Home > Uncategorized > History of the Town of Pittsford, Vt

History of the Town of Pittsford, Vt

Source: A.M. Caverly, History of the Town of Pittsford, Vt., With Biographical Sketches and Family Records (Rutland, Vermont: Tuttle and Company, Printers, 1872). [WorldCat]

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But the most exciting events of the last decade do not appear upon the Proprietor’s records, and for an account of these we shall have to go to other sources of information.  The history of those events has never been fully written, and it is very difficult at this late day to appreciate in their entireness the motives which influenced the candid and patriotic men of that period, to adopt measures which to us, with our present light upon the subject, appear rash and unreasonable.  During the war the people of Vermont had made great efforts to aid in the common cause–the defense of American liberty–and at the same time to maintain their independence.  These efforts

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had required the expenditure of large sums of money, and to meet the demands of taxation a large proportion of them had contracted debts, which upon the return of peace, they were expecting to liquidate with no great strain upon their resources.  But the close of the war, instead of ushering in a season of financial prosperity, as had been anticipated, was followed by a ruinous depreciation in the value of the currency and all other kinds of property; specie was flowing out of the country in exchange for foreign merchandise, and as the result of these facts the debtor portion of the people found it impossible to meet their obligations, and were completely at the mercy of their creditors.  So wide-spread was the dissatisfaction, and so loud the complaint of suffering, that in August, 1786, Gov. CHITTENDEN prepared and published an address to the citizens of the State, counseling mutual forbearance and kindness, the cultivation of the necessaries for clothing and food, particularly wool and flax, industry, economy, and the non-importation of foreign products, and suggesting a hope of some alleviation of their suffering by the action of the next Legislature.  In October the Legislature assembled at the Court House in Rutland, and it was soon found that the members of the House of Representatives shared in the general feeling of discontent, and were ready for the adoption of almost any measures, however absurd, provided that they held out the prospect of even temporary relief.  “[sic – gm] A law was passed authorizing a defaulting debtor to tender on execution the same articles which would have been good in the life of the contract; and another was passed enabling debtors to pay creditors in other States in specific articles, according to the laws of those respective States.  A large party were clamorous for a State Bank of paper money and a general tender act, a law which would enable a debtor to pay a debt in whatever articles he chose.  Some three or four able and conservative members of the Legislature, with Nathaniel CHIPMAN, then in Rutland, held a private consultation in regard to the financial

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condition of the State and the means of mitigating the existing evils; and being fully convinced that the measures proposed by a large majority of the members, would aggravate rather than mitigate these evils, they hit upon a plan to prevent the passage of laws which, it seemed to them, would be pernicious.  This plan contemplated the postponement of the whole subject until the heat and excitement of the time had passed away; and in order to effect this object they agreed upon the following resolution, viz.:

Resolved, That the people assemble in their respective towns on the first of January 1787, at the usual place of holding freemen’s meetings, and there express by yeas or nays their approval or disapproval of emitting a small bank of paper money on loan or otherwise, of continuing the existing tender acts, and of a general tender act; the yeas and nays on these subjects to be transmitted to the Speaker of the Assembly to be a guide to the Legislature at their next session.”

This resolution, on being introduced into the House, met with vehement opposition; but the argument that the people were the best judges of the remedies they needed prevailed, and the resolution was passed the 31st of October.  After the Legislature had adjourned several reckless and unscrupulous men who were determined to avoid the payment of their debts, became quite active in denouncing the action of the Legislature; and by misrepresentation and every artifice in their power, they attempted to stir up the people to resist the execution of the laws.  Among the most conspicuous of these restless spirits was Col. Thomas LEE of Rutland who had served as Captain in Col. WARNER’s regiment in the Revolutionary war, and was a man well calculated to take the lead in such a rebellious enterprise.

On Tuesday, the 21st of November, the County Court was to commence its usual session.  The Court consisted of Chief-Justice Increase MOSELEY, of Clarendon; Assistant Judges

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Samuel MATTOCKS and Ebenezer MARVIN, of Tinmouth, and William WARD, of Poultney; Clerk, Rev. Obadiah NOBLE, of Tinmouth; State’s Attorney, Darius CHIPMAN, of Rutland; Sheriff, Jonathan BELL of Rutland.  It was known that a portion of the suits pending at this Court had been instituted for the recovery of debts, and as the General Assembly had omitted such legislation in reference to these debts as the debtor portion of the community demanded, they resolved to prevent the holding of the Court and thereby to arrest, for the time being, all judicial proceedings.  The excitement upon this subject ran so high, that on the morning of the 21st of November, as the Judges came into Rutland, they found a crowd of men and boys, armed with clubs, thronging the streets, collecting about the Court House and protesting against the holding of the Court.  The Court, however, was opened, but without proceeding to the busines before it, adjourned to two o’clock P.M.  Soon after the adjournment a number of men waited upon the Judges and presented to them a petition, requesting them to adjourn the court without transacting any business.  The Judges replied that in the afternoon, after the docket had been called and the business of the day attended to, the petition should be taken into consideration.  Immediately after the Court was opened in the afternoon, Col. LEE, at the head of about one hundred men, rushed into the Court room and, in a boisterous and insolent manner, threatened the Court for not granting their request.  The Court, for the time, being powerless against the mob, was by order of the Judges adjourned to nine o’clock the next morning.  This being in exact opposition to the request of the mob, as expressed in their petition, they became greatly exasperated and a few of their number rushed to a neighboring house, where they procured a supply of fire-arms, and returning, distributed them among their comrades, who immediately surrounded the Court House, guarded every avenue and held the Court and all in

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attendance thereon, prisoners.  By thus making an exhibition of their power they were hoping to intimidate the Court and gain the object of their request.  But in this they mistook; the Court was not thus to be overawed; and after being held about two hours, they were permitted to depart and return to their lodgings.  Here the committee of the Regulators–as the mob styled themselves–again presented their petition to which the Judges formally replied as follows: “The Judges of the County Court, in and for the County of Rutland, having taken under their consideration the petition of a number of the inhabitants of said County, in which it is requested that this Court adjourn without doing any business; the Court find on examination of the docket, that a large number of cases are in suit, in which the plaintiffs and defendants are mutually agreed to come to a decisive trial this session, and some other matters of such importance to the peace, dignity and interest of the good people of this County are depending, that the Court cannot, agreeable to the tenor of their oaths and the general good of this County, comply with the aforesaid requisition; notwithstanding this Court would not wish to try any causes at this term, but such as, in the opinion of the Court, are necessary to preserve the peace, happiness, interest and dignity of this County in particular, and the Constitution and State of Vermont in general.”  Failing thus far to obtain their object, the Regulators determined to accomplish by force what they could not do by petition nor threats.  A part of their number, well armed, took possession of the Court House, with the design of holding it and preventing the sitting of the Court the next day, and expresses were sent out into the neighboring towns for reinforcements.  In the evening the Sheriff sent orders to Col. Isaac CLARK of Castleton, Col. PEARL of Pawlet, and Lieut.-Col. SPAFFORD of Tinmouth to raise the militia of the county and come without delay, supplied with fire-arms and three days’ provisions, to assist him in sustaining the Court.  These orders

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were promptly responded to, and by nine o’clock Wednesday morning, Cols. CLARK and PEARL arrived with so formidable a force that the Regulators, intimidated, quit the Court House and offered no further resistance to the Court.

During the day the militia came in from every quarter.  Companies from Tinmouth, Hubbardton, Castleton and Poultney, well armed and officered, placed themselves under the command of Col. CLARK as senior officer.  In the meantime the Regulators had not been idle, but by misrepresenting the answer of the Judges to their petition, and by circulating false reports, they stirred up a feeling of indignation towards the Court, so that during the day they received considerable reinforcements, coming chiefly from Pittsford and West Rutland, with a few from Chittenden, Ira and Clarendon.

After all their efforts at drumming up recruits, they were not in sufficient force to think of contending successfully with the militia, but they kept up their demonstrations during the day, marching through the streets, confronting the militia, discussing the nature of their grievances and demanding the adoption of such measures as, in their opinion, woul afford them relief.  Foremost in raising the recruits from Pittsford was Jonathan FASSETT, though Col. Benjamin COOLEY, in consideration of his long military experience, was placed in command.  This company joined LEE early in the day, and was with him in the most of his noisy demonstrations; but at night Col. COOLEY with about fifty men retired to the house of Lt. Roswell POST about a mile north of the Court House on the Pittsford road.  Just at night several of the more prominent of the rioters remaining in the village were arrested, though Col. LEE escaped.  The militia were quartered at Gove’s tavern and other houses in that vicinity.  Sentries were placed in the streets, and none were allowed to pass without giving the countersign.  About midnight orders were received to arrest Col. COOLEY and his company.  Col. CLARK called for volunteers.  Sixteen horse-

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men under the command of Capt. Noah LEE of Castleton, and a party of infantry offered their services and were soon on the march.  On arriving at the brook a little south of POST’s, they took a circuitous route and surrounded the house.  So quickly and noiselessly was this movement made that Col. COOLEY and his party had no knowledge of the approach of the militia till called upon to surrender.  On being thus suddenly aroused, they seized their guns and prepared for resistance; but after the exchange of a few shots and some blows, they saw the hopelessness of further resistance and surrendered.  A few escaped, and these only by leaping out of a window, and taking advantage of the darkness of the night.  Nehemiah HOPKINS, Jr., of Pittsford, a member of the mob, received a shot which shattere his right arm from the elbow to the wrist.  Amputation was successfully performed the following day by Drs. Ezekiel PORTER and Daniel REED of Rutland.  The prisoners were conducted back to the village and lodged in jail.  Thursday morning, the Regulators having disappeared from the streets, and the excitement somewhat subsided, the Court was opened, the prisoners arraigned and their trials commenced.  Some were discharged without trial; five were acquitted; twenty-one plead guilty and were fined, some 9s. and some 10s. and costs; and fourteen on trial were found guilty, and were fined from £3 to £25 with costs, and were required to give bonds varying from £20 to £150, with sureties for their good behavior for one year …

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The rebellion being considered effectually crushed, on Saturday afternoon the militia were assembled, and after being addressed by Col. CLARK were discharged.  But it was so near dark that they remained over night, and on Sabbath morning started for home.  As the militia, returning westward, arrived at Pine Hill, they were informed that some two hundred malcontents were assembled at Col. James MEAD’s, west of Otter Creek.  On the reception of this intelligence the Court issued orders for the immediate recall of the militia and for reinforcements from other parts of the county.  Col. PEARL, who had gone southward, immediately returned with the militia under his command, and receiving large reinforcements from the west, halted at Blanchard’s Corners in West Rutland, while the militia from the east proceeded to Center Rutland and, placing a strong guard at Otter Creek bridge, halted there during the day, thus placing the insurgents in a very unenviable position between two formidable forces.  During the latter part of the preceding week, some of the most active in instigating the rebellion, had traversed the neighboring towns,

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falsely charging the Court with dealing fraudulently with the Regulators, and with treating the prisoners with the most outrageous cruelty.  The result of these charges was that even the most candid and conservative portion of the people were aroused to the highest state of indignation.  Acting from the impulse of feeling created by what they were made to believe were the acts of an unjust and tyrannical court, the assemblage at Col. MEAD’s had convened to inaugurate active measures for redressing their wrongs.  Sunday was improved by several friends of law and order, in efforts to convince the malcontents that many of the evils of which they complained did not exist; that for such as did exist, the Court was in no way responsible; that the prisoners had been kindly treated; and that the Court and the government had a common interest in doing all in their power to relieve the sufferings of the people.  They were told that they had been misinformed, that they had been imposed upon by a few artful and designing men, and that the course they were pursuing, if persisted in, must inevitably result in bloodshed and ruin.  These efforts were attended with gratifying success; the Regulators were convinced that they had been made the dupes of a gross imposition; and as candid and honest men they not only abandoned the object of their enterprise, but even joined the militia under Col. CLARK in defence of the Court and the laws.  Monday morning, all being again quiet, and no further use for the militia being anticipated, they received the thanks of the Court and were dismissed.  The Court continued in session without further interruption until Tuesday evening, when it was adjourned without day.

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In the early part of this period the long-pending land-title controversy with New York was brought to a successful termination.  New Hampshire had long since relinquished her claim to this territory, and New York had become convinced that further efforts to recall the people of the New Hampshire grants to her jurisdiction would be futile, and that it would be for the interest of all parties that their independence should be acknowledged.  As early as the 14th of July, 1789, the legislature of that State passed an act appointing commissioners “with full powers on such terms and conditions, and in such manner and form, as they should necessary and proper to declare the consent of the legislature to the erection of the district of Vermont into a new State.”  It was, however, provided that the act should not be construed to give any persons claiming lands in such district, to be erected into an independent State, any right to compensation from that State.

On the 23d of October following, the legislature of Vermont passed an act appointing commissioners with authority

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“to treat with commissioners that now are or hereafter may be appointed by the State of New York, and granting them full powers to ascertain, agree to, ratify and confirm, a jurisdictional or boundary line between the State of Vermont and the State of New York, and to adjust and finally determine all and every matter or thing which in any wise obstructs a union of the State with the United States.”

The commissioners of the two States met in the city of New York in February, 1790.  But it was soon found that the New York commissioners had no authority, under the act by which they were appointed, to make stipulations which would be satisfactory to the people of Vermont, and the negotiations were broken off.  But the legislature of New York, on the 6th of March, repealed the former act, and, as a substitute for it, passed another, conferring on the commissioners full power, not only to relinquish the jurisdiction of New York over the territory of Vermont, but also to provide in such manner as they should consider proper for securing the titles to lands therein against persons claiming the same lands under grants from the State of New York; and it further provided that any compensation that might be received for the relinquishment of territory should be for the use of the land claimants and not for the State.  The commissioners appointed under this act met the Vermont commissioners on the 27th of September, and after careful deliberation the New York commissioners entered into a written agreement declaring the consent of New York that Vermont be admitted into the Union of the United States of America, and that immediately on such admission all claim of jurisdiction of the State of New York within the State of Vermont should cease.  And it was further agreed that if the legislature of Vermont shall, on or before the first day of January, 1792, declare that, on or before the first day of June, 1794, the said Vermont would pay to the State of New York the sum of thirty thousand dollars, all rights and

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titles to lands within the State of Vermont under grants from the late colony of New York or from the State of New York, should cease.  On the 28th of the same month the legislature of Vermont passed an act making provision for the payment of the thirty thousand dollars in accordance with the stipulations which had been subscribed by the commissioners of the two States.  Agreeably to a call, a convention of delegates from the several towns* in Vermont met at Bennington on the 6th of January following to act upon the question of the adoption of the United States Constitution which was ratified on the 10th of the same month; and on the 4th of March, 1791, Vermont was admitted into the Union as a member of the United States of America.

The thirty thousand dollars which had been appropriated by the legislature of Vermont for compensation to New York, had accumulated in the Treasurer’s vault at Rutland, and some responsible person was wanted to convey it from thence to the office of the New York State Treasurer at Albany.  An honored citizen of Pittsford, Thomas HAMMOND, was appointed to this important trust.  Late in May, 1794, in season to reach Albany at the appointed time, he had the coin packed in boxes which were placed in a wagon, and one morning, long before daylight, accompanied by Samuel MATTOCKS, then State Treasurer,** he set out on his journey.  On descending the hill a little south of Clarendon Meeting House, one of the boxes burst open and the coin rolled out on to the ground.  As it was dark, they had to go to a neighboring house for a light to enable them to gather up their scattered treasure.  In this they succeeded, so that not a dollar was lost, and the funds committed to their care were safely deposited in the Treasurer’s office at Albany.***

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* The delegate to this convention from Pittsford was Thomas HAMMOND.

** And Mr. MATTOCKS’ sons, William and John.

*** The documents show that twenty-five thousand dollars were paid at this time; when the balance of five thousand was paid is not known to the writer.

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