THE DISORDERED CONDITION OF THE SOUTH-EASTERN PORTION OF VERMONT.
Popular impressions — Charles Phelps returns home — Evans — Shattuck — Church, his imprisonment — His sufferings — His release — Timothy Phelps — His attempt to disperse the Superior Court — Is surrounded and surrenders his sword of office — His confinement in the jail at Bennington — Letters written while in prison — Maltreatment — Effects his release — Gov. Clinton's letter to Church — Social disorder in Guilford — Vermont Legislature in grand committee — Result of their deliberations — Act of the General Assembly — Seizure of Luke Knowlton — The examination of those engaged in the seizure — Ineffectual attempt to take Francis Prouty — Benjamin Carpenter taken by the Yorkers — Incidents — Petition addressed by the New York party to the Government of Vermont — Gov. Chittenden's reply — More depredations — Stephen R. Bradley's letter to the Guilfordites — Head-quarters of the state troops at Brattleborough — Daniel Ashcraft — Attack on the inn at Brattleborough — Oliver Waters taken — Retaken by Joseph Tucker and his men — Tucker in pursuit of Timothy Phelps — Phelps taken at Hadley and carried off — Foray of the sheriff of Hampshire county, who releases Phelps — Tucker and his party tried and fined — Tucker's complaint.
THE New York party in Vermont, though reduced to a minority, were still unwilling to abandon their cause. Startling reports of negotiations between the Governor and Council of Vermont on the one hand, and the agents of the British ministry in Canada on the other; the flight of Luke Knowlton of Newfane, and Samuel Wells of Brattleborough, on the receipt of information of the passage by Congress, in secret session, of a resolution authorizing their arrest by the Commander-in-chief, in consequence of "a dangerous correspondence and intercourse" in which they were said to be engaged "with the enemy;" the constant passing and repassing of messengers the fact that passports could be obtained from Governor Chittenden which would give the bearer a safe-conduct among the British in Canada — these and other circumstances induced
486 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1783.
many to believe that Vermont was preparing to desert the American cause, and influenced some to seek protection from New York. In the town of Putney, forty of the inhabitants who had formerly acknowledged the authority of the latter state, returned to their allegiance. In a petition addressed to Governor Clinton, a number of the citizens of Hartford and Pomfret begged that they might be considered not "as those who had rebelled against the best of governments," when the district of the New Hampshire Grants should again become subject to New York.*
Notwithstanding the determined opposition with which the government and people of Vermont received the resolves of the 5th of December, those for whose relief they had been passed were not deterred from attempting to avail themselves of the rights which, according to these resolves, they were entitled to claim. Depending on the support of Congress, a certain Paul Nichols repaired to Bennington and endeavored to obtain possession of a gun and a quantity of ammunition which had been taken from him in the month of September previous. But Samuel Robinson, to whom he applied, denied that his property had been seized on the occasion referred to, and refused to listen to his application.
Determined to await the decision of Congress, Charles Phelps had remained in Philadelphia until the resolutions had been approved of. On the 9th of December, 1782, he set out on his return, bearing dispatches to Governor Clinton. Owing to a heavy fall of snow and the impassableness of the roads, he did not reach Poughkeepsie until towards the close of that month. On arriving at Marlborough in January, 1783, he desired three of his friends to accompany him and be present when he should demand the restoration of his effects. Whatever his previous opinion may have been concerning the efficacy of the resolves of the 5th of December, he now became convinced that they would accomplish but little unless supported by a military force. His demands were treated with scorn, and he found himself unable to obtain restitution or damages. He was informed that his sword, which had been taken from his son's bedroom, was in the possession of a Dummerston man, who had sworn that Phelps should never "have it any other way " than by receiving it in his body. He was also assured that a war‑
* George Clinton Papers in N. Y. State Lib., vol. xvii. docs. 4939, 5055.
1783.] THE FOUR BANISHED YORKERS. 487
rant for his arrest was now in the hands of a Vermont deputy, and that he was liable to be taken at any moment. For greater security, he left his home and family and took up his residence in Guilford, the stronghold of the New York party. Here he remained during several months, and to this town he often resorted at a later period when safety counselled concealment.*
Of the four Yorkers who had been banished from the state and deprived of their property, Henry Evans, as has been already stated, having dared to return, was, for some reason not apparent, allowed to remain unmolested, though he still preserved his former views, refused to submit to the claims of Vermont, acknowledged the authority of New York, and maintained a friendly correspondence with Governor Clinton in behalf of himself and his associates. William Shattuck, after an absence of more than two months, reentered the state on the 15th of December, 1782, and there remained among his friends until the beginning of the following January, when he received a summons from Governor Clinton, desiring his attendance at Poughkeepsie. His transactions with the Governor being ended, he returned home early in February, but had hardly become reinstated in his house when he was informed that a party, "employed by the express order of the pretended Superior court, in that district of country called the New Hampshire Grants," were on the alert to arrest him. He accordingly fled to Guilford, confident that the Vermonters could not raise a force on the east side of the mountains sufficient to apprehend him while he continued under the protection of his friends in that town. But he did not remain here long. Being desirous of notifying to Governor Clinton the condition of himself and his friends, he again visited Poughkeepsie, where, on the 22d of February, he made a formal deposition before Robert Morris of such facts as he deemed important. A few days later he was sent with dispatches to Philadelphia. Although a warrant
* George Clinton Papers in N. Y. State Lib., vol. xvii. docs. 4897, 4898, 4909, 5009. MS. Depositions of Charles Phelps.
488 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1783.
for his arrest was in the hands of the proper officer, yet so long as he prudently refrained from rendering himself obnoxious to the laws of Vermont by special acts of disobedience, he was allowed to hold communication with his family without being moletsed.*
The sufferings of Timothy Church, as has been previously shown, were more in accordance with the denunciations with which he and his friends had been threatened in the sentence of the Superior court. Having returned to Brattleborough on the 15th of December, 1782, he was seized on the 22d, in his own house, by a party of armed men, acting under the authority of Vermont, and taken to Westminster, where he was handcuffed and placed in jail. On the day following his arrest he was ironed, and conveyed across the mountains to Arlington. On reaching this place his irons were removed, but on being brought before Governor Chittenden he was again shackled by direction of that official, and committed to the jail in Bennington. For the first half week of his confinement he was kept in irons both by night and by day. During the four succeeding days his irons were taken off in the morning and put on again at evening. Subsequently these restraints were entirely removed. Being regarded with especial distrust, since by his own confession he had opposed the officers of Vermont after subscribing the "freeman's oath," a petition, in which he begged to be released, was viewed with but little favor by the Governor. But the temper which it displayed was regarded by some of the state Council as a favorable indication, and probably secured for him milder treatment than under other circumstances he would have received. With the design either of extorting a large sum of money from his friends for his ransom, or of forcing him to an unconditional submission, or of intimidating others who might be inclined to disobey the laws of Vermont, a report was disseminated that he was to be executed, and he was advised to prepare for the fatal hour. The currency which this rumor obtained is evident from its frequent
* George Clinton Papers in N. Y. State Lib., vol. xvii. docs. 4909, 4910, 4941. MS. Deposition.
1783.] IMPRISONMENT OF CHURCH AND PHELPS. 489
repetition in the letters written by various citizens of Vermont at that period.
At the end of a month and a half the solitude and misery of confinement was made more tolerable by the presence of a friend — a political prisoner like himself — and from that time until the hour of his release, he found intelligent sympathy in the company of Timothy Phelps, the deposed sheriff of Cumberland county. Wearied with vain attempts to propitiate the government of Vermont, Timothy Church and Timothy Phelps determined to notify to Governor Clinton their condition, in the hope of obtaining some relief through his interposition. The document in which they made known their situation and prospects was dated the 28th of March. It was drawn by Charles Phelps, and abounded in all that fulsomeness of diction and redundancy of expression, by which both his compositions and conversation were distinguished. Though intended especially for the perusal of the first person named in the direction, it was addressed to "His Excellency Governor Clinton, His Excellency General Washington, and to the Honorable Continental Congress as the Supreme Council of the United States of America." Of the various topics discussed in this memorial — some of them wholly irrelevant and many of them unimportant — the most interesting to the prisoners were, without doubt, those which related to their situation and the means by which they could obtain relief. The description of their condition was sufficiently graphic. They are confined, wrote the amanuensis, "in the nasty, scandalous prison, erected by that detestable and most rebellious people, called the Vermonters, in Bennington." In summing up the causes of their unhappiness, the same fertile pen declared it to be immeasurably disgraceful for them to be compelled to suffer imprisonment "from that vile nest of detestable, seditious Vermonters," more especially at that period "when the triumph of the American arms" was adding transcendent lustre "to the honor, dignity, and grandeur of the arms of their glorious allies both by sea and land; reflecting lasting honor on the power, virtue, and courage of the house of Bourbon; and asserting the honor, establishing the grandeur, and eternizing the dignity and glory of his most Christian majesty's triumphant flag."
Sentiments and words like these, although they might have been hailed as patriotic had they originated elsewhere, did not serve to aid those for whose benefit they were intended. On the
490 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1783.
contrary, it was noticed that from the day on which this grandiloquent application was drafted, the jailer refused to supply Colonel Church with food. But his friends did not desert him in this emergency. The "good people of Guilford" contributed from their wasted estates liberally for his support; and from the money which they sent him he was enabled to supply his wants during the remainder of his confinement. From the letters which the prisoners themselves wrote while at Bennington, it is clear that the life they there led must have been odious in the extreme. "Our estates," said they, in a joint communication to Governor Clinton, dated the 10th of April, "our estates — everything that we had — are seized and sold; our families are in the greatest want; destruction has seized our habitations, and we are left by our masters to perish in prison. This has befallen us because we have been true to Congress, and faithful to the state which we have ever been in. If there is any prospect of our being released from this stinking jail, we should be glad to know it, for we cannot stand it much longer. We came home under the royal law of Congress. That law Vermont pays no regard to, and without speedy help we shall sicken and die." In another letter to the same gentleman, dated the 1st of May, "It seems hard," they wrote, "that officers of a sovereign state, who have jeoparded their lives in the high places of the field* against the powers of Great Britain, should be kept in close prison by enemies of the United States against the royal law of Congress." Though in terms like these they bewailed their misfortunes, yet they were not ignorant of the conditions on which release could be obtained. To submit to these conditions was, however, a humiliation to which for a long time imprisonment seemed preferable — a disgrace, the indignity of which was only to be incurred when all hope of relief from other sources had failed.
During the late session of the General Assembly, a law had been enacted on the 24th of February, intended to facilitate the return to their allegiance of those who were desirous of again becoming subjects of Vermont. In the preamble of the act a suggestion was entertained, that some of those persons who had lately been convicted "of conspiring and attempting an invasion, insurrection, and public rebellion" against the state, and had been banished therefor, were "penitent and desirous of returning to
* Judges, chap. V. v. 18.
1783.] RELEASE OF TIMOTHY CHURCH. 491
their duty." To this was added a declaration that the Assembly were desirous at all times of showing mercy, provided it could be done consistently with the public safety. On these grounds the Governor and Council "were fully authorized and empowered," in the words of the act, "upon application to them made during the adjournment of this Assembly, to pardon any of the said persons who have been banished from this state by the Supreme court, as aforesaid, in as full and ample a manner as this Assembly could do if convened." At the same session another act had been passed, granting pardon to Timothy Church who had been "found guilty of treason," but who had by his own petition declared his "sincere and hearty penitence, and a determination to behave orderly and submissive" in case he should receive forgiveness. The condition of pardon and of the remission of the sentence passed upon him in the month of September, 1782, was the payment of all costs which had accrued in consequence of his trial and imprisonment.
Aware of these legislative provisions, and weary of prison life, Colonel Church at length applied for his release. In answer to his application, Governor Chittenden informed him that, to obtain a discharge, he would be obliged to give his bond with surety for the payment to the treasurer of Vermont of £20 10s. lawful money of Massachusetts, the sum due for costs of trial; and pay £4 11s. for seven weeks' board in jail. To these terms he consented, and on the 16th of May left a prison where he had dragged out nearly five months of confinement in cold, want, and pain. During the period of his banishment, his family had been permitted to reside upon and improve his farm, "by the permission and indulgence" of the state. The same privilege was now accorded to him. But his whole estate was still regarded as confiscated, and levies were not unfrequently made upon his cattle or his household goods, whenever a collection was to be made to replenish the treasury of the state. In a deposition which he made on the 24th of June, referring to the sufferings to which he had been subjected, he stated that, "although no formal regular charge" had been exhibited against him, he was satisfied that "the only cause for which he was apprehended and confined was his returning home after he had been banished," and that the cause of his banishment was the acceptance of a commission from the state of New York. On the same occasion he affirmed his loyalty in the most positive manner, declaring that he "never did acknowledge himself to
492 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1783.
owe allegiance or subjection to the pretended state of Vermont, but, on the contrary, had always, since the first attempt to establish that pretended state, claimed himself to be a subject of the state of New York."*
At the close of his imprisonment at Westminster, Timothy Phelps with his three associates, on the 4th of October, 1782, had been carried across the Connecticut into New Hampshire, and there banished for ever from the state of Vermont, the penalty to be death in case he should return. Finding himself free to travel anywhere except within the prohibited district, Phelps bent his course southward, and on reaching Hadley, Massachusetts, tarried there awhile at the house of his brother Charles. Thence he proceeded to Norwich landing, Connecticut, and was there residing with a brother-in-law when he heard of the passage of the resolves of the 5th of December. With full faith in the efficacy of their provisions he returned home in the latter part of January, 1783. The rejoicings of his family on this occasion were heartfelt and triumphant. They not only believed their troubles ended, but were confident that their fortunes were made; that the estates which had been confiscated would be restored; and that immense damages would be awarded for false imprisonment, banishment, and threats of death. Though it is hardly possible that anticipations as bright as these could have met their full realization from any act of the people or government of Vermont, yet it is highly probable that Phelps, had he remained quietly on his farm, would have suffered little or no molestation. But such was not his nature.
On the 4th of February, a session of the Superior court was held at Marlborough. The presence of the judges in his own town, before whom he had been tried and found guilty, and from whom he had received sentence of banishment, aroused within the breast of Phelps that old feeling of hatred, which absence from the scenes in which it had been most exercised had tended in some degree to abate. Confiding in the power under which he acted, and completely assured that no body of men claiming to be Americans would dare to disregard the decrees of the highest council in the United States, he boldly entered the court-house on the second day of the session, armed and garbed as a sheriff deriving authority from the state of New York.
* George Clinton Papers, in N. Y. State Lib., vol. xvii. docs. 4951, 5009, 5066, 5105. Acts Gen. Ass. Vt., Feb., 1783. Slade's Vt. State Papers, pp. 467, 470.
1783.] EXCITING SCENE IN THE SUPERIOR COURT. 493
Having reached a commanding position, he reminded the court that they were exercising a usurped authority, and referring to their action on a former occasion touching himself, demanded of them full and ample restitution for the injuries he had sustained by banishment, by the confiscation of his property, and by the loss of personal liberty. He then took from his pocket the resolves of Congress, but had hardly commenced reading when he was interrupted by the chief judge, the Hon. Moses Robinson of Bennington, afterwards Governor, who exclaimed:— "What supercilious arrogance have we here? Sheriff, take that disorderly man into custody! We are not subject to the authority of Congress!" These words, pronounced with emotion, and in a voice corresponding with a scene so strange and unexpected, threw the whole house into confusion, and put an end at once to the business of the court.
Sharing in the astonishment which was visible in every countenance, and confounded at the audacity of the veritable sheriff of Cumberland county, the Vermont sheriff, Dr. Elkanah Day, hesitated whether to obey the order or not. Noticing this indecision, Phelps, whose natural bearing was dignified and manly, drew himself up to his full height, and elevating his powerful voice, commanded, "in the name and by the authority of the state of New York, and of the Continental Congress, the unlawful assemblage before him, forthwith to disperse." The courage manifested in the attitude he had assumed, sustained as was boldly claimed by a power capable of making itself respected, was not without its effect on the audience. However the authorities of Vermont might despise and resist the laws of New York, they could not be blind to the fact that on many occasions Congress had been the sheet-anchor of their hopes, the promoter of their welfare, the defender of their hearths and homes. For a moment, reflections like these seemed to pervade the thoughts of all present. The Vermont sheriff, as he stood confronting the man who claimed his title and office, seemed perplexed. At this juncture the voice of Judge Robinson was again heard:— "Sheriff, do your duty! Imprison the convicted traitor!" Commanding the populace to render their assistance in case he should require it, Dr. Day drew his sword of office and prepared to make the arrest. Phelps seeing that resistance would be useless, that popular feeling was against him, and that there were none present to support him in case he should attempt his own defence, quietly
494 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1783.
awaited the result. The sheriff approached. "What is your, will, sir?" demanded Phelps, as he laid his hand on the hilt of his sword. "You are my prisoner, disarm yourself!" replied the sheriff. While engaged in unbuckling his sword-belt, Phelps turned towards the crowded assemblage and said, "Fellow-citizens of Cumberland county, your sheriff is deserted; his lawful authority is disobeyed; I yield to brute force." Addressing, then, the officer, he reminded him that the usurped authority under which he acted, would, in all probability, be of short duration; that Congress were willing, ready, able, and had pledged their honor to execute their decrees; and that a terrible retribution for the deeds of that day would soon overtake him and the masters he served. With these sentiments on his lips, Phelps placed the hilt of his sword in the hand of his opponent, and yielded himself a prisoner.
While the sheriff was bearing him off, the populace, the majority of whom were his near neighbors, followed in disorderly procession. Though up to this hour they had been in the daily practice of interchanging with him the civilities of friendship; though many of them had often received assistance and kindness at his hands; though some were even then living on farms which they had obtained by his aid — forgetting these favors, they were now foremost in heaping condemnations upon him, on account of his political offences. As they crowded around him, they gazed at him with the same sort of curiosity in their looks and actions, as they would have shown had he been a chained lion, just taken from the forest, whom his keepers were conveying to his cage. Until a decision should be made as to his future treatment, Phelps was placed in the guard-house at Marlborough. Opinions were various as to the course which should be pursued towards him. By some he was adjudged guilty of death, since he had rendered himself liable to the penalty denounced against him in case he should return. There is a tradition that he was even sentenced to be hung; that he was informed by those who came to visit him that his doom was fixed; that the rabid language of the multitude, which he was compelled to hear, justified the sacrifice that was to be made; and that the reflections natural to one placed in a condition so solemn as was his, were disturbed by the sounds which echoed from the blows of the workmen as they fashioned in the jail-yard the gallows on which the traitor was to die.
Happily for all parties, gentler counsels prevailed. Prudence
1783.] SUFFERINGS OF TIMOTHY PHELPS. 495
or humanity dictated another course. Before the court had closed their session, the sheriff received an order "to transport Timothy Phelps, by the nearest and most convenient route, to Bennington jail, and commit him to the keeper thereof, to await the further order of the law in his behalf." He remained during the rest of the week at Marlborough, under the care of a guard of armed men, who at the end of that time escorted him across the mountains, and on the 11th of February lodged him in Bennington jail. Thus was Timothy Phelps, in the dead of a Vermont winter, incarcerated in a cold and cheerless prison with common felons. He was not, however, entirely deprived of sympathy. In the company of his friend and fellow-sufferer, Timothy Church, he passed many an hour which would otherwise have been devoted to the most mournful reflections. Being permitted to maintain a correspondence, he beguiled his moments by writing to his family, and to others whom he believed interested in his condition. From the first letter which he wrote, jointly with Col. Church, to Governor Clinton, and from the petition drawn by his father, Charles Phelps, which accompanied it, extracts have been already given. Another communication from the pen of the latter gentleman in behalf of the prisoners, bearing date the 8th of April, shows that Church was not alone in being thrown upon his friends for support. "My son has again sent to me for more money to subsist himself upon in prison;" wrote Charles Phelps, "how I can get it I know not."
It is from the letters of Timothy Phelps himself; however, that a true idea may be formed of his condition while in the jail at Bennington. "You must excuse my scrawl for I wrote it on my knee," he remarked at the close of a letter to Governor Clinton, dated the 1st of May. "I meet with insult on insult," wrote he in another portion of the scrawl. "Vermont authority have seized and sold all my goods, chattels, and estate, and they keep me close confined in jail without any kind of support. My money is all gone, and I live upon the charity of my friends. My family are put to the greatest straits. My health decays, and when hot weather comes I don't know what I shall do. The officers of Vermont tell me that I shall be in jail to all eternity unless I petition to their Governor. I tell them I will see them all damned before I will, without Congress shall make them a state. It is to my own masters I stand or fall." Proving thus his loyalty both by his words and his deeds, he besought Clinton to inform him whether there was any proba‑
496 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1783.
bility that Congress would make any exertions to enforce the "royal law" of the 5th of December last, trusting to which he had returned in spite of the sentence of banishment which had been passed upon him.*
In a subsequent communication, he again reminded Governor Clinton of the losses he had sustained, and of the privations he was enduring in consequence of his attachment to New York. Then referring to the last attempt that Congress had made to relieve the subjects of that state, he exclaimed:— "If the authority of thirteen sovereign states cannot put one law in force so just as this is, too — a law built on holy writ — the Lord have mercy on them!" "I am in a much worse situation," he added, "than Col. Church was. They have ruined and undone me, and now they seek my life to take it away. I cannot consistently with my oath do anything towards petitioning the authority of Vermont, before I hear from my Governor. Therefore, if there is no beam of hope that Congress will ever put that law in force, I wish I might know it. Then the world will know that the authority of Thomas Chittenden, Esquire, is above that of all the rest of America."
The meat which Phelps was compelled to eat was that which had been condemned as unfit for others. The cruelty of the treatment he experienced, and the loathsomeness of the prison, reduced him to "a low, languishing, and sickly condition," which led him to apprehend that death would soon put an end to his troubles. Not content with subjecting their prisoner to the rigors of cold, hunger, and confinement, some of his more thoughtless persecutors often amused themselves by reviling Congress, and cursing the troops of the United States in his presence, for the purpose of engaging him in an argument. On one occasion the sheriff of Bennington county came to him in the dead of night, and told him he was to be hanged in three
* The letter from which the above extracts have been made, was found by John D. Fonda, at a town-meeting in "Hoosick District," a few days after it was written, "passing from hand to hand," and was by him forwarded to its destination. In the note which he sent with it, dated May 8th, 1783, he said:— "A few days ago I sent some money to Col. Church, understanding his necessity in gaol, and I believe the within letter was meant to be given to me to send to your Excellency. The prisoners not only receive hard usage and threats, but are sometimes thirty-six hours, as I hear, without anything to satisfy their craving appetites. I would have gone myself to see the gentlemen, but, to tell your Excellency the truth, it is not safe for me to go to the gaol to support them." George Clinton Papers in N. Y. State Lib., vol. xvii. doc. 5042.
1783.] CHARACTERISTIC CONDUCT OF ETHAN ALLEN. 497
or four days. "I am surprised," remarked Phelps with composure, "that you should presume to execute the high-sheriff of the county of Cumberland, in the state of New York, which is, by the grace of God, free and independent." This answer enraged the Vermont sheriff, and a violent discussion ensued, which ended in a repetition of the threat with which the conversation had begun — a threat intended only to frighten. Hoping to obtain, at least, temporary relief, Phelps reminded Judge Robinson of the disregard paid to the resolves of Congress by the very cruelty with which he was treated. But the Judge informed him that he looked upon Congress with the utmost disdain, and asked him how he could suppose the people of Vermont could do otherwise than coincide in this sentiment.
During his confinement he was sometimes visited by Ethan Allen, whose tyrannical manner, always unpleasant, was particularly distasteful to the imprisoned official of Cumberland county. With his accustomed oath, as familiar to his lips as "By the Eternal" is said to have been to the lips of Jackson, Allen would often swear before him that "he would march into Albany with his Green Mountain Boys, and set up and be absolute monarch of all America." His language on other occasions was mingled with that bitter sarcasm so peculiar to himself, and so forcible when he chose to employ it. "Congress cannot release you," said he to Phelps "I swear they can't." "I have written largely," he continued, "concerning the rights of Vermont in books that have been published to the world, and I have also written a remonstrance against these resolves of Congress. All the world knows that Congress can't break up states, much less this state which is the oldest in America." "You have called on your god Clinton," he added, in a manner as taunting as was that employed by Elijah towards the prophets of Baal, "you have called on your god Clinton till you are tired. Call now on your god Congress, and they will answer you as Clinton has done."
Spring had passed, the summer had begun, and the sufferings of Phelps, whose condition would have been comparatively comfortable had he been treated like a common prisoner, had become almost intolerable. Allen had counselled him to apply to Governor Chittenden for relief, and the silence of Governor Clinton, of whom Phelps had asked advice, was construed as favoring this course. At this juncture he was visited by his wife, who, with her infant six weeks old, and her brother a boy
498 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1783.
of sixteen, had crossed the mountains on horseback for the purpose of effecting the liberation of her husband. The appeal which she made to Dr. Joseph Fay, in behalf of the prisoner, was not without effect. "Let him now," said the Doctor, "abandon those who have abandoned him; adhere to the laws emanating from an authority able and willing to protect him and give us his word of honor that he will do so, and he may be assured that he will thereupon be liberated from prison and protected in his rights." Having determined to obtain his release, if possible, Phelps presented to the Council of Vermont, who were then convened at Arlington, a petition in which he prayed to be discharged from the sentence of the court which had been passed upon him in September last, and promised "allegiance and obedience" to the laws of the state. The Council required him to pay the costs of the trial which had resulted in his imprisonment, together with the charges arising from his commitment and support, and to give a bond with large security for his good behavior. With these terms he complied on the 24th of June, and thus was ended an imprisonment whose effects, both on the body and the mind of the sufferer, ceased only with his life.*
On the 15th of June, Charles Phelps was informed that a number of the people of Vermont were coming with an armed force to seize him and others, with the intention of confining them in the jail at Bennington. To avoid the danger he fled to Poughkeepsie, and, in a deposition drawn by Governor Clinton, declared his belief that there was a plan on foot to arrest a number of the principal persons opposed to "the pretended state," in order that the collection of Vermont taxes might be rendered more easy. On the same occasion, Timothy Church committed to writing an account of the indignities he had been compelled to suffer. As a result of the information thus communicated, Governor Clinton, on the 24th of June, addressed to the latter gentleman, who was about to return to Cumberland county, a letter of advice in these words:—
"In consequence of the communications which have been made to me by Mr. Phelps and yourself, with respect to the present situation of the subjects of this state in Cumberland
* MS. Narrative of the Phelps Family. MS. Deposition of T. Phelps, Feb'y 7th, 1784. Records of Vt. Council. George Clinton Papers in N.Y. State Lib., vol. xvii. docs. 4939, 5009, 5042, 5066.
1783.] CLINTON'S LETTER TO TIMOTHY CHURCH. 499
county, and the dangers which they appear to be threatened with, I would advise you in case of an attempt by the usurped government of Vermont to compel obedience and submission from any persons claiming to be subjects of this state, to call out your regiment under the militia law, and, by opposing force to force, endeavor to quell the insurrection: and if any of the inhabitants professing to be subjects of this state should be made prisoners by the authority of the usurped government, I would advise you to retaliate by taking as many of the insurgents, and detaining them under secure conduct as hostages, until the matter can be represented to Congress. In order that you may be prepared to defend yourselves against these violences, it now becomes your duty particularly to see that your regiment is properly provided and equipped with arms and ammunition, agreeable to the directions of the militia law, I would, at the same time, again impress you with the propriety of still strictly observing the resolutions of Congress, recommending peace and forbearance, and that you in nowise be the aggressors, and would earnestly advise you to use every pacific mean consistent with the obligation of allegiance to this state, for preventing matters from being brought to a decision by arms, and that in no instance you recur to force, unless your persons or properties are in certain immediate danger. Taking due care at the same time to guard against surprise, I shall take the earliest opportunity of transmitting to Congress the depositions of yourself and Mr. Phelps, informing of the treatment you and Mr. Timothy Phelps have received from the usurped government, and I have no doubt that Congress will discover the necessity of their immediate interference for your relief and protection, agreeable to the public faith solemnly pledged in their resolutions.
"From the communications made to me by the delegates of this state, I have reason to believe that if the attention of Congress had not been necessarily diverted from the subject, first by the deranged state of our public affairs, and afterwards by the great event of a peace, they would ere this have taken measures for enforcing obedience to their resolutions, and have determined as to the boundaries of the state. And I flatter myself the question will very soon be resumed and decided.
"There are many considerations which I forbear repeating, and which should induce us to rest the determination of this
500 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1783.
matter with Congress, in whose justice we ought to have the fullest confidence, and who can command the force of the United States to carry their decisions into effect."*
Such was the language in which Governor Clinton endeavored to relieve the despondency of men, who, like Church and the Phelpses, were daily subjected to indignities or derision on account of their loyalty to New York.
During the summer of 1783, although no outbreaks worthy of especial note occurred between the two parties, yet their suspicions of one another increased daily. In Guilford the Yorkers held the power and prevented the Vermonters from executing their laws and collecting taxes. But this exercise of authority did not prevent the Vermonters from maintaining a correspondence with the state government. By means of committees, the Council were informed of the movements of the opposing party, and a knowledge of this communication served as a partial check upon the conduct of the Yorkers. The result of such a condition of affairs was mutual terror and distrust. Arms were carried — by the bold openly for assault when opportunity offered, by the timid secretly for defence when necessity compelled. Houses were divided — the father upholding the jurisdiction of New York, the sons maintaining the supremacy of Vermont. Friendships the most intimate were disturbed. The word neighbor carried no meaning with it beyond the idea of contiguity. The physician could not visit his patient in safety unless protected by a pass. The minister of the gospel failed to enforce the doctrine of Christian charity on the hearts of men who knew none for one another. Letters from Governor Chittenden were circulated by the one party, denouncing the severest retribution upon those who should disregard the laws of Vermont. Words of encouragement, issuing from Governor Clinton were repeated by the other party with great unction, and better times were prophesied when Congress should enforce the claims of New York. Handbills, inflammatory in nature and unconciliatory in spirit, were posted on tavern, and on dwelling, and on fence; were seen peering from the pockets of sturdy farmers; and were thrust under doors at night to be picked up and read in the morning. Social order was at an end. The farm and the workshop were neglected. But for the mutual suspicion that lurked in every eye and burned for utter
* George Clinton Papers in N. Y. State Lib., vol. xvii. docs. 5104, 5105, 5106.
1783.] RESOLUTE ATTITUDE OF THE NEW YORK PARTY. 501
ance on every tongue, one would have supposed that an Indian force was expected, as in earlier times, that had vowed to ravage the fields, burn the village, and murder the people. Sometimes the Vermont authorities would determine to arrest a "violent Yorker." A scene of confusion would ensue resembling the beginning of a civil war. The pay-rolls, which are still preserved, bear witness to the frequency of the calls made upon the soldiery on both sides of the mountains to "go on an expedition to assist the sheriff in Windham county."
The resistance of the New York party had now assumed a form so determined, that the government of Vermont were convinced, that, unless speedy and stringent measures were taken, results would follow which might be fatal to the well being of the state. At the autumnal session of the Legislature, the condition of the state was the principal topic of discussion. To ascertain the views of all to whom the administration of the government had been entrusted, the Governor, the Council, and the General Assembly united in grand committee on the 22d of October, and in this capacity held a long and serious consultation. Forcible resistance was deemed the only remedy which could be applied with any hope of success, and the measures recommended were consequently of this nature. The report of the committee was readily adopted by the General Assembly, and an act was passed for "the purpose of raising one hundred able, effective men to assist the civil authority in carrying into execution the law in the southern part of the county of Windham." In the preamble of this act it was stated that a number of persons living in the southern part of the aforesaid county, had banded together "to oppose sheriffs, constables, and collectors in the due execution of their offices," and in instances had proceeded to "outrageous abuses" which threatened the ruin of government unless speedily remedied.
The command of this special company of state troops was entrusted to Col. Benjamin Wait; and to him and to Brig.-Gen. Samuel Fletcher power was given to discharge the new levies within the six months for which they were to be enlisted, provided they should have accomplished the end desired before the close of that period. They were required to furnish themselves with arms, but the commissary-general was directed to supply them with ammunition, provisions, and "spirituous liquor." In the subsequent deliberations of the grand committee it was distinctly asserted that the intention of govern‑
502 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1783.
ment was not "to be severe" with those who had heretofore opposed the laws of Vermont, provided they should now become citizens of the state. Colonel Wait was accordingly directed to issue special orders to his men, not to meddle with the person or property of any who should quietly submit. The committee also announced that those who should voluntarily yield, and take the oath of allegiance to the state, should not be prosecuted on the part of the freemen of the state, until the rising of the next session of the Legislature, and, in addition to this concession, engaged at that time to pass an act of pardon in their favor, in case they should petition for forgiveness. At the same time the committee notified their intention of using their influence to persuade the Governor and Council to remit the fines which had been previously levied on the Yorkers. In closing their consultation, they declared that the only way in which those who had sustained losses by confiscation could receive remuneration, was by submitting to government and asking compensation of the Legislature.*
In conformity with the spirit exhibited in the conciliatory portion of the deliberations of the grand committee, the General Assembly, in a formal resolution passed on the 23d, requested Governor Chittenden to issue his proclamation, offering a free and ample pardon to all persons resident in the southern part of Windham county, who, having heretofore opposed constituted authority, should now take the oath of allegiance before any justice of the peace, within thirty days after the promulgation of the offer of forgiveness. On the same day an act, displaying a different temper, was passed by the General Assembly, "to prevent the inhabitants of New York being allowed greater privileges within this state than the inhabitants, of this state are allowed within the state of New York." By this act it was settled "that no person or persons, being an inhabitant or inhabitants of, or residing within the jurisdiction of the state of New York, shall, within the time of his, her or their residence as aforesaid, commence any suit or suits at law, within the jurisdiction of this state, against any inhabitant or resident thereof, for any civil matter or contract, until the Legislature of said state of New York shall allow the inhabitants of this state full liberty to commence the
* Thompson's Vt. Gazetteer, pp. 142, 143. MS. Report of Grand Committee, Oct. 22d, 1783. Slade's Vt. State Papers, pp. 476, 477.
1783.] ARREST OF KNOWLTON BY THE YORKERS. 503
like suits within their jurisdiction, and without any such lets or hindrances."* Upon the majority of the Yorkers these measures — some of them defiant, others protective, and still others persuasive — tended to produce an effect contrary to that which had been expected. Opposition served to unite them, and until they should find defeat inevitable they resolved to withstand the execution of laws originating in an authority which they did not acknowledge. At the same time they were equally determined to pursue such a course on other occasions, as they should deem best calculated to promote the interests of New York and of the United States.†
Owing to the part which they had borne in the negotiations which Vermont — not only for her own safety as a state, but also as a supporter of the cause of America — had been compelled to carry on with the British in Canada, Luke Knowlton and Samuel Wells had been suspected of being in the service and pay of the enemy. For this reason Congress, in secret session, had on the 27th of November, 1782, ordered their arrest. But they, having received notice of the order, had escaped before the officer, sent to take them, could arrive. A year had passed since the occurrence of these transactions, and Knowlton, having returned home, was now residing at Newfane. Many of the Yorkers still supposed him to be in league with the British, and for this reason were desirous of securing him, or of removing him to some other state. With this intention, Francis Prouty, Thomas Whipple, and Jonathan Dunkley of Brattleborough, John Wheeler and Darius Wheeler of Newfane, and a number of others,‡ being armed, as was represented, with "clubs, guns, swords, pistols and bayonets,"
* Slade's Vt. State Papers, p. 475.
† The annexed extract from a newspaper published at this period, contains a brief account of the submission of the citizens of Halifax to the authority of Vermont. The course pursued by them, was the reverse of that adopted by many of their neighbors.
"Windsor, Vermont, December 8, [1783.] Advices from the lower part of Windham county mention that the inhabitants of the town of Halifax, who have heretofore refused to support the authority of Vermont, and acted in opposition to its government, have lately come in almost to a man, taken the oath of allegiance, discharged their arrearage taxes, and appear desirous to assist in quelling those disturbers of the public peace, who have long infested the southern part of this state." — Boston Evening Post, Saturday, January 3d, 1784.
‡ David Howe, Samuel Noble, Ephraim Knapp, Ephraim Rice, Jonathan Stoddard, Isaac Kendall, and Isaac Crosby were participators in the seizure. — MS. Court Records.
504 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1783.
assaulted his house about two o'clock on the morning of the 16th of November, 1783, and, having made a forcible entrance, took him prisoner, conveyed him across the line of the state into Massachusetts, and there left him. As soon as the seizure of Knowlton had transpired, Brig.-Gen. Fletcher gave orders for the military to assemble. With prompt obedience more than a hundred men belonging to the regiment of Col. Stephen H. Bradley and Col. John Sergeant rendezvoused and reported themselves ready to act as their leaders should command. But the return of Knowlton after a short absence, and the dispersion of the Yorkers, rendered their services unnecessary, and prevented a meeting which might have proved disastrous to both parties.
The matter was not, however, allowed to rest here. On the 18th of November a complaint was entered against the rioters by Edward Smith, a constable of Newfane, and a warrant was issued by Samuel Fletcher as one of the Councillors of the state, for their arrest. Thomas Whipple and John Wheeler were taken without difficulty or delay, and a justices' court was immediately organized — Samuel Fletcher, who was also a civil officer, presiding — for the examination of the delinquents. Whipple, being charged with an assault, acknowledged his guilt, and stated that he with a number of others had, in obedience to the commands of Francis Prouty, assisted in carrying Knowlton without the bounds of Vermont. Having given bonds in the sum of £100 with sureties for his appearance, he was dismissed until the next session of the Superior court. The result of Wheeler's examination is not recorded. A few days later Jonathan Dunkley was arrested, and on examination had before Mr. Fletcher, on the 27th, was recognised in the same amount of bail that had served to effect the temporary release of Whipple. The constable's returns show that he further succeeded in taking "the body of Darius Wheeler," on the 24th, and that John Wheeler became responsible for his appearance before Mr. Fletcher. No account of his examination has been preserved. The chief offender, Francis Prouty, was still at large, and it was well known that it would not be as easy to secure him as it had been to secure his abettors. When the brave deputy sheriff, Barzillai Rice, sought for him, he found him, on the 1st of December, at home, in company with five of his neighbors. The little party were well provided with guns and pitch-forks, the latter having been turned from a peaceful use to a
1783.] VARIOUS CAPTURES. 505
service of an opposite nature. On approaching the house, the deputy was confronted by Prouty, who, in language striking and emphatic, warned him to desist, and declared he would "be the death of him," or, at the least, would "let out his guts," in case the deputy should attempt to enter his domicil or touch his person. Well knowing that the pitchfork by its peculiar conformation, is admirably adapted to inflict wounds of a remarkable nature, the deputy resolved to finish his call at Mr. Prouty's on some other occasion, when, even if his official presence should not be more acceptable than now, his person might be more secure.
The day that witnessed the defeat of the deputy at Brattleborough, by means of "guns and pitchforks," beheld an assemblage at Guilford numbering more than seventy Yorkers, armed "with dangerous and offensive weapons." Their rage on this occasion was directed against Benjamin Carpenter, a staunch Vermonter, who had already held many important positions both on the field of battle and in the administration of government, and of whose physical and mental condition combined his epitaph has preserved a quaint record, which declares that his "Stature was about six feet. Weight 200. Death had no terror." But even these qualifications, sufficient to disarm the last enemy of his power, were not of a nature to protect their possessor from the attacks of an earthly foe. He was taken prisoner by the Yorkers,* and carried away "to his great damage." There is no written, printed, or traditional account to show in what this damage consisted, nor is there reason to believe that it was very serious in its nature. Whatever it might have been, he survived it many years, and lived to see the final establishment of the state, of whose constitution and government he was a founder. Occurrences like these were sufficient to convince the government of Vermont of the determined nature of the opposition of the Yorkers. Retaliation, as on former occasions, was again resorted to.
Though William Shattuck had not been released from the penalties which had been imposed upon him by the decree of banishment, yet so long as he refrained from inimical acts he
* The more prominent actors in this seizure were, Abraham Avery, Cyril Carpenter, James Davison, Hezekiah Broad, Henry Evans, Nathaniel Carpenter, Adonijah Putnam, Joshua Nurse, Jotham Bigelow, Newell Earl, Henry Evans Jr., Joseph Peck, Daniel Ashcraft, Joseph Shepardson, David Goodenough, all of Guilford; Charles Phelps of Marlborough; and Eleazer Church of Brattleborough.
506 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1783.
was allowed to live in the undisturbed possession of his house and farm. Still he was obliged to render to the treasurer of the state of Vermont an account of the income and expenses of his estate. Having again become obnoxious to government, he was arrested on the 25th of December by Oliver Waters, a Brattleborough constable. Being placed in charge of a guard commanded by Major Boyden, he was conveyed to Westminster. Here, after undergoing an examination before Justice Nathan Fisk, in consequence of the disregard he had shown to the sentence by which he had been forbidden to return on pain of death, he was sentenced on the 27th to be imprisoned in "Bennington Gaol," without "bail or mainprize," until he should be discharged by due course of law. Again, under the direction of Waters and his posse, he was escorted across the mountains to his place of destination, where he was confined in irons on the 3d of January, 1784.*
Kindly treatment had also been manifested towards Charles Phelps, although he had been indicted at the same time that his four friends were banished. By a resolution of the General Assembly of Vermont, passed on the 20th of October, 1783, Governor Chittenden had been requested to grant him permission to visit Westminster; to attend upon the deliberations of the General Assembly then in session at that place; and to return to his place of abode. This request was complied with on the 21st of October, and he was allowed "to pass unmolested from Walpole" to Westminster, there to remain during the Governor's pleasure, and thence to return to Walpole. All persons were warned to take notice of this permission, and to "govern themselves accordingly." Subsequent acts of opposition again brought him into a hostile position in the eyes of the Vermonters. On the 3d of January, 1784, a warrant was issued for his arrest. Being taken on the 4th he was imprisoned in the jail at Westminster, and the keeper was ordered to retain him in custody until the courts should declare their opinion respecting his future treatment.†
Terrified at the summary manner in which the government of Vermont appeared determined to treat its opponents, a number of the most prominent adherents of the New York party assembled at Brattleborough on the 6th of January, and addressed a
* MS. Court Records. Papers in office Sec. State Vt. MS. Papers of S. R. Bradley.
† MS. Papers of S. R. Bradley.
1784.] PETITION TO GOVERNOR CHITTENDEN. 507
petition to the authorities of the state, couched in these words: "Whereas the exigences of the people living in sundry of the towns on the Grants, viz., Brattleborough, Guilford, Hinsdale, and others, demand the most serious consideration of the virtuous citizens both of the subjects of New York and Vermont, and a zealous assiduity to come to some equitable and salutary measures to prevent all kinds of severity against each other, or any hostile measures which will finally bar the benevolent exertions of the subscribers in their humble address to the authority of Vermont.
"Therefore it is most humbly prayed and earnestly desired by each of us, the subscribers, that the authority of Vermont would immediately release Major Shattuck and Esquire Phelps from their present imprisonment; also cease from acts of the like kind, and restrain the troops raised and to be commanded by Colonel Wait, from marching for the support of the government, until the rising of the next session of Assembly in February next, at which session of Assembly, the subscribers, who profess themselves to be subjects of New York, really intend by themselves or by agents appointed for that purpose, to make application to said Assembly of Vermont, for a general purification, and an amicable settlement of past misunderstandings and things which have happened between the people claiming to be subjects of New York and Vermont, upon just and equitable terms, consistent with the rights of mankind, the constitution of Vermont, and the authority of the United States of America."*
The reply of Governor Chittenden to this communication, dictated by those principles of loyalty which he owed to the state, and expressed in his own terse and emphatic language, was far from an endorsement of the views which had been set forth by the petitioners. "Gentlemen," he wrote on the 10th of February, "I received a request signed by you, which appeared to be designed for the consideration of the authority of this state. Viewing it to have come only from those in opposition to this government, it would not admit of an answer for many reasons which appear obvious from the tenor and style of your writing. I shall, however, inform you, my friends, of my
* The names appended to this petition were those of John Bridgman, Samuel Knight, John Houghton, Jonathan Hunt, William Biglow, Timothy Church, Henry Evans, Jotham Biglow, Orlando Bridgman, Francis Prouty, Edward Carpenter, Timothy Phelps, Hezekiah Stowel, Amos Tute, Elijah Prouty, Rutherford Hays.
508 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1784.
sentiments respecting the matters contained in it. The prospects I have had, which are well known to you, since the rising of the Assembly, of a general submission which was the only object of government, have been the only cause of the unexpected delay of the march of the troops.
"I am very certain were the Assembly now sitting they would have no bargain to make with the people who have given us so much trouble without any object. I cannot say what might be done by them to prevent the march of Colonel Wait's troops. This I can say, that nothing short of an immediate and universal submission can effect it."*
Pending this correspondence, the Vermonters continued to harass the Yorkers with an energy which accorded well with the late proceedings of the General Assembly. Although a warrant for the arrest of Francis Prouty had been in the hands of the constable for more than a month, yet by his vigilance the wily Lieutenant had eluded all efforts to take him. His capture was effected at last by a party of men who broke into his house on the evening of the 8th of January, and removed him thence to prison. On the same night Seth Clark, a New York sergeant, was disposed of in a similar manner. Determined to teach the Guilfordites a lesson, a party of five men, armed and prepared for attack or defence, entered the house of Capt. Joseph Peck, a few hours after the arrest of Prouty and Clark, leaving a number of persons on the outside in case their aid should be needed. Not finding the object of their search, and being unable to obtain any information from Mrs. Peck on the subject, they plundered the house, carrying off a sword and such other weapons as they could obtain. About one o'clock on the morning of the 9th the same party entered the dwelling of Maj. Henry Evans, whom they could not find, and of whom his wife could give no reliable account. A candle and a tinderbox, taken from the ample pocket of one of the intruders, gave them light in prosecuting their investigations, and enabled them "to appropriate a gun, a sword, and a quantity of ammunition, as the reward of their labors. They next entered the house of Mary Carpenter, but finding there neither arms nor men, betook themselves to the residence of Hezekiah Broad, and made inquiries for him of his wife Sarah. In this instance, as in two of the instances already mentioned, their visit was without suc‑
* MSS. in office Sec. State Vt., ix 229.
1784.] LETTER OF S. R. BRADLEY. 509
cess. Broad, like many other Guilfordites, had been warned of their coming, and had wisely withdrawn from observation. In enterprises like these they were engaged until morning, and were so fortunate as to secure, a number of old blunderbusses, rusty swords, curiously carved powder-horns, pursy bullet-bags, and long, snake-like shot-pouches.*
Willing to put an end to, these, nocturnal visitations, Stephen R. Bradley, on the 10th of January, addressed, a letter "To the inhabitants of the town of Guilford and its vicinity, who have been opposing the government of Vermont." "I officially acquaint you, as Attorney-General for the freemen of the state of Vermont," said he in this communication, "that government wishes for your welfare as a people, and notwithstanding the coercive measures that are adopted, are willing to do everything for you consistent with the welfare of government; and I now assure you, upon your desisting from your opposition, and returning peaceably to your families, your persons and, properties shall be protected; and in order for that, upon your certifying under your hands on your parol of honor, to me, or to the sheriff of this county, or his deputy, or to Major Josiah Boyden of Fulham, that you will not directly nor indirectly do any act or thing prejudicial to the state of Vermont, all prosecutions against any of you shall be no further prosecuted till the rising of the next General Assembly, when I trust you may meet with all desired lenity. I except nevertheless all persons who have been taken by the officers of government, and such as have been banished. What you do in this respect must be soon, as the matter is now become serious." Irritated by the indignities to which they had been subjected, the Yorkers were in no spirit to accept of conditions or apply for pardon. Meantime the Vermonters persisted in executing the laws of their state. On the 10th, warrants were issued for the arrest of Henry Evans of Guilford, and Eleazer Church and Nathaniel Chandler of Brattleborough. Church, who was taken on the 12th, was brought before Justice Nathan Fisk of Westminster, and being charged with "treasonable conduct" was lodged, in the jail of that town, "loaded with irons." On the 13th, Chandler was also committed.†
From the latter part of October, 1783, to the present time, a detachment of state troops, which had varied in number from
* Various MS. Depositions.
† MS. Papers in office See. State Vt.
510 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1784.
twenty-five to sixty-five, had been under arms for the purpose of quelling any outbreaks that might arise, and for assisting the sheriff in performing the duties of his office. They it were who had made arrests in the night time, and removed such means of defence as they could find, from the houses of the opposition. The quarters of Com.-Gen. Joseph Farnsworth, Maj. Josiah Boyden, Ens. Oliver Waters, and Lieut. Experience Fisk, the officers of this detachment, were at the inn of Josiah Arms, in Brattleborough. Enraged by the conduct of the soldiers of this detachment, the Yorkers determined to retaliate by taking some of them prisoners. With this intention William White, Daniel Ashcraft,* Joseph Shepdarson Jr., Nathaniel Shepardson, Noah Shepardson, Samuel Melendy, Hezekiah Broad, Samuel Curtis, Moses Yaw, Daniel Cole, Artemas Goodenough, Ithamar Goodenough, and Jotham Biglow, all of Guilford; Richard Church and Isaac Kendall of Brattleborough; and a number of others, the whole commanded by Nathaniel Carpenter of Guilford, attacked the inn on the 16th, and demanded the immediate delivery of Waters, who had become especially obnoxious on account of the energy he had displayed in behalf of the state. General Farnsworth endeavored to expostulate with them upon the rashness of their conduct, but they were deaf to his remonstrances and renewed their demand in the most peremptory manner. Determined to ac‑
* At the commencement of the revolutionary war, Mr. Ashcraft, who was friendly to the American cause but who did not choose to engage in the struggle, abandoned his dwelling on Fisher's Island within the then province of New York, and removed to the town of Guilford, in Cumberland county. In the disputes which afterwards arose among the settlers on the New Hampshire Grants, he supported the claims of the New York adherents, and in the end was compelled to leave the state. On the 25th of October, 1784, he petitioned the Legislature of New York for a grant of land in the western part of that state. The committee to whom his petition was referred reported thereon on the 29th, and the consideration of his request was, on their recommendation, postponed. Finding that he could obtain no aid in this direction, he presented a petition to the General Assembly of Vermont on the 19th of October, 1785, in which he prayed "for a pardon of all offences he had committed" against the state "by adhering to the government of New York." The report of the committee to whom his request was referred stated, that although he had formerly been connected with the opposition, he was "now likely to make a good citizen," and recommended that he should be pardoned by an act of the Legislature, provided he should take the oath of allegiance before the 1st of March, 1786. The report was accepted, and an act was passed agreeable to the recommendation. — MS. Petition to N. Y. Senate. Journal Senate N. Y., 1st Meeting, 8th Session, p. 13. Journals Gen. Ass. Vt., Oct. 1785.
1784.] RETALIATIONS OF THE YORKERS. 511
complish their object, and enraged by the grievances to which they had been subjected, they commenced an assault upon the house, and riddled the doors and windows with musket balls and buckshot. After firing about thirty times, wounding Major Boyden in the leg, and shooting a traveller through the thigh, they entered the building "in their common, desperate manner," as was subsequently stated, and having captured Waters departed with their prey.*
The object of Farnsworth in remonstrating with the Yorkers was to delay their attack until the troops, who were quartered about a mile distant, could be informed of the danger with which the officers were threatened. But his efforts, as has been seen, were without avail. Satisfied with the result of their foray, the Yorkers surrounded the prisoner, and ordered him to accompany them. Under a strong guard they conveyed him on foot to the northern lines of the state of Massachusetts, where they fastened on his hands "a huge weight of ill-shaped iron," and consigned him to the care of two of the party, with orders to conduct him to Poughkeepsie. The news of the seizure reached Halifax on the night of the 17th, through the instrumentality of Lieut. John Noyes of Guilford, and produced an intense excitement. Horses and arms were immediately procured, and a company of fifteen men† led by Joseph Tucker started in pursuit. Knowing well the route which their opponents had taken, they followed closely in their track, and on the 18th reached Northampton, where they found Waters. They immediately rescued him, and at the same time secured his guards.
Meantime Timothy Phelps, who had been entrusted with a number of dispatches and depositions which he was to deliver to Governor Clinton, had commenced his journey, and having reached Hadley, was visiting his brother Charles, who was a resident of that town. Tucker and his party, who, to use their own language, were "then in high spirits," being unwilling to return without accomplishing some other exploit, determined
* In a newspaper account of this affair it is stated that "Waters voluntarily resigned himself up to the party." The court papers, and the other documentary testimony of that period, corroborate the version presented in the text.
† Thomas Scott, Stephen Gates, Timothy Woodward, David Williams. Elijah Phillips, Gorham Noyes, Joel Sumner, Philemon Stacy, Daniel Walworth, Rufus Fisk, Samuel Dennison, John Noyes, Caleb Owen, Thomas Farnsworth, Nathaniel Whitney. — Tucker's Petition.
512 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1784.
to escort Timothy Phelps back to Vermont, in the same manner in which Waters had been compelled to leave that state. Concealing the object of their visit, they entered Hadley after nightfall, and on approaching the house where Timothy Phelps was lodged, asked to be admitted. Springing from his bed and seizing his arms, Charles Phelps rushed to the door, but before he could reach it, Tucker and his men had forced an entrance. A severe struggle ensued, in which the owner of the dwelling was overpowered and thrown to the floor. As the rioters were proceeding to bind him, his wife appeared and claimed him as her husband. At the same time Timothy Phelps came forward, and the rioters perceiving their mistake allowed the supposed offender to arise, and seizing his brother secured him and departed, with the intention of confining him in Bennington jail, where he had already spent so many months.
As soon as Tucker and his party had gone, Charles Phelps hastened to Elisha Porter, the sheriff of Hampshire county, and informed him of the occurrences of the evening. Warrants were immediately issued, a number of the local militia who were commanded by Phelps were placed under arms, a posse was also collected, and the whole party, thirty strong, mounted, and headed by the sheriff, were soon in hot pursuit. On reaching Hatfield, Waters's party had been joined by twelve more of the state troops of Vermont, and with this reinforcement they were pushing forward with as much speed as the circumstances would allow. Dashing on without once drawing rein, their pursuers followed with spirit and determination. At eight o'clock on the morning of the 19th the rioters were overtaken at Bloody Brook in Deerfield, where they had dismounted to refresh both themselves and their horses. Entering the room where they were engaged at breakfast, the sheriff exclaimed, "Where are these damned Vermonters?" and without giving them time to rally, the men of Hampshire county commenced the attack. The rioters, ignorant of the legal authority under which their opponents were acting, and taking them for Yorkers, resisted with vigor. In the midst of the struggle which was now becoming serious, the sheriff made known his official character, and pronounced the rioters his prisoners. Satisfied that resistance to such authority would be likely to terminate unfortunately, Waters and his party submitted to the sheriff, released Timothy Phelps, and were carried back to Hadley. There they were tried before three justices. Four of them were found guilty of
1784.] SENTENCE OF TUCKER AND HIS ASSOCIATES. 513
riotous conduct, and were adjudged to pay in fines and costs £21 8s. Tucker, in his relation of the affair, stated that this verdict was obtained through the instrumentality of Charles Phelps of Hadley, and that the views of the sheriff were so much changed when all the circumstances connected with the affair were made known to him, that he frankly forgave the Vermonters, although he had received more wounds than all the rest of his party, eulogized them in open court as "good fellows," and promised his assistance in the future "both as a gentleman and a magistrate," in preventing their fellow-citizens from being "carried through that vicinity by the Yorkers."*
* On the 25th of February following, Tucker and his associates petitioned the General Assembly of Vermont who were then in session at Bennington, for a reimbursement of the expenses which they had incurred in these proceedings. Defending the course they had pursued, "we did all this," said they, "solely out of loyalty and friendship to this government, and although we did not carry our points in everything, yet we prevented Mr. Waters from being now confined in New York, which doubtless the Yorkers would have gloried much in; and also obtained the favor of the officer in the Massachusetts state, before mentioned, which will, in all probability, be interesting to this state." Their petition was referred to a committee of three, who subsequently met and cousulted with a committee from the Council consisting of Ira Allen. The report of the joint committee was accepted on the 5th of March, and an order was passed directing the sale of so much of the estate of Charles Phelps of Marlborough, which had already been confiscated to the use of the state, as should amount to £49 13s. 11d., the sum claimed by the petitioners. At this point the subject, it is believed, was dropped, and was probably never again revived. — MS. Accounts of the Capture of Waters, Tucker, Phelps, etc. Thompson's Vt. Gazetteer, p. 142. South Carolina Gazette, Feb. 2, 1784.