Vermont Historical Gazetteer
A Local History of
ALL THE TOWNS IN THE STATE
Civil, Educational, Biographical, Religious and Military
THE TOWNS OF WINDHAM COUNTY,
WITH HISTORIES OF
SUTTON IN CALEDONIA COUNTY, AND BENNINGTON IN
ABBY MARIA HEMENWAY.
MRS. CARRIE E. H. PAGE,
Part I - Pages 1-17
OF THE COUNTY OF CUMBERLAND.
By Hon. G. A. DAVIS of Windsor, Vt.
The controversy between New Hampshire and New York, in regard to the "N. H. Grants." Establishment of the county.
A brief account of the controversy between the Provincial governors of New Hampshire and New York, concerning their respective right to the jurisdiction over the " N. H. Grants," as the territory now comprised within the State of Vermont, was formerly called, may not be uninteresting or out of place. That controversy for a long time seriously affected the settlement and prosperity of the disputed territory. Zealous partisans were arrayed on either side, the contest was bold and vigorous, and gave an opportunity for the development of the daring qualities of the " Green Mountain Boys."
Charles II granted to the Duke of York, his brother, in 1664 and 1674 a tract of land, which embraced among other parts " all the lands from the west side of Connecticut river to the east side of Delaware Bay." The Province of New York became the occupant of this grant. In 1741, Benning Wentworth was commissioned governor of the Province of New Hampshire. The territory over which he was to act as governor was de-scribed in his commission as being " bounded on the south side by a similar curve line pursuing the course of Merrimac river, at three miles distance, on the north side thereof, beginning at the Atlantic ocean, and ending at a point due north of a place called Pautucket Falls, and by a straight line drawn from thence due west across the said river till it meets with our other governments." Whether New York or New Hampshire had jurisdiction over the territory immediately west of the Connecticut river depended upon the construction given to the last clause in the commission, Gov, Wentworth contended that New Hampshire extended as far west as Massachusetts or Connecticut, i.e. within 20 miles of the Hudson river, where he contended was the eastern boundary of the Province of New York.
A correspondence was commenced in 1749 between the governors of the respective Provinces in which was urged their respective claims to the jurisdiction over the disputed territory west of the Connecticut. In the first letter of Gov. Wentworth he expressed doubts as to the true boundary between the Provinces; yet he proceeded to have the territory surveyed and chartered west of the Connecticut river.
After some correspondence the two governors mutually agreed to refer the matter in dispute to his majesty, the king of England. This arrangement was entered into in 1750. No action appears to have been taken upon the matter until 1764. In the meantime George II had died, and George III acceded to the British throne; a monarch whose whole police towards his American Colonies resulted in the most disastrous manner to his possessions and authority in that part of his dominions. His attempt to arrange this controversy between his governors, was so bunglingly executed that it increased rather than allayed the difficulty and ill-feeling.
During the pendency of the controversy before the king, Governor Wentworth was by no means idle.
In December 1763, 122 grants had been made. Gov. Colden, without waiting for the king's decision in view of this unwarranted assumption of power and the consequences that must result therefrom, " to prevent therefore the incautious from becoming purchasers of the lands so granted," issued a proclamation Dec. 28, 1763, warning all persons that the eastern boundary of the Province of New York was the Connecticut river, commanding officers both judicial and executive to exercise jurisdiction to that river, and also commanding the high sheriff to return the names of all persons who held lands under New Hampshire Grants westward of Connecticut river, "that they may be proceeded against ac-cording to law." When this reached the public eye, there was no little commotion among those whose interests were affected thereby. Gov. Wentworth, to in-spire confidence in the validity of the New Hampshire Grants, and encourage settlements under them, issued a counter proclamation March 13, 1764. The claim of New Hampshire was urged and that of New York deprecated. The late proclamation of Gov. Colden was termed one " of a very extraordinary nature." The settlers were urged not to be " intimidated, or in any way hindred or obstructed in the improvement of the lands" granted them, as their title under New Hampshire charters was perfectly reliable.
But few grants were made after the putting forth of this proclamation. In the meantime the claims of New York had been brought before the King, sup-ported by petitions purporting to be signed by a great number of the settlers on the New Hampshire Grants, representing that it would be for the advantage of the petitioners to be annexed to the colony of New York, and praying that the Connecticut river might be declared the western boundary of the province of' New Hampshire. Accordingly the King and council July, 1764, issued an order declaring " the western banks of the River Connecticut to be the boundary line between the said two provinces." This proclamation was published by the governor of New York, April 10, 1765. This order in council which was intended to settle the whole difficulty only added fuel to the flame. It was as ambiguous and uncertain as the answers of the Delphic oracle.
" To be " the boundary line. Did this clause only affect the question of jurisdiction ? In the future! Were the titles under New Hampshire grants thereby declared null and void and the people to be obliged to re-purchase from New York? Such and similar questions were asked by the settlers. Different answers were given to these questions, influenced by the situation of the party. Many of the settlers claimed there was no necessity of re-purchasing, while the governor of New York took the opposite ground. Still, Gov. Colden had no desire to op-press the actual settlers. By the payment of a small fee their lands were to be re-chartered to them. Almost the first act of the governor council after publishing in April the order of the King, considering the condition of those who were actual settlers under New Hampshire Grants, and that the dispossessing of such persons might be ruinous to themselves and families, was to make an order that the surveyor-general should not upon any warrant of survey that should come into his hands, make any return of lands so actually possessed, unless for the persons in actual possession thereof.
And March 4, 1771, that officer re-turned that he had observed the order in his surveys east of the Green mountains. So far, the conduct of New York towards the "Grants " had not been oppressive or unjust. At this critical period in the history of the towns situated within the " New Hampshire Grants " much depended upon the measures each adopted. Some obstinately re fused to purchase charters from New York and trouble ensued; others obtained their charters and remained for a time comparatively quiet.
The people of the " Grants " by this decision were included within the " unlimited" county of Albany, whither they were compelled to go to transact all legal business. As the roads at that time were difficult of passage, if even surveyed, the inconveniences were numerous.
In 1765, attempts were made by Thos. Chandler and Isaac Mann, of New Flamstead, in connection with Daniel Jones and Robert Harper, to induce the Provincial Legislature of New York to form a county east of the Green mountains, with New Flamstead, ( Chester,) as the shire town, and Messrs. Chandler and Mann even proceeded to New York city to advocate the measure, but without success. New Flamstead was then included within the limits of Albany county, and the only results of their efforts appears to have been the appointment of 21 additional justices of the peace for that county. At a meeting of the justices at Rockingham, April 27, 1766, Nathan Earle was chosen constable for New Flamstead. Of the proceedings of these men, " In a little brief authority dressed up," no records are known to exist.
Early in the year 1766, Thomas Chandler, at the request of Sir Henry Moore, governor of New York, ascertained the number of men between the Green Mountains and the Connecticut river, who were capable of bearing arms. According to his report in the southern portion of that district there were 600. Military companies were formed in the different towns, and commissions issued, bearing date Jan. 20, 1766. Thomas Chandler was commissioned Colonel. The records of these military organizations are not to be found. Thus New Flamstead was furnished with a full complement of officers, judicial, executive and military, and some good results were seen, yet their efficiency was very much impaired by the want of a jail for the confinement
of evil doers, the jail at Albany, which was 150 miles distant, and not easy of access on account of the condition of the roads and the face of the country, being the nearest. The attempts to secure the formation of a county were again renewed by Chandler and others, on the 16th of June, 1766. Governor Moore seconded their efforts, and on the 3d of July a portion of the " Grants " situated between the Connecticut river and the summit of the Green Mountains, comprising the same territory now included within the limits of Windam and Windsor counties, was erected into a county by the name of Cumberland. It probably received its name from Prince William, the duke of Cumberland, who in 1746 had met with distinguished success in opposing the rebels in Scotland.
Provisions were made for the erection of a court house and jail. New Flamstead being the most convenient among the townships, and " Nearest the centre of the county," was selected as the location. of these buildings. On the 14th of July, 1766, a new charter was obtained for New Flamstead, by Thomas Chandler and 36 others, in which the town took the name of Chester. It confirmed the settlers in the quiet possession of their farms, and saved Chester from becoming the theatre of contests between the people and civil authority of New York. July 15, 1766 another act was passed relating to courts in Cumberland county. By it the " Judges and justices duly authorized in that behalf " were directed to hold " Yearly and every year," in the township of Chester, a court of common pleas, to hear, and according to the lawn of England, and the Province of New York, " To try and determine all suits, quarrels, controversies and differences," which might arise ( in the technical language of the ordinance) between " Any of the loving subjects of the county, above the value of forty shillings." A court of general sessions of the peace was also established ; two terms of these courts were annually to be held, respectively upon the first- Tuesdays of June and November. Four days was the length of time they were authorized to sit at any term, and both courts were to be held at the same time, that the business before them might be " Constantly proceeded in, and all unnecessary attendance avoid-ed." Officers both judicial and executive were appointed, and the foundation laid of a place " Wherein justice is judicially administered." In the distribution of appointments the Chandlers were not overlooked. Thomas Chandler. sen., received the appointment of chief judge of the court of common pleas, surrogate and justice of the peace ; John Chandler, clerk of the court, and justice of the peace and quorum ; and Thos. Chandler, jr., justice of the peace and quorum ; Nathan Stone, another citizen of Chester. was appointed high sheriff ; and Timothy Olcott of Chester, coroner. These commissions bear date July 16, 1766.
The act establishing Cumberland county was transmitted agreeably to the laws and statutes of England, "To his majesty, for his royal approbation, or disallowance." The king, June 26, 1767, declared the act " Void and of none effect." On the reception of the intelligence of this act of his majesty, the governor of New York published the same to the province. Great was the consternation and surprise in Chester, at this unexpected frown of fortune upon their flattering prospects, and numerous petitions were signed there and forwarded to Gov. Tyron, representing the " Distress and great inconvenience under which the in-habitants of that part of the county were laboring through the want of due administration of justice." The Provincial Council of New York took the matter in hand, and in face of the ` veto' of the king, on the 19th of March, 1768, the " Great Seal " of the Province was affixed to an act which had been passed the 18th, re-establishing the county of Cumberland, and re-selecting Chester as the shire, since being nearest the center of the county, it was the most " Convenient for that purpose." Courts were established and the proper officers appointed, and commissions issued on the 7th of April following. Many of the citizens of the county defied the authority of this court presided over by Judge Chandler, insulted him in open court, and finally compelled him, through fear, to leave the court house. A full account of their troubles will be given hereafter, together with a description of the jail and court house, which were erected at Chester.
Prior to 1775, little is known of the records of courts of Cumberland county, which undoubtedly have been destroyed. That such records existed there is no doubt. There is a deed still extant from Thos. Chandler to Ebenezer Holton, on which is the following official endorsement and certificate :
" Received for Record, January ye 8th, 1770, and recorded in the Records of Deeds for the County of Cumberland. Lib. A, Folio, 79, and examined. John Chandler, Clerk."
1770. The establishment of the court at Chester and the men appointed to office did not give universal satisfaction to the citizens of Cumberland county. Charges of corruption and bribery were brought, and resistance to the precepts made on these grounds. The more particular charges were, that the establishment of the county was a sham and not a reality ; that the patent or ordinance erecting the county was a libel, as it suggested that its being erected into a county was petitioned for, which was false ; that there was no justice to be obtained by reason of the corruption of the judges who were ruled entirely by John Grout, an attorney then resident at Chester.
Col. Nathan Stone, of Windsor, acted a prominent part in this resistance and headed a mob who rescued from the custody of the high sheriff, one Joseph Wait, the particulars of which rescue are given hereafter. Some of the citizens of the county, and especially those of Windsor and vicinity had deliberately determined "that no writs or precepts that issued out of the inferior court or courts of the general sessions of the peace, for the said county, should be served." Perhaps, however, hostility to the government of New York, thus at-tempted to be extended over the territory immediately west of the Connecticut, may have been the real motive to resistance. John Grout, an attorney at law, settled in Chester a short time previous to February, 1770. He formed one of the posse of some 15 or 16 of the settlers summoned by Daniel Whipple, then high sheriff of Cumberland county, to assist in re-arresting one Joseph Wait and others, who had been rescued from the custody of the sheriff "by a number of armed men." Wait declined to be arrested, and being surrounded and aided by his friends who "were armed with guns, swords, pistols and clubs," resisted the sheriff. The sheriff made proclamation, but it wan disregarded. Wait's party charged upon the sheriff and his posse. Wait, himself, aimed two blows at Grout with a club which, to use his own language, be avoided "by suddenly retreating," but the sheriff and his posse were made prisoners and kept seven hours as prisoners at Windsor and then permitted to depart. This was certainly a high handed outrage upon the civil authority of the county. Tuesday, June 5. 1770. was the day appointed by law for holding the regular term of the "Inferior court of common pleas and the court of the general sessions of the peace" for the county of Cumberland, at Chester. On the Sunday preceding the term, a letter written at Windsor was shown to Judge Wells of Brattleboro which gave him reason to "suspect" that an attempt would be made to prevent the sitting of the court. Judge Wells immediately started for Chester and on his route called upon Judge Lord, arid together they proceeded. Arriving at Chester on Mon-day evening, the contents of the letter was communicated to Chief Judge Chandler and some justices of the peace, the letter was, however, couched in such ambiguous and doubtful terms that the extempore council were unable to deter-mine upon any definite measures necessary to be pursued, and seperated to await the events and developments of the succeeding day. Tuesday morning came and with it Nathan Stone, Joseph Wait and about 30 confederates, including many who had lately successfully resisted the sheriff and his posse. Flushed with their late success, these rioters appeared at the court house in a noisy and tumultuous manner. Stone being armed with a sword, Wait with a dagger and hanger, and the remainder of the motley crew "with large staves and clubs." Judge Chandler mildly demanded of Stone, who appeared to be the leader, for what reason they had assembled at the court house thus armed, and desired him not to carry his sword into court. The reply of Stone was so low, contemptuously and sullenly so, that it was not heard by the judge. The rioters remained outside and matured their plans, while the judges and officers of the court entered the court house, and the judges soon after took their seats upon the bench. The court was opened in the usual manner by reading the letters patentor ordinance establishing the county, and the commissions of the pleas. In regular order, the rioters then entered the court house, bearing their weapons and with their hats on, formed in a regular body, facing the court. Col. Stone, with drawn sword, and Joseph Wait, with drawn dagger and hanger, advanced to the table in front of the judges' neat. Such a display was well calculated to terrify these functionaries, as the sheriff was powerless before such a resolute and war-like company. Colonel Stone, ad-dressing the judges, demanded "in be-half of the public," what business they had to sit there as a court, and this demand was clamorously seconded by his followers. They were mildly informed by one of the judges that their authority had been read at the opening of the court, and all who wanted satisfaction should have attended to the reading of them.
" By many arguments" Col. Stone denied the authority of the government of New York to erect the county, and establish the court,-an objection the judges did not attempt to answer or refute, deeming it prudent to bear in silence with the insolent bearing of the martial array before them; but the rioters were informed that the business of the term would be proceeded with. Failing thus to drive the judges from their seats, without a resort to physical force, and being unwilling to attempt that at this stage of proceedings they tried another expedient. Joseph Wait and some others had been indicted for a riot-the attempt to arrest him has be-fore been detailed-and in this manner " surrendered " themselves in open court and demanded an immediate trial. The martial display before them convinced the judges that a trial would be but a mockery of the name of justice, as a jury would not, as they apprehended dare to convict the rioters for fear of the consequences at the hands of their friends; neither did they dare to refuse a trial and order them to enter recognizances for their appearance for trial at another term ; therefore they were in-formed they might depart without entering into any recognizance whatever.
Thus far the court had been completely cowed. The unwhipped rogues next demanded that John Grout should be disabled from practising before that court, "representing him as a bad man." The court were not disposed to yield to this demand and expressed a contrary opinion of the character of Grout. However, they were informed that the grand jury was the proper tribunal before whom to make their charges and the clerk of the court would assist in drawing any necessary bill; that Mr. Grout had a right to a trial, when accused of any offense; and that the court had no lawful authority to forejudge Mr. Grout upon a mere suggestion that he was a bad man, unsupported by evidence, nor even the particulars of the bad conduct pointed out. In this certainly the judges were correct. Stone and Wait declared they were " not about accusing him in such a way as to give him a trial, neither were they obliged to do it " adding nothing would satisfy the people and himself but Grout's being immediately expelled from the court in such a manner as never to have the privilege of practising as an attorney. If it is not done (addressing Judge Chandler) " we shall do something which I shall be sorry to be obliged to do which will make your Honor repent not complying with our request." The court had the firmness and daring to promptly refuse to comply with their demands. In a riotous and tumultuous manner, upon the announcement of the resolution of the court, the crowd closed upon the court with their clubs with the evident intention of carrying their point by force. The greatest excitement was manifest and the "noise and confusion" rendered the transaction of any business impossible, and placed the lives of the court in peril. At this juncture, to prevent any act of violence in open court, the court was immediately adjourned to the following day, and the judges escaped without suffering any personal violence.
The rioters then proceeded to the house of the clerk, John Chandler, Esq., and seized the attorney whom they had in vain attempted to have disbarred by the court.
Grout was seized by John Thurston and David Getchel, and started on the road to Charlestown, N. H. A large mob, armed with sticks, and numbering thirty or more, joined the two former, and as they surrounded and urged forward the frightened attorney, took particular pleasure in pulling, shaking, twitching and otherwise tormenting him.
His position was not very desirable, and the senseless mob, it is not to be presumed, tempered their severity with much moderation. Grout, not being accustomed to such laborious and hurried business, was exhausted and fatigued by his twelve-mile excursion. Then his treatment at their hands was uncivil and cruel, for many were the shakes and twitches he was obliged, nolens volens, to endure. He was detained a prisoner by the rioters at Charlestown about 13 hours, when they conducted him to Windsor. His arrival there was not calculated to arouse in his mind very pleas-ant reminiscences. But a short time since had he escaped the club by a dexterious movement and been detained a prisoner. Still earlier had the town authority taken measures to warn him out of town for fear of his becoming a pauper. His unwilling pilgrimage at this time was not calculated to heighten the pleasures of memory. Fear, forced marches, and the rough usage he had suffered, had, in his own words made him feel " himself much indisposed." Grout's guardians and captors kept him under strict surveillance and allowed no communications to he sent or read, the contents of which they did not know.--He complained he was not allowed to write his wife to quiet her mind as to the dreadful apprehensions which she must have entertained as to what had befallen him.
On Sunday the 10th of June, he effected his escape.
The rioters at Charlestown exulted over their success and said " we have now broken up the court," if we thought we had not effected it we would go back and bring away one of the judges."
The foregoing account is taken from the affidavit of John Grout, sworn to be- fore Daniel Horsmander at the city of New York, Aug. 7, 1770.
Grout proceeded to New York and swore out process against the rioters including the Stones, David Getchel, 12 in all. We have no knowledge that these were ever served and probably the mat. tee stopped there, and Mr. Grout re. turned to Chester and engaged in the legitimate practice of his profession.
A petition headed by Thos. Chandler and signed by 407 others, including numerous citizens of Chester " in behalf of themselves and other inhabitants of the counties of Cumberland and Gloucester," dated Nov. 1, 1770, was ad dressed to the king's most excellent majesty. The grievances under which they lived were briefly related. The late attempt to obstruct the court at Chester was alluded to, and the facilities of escape afforded criminals by the unfriendly conduct of New Hampshire-and praying for some measures by which the title to their lands might be placed be-yond dispute, and they enjoy the benefits of a settled and efficient government The late riotous proceedings had arouse( the whole community, and they felt that no longer could such things be endured The courts of Chester were not again molested.
JAIL AND COURT HOUSE AT CHESTER. -
ATTEMPTS TO REMOVE THE COUNTY SEAT.
One strong reason for the selection o Chester as the county seat-and a reason that had silenced the opposition of many -was the assurance of Judge Chandler that he would " At his own expense build a good and sufficient court house o jail," at that place. Judge Chandler war a large land owner in Chester, and tin pecuniary benefits which he expected to derive from the increase in value of his real estate, induced this offer. Prior to the summer of 1770, the place used as jail in Chester is thus described: It "Was a place made in the corner of dwelling-house or hut, the walls of which house were made of small hackmatack poles, locked together at the corners h3 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 loose single boards. Such was the house, a corner of which then had the name of a jail, which 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 inward to the jail part, and on the other 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 outwards 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."
In this apology for a jail, however, one prisoner had been confined. In the year 1770, an order was issued for the imprisonment of Atherton Chaffee, and Chaffee was confined in this jail for four months, under the direction of Daniel Whipple, then sheriff of Cumberland county. The disposition of the prisoner had more to do with the imprisonment than the strength of the jail, for it is related that Chaffee remarked to John Grout, Esq., " 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, nays Chaffee, I will tarry in the jail be it never so slender, rather than Whipple should be hurt."
In the summer of the same year, the inhabitants of Chester commenced the erection of another jail. A subscription was raised to aid the enterprise, of which the following is a copy from the original :
" June 16th, 1770.-To encourage the finishing of the Goal now began in Chester, we the subscribers, will pay to such person or persons as Thomas Chandler, Thomas Chandler, Jr., Esqs., and Mr. John Grout, shall employ to labour or provide materials, the sums against our names written, witness our hands.
Joseph Wood, one bushel of corn.
Willard Dean, two bushels of wheat delivered at Rockingham at the last day of August."
Judge Chandler asserted in 1771, that not one farthing of this subscription had ever been paid. This second jail was built of hemlock logs 20 inches in diameter. But nails were necessary for the completion of the roof. As before stated the inhabitants of Chester in town meeting assembled, had resolved to abide by the non-importation agreement, recommended by the Provincial Congress at its session at Philadelphia, and this agreement was very generally adhered to throughout the colonies. Nails were not manufactured in the colonies, and their agreement prevented the importation of any. Accordingly the new jail was left unfinished. In the meantime the old jail had been accepted by the court and sheriff " As a sufficient" building and had " Held prisoners for more than four months at a time who never left jail until delivered by due course of law." At least such was the claim of Judge Chandler. After the failure to obtain nails for the completion of the new jail, Judge Chandler caused the old jail to be repaired On the sides it was strengthened, and at right angles with the logs which formed the main body of the house, other logs were placed and pinned. Tradition locates this jail as well as the court house which was subsequently erected, near the present residence of Mr. Albert Baldwin.
At this time no court house had been erected at Chester, and at whose house the courts were holden is not known. Early in the year 1771 many of the in-habitants of Cumberland county, and especially those residing in the towns bordering upon the Connecticut river, endeavored to effect the removal of the county seat from Chester. A petition for that purpose was presented to Governor Dunmore, March 11, 1771, and among other arguments used was the fact that no county buildings had been erected at Chester, as Chandler had promised, and that there was not " Any real probability that any would be built," and besides this it was extremely inconvenient for people residing in the river towns to attend court at Chester, for the roads leading thither were bad, the in-habitants residing there few in number and the accommodations poor. By order of the governor and council a copy of this petition was served upon Thomas Chandler, and the hearing of the matter fixed for the first Tuesday of May, following. Service was made on Chandler April 7, and on the 10th his reply was transmitted to New York, addressed to Gov. Dunmore. His reply gave an explicit denial to the charge that no county buildings had been erected, and then proceeded to describe a jail that had been constructed, and one that had been commenced. The jails above described are those referred to. He proceeded to compare the roads leading into Chester with those leading into Brattleboro, and claimed the former as " vastly better," and thus endeavored to show the superiority of Chester over Brattleboro. As , to the accommodations for people at-tending court, he asserted they were as good as those afforded by any town in the county, that the provisions furnished were as good as elsewhere, and as many spare beds in his opinion could be obtained there, as at any other place in the county. It appears that there were but four or five families residing near the county buildings, but others resided within one mile of them. Yet Judge C. represented that many preferred to camp near the county buildings rather than travel a mile for good accommodations. In regard to the roads to Chester, he asserted that a route, within a year, had been traveled from Chester to Albany, and this was the only one either north or south of Chester, for over 100 miles, with the exception of one in Massachusetts which crossed the Hoosic mountains. Persons coming from Albany to attend court would be compelled if the shire town was changed, to first come to C, and then follow the road leading from there to the newly selected place. With the route over the Hoosic mountains, Judge C. seems not to have been pleased, and gave it a shape like this, "It is difficult and dangerous both for man and horse," and then gave a passing remark to his associate on the bench--Judge Wells of Brattleboro, who was a corpulant man, and who favored the removal of the shire town from Chester, " A corpulent person can hardly get up with the hold of his horse's tail to draw him up by, and if the horse should miss his step, as many horses have often done, he would fall, roll or slip many rods be-fore he would recover."
For some reason the hearing in May was suffered to pass unattended to, and nothing more appears upon the records of the New York Legislature, until Jan. 15. 1772. In the meantime, offers of money toward the erection of the county buildings were made by several towns, in case such town might be declared the county seat. Rockingham offered £70. During this summer Judge Chandler was not idle, but seeing the necessity of making further efforts in order to retain the county seat at Chester, proceeded at his own expense to erect a court house. It was " thirty feet long, sixteen feet wide and eleven feet post," but with what material it was covered, and the manner in which he obtained nails therefore, does not appear. Besides the court room, there was a sufficient lob-by, or room fit for a jury, with a fire place in it." This building was leased to the County for 10 years and for as much longer as the County might wish to occupy it. In this court house it is probable that but two terms of the " Court of Common Pleas and General Sessions of the Peace for the County of Cumber-land," were held, that of the first Tuesday of November, 1771, and the brief session of the first Tuesday of June, 1772, when according to the provisions the act of the Provincial Council of Mar. 24, 1772, the judges met and opened the court in due form, and adjourned the same 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 then next ensuing to be holden at Westminster.
Jan. 12. 1772, the condition of Cumber-land County was again under consideration in the Provincial Council. The House went into committee of the whole and spent considerable time in discussing the subject, when the speaker resumed the chair, and the chairman of the committee reported that legislation in relation to Cumberland County was necessary, and proposed, among others, that a bill be brought in to enable the free-holders and inhabitants of that County to provide suitable county buildings, and elect the necessary County officers. Accordingly on the 16th, a bill was presented and passed to a second reading, which named Chester as the County seat. This was probably effected by the influence and arguments of Judge Chandler. The bill on the 29th was read a second time and referred to a committee of the whole House. Judge Chandler was in New York City at this time, and on the 25th addressed a petition to Gov. Wm. Tyron, who had succeeded Dunmore as the chief executive of the Province, and reiterated the same arguments and statements which he had addressed to Dunmore in his first petition or replication. The petition is dated at Ft. George in the City of New York, and in this he did not neglect to describe the court house which during the preceding Summer he had built at Chester, and leased to the County. The advantages possessed by Chester in respect to location and accessibility were enlarged upon, and also the effect upon the settlement of that part of the County remote from the river, which the continuance of the shire at Chester would naturally have. And finally undertook, in case the tax which he asked for completing the court house and jail was not granted, that he would at his own expense complete those buildings, rather than the same should be removed " to the damage of the public." Chandler seems to have employed all his arts and arguments to influence the mind of Gov. Tyron, and his conduct at this and other times indicates a man of considerable tact and shrewdness, and one well calculated for occupying the leading position which he held for many years among the early settlers of Eastern Vermont.
When the news of the riot at Putney, which occurred Jan. 27, reached him, accompanied with the reported threat of the rioters to " go to Chester pull down ye jail" and release the prisoners, he seized upon this circumstance as affording an argument in favor of the object of his journey to and sojourn at New York. After giving the Governor a history of the disturbance he adds:
" If the jail had been in any one of the river towns 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.
But the opposite party had by no means been regardless of their interests during this time. On the 22c1, a petition signed by the inhabitants of Cumberland County, had been presented and was read before the House, in which the arguments of Chandler were attempted to be refuted. This was referred to the committee of the whole House. And not satisfied to let the matter rest thus, Samuel Wells and four others addressed Gov. Tyron in behalf of themselves and of those who were opposed to the location of the shire town at Chester. Their former assertions were repeated. They represented the court house and jail erected by Chandler as unworthy the name ; that the road to Chester was only partly opened, little traveled, poorly constructed and in some places, almost impassible, and the houses in town as mean, slight and uncomfortable, and urged the selection of Westminster as the future County seat. This address or statement was read in the House, Jan. 2'1, and referred to the same committee as the others.
The bill with some alterations and amendments was passed March 24th. After the first Tuesday in June the next following instead of two, four terms of court were to be holden each year, but each session should not continue longer than four days. The matter of the location of the shire town was referred by the bill to a meeting of the supervisors chosen by each town, who were required to assemble at the court house in Chester on the last Tuesday in May the next en-suing, and by a plurality of votes ascertain the place where the court house and jail were to be erected. The 19th of May was the day appointed for the election of the supervisors. On the 26th of May this representative body assembled as provided in the bill. The names of its members, and of its presiding officers, are unknown. This meeting was one of great interest to the people of Chester, as the continuance of the sessions of the courts at that place would greatly promote the settlement of the town. and arid to its character and business. What-ever might have been Chandler's influence among the members of the Provincial Legislature, he seems to have met with defeat among the representatives of the people of his own county. Westminster was selected as the shire town, and a spot therein designated for the location of the court house and jail, and the meeting adjourned.
In an old volume of records now in the office of the clerk of Windham County Court, I have found the following records relating to the transfer of the court from Chester to Westminster and the business of the court after its removal to the latter place:
At a Court of Common Pleas and a Court of General Sessions of the peace for the County of Cumberland at the Court House in Chester in the same County on Tuesday, the second day of June, 1772, in the Twelfth Year of the Reign of our Sovereign Lord, George the Third by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, France and Ireland, King Defender of the Faith and so forth.
Thomas Chandler, Esquire, Judges.
Noah Sabin, Esquire,
Wm. Willard, Benj. Butterfield, Esqrs., Assistant Justices.
Court adjourned to the Meeting House in the Township of Westminster until the second Tuesday in June, instant, with all presentments, indictments, suits, complaints, writs, processes and proceedings, whether criminal or civil and all privities, charges, prosecuting or defending thereon pursuant to the directions of an Act of the Legislature of the province of New York in that code made and provided.
Court assembled in Westminster at the meeting house, June 9, 1772. Commissions of Thomas Chandler. Joseph Lord, Samuel Wells and Noah Sabin, Esquires-jointly and severally to be judges of the Inferior Court of Common Pleas for the County of Cumberland, and James Rogers, Nathan Stone. William Willard, Stephen Greenleaf, Thos. Chandler, Junr., and Benj. Butterfield, Esqs.,-to be the assistant Justices of the said Inferior Court of Common Pleas, wan published,
Bearing date April 14, 1772.
Crean Brush, clerk, bearing date Feb. 15, 1772.
Daniel Whipple, Sheriff.
Grand Jurors impanneled and sworn. Licenses were granted to sundry persons as tavern keepers and retailers.
June 10, 1772
John Grout was admitted to practice as an atty. in this Court.
Upon motion made this day by Crean Brush, Esq., representing that no en-try whatsoever appears to have been made of any rules, orders, or proceedings in any action whatsoever which bath been commenced or proceeded upon in the said courts since the establishment of the said court until this term and praying the order and direction of the court herein. It is ordered that all actions which have been commenced and proceeded upon and with which were returnable at or before the Term of November last do cease and that the actions be commenced de novo unless in such cases only where the defendants have entered a plea and when the cause respectively are at issue. Provided the parties prosecuting and defending do previously agree to release all errors in such actions and enter into a proper agreement signifying the same.
The first trial by jury was
John Church v. Samuel Taylor.
--an action on the case-
John Grout for Plff.
Strong by count of the court for Dft. Verdict for Dft.
Tuesday, Sept. 8, 1772.
Samuel Knight of Brattleboro, admitted and sworn as an atty. of the court. Solomon Phelps, do
Sept. 17, 1773,
v. - On trial in ejectment. Benjamin Wait,
Brush for Plf.
Mr. Grout for Dft.
confesses lease, entry and ouster.
The jury without going from the Bar, find for the Plf. his costs of suit * * * with all that Lot or Parcel of Land situ-ate in Windsor--one House Lot in the 1st Division of house lots containing 50 acres and in No. 42--Also, one meadow lot contiguous and adjoining to the said home lot, containing 7 acres and a half known as lot No. 15 or the same lotts have lately been in the tenancy and occupancy of Zepheniah Spicer.
The records end abruptly. Dec. 14, 1773.
In 1773 the court house was completed at Westminster. It was situated on an elevation at the northern extremity of the southern plain, called court house hill. In shape it was nearly square, the sides being about 40 feet. It was built of hewn logs and clap-boarded. On the lower floor in the southeast corner was a kitchen occupied by the jailor, and in the south-west corner a bar room. Each of these rooms was furnished with a large fire-place. The jail was on the north side, on the first floor, having two apartments. A flight of stairs near the east entrance led to the court room in the second story. The sessions of the courts at Westminster from the time of the massacre in April, 1775, were interrupted until 1779, and the civil government in the mean-time was in the hands of a committee of safety. The courts were then held in Westminster until 1781, when Cumber-land county was abolished.
Cumberland county contained on the 16th of January, 1771, 4,000 white inhabitants and 15 blacks. There were 747 heads of families.
The people of the county were desirous of representation in the Provincial Legislature of New York, and to the number of 152 signed a petition dated 7 December, 1772, addressed to Governor Tyron, praying for this privilege, and on the 23d of the same month the council ordered a writ to issue for the election of two representatives in that county. This was brought about largely through the influence of Judge Chandler.
Samuel Wells of Brattleboro and Creon Brush of Westminster, were elected the first representatives, and in the following February took their seats in the Legislature then in session in New York city. Brush was a native of Dublin, Ireland, and removed to Cumberland county in 1771, and settled in Westminster. He was a large owner of and speculator in lands. He was a tory, and his property was confiscated. He was an influential debater in the Legislature.
Samuel Wells, the other representative, was a farmer and a man of wealth. He was a tory during the revolution, and at its close removed to Canada and settled upon a 1,200 acre tract of land that had been granted him by the king for losses which he had suffered by his loyalty.
Isaac Law, a citizen of New York, took an active part in the affairs preceding the revolution. An effort was made in the city of New York to learn the sentiments of the people in reference to the mother country. Mr. Law as chairman of the committee, wrote to the supervisors of Cumberland county, May 21,17 74, for information. The matter was permitted to slumber until the ensuing fall, when the different towns in the county were invited to send delegates to a convention to be holden on the 19th of October at Westminster.
The different towns in the county very generally responded to the call by sending delegates to the convention, which assembled at Westminster in the court house, on the 19th of October, 1774, and continued in session during the following day; 18 delegates were present. Col, John Hazeltine of Townshend was chairman.
The letter of Isaac Low, the act of the British Parliament in laying a duty or tax on tea, for the purpose of raising a revenue in America, the Boston Port bill, and several arbitrary declarations of the British government were read to the convention, and a committee to report resolutions expressing the sense of the convention on these then all absorbing topics, was chosen. John Grout of Chester, Joshua Wells of Westminster, Paul Spooner of Hartford, Edward Harris of Halifax, and Major William Williams of Marlborough, constituted the committee.
The report of the committee was presented on the 20th, and with the resolutions reported was unanimously adopted. I quote from the resolutions :
" Resolved : That as true and loyal subjects of our gracious sovereign, King George the third, of Great Britain, etc., we will spend our lives and fortunes in his service, that as we will defend our king while he reigns over us his subjects, and wish his reign may be long and glorious, so we will defend our just rights, as British subjects, while breath is in our nostrils, and blood in our veins ; that considering the late Acts of the British Parliament, for blocking up the port of Boston, etc., which we view as arbitrary and unjust, inasmuch as the Parliament have sentenced them unheard, and dispensed with all the modes of law and justice which we think necessary to distinguish between lawfully obtaining right for property injured, and arbitrarily en-forcing to comply with their will, be it right or wrong, we resolve to assist the people of Boston in defense of their liberties to the utmost of our abilities."
In the next resolution they announced in the most explicit terms the rules by which their own conduct should be governed in circumstances in which they might be nearly concerned :
" Sensible," said they, " That the strength of our opposition to the late acts consist in uniform, manly, steady. and determined mode of procedure, we will bear testimony against, and discourage all riotous, tumultuous and unnecessary mobs which tend to injure the persons or properties of harmless individuals, but endeavor to treat those persons whose abominable principles and actions show them to be enemies to American liberty, as loathsome animals not fit to be touched or to have any society or connection with."
A committee of correspondence was chosen to communicate with other committees of correspondence. The chair-man was directed to forward the resolutions of the convention to Isaac Low, and the convention adjourned.
On the 13th of November, 1774, another county convention was called to assemble at Westminster, November 30th. This convention duly assembled and " All the resolves of the Continental Congress which had been passed a few weeks previous were adopted, and a promise was made by which the delegates bound themselves as representatives of their constituents, religiously to adhere to the non-importation, non-consumption and non-exportation association.
A third convention was holden at Westminster, February 7, 1775, twelve towns were represented. Colonel Hazel-tine was chosen chairman, and Dr. Paul Spooner, clerk. Its session continued through three days. A standing commit-tee of correspondence was selected to keep the inhabitants of the county informed as to the doings of the friends of independence in the different Colonies. Its members were Joshua Webb, Nathaniel Robertson, and Abijah Lovejoy of Westminster, Captain Minard of Putney, Solomon Harvey of Fulham, (now Dummerston.) Nathaniel French of Brattleboro, William Bullock and Hezekiah Stowell of Guilford, Lieutenant Patterson of Hinsdale, Edward Harris of Halifax, Charles Phelps and Captain Whit-more of Marlboro, Eljah Olvord of Draper, Samuel Robertson of Newfane, John Hazeltine and Samuel Fletcher of Town-send, James Rogers of Kent, now Londonderry, Moses Guild of Chester, Moses Wright and Jolla Burt of Rockingham, Simon Stevens of Springfield, Hilkiah Grout and Oliver Kidder of Weathersfield, Benjamin Wait of Windsor, Paul Spooner of Hertford, now Hartland, Esq. Burch of Hartford, Jacob Haselton of Woodstock, John W. Dana of Pomfret.
Dr. Spooner, Joshua Webb, Abijah Lovejoy, Solomon Harvey, and Capt. Whitmore were chosen " to serve as monitor to the committee of correspondence, to transfer all letters, and all other matters that are of consequence or intelligence to the chairman, Col. Hazelton." It was voted not to choose field officers, and the proposition to allow an appeal from a justice court was decided in the negative. Provisions were made for the calling together of the convention in case of necessity, and Chas. Phelps and Dr. Harvey were instructed to prepare for publication an account of the doings of the convention, and the convention adjourned without day.
The Continental Congress assembled at Philadelphia, Sept. 5, 1774, to consult upon measures for the common safety. This meeting was followed by the suspension of British authority in nearly all the American Colonies except New York. which refused to assent to the measures recommended by that body, and the courts of justice were either shut up, or adjourned without transacting any business. The first interruption of the courts of New York occurred at Westminster in Cumberland County, Mar. 14, 1775, and is known as the " Westminster massacre." Though the province of New York had rejected these measures pro-posed by the Continental Congress, the people of the County of Cumberland had heartily accepted them.
The events at Westminster on the 13th of March, aroused the people of the county, and caused a general disposition to resist the administration of the government of New York, and at a meeting of committees appointed by a large body of inhabitants of Cumberland County, holden at Westminster, April 11, 1775, resolutions were adopted, declaring it to be the "duty of the inhabitants to wholly renounce and resist the administration of the government of New York, till such times as the lives and property of these inhabitants may be secured by it, or till such time as they can have opportunity to lay their grievances before his most Gracious Majesty in Council, with an humble petition to be taken out of so oppressive a jurisdiction, and either annexed to some other government, or erected and incorporated into a near one."
Maj. Abijah Lovejoy was moderator, and Dr. Reuben Jones, clerk of this convention, and Col. Haseltine, Chas. Phelps and Col. Ethan Allen were chosen a committee to prepare a remonstrance and petition to King George.
These proceedings indicate loyalty to the British government, but hatred of New York, and had not the events of April 19, at Lexington, Mass., so soon followed, fully arousing and uniting the Colonies, this controversy would have been settled perhaps by the king. No ` humble petition' was presented by Ethan Allen or any other member of this committee to King George, as contemplated by the resolutions-but we soon find Ethan Allen at Ticonderoga demanding its surrender in the name of Almighty God and the Continental Congress. New York wheeled into line for the common defense and left fur a time the Grants in open rebellion to her authority.
A provincial convention was organized in New York, May 22d, but Cumberland County was not represented; however, on the 6th of June, a convention, or " County Congress" was holden at Westminster, and Col. John Hazeltine of Townsend, Dr. Paul Spooner of Hartland, and Maj. Wm. Williams of Westminster were chosen delegates to represent the county in the New York Provincial Congress, and on the 21st day of June, these gentlemen took their seats, -and this Congress adjourned July 8th. Col. Hazeltine remained but three days in the convention-but the other delegates continued to the close of the session. These three gentlemen were re-elected as delegates at a convention holden at Westminster, July 26, but only Wm. Williams took his seat in the convention having been empowered to act singly in as ample and full a manner" as if all were present.
At a County Convention holden at the Court House in Westminster, Messrs. Spooner and Williams were again re-turned as delegates from Cumberland County and in February, 1776, Col. Joseph March of Hartford, and Wm. Williams were returned as delegates.
The County Committee of Safety assembled at Westminster Court House and continued in session from June 11 to 21st, 1776, Twenty towns were represented by 34 delegates. The affairs of the county were discussed, and civil and criminal justice administered. Joseph Marsh, John Sessions and Simon Stevens were chosen to represent the county in the New York Provincial Congress from the second Monday in July following, and the following instructions for the guidance of these delegates were prepared and adopted. The sentiments of these instructions are so highly patriotic, and embody so many principles that are new engrafted into our system of State laws, that it is deemed proper to insert here the following extracts:
" First-we instruct you to use your influence to establish a government in this Colony agreeable to the maxim, viz: that all civil power (under God) is origin-ally in the people, and that you in no in-stance, in your public capacity, will do anything to abridge the people of this fundamental right. * * * *
"Second-that you use your best influence in Congress to adopt such a code of laws, whereby the liberty, property and everything dear to the inhabitants of this colony and America in general, shall be founded on a permanent basis, a few of which laws we humbly beg leave to suggest, might be made or enacted, viz : laws for establishing religion and literature, so that ministers of the Gospel may be supported and schools set up, which must have a tendency to promote virtue and good manners.
"Third, we think it would much conduce to the happiness of this county to have a court of justice. so soon as may be properly organized, to take cognizance of all criminal actions. At the same time we desire that men of character, integrity, knowledge and virtue, who belong to our own county, may sustain the offices in such an important department. The ancient trial by jury, we have a great veneration for. In order that our future courts may be supplied with grand jurors, we humbly request that the Honorable Congress would adopt the following method for this county, viz.: That each town through the county, at their annual meetings shall elect their proportion of men, who shall serve as grand jurors, the ensuing year, and that their names shall be properly returned in the clerk's office in order that the jury, when so chosen, may in-form the advocates, a 1w shall prosecute criminal actions of all misdemeanors in the county, passing within their knowledge. The petit jurors, in like manner, we would be glad, might be chosen annually, and that their names, being en-rolled, may be returned in the clerk's office, and where so returned, may Ire drawn by lot for the service of the en-suing year ; * * * * that all deeds may be recorded by the town clerk in each town, * *
"Lastly- * * * we desire that each town in this county may nominate their own justices, and that they may nut be appointed without such nomination. That justice, religion and virtue may prevail in this colony and that peace and tranquility may be restored through America is the sincere desire of the Committee of Safety for Cumberland county."
The right of the "Grants" to secede from New York was among the subjects of discussion ; some of the members favored a union with Massachusetts. A let-ter was prepared, addressed to the members of the Provincial Congress, in which was expressly reserved the right of the people of Cumberland county. in the event that the Provincial Congress should fail in establishing a government independent of the Crown, to be governed by the principles embraced in the instructions to their delegates, to disavow "every clause, article and paragraph of such an institution." and the further right of pursuing "their former petition in behalf of the people, prepared some years ago, and referred to the great and General Assembly of the ancient, ever respectable and most patriotic government of the Massachusetts Bay Province, that the whole district described in said petition may he hereafter re-united to that province.
Another meeting of the committee was commenced July 23d, and ended 26th, and eighteen towns were represented. A quantity of powder, 1,800 pounds, which had been received from the New York authorities, was deposited in one of the jail rooms of the court house, and a sergeant and four privates were detailed to guard it by night, and a sergeant and two privates by day. " Necessary vittling and a half pint of rum to each man, once in 24 hours" were supplied, and measures adopted for the detection of spies and informers.
At the July session of the New York Provincial Congress, Cumberland county was represented by Messrs. Marsh, Stevens and Sessions. The commissary was directed to furnish 4,500 pounds of lead for the use of the county, and Mr. Sessions was deputed to forward the lead to the general committee of the county, and the committee were required " To attend carefully to the disposition" of this sup-ply among the militia. For the protection of the frontier from raids by Indians the convention resolved to raise ranging parties, and 252 men were ordered to be raise by Cumberland and Gloucester counties, and the force to be divided into four companies. The command of this battalion was entrusted to a major, chosen by the convention. Joab Hoisington of Windsor, was unanimously elected "Major of the rangers." On the 6th day of August the committees of safety for Cumberland and Gloucester counties met at Windsor and made nominations for officers of the four companies of the rangers. Commissions were granted to the following, October 10, 1776, under authority of the New York convention:
Benjamin Wait. John Strong. Joseph Hatch. Abner Seeley.
Elisha Hawley. Eldad Benton. Simon Stevens. Benjamin Whitney.
Zebulon Lyon. John Barnes. Amos Chamberlain. Jehiel Robbins.
The militia of Cumberland and Gloucester counties were formed into one brigade and Jacob Bagley of Newbury was appointed brigadier-general and Simon Stevens of Springfield, brigade major. Two paper regiments were formed and officered under the authority of New York.
To the rangers a bounty of $25 was allowed to each non-commissioned officer and private upon his passing muster, and in lieu of rations, a certain sum was promised weekly in the following ratio: To each captain, 16s.; each lieutenant, 14s.; and to each non-commissioned officer and private, 10s.; and each was to equip himself " with a good musket or fire lock, powder horn, bullet-pouch and tomahawk, blanket and knapsack."
Major Hoisington took his position at Newbury that lie might be able to watch the movements of the Indians and Tories, and guard the frontier from their incursions, and was able to send to Gens. Gates and Schuyler much valuable in-formation concerning the plans and movements of the enemy, obtained from spies and Tories, but the active services of the rangers were not called for during this year, though the movements of the enemy on the Canadian border and Lake Champlain caused much uneasiness throughout Cumberland county.
A session of the County Committee of Safety assembled at Westminster, November 5th and the friends of the formation of a new State made the session ex-citing and stormy. Sixteen towns were represented. Charles Phelps of Town-send had written a letter under date of June 21st, to the New York convention, expressive of the sentiments of the committee, as above detailed. The friends of New York wished to withdraw- this letter, while the friends of a new State were not disposed to recall it. The motion to withdraw prevailed ; but the minority strongly resented this action, and entered their protests against any further action of the Committee as then constituted. A compromise was how-ever effected-by adopting a report with-drawing the letter-but asserting the right of petition, and that " if upon proper deliberation it may be thought proper a separation should be most conducive to the peace and happiness of this county, we do not preclude ourselves from the privilege of presenting our petition to the Honorable Continental Congress." These sentiments were embodied in the form of a letter and sent to the New York convention, and the Commit-tee of Safety adjourned to meet on the first Tuesday of June, 1777, "and not sooner except on emergent call." A session was held at Brattleboro, December 2d, but no business was accomplished.
A convention of delegates from the several towns in the Grants was holden at Dorset, January 16, 1776. This convention adopted a petition and address to the Continental Congress, in which their unfaltering attachment to the cause of liberty and independence was avowed, but at the same time they had determined not to submit to the odious and galling jurisdiction of New York. But Congress did not reach any decision upon this petition.
The Declaration of American Independence having been published, it was deemed proper to call another convention to ascertain the state of public feeling on this subject, and accordingly a convention was holden at Dorset, July 24, 1776, at which delegates from 25 towns were present. The convention by adjournment re-assembled at Dorset, September 25th, and at Westminster January 15, 1777. Public feeling had been aroused, and it was ascertained that more than three-fourths of the people of Cumberland county were favorable to an independent State government. At this Westminster convention a declaration expressive of their sentiments was adopted, deviating " That the district of territory comprehending and usually known by the name and description of the New Hampshire Grants, of right ought to be, and is hereby declared forever, hereafter, to be considered as a free and independent jurisdiction or State, by the name, and forever hereafter, to be called, known and distinguished, by the name of New Connecticut, alias Vermont."
Judge Thomas Chandler was chairman of the committee who drew up the above declaration.
The convention after sitting until the 22d, adjourned to meet at Windsor on the first Wednesday in June, following ; but first adopted an address to the Continental Congress, setting forth the controversy with New York, and claiming recognition as one of "The free and in-dependent American States," and that delegates therefrom be admitted to seats in the grand Continental Congress.
The convention assembled at Windsor in pursuance of adjournment, on the first Wednesday of June, and a committee appointed to make a draft of a constitution, and each town was recommended to elect a delegate to meet in convention at Windsor, on the 2d day of July following.
July 2d the convention met at Windsor, in the hall of a hotel, which has since been known as the Constitution House. Until the fall of 1869 the building occupied its place on the main street.
The draft of a constitution was presented and read, and the convention proceeded to consider its provisions with de-liberation, and while having the subject under consideration, the news of the evacuation of Ticonderoga arrived, and the Convention was on the point of adjourning without completing their labors, when a violent storm accompanied with thunder and lightning broke upon them they remained in session, the constitution was read and adopted, but was never submitted to the people of the State for their approval or disapproval.
The first Legislature of the State of Vermont assembled at Windsor, March 12, 1778, and on the 17th of that month all the lend lying between the Green Mountains and Connecticut river was erected into a county, to be called Unity, but this name was changed to Cumberland on the 21st, and on the 24th this large county was divided into two shires, the old dividing line between Gloucester and Cumberland counties being adopted as the line of separation between the two shires. Newbury was the name assigned to the northern shire, and Westminster to the southern shire.
A Court of Confiscation was established by the Council on the 26th, to have jurisdiction over, and power to confiscate and sell lands iii the county adjudged forfeit-ed. Col. Joseph Marsh, Gen Jacob Bagley, Maj. Thomas Murdock, Benjamin Emmons, Esq., Dr. Paul Spooner, and Col. Benjamin Carpenter, were the members of this court.
On the 24th the Assembly made choice of judges for the shire of Newbury. Jacob Bailey, Jacob Barton, William Heaton, Reuben Foster and John French for the Westminster shire, John Shepardson of Guilford, Stephen Tilden of Hartford, Hubbel Wells of Halifax. Hezekiah Thomson of Windsor, and Nathaniel Robinson of Westminster.
At a session of the General Assembly holden at Bennington, in June, 1778, a special court was established for Westminster shire, and John Shepardson, Stephen Tilden, Hezekiah Thomson of Windsor, Samuel Fletcher of Townsend, and Joshua Webb of Rockingham, appointed the judges. And also a special court for Newbury shire, and Deacon Smalley, Deacon John Barnett. William Heaton, Benjamin Baldwin, and Reuben Foster. appointed judges.
Very many of the inhabitants of Vermont were tories during the revolution. Some of them were large hand owners, and early measures were taken to confiscate their lands and thus replenish the treasury and aid in the common defence. In addition to the Court of Confiscations, on the 30th of April, 1779, commissioners for the sale of these confiscated estates were appointed. Major Thomas Chandler had jurisdiction in the towns of Rockingham, Chester, and Westminster : Captain Ebenezer Curtis in the towns of Windsor, Hertford, (now Hartland,) Woodstock and Reading.
Meantime the Court of Confiscation was established on a different basis, and the powers which had formerly belonged to it were. on the 2d of ,June, 1779, vested in the governor and any two of his council.
At the session of the Legislature in October justices of the peace were appointed in 18 towns, and two of the Probate Districts were supplied with judges.
The friends of New York were not idle spectators of these proceedings. They denied the jurisdiction of the State of Vermont, and though they were not sufficiently numerous to establish and hold a superior court, yet justices of the peace were appointed, and other civil and military officers for the county, and many towns were thus provided with too sets of officials, the one deriving their authority from the State of Vermont, the other from New York.
In August, 1778, an attempt was made to ascertain the views of a majority of the citizens of the southern part of the county, on this question of the jurisdiction. It appears that in the towns of Hinsdale, Guilford, Halifax, Brattleboro, Marlboro, Draper, Fulham, Newfane, Putney, Westminster, Springfield and Weathersfield, there were at this time 480 voters who supported New York, 320 who suported Vermont, and 185 who were neutral in opinion.
The Superior Court was appointed to be holden at Westminster on the 2d Thursday of March, 1779, and at New-bury on the 2d Thursday of September, 1779. At the first session of the Superior Court at Westminster, the first case tried was that of Pompey Brakkee of Chester, a negro, plf., against Elijah Lovell of Rockingham, deft. The exact nature of the complaint does not appear, but Brakkee won damages to the amount of £400 and costs. At an adjourned term of the court holden May 26, Stephen R. Bradley of Westminster, was appointed clerk of the court, and at the same term Bradley and Noah Smith were admitted and sworn as attorneys of the court, and at the same term Nathan Stone, a citizen of Windsor, but an adherent of New York. was arraigned, having been charged with using " Reproachful and scandalous words on the the 15th of March, concerning the authority of the State of Vermont." The offence consisted in having said to John Benjamin, Esq., the sheriff of the county of Cumberland, " G__ d__ you and your governor and council." Stone pleaded guilty and was fined £20 lawful money, and costs, and was obliged to give bonds in £1000 as a guaranty for his future good conduct.
On the 18th of August, 1778, the authorities of New York, still claiming jurisdiction over the county, had by virtue of the Constitution of the State of New York, appointed a full complement of officials for the county. Pelatiah Fitch of Halifax, John Sessions of Westminster, and James Clay of Putney, were commissioned judges of the Inferior Court of Common Pleas. Eleazer Patterson, Hilkiah Grout and Stephen Greenleaf, assistant justices of the Inferior Court of Common Pleas. Micah Townsend. county clerk : Simeon Ed-wards, sheriff ; James Clay, surrogate.
These judicial officers never were permitted to exercise the functions of their respective offices in Cumberland county. There were some conflicts between the Vermont officials and the adherents of New York, but it is not my purpose to give a detailed account of them. Such accounts more appropriately being given in the local histories of the towns in which the conflicts happened. Judges, justices of the peace and sheriff were appointed by the New York authorities, as late as June 5, 1782.
The New York Convention of representatives in session at Kingston, Apr. 25, 1777, directed all county and subcommittees to use their utmost endeavors to apprehend, secure and otherwise in their discretion to dispose of all such persons as were inimical or dangerous to the State until further orders from the New York Legislature. The right of appeal from any sub-committee to the general committee was not to be abridged; and again on the 5th of May the committee of Cumberland county were especially requested and empowered to take the most effectual measures to pre-vent, surprise and quell all insurrections, revolts and disaffections; and were empowered to call out the militia and cause "all such traitorous inhabitants of this State as shall be found in arms against the authority of the same, to be destroyed or otherwise effectually secured."
It was well known in the convention that a strong spirit of disaffection existed in Cumberland county, that a majority of the towns refused allegiance to the authority of the State of New York ; and therefore the convention proceeded on the 10th day of May to resolve "that such of the members of the committee as should meet on due and regular notice, should be authorized to proceed to business.
May 19th a warrant was issued to the sheriff of Cumberland county directing him to order an election for State officers under the constitution of New York. The sheriff of Cumberland county was Paul Spooner, appointed May 5, 1777, but he declined the office and no election was holden under the above warrant.
James Clay, however, acting as chair-man of the county committee, sent letters to the several towns in the county ordering the election of members of the County Committee of Safety. The inhabitants of Windsor met May the 20th and voted by a great majority not to proceed to act according to the orders of the State of New York. The inhabitants of Townsend asembled June 2nd and instructed Joseph Tyler, the member of the County Committee from that town, not to act with the County Committee agreeably to the new constitution of the State of New York, " Because in our opinion we do not belong to the jurisdiction of that State."
June 4, 1777, the Yorker Committee of Safety met at the court house in Westminster. Westminster, Putney, Brattleboro, Hinsdale, Hartford, Springfield, Kent, and Pomfret, were represented. James Clay was chosen chairman and Simon Stevens clerk. The convention adjourned until afternoon, hoping for a more full attendance, and again to the 5th, when they voted, " Not to go upon the public business of the county until a fuller number of the committee were present," and adjourned until the 17th inst.
On the 17th this committee again assembled at Westminster. Putney, Westminster, Brattleboro, Springfield and Weathersfield being represented-they adjourned until the following day-when a further adjournment was had until the 26th, at the house of John Sargeant in Brattleboro. And on the 26th the committee reassembled at Brattleboro, " being terrified by threats from the people who are setting up a new State here they thought it imprudent to proceed to any business at Westminster," and concluded to go to a more con-genial atmosphere at Brattleboro.
The members present at Brattleboro were: James Clay and Lucius Wilson of Putney, Michel Gilson of Westminster, Obediah Wells and John Sargent of Brattleboro, Luke Knowlton of New-fane, Hilkiah Grout of Weathersfield, and Eleazer Patterson and Amos Tute of Hinsdale-the forlorn hope of the Yorkers.
Hilkiah Grout was chosen clerk. The convention voted to make a true representation of the broken state of the in-habitants of the county of Cumberland, and assign some reason why the county committee did not proceed agreeable to the resolves of the convention of the State of New York in respect " of their choosing Governors and Delegates to send to convention."
James Clay, Eleazer Patterson and Hilkiah Grout were chosen a committee to draft a representation arid lay before the convention. The committee re-ported, and their report was accepted, and Messrs. Patterson and Grout appointed a committee to carry the representation to the convention of the State of New York.
These gentlemen were furnished with proper credentials stating that the expense of the journey is borne by private subscription " as the divided State of the county renders it impossible to raise, any money in any public way, there-fore the committee prays the assembly or convention give their assistance in this affair."
The committee then adjourned to meet on the first Tuesday of September, at the court house in Westminster.
The report of the committee set forth that the convention held at Windsor on the fourth day of June instant, for the purpose of establishing the new State of Vermont, have taken into their possession the prison of the county and have strictly forbid all committees acting under the authority of the State of New York -so that it is become impracticable to proceed to ally public business in the county-that " the public peace is so interrupted by the proceedings of the convention at Windsor, that it bath al-ready hindered the raising of men for the common defence; that the friends of the new State were pursuing their own private interests rather than the public weal, adding what was no doubt fully true, " We really believe that without the interposition of the Honorable Continental Congress they will never submit to the authority of the State of New York until obliged to do so by the sword."
Eleazer Patterson and Hilkiah Grout were deputed to present said report to the New York convention, and this service was performed by Col. Patterson, but the records of the convention do not show any action to have been taken in regard to it.
Sept. 2, 1777, the New York Commit-tee of Safety met at Westminster, at the court house, pursuant to adjournment from Brattleboro.
Mr. Rust of Hartford, Mr. Gilson of Westminster, Mr. Simons of Rocking-ham, Messrs. Simon, Stevens and Powers of Springfield, Mr. Sargent of Chester and Hilkiah Grout of Weathersfield, were the only persons present. An adjournment was had until the next day, with no addition to their numbers, when a motion was made " to send some suit-able person to the convention or Legislature of the State of New York to inform them of the conduct of the Pretended Council and Pretended Committee of the State of Vermont, and take their advice and directions thereon," but the motion was rejected by a vote of four to three, and the committee adjourned to the second Tuesday of November.
The new State of Vermont was successfully formed and met with the hearty approval of a large majority of the people, but still the adherents of New York, though few in numbers, were not disposed to yield the contest, and held several meetings at Brattleboro, where seems to have been their headquarters, to take measures to carry out their views. At a meeting held at that place, April 15, 1778, representatives from Guilford, Brattleboro, Putney, Newfane, Hinsdale and Rockingham, were present, and adopted a protest in the form of an address, " To the gentlemen convened at Windsor, under the style of the General Assembly of the State of Vermont," against the formation of the new State. The towns of Weathersfield and Westminster concurred in the sentiments of the address. The protestors state : "Therefore, on behalf of ourselves and those who delegated us for that purpose, we publicly declare that as we have not in any way assisted in, or consented to the forming of a separate and independent government, we shall not consider ourselves bound by any acts of the Legislature thereof," and declare their allegiance due to the State of New York.
The opposition thus declared did not confine itself to words, but as subsequent events show, developed itself by resisting the precepts of the courts and the new State officials.
An enumeration of the friends of New York was made and it appeared that in the towns of Hinsdale, Guilford, Halifax, Brattleboro, Marlboro, Draper, Fulham, Newfane, Putney, Westminster, Springfield and Weathersfield, 480 voters supported New York, 320 the jurisdiction of Vermont and 185 were neutral in opinion.
A convention of the disaffected was holden at Brattleboro, May 4, 1779, and addressed a long petition to Gov. Clinton of New York, setting forth the acts of authority of " the partizans for a new State," in confiscating property, in at-tempting to exercise judicial and military authority "over those who continue loyal to the State of New York," assessing and collecting taxes, etc., and urging the governor to take effectual and immediate measures for protecting the loyal subjects of New York and to convince Congress of the impropriety of delaying to interfere in regard to the jurisdiction of New York over the " Grants."
Samuel Minot was chairman of this convention, and committees were present from the towns of Hinsdale, Guilford, Brattleboro, Fulham, Putney, Westminster, Rockingham, Springfield and Weathersfield. About this time a military association appears to have been formed in this county, to resist the authority of the State of Vermont. Ethan Allen was directed by the governor to raise the militia for the purpose of suppressing it. Upon receiving intelligence of this, Col. Patterson, who held a commission in this county under the authority of New York, addressed Gov. Clinton, under the date of May 5, requesting directions how to proceed, and suggesting the necessity of sending the militia of Albany county to his assistance.
Governor Clinton answered this communication and the petition of May 4, with assurances of protection, and recommending that the authority of Vermont should in no instance be acknowledged, except in the alternative of sub-mission or inevitable ruin.
On the 18th of May, Gov. Clinton wrote to the President of Congress, urging the immediate interposition of Congress,
That he daily expected he should be obliged to order out a force for the de-fence of those who adhered to New York. That the wisdom of Congress would suggest to them what would be the con-sequence of submitting the controversy, specially at that juncture, to the decision of the sword."
June 1, 1779. this letter from Governor Clinton, the petition of the committee of Cumberland county, the letter of Colonel Patterson, and Governor Clinton's reply, were laid before Congress, and a committee of five. Messrs. Ellsworth, Ed-wards, Witherspoon, Atlee, and Root, were chosen " To repair to the inhabitants of the Grants, and enquire into the 1 reason why they refuse to continue citizens of the respective States which heretofore exercised jurisdiction over the said District. * * * And that they take every prudent measure to promote an amicable settlement of all differences, and prevent 1 divisions and animosities so prejudicial to the United States."
While the subject was engaging the attention of Congress, Allen marched with an unarmed force and made prisoners of the colonel and militia, officers who were acting under the authority of the State of New York, and this was practically the end of the New York authority within this county.
Without pursuing the subject further in detail, the corporate existence of Cumberland county was terminated by an act of the Legislature, passed February, 1781, " For the division of counties within the State." Cumberland county was subdivided into the counties of Windham, Windsor, and Orange.