EARLY LAWS OF VERMONT — INDIAN INSCRIPTIONS.
First constitution of Vermont modelled on the first constitution of Pennsylvania — Constitution of Vermont legalized by statutory enactments — Epitome of the constitution — Its religious and moral elements — The test creed — Educational interests — Freedom of speech and of the press maintained — Establishment of courts of justice — Good men to be placed in office — The purity of the ballot-box — The necessity of labor — First essay at legislation — The laws of February, 1779 — The "Word of God" and the "Connecticut law book" — The criminal code of Vermont — Capital offences — Degrading punishments — Manslaughter — Incest — Adultery — Polygamy — Housebreaking and highway robbery — Counterfeiting — Riot — Perjury — Forgery — Lying — Theft — Cursing or profane swearing — Gaming — Horse-racing — Night-walking — Tavern-haunting — Licensing taverns — Drunkenness — Sabbath-breaking — Stocks — Care of the poor — Militia service — Attorneys — Instances of the infliction of corporal punishment — Singular customs — Imprisonment for debt — The burial of Thomas Chandler Sen. — The marriage of Mrs. Lovejoy — Indians of Vermont — Coos — Newbury — Indian sculptures at Bellows Falls — The "Indian Rock" on West or Wantastiquet river.
THE references in some of the previous chapters to the statutes enacted by the General Assembly of Vermont for the punishment of Yorkers and the enemies of the state, would naturally lead the reader to inquire concerning the character of the early legislation of this independent jurisdiction. Allusion has already been made to the peculiar circumstances under which the first constitution of Vermont was adopted. Soon after the people of the New Hampshire Grants had declared that district a free and independent state, many disinterested persons expressed a desire that the organization of "New Connecticut, alias Vermont," as the new state was called, should be immediately effected. On the 11th of April, 1777, Dr. Thomas Young, a citizen of Philadelphia, published an address to the inhabitants of Vermont, urging them to maintain the ground they had taken, and pointing out to them the method by which
1777.] REVIEW OF THE CONSTITUTION AND LAWS OF VERMONT. 567
many of the difficulties in forming a government might be met and overcome. "I have recommended to your committee," he observed in this address, "the constitution of Pennsylvania as a model, which, with a very little alteration, will, in my opinion, come as near perfection as any thing yet concocted by mankind. This constitution has been sifted with all the criticism that a band of despots was master of, and has bid defiance to their united powers." His advice was followed, and an instrument which was supposed to have been the work of Benjamin Franklin became the basis of that upon which the government of Vermont was established.*
Though built on so good a foundation, the constitution of Vermont was the work of men whose necessities gave them but little time for thought or deliberation. Prepared at a time when the United States was engaged in a war which convulsed the whole American continent; completed at the moment when Burgoyne, having ravaged the shores of Lake Champlain, was maturing the reduction of Ticonderoga; and published while the excitement consequent upon the triumph at Bennington was still agitating the minds of the Green Mountain Boys, it was never sanctioned by a vote of the people, but was tacitly accepted by them as the exponent of their rights and privileges. The remark of Governor Slade, that the constitution of Vermont "was considered a mere nullity by the statesmen of that period," cannot be regarded as strictly correct. At the same time, it is difficult to determine in what estimation it was held, either by them or the people. The first act passed by the General Assembly, at their session held at Bennington on the 11th of February, 1779, was "An act for securing the general privileges of the people, and establishing common law and the constitution, as part of the laws of this state." For what purpose this statute was needed is by no means apparent. In its very nature, the constitution of a state is superior to any statute law. It is, in a certain sense, the fountain and source of statute law. By it the state is organized and becomes invested with power to legislate. The attempt, therefore, of the General Assembly of Vermont to legalize the constitution of the state, appears to have been either simply an absurdity, or a proof that
* The similarity between the first constitution of Vermont and the first constitution of Pennsylvania may be seen by comparing those instruments as they appear in the "Memoir of Thomas Chittenden," by Daniel Chipman, pp. 26-50, et passim.
568 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1777.
the statesmen regarded the constitution as possessed of but little binding force, and hoped to dignify it in the estimation of the people, by investing it with, at least, the power of law.
Had there been no further attempts to give the constitution a statutory force, this inference might be regarded as partially correct. The desire to "make assurance double sure," seems, however, to have prevailed in the minds of the law-makers, and its effect in bolstering up the constitution was visible in a number of instances. In June, 1782, a law was enacted by the General Assembly, while in session at Windsor, for the purpose of "establishing the constitution of Vermont, and securing the privileges of the people." At a convention held at Manchester in June, 1786, the constitution was revised and re-established. The General Assembly sat during a portion of February and March, 1787, at Bennington, and on the 8th of the latter month they declared by a special statute, that the constitution "shall be forever considered, held, and maintained, as part of the laws of this state." The constitution underwent a second revision at a convention held at Windsor in July, 1793. At a session of the General Assembly held at Rutland during October and November, 1796, that instrument was, by a legislative enactment, passed on the third day of the latter month, again pronounced and established "the supreme law" of the state.*
The first constitution was "established by convention" on the 2d of July, 1777. It was divided into three parts. The first division consisted of a preamble, in which were set forth the reasons that had induced the people of the New Hampshire Grants, to form themselves into a separate and independent commonwealth. A "Declaration of the rights of the inhabitants of the state of Vermont" was comprised in the second division. The third division contained the "Plan or frame of government," in accordance with which the affairs of the state were to be conducted. The tone of the whole instrument was moral, manly, independent. Vermont ever strove to imbue her public expressions with the spirit of freedom. In her relations with other states, she preserved her word and her honor unimpaired. Only in her negotiations with the British in Canada did she employ ambiguous terms and the arts of diplomacy, but it was by these means that she maintained her separate
* Slade's Vt. State Papers, p. 288. Statutes of Vt., 1787, pp. 31, 32. Acts and Laws of Vt., 1796, pp. 3, 4.
1777.] JUST SENTIMENTS CONCERNING RELIGION. 569
political existence, and secured the frontiers of the northern states from rapine and devastation. The positions taken in the constitution were in strict conformity with the character of men who loved liberty and hated oppression. The natural freedom of man; the inherence of power in the people; the establishment of government for the benefit of all; the purity of the ballot-box; the subserviency of private property to public uses; the trial by jury; the sacredness of hearth and home; the subordination of the military to the civil power; the right of petition and remonstrance — these, and other principles equally noble, were asserted with unaffected confidence, in this exposition of the moral, civil, and political faith of the people of Vermont.
Concerning man as a religious being, it was claimed "that all men have a natural and unalienable right to worship ALMIGHTY GOD, according to the dictates of their own consciences and understanding, regulated by the word of GOD; and that no man ought, or of right can be compelled to, attend any religious worship, or erect or support any place of worship, or maintain any minister, contrary to the dictates of his conscience; nor can any man who professes the Protestant religion be justly deprived or abridged of any civil right, as a citizen, on account of his religious sentiment, or peculiar mode of religious worship; and that no authority can, or ought to be invested in, or assumed by any power whatsoever, that shall, in any case, interfere with, or, in any manner, control the rights of conscience in the free exercise of religious worship. Nevertheless, every sect or denomination of people ought to observe the Sabbath or the Lord's day, and keep up and support some sort of religious worship, which to them shall seem most agreeable to the revealed will of GOD." These sentiments were more strenuously enforced in the positive declaration that "laws for the encouragement of virtue and prevention of vice and immorality shall be made and constantly kept in force; and provision shall be made for their due execution; and all religious societies or bodies of men, that have been, or may be hereafter, united and incorporated for the advancement of religion and learning, or for other pious and charitable purposes, shall be encouraged and protected in the enjoyment of the privileges, immunities, and estates, which they, in justice, ought to enjoy under such regulations as the General Assembly of this state shall direct."
570 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1777.
Though these semi-puritanic law-givers were willing to allow to the people a considerable latitude in the "mode of religious worship," yet in matters of religious faith they were more exacting. Every member of the General Assembly, before taking his seat, was required to accept and subscribe a test creed, in these words:— "I do believe in one GOD, the Creator and Governor of the universe, the rewarder of the good and punisher of the wicked. And I do acknowledge the scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by Divine inspiration, and own and profess the Protestant religion." It appears by the records of the General Assembly, that Ethan Allen, who was returned a member from Arlington in October, 1778, refused to express his belief in the manner prescribed by law. His participation in the deliberations of that session, shows that his non-conformity did not debar him from serving as the representative of his constituents. When in October, 1785, the constitution was revised, the acknowledgment of a religious belief was deemed essential, and the test creed was retained unchanged.
While the interests of religion were thus protected, educational interests were not neglected. The provision made for the instruction of the youth of the state, at a time when boys of sixteen were compelled to bear arms, and when the alarms of war rendered a continuous attention to the arts of peace almost impossible, affords a striking example of the forecast of these self-taught statesmen. Fully imbued with the necessity of multiplying the advantages of instruction, they declared that "a school or schools shall be established in each town by the Legislature, for the convenient instruction of youth, with such salaries to the masters, paid by each town, making proper use of school lands in each town, as thereby to enable them to instruct youth at low prices. One grammar school in each county, and one university in this state, ought to be established by direction of the General Assembly." To these wise provisions and to the laws which were afterwards enacted in accordance with them, Vermont owes the high position which she now holds, in an educational point of view, among the other states of the Union.
Among a people who had ever been accustomed to express publicly their opinions, restraints infringing upon this privilege would be necessarily irksome. To guard against a contingency of this nature, and to protect that medium by which public
1777.] ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE. 571
wrongs are exposed, the condition of the state made known, and information of every proper character extended, the legislators of Vermont asserted "that the people have a right to freedom of speech, and of writing and publishing their sentiments: therefore, the freedom of the press ought not to be restrained," and further, that "the printing presses shall be free to every person who undertakes to examine the proceedings of the Legislature, or any part of government."
Ever since the abolition of colonial rule, the trial and punishment of evil-doers had devolved upon town and county committees of safety, and upon such other temporary tribunals as had been warranted by public policy, and tacitly sanctioned by the people. As a consequence of this imperfect mode of judicial administration, the power thus delegated was often used to gratify the promptings of malice, or, on account of ignorance, was not exercised with that discrimination which distinguishes accurately between the right and the wrong. "Courts of justice shall be established in every county in the state," proclaimed the constitution, and thenceforth Justice blinded her eyes to the temptations which were springing up on every side to beguile her, and adjusted her scales with honest precision.
For the purpose of securing a just administration of the affairs of government, the principle of selecting for office, men of high moral character and unblemished reputation, was early established. In avowing this idea the announcement was made, "that frequent recurrence to fundamental principles, and a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, industry, and frugality are absolutely necessary to preserve the blessings of liberty, and keep government free. The people ought, therefore, to pay particular attention to these points in the choice of officers and representatives. The people have a right to exact a due and constant regard to them, from their legislators and magistrates, in the making and executing such laws as are necessary for the good government of the state." These notions found full development in the plain statement "that no person shall be capable of holding any civil office in this state, except he has acquired and maintains a good moral character." To afford a more effectual protection in the exercise of the elective franchise, it was decreed by the constitution that "all elections, whether by the people or in General Assembly, shall be by ballot, free and voluntary and any elector who shall receive any gift or reward for his vote, in meat, drink, monies,
572 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1777.
or otherwise, shall forfeit his right to elect at that time, and suffer such other penalty as future laws shall direct. And any person who shall, directly or indirectly, give, promise, or bestow any such rewards to be elected, shall thereby be rendered incapable to serve for the ensuing year." By legislative enactments, other punishments were denounced against those who should attempt to impair the purity of the ballot-box.
In the system of government promulged by the founders of the new state, industry, as the safeguard of a people, was a foundation principle. The sentence passed upon the father of mankind, wherein it was declared, that in the sweat of his face he should eat bread, was too plainly applicable to his descendants inhabiting a country as unproductive as was Vermont, to allow of the supposition, that any one could live there without employment of some nature. Having been obliged to gain their own subsistence by toilsome labor, the first legislators of Vermont felt and declared the necessity of a similar course, for all who desired to maintain a manly self-respect. These sentiments found expression in the constitution, in the following language:— "As every freeman, to preserve his independence (if without a sufficient estate), ought to have some profession, calling, trade, or farm, whereby he may honestly subsist, there can be no necessity for, nor use in establishing offices of profit, the usual effects of which are dependence and servility unbecoming freemen, in the possessors or expectants, and faction, contention, corruption, and disorder among the people. But if any man is called into public service, to the prejudice of his private affairs, he has a right to a reasonable compensation. And whenever an office, through increase of fees or otherwise, becomes so profitable as to occasion many to apply for it, the profits ought to be lessened by the Legislature."*
Such were some of the features of the constitution under which the new state began its political existence. In the government as established, the supreme legislative power was vested in "a House of Representatives of the freemen, or commonwealth, or state of Vermont," and the supreme executive power in a Governor and a Council of twelve, the members of which body were denominated Councillors or Assistants. The first session of the General Assembly — the name by which the
* Acts and Laws of Vt., 1779, pp. i. — xii., 1, 2. Slade's Vt. State Papers, pp. 241-255, 287, 288, 524.
1779.] ACTS PASSED BY THE FIRST GENERAL ASSEMBLY. 573
House of Representatives was commonly designated — was held in March, 1778. A second was held in June, and a third in October following. The laws which were passed at these sessions were published towards the close of the year in pamphlet form, but were never recorded in the office of the secretary of state. Of their nature little is known. They, doubtless, partook more of the character of temporary regulations than of permanent laws. In the journal of the first session, there are two entries under the date of March 26th, in these words:—
"Passed an act for the punishing high treason and other atrocious crimes, as said act stands in the Connecticut law-book."
"Passed an act against treacherous conspiracies, as said act stands in the Connecticut law-book."
From these and other indications of a similar nature, it may be reasonably inferred, that Connecticut was the source whence New Connecticut, alias Vermont, derived many of her ideas of government and law. The crude manner in which these ideas were necessarily, in many instances, expressed, was doubtless the reason why the early enactments were not recorded. "It is indeed a subject of regret," observes Mr. Slade, "that any cause should have been thought sufficient to justify a neglect, by which the first essay at legislation by the government of Vermont, has been lost to succeeding generations."
From the laws enacted at the fourth session of the General Assembly, held in February, 1779, a very correct idea may be formed of the determined character of the people of Vermont. No one can fail to recognise the fact, as developed in these statutes, that they loved liberty, hated oppression, and deemed it necessary to visit crime with punishments of the severest nature. By the first act passed at this session, it was decreed, as has been before stated, that the constitution should be "forever considered, held, and maintained, as part of the laws of this state." In the preamble of the same act, it was maintained that "the free fruition of such liberties and privileges as humanity, civility, and Christianity call for, as due to every man, in his place and proportion, without impeachment and infringement, hath been, and ever will be, the tranquillity and stability of churches and commonwealths; and the denial or deprival thereof, the disturbance, if not the ruin of both.' Agreeable to these positions, it was enacted by statute, that "no man's life shall be taken away; no man's honor or good
574 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1779.
name stained; no man's person shall be arrested, restrained, banished, dismembered, nor any ways punished; no man shall be deprived of his wife or children; no man's goods or estates shall be taken away from him, nor any ways indamaged under colour of law, or countenance of authority, unless it be by virtue of some express law of this state, warranting the same, established by the General Assembly; or, in case of the defect of such law in any particular case, by some plain rule warranted by the Word of God."
That the "Word of God" and the "Connecticut law book" were the sources, whence were drawn those ideas which prevailed in the formation of the penal statutes of Vermont, may be readily seen from an examination of the statutes themselves. "The early criminal, code of Connecticut," observes a late writer,* "recognized twelve capital offences, to which two more were afterwards added, and all of which were founded on the strict precepts of the Levitical law." The criminal code of Vermont, adopted in February, 1779, recognized nine offences punishable by death. These were treason; murder; arson; rape; bestiality; sodomy; bearing false witness against a person for the purpose of causing his death; mutilation, either by maliciously cutting out or disabling the tongue, or by putting out one or both of the eyes, "so that the person is thereby made blind," or by emasculation; and blaspheming "the name of GOD the FATHER, SON, or HOLY GHOST, with direct, express presumption, and high-handed blasphemy," or cursing "in the like manner." †
Other crimes were regarded with a sternness approaching almost to that which characterized the Draconian system. Manslaughter was punished by the forfeiture to the state of "all the goods and chattels" of the manslayer; by whipping "on the naked body;" by branding the hand "with the letter M on a hot iron;" and by disabling the offender "from giving verdict or evidence" in any court in the state. Persons convicted of the crime of incest were compelled to sit "upon the gallows the space of one hour, with a rope about their neck, and the other end cast over the gallows; and in the way from thence to the common gaol," were to be "severely whipt, not
* See "Sketches of the Lives and Judicial Services of the Chief Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States," by George Van Santvoord, p. 223.
† Acts and Laws of Vt., 1779, pp. 1, 2, 5, 73, 74, 94. Slade's Vt. State Papers, pp. 267, 287, 288, 291, 292, 354, 355, 375.
1779.] THE LAW AGAINST ADULTERY. 575
exceeding thirty-nine stripes each." Other punishments for this offence were stated in these words:— "Persons so offending, shall, forever after, wear a capital letter I, of two inches long and proportionable bigness, cut out in cloth of a contrary colour to their cloaths, and sewed upon their garments, on the outside of their arm, or on their back, in open view. And if any person or persons, convicted and sentenced as aforesaid, for such offence, shall, at any time, be found without their letter so worn, during their abode in this state, they shall, by warrant from any one assistant or justice of the peace, be forthwith apprehended, and ordered to be publicly whipt, not exceeding fifteen stripes, and from time to time, or as often as they shall so offend." Incestuous marriages were also declared void, and all children born of such connection were "forever disabled to inherit by descent, or by being generally named in any deed or will, by father or mother."
In the statute "against and for the punishment of adultery" the following language was held:— "Whosoever shall commit adultery with a married woman, or one betrothed to another man, both of them shall be severely punished by whipping on the naked body, not exceeding thirty-nine stripes, and stigmatized, or burnt on the forehead with the letter A, on a hot iron; and each of them shall wear the capital letter A, on the back of their outside garment, of a different color, in fair view, during their abode in this state. And as often as such convicted person shall be seen without such letter, and be thereof convicted before an assistant or justice of the peace in this state, [he] shall be whipt on the naked body, not exceeding ten stripes." The same punishments were denounced against those who should be guilty of polygamy, and polygamous marriages were declared "null and void." At the session of the General Assembly in October, 1783, the statutes against adultery and polygamy were re-enacted in a more definite form, but with penalties attached similar to those above recited.
House-breaking and highway robbery were punished with great severity. "Whosoever shall commit burglary," these were the words of the statute, "by breaking up any dwelling-house, or shop, wherein goods, wares, and merchandize are kept or shall rob any person in the field or highway — such person, so offending, shall, for the first offence, be branded on the forehead with the capital letter B, on a hot iron, and shall have one of his ears nailed to a post and cut off; and shall also
576 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1779.
be whipped on the naked body fifteen stripes. And for the second offence, such person shall be branded as aforesaid, and shall have his other ear nailed and cut off as aforesaid, and shall be whipped on the naked body twenty-five stripes. And if such person shall commit the like offence a third time, he shall be put to death as being incorrigible."*
In the law "against counterfeiting bills of public credit, coins, or currencies," the penalties denounced upon those guilty of this offence were expressed in these words:— "Every person or persons, so offending, shall be punished by having his right ear cut off, and shall be branded with the capital letter C, on a hot iron, and be committed to a work-house, there to be confined and kept to work, under the care of a master, and not to depart therefrom, without special leave from the Assembly of this state, until the day of his death, under the penalty of being severely whipped by order of any court, assistant, or justice, and thereupon to be returned to his former confinement and labor." In addition to these punishments the estate of the offender was declared forfeited to the state. The law for punishing those guilty of hindering any officer, "judicial or executive, civil or military," in the performance of his duty, has been previously recited.† By the law enacted for the purpose of "preventing and punishing riots and rioters," offenders were to be fined a sum not exceeding £200, and imprisoned for not more than six months, or whipped "not exceeding forty stripes." Perjury was punished by a fine of £50, and imprisonment for six months. The law further provided, in case the "offender or offenders, so offending, have not goods and chattels to the value of £50, that then he or they shall be set in the pillory by the space of two hours, in some county town where the offence was committed, or next adjoining to the place where the offence was committed and to have both his ears nailed and cut off; and from thenceforth be discredited, and disabled forever to be sworn in any court whatsoever, until such time as the judgment shall be reversed."‡
Any person guilty of forgery was compelled to stand in the pillory on "three several days of public meeting, not exceeding
* Acts and Laws of Vt., 1779, pp. 3-5, 84, 93. Slade's Vt. State Papers, pp. 290, 291, 366, 374, 375, 473-475.
† Ante, pp. 340, 341.
‡ Acts and Laws of Vt., 1779, pp. 13, 60, 61, 96. Slade's Vt. State Papers, pp. 300, 333, 346-348, 377.
1779.] PUNISHMENTS FOR THEFT. 577
two hours each day;" to pay double damages; and was also rendered incapable of giving "any evidence or verdict in any court, or before any magistrate or justice of the peace." By the act "for the punishment of lying," it was declared "that every person of the age of discretion, which is accounted fourteen years, who shall wittingly and willingly make or publish any lie, which may be pernicious to the public weal, or tend to the damage or injury of any particular person, or to deceive and abuse the people with false news or reports, and be thereof duly convicted before any court, assistant, or justice of the peace, shall be fined for the first offence 40s., or if unable to pay the same, then such person shall sit in the stocks not exceeding two hours." For the second offence, the delinquent was to be fined "double the aforesaid sum," or to be "whipped on the naked body, not exceeding ten stripes." The third offence was to be punished by "double the fine for the second," or by "twenty stripes;" and for each succeeding offence the fine was to be increased 10s., or five stripes. It was understood, however, that the number of stripes was in no case to exceed thirty-nine.
Theft, provided the value of the property stolen was less than £6, was punished by compelling the offender to make restitution to the owner in a threefold ratio, and by a discretionary fine, not to exceed £10. If the value of the property was £6 or more, the thief, in addition to the triple forfeiture, was "punished by whipping, not exceeding thirty-nine stripes." For the purpose of meeting the contingency of poverty, it was further ordained:— "If any such offender be unable to make restitution, and pay such three-fold damages, such offender shall make satisfaction by service; and the prosecutor shall be, and is hereby empowered to dispose of such offender in service, to any subject of this state, for such time as he shall be assigned to such prosecutor by the court, assistant, or justice, before whom the prosecution shall be." Cursing and profane swearing were punished by a fine of 6s., or by sitting in the stocks "not exceeding three hours, and not less than one hour," and paying the cost of prosecution. He who allowed gaming in any form on his premises, was punished by fine, as was also he who engaged in this unlawful sport, or in horse-racing.*
* Acts and Laws of Vt., 1779, pp. 35, 36, 44, 80, 88, 89, 92. Slade's Vt. State Papers, pp. 324, 331, 361, 362, 369, 370, 373.
578 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1779.
For the purpose of preventing "unseasonable night-walking, and for the punishing of disorders committed in the night season," a statute was enacted, by the terms of which it was declared, "that if any persons that are under the government of parents, guardians, or masters; or any boarders or sojourners, shall convene, or meet together, or be entertained in any house, without the consent or approbation of their parents, guardians, or masters, after nine o'clock at night, any longer than to discharge the business they are sent about; or shall meet together, and associate themselves in company or companies, in streets or elsewhere after the time aforesaid, and shall commit any disorder, or make any rout at any time in the night season — each person so offending shall forfeit 20s. for every such offence." It was also provided by this act, that if any person suspected of being engaged in causing disturbance at night, should not be able to give "a satisfactory account" of himself at the time the disturbance occurred, and prove that he "had no hand" in it, he should be liable for all damage arising therefrom.
Power was given to the county courts to license suitable persons to keep houses of public entertainment. At the same time, means were taken to prevent the abuses which might arise from the indiscriminate sale of intoxicating liquors. Whenever it should appear to the officers of a town that any person residing within the town was "a tavern-haunter," or that he spent "his time idly" at houses of entertainment, they were authorized "to cause the name of such tavern-haunter to be posted at the door of every tavern in the same town, by setting up a certificate, under their hands, forbidding every tavern-keeper in such town," under penalty of a fine of £3, and forfeiture of his license-bond, to entertain, or suffer any tavern-haunter so posted, "to have or drink any strong liquors of any kind whatsoever, in or about his house," until the prohibition should be removed. In case the person warned in the manner aforesaid, should refuse to lay aside his "evil practises," authority was given to the town officers to require surety for his good behavior. Should the offender fail to find surety, he was required "to pay a fine of 20s. or sit in the stocks for the space of two hours, on some public time or season."
None except licensed keepers of houses of public entertainment were allowed to vend liquors "by a less quantity than a quart." Any person "duly convicted of keeping a tippling‑
1779.] PENALTIES FOR DRUNKENNESS AND SABBATH-BREAKING. 579
house, or of selling strong beer, ale, cider, perry, metheglin, wine, rum, or mixed drink, or any strong drink whatsoever, by retail in small quantities, as aforesaid, without license first had as aforesaid," was rendered liable to a fine of £3 for the first offence, of £6 for the second offence, and in default of payment in either case, "to be publicly whipped on the naked body not less than ten, nor exceeding fifteen stripes."*
By the statute for "the punishment of drunkenness," it was enacted that if any person should "be found drunken," so as to "be thereby bereaved and disabled in the use of reason and understanding, appearing either in speech, gesture, or behavior, and be thereof convicted, he or she" should forfeit to the treasurer of the town where the offence was committed, "for the use of the poor therein," 8s. for each offence, or "sit in the stocks not to exceed three hours, nor less than one hour."†
In no instance, perhaps, was the influence of "the Connecticut law book" more apparent, than in the act "for the due observation and keeping the first day of the week, as the Sabbath or Lord's day and for punishing disorders and profaneness on the same." By its regulations no person was allowed to perform any labor, "works of necessity and mercy, only, excepted," or engage in "any game, sport, play, or recreation" on Sunday, or on any day of public fasting or thanksgiving, under a penalty not exceeding £10. Whoever should be guilty of "any rude, profane, or unlawful behaviour on the Lord's day, either in words or actions, by clamorous discourse, or by shouting, halooing, screaming, running, riding, dancing, jumping, blowing of horns, or any such like rude or unlawful words or actions, in any house or place, so near to, or in, any public meeting-house for divine worship, that those who meet there may be disturbed by such rude and profane behaviour," was to be fined 40s. for every such offence, and "whipped on the naked back, not exceeding ten stripes, nor less than five." No person was allowed to "drive a team, or droves of any kind, or travel on said day," except on business relating to "the present
* By an act of the General Assembly passed on the 21st of October, 1782, this act was amended, and none but licensed tavern-keepers, and persons especially licensed by the justices and selectmen, in each town, were permitted "to sell any distilled liquor or wine, in any less quantity than fifteen gallons, delivered and carried away at one time, on penalty of forfeiting the sum of £10." See ante, pp. 189, 190.
† Acts and Laws of Vt., 1779, Pp. 44, 77, 89-92. Slade's Vt. State Papers, pp. 331, 359, 370-373.
580 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1779.
war," or unless by some adversity" he had been belated, "and forced to lodge in the woods, wilderness, or highways the night before." In the latter case he was allowed to proceed on Sunday no further than to "the next inn or place of shelter."
No person was allowed to be accompanied by an attendant on Sunday, while going to or returning from "the public worship of God," unless necessity or mercy required it. Listening "outside of the meeting-house during the time of public worship;" unnecessarily withdrawing one's self from "the public worship to go without doors;" and desecration of the time "by playing or profanely talking" were also strictly forbidden. The old New England custom, according to which Sunday was regarded as beginning at sunset on Saturday, not only obtained in Vermont but was in a measure defended by law. "If any number of persons," these were the words of the statute, "shall convene and meet together in company or companies, in the street or elsewhere, on the evening next before or after the Lord's day, and be thereof convicted, [they] shall pay a fine not exceeding £3, or sit in the stocks not exceeding two hours." To this section a proviso was attached declaring that it was not to be "taken or construed to hinder the meetings of such persons upon any religious occasions." The officers of each town were required to "restrain all persons from unnecessary walking in the streets or fields, swimming in the water, keeping open their shops, or following their secular occasions or recreations in the evening preceding the Lord's day, or on said day, or evening following." A wholesome dread of disobeying any of the regulations enjoined by this act was inculcated by the denunciation of penalties of various kinds against Sabbath-breakers.*
For facilitating the infliction of punishment, every town was ordered to "make and maintain at its own charge, a good pair of stocks, with a lock and key, sufficient to hold and secure such offenders as shall be sentenced to sit therein which stocks shall be set in the most public place in each respective town." In accordance with the principles of philanthropy and Christian charity, measures were taken for "maintaining and supporting the poor," and many laws having for their object the welfare and improvement of society were enacted.
* Acts and Laws of Vt., 1779, pp. 26, 27. Slade's Vt. State Papers, pp. 313-315.
1779.] MILITIA LAWS. 581
All male persons between the ages of sixteen and fifty were required to "bear arms, and duly attend all musters and military exercises" of the companies to which they belonged, with the exception of "ministers of the gospel; councillors; justices of the peace; the secretary [of state]; judges of probate and of superior and inferior courts; the president, tutors, and students at collegiate schools; masters of arts; allowed physicians and surgeons; representatives or deputies for the time being; school-masters attorney-at-law; one miller to each grist-mill; sheriffs and constables for the time being; constant jurymen; tanners, who make it their constant business; and lamed persons or others disabled in body." Each soldier and householder was required to be always provided with, and to have in constant readiness, "a well fixed firelock, the barrel not less than three feet and a half long, or other good fire-arms, to the satisfaction of the commissioned officers of the company to which he doth belong, or in the limits of which he dwells; a good sword, cutlass, tomahawk, or bayonet; a worm and priming-wire fit for each gun; a cartouch-box or powder-horn, and bullet-pouch; one pound of good powder; four pounds of bullets fit for his gun; and six good flints." Full details of the rules by which the militia of the state were to be guided were also set forth, and provision was made for the varied difficulties which might arise in the construction of a military organization.
For the purpose of insuring a proper presentation of the principles of law and justice, and in order to prevent ignorant and unscrupulous men from practising in the courts, every person approved of as an attorney-at-law was required, before being admitted to the bar, to take the following oath:— "You swear by the ever-living God, that you will do no falsehood, nor consent to any to be done in the court and if you know of any to be done, you shall give knowledge thereof to the judges or justices of the court, or some of them, that it may be reformed. You shall not, wittingly, and willingly, or knowingly promote, sue, or procure to be sued, any false or unlawful suit, nor give aid or consent to the same. You shall demean yourself in the office of an attorney within the court, according to the best of your learning and discretion, and with all good fidelity, as well to the court as to the client. So help you God."*
* Acts and Laws of Vt., 1779, pp. 18-24, 43, 78, 97, 98. Slade's Vt. State Papers, pp. 305-312, 330, 331, 359, 360, 378, 379.
582 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1779—1789.
The statutes enacted in February, 1779, some of the most remarkable of which have been cited, served as the basis of the system of law which for many years obtained in Vermont. At the session of the General Assembly, held in June, 1782, the common and statute laws of England, so far as they were applicable to a republican form of government, and were "not repugnant to the constitution, or to any act of the Legislature" of Vermont, were adopted as the laws of the state. Corporal punishment, though at first much employed as a means of reformation, gradually fell into disuse, as moral suasion usurped the place of brute force, and finally ceased to be recognized as a lawful penalty.* Instances of the infliction of this and of other degrading punishments are often met with in the records of Vermont trials.
At the session of the Superior court, held at Windsor, in February, 1784, Abraham Taylor, who pleaded guilty to the commission of a crime too indecent to name, received this sentence:— "That he be taken by the sheriff to the whipping-post, and be whipped on the naked body thirty-nine stripes; sit in the pillory half an hour on two different days, viz. half an hour on each day; be imprisoned one month; pay a fine of £20 and cost of prosecution; and stand committed till judgment be complied with." Martha Mansfield having been adjudged guilty of a certain offence, at the session of the Superior court, held at Marlborough on the fifth Tuesday of August, 1786, was sentenced to be taken to the public whipping-post in that town; whipped twenty stripes on the naked body; pay the costs of prosecution; and be imprisoned until judgment was complied with. At the same time Mary Hazeltine and Timothy Holbrook were sentenced to receive twenty-five stripes each, and Thomas Walker thirty stripes. On the first Tuesday of March, 1789, a session of the Superior court was held at Newfane. On this occasion the guilt of Ezra Whitney in some transaction having been proved, he was sentenced "to stand in the pillory one hour, between the hours of twelve and two, at Newfane in the county of Windham, on the 9th day of instant March, in a public place near the Court-house; pay a fine of £30 to the treasury of the state; and pay costs of prosecution, taxed at
* The efforts of the first Council of Censors, at their meetings held during the years 1785 and 1786, were very beneficial in rendering the character of the punishment for minor offences less brutal, and in introducing a more humane spirit into the criminal code of the state.
1779—1789.] A STRANGE BURIAL. 583
£10 13s. 8d." The trial of Reuben Row, alias Munroe, by the Supreme court, at their session held at Newfane on the 4th of September, 1789, on the charge "of passing to John Holbrook Jr. one piece of false money, made of certain mixed and base metals, counterfeited to the likeness and similitude of a piece of good, lawful, and current coin of this state, called a dollar," resulted in his conviction. The sentence of the court was carried into execution by Samuel Fletcher, the sheriff, who administered to the culprit "twenty stripes on his naked back, well laid on, at the common whipping-post in said Newfane, between the hours of two and four in the afternoon" of the day on which the judgment was rendered. It further appears, by the records of the court, that on the morning of the same day, "Row alias Munroe" was punished by being compelled to stand "in the common pillory" of Windham county "for the space of one hour."*
In a country or state where no very definite ideas either of law or of the principles of right are held by the people, customs sometimes prevail, which, though strange and unnatural, are often observed with the most scrupulous care. Of those which obtained among the early settlers of Vermont, springing from a perversion of legal maxims, two examples have been preserved. On the 16th of June, 1785, the General Assembly of Vermont passed an act discharging from imprisonment, on certain conditions, Thomas Chandler of Chester, one of the early settlers on the New Hampshire Grants. On the 20th of the same month, before he was enabled to comply with the terms of the act, Chandler died in the jail at Westminster, where, during several months, he had been confined for debt. According to the ideas of that period, if the friends of a person dying in prison carried his remains beyond the boundaries of the jail-yard they were regarded as accomplices in an "escape," and were supposed to be liable to satisfy the judgment by virtue of which he was confined. Another foolish notion led people to imagine, that any one who should bury the body of an imprisoned debtor would thereby become executor in his own wrong, and, as an intermeddler with the estate of the debtor, liable to discharge the debtor's obligations. How to give Christian burial to the remains of Judge Chandler, and yet avoid the responsibility of answering for his defaults, was a serious question.
* MS. Court Records. Slade's Vt. State Papers, p. 450.
584 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1779.
For several days the corpse remained in the cell of the jail, shunned by those whose common sense, one would suppose, should have taught them the folly of a custom which forbade them to perform an act of humanity as imperative and solemn as is that of inhumation. At length, when the body had become so offensive as to endanger the health of the prisoners confined in the jail, Nathan Fisk, the jailer, suggested an expedient which was quickly put in practice. On measuring the jail liberties, he found, that by stretching the chain, he could include within them a small portion of the adjoining burying-ground. A grave was then commenced just outside the graveyard fence, and just within the jail-yard limits. As the excavation advanced, it was directed obliquely under the fence, until a sufficient depth and obliquity had been obtained. These preparations having been completed, the jailer in company with a few individuals entered, in the silence of midnight, the cell where the putrescent mass was lying, placed it in a rough, box-like coffin, drew it on the ground to the spot selected for interment, and consigned to its last resting-place all that remained of the once noted Chandler. Thus was he buried within the jail limits, and yet, by a very pardonable evasion of law, beneath the consecrated soil of "the old Westminster churchyard."*
By another strange perversion of legal principles, at this
* This story is related, in a different form, by the Hon. Daniel P. Thompson, in that most entertaining American historical novel, entitled "The Rangers; or, The Tory's Daughter," i. 99.
The author of this work has often heard the circumstances connected with the burial of Judge Chandler detailed by the old people who reside in the vicinity of the place where the event occurred. An account of the incident was published on the 9th of February, 1855, in the Vermont Republican, a newspaper printed at Brattleborough. The article in which it appeared, entitled "More about Westminster," was first printed in another Vermont newspaper, the Vergennes Independent. The writer of the article illustrated the superstitious views of the early settlers of Vermont by a more singular but less credible story, which is here given in his own words:— "There once obtained a custom, whether warranted by law this deponent saith not of holding even the dead body of a debtor liable to arrest. It is said that a case occurred in the town of Dummerston, within the memory of some now living, where a dead body was arrested on its way to the grave, and detained till some of the friends 'backed the writ,' and thus became surety for the debtor's appearance at court. As the return day of the writ was some time off, the defendant was in no condition to appear, and consequently 'lurched his bail.' I must confess this sounds rather apocryphal. The case of poor Sheridan, who was arrested while in the agonies of death, is familiar to every literary man, but the arrest of a corpse seems too monstrous to be believed. Such an event, if it has occurred, would well deserve to be called an arrest on mean (mesne) process."
1725—1800.] A CURIOUS WEDDING. 585
early period, certain people were led to believe, that whoever should marry a widow, who was administratrix upon the estate of her deceased husband, and should through her come in possession of anything that had been purchased by the deceased husband, would become administrator in his own wrong, and render himself liable to answer for the goods and estate of his predecessor. The method adopted to avoid this difficulty, in the marriage of Asa Averill of Westminster to his second wife, the widow of Major Peter Lovejoy, was very singular. By the side of the chimney in the widow's house was a recess of considerable size. Across this a blanket was stretched in such a manner as to form a small enclosure. Into this Mrs. Lovejoy passed with her attendants, who completely disrobed her, and threw her clothes into the room. She then thrust her hand through a small aperture purposely made in the blanket. The proffered member was clasped by Mr. Averill, and in this position he was married to the nude widow on the other side of the woollen curtain. He then produced a complete assortment of wedding attire which was slipped into the recess. The new Mrs. Averill soon after appeared in full dress, ready to receive the congratulations of the company, and join in their hearty rustic festivities. The marriage proved a happy one, their children by their former partners living in great harmony, not only with each other but with those also who were afterwards born to the new pair.*
Of the aboriginal inhabitants of that part of Vermont which borders the banks of the Connecticut, very little is known. The Iroquois Indians, whose hunting-ground comprehended the whole of the western portion of the state, seldom extended their wanderings across the mountains, and have left but few vestiges of their presence, even in the places which were most frequented by them. The country in the neighborhood of Lunenburgh and Newbury, and on the side of the river opposite to the latter place, was called by the Indians, "Coos," which word, in the Abenaqui language, is said to signify "The Pines." At these localities, and at other points on the upper Connecticut, formerly resided a branch of the Abenaqui tribe. On the 8th of May, 1725, occurred a memorable fight at the lower village of Pigwacket, New Hampshire, which resulted
* MS. Letter of the Hon. William C. Bradley, dated March 16th, 1857
586 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1725—1800.
in the defeat, by Capt. John Lovewell and thirty-four men, of a large Indian force, commanded by the chiefs Paugus and Wahwa. After this event the "Coossucks," as the Indians were called who inhabited the Coos country, deserted their abodes, and removing to Canada became identified there with the tribe at St. Francis. Subsequent to the reduction of Canada by the English, in 1760, several Indian families returned to Coos, and remained there until they became extinct.*
The extent of the Indian settlements at Newbury has never been fully ascertained. The character of the country was such as would naturally suit the taste of those who depended upon hunting and fishing for support, for the woods were filled with bears, moose, deer, and game, while the Connecticut abounded in salmon, and the brooks were alive with trout. Of the evidences of savage life which have been found in this vicinity, the following account by a citizen† of Newbury may be relied on as correct. "On the high ground, east of the mouth of Cow Meadow brook, and south of the three large projecting rocks, were found many indications of an old and extensive Indian settlement. There were many domestic implements. Among the rest were a stone mortar and pestle. The pestle I have seen. Heads of arrows, large quantities of ashes, and the ground burnt over to a great extent, are some of the marks of a long residence there. The burnt ground and ashes were still visible the last time the place was ploughed. On the meadow, forty or fifty rods below, near the rocks in the river, was evidently a burying-ground. The remains of many of the sons of the forest are there deposited. Bones have frequently been turned up by the plough. That they were buried in the sitting posture, peculiar to the Indians, has been ascertained. When the first settlers came here, the remains of a fort were still visible on the Ox Bow, a dozen or twenty rods from the east end of Moses Johnson's lower garden, on the south side of the lane. The size of the fort was plain to be seen. Trees about as large as a man's thigh, were growing in the circumference of the old
* An account of a few of the Indians who inhabited the Coos country, during the latter part of the last and the earlier portion of the present century, is given in the "Historical Sketches of the Coos country" by the Rev. Grant Powers, pp. 178-189. Consult also Thompson's Vermont, Part II.. pp. 205, 206.
† David Johnson, Esq., a son of the worthy Col. Thomas Johnson, whose name has already appeared in these pages. The extract given in the text is taken from Powers's Coos Country, pp. 39, 40.
1725 — 1800.] INDIAN SCULPTURES. 587
fort. A profusion of white flint-stones and heads of arrows may yet be seen scattered over the ground."*
The picture writing of the Indians, which is to be seen in two localities in Eastern Vermont, affords satisfactory evidence of the fact, that certain tribes were accustomed to frequent the Connecticut and the streams connected with it, even though they were not actual residents of the pleasant banks within which those waters are confined. At the foot of Bellows Falls, and on the west side of the channel of the Connecticut, are situated two rocks, on which are inscribed figures, the meaning of which it is difficult to determine. The larger rock presents a group of variously ornamented heads. The surface which these heads occupy is about six feet in height and fifteen feet in breadth. Prominent among the rest is the figure occupying nearly a central position in the group. From its head, which is supported by a neck and shoulders, six rays or feathers extend, which may be regarded as emblems of excellence or power. Four of the other heads are adorned each with a pair of similar projections. On a separate rock, situated a short distance from the main group, a single bead is sculptured, which is finished with rays or feathers, and was probably intended to designate an Indian chief. The length of the head, exclusive of the rays, is fourteen inches, and its breadth across the forehead in its widest part is ten inches. These sculpturings seem to have been intended to commemorate some event in which a chief and a number of his
* This account was published in the year 1840.
588 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1723—1800.
tribe performed some noted exploit, or met with some sad disaster. The former supposition is undoubtedly the more correct. It is well known that the Indians were usually careful to conceal the traces of their misfortunes, and eager to publish the evidence of their successes.
The rocks are situated about eight rods south of the bridge for common travel, across the Falls. That on which the group is pictured is, during much of the time, under water. The other, which is further from the river, is not so much affected by the wash of the stream. Whenever a freshet occurs, both are covered. An idea of the locality of these sculpturings may be obtained from the accompanying engraving. The view presented is from a point between the two noted rocks, which are respectively designated by the letters A and B. A train on the Sullivan Railroad is seen passing up on the other side of the river. In the back-ground rise the mountains of New Hampshire.*
On the south bank of the Wantastiquet or West river, in the
* In his "Travels through the Northern Parts of the United States, in the Years 1807 and 1808," Edward Augustus Kendall, Esq., referred to the sculptures at Bellows Falls, and endeavored by them to prove that the characters on the rock at Dighton, Massachusetts (or "the Writing Rock on Taunton River," as he designated it), were inscribed by the Indians. A few extracts from his work will show the pompous style in which he treated the subject. After describing Bellows Falls, then often called the Great Falls, he proceeded to his argument, in these words:—
"The entire basin of the cataract is of coarse granite, fractured into large masses. On the smooth and inclined face of one of these masses, situate on the south side of the bridge, and on the west side of the river, are the sculptures. These have a comparative insignificance when placed beside the Writing Rock on Taunton
1723—1800] "INDIAN ROCK." 589
town of Brattleborough, is situated the "Indian Rock." Its location is about one hundred rods west of the point of junction of the Wantastiquet and Connecticut rivers. It lies low, and
River. They consist in outlines of a variety of heads, some of which are human, and some belonging to animals. Unlike the sculptures of the Writing Rock, they are parts of no connected work, but are scattered over the face of the rock, in the most even and eligible places.
"It is to these sculptures, then, that I appeal, as to conclusive evidence of the Indian origin of the Writing Rock. They are too rude, too insignificant, and too evidently without depth of meaning to be attributed to Phoenicians or Carthaginians. No person will carry European vanity so far as to contend that there is anything here above the level of the Indian genius. But, if Indians were the authors of these sculptures, then Indians were the authors of the Writing Rock also. The style of the drawing is the same; the style of sculpture is the same; and it is for this reason that I add nothing now, to what I have already advanced, in regard to these particulars. All that requires any special notice is this, that the rock at the Great Falls, which is of an exceedingly coarse granite, must have been wrought with still more difficulty than the rock on Taunton River . . . . . . . These sculptures, so obviously the work of idle hours, and for the accomplishment of which the rudest artist, once provided with a tool, must be allowed to be competent, supply us with the fact, that the Indians were able to sculpture rocks, and that when they did sculpture them, the sculpture resembled the sculpture of the Writing Rock.
"In more than one of the heads sculptured at the Great Falls, we see an exact similitude to the heads sculptured on the Writing Rock, and particularly in the circumstances, that a single dot or hollow is made to serve both for nose and mouth; that no ears are given to the human heads; and that the crowns of the heads are bare Thus, we ascertain that in the sculptures observed upon the Writing Rock, there is the strictest similitude, in workmanship and drawing, to those observed upon the rocks at the Great Falls . . . . . . . Thus, all questions are answered, except those that regard the nature of the tool by the edge of which the rocks have been wrought upon, and the occasions upon which the figures have been wrought.
"With respect to the nature of the tool, every difficulty would be dismissed by supposing that the sculptures were not wrought till after the introduction of iron by the Europeans: but, there appears to be good reason for thinking them more ancient, and we shall, therefore, in all probability, be compelled to believe, that the tool was of no better material than stone.
"One only question remains, upon which I shall venture to hazard any remark, and this respects the occasions upon which rocks have been sculptured by the Indians.
"In the first place, it is matter of notoriety that the Indians have always pursued the practice of representing, by delineation, carving, and, as we are now entitled to add, by sculpture, those objects and those events concerning which they either wished to make some instant communication, or to preserve some durable monument . . . . . . . In the second place, there can be little reason to doubt, that they sometimes exercised their skill, in all the arts now mentioned, for the mere purposes of pastime; and, in this view, it appears unnecessary to admit the doctrine, advanced by some persons in the neighborhood of the Great Falls, in regard to the sculptures there displayed, namely, that the heads wrought upon the rocks are the heads of men, women, children, and animals that have
590 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1723—1800.
during a part of the year is covered with water, or with sand and dirt, the deposit of the river. On first examining this rock, the figures on the upper part of it were alone visible. Just below them, the rock was covered with earth to the depth of six inches. The earth was removed, until a surface measuring ten feet in width, and eight feet in height, was exposed. At the point where the workmen ceased digging, the rock was covered with three feet of earth. The whole surface of the rock, was, upon closer scrutiny, found to be covered with inscriptions. Among these the date 1755 was to be distinguished. The two figures in the upper corner of the engraving, and on a line with one another, are each about eight inches in height, and six inches across, measuring from the extremities of the lateral appendages. Of the ten figures here presented, six are supposed to designate birds, two bear a resemblance to snakes, one is not unlike a dog or a wolf; and one conveys no idea either of bird, beast, or reptile. The chiselling of these sculptures is deeper and more easily traced than that of the sculptures at Bellows
been drowned in the cataract — the Indians being used to commemorate by sculptures particular catastrophes of this kind. We may object to this, first, that there is no reason to believe in the occurrence of so many fatal accidents at this spot, as the number of heads must in such case attest; secondly, that the sculptures on these rocks are disposed with no solemnity or order, but are scattered in the most careless manner; and, thirdly, that it is highly probable that they were the work of idle hours spent among these rocks, at a place so favourable for fishing as the foot of a cataract, and therefore so much a place of resort.
"In this view, the sculptured rocks at the Great Falls will be a monument only of this, the ancient existence of a neighbouring population, and the ancient fisheries pursued here; while the Writing Rock, also found in a situation favourable for fishing, will be regarded, from the variety which it contains, and the apparent combinations and relations of parts which it betrays, as an elaborate monument of some transaction of which no other trace remains to elucidate this imperfect iconography." — iii. 205, 206, 207, 209-213.
1723—1800.] PROBABLE ORIGIN OF THE SCULPTURES. 591
Falls. Iconographic skill may detect the meaning of these configurations. The impression, which one unused to the study of hieroglyphics receives from an examination of them, is that they are the work of the Indians, and that they were carved by them merely for amusement, while watching at this spot for game, or while resting after the toils of the chase.*
Such are the most important memorials of the Indians which
* "On West River, a little above its mouth, are a few Indian sculptures, the last that I shall have to introduce to the reader's notice. 'A number of figures or inscriptions are yet to be seen upon the rocks at the mouth of this river, seeming to allude to the affairs of war among the Indians but their rudeness and awkwardness denote that the formers of them were at a great remove from the knowledge of any alphabet.' By this account, written by a native topographer, and derived from a History of Vermont, my curiosity was long raised; but, upon visiting the rock intended to be referred to, I found only the most insignificant of all the Indian sculptures that I had met with. The historian, Dr. Williams, with whom I had afterwards the pleasure of conversing, and whose book discovers a spirit of inquiry, and contains many original views, informed me, that as to the sculptures on West River, he had rashly relied on the observations of other eyes than his own.
"These sculptures comprise only five figures of a diminutive size, and scratched, rather than sculptured, on the surface of a small mass of schistic rock, situate on the side of a cove in a meadow, above the mouth of the river. Of the five figures, four represent birds, and one is either that of a dog or of a wolf. I was informed that on a lower part of the rock adjacent, there was a sculptured snake, so exquisitely wrought as to have terrified, by its resemblance to nature, an honest countryman of the neighbourhood. The water, however, was at this time low, and neither myself, nor the gentleman who did me the favour to accompany me, was able to discover any snake; and, on closer inquiry, no sort of foundation could be found even for the story itself.
"The West River rock affords us, therefore, nothing, or next to nothing, in any view save one; and this is, the example of a disposition in the Indians to sculpture rocks, and to sculpture them even for amusement. The cove, which, it may be believed, was anciently overrun with wild rice (zizania aquatica), has always been a celebrated resort of wild ducks. It is at this day a favourite place for shooting them; and we may believe that the Indians were accustomed to spend many hours here watching either for water-fowl or for fish. Hence, the sculptures, both at the Great Falls and on West River, are to be attributed to the whim of vacant moments." — Kendall's Travels, iii. 219, 220, 221.
In the work from which the above extracts are taken, Mr. Kendall gives a very particular description of certain figures, said to be cut by the Indians on the trunk of a pine tree in Weathersfield. These carvings, according to Mr. Kendall, were designed to commemorate the birth of a child, whose mother was taken prisoner at the burning of Deerfield in the year 1704. The foundation of this incorrect statement is, doubtless, the stones still standing on the north bank of Knapp's brook, in the town of Reading, which were erected to commemorate the birth of Captive Johnson, which event took place on the 31st of August, 1754. All inquiries concerning this monumental tree have proved fruitless. The oldest inhabitants of Weathersfield have never known of its existence. It is probable, therefore, that Mr. Kendall's accurate description of the appearance and form of
592 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1723—1800.
are to be found in Eastern Vermont. Regarded as specimens of the rude and uncultivated attempts of a now decaying race to express their ideas, however unimportant those ideas may have been, they cannot but be viewed with mingled emotions of curiosity and respect.
the carvings with which he has adorned it, was due either to an imposition practised upon him, or to his fondness for mythical conceptions. — Kendall's Travels, iii. 207-210, 212. Also ante, pp. 65, 66.