6. New York Establishes New Counties
Before noticing further the acts of the New York government respecting lands, it may be well to give some account of the proceedings of that province in extending her jurisdiction over the disputed New Hampshire Grants territory, now Vermont.
At the time of the publication of the Order in Council of July 1764 confirming the claim of that province, the county of Albany was deemed to include the whole of the present state of Vermont. The towns east of the Green Mountains made less objection to the new jurisdiction than did those on the west side. In the spring of 1766 an act was passed by the Colonial Assembly of New York, constituting a new county of the territory now comprising the counties of Windham and Windsor. This act fixed the county seat at Chester, and provided for the erection of county buildings at that place. In July of the same year a Court of Common Pleas was established in that county and judges were appointed by the governor.
The act constituting the county was repealed and annulled by the King, as before stated, and the Assembly of the New York province was officially notified on December 2, 1767. But instead of abandoning its efforts to establish the county in obedience to the order of the Crown, the government of New York proceeded to continue its organization in the same manner as if the act of 1766 had remained in force. In order to effect this object, it was only found necessary to re-enact the provisions of the act of 1766, by an ordinance of the Governor and Council. This was done under the advice of the attorney general on February 10, 1768, within two months after the receipt of official notice of the King's disapproval of the act of Assembly.
This palpable evasion of the will of the home government is one among many evidences that the strong professions of regard for the observance of law, and respect for the orders of the Crown, so often proclaimed by the New York government, were subject to some limitations. The rulers of New York were great sticklers for law when it served their personal interests, but when it interposed an obstacle in their way to wealth or power, their regard for its due execution could not always be depended on.
The courts for Cumberland County were held at Chester until June 1772 when the county seat, on the recommendation of the supervisors of the county, was removed to Westminster, where the county buildings were erected, none having been built at Chester. The jurisdiction of New York over this county appears to have been acquiesced in, with occasional protests and interruptions, until the declaration of the independence of Vermont in 1777.
From that time the jurisdiction was disputed between New York and Vermont, both having strong partisans in the county, until about the close of the Revolutionary War, when the authority of Vermont was fully established by the forcible expulsion of that remnant of the Yorkers who refused to give in their adhesion to the new state.
On March 7, 1770, that part of the territory lying north of Cumberland County, and east of the Green mountains, by ordinance of the Governor and Council of New York, was formed into a county by the name of Gloucester, and the county seat was first fixed at Kingsland but soon moved to Newbury. The county at the time of its establishment was said to contain about 700 inhabitants. These inhabitants participated fully in declaring the independence of Vermont in 1777, the jurisdiction of New York having been but partially acknowledged by them for some time previous.
In 1772 the New York authorities constituted the new county of Charlotte. It was bounded north by Canada, east by the counties of Gloucester and Cumberland, south by a line extending westerly from Cumberland County along the north line of Sunderland and Arlington west to beyond the Hudson River, and including a large territory west of Lakes George and Champlain. The new county included all the towns now belonging to Bennington County lying north of Sunderland and Arlington, leaving the rest of the towns in the old county of Albany. Skeenesborough, now Whitehall, was the county seat of Charlotte County, and Philip Skene was appointed one of the judges of the Court of Common Pleas.