16.  A Rejoicing of Brief Duration

 

 

 

The official report of the deputies of the New Hampshire Grants settlers, made to Gov. Tryon of New York of the acceptance by their constituents of the terms proposed by him, will better show the state of feeling which prevailed at the time than any description that can now be given.  It is copied from the original on file at Albany.

"At a public meeting held at the Meetinghouse in Bennington on Wednesday, the 15th of July, 1772.

"Present of the Committee appointed to answer the letter of his excellency Wm. Tryon, Esq., Governor of the province of New York, dated New York the 19th of May and directed to the inhabitants of Bennington and the adjacent country on the east side of Hudson's river.

Capt. John Fassett & Nathan Clark, for Bennington.

Reuben Harmon, for Rupert.

Daniel Comstock, of Sunderland.

"We, as messengers, laid before the above Committee an extract of the minutes of his Majesty's Council of the aforesaid province of New York, of the 2d instant, together with His Excellency Governor Tryon's letter of same date, directed to the inhabitants of Bennington &c. and after reading the same, the above committee and a numerous concourse of the inhabitants of the adjacent country and other spectators, gave a full and unanimous vote in favor of the papers aforesaid; and the thanks of the people were presented to us for our diligence in procuring those papers.  Peace was also recommended on the whole New Hampshire Grants, by all who were present; when the whole artillery of Bennington with the small arms, were several times discharged in honor to the Governor and Council of New York.

"Health to the King.

"Health to Governor Tryon.

"Health to the Council of New York.

"Universal peace and Plenty, liberty and property, by sundry respectable gentlemen, some of whom were from neighboring provinces.

STEPHEN FAY,

JONAS FAY."

The actions of July 15, 1772, left the people of Bennington and its vicinity in the highest state of joy and exultation at the supposed adjustment of all their difficulties with the government of New York.  

Their season of rejoicing was, however, of short continuance.  It was indeed premature, for although the terms brought back by the agents held out the appearance of reconciliation, yet the seeds of mischief were not yet eradicated, and they immediately began to spring up with their former rigors.  The conciliatory resolve of the Governor and Council, moreover, contained an ambiguity which seemed at first to escape the notice of the people in the excess of their hilarity. 

The New York grantees were desired to cease from prosecuting any more civil suits, until the King's pleasure should be known; but nothing was said about putting in execution the suits already decided in their favor, and no prohibition intimated against their taking possession of lands claimed in consequence of such decisions, or sending surveyors to fix boundaries and localities.  Hence it is obvious that all the actual sources of dissension and tumult remained in full force.

It was unfortunate that an episode occurred while the negotiation was pending.  During the absence of the commissioners at New York, intelligence was brought to Bennington that William Cockburn, a noted surveyor, employed by the New York claimants, had found his way into some of the northern townships and was busy measuring out lands. 

A small party was rallied by Col. Ethan Allen, went in pursuit of the surveyor, fell upon his track in the woods, overtook him at Bolton, broke and destroyed his instruments and made him prisoner.  He was taken to Castleton, tried by a court martial, found guilty, sentenced to banishment, and threatened with the penalty of death should he ever again be caught within the interdicted territory.  At this juncture they heard of the success of their mission to New York, which occasioned them to dismiss the surveyor without personal injury and to rescind their harsh sentence.

During the expedition after Cockburn, Allen and his party dispossessed the tenants of an intruder in New Haven, near the mouth of Otter Creek.  The charter of that township had been granted by New Hampshire in November 1763, and as early as 1769 a settlement had been commenced under the charter and a sawmill erected.  Soon afterwards Col. Reid of New York, who claimed under that province by a subsequent patent, had forcibly turned out the New Hampshire settlers and put his own tenants in possession.  They had extended the settlements by erecting some log houses and a gristmill.

Col. Allen and his party visited these intruders, gave them a short time to remove their goods and then burned the houses, ordering the tenants to quit the district unless they would purchase under the New Hampshire Grants.  They put Pangburn, the New Hampshire proprietor, in possession of the sawmill he had formerly built, and broke the millstones of the gristmill, throwing them down the falls.

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