in attempting to gain possession a number of county officers had come into Green Mountain territory. Among the justices of the peace for the new county of Charlotte were Jacob Marsh and Benjamin Spencer. The latter was also an assistant judge of the court of common pleas. Marsh also held under a New York patent, and was prominent in advocating it and in discrediting the New Hampshire titles. Spencer is represented by Ira Allen (brother of Ethan), in his history, as an artful and designing
He had been active in his efforts to
New Hampshire claimants of their lands within the townships of Pittsford, Rutland and Clarendon, but would gain a footing in the district which might enable them to overthrow all the New Hampshire charters. So it was resolved in the council of the Green Mountain Boys that none of the New York officers residing in the disputed territory should be allowed to perform any official acts, and that if mild measures should not be found sufficient to carry into effect these plans, forcible means should be resorted to.
In accordance with this resolve, a large body of Green Mountain Boys, with Allen and their other leaders, visited Clarendon and vicinity early in the fall of 1773 and