CONTINUATION OF THE DISPUTE. THE BURNING OF ROYALTON.
Representatives from Cumberland county in the New York Assembly — Guilfordite Yorkers — Elections held by order of New York — Micah Townsend's Letter to Gov. Clinton — Convention of Committees at Brattleborough — Samuel Minott to Clinton — Charles Phelps refuses to serve in the Vermont Militia — He and his son Timothy are fined — Second Convention of the Committees — Major Jonathan Hunt sent to Philadelphia — Action of Congress — attempts of Vermont to effect a Settlement with the Yorkers — Petition of Inhabitants of Cumberland county to the New York Legislature — Gov. Clinton's Letter to Samuel Minott — Josiah Bigelow and Peter Briggs, the contumacious Yorkers — Col. Patterson's attempts to enlist Soldiers — Suspicions concerning the loyalty of Vermont to the American cause — Gov. Clinton's opinion — Hearing before Congress of the Claims to the "Grants" — Incursion of the Indians at Barnard and Bethel — Fort Defiance built — The British and Indians plan an attack on Newbury — Are diverted from their object — They attack Royalton — Sufferings of the Havens family — Adventures of Gen. Elias Stevens and Capt. John Parkhurst — Escape of the Rix family — Heroic conduct of Gen. Stevens — Various incidents connected with the capture of the Inhabitants — Col. John House and his men pursue the Enemy — The Fight — The Threat of the Indians — Their Flight — Fate of the Captives — Opinions concerning the conduct of Col. House — Review of the Losses — Incidents connected with the Inroad — The Exploits of Mrs. Hendee — The Alarm at Brookline — The Flight of the People — The Burning Brush-heaps at Newfane — Preparations for Defence — The gathering of the Soldiery — The Calmness of Noah Sabin Sen. misinterpreted — Explanation of the Alarm.
DURING the winter of 1779, 1780, and the spring of the latter year, various attempts were made to obtain from Congress a decision of the controverted question of jurisdiction which continued to harass the people of New York and cramp the energies of the inhabitants of Vermont. The attention of Congress was so much occupied in furthering the general welfare of the Union, that the points of difference between the contending parties, were allowed to remain undecided. Meantime, Cumberland county was represented in the Legislature of New York by Micah Townsend of Brattleborough and Elkanah Day of Westminster. The former occupied his seat from the middle of August, 1779, to the middle
368 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1780.
of March, 1780, and was indefatigable in his endeavors to assist the inhabitants of Cumberland county. The latter was present for a few days only, at the beginning of the session; and, whether governed by choice or necessity, did but little to advance the interests of his constituents.
In a few of the towns in the county, the Yorkers continued to assert their rights, and did not scruple to punish those whom they deemed guilty of crime. Some time in the month of February, 1780, Henry Sherburn and Timothy Root, inhabitants of Guilford, and supporters of New York authority, "arrogated to themselves" the power of acting as judges in a case between Ephraim Nichols and Henry Hix. Sherburn administered oaths, took the evidence in due form, and, in conclusion, he and Root decreed Hix guilty, and awarded to him, as a suitable punishment, fifteen stripes on his naked back. It is stated that "Job Whitney laid them on." But the Guilfordite Yorkers were not content with partially establishing the jurisdiction of the state to which they owed allegiance. They aimed to be the sole rulers within their own town. They were jealous of rivals, and of those who seemed to be aiming at that condition. It was this sentiment which, on the 6th of May, brought Hezekiah Stowell, Asa Rice, Phineas Rice, and Micah Rice, headed by the before-named Sherburn, to the house of Levi Goodenough Jr., who, by the authority of the people of "the independent state of Vermont" was holding a court, and at the time of the visit, was busied in the trial of a criminal. On this occasion, Sherburn evinced higher powers of magistracy, for, by his orders, Goodenough was forbidden to proceed with the trial, the court was broken up, the criminal was ordered home, and the authority of Vermont was defied.
Circumstances like these served to awaken in the minds of the Yorkers the hope that they might be successful in establishing what they regarded as the rightful jurisdiction. In several towns they attempted to exercise the right of suffrage, at the spring elections which had been ordered by New York. Simeon Edwards, a valiant citizen of Guilford, "signed and posted up a warrant in the name of the sheriff," requiring the people of the town to assemble and elect a Governor and other civil officers for the state of New York. In obedience to this call, those of the inhabitants who regarded the warrant as legal assembled, and an election was held. In other places the supporters of the new state, tore down the notifications and threatened all
1780.] OPINIONS OF THE PEOPLE. 369
who should concern themselves in New York elections with prosecutions. When the people met at Putney to vote, the Vermonters appeared in force, and, by their authoritative and menacing manner, put an end to the voting. Conduct similar to this in other towns deterred many of the more timorous friends of New York from declaring their sentiments. The election was regarded by all as a failure. It did not express even the little strength which was to be found in the ranks of the minority.
On the 10th of April, after his return home from the session of the New York Legislature, Micah Townsend wrote to Governor Clinton informing him of the sentiments which were entertained concerning the controversy, by the various classes of people with whom he was brought in contact. For three years had the loyal subjects of New York awaited the decision of Congress respecting the recognition of Vermont as a separate state. To the February just passed they had looked forward with the hope that this important question would then be settled. Their agents had, however, returned from Philadelphia, and the most encouraging report they could give, was that Congress would not at present determine the dispute. Uneasiness, "general and great," followed. A few openly espoused the cause of, and subscribed the oath of allegiance to Vermont. Many, wavering between hope and fear, began to think of safety in "an agreement with the ruling powers," as they designated the government of Vermont. Others, resolving to remain true to the jurisdiction which they believed just, continued to exhort the desponding to stand firm in the interest of New York, until Congress should have leisure to view the important question in its varied bearings, and publish a decision which should prove equitable as well as legal. Meantime the Vermont Legislature were straining every nerve to increase their power. At their March session held at Westminster in the present year, they had granted large quantities of land to persons residing in the New England states, and had appointed a committee of three to confer with the Yorkers in Cumberland county. The men chosen to manage this conference, having lobbied at Congress, had become skilled in the arts of insinuation, and fears were entertained that they would succeed in misleading those who had not much to gain should the authority of New York be established, but who had every‑
370 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1780.
thing to lose in case her claim should be pronounced invalid.*
For the purpose of ascertaining the political condition of Cumberland county, a convention of those owing allegiance to New York was held at Brattleborough on the 11th of April. Nine towns were represented. However satisfactory the deliberations on this occasion might have been, yet the letter to Governor Clinton, written by the chairman Samuel Minott, in behalf of the convention, was not of a character to inspire hope, either by its references to the present, or by its estimates of the future. After mentioning the opinion prevalent among the people, that Congress would pay no attention to the settlement of the dispute during the continuance of the present war, Mr. Minott reverted to the transactions in which he and his associates had been engaged in support of the jurisdiction of New York. He reminded the Governor, that many of the inhabitants of Cumberland county, from the time the independence of Vermont was asserted, had continued subjects of New York; that the Legislature of New York, to encourage them to remain in allegiance, had, "in the most solemn manner," pledged the faith of the state to protect their persons and property; and (although no blame could be charged upon his Excellency) that this pledge had been broken, many of the subjects of New York having from time to time been "notoriously injured," and prevented from obtaining the least satisfaction for their maltreatment, or the least assurance of exemption from such usage in future. He then referred to the ineffectual attempt which had been made in Congress to settle the dispute, by sending commissioners to the "Grants," and alluded to the resolutions which had been passed by the same body on the 24th of September, 1779, "generously designed" to protect the grantees, and "prevent the alienation of public property." Nor did he omit to inform his Excellency, that the Legislature of Vermont, in spite of all these endeavors, had made large grants of land to certain persons who had applied for favors of this kind; had imprisoned and harassed several of the subjects of New York for offences against the laws of Vermont; had punished several who had sold liquors without a Vermont license; and had chosen a committee to attempt to persuade the subjects of New
* MS. Information against Yorkers. George Clinton Papers, in N. Y. State Lib. vol. ix. doc. 2791.
1780.] MINOTT'S LETTER TO CLINTON. 371
York to submit to the jurisdiction of the new state before the 1st of June following.
Alluding to the precariousness of the situation of the Yorkers, he continued: "Hitherto, sir, we have at the risque of our ears, and of receiving the infamous punishment of whipping, supported the jurisdiction of the state in this county. But as we begin to believe that Congress — with whom the matter now solely rests — will not do anything effectual for our relief, we do not think it our duty any longer to put our all at stake. We would wish, sir — we are earnestly desirous, to live under the government of New York, but cannot longer risque so much for a government which is either unable or unwilling to protect us; and must candidly assure your Excellency, that unless Congress shall have settled this controversy by the 1st of June next, the subjects of New York in this county must, for their own safety, connect themselves with some power able to afford them security." While thus stating the grievances to which the adherents of New York in Cumberland county had been subjected, Mr. Minott, in behalf of his associates, assured the Governor that these unfortunate results had not been occasioned by any neglect on his part. "We beg leave," wrote he, "to express the warmest sentiments of gratitude to your Excellency, for your conduct through the whole of our most distressed situation. We are truly sensible, sir, that you have done all in your power to relieve us, and that if Congress had the same tenderness for the calamities of their constituents which you have repeatedly shown to those under your care, we should before this have been in a capacity of doing something to assist the continent in carrying on the war." Such were the accounts transmitted to Governor Clinton from Cumberland county. They were intended both for his instruction and the edification of the congressional delegation from New York.
Accompanying this communication was a letter from Micah Townsend, of the 12th and 14th of April, confirmatory in part of the statements which had been previously reported. His own situation he represented as "truly disagreeable," and his reasons for this declaration were not trifling. He was well aware that the New York Legislature regarded every act done by them for the maintenance of their jurisdiction on the "Grants," as a favor conferred upon their constituency who resided there. He also knew that the Yorkers in Cumberland county supposed that they had merited from the Legislature protection at least, since
372 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1780.
without any prospect of private advantage, they had spiritedly maintained the authority of New York against the violent measures of the Vermonters. An accurate knowledge of the situation of the Yorkers, both in and out of Vermont, enabled him to mark the instances in which a want of union in their counsels had been detrimental to their cause, and had given strength to their antagonists.*
Having dispatched these letters, the subjects of New York flattered themselves that there would be no necessity of troubling the government with their complaints for some time to come. As the Vermont Legislature had appointed a committee to confer with the Yorkers for the purpose of establishing a basis for a union, it was not supposed that hostilities would be continued between the two parties, or that Vermont laws would be enforced against those who denied the authority of the state. But the facts were otherwise. Pursuant to orders from Governor Chittenden, drafts of men were made in Cumberland county in the latter part of April. In some towns no distinction was observed between those who acknowledged and those who denied the jurisdiction of Vermont, and in the few towns in which a difference was made it was wholly favorable to the citizens of that state. In Marlborough, Charles Phelps and two other persons, who had long been bitter opponents of the new state, were drafted as soldiers until the 1st of January, 1781. Phelps refused to serve, and declined to pay the fine which was imposed upon him in consequence of his refusal. On the 2d of May, 1780, Abel Stockwell, in conformity with the statute in that case provided, attempted to distrain for the fine. While thus engaged he was attacked by Charles Phelps and his son Timothy, who did "beat, bruise, cut, wound, and-evil entreat" him to such an extent that his "life was greatly despaired of." Dissatisfied with this result, Stockwell visited Phelps's house a second time, and on this occasion seized his cattle and levied a fine of "twenty silver dollars" on his son. At the same time he threatened the younger Phelps with whipping if the fine was not paid. A few days after this occurrence, as was then reported, a post was erected in Marlborough for the purpose of facilitating the execution of the punishment.
Determined to prosecute the matter further, Stockwell entered a complaint against the Phelpses, and, on the 23d of May, the
* George Clinton Papers, in N. Y. State Lib., vol. ix. docs. 2798, 2806.
1780.] PROCEEDINGS AGAINST THE PHELPSES. 373
sheriff was ordered to attach their goods to the value of £6000 lawful money, or their bodies in case property to this amount could not be found. On the 8th of June, Joseph Church, the constable of Marlborough, endorsed the following return on the writ: "I have attached sixty acres of land belonging to the within named defendants — thirty acres belonging to the within named Charles Phelps, Esq., beginning at the dividing line between him the said Charles and Timothy Phelps, ten rods west of his dwelling-house, west as far as his land goes, and so far south as to contain thirty acres; and thirty acres belonging to Timothy Phelps, beginning at the above-mentioned dividing line, extending north as far as to contain thirty acres, bounding west on Newton's land — and have left an attested copy at each of their houses of this writ, with my doings thereon." The cause was tried on the 3d Tuesday in June, but the decision of the court was withheld. At the August term, Charles Phelps came before the court, and, in defence of his conduct, stated that he made the assault only to maintain possession of his property, which was being "wrenched from him by force and arms;" that he was a subject of New York, but could obtain no redress of grievances by the laws of that state; and that he was forced "by the laws of nature and nations" to protect his rights by the means which were in his power. It is hardly necessary to say, that these statements produced but little impression on the court. The defendants were sentenced to pay a fine of £500 lawful money, and an execution was immediately granted against the property which had been already attached. Marlborough was not the only town whose inhabitants were called upon to serve in the Vermont militia. In Halifax, five Yorkers were drafted but no Vermonters. In Guilford, Capt. Price and four other persons, subjects of New York, were enrolled, and two of the new state's men. In Dummerston, one Yorker and one Vermonter were drafted. In Putney, thirteen Yorkers and two Vermonters were required to furnish five men.
On the 2d of May, the committees from eleven towns in Cumberland county, assembled at Brattleborough, for the purpose of devising such measures as should seem best fitted to protect their own interests and those of New York. In a letter addressed to Governor Clinton, they explained their situation, and defined the position in which they were placed. To fight with or submit to the government of Vermont appeared to them their only alternative. "On the one hand," said they, "we have
374 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1780.
nothing to expect but an unequal and bloody conflict with a ferocious set of men, exasperated by our opposition to their illegal measures. On the other, submission to a government which we know to be usurped, and whose cruelties have already taught us to dread and abhor it. From this dilemma Congress, and Congress alone, can relieve us; and if our situation could be rightly explained to them, and that honorable body could be induced for a moment seriously to attend to it; if they have not wholly lost that glorious spirit which has heretofore, in so eminent a manner, distinguished them — and regard their faith unanimously and solemnly pledged, we are persuaded they must put an end to our miseries by speedily determining to which of the thirteen states we belong. But, if they will not, God knows what will become of us, even while we are waiting their leisure." Other points bearing upon the subject of the controversy were also discussed. In view of the little support which was expected from New York, the committees expressed an earnest desire that the Governor would not blame them for taking such measures as they should think most conducive to their safety; but, on the contrary, would admire the fortitude and loyalty which had induced them, "so long and unassisted, to stem the impetuous torrent of disloyalty and oppression." This communication, cogent in its reasons, direct in its conclusions, and accurate in its facts and details, was signed by Samuel Minott, the chairman of the town committees, and was entrusted to Major Jonathan Hunt, who was chosen an especial messenger to deliver it to Governor Clinton.
Having fulfilled his commission, Major Hunt proceeded to Philadelphia, and on the 23d of May subscribed an affidavit which was read in Congress, in which he declared his belief, founded on credible information, "that the assumed government of the New Hampshire Grants, called Vermont" was intending after the 1st of June following, "to put their laws into execution over the persons and estates of the inhabitants of the said 'Grants' and to exact from them an oath of allegiance to their pretended state." He also stated that William Williams of Wilmington, who had formerly received a colonel's commission from the Convention of the state of New York, who had been a member of said Convention and was now a member of the Assembly of Vermont, had informed him that the government of Vermont had re-granted lands which had been previously granted by New York, without consulting the rights or
1780.] CONGRESSIONAL MEASURES. 375
interest of the first grantees, and had also disposed of large tracts to persons residing in Connecticut, and to certain continental officers whose petitions for land had been presented by Col. Roger Enos, a continental officer of that state.*
In view of this representation, and of other representations of a similar character, Congress on the 2d of June declared the conduct of the people of the "Grants," "in contravening the good intentions" of the resolutions of the 24th of September, and of the 2d of October, 1779, to be "highly unwarrantable, mid subversive of the peace and welfare of the United States." At the same time the inhabitants of the controverted district were, by a special order, "strictly required to forbear and abstain from all acts of authority, civil or military, over the inhabitants of any town or district who hold themselves to be subjects of, and to owe allegiance to any of the states claiming the jurisdiction of the said territory in whole or in part," until the controversy, should be determined. Desirous no doubt of terminating internal dissensions of every character, Congress resolved to "proceed to hear and examine into, and finally determine the disputes and differences relative to jurisdiction," as soon as nine states, exclusive of those who were parties to the controversy should be represented. By a subsequent order, passed on the 9th, the second Tuesday of September following was fixed upon as the day upon which Congress would declare their final determination.†
At their spring session, the General Assembly of Vermont had, on the 15th of March, appointed Stephen R. Bradley, Moses Robinson and Jonas Fay, a committee "to enquire as soon as may be into the cause, and officially take the reasons why certain of the inhabitants of the county of Cumberland are opposed to the authority of this state, and wherein their grievances consist." Pursuant to this appointment, the committee, accompanied by Governor Chittenden, assembled at Westminster, and afterwards at Putney, "to attend on the Yorkers," and to "bring about a union with the Brattleborough committee," of which Samuel Minott was chairman. However well-intentioned this measure might have been, it does not seem to have been followed either by a compromise or by any kind of
* George Clinton Papers, in N. Y. State Lib., vol. ix. docs. 2856, 2865. MS. Affidavit of Jonathan Hunt.
† Journals Am. Cong., iii. 462-465. Broadside, in Papers relating to Vt. Controversy in office Sec. State N. Y., p. 84.
376 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1780.
a permanent or temporary settlement. A similar result appears to have attended the negotiations of a like committee, who were directed to convene during the month of August at Westminster, at Putney, and at Brattleborough, "to settle with the Yorkers."*
The 1st of June, the time at which it was supposed the government of the new state would manifest its power by some decisive act, had come and gone, and no change in the administration of Vermont affairs had taken place sufficiently important to attract especial attention. To the New York adherents the hopes which they had so long cherished, not only that a decision would be made, but that it would be favorable to them, began to assume an appearance more fantastic than real. Knowing that they could not afford to lose all they had expended in this contest, and deeming it just that the state for which they had hazarded so much should reimburse them for expenditures made in her behalf, they presented to the New York Legislature, on the 12th of June, through Micah Townsend, a petition designed to accomplish this end. In it they referred to the disaffection which had led to the establishment of Vermont as an independent jurisdiction; to the efforts which had been made by the Legislature of New York to prevent the disaffection from becoming general, which efforts had resulted in a resolve, passed in February, 1778, by which the faith of the state was then pledged "to concur in the necessary measures for protecting the loyal inhabitants of this state residing in the counties of Albany, Charlotte, Cumberland, and Gloucester, in their persons and estates;" to the constancy which many of the residents on the "Grants" had exhibited in continuing allegiant to New York; to the earnest endeavors which had been made by these "loyal subjects" to obtain the protection of government; to the ill success that had attended their efforts; and to the persecutions they had endured in the shape of fines, imprisonments, and the confiscation of property. Resting their claim on these considerations, they declared that the Legislature were bound in equity to make compensation for the injuries they had received, and expressed a hope that their petition for such compensation would be answered. A request so reasonable as this could not, it would seem, have met with a refusal; but considerations more pressing in their nature were continually demanding the attention of the Legislature, and it was not until
* MSS. of the Hon. Stephen R. Bradley.
1780.] CLINTON'S LETTER. 377
several years had elapsed that this application, and other applications resembling it, were treated to a final and definitive answer.*
On the 16th of June, Governor Clinton replied to the communications he had received from Samuel Minott in behalf of the town committees, and entrusted his letter and other important papers to the care of Major Hunt, who, on his way home from Philadelphia, had stopped at Kingston, where Clinton then resided. With reference to the resolves of Congress he professed his faith in the truth of the statements they contained, and made no doubt that the instant there should be a full representation in Congress, and the public affairs should with propriety permit attention to be paid to the subject of the controversy, it would "be put in a course of decision." Notwithstanding his own convictions, he did not endeavor to conceal from himself or his friends the probability existing that the Vermonters would not heed these resolves. "Should your neighbors," wrote he, "in contempt of the authority of Congress and at the hazard of the welfare of the whole confederation, by embroiling its members in a civil war at this crisis, still persevere in their usurpations, I must recommend it to you not to submit voluntarily, but at the same time, that in your resistance you will be guided by prudence, reflecting that the whole force of all the states will not only be shortly called forth, but will be necessary to ensure success to the great intended operations against the common enemy; and consequently, that, however at another time it might be in our power, and at all times my sincerest desire, to relieve and protect you, yet that in the present conjuncture the power of the state must be directed to another, and I feel assured your own candour will induce you to admit, a more important, object." In another part of his communication, he informed Mr. Minott, that complaint had been made to him, when at the northward, that the subjects of New York, resident in Cumberland county, were living "totally exempt from public burthens." While declaring his disbelief in the charge, he still expressed a wish that "even the appearance of a cause might be removed," and therefore recommended the formation of a company of soldiers in the "well-affected towns," to serve for
* Doc. Dist. N. Y., iv. 1003 1004. Papers relating to Vt. Controversy, in office Sec. State N. Y., p. 35.
378 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1780.
three months from the middle of the approaching July. He further proposed, that the men thus raised should be attached to the levies required of New York to serve with the continental army, "in the intended operations against the enemy in the southern parts of the state," and named Fishkill as the place to which they should repair as soon as embodied. At the same time he expressed his willingness that the soldiers — provided such was their wish — should be stationed at Skenesborough, now Whitehall, that they might be nearer to their families and homes. In a letter to Col. Eleazer Patterson, of the same date, he enclosed commissions for several officers who had been recently appointed, and expressed the hope, provided the project of raising men for the army in the "well-affected" towns should appear practicable, that Patterson would lend his "best exertions" to carry it into prompt execution.*
Although the subjects of New York in Cumberland county were at all times ready to serve that state in a civil or military capacity, they did not consider themselves bound to perform similar duties for Vermont. It chanced therefore, that when Comfort Star, captain of the first militia company in Guilford connected with the first Vermont regiment, in pursuance of an act of the General Assembly and in obedience to orders from his colonel, directed his company to convene at their usual place of parade on the 25th of April, and on their assembling, selected Josiah Bigelow and Peter Briggs to serve in the state guard until the 1st day of January, 1781 — it chanced then, that both of the men drafted, refused to join the troops they were detached to serve with, and declined to pay the fine required of them by statute as the punishment for such neglect. Thereupon, by order of the Hon. Moses Robinson, the Chief Judge of the superior court, process was ordered against the delinquents. Dr. Daniel Rood, of Putney, an "indifferent person," served the summons on Briggs, on the 7th of June, by leaving an attested copy of it at his dwelling. With Bigelow he did not succeed as well. Having first attempted to read the summons, he was ordered out of the house with hard words. On the second essay, he was not only treated in a similar manner, but was driven out of doors by Bigelow, who with one fist in the Doctor's face, and the other at his side, emphatically declared, he "should take it," if he attempted to read the summons.
* George Clinton Papers, in N. Y. State Lib., vol. x. doc. 2981.
1780.] ENLISTMENT OF SOLDIERS. 379
After several efforts of this nature, "being impeded by the position and words" of Bigelow, Rood delivered the summons verbally and favored the contumacious Yorker with an attested copy of the same. At the trial before the superior court, judgment was rendered against the delinquents, and each was sentenced to pay a fine of £108, together with the costs of the trial.*
The proposition made by Governor Clinton, that a company should be formed in Cumberland county for the continental service, was favorably received, and measures were immediately taken for carrying it into execution. From every twelve or thirteen men, one man was selected to serve as a soldier, and his expenses were borne by those from whom he was chosen. Col. Samuel Wells, of Brattleborough, rendered valuable assistance in forwarding the project, and even went so far as to hire a man at his own expense. In announcing to the Governor the success which had attended these efforts, Micah Townsend, in his letter of the 19th of July, did not fail to mention the little difficulties with which he and his friends had been obliged to contend. In order to avoid any misunderstanding in the future, he recommended to the Governor that the state should advance a small amount of money for the benefit of the company, even though Congress should refuse to sanction the expenditure, rather than that the soldiers should be rendered "uneasy," by being fed on expectations alone. Col. Eleazer Patterson, in reference to the same subject, informed the Governor, on the 20th of July, that he and the officers of his regiment had spared no exertions to procure a company of fifty men, and that the reason why this number was not yet fully completed, was the "peculiar situation" of the friends of New York, and not a "want of sufficient exertion" on the part of those to whom the business of enlisting had been entrusted, or of "spirit in the people."
In his reply of the 16th of September, Governor Clinton exhorted the Colonel and those associated with him, to adhere to the course they had taken. That their military organization might be in accordance with the laws of the state, he announced to them the necessity of being properly armed and accoutred, and of being provided with ammunition. He expressed full confidence in their loyalty to New York and the United States,
* MS. Papers in the Office of Clerk of Rutland Co., Vt.
380 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1780.
and declared his belief that they would make use of every means in their power to render their recruits military and effective men.*
During the summer of this year, suspicions had been entertained that the principal men interested in the government of Vermont, were engaged in negotiations with the British in Canada, but as to the correctness of the suspicions or the nature of the negotiations nothing could be determined. By September, these suspicions had increased to such an extent that they were regarded by many as facts. Fears were also prevalent that the enemy were about to make an incursion into Vermont, for the purpose of reducing it to a British province. Depositions containing information to this effect, were attested by Benjamin Butterfield and Jonathan Church, inhabitants of Cumberland county. The statements made by these gentlemen, were based partly on hearsay and rumor, and partly on conversations which they had held with persons who had seen scouts who had removed from Cumberland county and joined the British in Canada. These depositions, which were taken at the instance of the New York adherents, were transmitted to Governor Clinton for his perusal. Accompanying them was a communication of the 11th of September, signed by the deponents, also by Col. Eleazer Patterson, Lieut.-Col. John Sergeants, Capt. Timothy Church, and several private gentlemen, recommending the appointment of a committee "invested with some degree of authority," whose duty it should be to watch such of the inhabitants of the county as might be suspected of conspiring with the British against the Americans, and report their names to the proper authorities. Although this proposition was well received by the Governor, he was prevented by political reasons from acting on its suggestions. Under these circumstances he substituted counsel for action. "I can only advise," said he, in his letter of October 3d, "the present civil and military officers to vigilance and a faithful exertion of the authority they are vested with, and I would fain hope they will, in this case, be able to defeat the designs of our secret enemies." He also reminded his friends, that any person who had joined the enemy, and who should be found lurking secretly in the county, was triable by a general
* George Clinton Papers, in N. Y. State Lib., vol. x. docs. 3081, 3085: xi. 3224.
1780.] LUKE KNOWLTON. 381
court-martial as a spy, and subject to capital punishment; and, further, that any person who should "knowingly harbor or comfort" a spy was guilty of a misdemeanor of the highest nature. That the suspicions which gave rise to these precautions were partly founded in truth, there is now no doubt. The vague reports which were then floating among the community, springing from no very responsible source, and exaggerated by transmission, were the precursors of that diplomatic correspondence which for more than two years was carried on between Frederick Haldimand on behalf of the British, and Thomas Chittenden on the part of Vermont, and which gave foundation to innumerable stories subversive of the ideas which had hitherto been entertained of the loyalty of Vermont to the cause of America.*
In conformity with the expressed determination of Congress to adjudicate fairly upon the conflicting claims to the "Grants," the new state's men had already appointed their agents to appear at Philadelphia, and other parties interested in the controversy were prepared to follow their example. Fearing lest the New York delegates should be remiss in their duties, the subjects of New York resident in Cumberland county met on the 30th of August and appointed Luke Knowlton their agent to attend at Philadelphia, at their own expense. By order of the county committee of which John Sergeants was then chairman, he was furnished with a recommendatory letter to Governor Clinton, in which he was described as a gentleman of "penetration and probity," who had resided in the county since the beginning of the disturbances, and was therefore prepared either to refresh the memories of the delegates, or to acquaint them with such circumstances, as had not yet come to their knowledge. On the 12th of September, he was provided by Clinton with an introductory letter to the New York delegation, and thus equipped he arrived in Philadelphia. Hopes were now entertained that the long drawn controversy would be decided. The interview between the parties interested and Congress, was opened on the 19th of September, by the presentation of documents detailing the different views which were entertained on the subject under consideration, and the circumstances upon which they were founded. In this manner the reference was conducted for two or three days, when, the agents from Vermont
* George Clinton Papers, in N. Y. State Lib., vol. xi. docs. 3214, 3250.
382 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1780.
becoming satisfied that partial modes were pursued, and ex-parte evidence presented and received, withdrew from the assembly, and, on the 22d, sent in to Congress a remonstrance against their proceedings. On the 26th, Knowlton notified to Congress that the expensiveness of living and the sickliness of the place, would render it "very disagreeable" for him to remain longer in Philadelphia, and returned home. These events, combined with the doubts which had been excited in the minds of many of the members of Congress as to the validity or invalidity of the differing claims, rendered a postponement of the hearing extremely desirable. This end was accomplished by a resolve to that effect, and thus was a decision avoided, which could not have been announced in any form without exciting ill feelings, whose results would have been visible in compromising the strength of that union which bound the states together, and which gave them a power that would have been weakness itself had they been divided.*
Considering the exposed situation of the northern frontier of Vermont, it had long been a matter of surprise and congratulation that the British and Indians had not more frequently improved the many opportunities which were open to them of attacking the settlers and pillaging their fields and dwellings. This apparent forbearance, so far from arising from any praiseworthy motive, was caused by the many difficulties which the enemy knew it would be necessary for them to encounter in reaching the settlements. But the intervention of steep mountains and pathless forests did not afford complete exemption from attack. On the 9th of August, a party of twenty-one Indians visited the town of Barnard, and made prisoners of Thomas M. Wright, John Newton, and Prince Haskell. These men were subsequently carried to Canada, whence the two former escaped in the spring following. The latter was exchanged after being for more than a year in captivity. While prisoners they suffered many hardships, which differed only in kind from those they endured during their return journey. David Stone of Bethel was also captured at the same time, by the same party. When the settlement of Bethel was begun in the fall of the year 1779, a small stockade fort had been built by the inhabitants of the town for their protection. It stood at the lower end of the west village, on the north side of White river, and its garrison,
* George Clinton Papers, in N. Y. State Lib., vol. x. doc. 3181: xi. 3215. Journals Am. Cong., iii. 518-521, 526, 534.
1780.] INCURSIONS OF THE BRITISH. 383
which had been removed from Royalton, was commanded by Captain Safford. On the occasion of this incursion, it rendered no effectual service in behalf of the inhabitants. Immediately after the attack, the inhabitants of Barnard called a town-meeting, and resolved to build a fort. Benjamin Cox was chosen captain and a message was sent to the Governor for a commission. As soon as the fact of the inroad was known, several companies of soldiers from different parts of the state set out for Barnard, but before they arrived there, the enemy had departed, and the work of defence was almost completed. The fort was known as Fort Defiance, and at times was occupied by a garrison.*
But the sorest trial was yet to come. In July, 1776, an American officer, a certain Lieut. Whitcomb, while out with a scouting party on the river Sorel, had mortally wounded Gen. Gordon, a British officer, as he was riding between Chambly and St. Johns, and had taken from him his sword and watch. The British had long desired to avenge this act, which they regarded as base and villanous, resulting wholly from a desire of plunder, and totally unworthy of an officer. To capture Whitcomb was, with them, a controlling motive. Expecting, it is supposed, that they should find him at Newbury on Connecticut river, an expedition was planned against that town. Of the two hundred and ten men † who were engaged in it, all were Indians, with the exception of seven white men who were refugees and tories. In the beginning of October, the party, under the command of Horton, a British lieutenant, and one Le Mott, his assistant, started on their mission of plunder and revenge. Their guide, whose name was Hamilton, had been made prisoner by the Americans at the surrendry of Burgoyne, in 1777. He had been at Newbury and Royalton during the preceding summer, on parole of honor; and having left the latter place with several others, under pretence of going to survey lands in the northern part of Vermont, had gone directly to the enemy, to whom, no doubt, he communicated such information as served to assist them in executing their barbarous intentions. While proceeding up Onion or Winooski river, they fell in, near the spot where Montpelier now stands, with two white men engaged in hunting, who informed them that the people of New‑
* Vermont Gazetteer, ed. 1824, pp. 53, 64. MS. Letter.
† Williams says 210; Thompson, "about 300."
381 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1780
bury had been expecting an assault from their enemies in Canada, and were well prepared for defence. The information, whether true or false, had the effect to divert them from the primary object of the expedition, and to turn their attention towards Royalton.
This town had formerly been defended by a small garrison, but unfortunately the soldiers had a little while before been removed seven or eight miles westward to Capt. Safford's fort in the town of Bethel, and the inhabitants were now entirely destitute of the means of defence. On reaching the mouth of Stevens's branch, the enemy passed through the town of Barre to Jail branch, which empties into Stevens's branch; and, after proceeding up this stream for some distance, crossed the mountains in Washington and Orange counties, and striking the first branch of White river, followed it down through Chelsea, and encamped at Tunbridge, where they remained during Sunday, the 15th of October, engaged, no doubt, in maturing their plan of attack. Leaving a strong guard at this place, they advanced the next morning before daybreak towards the more settled parts of Tunbridge, and commenced depredations at the house of John Hutchinson, which was situated in Tunbridge, but adjoined the line of Royalton. Having made Mr. Hutchinson and his brother Abijah prisoners, they plundered the house, crossed the first branch of White river, and proceeded to the dwelling of Robert Havens in Royalton, which was not far distant. Mr. Havens, who had gone into his pasture, becoming aware of danger from the barking of the dogs, and beholding at the same time, a party of Indians entering his house, lay down under a log and escaped their notice. His son, Daniel Havens, and another young man, Thomas Pember, who were in the house when the enemy approached, endeavored to escape by flight. Havens succeeded in throwing himself over an adjacent hedge, and, being protected by the bushes, crept down the bank of the stream and concealed himself beneath a log, over which the Indians passed a few minutes afterwards, as they pursued with impetuous haste their escaped prey. Coming up with Pember, one of them aimed at him a spear, which, striking him, inflicted a severe wound. He still continued running, but, becoming faint with the loss of blood; was soon overtaken, killed, and scalped.
Having selected Mr. Havens's house as a deposit for their baggage and a post of observation, a portion of the party were left
1780.] ATTACK ON ROYALTON. 385
there as guards, while the main body again set forth to complete the work of destruction. On their way they overtook Elias Button, a young man, who endeavored to avoid them. But the indians — fleet of foot, and savage by the scent of blood — rendered his attempts useless, and his body was left by the roadside, weltering in its gore. Advancing silently and with great caution, they next entered the dwelling of Joseph Kneeland, which was about a half mile distant from Havens's. Here they made prisoners of Kneeland and his aged father, also of Simeon Belknap, Giles Gibbs, and Jonathan Brown. Carrying devastation in their train, they finally reached the mouth of White river branch, where they made a stand, and dispatched small parties in different directions to plunder the dwellings and bring in prisoners. They had already stolen a number of horses, and, thinking to facilitate operations, they now mounted them, and endeavored to control them by yells and shouts. The horses, unused to such riders, were rendered more and more unmanageable by the frenzied cries of the Indians, and served essentially to impede the execution of their plans. The alarm had now become general, and the frightened inhabitants, flying in every direction, sought such places as might afford a refuge from the barbarity of their pursuers. As a detachment of the enemy were passing down the west bank of White river, they were perceived by one of the inhabitants, who immediately gave notice of their approach to Gen. Elias Stevens, who was working in a field about two miles distant from his house.. Unyoking his oxen, he turned them out, and mounting his horse started up the river. He had gone about a mile in the direction of his dwelling, when he was met by Capt. John Parkhurst, who informed him that the Indians were in full pursuit down the river, and counselled him to turn back. Fearing for the safety of his wife and children, yet aware of the imminent danger which threatened himself, Stevens changed his course, and retraced his steps, in company with Parkhurst. On reaching the house of Deacon Daniel Rix, Stevens took Mrs. Rix and two or three children with him on his horse; Parkhurst performed the same kind office for Mrs. Benton and a number of children, and, with all the care and attention of which the occasion allowed, the party rode off to the field where Stevens, had first received the alarm, being followed by Deacon Rix and several other persons on foot.
On reaching this spot, the women and children were left in charge of a Mr. Burroughs, while Stevens, full of concern for
386 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1780.
his family, again set out for his home. He had gone about half a mile when he discerned the Indians approaching. As they were but a few rods distant, he instantly turned about, and coming up with the company he had left, entreated them to take to the woods immediately. Following his advice they were soon concealed in the neighboring thicket, where they remained undiscovered by the foe. Passing down the road a half mile further, Stevens came in sight of the house of his father-in-law, Tilly Parkhurst. Here he found his sister engaged in milking, and entirely unconscious of the approach of the foe. Telling her to "leave her cow immediately or the Indians would have her," he left her to secure her own retreat. By the time he had gained the house, the Indians were not more than eighty or an hundred rods in the rear. Fear had so taken possession of the half-crazed inhabitants that it was impossible to persuade or compel them to take refuge in the woods. Choosing the road, they kept it as well as their terrible fright and exhaustion would allow until they reached the house of Capt. E. Parkhurst in Sharon. Here they halted for a few moments, but their pursuers appearing in sight, they were compelled again to push forward in order to escape impending destruction. The few horses which the terrified inhabitants had succeeded in securing, could not carry but a small portion of those who had now assembled, and there was but little time for consultation or suggestion. Placing his mother and sister upon his own horse, and Mrs. Rix and her three children on another, Stevens bade them ride on with all possible speed, while he should follow with several others on foot. Mrs. E. Parkhurst and her children who were left at the house, expected nothing but instant death from the hands of the enemy. On their approach, however, having taken her eldest son prisoner, they ordered her and her five children to leave the house. Obeying these commands, she fled to the woods and there remained in safety until the foe had left the place.
Soon after Stevens had started with those who were on foot, his dog coming in his way caused him to stumble, and so impeded his progress that he was obliged to take to the woods to save his life. The Indians pursuing with frightful yells, the unprotected pedestrians who had been so unfortunately deprived of their protector, soon overtook them. But the enemy were too intent on plunder to be impeded by a great number of captive women and children, and of this company Gardner
1780.] SETTLERS MADE PRISONERS BY THE INDIANS. 387
Rix, a boy about fourteen years old, was alone made prisoner. Approaching the house of Mr. Benedict, and having noticed him on the opposite side of a small stream which flowed near by, the Indians beckoned to him to come over to them. Instead of seconding their wishes, he quietly stole away and secreting himself under a log, remained in safety till the danger had passed. While in this situation, the enemy in pursuit of him were at one time standing on the very log which gave him concealment, and he learned by their conversation that they were resolved to tomahawk him should they find him. After going down the river about forty rods further, and capturing a young man named Avery, they concluded to return. Coming to the house of Tilly Parkhurst, situated about six miles from the place where they entered Royalton, they fired at his son, Phineas, who had just returned from the east side of the river, whither he had been to spread the alarm. The ball entered his back, and passing through his body lodged in the skin in front. Notwithstanding the wound, being able to ride, he pursued his course towards Lebanon, New Hampshire, distant sixteen miles, and reached that place in safety, having during the whole journey been obliged to support the ball between his fingers to prevent irritation.
The Indians who went down on the east side of the river, having gone as far as the house of Captain Gilbert, in Sharon, made captive his nephew, Nathaniel Gilbert, and set out on their return. As they retraced their steps, they fired every building within sight, devastated fields, destroyed cattle, wasted the garnered crops, and spread desolation and destruction with unsparing hand.
Daniel Havens — whose escape has been already mentioned — as soon as the savages had gone, ventured from his hiding-place, and coming to the house of General Stevens, gave notice that the Indians were "as thick as the devil," and left the family to their fate. A boy named Daniel Waller, who lived at the house, hearing that the Indians were coming, started immediately to bear the information to the General, but had proceeded a short distance only when he was met and captured by the foe. Mrs. Stevens, who had received the first intimation of their approach from the terrified Havens, had but just arisen from bed with her infant in her arms, when the third party who had gone up the river entered the house. Having searched the dwelling for men, but without success, they car‑
388 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1780.
ried the beds out of doors, and, cutting them open, threw the feathers in the air and amused themselves by watching their eddying convolutions. After plundering the house, they bade Mrs. Stevens "be gone or they would burn." Glad of an opportunity to escape, she hastened with her child to the adjacent woods, where she remained until the enemy had left the town. After firing the dwelling and barn they passed up the river as far as Mr. Durkee's, where they took two of his sons, Adam and Andrew, prisoners. Attracted by a smoke, they directed their course towards it, and finding a young man, named Prince Haskell, busily engaged in clearing land for a settlement, added him to the number of their captives.
At the house of Elias Curtis they took him and Peter Mason prisoners, and commenced the work of plunder. While thus engaged, John Kent rode up to the door, intending to get his horse shod, but had scarcely dismounted when he was seized by the hair of his head and pulled violently over, backwards. A man named Chaffee who was approaching, seeing that Kent had been taken, jumped from his horse, and by pursuing a course which enabled him to use a blacksmith's shop to cover his retreat, effected his escape. He immediately set out for the house of Mr. Hendee, where he lived, and on reaching it gave notice of the on-coming danger. Hendee, having directed his wife to take her little boy about seven years old, and her daughter still younger, and hasten to the house of a neighbor, started to go to Bethel for the purpose of giving the alarm at the fort. Mrs. Hendee had not proceeded far when she was met by a party of Indians who deprived her of her son. Anxious for his fate she asked what they intended to do with him. They told her they should "make a soldier of him," and then hurried him away, while the weeping mother listened to his cries for help, as he vainly endeavored to free himself from the grasp of his savage masters. Having returned to the house of Mr. Havens with their prisoners and plunder, they divided the latter between the different members of the party, and, having set fire to the house and barn, started for Canada, between two and three o'clock in the afternoon. Crossing the hills in Tunbridge, lying west of the first branch of White river, they proceeded to Randolph, in which town they encamped on the banks of the second branch of White river, having gone the distance of ten miles.
As the attack had been so sudden and unexpected, the
1780.] MEASURES DEFENSIVE AND OFFENSIVE. 389
inhabitants had not only been unable to combine for resistance, but had in many cases, through terrible fear, failed to exert the ordinary means of self-preservation. So many hours had now passed since the first appearance of the Indians, that the alarm had spread far and near, and had caused the most intense agitation. As the news was borne through the villages that border the banks of the Connecticut, the bold father and the impetuous son, the hired laborer and the flourishing farmer, all who could be spared with safety, left their firesides and homes without further warning, and marched directly to the scene of plunder and devastation. By evening several hundreds of resolute men had collected at the place where the attack was first commenced, ready to adopt such measures as the emergency demanded.
Here a company was organized, and Col. John House, of Hanover, New Hampshire, who had served several campaigns in the continental army, was chosen commander. In the darkness of midnight, through a waste wilderness, "guided by a few marked trees amidst the logs, rocks, and hills, with which the country abounded," this undisciplined corps began their march in quest of the savage army. Continuing their pursuit with ardor, they reached the spot where the last houses had been destroyed, and, becoming aware that they were approaching the enemy, proceeded with more caution. The Indians had placed their sentries nearly half a mile in the rear of their encampment, at a spot situated a few rods from the river. Near this spot was a small hill, and by the side of the adjacent path stood a number of large trees behind which were posted the Indian guards. A large log was the only bridge provided for crossing the river, and this served for foot-passengers only. Some of House's men were mounted, others were on foot, and their precarious situation at the river rendered it necessary for them to observe the utmost circumspection. The front guard passed the log and the Indian sentries in safety. About one third of the main body had crossed the stream, and the van had arrived within a few yards of the enemy's guards, when they were fired on from behind the trees and one man was wounded.*
* The person wounded on this occasion was Charles Tilden. He was a resident of Dresden, a certain district in New Hampshire, belonging to Dartmouth College, which was then known by this name. Among the MSS. in the office of the Secretary of the state of Vermont is a petition for a pension, signed by Charles Tilden, dated January 30th, 1782, in which it is stated, "that on the
390 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1780.
The fire was returned by the Americans. One of the Indians was killed and two were wounded. The sentries then left their ambush and ran off to the Indian camp, while House's men advanced a little further and then formed themselves within three hundred yards of the enemy's rendezvous and awaited the approach of day. "Great consternation," observes Williams, "now prevailed among the savages. Much fatigued, and in a profound slumber after one of their ravenous suppers, the alarm filled them with fear and confusion." But they were not deficient in stratagem, nor destitute of policy. Taking one of their prisoners named Kneeland, an aged man, they sent him to the Americans, with the information that the Indians would instantly put all the captives to death, should an attack be made. To Giles Gibbs and Joseph Kneeland the rage of the savages had already proved fatal. The former, expecting that his friends would relieve him and his companions, had refused to march. He was afterwards found with a tomahawk buried deep in his head. The latter was killed and scalped to avenge the death of the Indian who had been shot by the Americans. As soon as the old man, Kneeland, had been sent to the camp of the pursuers, the Indians renewed their flight with the utmost expedition, leaving at their encampment, a large quantity of the plunder, and nearly all the horses they had taken. Having placed their best warriors in the rear to cover their retreat, they crossed White river, early on the morning of the 17th, proceeded up the west bank, and having made prisoner of Zadock Steele, who resided in the north part of Randolph, passed through the west part of Brookfield, and on reaching Berlin encamped on Dog river, not many miles from the place where the capital of the state is now located. To secure the captives more effectually at night, a rope was passed around their bodies as they lay upon the ground, and between each of them and upon the rope was placed an Indian. By this device no two of the prisoners were allowed to lie together, and attempt at escape was rendered useless.
alarm when Royalton was destroyed in October, 1780, he served as a sergeant in the company of militia under the command of Capt. Sam. McClure, in pursuit of the enemy, and being detached with a reconnoitering party fell in with, and was fired on by the enemy's guard, by which he was wounded, by receiving a poisoned ball through his arm, by which he was rendered unable to do any kind of business for two months; that he was the only person wounded in the party who pursued the enemy on this occasion," &c.
1780.] RETREAT OF THE MARAUDERS. 391
Continuing their course down Dog river, the party struck Onion river, along which they passed until they reached Lake Champlain on the 20th. Here the Indians found the batteaux in which they had come on their march to Royalton. Embarking in these, they with their captives commenced their journey down the Lake, and after stopping at Grand Isle and the Isle aux Noix, reached St. John's on the 22d, having been nearly seven days on the route. On the following day the captives were taken to Caughnawaga, where many of them were temporarily adopted by the Indian families resident at that place. After remaining in this condition for a few weeks, they were taken to Montreal in the latter part of November, and were there sold to the British as prisoners of war "for a half Joe" each. Of the twenty-five who were carried away, one, Adam Durkee, died while in captivity. Twenty-three were exchanged or redeemed, and returned to their friends during the ensuing summer. The remaining prisoner, Zadock Steele, after enduring a long confinement and being subjected to many hardships, finally effected his escape, and reached the home of his parents in Ellington, Connecticut, on the 17th of October, 1782, just two years from the day on which he was taken by the Indians at Randolph.
After receiving the message from the Indians in which they declared that they would destroy their captives should an attack be attempted; House and his men determined to abide where they were until morning. It was then discovered that the enemy had left their encampment. Notwithstanding this discovery, the company marched about five miles further to Brookfield. Finding all things quiet at this place, and judging that pursuit would be useless, they retraced their steps and returned to their homes. In commenting upon the conduct of House and his men, Williams observes, they "lost the opportunity of attacking the enemy to advantage, by their caution and delay." In his account of the "Burning of Royalton," Steele remarks of House, "had he possessed courage and skill adequate to the duties of his station, he might have defeated the enemy, it is thought, without the least difficulty, and made them all prisoners." To one acquainted with the facts as they have been transmitted by those who have written on the subject, these conclusions appear to be far from just. Conversant with the Indian character; aware, that to a savage the name of foe is a warrant for any deed of cruelty; satisfied that
392 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1780.
in the present instance, nothing would be spared by the enemy to prevent a defeat in case an attack should be made; and unwilling that the captives should be sacrificed through any vain desire of his own for a victory, which to say the least, he was not sure of gaining, Rouse refused to lead his men in a contest, whose result would have been the certain murder of twenty-five persons, and, without doubt, the slaughter of many of his own men. We are told that
"The better part of valor is — discretion."
Judged by this maxim, Col. Rouse at once assumes the character of the prudent soldier. Viewed in the light of a noble humanity, his conduct appears in the highest degree praiseworthy and magnanimous.
Upon a review of the losses of the day, it was found that the Indians had burned one house in Tunbridge, two houses in Sharon, twenty-one in Royalton, several in Randolph, and sixteen new barns variously located, which were filled with hay and grain; that they had slaughtered about one hundred and fifty head of neat cattle, and all the sheep and swine they could find; and had destroyed all the household furniture which they could not take with them. As on other occasions, so now, their attachment to devastation and plunder was unabated. The packs with which they laded their captives on their retreat from Royalton, were filled with plunder of every kind. Axes, hoes, pots, kettles, shovels, tongs, sickles, scythes, and chains were mingled in almost inextricable confusion; and the backs of many of the party supported old side-saddles, bed-ticks, warming-pans, plates, looking-glasses, frying-pans, spiders, and many farming implements — as well as household utensils. In their conduct, the Indians in this inroad displayed less of the savage character than is usual on such occasions. As a general rule they were eager to take as captives the young men and those who were in middle life; but they did not seem desirous either to carry off the women or female children, or to commit violence, except in extraordinary cases. After they had burned the house of John Hutchinson, they evinced a kind of savage satire, by giving his wife a hatchet and a flint, together with a quarter of mutton, and bidding her "go and cook for her men." On reaching the dwelling of Elias Curtis, they broke into his wife's apartment, and having discovered Mrs.
1780.] ADVENTURES OF CAPTIVES. 393
Curtis who had just arisen, for it was yet early morning, one of the Indians seized her by the throat, and brandishing a large knife was apparently intending to destroy her, when his attention was arrested by a string of gold beads which she wore about her neck. More avaricious than cruel, his knife descended only to part the string on which they were collected, and Mrs. Curtis, although no Romanist, was actually saved by her beads.
During the destruction of Royalton, two women who had been aroused from sleep by the appearance of a number of the Indians, who entered their dwelling in the grey of morning, were so much terrified at the sight, that losing for a time their self-command, they went out of doors, clad only in their night garments, and stood motionless by the side of their dwellings until the Indians brought them their clothing. Aroused from their stupor of fear by this act of kindness, they put on their apparel, and, taking two or three small children and a young woman with them, fled to the woods. One woman residing in the western part of the same town, was sufficiently courageous to reproach the savages for their conduct in distressing females and children, and in a taunting manner, told them, that "if they had the spirits and souls of men," they would cross White river, and attack the fort at Bethel. They bore her remarks with patience, their only reply being, "Squaw should not say too much." After plundering one of the houses, the Indians had carried the pillage and piled it in a heap before the door. As they stood around it, selecting such articles as they liked best, a woman chanced to espy her gown amid the mass, and forthwith took it. Upon this an Indian, who claimed her as his captive, clubbed his gun and knocked her down. Recovering from the effects of the blow, she waited till her master had carried the gown to another heap, and had become engaged in adding to the plunder already collected. She then approached the pile which was surrounded by the savage crowd, and seizing her gown the second time, succeeded in bearing it away, holding at the same time, one child in her arms, and leading another by the hand.
But the exploits of Mrs. Hendee mark her as the heroine of the occasion. After the attack had been made upon her husband's house, she, by his advice, started for a neighboring dwelling with her little boy and girl. While on the road she was met by a party of Indians who took her son, but left her
394 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1780.
daughter with her. Possessing "uncommon resolution, and great presence of mind," she determined to rescue her son from the hands of his captors. Taking her little girl by the hand, she proceeded down the river on foot, until she discovered a large body of Indians stationed on the opposite shore. Wishing to find the officer in command, she set out to cross the river, and was preparing to ford the stream, when she was met by an Indian who by signs asked her whither she was going. Having made known to him her intentions, he in a fit of good humor or gallantry, or perhaps both, offered to take her over on his back. She refused his proposal, but allowed him to carry her child. The little girl protested against this proceeding, declaring that "she didn't want to ride the old Indian," but becoming reconciled to her steed, the three entered the water. They had gone nearly half across the stream, when the current becoming more rapid, the polite Indian in order to reassure Mrs. Hendee, patted her on the shoulder, and signified to her his readiness to assist her to the other side when he had taken her child over, provided she would wait upon a rock near by, whose surface was above the water. This time she did not reject his offer. Clambering up on the rock, she there remained until he returned. True to his word he then took her pick-back, and carrying her to the other side, landed her as he had her daughter, in safety.
Hastening to Horton, she implored him to restore her child. She was informed that he would not be hurt, but with others would be trained as a soldier. Ill satisfied with this reply, she continued her pious importunity, until the British lieutenant assured her that he would release him. On the arrival of the company in whose charge the boy had been placed, Horton prevailed on the Indians to give him up to his mother. Having been successful in this undertaking, she endeavored to procure the release of some of her neighbors' children. At this juncture, she was compelled by the cruel threats and actions of one of the savage party, again to relinquish her son. A second time did she appeal to Horton for aid, and again succeeded in liberating her offspring. She now set out on her return, having in her charge her own little girl, and eight boys, whose freedom she had obtained. On reaching the stream, Mrs. Hendee carried two of the children across it on her back, one at a time, as she a little while before had been borne by the Indian. The rest forded the river together, their arms being placed around
1780.] PRECAUTIONS. 395
each other's necks, that they might the better withstand the force of the current. She was welcomed with great joy on her return, and for many years after lived to receive the oft-repeated thanks of those whose children she had been the instrument of releasing from a captivity whose terrors were akin to the terrors of death.
During the succeeding winter, the sufferers by this sad calamity, found a shelter in the homes of their more fortunate neighbors and friends, and experienced a sympathy which was peculiarly grateful to them, when compared with the treatment they had received from the savage foe.*
Warned by the destruction of Royalton, the inhabitants of Cumberland county assembled in their respective towns to take measures for the promotion of the common safety, and the more effectual protection of the settlements. The result of these meetings was an understanding that every able-bodied man should hold himself in readiness at a minute's warning, both for particular and general defence. In the midst of these proceedings the community were alarmed by reports of the presence of hostile bands of Indians within the state. An excellent opportunity was now afforded for the exercise of that activity which had been declared essential to the safety of life and property. Not confined to the locality at which it began, the alarm pervaded the southern part of the county, and was the most extensive panic experienced in Vermont during the war.
The last day of October was glorious in autumnal beauties, and the bright sun, as he pursued his way through the cloudless heavens, glanced at the dying leaves of the ended summer, and tinged their changing forms with the hues of the rainbow.† Favored by the weather, a party of gentlemen were engaged in
* In a little work entitled "The Indian Captive; or a Narrative of the Captivity and Sufferings of Zadock Steele," printed at Montpelier, in 1818, the hardships of one of the prisoners taken at the burning of Royalton, during a confinement of two years, are described by himself in a quaint and entertaining manner. From "An Account of the Burning of Royalton" prefixed to this "Narrative," many of the facts stated in the text, have been taken. Frequent reference has also been had to Williams's Hist. Vt., Ed. 2d, ii. 235-242.
† Thompson says, in one account, that this alarm occurred "a few days after the burning of Royalton;" in another, "on the 26th of November," and in a third, "on the eve of the last day of October," and in a note calls attention to a discrepancy in the dates. The date in the text rests on the authority of the researches of the Rev. Ephraim H. Newton, embodied in his MS. " History of the Town of Marlborough."
396 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1780.
surveying the lands which border the margin of Grassy Brook, in the town of Brookline. While thus occupied, they were seen by some sportsmen who were hunting on Putney "West Hill." One of the latter, named Reed, who had often boasted of his ability to imitate the Indian war-whoop, took this occasion to display his peculiar vocal powers, and substantiated his vaunt by giving and repeating again and again the shriek of the savage, with an accuracy terrible as reality. Startled by the fearful sound, the surveyors collected their instruments, and made a precipitate retreat, announcing the approach of the Indians to all whom they met. Two men who were cutting wood in a remote part of the town of Athens, heard the shrill cries, and, imagining them to be the yells of Indians, quitted their work, and with true benevolence spread the alarm in all directions. The dread of the savage foe and the recollection of the fearful scenes which had been so lately witnessed gave rise to the most awful apprehensions. The idea of awaiting the appearance of the enemy was not for a moment entertained. To prepare for defence was deemed useless. Flight presented the only means of safety, and this means was instantly adopted by all who received the terrible tidings. The cattle were left in the stalls, dwellings were deserted, and the last look was taken at homes which, it was supposed, were never again to be recognised save in the ashes of their ruin. Women with their infant children mounted the few horses that were to be had, and rode off with desperate speed, leaving those who were more hardy to follow on foot. So frightful was the panic, that in some instances teams were left harnessed in the fields, ovens which were being heated were allowed to grow cool at leisure, and victuals which were being cooked were permitted to take their chances at the blazing hearthstones.* As the terrified inhabitants hastened their perilous flight, dangers seemed to thicken around them, and "to their bewildered imaginations every noise became the yell of the savage, and every rock and every tree of the forest a lurking place for the cruel foe."
During the pleasant day the "industrious inhabitants" of Newfane had been busily engaged in clearing land, and collecting in piles the brushwood and old logs, to be burned. As evening came on, lowering clouds began to gather, and soon the snow
* "Jonathan Perham and family decamped in such haste that they left their oven heating and their oxen tied to a tree." Thompson's Vt., Part III. p. 6.
1780.] A FALSE ALARM. 397
commenced falling. The opportunity was favorable for completing the day's work successfully. The huge heaps were fired, and the diligent farmers heard with satisfaction the crackling of the dry boughs, and watched with pleasure the brilliant masses of light which flamed upward amid the thick black smoke. The fugitives from the supposed enemy, as they turned for a moment in their distressing flight, and gazed at the strange fires, which, seen through the falling snow, glared with unnatural and baleful splendor, were now convinced that the Indians had pillaged the deserted dwellings, and wrapped them in one common conflagration. The report was spread through the neighboring towns that "every log house in the pleasant vales and upon the heights of Newfane" and Athens had been destroyed, and the fearful question followed as to where the next blow would fall. In the more distant towns watches were set, dwellings were guarded, firelocks were loaded, ammunition was prepared, and means of escape were provided in case defence should fail. Sleep was a stranger to every eye, and the whole night was spent in expectation of the approach of the merciless foe.
The alarm having reached Dummerston, Captain Myrick sent a letter by express to Colonel Sargeants of Brattleborough, with the information that the enemy had reached Newfane. The energetic Colonel gave immediate notice to Mr. Stockwell, who resided in the eastern part of Marlborough, to call out the town militia for the purpose of repulsing the Tories and Indians. On the 1st of November, general orders were issued for the soldiers to rendezvous, and for the families to avoid the enemy as best they could. Companies from Westminster, Brattleborough, and Marlborough, were soon en route for the place whence the alarm had proceeded. The snow which had fallen during the night now lay deep upon the ground, and the trees were so heavily laden as to bend in every direction. Having gone three miles on the road to Newfane, the soldiers became satisfied that neither Tories nor Indians could so far surmount the obstructions which nature was so bountifully providing, as to extend their ravages, and forthwith returned home. Meanwhile companies from Halifax and from Colrain in Massachusetts, had assembled at Brattleborough, but, owing to the disbelief which began now to prevail in regard to the presence of the enemy, they proceeded no further. Others who had set out from points nearer to the supposed scene of terror, marched into a deserted town, and entered forsaken but unharmed houses, having found
398 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1780.
nothing to hinder their advance save the deepening snows of a Vermont winter.
The alarm reached Marlborough in the afternoon of the day on which it began. Notwithstanding the severity of the storm, women and children left their houses, assembled near the centre of the town, and commenced their march south, headed by their pastor, the Rev. Gershom C. Lyman and his friend Col. Zadock Granger. Their progress was slow, and after advancing a few miles they were obliged to stop and obtain shelter for the night. Those from Athens who had fled east had received accessions to their number in their journey, and on reaching Putney, their party amounted to between two hundred and three hundred. Some of the sick and infirm had been brought a short distance, but the desire of personal safety had mastered the virtue of self-sacrifice, and they had been left at places which afforded shelter, and where they might, it was hoped, escape the notice of the foe. Having reached Westmoreland on the east bank of the Connecticut, the wearied and terror-stricken fugitives halted. On their way thither, they had paused for a moment at the dwelling of Noah Sabin Sen., in Putney, and had found him quietly engaged in his accustomed avocations. To him they related their tale of terror, but he discredited the story which they told and refused to be frightened by what he deemed improbable. Ever since the time when, as judge by the authority of the King, Mr. Sabin at the fatal occurrence of the "Westminster Massacre," had refused to act any other part than that which became a loyal subject of Great Britain, he had been considered an avowed adherent to the New York jurisdiction, and had been regarded by many as a supporter of the royal cause. His dignified calmness on an occasion like this, when fear gave wings to flight, aroused the suspicions of the fugitives. He was forthwith denounced as a friend of the national enemy, and the belief prevailed that a secret understanding existed between him and the Indians. Many were the curses which were heaped upon him as the angry multitude pressed onward to escape the dreaded foe and the man whom they now deemed no better than a Tory.
When the intelligence of the following day had dissipated their terrors, preparations were made for a return, but the snow of the night previous had blocked up the roads, which at the best were but poor, and had rendered them almost impassable. Overcome with toil and exposure, many of the sufferers were invited to enter the hospitable mansion of him who a few
1780.] GENEROSITY OF NOAH SABIN SEN. 399
hours before had been the object of their bitterest invective and abuse. Here they were furnished with food and clothing, and in other ways received such assistance as their necessities required. The effect of this kind treatment was to remove from the minds of all every idea of treachery on the part of Judge Sabin, and, though he might still favor the jurisdiction of New York upon the "Grants," he was never again accused of upholding the cause of Great Britain. The "brave soldiery" of Marlborough, when the alarm was proved groundless, "with undaunted courage pursued their wives and children," as the reverend chronicler, Mr. Newton, quaintly observes, "and bringing them in triumph as the fairest achievements and noblest trophies of victory, took possession of their dwellings, and exchanged the pursuits of war for the sweet enjoyments of domestic peace."*
* Thompson's Vt. Part II. pp. 70, 71: Part III. pp. 6, 111, MS. Hist. Marlborough.