12. The New Yorkers Persist
Although the New York claimants had been foiled in their attempts to execute their writs of possession, they did not abandon their efforts to make good their claims on lands owned by settlers on the New Hampshire Grants.
Finding that the posse of Albany County could not be relied upon to act effectually against the settlers, the Yorkers sought to accomplish their object by less direct means. The old practice of indictments for riots was again resorted to: favorable offers of titles under New York were made to prominent individuals residing on the grants, offices were conferred on others, and persons from New York were encouraged to make settlements on unoccupied lands which had been granted by New Hampshire.
By these means it was hoped the settlers might be divided among themselves, and the New York interest so much strengthened as to become predominant.
To make effective resistance to these movements of the New York authorities, Committees of Safety were appointed by the towns west of the Green Mountains who met in convention, passed resolutions and adopted regulations which had the effect of laws with their constituents. It was decreed, among other things, that no officer from New York should be allowed to carry out of the district of the New Hampshire Grants any person without permission of the Committee of Safety; and that no surveys should be made or lines run, or settlements attempted under New York, within the territory of the Grants.
For a violation of this law the offender was to be punished according to the judgment of a court formed of the Committees of Safety or elders of the people. Nevertheless, the civil officers of New York were to be allowed to exercise their proper functions in the collection of debts, and also in other matters not connected with the controversy over lands.
So that a force might be provided ready to act on any emergency, a military association was formed, of which Ethan Allen was appointed commandant, with the title of colonel; and Seth Warner, Remember Baker, Robert Cochran, Gideon Warner, and some others were appointed captains.
These men were armed and were occasionally assembled for exercise in military discipline. A letter from John Munro to Governor William Tryon states that, "the rioters had established a company at Bennington, commanded by Capt. Warner — and that on New Year's Day (1772) his company was reviewed and continued all day in military exercise and firing at marks."
In pursuance of the New York policy previously mentioned, many attempts to establish settlements were made on the western borders of the Grants. Among them were some near the western limits of Rupert and Pawlet, where the new emigrants had armed themselves with guns and bid defiance to the New Hampshire grantees. In October 1771, Robert Cochran, Jesse Graves, Daniel Scott, Enoch Eastman, and three other individuals of Rupert, together with Ethan Allen and Remember Baker, met to warn off the intruders.
The party, which consisted of nine persons, having armed themselves with muskets, first repaired to a lot of land owned by Cochran under New Hampshire and which had been partly cleared by him, where they found two persons by the name of Todd at work clearing land. On being "warned forthwith to go off the premises," these persons departed without any attempt to use their firearms.
The party then visited a man by the name of Hutchinson who had begun to build a log house on a lot belonging to a New Hampshire grantee, the logs being raised and the rafters fixed thereon for the roof. After he was also "warned off" he departed the town, but not, as the account states, "until he had tarried to see the logs he had collected together pulled down, and laid in four heaps by the party and burned with fire."
The party then called upon one John Reid, who had intruded upon a lot of land in Pawlet and erected a bough house thereon for a temporary shelter. This they also burned, and Reid very readily obeyed their warning to depart the Grants. All these intruders were newcomers and none had families with them.
Learning of this, Alexander McNaughton, a New York justice of the peace residing west of the Grants, issued a warrant for the rioters, but at the same time wrote to the governor of New York that he "apprehended the number of the New Hampshire rioters and their situations in the mountains was such, that no sheriff or constable would apprehend them," and recommended that a reward be offered for their capture.
On Nov. 27 the governor, by advice of his council, issued a proclamation offering a reward of 20 pounds for apprehending "one or all of the said Cochran, Allen, Baker, and the other six persons concerned with them."
In February thereafter, the sheriff of Albany County made a visit to Rupert with the governor's proclamation, but did not succeed in arresting any of the persons concerned in the alleged riotous proceedings. He returned to Albany and reported to the governor that he understood that Baker, Allen and one other of the rioters had retired to the neighboring provinces, but from the conduct of those at home, not concerned in the riot, "he finds the greatest appearance of a determined resolution not to submit to the government, and this he found particularly verified by the conduct of eight or nine, who were armed with guns and clubs, in which manner they came to the house of one Harmon, near the Indian River, where he then was and from the conduct it plainly appeared what they intended!