PROGRESS OF ORGANIZATION.
Gloucester County established — Sessions of the Court at Kingsland — Col. Nathan Stone of Windsor — His Conference with Col. Samuel Wells — Troubles at Windsor — Assault on the Sheriff of Cumberland County — Attempt to Overawe the Courts — Dislike towards John Grout, an Attorney — Determination to "Throw him over the Bar" — Grout taken by the Mob — Carried to Charlestown — Thence to Windsor — He refuses to accept the Terms of the Rioters — Escapes from Confinement — The Inhabitants of the "Grants" petition the King — Large Tracts of Land in Hinsdale and Guilford granted by Gov. Tryon to Col. Howard — Disturbance at Putney — Attempts at Jail Building by Thomas Chandler — Description of the Jails — The People of Cumberland County petition for a Removal of the Shire Town from Chester — Chandler's Objections to a Change — Subject brought before the Legislature of New York — Act passed for erecting County Buildings — Westminster chosen as the County Town — The "Old Court House."
THE territory north of Cumberland county had for several years been the resort of a "lawless banditti of felons and criminals," who found in that distant region a safe retreat from creditors and officers of the law. There were also living there, a number of poor but reputable people, who, actuated by the desire of extending their possessions and enticed by the cheapness of the land, had settled almost beyond the bounds of civilization, and were striving to subdue the wilderness, and adorn the steeps of the Green mountains and the shores of the Connecticut with the luxuriance of waving harvest-fields. After the formation of Cumberland county, it was generally understood that the remaining portions of the "Grants" were to be deemed a part of Albany county. The authority of the latter county in the district referred to, was, however, merely nominal, and but little respect was paid to officers who issued their precepts at a distance of two hundred miles from the place where they were to take effect, and then left it to chance or a wandering peddler to effect a service. Weary of living without laws, the intel‑
160 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1770.
ligent and well disposed inhabitants of the new country, sent a petition to the city of New York asking for the establishment of a county. The subject was taken up in Council, on the 28th of February, 1770, Lieutenant-Governor Colden being present, and its discussion resulted in the passage of an order, directing his Majesty's Attorney-General to prepare the draft of an ordinance establishing as a separate county by the name of Gloucester, the territory lying north of the north line of Cumberland county, and extending from the Green mountains to Connecticut river. The ordinance was passed on the 16th of March, and from that period dates the formation of the county of Gloucester. At the same time, Kingsland was selected as the county town.*
On the 29th of May following, the first term of the courts of Common Pleas and of General Sessions was held at Kingsland, which was then little more than a wilderness. A full bench of judges was present, also three of the four justices of the quorum and the sheriff, but it does not appear that any business was transacted. The court met again at the same place on the 28th of August, and after appointing four constables, Simeon Stevens for Newbury, Jesse McFarland for Moretown, Abner Howard for Thetford, and Samuel Pennock for Strafford, adjourned for three months. On assembling at the appointed time, the 27th of November, the "eight causes" on the docket were "put over;" the constabulary force of Thetford was increased by the addition of Ebenezer Green; Samuel Pennock, Ebenezer Martin, Ebenezer Green, and James Allen, were made county surveyors, and the session was brought to a close. In the following year, on the 25th of February, Judge John Taplin, Sheriff John Taplin Jr., and John Peters, who served in the double capacity of clerk and justice of the quorum or assistant justice, set out from Moretown for Kingsland for the purpose of dispensing justice as usual. Owing to the depth of the snow they were obliged to travel on rackets, and the difficulty of this mode of progression was increased by the want of a road. On the second day of their journey, having travelled a considerable distance, and being unable to decide as to their situation, except that they were "far in the woods," they made a halt and "the court was ordered to be opened on the spot." The records of the doings on this occasion and at the next session are in these
* The boundaries of Gloucester county are given, ante, pp. 5, 6.
1770.] THE WINDSOR PEOPLE. 161
words: "The court, if one, adjourned over until the last Tuesday in May next, at which time it was opened, and after disposing of one case of bastardy, adjourned to August next." The inconveniences of holding the courts in a locality as unsettled and unknown as Kingsland being evident, an ordinance was passed by the Council of New York on the 9th of April, 1772, directing the courts of Common Pleas and General Sessions of the peace for Gloucester county, to be held in the township of Newbury on the last Tuesday in the months of February and August, "during the space of seven years." From this time the throne of sovereign law was, doubtless, established in greater dignity, and the sceptre of justice regarded with more profound respect.*
The inhabitants of Windsor, most of whom adhered to the jurisdiction of New Hampshire, were willing that those who favored the government of New York should be severely punished for misdemeanors, as has been plainly seen in the case of the Deans, before recited. They also denied the authority of the courts established by New York, and were ever ready to resist the execution of precepts issuing therefrom. During the month of May in the year 1770, as Samuel Wells of Brattleborough, one of the judges of the Inferior court of Common Pleas for Cumberland county, was returning home from a journey, he called on Col. Nathan Stone of Windsor, a justice of the peace under a New York commission, but at heart and in action a coöperator with those who maintained the supremacy of New Hampshire titles. As Wells was leaving, Stone mounted his horse and accompanied his guest almost to the limits of the town. Their discourse happening to turn on the opposition which had been made by the people of Windsor to the sheriff, who not long before had endeavored to serve some precepts there, Stone declared that no writs nor precepts from either of the courts of the county should be served in Windsor; that the formation of the county was a sham; that the patent authorizing
* Book of Commissions, in office Sec. State N. Y., 1751—1770, v. 440; 1770—1789, D. vi. 27. Deming's Vt. Officers, p. 119. Doc. Hist. N. Y., iv. 634, 635.
The township of Washington, situated in the north-western part of Orange county, comprises the territory, formerly included within the bounds of Kingsland. Kingsland was probably chartered early in 1770. Soon after that event, a town plot was laid out into village lots near the centre of the town, and a log jail was erected. The latter circumstance gave the name of Jail Branch to two streams which take their rise in Washington. One of these empties into the Winooski, the other into Wait's river. — Thompson's Vt., Part III. p. 182.
162 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1770.
its erection was a libel, since it contained expressions in regard to the inhabitants of the "Grants" which were untrue; that justice could not be obtained in the county because of the corruption of the judges and of the other officers; that the courts were ruled entirely by John Grout, an attorney, residing at Chester, and that he, Stone, was determined to oppose the authority of the courts and the judges so long as he had "a drop of blood in his veins." He further informed Wells that friendship had induced him to bear him company until he had passed most of the settlements in the town, and intimated that should Wells ride alone through the town, he would be in danger of being assaulted by the people.
Wells endeavored to convince Stone of the danger of resisting the administration of justice, and exhorted him to alter his determination, telling him, that if the people would for the future make no opposition to the free execution of the laws, it would be the most likely method to induce the civil authority to pass over, "in the tenderest manner," the opposition which had already been made. He also remarked, that if Grout or any of the justices or officers had committed any wrong, the law provided a sufficient remedy, and was the only medium by which offenders could be properly punished. To a final observation on the part of Wells, expressive of a fear lest Stone's determination to withstand the authority of the courts had been hastily made, Stone replied, that he had resolved, at least five or six months before, to resist the execution of writs; "that while he had life, he would oppose the sheriff, and that the people of Windsor and some other places would join and stand by him to the last drop of their blood."
A few days after this interview and before the end of the month of May, Daniel Whipple, the high sheriff of the county, in order to retake Joseph Wait, Benjamin Wait, Nathan Stone and Samuel Stone of Windsor, who, having been arrested by him a short time previous, on a precept from the Inferior court of Common Pleas, had been rescued by a number of armed men, collected a posse of a dozen or fifteen persons, among whom was John Grout, and with them repaired to the house of Joseph Wait, in order to arrest him. Being informed that he was at the house of Benjamin Wait, the sheriff proceeded thither. He had gone but a short distance, when he perceived a body of armed men approaching. Conspicuous in the crowd were those against whom the precept was issued. Accompany‑
1770.] RIOTOUS PROCEEDINGS. 163
ing them were David Stone, Steel Smith, Elisha Hawley, Peter Levins, Benjamin Thurston, Samuel Gridley, David Getchel, Jacob Getchel, Ebenezer Hoisington, senior and junior, Simeon Mills, Enoch Judd, Ebenezer Curtis, Solomon Emmons, John Benjamin, Andrew Norton, Jonathan Noble, John White, Samuel Whiston, Elnathan Strong, Joseph Thompson, Joseph King, and Aaron Bartlett, some of whom were office-holders in the county, and nearly all inhabitants of Windsor. The party appeared to be under the general direction of Nathan Stone, who was armed with a sword. The sheriff on approaching within hearing distance, made proclamation in form of law for them to disperse, but without effect. The rioters, led on by Joseph Wait, who for a time assumed command, then made an assault upon the sheriff and his posse, whom they soon overpowered. Wait, being armed with a club and pistol, struck at Grout twice with the former weapon, but he avoiding the blow, Wait levelled his pistol at him, whereupon he surrendered. The sheriff and his posse having been conducted to the house of Joseph Wait, were informed, that one, at least, of their number would be detained as a prisoner until the sheriff, Grout, and some others, should enter into bonds in the sum of five hundred pounds, to be forfeited if the action on which the sheriff was attempting to take them was further prosecuted, or if any of the inhabitants of Windsor should be prosecuted at the next general sessions for any crimes, whatever might be their nature. They also demanded of the sheriff, that he should engage to make return upon the process against Joseph Wait, Benjamin Wait, Nathan Stone, and Samuel Stone, that those persons could not be found in his bailiwick. To these terms the sheriff refused to assent. To attempt to force him to a compliance was, to say the least, unpleasant. For this reason, and through fear lest a continuance of violent measures might bring upon them deserved retribution, the rioters released him and his posse, without conditions, after having detained them as prisoners about seven hours.
On the 3d of June, which was the Sunday before the sitting of the courts of the county, Bildad Andros, of Westminster, called at the house of Judge Wells, in Brattleborough, and showed him a copy of a letter written by Israel Curtis, one of his Majesty's justices of the peace by commission from New York, and directed to a certain Mr. Webb, of Westminster. From this document Wells inferred, that Curtis, Stone, and a
164 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1770.
number of others, from Windsor, intended to assemble at Chester for the purpose of disturbing the court and exciting a tumult. In consequence of this information, Wells, in company with Joseph Lord, his associate on the bench, set out as soon as possible for Chester, where they arrived on the evening of the 4th of June, and immediately presented the copy of Curtis's letter to Thomas Chandler, the first judge of the court, and to some justices of the peace who happened to be present. After consultation, the magistrates decided, in view of the ambiguous terms in which the missive was couched, that they would make no preparations, to resist an attack, but would proceed with business unless prevented by force.
On the morning of the 5th, which was the day appointed for the opening of the court, Col. Stone, accompanied by those who a few days before had overpowered the sheriff and his posse, appeared "in a riotous and tumultuous manner," at the place where the court was to sit. Stone was armed with a sword, Joseph Wait "with a dagger or hanger," and the rest of the party, thirty or more in number, with walnut clubs. Judge Chandler, fearing from their martial appearance that mischief was intended, mildly demanded of Stone the reason of his being armed, and desired him not to carry his sword into court. Stone replied to this remonstrance, but in a voice so low, that his words were not distinguishable. The judges soon after took their seats, and the court was regularly opened. Upon. this the rioters entered the building without removing their hats, and commenced hostile demonstrations. Stone, with his sword drawn, accompanied by Wait, who was also armed, approached the table before the judges' seat, the rest of the party standing a little back from, but facing the bench, and demanded of the judges a declaration of the right by which they presumed to sit there as a court, adding that this demand was made in behalf of the public. These remarks were at the same time seconded by Wait and Curtis. Some of the judges answered, "that the letters patent, or ordinance erecting the county and the commission of the pleas," which documents "were always read at the opening of the court," showed their authority, and that those who were seeking satisfaction should have attended when these were published. The immediate effect of this announcement was to elicit from Stone, Wait, and Curtis, in "many arguments," a denial of the authority of the government of New York to establish the county of Cumberland.
1770.] THE COURT THREATENED. 165
To these remarks the court did not offer a reply, but gave the rioters to understand that their presence should not hinder the business for which the court had assembled.
Wait, who with some others stood indicted for a riot, then demanded an immediate trial, which the court did not deem it prudent at that time to grant. For this course there was a sufficient reason. Under the circumstances, any jury which might have been empanelled would have been more or less influenced in their verdict by the hostile presence of those whom they would have been required to try. On the other hand, some immediate act of violence it was feared would be the result, should the offenders be required to enter into a recognizance to appear at the next term. Notice was accordingly given to the parties indicted, that their attendance for the present was no longer required.
Stone, Wait, and Curtis, then moved the court that John Grout should be forbidden to practise as an attorney, on the ground that he was "a bad man." They were told, in answer, that the court entertained a contrary opinion of Grout's character; that if they had anything to accuse him of, they might apply to the grand jury, and, in such case, the clerk of the court would assist in drawing any necessary bill or paper; or they might, if they chose, apply to a higher court; that Grout, if accused, had a right to be tried, but that the court had no lawful authority to comply with their request and prejudge him, on the suggestion that he was a bad man, unsupported by evidence, not even if the suggestion was sustained by a statement of the particulars of his bad conduct. Stone and Wait then said, that they did not accuse Grout in view of a trial, neither were they obliged to do so, but that the court might be certain that nothing would satisfy them and the people but the immediate expulsion of Grout, in such a manner that he would never again have the privilege of practising as an attorney in that county. Directing his attention more particularly to Judge Chandler, Stone added, "if it is not done, we shall do something which I shall be sorry to be obliged to do, which will make your Honour repent not complying with our request." The court having signified its determination to abide by the opinion previously expressed, the rioters began to close around the judges' bench, showing signs of a determination to carry their point by force. The court finding it impossible to proceed with business amid the tumult which was gradually
166 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1770.
becoming more fearful, and unwilling that any act of violence should be perpetrated while it was sitting as a commissioned judicatory, adjourned to the next day.
On the day of, and soon after adjournment, Benjamin Thurston and David Getchel proceeded to the house of John Chandeler, the clerk of the court, who dwelt in Chester, and in the presence of some of the judges, made prisoner of John Grout, who had fled there for safety. On the appearance of the rest of the rioters, the whole party, under the command of Joseph Wait, moved off with their prisoner towards Charlestown, New Hampshire, which was twelve miles distant. The journey was performed on foot, and was an easy task to the hardy backwoodsmen of Windsor and the adjacent towns, but, to the physical capacities of Grout, the quick pace at which his captors advanced was in no respect suited. To this discomfort was added the indignity which he was compelled to bear, of being pulled or shaken at each one's pleasure. At the end of the first two miles, meeting with Capt. Utley, a resident of a neighboring town, Grout stepped aside to speak with him, but was immediately forced back by the rioters, who informed him he could speak to no man in private. On reaching Sartwell's tavern in Charlestown, where the party remained that night, Grout was treated with much attention by the innholder, and by the rioters "with as much humility and civility," to use his own expressions, "as could be expected under such extraordinary circumstances." Conversation chancing to turn on the events of the day, "we have now broken up the court," remarked the rioters, "if we thought we had not effected it, we would go back and bring away one of the judges." They then asked Grout whether he thought the court would continue its session in spite of the opposition which had been made; to which question he replied, in order to prevent further violence, that he "was sure" it would not.
On the 6th, the party under the command of Col. Stone, proceeded to Windsor, making most of the journey by water. Before leaving Charlestown, Grout was assured "that he should suffer no bodily hurt," nor "be in the least insulted," but, on the contrary, should be treated with respect. "We don't mean to injure or hurt you," said Stone; "you must go to Windsor and be imprisoned at my house, and there you shall experience the kindness and generosity of our people." The prisoner replied, by expressing a hope that his physical weakness might
1770.] MALTREATMENT OF GROUT. 167
excite compassion. Arriving at Windsor, Grout was first taken to the house of Joseph Wait. Here he was privately addressed by Steel Smith, one of the rioters, who informed him he should have his liberty immediately, provided he would assent to the proposals which should be made him. "You must send for your family," said Smith "you shall have a farm given you here, a genteel house built, and other presents." As he was proceeding in this strain, Grout reminded him of his illness, and begged him to reserve his remarks for another occasion. David Getchel, another of the rioters, commenced a similar conversation, but was persuaded to desist. As it was growing late, the rioters informed Grout, that he might retire if he was so minded. Having availed himself of this permission, Grout departed in the company of Stone, amid the good wishes and "low bowing compliments" of his captors.
Having gained the road, Stone endeavored, after the manner of Smith and Getchel, to point out to Grout the course which he should pursue. Grout again endeavored to change the subject, but this time without success. Continuing his remarks, Stone informed his prisoner that it would be for his highest advantage to listen to his words that the people of Windsor would assemble on the morrow, and would then expect to hear some definite information as to his, Grout's, future movements. "You must," said he, "agree not to practise the law in this county. We mean that your agreeing to this shall be no disadvantage to you. We will make good all your damages, if you will come and live in this town, and become one of us. You will be treated with the greatest respect, and shall have a genteel settlement." Grout was at the same time assured that no one objected to his practising his profession in New Hampshire. Stone having finished his observations, Grout declared himself too weak to reply that evening.
On the morning of the 7th, Stone renewed the conversation, and acquainted Grout that he must meet the citizens of Windsor within a few hours, and inform them as to the course he should pursue in view of the offers which had been made him. "Violence has taken me out of my business," answered Grout. "My wife is of a slender constitution. Less trouble than this I have heretofore thought would have been too hard for her. The circumstances of my transportation will make her think I am murdered. My anxiety on her account, and for my family, deprives me of the power of speaking, and almost of thinking.
168 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1770.
Why am I asked, 'What will you agree to?' or told I am 'free to act my sentiments.' I am in your power, and you mean to impose terms, and mean that I shall agree to them, whether willing or not. Under my present circumstances, I can agree to nothing. Willingly I take my liberty, if it be offered me. I will say nothing to your people. Call them only to ask them what terms they have to impose, and what punishment they will inflict on me, if I disobey them, my masters."
Such was Grout's reply to the inquiries of the people of Windsor. By reason of this answer, he was still retained in custody, not being permitted to write to his wife or any of his friends until the letter had been first approved of by his keepers. The severest threats were uttered against him, should he attempt to escape, and he was assured that, in case he should succeed, he would be retaken if he were "anywhere between heaven and hell." At the same time all his wants were attended to with the utmost care, and the respect which was shown him, so long as he remained passive, appeared to him more like the result of flattery than of true regard. In spite of the precautions and menaces of the rioters, Grout effected his escape on Sunday, June 10th, having been for six days a prisoner. On the 9th of August following, he petitioned the Hon. Daniel Horsmanden, Chief Justice of the Province of New York, to take measures to punish those who had acted as leaders in the outrages committed upon him. Process was accordingly issued against David Stone, Samuel Stone, Elisha Hawley, Enoch Judd, Ebenezer Curtis, John Benjamin, Andrew Norton, Elnathan Strong, Joseph Thompson, David Getchel, and Steel Smith, in two suits at law, Grout having been on two different occasions subjected to the riotous treatment of these men, and damages were laid at £200 in each action.*
These causes do not appear to have advanced beyond the original process, and it is more than probable that Grout was unwilling to continue them, when he had ascertained that it was almost impossible to secure the execution of a punishment or the levying of a fine in any of the north-eastern counties of the province when the conduct which had rendered such satisfaction necessary in the eye of the law, was sustained and commended by persons of weight and influence.
* MS. deposition of John Grout, dated June, 1770. Doc. Hist. N. Y., iv. 636-645.
1770.] PROTEST AGAINST DISORDER. 169
These proceedings did not, however, command the approbation of the people. On the 1st of November following, a petition signed by about four hundred and forty of the inhabitants of Cumberland and Gloucester counties was presented to the King. Having in the preamble alluded to the right by which the territory west of Connecticut river was a part of the province of New York, recited the order in Council of July 20th, 1764, and referred to the ordinances by which the counties had been established, the petitioners reprobated the events which had recently occurred, and the feelings to which they had given birth. "In the month of June last," thus ran the statement, "a number of disorderly persons seated in the township of Windsor, in the county of Cumberland, assembled in a riotous manner, and by threats obstructed the proceedings of the court of Common Pleas, pretending that the magistrates and civil officers were unauthorized; that no obedience was due to them; that the jurisdiction belonged to the government of New Hampshire; that your Majesty's royal order, aforesaid, would soon be rescinded, and the lands thereby declared as part of your Majesty's colony of New York be decreed to appertain for the future to the province of New Hampshire." They further stated, that the rioters had eluded justice "by flight into New Hampshire," where they had united with some of the inhabitants of that province, and had already promoted "a spirit of disorder and disobedience" towards the jurisdiction of New York over the "Grants," by "procuring the subscriptions of many persons in both provinces to a petition," the avowed purpose of which was to place the "Grants" within the limits of New Hampshire. This latter measure, they announced, was designed to free the "lawless transgressors" who had proposed it, from merited punishment; to promote the interests of those who had trafficked in New Hampshire titles, and to aggrandize the family of the late Governor, Benning Wentworth, "for whose benefit, reservations of land had been made in all the grants which he had seen fit to pass. In view of these considerations, the petitioners prayed his Majesty to resist any attempt which might be made to change the jurisdiction, and to grant them such relief as in his "great wisdom" should seem meet.*
In opposition to these sentiments, another petition, probably that referred to in the document above noticed, was circu‑
* Doc. Hist. N. Y., iv. 663-665.
170 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1770.
lated on the "Grants" and in New Hampshire, and was largely signed. Its subscribers, with their "helpless wives and children," dependent upon his Majesty's "lenient and paternal interposition," for relief "from immediate poverty, distress, and ruin," prayed for succor and protection. The account which they gave of their condition was indeed lamentable, but was scarcely reliable. They stated that their situation as subjects of New York had been, was, and ever must be, "highly detrimental and disagreeable to them both in their property and good government;" that since the order of July 20th, 1764, their possessions had been "unexceptionably granted to other people under the great seal of New York;" that writs of ejectment had been brought against them, "their property wrested from them, their persons imprisoned, and their whole substance wasted in fruitless lawsuits, merely to the enrichment of a few men" in the province of New York, who were assiduous in using their great influence" to rob them of their "hard, honestly earned" acquisitions. Such were the terms in which the adherents of the jurisdiction of New Hampshire sought relief from the King.*
The petition signed by the citizens of Cumberland and Gloucester counties, was followed, on the 3d of December, by another, from the "inhabitants of certain lands on the west side of Connecticut river, in the province of New York," praying for the confirmation by New York of certain New Hampshire grants. The Council of New York were not indifferent to the measure proposed in this last document, and means were readily taken to ensure a compliance with the requests which it contained. At the expiration of a little more than a year and a half, from the time when this petition was presented, confirmation patents for fifteen towns, situated west of the Connecticut and east of the Green Mountains, had been granted by New York, and instructions advising the confirmation of the charters of thirty-three other towns had been presented to his Majesty for approval. In almost every instance in which confirmation charters were issued, special favor was shown to those who had been occupants under New Hampshire titles.
To this general rule the proceedings which were had in the case of Hinsdale and Guilford formed an exception. As has been before stated, the township of Hinsdale was at a very early
* Doc. Hist. N. Y., iv. 672-675.
1770.] HINSDALE AND GUILFORD. 171
period granted by charter from Massachusetts. The tradition is, that the first white proprietors purchased the Indian right, thus rendering their title doubly strong. When, in the year 1739, the township was adjudged to be within the limits of New Hampshire, the old proprietors obtained from that province a ratification of their chartered rights. By the order in Council of July 20th, 1764, Hinsdale, with all the other townships west of the Connecticut, fell within the jurisdiction of New York. Owing either to "an unwillingness to pay the quit rent," or to a neglect of their own interests in some other particular, the proprietors of Hinsdale failed to apply for a confirmation charter. Meantime a certain Col. Howard, having asked for a grant of land, obtained a royal order for ten thousand acres, with permission to locate the tract in certain situations. Agreeable to the privilege given him in the mandamus, he made choice of about one half of the township of Hinsdale, and being an intimate friend of Governor Tryon, his selection was approved of and confirmed. As soon as this act became known, "it was reprobated by the whole country." So great was the clamor which ensued, that, in order to restore the township to its former proprietors, Governor Tryon offered Howard £600 "out of his own pocket," for a release of his claim. With this proposal, Howard "ungenerously refused" to comply. Notwithstanding the injustice with which they had been treated, the people of Hinsdale, instead of blaming the inhabitants of New York, regarded them as friends, and still remained firmly attached to that province.*
Not unlike this was the case of Guilford. The first proprietors had, on the 2d of April, 1754, obtained a grant of that township from the government of New Hampshire. In the year 1765, soon after the settlement of the boundary line between New Hampshire and New York, application was made to Lieut.-Governor Colden for a regrant of the township. This he promised to give as soon as the petitions for lands in the new territory should come under consideration. Another petition on the same topic was presented to Governor Moore, in the year 1766, but, like the former, was "either neglected or mislaid." A third representation made in the year 1767, experienced a similar fate. The subject was now allowed to rest, the proprietors hoping that they should, in the end, receive
* Doc. Hist. N. Y., iv. 668-671, 785, 786, 812, 832, 839, Allen's Narrative of the Controversy, 1774. MS. Duane's Plea, in Lib. N. Y. Hist. Soc.
172 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1771, 1772.
what was due them. Meantime a patent comprehending twelve thousand acres of the township, was issued to Col. Howard. By this grant a number of the inhabitants were deprived of all their property. Redress was now earnestly sought in a memorial to the Governor of New York, dated May 11th, 1772. A charter for the land in Guilford without the bounds of Howard's tract, and a grant in some other locality as a compensation for the loss occasioned by the mal-appropriation of that tract, were the means which were proposed to restore confidence and create satisfaction. As it was with Hinsdale, so was it with Guilford. The inhabitants of both towns were unable to obtain reparation for their losses, until by the war of the revolution the possessions of royalists became the property of rebels.*
Owing to the enmity which separated the supporters of the jurisdiction of New York from the favorers of the jurisdiction of New Hampshire, events often occurred which not only served to show the extent to which this feeling was carried, but actually endangered the existence of society. Especially in the execution of law did New York magistrates meet with a firm opposition from New Hampshire adherents, and not unfrequently from the inhabitants of the latter province. At the June term of the Inferior court of Common Pleas, in the year 1771, one Jonas Moore of Putney, recovered judgment against Leonard Spaulding of the same place, to the amount of forty pounds, including costs. A fieri facias having issued to satisfy the judgment, the sheriff by his deputy seized some of Spaulding's effects, and placed them in the charge of Moore, who was instructed to keep them at his house until the day appointed by the sheriff for their sale. Meantime, on the 27th of January, 1772, a party of persons, numbering seventy or eighty, crossed over the Connecticut from New Hampshire, and going in the evening to the house where the goods were deposited, broke open the door, seized upon and carried them away, and at the same time insulted Moore's family "in various ways." They also threatened to go to Chester, pull down the jail, and deliver some of the prisoners there confined. On reflection, however, they concluded to defer the execution of these lawless designs. Efforts were immediately made by the officers of the court in Cumberland county, to find out the ringleaders in this disturbance. On account of the state of
* Doc. fist. N. Y., iv. 782—785.
1772.] DISTURBANCE AT PUTNEY. 173
public feeling, Judge Lord did not deem it practicable to carry on his inquiries before a jury, and consequently endeavored to obtain information by means of depositions. Ere the examination had closed, and before warrants had been issued, five of the principal rioters confessed their guilt, and delivered themselves up as prisoners to the sheriff. With the assistance of Thomas Chandler Jr., and William Willard, two of his Majesty's justices of the peace, Judge Lord now began a jury inquiry. On the part of the rioters, the signs of repentance became more evident as the examination proceeded, and, before it was concluded, they had satisfied the judgment on which the fieri facias issued, and had made ample satisfaction to all persons who had been injured by them. Under these circumstances, further enforcement of the law was judged unnecessary. Although the persons engaged in this riot were mainly from New Hampshire, yet no "gentlemen, magistrates, or officers were encouragers, abettors, or assistants," in carrying out its illegal proceedings. As an evidence of their good will, Messrs. Bellows and Olcott, two of his Majesty's justices in the county of Cheshire, in New Hampshire, assisted Judge Lord in enforcing the laws, and having issued their warrants, apprehended about thirty of the rioters who resided within their jurisdiction, and bound them over to appear at the next session of the court, "to answer for their unlawful assembling and other misdemeanors."
Acts like this, showed the necessity of enforcing as well as enacting laws. But, in order to enforce laws, it was all important that proper means of punishment should be provided. As a "terror to evil doers," a strong and commodious jail was indispensable. Of such an edifice the county could not, as yet, boast. When in 1768, a new charter was granted to Cumberland county, permission had been given to the inhabitants to erect at their own charge a court-house and jail. Chester was named as the location for these buildings, and being nearest to the centre of the county, was also declared to be "most convenient for that purpose." Although there were objections to this place as the county town, both on account of its distance from Connecticut river, and its backwardness as compared with other settlements, yet these objections were for the time effectually silenced by the assurances of Thomas Chandler, the first judge, that he would "at his own expense build a good and
* Doc. Hist. N. Y., iv. 757-761, 765, 766, 770, 771.
174 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1770.
sufficient court-house or jail," at Chester. How well these promises were observed, will appear by the annexed extract from an old chancery document. The time to which the description applies, is the latter part of the year 1770. That which "then was called a jail," so runs the musty law paper, "was a place made in the corner of a dwelling-house or hut, the walls of which house were made of small hackmatack poles, locked together at the corners by cutting notches into the poles, and laying them notch into notch, so as to bring the poles as near together as conveniently might be. The cracks or vacancies between pole and pole were filled with tow, moss, or clay. The chamber floor [was] laid with single boards, [which were] not nailed, but lay loose. Such was the house, a corner of which then had the name of a jail, which jail corner may be justly described as followeth, viz., small palisades or poles of the diameter of about six inches each, [were] set up, one end of them on the lower floor, and the other end reaching one of the joists on which rested the upper floor. These poles resting against the joist, hindered them from falling inwards to the jail part, and another pole at some inches distant, [was] pegged up with wood pegs, which pole was fixed about parallel with the joist, and prevented the palisades from falling outward from the jail apartment; and, as many of the palisades were not fastened at the top or bottom, nor the chamber floor nailed, it was always in the power of any man who might be put into the jail apartment to push away the loose upper floor boards, and move away the palisades, and be at liberty.
"Such was what was then called a jail, in which no man had ever been attempted to be confined."
In the summer of the same year, the inhabitants of Chester commenced the erection of another jail. The lower and chamber floors, also the sides and ends, were built with hemlock logs, twenty inches in diameter, and at the corners the timbers were locked together in the manner of log houses. In order to complete the roof, a supply of nails was necessary. As these were not to be obtained, on account of the enforcement of the non-importation agreement, the new jail was left in an unfinished state. It was, however, the intention of Judge Chandler to render it as strong "as any jail in any county in the province." Meantime the old jail, which had been built by Chandler, and which, according to his account, had been accepted by the court and the sheriff as a "sufficient"
1770.] A "SUFFICIENT" JAIL. 175
and had "held prisoners for more than four months at a time, who never left jail, till delivered by due course of law," was refitted.* On the sides, "where it was most slender," it was strengthened, and at right angles with the logs which formed the main body of the house, other logs were placed and pinned, thus rendering the building doubly secure. These extra repairs being completed, escape from this toll-booth was deemed by Chandler scarcely possible.
In addition to the jail, Chandler, at his own expense, built a court-house in Chester, during the year 1771. According to
* In a petition presented to Governor Tryon by a number of the inhabitants of Cumberland county, dated February 15th, 1772, it is stated that "sundry considerable sums" had already been subscribed "towards building a Court House and Jail" in Chester. The nature of the aid proffered may be deduced from a perusal of the annexed obligation, which is a copy from the original MS.
"June 16th, 1770.
"To Encourage the Finishing the Goal now began in Chester, we the subscribers will pay to such person or persons, as Thomas Chandler, Thos. Chandler Jr., Esqrs., and Mr. John Grout shall Employ to Labour or Provide Materials; the sums against our Names written. Witness our hands.
Joseph Woods, one bushel of Corn.
Willard Dean Two bushels of
Wheat Delivered at Rockingham
at the last Day of August."
In a letter to Governor Dunmore, under date of April 10th, 1771, Judge Chandler was at special pains to refute several calumnious stories which had been told concerning him in a petition lately circulated. The account of the assistance he had received in building the jail, received its share of denial. "As to the Subscription mentioned in the Petition," said he, "I can say there has not been more than Twenty pounds subscribed by any of the Petitioners, be they who they will, if half so much, and not one of them has paid so much as one farthing."
The declaration in the text, that the jail "had been accepted by the court and the sheriff," was averred in the letters of Judge Chandler, but was contradicted in the petition of February 15th, 1772, before referred to. Among the signers of this petition appeared the name of Samuel Wells, who on the bench was associated with Chandler. Speaking of the court-house and jail, the petitioners said, no buildings "have been erected which deserve that name, or which are any way sufficient for holding the Courts, or for the reception or safe Custody of Prisoners, for which reasons the magistrates are not in a capacity of maintaining peace and good Order."
The strength of this noted little jail probably depended more upon the will of its occupants than the excellence of its construction. When Daniel Whipple was sheriff, in the year 1770, an order was issued for the imprisonment of one Atherton Chaffee. Being in conversation with John Grout, Chaffee told him "that he knew it was out of Whipple's power to confine him against his will, but that Whipple had always used him with great tenderness, and that he should not be hurt; for, says Chaffee, I will tarry in the jail be it never so slender — rather than Whipple should be hurt." It was probably of men like Chaffee that Chandler spoke, when he said that the jail had "held Prisoners for more than four months at a time."
176 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1771.
his own description, this structure was "thirty feet long, sixteen feet wide, and eleven feet post," and was so planned as to be "convenient" when finished. It was provided with a "sufficient lobby or room fit for a jury, with a fire place in it," and was covered with some kind of roofing. This building he leased to the county for the term of ten years, and as much longer as they might choose to use it. In it were to be held the terms of the Inferior court of Common Pleas, and of the court of General Sessions. There also was to be transacted all such other business as related to the general welfare of the county. But if the people had been displeased with Chandler's efforts at jail building, they were incensed at his failure in court-house construction. Before the commencement of this last failure they had endeavored to effect the removal of the shire town from Chester, and had even then brought the subject to the attention of the highest authority in the province. In their petition, presented to Governor Dunmore on the 11th of March, 1771, they commenced by setting forth the "peculiar grievance" under which they labored in being unrepresented in the General Assembly of the province. Turning then to the subject which at that time more particularly engaged their notice, they declared that previous to the establishment of the shire town of the county at Chester, Thomas Chandler had promised to erect a court-house and jail in that town at his own expense; that, on account of this promise, some had been induced "to give no opposition" to the selection of that place; that, notwithstanding this promise, and the subscription of "considerable sums of money" by themselves and others, to defray a portion of the charge of erecting the county buildings, none had been erected; that there was not "any real probability that, any would be built;" that it was "extremely inconvenient" for the people to be obliged to attend the courts at Chester, since more than three fourths of them resided in the river towns; that the roads leading thither were bad, the inhabitants of the town few in number, and the accommodations poor. For these reasons they were of opinion that it would be more advantageous to the county, if the courts were removed from Chester to two of the river towns, "at least for a dozen or fourteen years," by which time the back towns would be better settled. They also proposed that four sessions of the courts should be held annually, as in Albany county. This petition having been read before the Governor and Council, the petitioners were ordered to serve a copy of it
1771.] CHANDLER'S REPLY. 177
on Thomas Chandler, and the first Tuesday of the following May was fixed upon as the time when the parties on both sides would be heard.*
In compliance with this order, a copy of the petition was left with Chandler on the 7th of April. His reply, addressed to Governor Dunmore, was transmitted to New York on the 10th. In this he asserted that the county was established without his "knowledge or application." He acknowledged, however, that when he heard that such an establishment would probably be made, he, in company with his son, Thomas, rode to New York, but he stated further that, on his arrival there, he found that the county had been erected and the civil officers appointed. During his visit nothing was said about a court-house or jail. To the declaration that no county buildings had been erected, he gave a flat denial, and in support of this denial gave a partial description of "a good and sufficient jail" which he had constructed at Chester, and of another which had been commenced by the inhabitants of the town.† Not "one farthing," he said, had ever been given towards defraying these or kindred expenses by any of the petitioners, and their announcement relative to subscriptions was, he stated, "so notoriously false," that it almost made him blush for their character. To the charges relative to the inconveniences attending the situation, condition, and accommodations of Chester, he answered that although the majority of the inhabitants of the county were residents in the river towns, yet the roads leading into Chester from Brattleborough on the south, and from Hertford and Windsor on the north, were "vastly better" than those which connected Brattleborough with the last two towns. From this he argued, that in a general view it was easier for the people to go to Chester than to Brattleborough or the more northern towns. He stated further, that it was probable that the inhabitants of each town would prefer to have the courts held in the place where they resided; that as for his part, he should choose to have the shire town located near the centre of the county," for the good of the publick;" that there was but little choice between Andover and Chester; that the selection of Andover would "promote the settlement of the back townships, vastly more" than the selection of one of the river towns; that the
* Council Minutes, in office Sec. State N. Y., 1765-1783, xxvi. 214, 215.
† See ante, pp. 174, 175.
178 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1771.
removal of the courts from the more inland portions of the county would, in fact, break up the back settlements, and cause those persons who were now intending to remove to Kent, Andover, Bromley, Cavendish, and Thomlinson, to settle in other places, whereas, to continue the shire town at Chester, or in that vicinity, would in a year's time add a hundred families to the population of the adjoining towns; that the situation of the river towns was a sufficient motive to lead people to inhabit them, while the principal inducement to settle in the interior towns was their nearness to the centre of the county — the situation selected in the charter for the location of the shire town.
Continuing in this line of argument, he referred to the action of Governor Moore and his Council, in choosing Chester as the county town because of its central position, when they well knew that it was but lately settled, and that some of the river towns had been, comparatively speaking, long inhabited. He mentioned also the choice by the same dignitaries of Kingsland as the shire town of Gloucester county, when the place did not contain a single family. His own experience as an early settler was the next point touched on.* Turning then to the charge relative to the accommodations of his adopted town, he asserted that they were as good as in any town in the county; that the same was true of the provisions there furnished, and as to bedding, in his opinion as many spare beds could be obtained there as at any other place in the shire. He explained the disparaging accounts which had been given of household arrangements at Chester, by saying that most of those who had attended court there had never seen more than the four or five families located near the county buildings; that, although by travelling a mile or so they might have procured lodgings, they had chosen, being used to camp duty, to stay where they obtained their food, and had preferred the ground to a "good bed." In closing, he stated that it would, no doubt, be necessary sooner or later for the judges from Albany to hold a court of Oyer and Terminer and General Jail delivery in the county;
* "When I first moved to Chester," said he, "I was the first man with a Family that had in this part of the Country moved out from the River, and there was no Road from the River to Chester or from Chester to Albany. Neither were there any Inhabitants for Thirty Miles West of Said River, and now there are Nine Families in Rockingham on the Road to Chester, and many on the Right hand and Left; there are also many Inhabitants on the Road to Albany."
1771,1772.] COUNTY BUILDINGS. 179
that a route had within a year been traced between Chester and Albany, which had been much travelled, and by proper care would make a good wagon road; that there was no road either north or south of it leading to Chester for nearly a hundred miles, with the exception of one, which was partly in Massachusetts, and that in case the courts were removed from Chester, the judges would be first obliged to come to that town, and then set out for the shire town wherever it might be. Of the road over "Hoosuck mountains," he said, "it is difficult and dangerous both for man and horse. A corpulent person can but scarcely get up with the help of his horse's tail to draw him up by, and if the horse should miss his step, as horses have often done, he would fall, roll, or slip many rods before he would recover.* Such were the arguments advanced in the replication of Chandler.†
The hearing, which was to have been held in May, does not appear to have taken place, and, for several months, the question as to the future location of the courts, remained undecided. On the 2d of December, the inhabitants of Rockingham, in view of the attempts of the people of Westminster and other towns to obtain a removal of the shire town to the southern part of the county, and as a result of the belief that the selection of Rockingham would be "more beneficial and less detrimental" than any other which could be made, offered to pay £70 towards the erection of the county buildings, provided the shire town was removed to that place. Similar offers were made by other towns on similar conditions. On the 15th of January, 1772, the subject was brought before the Legislature of New York. After some time spent by the house in committee of the whole, the speaker resumed the chair, and John Thomas Jr. of Westchester county reported, that the committee were of opinion that several bills should be brought in relative to Cumberland county. Among those which he proposed, was one to enable the freeholders and inhabitants of the county "to erect and build a court-house and gaol, and to elect
* "This is a truth," added the letter writer, "that Samuel Wells Esq., will not Deny." Wells was on the bench with Chandler, and was of the number who favored the removal of the shire town from Chester. In the remarks about "a corpulent person," reference seems to have been had to Wells, and it is not improbable that he had been the subject of an accident similar to that the probable results of which are given in the text.
† N. Y. Colonial MSS., in office Sec. State, Dunmore, Tryon: 1771, xcvii.
180 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1772.
supervisors and other county officers." His report having been delivered in at the table, was again read and agreed to by the house. On the same day, George Clinton and Capt. Seaman were ordered to prepare a bill comporting with the above title. Agreeable to the order, a bill was presented on the 16th, and was passed to a second reading. By the terms of the bill as first reported, the county buildings were to be located at Chester. So much had been effected by the replication of Chandler. On its second reading, on the 29th, the bill was referred to a committee of the whole house.*
Meantime, William Tryon had succeeded to the government of the province, and was unacquainted with the condition of affairs in Cumberland county. On the 25th of January, Chandler addressed to him a petition couched in terms similar to those with which he had approached Dunmore. This document, as it was dated at Fort George in the city of New York, was probably prepared in a council of Chandler's friends and advisers. After rehearsing facts connected with the rise and progress of the county, he referred to the good effects which had attended the location of the shire town at Chester, and described a court-house which he had lately built there and leased to the county.† He detailed the advantages which the county would receive, if the shire town should be allowed to remain where it then was, and in proof of the disposition of many of the inhabitants, referred to a petition which they had presented to the General Assembly, asking for leave to tax the county for the purpose of finishing the court-house begun at Chester, or for building a new one and a jail, at that place. In conclusion, he promised, in case the tax prayed for was not levied on the people, that he, at his own expense, would make the incomplete court-house comfortable, and build "a good jail" at Chester, rather than suffer the courts to be removed "to the damage of the publick." On the occasion of a riot which happened soon after at Putney,‡ when the rioters threatened among other "felonious actions," to "go to Chester, pull down ye jail," and deliver some of the prisoners, Chandler again wrote to Governor Tryon. Having detailed the origin and incidents of the disturbance, he did not lose the opportunity of deducing from it an argument in favor of his adopted
* N. Y. Colonial MSS., in office Sec. State, Dunmore, Tryon: 1771, xcvii. Journal Gen. Ass. N. Y., 1767-1775.
† See ante, pp. 175, 176.
‡ See ante, pp. 172, 173.
1772.] A PETITION. 181
town. "If the jail had been in any one of the river towns," said he, "as prayed for by some, the jail had by said mad Rioters been pulled down. Your Excellency will therefore see that it will on this account, be best to continue the jail and courts in ye centre of the county, if no other reasons were given but to prevent such sudden mischiefs being perpetrated as may be done in a sudden heat of passion."*
Pending the discussion of the subject, a petition from the inhabitants of the county was read before the house, on the 22d of February, setting forth the many inconveniences which they would experience, should the bill in its present form pass into a law, and praying that they might not be obliged to build the court-house and jail in the township of Chester. The petition was referred to the committee to whom the bill had been given in charge. In order to rebut Chandler's representations Samuel Wells, Oliver Willard, William Dean, William Williams and Nathan Stone, addressed Governor Tryon in behalf of those who were opposed to the present location of the shire town. Their representations were similar to those they had made on former occasions, and in some instances were contradictory of certain assertions which had been made by the opposite party. They accused Chandler of failing in the performance of his promise to erect county buildings worthy of the name;† described the road to Chester as only partly opened, improperly constructed, but little travelled, and in many places almost impassable, and declared the town destitute of necessary accommodations, and its houses "mean, slight and uncomfortable." They stated that it would "tend much to the advancement of justice," the "benefit and utility" of the county, and "contribute greatly to the ease and satisfaction" of the people, if the courts were held nearer the river; that the inhabitants would willingly submit to be taxed, were the change made, and since two terms in a year had proved "insufficient for the dispatch of business," and the length of time intervening between them, had given many persons "opportunities of absconding, or defrauding their creditors, by embezzling their effects," that the addition of two more terms had become necessary for the due administration of justice. In making these representations, they declared that they spoke the sentiments of
* N. Y. Colonial MSS., in office Sec. State. Tryon, 1771, 1772, xcviii. Doc. Hist. N. Y., iv. 759-761.
† See ante, p. 175, Note.
182 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1772.
more than three fourths of the inhabitants of the county. For this reason they prayed his Excellency to remove the courts to Westminster, and increase the number of terms to four in each year. This petition was read in the house on the 27th of February, and was referred to a committee of the whole.
On the 14th of March, Mr. De Noyellis, from the committee of the whole house, to whom had been referred the bill relative to the courts of the county, reported that they had examined it, altered the title, and amended it in several particulars. The bill as amended was then read, and having been agreed to by the house was passed for engrossment. Having been read on the 16th the third time, it was passed by a resolution, and Messrs. De Noyellis and De Witt were appointed to carry it to the Council and desire their concurrence in its passage. From them it was returned on the 21st, by Oliver De Lancey, approved of and unamended. The bill became a law on the 24th. Its original title had been altered, and it now appeared as "An act for erecting a more convenient Court House and Gaol, for altering the terms appointed for holding the courts of Common Pleas and General Sessions of the Peace, and for enabling the inhabitants to elect supervisors and other county officers in and for the county of Cumberland."
By its provisions the judges and justices of the county were directed to meet at the court-house in Chester on the first Tuesday of the following May, and form "into convenient districts" such parts of the county as were not erected into townships "under the Great Seal" of the colony. A description of these divisions was to be made in writing, subscribed by the judges and justices and filed with the county clerk, who was ordered to record it. The districts thus constituted were to remain as divided until formed into townships. The people were authorized to assemble on the third Tuesday of May following, and elect for each town and district one supervisor, two assessors, two collectors, two overseers of the poor, two fence-viewers, four constables, three highway commissioners, and as many persons for surveyors and overseers of highways, as the majority of "the freeholders and inhabitants" of each town and district should judge necessary. At the same time a county treasurer was to be chosen.* The election for these purposes was to be held annually.
* At the first election under this act, held May 19th, 1772, the people, for some reason not apparent, neglected to choose a county treasurer. That officer was
1772.] ACT TO ERECT COUNTY BUILDINGS. 183
By other clauses of the bill, it was ordered that the "public and necessary charges" should be defrayed as in other counties; that "from and after" the first Tuesday in June, next ensuing, the courts should be held on the second Tuesdays in June, September, December, and March, in each year, and that each session should not continue longer than four days. In order to introduce these last regulations, the judges were directed to open the next court at the time and place to which it had been adjourned, and again adjourn it with "all presentments, indictments, suits, causes, plaints, writs, processes, and proceedings, whether criminal or civil, and all parties charged, prosecuting or defending therein," to the term next ensuing, as established by this act, and to the place which should be hereafter appointed. To the Governor, with the advice and consent of the Council, was reserved the power, according to ancient usage, of altering and fixing the terms and times of the court sessions.
In conformity with the first clause in the title of the bill, the supervisors who should be chosen at the coming election, were ordered to assemble on the last Tuesday in May at the courthouse in Chester, and by a plurality of votes, ascertain the place where the court-house and jail were to be erected. The result of their ballotings was to be certified by an instrument under their hands and seals, and the place which they should choose was to "be and remain" the county town, if not disapproved of by the Governor. To defray the expenses of building, the supervisors were authorized to levy upon and collect, from the inhabitants of the county, a sum not exceeding £250. They were also instructed to nominate three fit persons to "superintend and direct the building of the said court-house and gaol, and the laying out and expending the monies to be raised for that purpose." Those who should collect the tax were directed to pay it to the three superintendents.*
In accordance with the rules laid down in this act, the towns which had not received charters from New York were divided into districts, and, on the 6th of May, an abstract of the divisions was posted in several public places, signed by Crean Brush, who, a few months before, had removed to Westminster, and had been appointed clerk and surrogate of the county by com‑
afterwards appointed by the supervisors at their meeting in June following. — Council Minutes, in office Sec. State, N. Y., 1765-1783, xxvi. 302.
* Journal Gen. Ass. N. Y., 1767-1775. Act of 12th George III., in Laws N. Y., Van Schaack's ed., 1691-1773, pp. 700-702.
184 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1772.
missions from Governor Tryon.* The supervisors who had been chosen at the general election, held, according to appointment, in the towns and districts of the county, on the 19th of May, assembled at the court-house in Chesert, on the 26th, for the purpose of locating the county buildings. Westminster was chosen as the shire town, and a spot adjoining "the public street or highway" in that township, and "as near the place where the meeting-house is erected," as would be convenient, was selected as the site of the court-house and jail. At a subsequent meeting of the supervisors, held on the 11th of June, at Westminster, for the purpose of proportioning the county tax, and choosing persons to superintend the erection of the court-house and jail, the question was raised as to the particular spot on which the buildings should be placed. Although this question had been once decided, yet by a majority of one, the former decision was reversed, and it was voted that the court-house and jail should be built "near the north end of the northerly plain, above a mile from the meeting-house, and about forty rods to the northward of all the houses in the street but one."
An account of these proceedings was carried to New York by Crean Brush, who informed Governor Tryon that the reversal of the first decision of the supervisors, had been "inadvertently acquiesced in" by some of the members of the board who were now convinced of the impropriety of the act. Owing to this representation, the Governor and his Council, at a meeting held on the 25th of June, approved of the selection which had been made at the first meeting of the supervisors, and authorized the erection of the court-house and jail on the spot which had on that occasion been chosen.‡
Full permission having been obtained, the people of the county now turned their attention to the erection of a court-house which should be creditable and of service. The east village of Westminster is built on two plains which stretch along the banks of the Connecticut, and extend back to the mountains nearly a mile. At the northern extremity of the southern plain, which is higher than the other, and on the brow
* A copy of this abstract, taken from a rain-stained and weather-beaten original upon which the upturned eyes of the early inhabitants of the wilds of Vermont once gazed, as it looked down upon them from the side of an inn or of some humble place of worship, may be found in Appendix G. I am indebted to the Hon. William M. Pingry, for this and other documents.
† Council Minutes, in office Sec. State, N. Y., 1765-1783, pp. 302, 303.
1772.] THE "OLD COURT HOUSE." 185
of an elevation which afterwards took the name of "Court-House Hill," a spot was selected for the site of the building. It was located on the east side of the road but a short distance from the meeting-house which then occupied the centre of the highway. In shape it was almost square, the sides being about forty feet in length, and was built of hewn timber, clap-boarded. The roof was gambrel, surmounted by a cupola or tower, open at the four sides. An aisle, ten or twelve feet in width, ran east and west through the middle of the lower story. A double door was placed at each end of the aisle, or, in other words, two doors opening either way from a centre fastening. In accordance with the custom of the times, the building was intended to afford some of the conveniences of a tavern. In the south-east corner was a kitchen or cook-room, occupied by the jailer, and in the south-west corner, a bar-room, in which the jailer served in the capacity of bar-tender. The chimney rose between these rooms, and opened into each in the shape of a large, old-fashioned fire-place. Another door was cut in the south side of the building, leading into an entry, on either side of which were doors to the kitchen and bar-room. In the north part was the jail, which comprised within its limits two prison-rooms, divided the one from the other by a narrow aisle running north and south. This aisle communicated with the broad aisle, by a door. Doors also opened from the prison-rooms into the narrow aisle. A flight of stairs led from the east entrance to the court-room in the second story, which did not differ materially from the court-rooms of the present day in its arrangement.
Before the building was completed, the superintendents had expended all the money which had been raised by tax, and were compelled for a while to suspend operations. Meantime the county had obtained two representatives in the Legislature of the province. On the 3d of February, 1773, Crean Brush, one of the representatives, asked leave to bring in a number of
186 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT. [1773.
bills designed to advance the interests of his constituents. Among these, was one "for raising £250 in the county of Cumberland, towards finishing the court-house and gaol already erected in the said county." Permission being granted, a bill to that effect was presented, and having passed its first reading on the 8th, and its second reading on the 10th, was referred to a committee of the whole house. Thence it was returned on the 13th with an altered title,* and with the amendment was, on the 15th, ordered to be engrossed. Having been read a third time, it was enacted by the house. On the 18th, the concurrence of the Council in the bill was announced by Roger Morris, and on the 8th of March it was passed into a law. The work was soon after renewed, and by the close of summer the building was ready for use. The court-room was never finished but its walls, gray and cobwebbed, and its beams and braces rough and bare, were perfectly in keeping with the turbulent spirits who met within its precincts in legal conflict, or assembled there to engage in more important scenes.†
* The title was changed so as to read, "for raising the further sum of £250," etc. Act of 13th George III., in Laws N. Y., Van Schaack's ed., 1691-1773, p. 803.
† Journal Gen. Ass. N. Y., 1767-1775. The courts were held at Westminster, until 1781. In that year, Westminster and Marlborough were declared to be half shire towns, and one court term was held at each place until 1787, when the half shire towns were abolished, and the county town was established at New Fane, where a new court-house and jail were erected. The engraving in the text was finished from a plan, made from memory by Daniel Hall, Esq., who, in the year 1794, attended a school in the "Old Court-House" taught by Master Dudley Chase, afterwards United States Senator from Vermont. The building was demolished about the year 1806.