THE FIRST ATTEMPTED SETTLEMENT — FIRST WHITE MEN TO VISIT THIS SECTION — CHARACTER DEVELOPED UNDER ADVERSITY — OLD FRENCH WAR — MASSACRE OF SETTLERS — JOHN AND EMANUEL HOOVER, NOAH HOPKINS — CAPT. LAZARUS STEWART — AGAIN THIS IS A SILENT DESERT — NEXT ATTEMPT AT SETTLEMENT 1769 — FIRST PENNAMITE AND YANKEE WAR — FIRST FORTY SETTLERS, LIST OF — FOUR TIMES THE SETTLERS DRIVEN OFF — CAPT. BUTLER AND CAPT. AMOS OGDEN — LIST OF THE FIRST TWO HUNDRED CONNECTICUT SETTLERS — RENEWAL OF THE TROUBLES BETWEEN YANKEES AND PENNAMITES — EFFORT TO FORM A NEW STATE — A HOUSE DIVIDED AGAINST ITSELF, ETC.
IN the preceding chapter is attempted something of a short account of the incalculable wealth of natural deposits within this favored county. So far reference has been confined to the natural resources—that existing order for the good of man as it came from the hand of the Creator. The preparation for the arrival of the white man and the taking permanent possession of the country had gone on, like everything in nature, through the geological eons, being slowly evolved, first deposited in the beds of the ocean, then uplifted and made dry lands and mountains, valleys and rivers, and as the ages were reeled off this and that came, flourished and passed away, the rocks slowly grew and hardened, the vegetable coals deposited and nature's prodigious alembic was busy gathering the sunbeams and laying them away for our use and benefit. The incalculable energies of nature and the inconceivable lapses of time combined, fashioned our world as we see it. What an awful miracle is the most insignificant animal or even vegetable life, looked upon with the eye of science! What an inconceivably little speck is this ever-wheeling world of ours from the astronomer's view! Impalpable star dust compared to the average heavenly bodies that are without numbers or bounds. Suppose there is life in the average of these other worlds or planetary systems; then we may suppose that the length of individual life there is proportioned to the increased size of the particular planet; in that case there are many worlds where the longest animal or vegetable life here would be comparatively as seconds to centuries.
Having traveled hurriedly over the account of the work of nature, in preparing this as the most favored spot of earth for civilized man, it is well now to consider something of the obstacles that lay in the way of the pioneers in the stupendous work of making this garden we see of the tangled wilderness. Imperfect as this will necessarily be, yet it is a little of the other side of the story of the greatest movement of men that has occurred in history. Hence this, while one of the world's comparatively young places, is pregnant with history, if not the philosophy of the movements of the mind. There were three chief obstacles confronting the pioneers: first, the rocks and hills and the dense and dark old woods that everywhere cumbered the earth, and that required many a stroke of the woodman's axe [p.37] to admit the first glint of sunshine to warm the rich dank soil beneath; second, the dangerous wild beasts on every hand and his more dangerous congener the wild forest Indians, and third and greatest of all was the long, bitter and often bloody contention between the "Yankee and Pennamite," where Greek met Greek, and made wounds that are hardly healed to this day. The first two mentioned were average of the pioneer's difficulties in other portions of the land. They had in addition to go through the same experience attendant upon the first settlement of every part of the continent, namely, of malarial diseases that always come, of turning the virgin soils. We bear of these things now with little appreciation of the terrible afflictions they brought to our forefathers. Frequently there were times when there were hardly enough of the well to attend the sick; when physicians were scarce and medicines very difficult to obtain even after long journeys. The majority of cases at one time when families from necessity doctored themselves; barks, herbs and roots of the forest were diligently gathered and teas and decoctions were provided in every household. It is the oaks that battle with the storms that strike their roots deepest in the earth, and this principle ripens manhood for the severe trials of life. These people had little. protection from the unfriendly elements about them, and brave hearts and strong hands were a first necessity.
Within a circle of ten miles from the Wilkes-Barre court house, where is now a population of considerably over 100,000, was for fifty years the heart of the battlefield between savagery and civilization, and then came the War of the Roses in contention for the possession and ownership of the soil. The wave of the death struggle swept back and forth; literally charges and retreats and counter charges; captures and expulsions and then recaptures and again repulsed; the swarming immigrant this year, the sad exodus the next: the victory to-day, the bloody massacre almost sure to swiftly follow. The scythe of death mowed its winrows in the ranks and eagerly came others in the place of the dead. What destiny hung in the balance, so long suspended by a single hair! This was something of the alembic that distilled the remarkable manhood that has inscribed high in the temple of the immortals the names of most of the first settlers of what is now Luzerne county. Illustrious men and glorious women, all as brave as death! Your sufferings and your dearly earned triumphs deserve the record of the inspired pen, and that page would be the most luminous in history. Men, real men, develop best under adversity; the weak and inefficient faint and fall by the way, and the fittest survive and stamp their iron qualities upon their offspring, and this natural selection brings us a race of men on whose shoulders may rest a world. Heroes indeed, a race of the world's bravest and best. The simple story of their struggles and, the final supreme triumphs are each and ail an epic that should be written in every living, heart. Let their deeds be immortal! their memories most sacred.
The climax of the struggle came only when it was Puritan versus Quaker over the question of ownership of the soil. This was serious indeed; no men were ever more intensely earnest in the claims on both sides of the question. The law as interpreted by authority was on the side of the Quakers; yet the plain equity was with the Puritans. Both were right and both were, not intentionally, wrong. This paradox only expresses the general phase of the great problems. As a question of the letter of the law the Quaker's triumph was complete, yet to-day from Old Shamokin (Sunbury) to Tioga Point (Athens), this once disputed land is as Yankee in fact as any portion of Connecticut. When these forces were arrayed in armed hostility, the scant records now left us of the communications between the respective leaders, communications offering adjustments, proclamations giving the world the facts in the case; petitions to the Pennsylvania authorities, and statements in the nature of pleas for justice, as well as arguments before courts, show these pioneers from the Nutmeg State mostly as remarkable statesmen, diplomats and broad [p.38] constitutional lawyers and defenders of the rights of man such as are not surpassed in any chapter in our country's history. These men it must be remembered were simple pioneers, the most favored with but sparsest advantages of the schoolroom and none of them really trained to the law, the courts or statesmanship. Yet they rose with the great emergency. Their records were halt and lame in spelling, yet they are the enduring evidences that their minds were strong and nimble.
The Franklins, Butlers, Gores, Denisons, Slocums, Fells, Durkees, Ransoms, Pickerings, McDowells. Stowarts, Youngs Jennings, Ogdens, Claytons, Francises, Moirrises, Dicks, Ledlies, Craigs, Tripps, Folletts, Elderkins, Bennetts, Drapers, Luddingtons, Backuses, Parkes, Huributs, Baldwins, Gallups, Talcotts, Eatons, Pitkins, Buels, Landons, Anools, Pettibones, Stanleys, Smiths, Heads, Pikes, Van Campens, Spaldings, Drapers, Stones, Hungerfords, Greens, Clarks, Jacksons, Frisbees, Dorrances, Leonards, Averys, Hewitts, Thomases, Arnolds, Ashleys, Babcocks Shoemakers, Terrys, Sterlings, Colts, Bucks, Squiers, Millers, Gardners, Hopkinses, Jobnsons, Dingmans, Aldens, Satterlees, Colemans, Comstocks, Mathews, and Mileses, are some of the names that are written imperishably in their deeds. These are not all, not even the leaders where all were so nearly equal, but simply such family names as most readily recurred to the writer without referring again to the record.
Stephen Brule, traditionally said to be the first white man to descend the Susquehanna, is surely entitled to a place in the history of this portion of Pennsylvania. What a type of that fearless vanguard of the human race this man was. He was born about 300 years ago; came to America when a youth, and it is said in 1610 was employed by Champlain, and was one of the first explorers of Lake Huron. On the authority of the Jesuit fathers, and Father Broboeuf especially, it is said he passed down the Susquehanna river in 1616 or 1617, visiting the Iroquois villages, and was the first to report of the country; reaching in his downward trip Shamokin and gave the fathers the first account they had of the country and the river as well as the aborigines along the route. He must have been a wild, reckless, remarkable man in many ways With the Indians he was at one moment a prisoner, in the toils, and several times the work of sacrifice had commenced and each time for many years some cool daring or quick thought or accident on his part rescued him from the jaws of death. Once as they were stripping him preparatory to a slaughter and feast, they found an Agnus Dei about his neck; he told them what it was, when a sudden storm arose and they were convinced he was a god or a close partner, and in lieu of eating they fell to honoring and worshiping him. He is reported to have been in Quebec in 1623, and was sent to bring down the Hurons to trade. Returning with them, he led a dissolute life, and it is further told that so, outrageous was his conduct that finally the Hurons killed and devoured him, at a place near Thunder Bay. These facts are gleaned from Laverdier's Champlain, 1619, p. 27. They are given here with the evidences, such as we have, of their truth. The dates given make it somewhat nebulous as a fact in history. The records noting the fact may have been made many years after their supposed occurrence.
So far as we can now know for a certainty the Moravians were the first whites to come to this portion of the country for temporary settlement. Their mission was that of carrying the gospel to the children of the forests. These shepherds were as humble as were the chosen fishermen of the Master. They labored afield and at the little forge, and in their native language told the savages the sublime story of Calvary. With their own hands they built churches and taught such as they could got together to read and write where possible. Their practical ideas. were to educate, that they might come to read the Bible and he enrolled in the church. The simple Indians were fond of garish decorations; they flocked to the church to see the rows of candles and look in awe and wonder upon the crude [p.39] paintings and altar decorations. They joined the church in platoons and communities—with no more real ideas of what it meant than a cage of monkeys. A petrified savagery, nor its posterity, is ever converted to the higher civilization or its religious systems. You may cover his savage body with the outward forms and ceremonies, but it is only a thin veneer at best; beneath is the savage still, and he transmits it to his children's children. After 200 years of contact with the best civilization. the "Voodoo" and the "rabbit's foot" possess much the same charms in America as in Africa. In the Sandwich Islands for one hundred years the entire population are in outward forms and ceremonies members of the church, yet every one in every journey or emergency has hid away within easy reach the same savage idols that his fathers worshiped. They simply grafted onto their fetich worship the symbols of Christianity.
Conrad Weiser passed up the river and was here in the early spring of 1737. He was fitted by nature to mingle with these woods children, and lead them away from cannibalism and to the milder precepts of the Christian religion. He stood in this beautiful valley with the cross in one hand and the word of God in the other, the representative of the church and the Prince of Peace. He was on his way to the Onondaga Indian council, and stopped at the Indian villages and mingled with the natives. He spent a night at the wigwams where were Indians in what is now the southern part of Wilkes-Barre. He made notes of his observations of the people and the country over which he traveled. in 1743 John Bartram, an Englishman, passed, in company with Conrad Weiser, up the river, following much the same route that Weiser had previously traveled. He was a botanist, and his brief description of this portion of the State is what he designated as the "terrible Lycoming wilderness." Two years later Spangenberger and Zeisberger, Moravian missionaries, visited the country and were here in June of that year. In 1755 Lewis Evans published a crude map of this portion of the country, and called it the "Middle British Colonies." The Moravians had established headquarters of their order at Bethlehem. Another branch of the order had settled at the confluence of the Lehigh river and the Mahony, opposite Fort Allen, which place was called Gnadenhutten or "Huts of Mercy." Except the erection of the fort, this was the first white settlement in this portion of the State above the Blue mountains-about forty miles from Wilkes-Barre.
The tremendous struggle between the English and French for the possession of this beautiful land commenced as early as 1603. France granted charters to a large portion of the country from the northern Canadas to the mouth of the Mississippi river, and commenced systematic settlements. In 1605, two years later, England commenced a similar system, granting charters and making settlements. The French built forts, rather a system of fortifications, to overawe and expel the daring English, that commenced at Quebec, followed the St. Lawrence, the lakes to Detroit, along the Ohio to the Mississippi and its mouth. They won the friendship of the savages from the British. For the next fifty years matters were shaping themselves in many directions that culminated in the Franco-Indian war. In July, 1755, our northern frontier flamed out in war. In terrible fury the savages poured down upon the frontiers and along the lower Susquehanna over the scattered, defenseless settlers.
In 1763 the most notable conspiracy of the Indian tribes ever formed broke upon the country as the Pontiac war. This remarkable chief had traveled among all the tribes and formed the conspiracy to drive all the whites from the country or extirpate them.
The first savage blow to what was then the nearest settlement to this place was at old Shamokin (Fort Augusta, now Sunbury), where the Moravians had gathered a small settlement. The missionaries were spared, but fourteen white persons were brutally massacred. This was soon after Braddock's defeat in 1754. The next [p.40] year, in 1755, Gnadenhutten was visited by the savages, and attacked at night, the men murdered as fast as found, and the women and children sought refuge in the upper rooms of the house with barred doors, when the house was fired and eleven persons, including young children, perished in the flames. Two of the brothers had escaped by jumping from a back window. This settlement was again attacked in 1756 on New Year's day, many killed and all improvements burned and destroyed.
England declared war against France in 1756. A great council was held at Easton, November 8, 1756. At this gathering appeared the noted Indian, Teedeuscung, who had gone from what is now Luzerne county. He spoke for the Indians; told why they had changed their friendship from the English to the French; chief among which was the deception practiced upon them in the "walking purchase." This purchase was quite a Yankee sharp trade according to Chief Teedeuscung. It provided the sale of land as far as a man could walk "in a day and a half," from Neshomony creek. He claimed that the man ran all the way, and did not even go in the intended direction, etc. The war between England and France continued until 1763, when France yielded all the northern portion of the continent to, England.
In 1762 arrived the first Connecticut settlers. The first real immigrants who came to make homes and till the soil, just who they were, how many and where in points in that State they came from, is not fully known. They made small clearings, sowed and planted grain and returned for their families. and came here the next spring, bringing probably their worldly possessions. They settled near the Indian village of Maughwawame (Wyoming), in the flats below Wilkes-Barre, but nearer the river than the Indians. The season had been favorable, and the wheat sown the previous fall had grown well. October 15, following, the settlement was attacked without warning by the savages. About twenty of the men were killed and scalped; the residue men, women and children fled to the mountains.
The Pennsylvania Gazette of November, 1763 published the following extract from a letter sent from Lancaster county, dated October 23: "Our party, under Capt. Clayton, has returned from Wyoming, where they met with no Indians, but found the New Englanders who had been killed and scalped a day or two before they got there. They buried the dead, nine men and a woman, who had been cruelly butchered—the woman was roasted. * * * They burnt what houses the Indians had left, and destroyed a quantity of Indian corn. The enemy's tracks were up the river toward Wighaloasing." (Wyalusing.)
As the Indians started up the river after the massacre, they came upon John and Emanuel Hoover, building a chimney to a cabin on the flats, and made prisoners of them. They already had another white man prisoner. The prisoners were taken to where is Geneva, where John Hoover and the other prisoners (name not known), attempted an escape. The latter it is said, succeeded in making his way to Shamokin. John Hoover's remains were afterward found in the woods where he had perished.
Col. Stone, in his history of Wyoming, gives a graphic account of the narrow escape and suffering of Noah Hopkins, a wealthy man from Dutchess county, N. Y., who had come to the valley as a purchaser of lands of the Susquehanna company. After capturing the Hoovers the Indians pursued him, but he hid in a hollow log, the account says, and after remaining there as long as nature could endure, and darkness had come, he carefully ventured out, and began his wandering in the wilderness. Five days after the massacre he carefully stole to the place of the settlement, and says: "All was desolation there; crops destroyed, cattle gone, and the smouldering ruins of cabins were the only things visible. * * * The stillness of death prevailed." The man was nearly famished. He found, he says, the carcass of a turkey that had been killed and left. This he devoured raw. After wandering many days and surviving incredible hardships, he found his way at last to the white settlement. [p.41]
This visitation of horrors upon the first settlers, it was said and for a time believed, but is not now, was inflicted by the Delaware Indians upon the whites, as revenge for the killing of Chief Teedeuscung. The truth seems to be that it was the work of the Six Nations and not the Delawares at all, and was a part of their policy to exterminate or drive off the whites from the Susquehanna.
It is stated above on the authority of Charles Minor, that it is not known who the settlers were, that is their names, who had returned here in 1763, and were the settlement when the massacre occurred. However, Stewart Pearce, in his "Annals of Luzerne County," published in 1866, gives fifty-eight names of the 117 persons who settled in Wyoming in 1763, as follows: John Jenkins, John Comstock, Ephraim Seely, William Buck, Oliver Jewell, Oliver Smith, David Honeywell, Ezra Dean, Jonathan Weeks Jr., Obadiah Gore, Ezekiel Pierce, Philip Weeks, Daniel Gore, Elkana Fuller, Wright Stevens, Isaac Underwood, Benjamin Ashley, Gideon Lawrence, Isaac Bennett, Stephen Lee, Silas Parker, James Atherton, Moses Kimball, Ebenezer Searles, Timothy Hollister, Nathaniel Terry, Ephraim Tyler, Timothy Hollister Jr., Wright Smith, Ephraim Tyler Jr., Isaac Hollister Jr., Nathaniel Chapman, John Dorrance, Thomas Marsh, Rev. William Marsh, Timothy Smith, Mathew Smith, Jonathan Slocum, Benjamin Davis, Benjamin Follett, George Miner, Nathaniel Hollister, Benjamin Shoemaker, Nathaniel Hurlbut, Simeon Draper, Samuel Richards, John Smith, Daniel Baldwin, Stephen Gardner, Eliphalet Stephens, David Marvin, Augustus Hunt, Pascall Terry, William Stephens and Thomas Bennett.
The following were killed in the massacre of October 15, 1763. Rev. William Marsh, Thomas Marsh, Timothy Hollister, Timothy Hollister, Jr., Nathan Terry, Wright Smith, Daniel Baldwin and wife; Jesse Wiggins, Zeruah Whitney, Isaac Hollister.
Mr. Shepherd and a son of Daniel Baldwin were taken prisoners.
The conditions of the frontier now became alarming. The marauds of the savages became more daring, bloody and frequent. The people began to believe that the Quakers and peaceful Moravians shielded if not actually protected the murderers. The authorities of Philadelphia looked with continued leniencey upon the conduct of the Indians. Lazarus Stewart, an officer in the English forces, a young man of high character and noble courage, had been west on a military expedition and hastening his return to meet his affianced and marry her, found the family home in smoking ruins, the family butchered, and the lovely girl's head had been severed and stuck on a pole. The tiger was now roused and he swore a terrible vengeance, and from that moment woe betide the red man on whose tracks he once commenced the trail. On one occasion he took his Rangers and went to Philadelphia where a murderer was safe behind the prison walls, really protected against the vengeance of the Rangers and by force dragged the wretch out and slew him. Stewart glutted his vengeance, treating with contempt the efforts of the proprietaries to stay his uplifted hand or to shield the savage. December 14, 1763, he attacked and destroyed the Indian village of Conestoga. Such of the Indians as escaped fled to Philadelphia and were received by the authorities. It was one of these fugitives that Stewart and his men followed and killed. The governor offered a reward of £200 for the arrest of Stewart, and the assembly passed a law that any person accused of killing an Indian should not be tried at the place of murder, but carried to Philadelphia for trial.
This part of the story is told and told with ever increasing variations. Lazarus Stewart was, and no doubt would have been under any circumstances, a daring and rash leader, but under the circumstances he was more than all this—secretly or openly, by day or by night, he was a very sleuth bound on the tracks of the savages and he knew neither mercy nor pity. Possibly there may have been little foundation for this bloody romance in Stewart's life. It was an old-time story, and, if all true, it seems that he outlived it to some extent, because in the Wyoming battle his son [p,42] was a member of his company, and father and son fell together. When the proprietaries offered a reward for his head, he issued a proclamation declaring them outlaws, and rallied his followers and opened war on their fort and captured it. He never asked for quarter, and there is little doubt that had he been given his choice, he would have died as he did amid the roar and clash of battle.
No other attempt at settlement was made in this part or in what is now Luzerne county, until 1769. For seven years again was the quiet of desolation and death. The settlers of 1762-3 who escaped the massacre returned to Connecticut. In the meantime the flames of savage warfare raged in the settlements along the river below this point. Lazarus Stewart and his Rangers slept continually on their trusty rifles and pursued the savages relentlessly and at the same time openly defied the Pennsylvania authorities to suppress them. The settlement was renewed as stated in 1769 and with various interruptions was rendered permanent.
The project of establishing a colony in Wyoming was started by sundry individuals in Connecticut in 1753, during which year an association was formed for that purpose, called the Susquehanna company, and a number of agents were commissioned to proceed thither, explore the country, and conciliate the good will of the Indians.
The authorities of Pennsylvania stubbornly resisted the movement of the Connecticut people coming here from the first. The Connecticut Susquehanna company however was active, and it was the dangerous and unsettled state of the borders that delayed their first settlement until 1762. Then came the bloody massacre of these people the next year and their being driven off the country, and what is now Luzerne remained without white settlers until 1769.
The proprietaries in the meantime, 1768, had made still another purchase of the Indians to this portion of the country and had taken advantage of the absence from the country of the Connecticut people to strengthen their claim and had built some forts along the river and had a certain military possession.
Lazarus Stewart smarting under the, as he and his followers believed, ill treatment by the Pennsylvania authorities, went to Connecticut and volunteered to join his forces to those of the Susquehanna company and hold possession against Pennsylvania.
The Susquehanna company called a meeting in the early part of 1769 and resolved to resume the settlement by throwing a body of forty pioneers into the valley in the month of February, 1769, to be followed by 200 more in the spring. Indeed the association, in order to strengthen their power as well as their claims, and to expand their settlements, now appropriated five townships, each five miles square, and divided into forty shares, as free gifts to the first forty settlers in each township. Many parts of the flats, or bottom lands, were of course already clear of wood, and ready for cultivation. An appropriation of £200 was made for the purchase of agricultural implements; regulations for the government of the colony were drawn up, and a committee appointed to carry them into effect.
The Pennsylvanians, for once, anticipated the people of Connecticut. No sooner had they heard of the renewed movements of the Susquehanna company than they made preparations for the immediate occupation of the valley themselves. To this end, a lease of the valley for sevens was given to Charles Stewart, Amos Odgen, and John Jennings, conditioned that they should establish a trading-house, for the accommodation of the Indians, and adopt the necessary measures for defending themselves, and those who might proceed thither under their lease. Mr. Stewart was a surveyor, and by him the valley was divided and laid out into two manors, that portion of it lying upon the eastern side, including the Indian town of Wyoming, being called the "Manor of Stoke," and the western division the "Manor of Sunbury." In January, 1769, the lessees, with a number of colonists, proceeded to the valley, took possession of the, former Connecticut improvements, and erected a block-house [p.43] for their defense, should their title and proceedings be disputed. The party of forty from Connecticut pressed close upon the heels of Stewart and Ogden, and sat down before their little garrison on the 8th of February. It was a close investment, all intercourse between the besieged and their friends, if they had any, in the surrounding country, being cut off.
As already stated Lazarus Stewart in 1769 went to Connecticut and entered into negotiations with the Susquehanna company. He and his followers were granted Hanover township, provided they would settle on and defend the same.
On the 1st of January, 1770, Stewart at the head of forty of his men and ten New Englanders entered what is now Luzerne county, coming direct to Wyoming and captured Ogden and Jenning's garrison that had been left at Fort Durkee.
Ogden was then sent with a force from Philadelphia and again took possession of his fort at Mill creek. The Yankees were driven out and forced to retreat back to the Delaware river. Stewart was then joined by Maj. John Durkee, who had been released from prison, and they marched against Ogden and compelled him to surrender, drove him from the valley and burned his block-house. One man was killed in the encounter. Stewart and his men then took possession of Hanover township and proceeded to clear the land, improve and plant the soil.
On June 28 Governor Penn issued a proclamation forbidding settlements under Connecticut, and offering a reward of £300 for the apprehension of Lazarus Stewart, Zebulon Butler and Lazarus Young, three persons against whom the governor's ire was specially excited. About the last of August, Stewart and his men left Wyoming for Paxton, purposing to return in November with their families. In September, during Stewart's absence, Ogden entered the valley with a large force, captured several men in the field, and, storming Fort Durkee, compelled the Yankees to surrender. Capt. Butler and other leaders were sent prisoners to Philadelphia, and the rest were forced, with women and children, to return on foot to New England. A few days before this event, Stewart was arrested by a posse in Lebanon, under the proclamation of the governor, but, seizing an axe handle, he knocked down the constable and one or two of his aids, and forced his way into the street. The town was in an uproar; the authorities called on the people to aid in his arrest, but they refused. At this juncture Stewart's comrades, who had heard of his danger, rode impetuously into the village, and bore away their leader in triumph. About the last of October following, Stewart crossed the Susquehanna with a span of horses, at Wright's Ferry, into York county, where he was going on business. He was immediately arrested by the sheriff of York and his posse, and thrown into the county prison. Fearful of a rescue, he was hurried away, pinioned and handcuffed, early the next morning, to be carried to Philadelphia, to answer for his offence in acting against his native State in favor of the Connecticut settlers. He was in charge of the sheriff, accompanied by three assistants. No sooner a the "Paxton Boys" heard of his arrest, than they proceeded in great haste to York, but they arrived too late. The sheriff was one day in advance of them with his charge. They, the prisoner and escort, tarried for the night at Finley's, many miles on the road toward the city. The night was cold, and the three guards, with Stewart, lay down before a large fire in the bar-room, the prisoner being fastened to one of the men, to prevent his escape. The sheriff slept in an adjoining room, dreaming, doubtless, of his success, and his reception at Philadelphia with a captive whom Governor Penn had declared to be the most dangerous man in the province. But Stewart was wide awake. At the dead of night he cautiously unloosed the rope which bound him to the snoring guard, and, with noiseless tread, made his way, unobserved, into the open air. Handcuffed, and without coat, hat or shoes, he traveled through the woods and unfrequented thickets to Paxton, where he arrived on the following day. His presence brought great joy to his sorrowing wife and children, and exultation to his Rangers. [p.44]
Tidings of the arrest and escape of Stewart had scarcely reached the ears of Gov. Penn, before he was informed of another serious offence committed by him. At three o'clock in the morning, on December 18, 1770, Stewart, at the head of his men, had made a rapid descent on Fort Durkee, and captured it a second time from the Pennsylvania party. A new warrant was now issued for his arrest by Thomas Willing, a judge of the supreme court, and directed to Peter Hacklein, sheriff of Northampton county, who raised an armed force and proceeded to Wyoming. Arriving at Fort Durkee, January 18, 1771, he demanded admittance. Stewart informed him from the parapet that none but friends should be admitted; that Wyoming was under the jurisdiction of Connecticut, and that he should recognise no authority whatever in any persons acting under commissions from the government of Pennsylvania. Capt. Ogden, who had accompanied Sheriff Hacklein, now attacked Fort Durkee, and his fire being returned by Stewart's party, Nathan Ogden, the Captain's brother, was killed and three others wounded. Stewart soon perceived his position was untenable. He was short of provisions, and the number of his men was much less than that of the enemy. It was impossible to hold out against a siege, and, consequently, during the night, with the Paxton men, he left for the mountains. Gov. Penn issued another proclamation, offering a reward of £300 for the arrest of Lazarus Stewart. and £50 each for the arrest of James Stewart, William Stewart, John Simpson, William Speedy, William Young, John McDaniel and Richard Cook. But Capt. Stewart had marched through the country and united his forces with those of Capt. Butler, who had been released from prison, and these leaders were now preparing for another effort to regain their lost possessions. In April, 1771, Butler and Stewart, at the head of 150 men, marched into the valley, and, finding Ogden strongly entrenched in a new fortification, which he called Fort Wyoming, they besieged it. Reinforcements, sent from Philadelphia, were defeated, and their supplies were cut off. The fort at length surrendered, and the Yankees were once more in possession of the much-coveted prize.
Stewart owned a large farm in Paxton, and he had married Martha Espy, the daughter of one of the most respectable and wealthy citizens in Lancaster county. But his interests, as well as those of his associates, being now identified with the Yankees, they removed their families to Wyoming. He had obtained five tracts of land in Hanover, and he now proceeded to erect a large dwelling or block-house on the river bank, a short distance below the residence of Gen. E. W. Sturdevant. Emigrants from New England multiplied, and a suitable form of government was established, under which Stewart occupied some important positions. Farmhouses were generally erected, and the entire settlement, unmolested by the Pennaamites, was prosperous and happy for a period of nearly three years.
In December, 1775, Col. Plunket, with 700 men from Northumberland county, invaded Wyoming, and was met at Nanticoke by Col. Butler, with 250 settlers. Butler stationed his forces behind a breastwork formed of logs and rocks, near the late residence of Jameson Harvey. As Plunket approached Butler's position he exclaimed: "My God, what a breastwork!" He was greeted by a blank volley from the guns of the Yankees, as the intention was to frighten, not to kill, at the first fire. Plunket then sent a detachment to the other side of the river, purposing to enter the valley near the residence of Col. Washington Lee. Here the force came in conflict with a party under the command of Capt. Stewart. Stewart had unbounded confidence in a volley of bullets, which were poured into the advancing, enemy with fatal effect. One man was killed and several wounded. The rest rapidly retreated. Col. Butler was equally successful on his side, but not until he had resorted to something more effective than blank volleys. Plunket ingloriously returned to Northumberland, and this was the last effort, until after the Revolution, on the part of Pennsylvania to regain possession of Wyoming. [p.47]
Capt. Lazarus Stewart was in command of the Hanover company, the command being turned over to him by Capt. McKarachan on the morning of the battle, saying, "Take you the lead, I will fight under you."
Capt. Stewart died, as would a brave soldier, gallantly fighting at the head of his command, in the Wyoming battle, July 3, 1778. His daughter, Martha, was born only two days before the battle. When the awful news was conveyed to the widow and mother, she took her seven children and a small craft and floated down to Harrisburg. After the war she returned to this county, where she died about 1791.
Forty Settlers.—Preparations for a recommencement of the settlement of the Connecticut people on the Susquehanna, after the massacre and expulsion of 1763, were commenced at Hartford by a meeting of the Susquehanna company in 1768, where it was resolved that five townships, to wit: Wilkes-Barre, Hanover, Kingston, Plymouth and Pittston, each five miles square, should be surveyed and granted each to forty settlers, on condition that they remain upon the ground and maintain their rights against the intrusion of rival claimants. Forty were to set forth without delay, and others to the amount of 200 (for the five townships) were to follow the succeeding spring. To these 200 must be added all those other settlers who had immigrated on settlers' rights. These were mostly sturdy farmers who came to the five townships, and of them were soldiers who had served their country bravely and well in the then late Franco-Indian war. The additional 160 settlers to complete the possession of the five townships arrived the next spring, 1770. Added to these were others that had come, some of them from Pennsylvania south of this place. Assembled at what is now Wilkes-Barre, April 10, 1770, were 270 or 280 able- bodied men. The block-house at Mill creek was too remote from the cleared fields of the old town of Waughwawic (Wyoming), the flats of south Wilkes-Barre, where were cleared fields ready for cultivation. These people built Fort Durkee at Fish's eddy, in the south part of the city.
Having now complete possession, the Connecticut people entered with alacrity upon their agricultural pursuits, while their surveyors were employed in running out the five townships allotted to the actual settlers. But no one supposed that peace and security were finally yielded them by their alert and powerful opponents. Every breeze from the southern mountain awakened fears of an approaching enemy. Capt. Ogden with the civil magistrate, Sheriff Jennings, though absent, had not been idle, but having recruited their forces, appeared on the plains on the 20th of May. After reconnoitering the position of the Yankees, finding it too strong, and their number too large to be attacked with a rational prospect of success, they withdrew to Easton; and Sheriff Jennings, in his report, informed the Governor that the intruders mustered 300 able-bodied men, and it was not in his power to collect sufficient force in Northampton to dislodge them. In the delightful season of spring, nature unfolding her richest robes of leaf and flower, the Susquehanna yielding boundless stores of delicious shad, a brief hour of repose seemed only to wed the Yankee emigrants more strongly to the valley. The beautiful lowlands, where scarcely a stone impeded the plow, contrasted with the iron-bound shores of New England, and her rock-covered fields, was a prospect as inviting as the plains of Italy of old to its northern invaders. But another force was threading the paths of the wilderness to attack them. Col. Turbot Francis, commanding a fine company from the city, in full military array, with colors streaming and martial music, descended into the plain, and sat down before Fort Durkee, about the 20th of June; but finding the Yankees too strongly fortified, returned to await reinforcements below the mountains.
Early in September following, Sheriff Jennings, of Northumberland county, with the indefatigable Ogden, again descended upon the settlers with nearly 300 men and an iron four-pound cannon—the first piece of ordnance ever in what is [p.48] now Luzerne county. This cannon had a terrifying effect on the people. Capt. Durkee was arrested and taken in irons to Philadelphia and the people with their leader gone, capitulated. The articles of surrender provided that only seventeen settlers be allowed to remain to attend to the crops and all others should at once leave the country. The third sad exodus commenced, and who can now draw upon the imagination a picture of the sad hearts that turned their faces back toward the East!
Capt. Lazarus Stewart and his followers, as already, related, made the attack on Ogdon's forces, in which William Stager, of Connecticut, was killed and several wounded—the first blood shed in the controversy between the settlers and Pennsylvania authorities.
The Yankees had captured the cannon and now they proceeded to capture Ogden, who was shut up in Fort Ogden. These farmers could not do much more with a cannon than make a noise, but they fired away two days and seemed to do no harm to the enemy within the fort. After quite a siege the fort surrendered, April 29, 1770, and Capt. Ogden retired from the scene of war and left the settlers in peaceable possession. The fort was burned and the property of the Pennsylvania people without much ceremony confiscated; in return, it was claimed by Durkee, for the bad faith on Ogden's part, who took everything when he had driven out the settlers, and the seventeen men left to care for the crops were simply turned out in the wilderness to starve.
Gov. Penn now called on Gen. Gage, in command of the royal troops in America, to assist in expelling the Yankees. But the English commander curtly replied that he thought it "highly improper for the king's troops to interfere in a matter of property merely between the people."
Planting time again had come; peace reigned and the indefatigable Yankees were in peaceful possession. The toothsome shad again came up the river in countless numbers, and from the rigors and famine of the camp and the march and siege these farmers turned with glad hearts to the huts of peace, the hunt of game and catching the fish in the river. New settlers began to arrive. Capt. Butler and his followers came now and were received with shouts of joy. Settlements commenced on the west side of the river. Old Forty fort was commenced and pushed to completion, with perhaps not a dream that its name was to become as historic as any spot on the continent. David Mead and Christopher Hurlbut, surveyors for the Susquehanna company, again were following the compass and locating townships to actual settlers. A peaceful and prosperous summer came with all its blessings, and time had lulled the vigilance of the people to a degree.
But the fourth time Capt. Ogden swooped down upon the settlers with an army, but under the civil authority this time of Sheriff Aaron Van Campen, Jennings' term having expired. He arrived September 21, by an unexpected route, and the men were mostly in the fields at work. He divided his force in squads of ten and seized the men in the fields and marched them to his camp, and at night retired to his mountain bivouac. The people were thrown in the utmost confusion at the dreadful news. They supposed a very large armed force had arrived. Durkee sent for aid, but his envoys were captured and carried to Ogden, from whom he learned the confusion prevailing, when he at once put his army in motion and stormed Fort Durkee, and after a short and severe struggle captured it. Capt. Butler was wounded and carried to the cabin of Mr. Beach near by. Butler, Spalding and a few of the leaders were sent to Philadelphia as prisoners, and the others to Easton. Again the settlers were driven off; their crops, abandoned, fell into the hands of the victors. Mr. Beach started in the night with his family down the river; stopped temporarily at what is Beach Grove, and finally located there.
The Pennsylvanians now retired, confident that this signal overthrow of the Yankees would permanently settle matters, and that the contest was at an end; leaving only a small garrison of twenty men to hold the fort. [p.49]
But the Yankees were much like the ancient Crusaders. The war of contention had now gone on two years. Suddenly, on December 15 following, the sleeping garrison was roused with the cry "King George, Hurrah!" and Capt. Lazarus Stewart and thirty men took quick possession of the fort in behalf of the Connecticut settlers. Six of the garrison, nearly without clothing, escaped to the mountains and the others were expelled from the place with little ceremony. This closed matters and brings us to the situation in the opening of the year 1770.
Again Capt. Amos Ogden fitted out another expedition to capture the Yankees. This was about the 15th of January, 1770, when, with 100 men, in the dead of winter, he invested the fort, and to protect his men he built a fort as his old position on Mill creek was in ashes; this new fort was on the bank of the river within sixty rods of Fort Durkee. This expedition was ostensibly under Sheriff Hacklein, who demanded a surrender. Stewart defiantly replied in the name of the Connecticut Colony.
The new fort was called "Wyoming," and after the investment by Ogden every nerve was strung to add to its defences. On January 20 Ogden sallied out to attack. Another demand to surrender and refusal, and a brisk fire was opened. At the first volley Nathan Ogden, a young brother of Capt. Ogden, was killed and several wounded. The attacking party withdrew to their fort. The night following Capt. Stewart, knowing the vengeance in store for him by the Pennsylvania authorities, with his brave thirty followers, quietly left and fled to the mountains, leaving about twenty men—those the least obnoxious to the enemy. The next morning Ogden took possession and sent the captured to the Easton jail. An additional reward was offered for Stewart and from the following extract from the New York Gazette, November 11, 1771, the temper of the authorities may be gathered somewhat:
"Philadelphia, November 4.—At the supreme court held here on Tuesday last William Speddy was arraigned and tried for the murder of Lieut. Nathan Ogden, who was shot from the block-house at Wyoming, while it was in the possession of Lazarus Stewart and company; and after a long and important hearing the jury gave in a verdict 'not guilty.'"
Capt. Ogden now devoted himself assiduously to rendering Fort Wyoming impregnable, so far as his means would admit; to any force the Yankees could muster to assail it. February and March passed away without the slightest interruption, or even note of alarm. Too wary to be again so caught, Ogden this time, less assured that his conquest was safe, had remained with his men, to defend what they had purchased at, to him, a price so dear. It was well, though in vain, he did so, for early in April Capt. Zebulon Butler, with Capt. Stewart as an assistant, accompanied by 150 armed men, entered the valley, and forthwith laid vigorous siege to Fort Wyoming. Three redoubts were thrown up, one on the opposite side of the river, chiefly with a view to cut off all access to water;—one on the river bank, between Forts Durkee and Wyoming; the other on the hill, known ever since as "The Redoubt," by the old canal basin, at the upper part of the town of Wilkes- Barre. The cannon, which had been carefully hid by the Yankees, too precious to be exposed to capture by a sortie, was placed on this elevation, and with skilful gunners would have completely commanded Ogden's position. But distance and want of skill rendered it in a very slight degree effective.
Again the Yankees rallied their men, this time under Capt. Butler, and once more swooped down upon what might now be called the Dark and Bloody Valley. In this invasion appeared the Gores—father and son, Obadiah and Daniel, blacksmiths. They made a cannon by boring out a log and strongly hooping it with iron bands. It was fired once successfully, but the second charge burst it into splinters as a matter of course.
Capt. Ogden was destined to meet his match in Capt. Butler. Such had [p.50] been the secrecy and celerity of Butler's movement that the fort was completely surrounded before the presence of the enemy was suspected, and all chance of communicating the news to Philadelphia was cut off. The place was regularly besieged and the process of starving out commenced. Finally Capt. Ogden determined to escape and carry the news to the authorities. In the darkness of the night he took off his clothes, made them into a bundle and tied his hat on the clothes and these he attached to his arm with a long string and let himself gently into the water and swimming on his back deep into the water so that his lips were above. His clothes were seen and fired at by the sentinel, and volley after volley at the moving bundle, while he was not seen and he made the shore far below and dressed himself in his wet clothes and hastily made his way to Philadelphia, where his story created the greatest commotion. He reached the city the third day after his escape. Capt. Dick was hastened to the relief of the fort with a convoy of thirty men and pack horses with provisions. Capt. Morris and his company were directed to follow with little delay. Capt. Butler knew of Ogden's escape and guarded strictly against the relief he knew would be sent. Capt. Dick and escort reached the valley the last of July. He was ambushed near the fort, the provision captured and his men rushed to the fort as they were allowed to, as this would the sooner eat the stores on hand. Ogden returned with Dick and found himself again in the fort and besieged. Ledlie was now started from Philadelphia with a company to hurry on and join Morris and Clayton. In the meantime Butler knew of the coming relief and began vigorous attacks on the fort. The gallant Ogden was severely wounded and Lieut. William Redgard had been shot dead while in the act of halting his leader, Ogden, when he was wounded. Negotiations were opened and the fort surrendered to Butler, and they started to return to Philadelphia and on the way met Ledlie and his force, who came on to the brow of the mountain and halted, awaiting orders from Philadelphia. After a short time he was ordered to return.
Thus closed the first Pennite and Yankee war—lasting from January, 1769, to September, 1771. These two facts are now prominently brought to the fore. The proprietaries realized that the people of the province sympathized with the Connecticut settlers, or had grown tired of the profitless contention. On the other hand Connecticut had not kept faith in backing her people in their claims to the land that she had induced them to settle on.
The following is a list of the 200 first enrolled to come here and possess the five townships and man their rights. Those marked with a star were the first forty who came, and were followed the next spring by the others. Every name deserves a sacred remembrance—they were unequaled heroes:
David Whittlesey, Job Green, Philip Goss, Joshua Whitney, Abraham Savage, Ebenezer Stearns, Sylvester Chesebrough, Zephaniah Thayer, Eliphalet Jewel, Daniel Gore, Ozias Yale, *Henry Wall, Rowland Barton, Gideon Lawrence, Asa Lawrence, Nathaniel Watson, Philip Weeks, Thomas Weeks, Asher Harrot, Ebenezer Hebbard, Morgan Carvan, Samuel Marvin, Silas Gore, Ebenezer Northrop, Joshua Lampher, Joseph Hillman, Abel Pierce, Jabez Roberts, Jonathan Corrington, John Dorrance, Noah Allen, Robert Jackson, Zebulon Hawksey, James Dunkin, Caleb Tennant, Zerobable Wightman, Gurdon Hopson, Asa Lee, Thomas Wallworth, Robert Hunter, John Baker, Jonathan Orms, Daniel Angel, Elias Roberts, Nicholas Manvil, Thomas Gray, Joseph Gaylord, William Churchell, Henry Strong, Zebulon Frisbee, Hezekiah Knap, John Kenyon, Preserved Taylor, Isaac Bennett, Uriah Marvin, Abisha Bingham, Moses Hebbard, Jr., Jabez Fish, Peris Briggs, Aaron Walter, James May, Samuel Badger. Jabez Cooke, Samuel Dorrance, *John Comstock, Samuel Hotchkiss, William Leonard, Jesse Leonard, Elisha Avery, Ezra Buel, Gershom Hewit, Nathaniel Goss, Benjamin Hewit, Benjamin Hewit, Jr., Elias Thomas, Abijah Mock, Ephraim Fellows, Joseph Arnold, Ephraim Arnold, Benjamin Ashley, William White, Stephen Hull, Diah Hull, Joseph Lee, Samuel [p.51] Wybrant, Reuben Hurlbut, Jenks Corah, Obadiah Gore, Jr., Caleb White, Samuel Sweet. Thomas Knight, John Jollee, Ebenezer Norton, Enos Yale, John Wiley, Timothy Vorce, Cyrus Kenne, John Shaw, James Forsythe, *Peter Harris, Abel Smith, Elias Parks, Joshua Maxfield, John Murphy, *Thomas Bennet, Christopher Avery, Elisha Babcock, John Perkins, Joseph Slocum, Robert Hopkins, Benjamin Shoemaker, Jr., Jabez Sill, Parshall Terry, John Delong, *Theophilus Westover, John Sterling, Joseph Morse, Stephen Fuller, Andrew Durkee, Andrew Medcalf, Daniel Brown, Jonathan Buck, David Mead, Thomas Perlin, William Wallsworth, Thomas Draper, James Smith, *James Atherton, Jr., *Oliver Smith, James Evans, Eleazer Carey, *Cyprian Lothrop, James Nesbitt, Joseph Webster, Samuel Millington, Benjamin Budd, John Lee, Josiah Dean, Zophur Teed, Moses Hebbard, Dan Murdock, Noah Lee, Stephen Lee, Lemuel Smith, Silas Park, Stephen Hungerford, Zerobable Jerorum, Comfort Goss, William Draper, Thomas McClure, Peter Ayers, Solomon Johnson, Phineas Stevens, Abraham Colt, Elijah Buck, Noah Read, Nathan Beach, Job Green, Jr., Fred Wise, Stephen Jenkins, Daniel Marvin, Zachariah Squier, Henry Wall, Simeon Draper, John Wallsworth, Ebenezer Stone, Thomas Olcott, Stephen Hinsdale, Benjamin Dorchaster, Elijah Witter, Oliver Post, Daniel Cass, Isaac Tracy, Samuel Story, John Mitchel, Samuel Orton, Christopher Gardner, Duty Gerold, Peris Bradford, Samuel Morgan, John Clark, Elijah Lewis, Timothy Hopkins, Edward Johnson, Jacob Dingman, Capt. Prince Alden, Benedict Satterlee, Naniad Coleman, Peter Comstock, John Franklin, Benjamin Matthews, John Durkee, William Gallop, Stephen Hurlbut, Stephen Miles.
Very few of the settlers had yet brought out their families; and in May, 1772, there were only five white women in Wilkes-Barre: Mrs. McClure, wife of James McClure; Mrs. Bennett, grandmother of Rufus Bennett (who was in the Indian battle); Mrs. Sill, wife of Jabez Sill; another Mrs. Bennett, wife of Thomas Bennett, mother of Mrs. Myers, and Mrs. Hickman, with her husband; Mrs. Dr. Sprague, and her daughter, Mrs. Young. The second white child born in the settlement was a daughter of Mrs. McClure.
Not until the year 1772 had there been any attempt to establish any form of police government. Stewart Pearce says that "each individual acted as his own sense of propriety, or his notion of right, might dictate. Even the salutary influence of woman, exercised over man in civilized society, was wanting. In May, 1772, there were only five women in Wilkes-Barre township. But in this year quite a number of settlers went east for their families. Lands were surveyed and assigned to claimants, and block-houses were erected on both sides of the river. Many new faces appeared in the settlement, men gathered their relatives about them, and marriages were celebrated. The township of Wilkes-Barre was surveyed in the year 1770 by David Meade, and within its limits the struggles for possession of the valley mostly took place. The union of the names of John Wilkes and of Col. Barre, two Englishmen, the latter a brave and accomplished soldier, well known in America, and both celebrated as distinguished advocates of the rights of the colonies against the encroachments of the crown, formed the name Wilkes-Barre. But the village or borough of Wilkes-Barre was not laid out until 1772. This was the work of Col. Durkee, who formed the town plot on grounds immediately adjoining Fort Wyoming, which, as has been already stated,was situated on the river bank near Northampton street. During that year the people were so busily engaged in preparing to live that there was no time to think of a regular form of government. When difficulties arose in respect to land rights, the dispute was decided by town committees. Those were halcyon days, for there was order without law, and peace without the constable—that was the golden age of Wyoming. Ferries and mills were provided for the people, and finally, toward the close of this year, as soon as practicable, that is, December 11, 1772, provisions were made for the permanent support of the gospel and of schools. Nor was there an exhibition Of religious [p.52] intolerance, but the views and feelings of the Baptists were consulted by the Presbyterians, who formed much the larger body. At length, as the population increased, and the interests of the community became in some degree conflicting, it was deemed necessary by the Susquehanna company, on June 2, 1773, at Hartford, Conn., to adopt a code of laws for the government of the settlement. This code punished crime, enforced order, provided for the election of directors, peace officers, and other officers who might be found necessary in every township. Every settler was required to subscribe his name to these regulations, to abide by and to support the same. All males of the age of twenty-one years and upward were allowed a voice in the elections.
It may he noted here that at an early period, even before the code of laws was enacted by the Susquehanna company, the settlers resolved that any person who sold liquor to an Indian should forfeit his goods and be expelled from the colony. But it is probable this order was never observed, for at first, after 1763, there were but few straggling Indians in the valley, and these were mostly Christians connected with the Moravian society. And in a short time almost the entire body of settlers became drinkers. Whisky and rum were consumed in astonishing quantities. At that day ardent spirits could be procured in their purity, and as the people were hard workers and much exposed in the open air, they came to be considered as articles of prime necessity. The effects of their use were wholly different from those produced on the people of our day, by the soul and body-destroying mixtures of alcohol and strychnine and other poisons.
In October, 1773, the general assembly of Connecticut attempted to open negotiations with the Pennsylvania authorities, with a view to the amicable settlement of the dispute pending in reference to the Wyoming lands. But the governor and council, on behalf of Pennsylvania, alleging the total absence of right on the part of Connecticut, declined every proposition which the commissioners of the colony advanced. The general assembly of Connecticut then, on learning the refusal of the authorities of Pennsylvania to come to any terms, proceeded to exercise those acts of sovereignty which she conceived belonged to her. In January, 1774, all the territory within her charter limits, from the Delaware to a line fifteen miles west of the Susquehanna, was erected into a town called Westmoreland, and attached to the county of Litchfield. Westmoreland was about seventy miles square, embracing nearly 5,000 square miles. Within it were numerous townships divided into lots, which were sold to purchasers or were drawn for by proprietors. The governor of Connecticut issued his proclamation forbidding any settlement in Westmoreland except under authority from Connecticut. About the same time the governor of Pennsylvania issued his proclamation, prohibiting all persons from settling on the disputed lands, except under the authority of the proprietaries. Zebulon Butler and Nathan Denison were commissioned under Connecticut as justices of the peace, with authority to organize the town. In March, 1774, the whole people of Westmoreland, being legally warned, met and organized the town, and chose selectmen, a treasurer, constables, collectors of taxes, surveyors of highways, fence viewers, listers, leather sealers, grand jurors, tything men, sealers of weights and measures, and key-keepers. Eight town meetings were held in the year 1774. The government was of the most democratic character. It can not be supposed that the whole male population entitled to vote turned out at every meeting, for the number of people in Westmoreland this year was found to be 1,922.
Referring to the close of the year 1771, when the Connecticut people had conquered from the Pennsylvania proprietaries a respite by driving out Ogden and his forces, William L. Stone, in his Poetry and History of Wyoming says: "Thus far the government of the Connecticut settlers—that is to say, all the government that was exercised—had been of a voluntary and military character. But the cessation of all opposition to the proceedings of the Susquehanna company, for the time, on [p.53] the part of Pennsylvania, rendered the longer continuance of martial law inexpedient, while by the rapid increase of the population it became necessary that some form of civil government should be adopted. The increasing irritation existing between the parent government and the colonies, already foreshadowing an approaching appeal to the ultima ratio regum, had taught the directors of the company that a charter for a new and distinct colonial government from the crown, was not to be expected. In this exigency, the company applied to the general assembly of Connecticut to have their Wyoming settlements taken under the protection of the colony until the pleasure of his majesty should be known. But the general assembly was in no haste to extend its ægis over so broad a territory, at so great a distance from home. They therefore advised the company in the first instance to attempt an amicable adjustment of their difficulties with the proprietaries of Pennsylvania, offering to undertake the negotiation in their behalf. In case of a failure to obtain a just and honorable arrangement, the general assembly next suggested a reference of the whole subject to the king in council. Meantime, while they wished the colony God-speed, they advised them to govern themselves by themselves, in the best manner they could.
Pursuant to this advice, the inhabitants of the valley proceeded to elect a government of their own; and the institutions established by them were the most thoroughly democratic, probably, of any government that has ever existed elsewhere among civilized men. "They laid out townships, founded settlements, erected fortifications, levied and collected taxes, passed laws for the direction of civil suits, and for the punishment of crimes and misdemeanors, established a militia, and provided for the common defence and general welfare of the colony." The supreme legislative power was vested directly in the people, not by representation, but to be exercised by themselves, in their primary meetings and sovereign capacity. A magistracy was appointed, and all the necessary machinery for the government of towns according to the New England pattern, organized and put in motion. Three courts were instituted, all having civil and criminal jurisdiction; but the court of appeals, called the supreme court, to which every case might be carried, was formed, like their legislature, of the people themselves in solemn assembly convened.
The extent of territory was 100 miles wide and 110 miles long—abundant room in which to sprout and grow a great democracy. Under this government the people lived very happily, and the colony advanced with signal prosperity for two years, when the town of Westmoreland was formed and became a part and parcel of Connecticut. Possibly it would have been better for the people had they continued their independent democracy.
At the closing decade of the nineteenth century it sounds a little odd to hear that a government that was "voluntary and military" was the "most thoroughly democratic, probably, of any government that has ever existed elsewhere among civilized men." A purely "voluntary" government, without a shred of military, may elect a king to rule over them, but a military power, to modern ears, sounds so anti-democratic as to be irreconcilable with all ideas of a democracy. But consider the times and the surroundings of the people of whom Mr. Stone was speaking, and is he not right? Every man was a soldier, without pay, subsistence or arms, except as he provided these for himself; they worked by relays on the forts and block-house, while others stood guard, or with gun swung across his back, plowed and hoed the corn. Whether a man was enrolled in a company or not he was a soldier, all the time and everywhere, active and alert to beat off the open or skulking approach of the enemy; the women and children could mold bullets and load guns. Where all were unpaid soldiers, all were equally free, and in the spirit of justice and pure democracy these soldiers met in council and voted their own laws.
After Plunkett's invasion until 1782, six years, the whole valley had been repeatedly and most cruelly devastated. The unfortunate settlers, now worn and [p.54] weary, poor and literally like Rachel weeping for her children, now that the Revolution was closing its long chapter of war, thus woke to the new, sad realization that it was worse than peace with themselves left out of the protocol. Like a shadow of death overspread the cloud that now they must take up the battle anew against the authorities of Pennsylvania, and that they were left to fate by Connecticut. The decree of Trenton had been accepted by the latter and now where was a ray of hope for the settlers in the valley? They petitioned the general assembly of Pennsylvania for their rights.
"We have settled a country, which in its original state of but little value, but now cultivated by your memorialists, is to them of the greatest importance, being their all. We are yet alive, but the richest blood of our neighbors and friends, children, husbands, and fathers, has been spilt in the general cause of their country, and we have suffered every danger this side of death. We supplied the continental army with many valuable officers and soldiers, and left ourselves weak and unguarded against the attack of the savages, and of others of a more savage nature. Our houses are desolate, many mothers are childless, widows and orphans are multiplied, our habitations are destroyed, and many families are reduced to beggary."
In the history of State papers I have met none whose every word was so significant of the deep and earnest sense of men who spoke from hearts moved by higher or nobler impulses. Notwithstanding, as soon as the continental troops were withdrawn from Wyoming, where they had been placed for the protection of the people against the savages, Capts. Robinson and Shrawder, with two companies of Pennsylvania troops, marched and took possession of Fort Wyoming, which they named Fort Dickinson. Shortly after, the general assembly of Pennsylvania, in pursuance of the petition of the settlers, appointed Joseph Montgomery, William Montgomery and Moses McClean, commissioners, with instructions to repair to Wyoming and compromise the dispute between them and the commonwealth. They arrived in the valley in April, 1783, and immediately a spirited correspondence took place between them and John Jenkins, Nathan Denison, Obadiah Gore and Samuel Shepherd, the committee on the part of the settlers. The issue of this was that the State commissioners reported to the assembly, recommending "that a reasonable compensation in land in the western part of the State should be made to the families of those who had fallen in arms against the common enemy, and to such other settlers as had a proper Connecticut title, and did actually reside on the lands at the time of the decree at Trenton; provided they immediately relinquish all claim to the soil where they now inhabited, and enter into contracts to deliver up full and quiet possession of their present tenures to the rightful owners under Pennsylvania by the first of April next." This report evidently expressed the sentiments of Alexander Patterson, who had in charge the interests of the Pennsylvania settlers. Patterson had been in the employ of the Penn family, and had aided to arrest the Connecticut settlers in 1769. He was now a justice of the peace under Pennsylvania, and was settled in Wilkes-Barre, whose name he endeavored to change to Londonderry. He, with his associate justices, and backed by military force, under the command of Maj. James Moore, and Capts. Shrawder and Christie, commenced a series of contemptible and cowardly outrages upon the Yankee settlers. The soldiers were quartered upon the inhabitants. Col. Zebulon Butler, who had just returned from the army, and who boldly denounced Patterson's conduct, was arrested and sent to Sunbury jail. But, as the proceedings had been illegal, he was released.
Mr. Miner says, "October 31, the settlement Shawnee was invaded by the military, headed by the justice in person, and eleven respectable citizens arrested and sent under guard to the fort. Among the prisoners was Maj. Prince Alden, sixty- five years old, feeble from age, and suffering from disease. Compassion yielded nothing to alleviate his sufferings. Capt. James Bidlack was also arrested. He was between sixty and seventy. His son, of the same name, had fallen, as [p.57] previously recorded, at the head of his company in the Indian battle; another son, Benjamin, had served in the army through the Revolutionary war. Capt. James Bidlack himself had been taken by the savages, and suffered a tedious captivity in Canada. All this availed him nothing. Benjamin Harvey, who had been a prisoner to the Indians, was also arrested. Samuel Ransom, son of Capt. Ransom, who fell in the massacre, was most rudely treated on being taken. 'Ah, ha!' cried Patterson, 'you are the jockey we wanted; away with him to the guardhouse, with old Harvey, another damned rascal.' Eleven in all were taken and driven to the fort, where they were confined in a room with a mud floor, wet and comfortless, with no food and little fire, which as they were sitting round, Capt. Christie came in, ordered them to lie down on the ground, and bade the guard to blow out the brains of any one who should attempt to rise. Even the staff of the aged Mr. Alden was taken from him." The men secure, Patterson turned their families out of doors, and placed Pennamite claimants in possession of their lands and houses. In many other cases the widows and orphan children of soldiers, slain in battle in defence of liberty, were forced from their dwellings, and their few implements of agriculture were destroyed or carried away, by order of Patterson. The settlers now (1784) petitioned congress and the assemblies of Pennsylvania and Connecticut for redress of grievances, and the Pennsylvania assembly sent a committee to Wyoming to take depositions. These depositions were read before the assembly, and although Patterson was severely denounced by many members, he was not removed or deprived of his authority.
On January 23, 1784, moved by the petition of Zebulon Butler and others, congress adopted measures for the settlement of the dispute, but on the remonstrance of Pennsylvania the proceedings were discontinued. On the 13th and 14th of May following, Maj. Patterson's soldiers dispossessed 150 families, burnt several houses, and compelled 500 men, women and children to march through the wilderness to the Delaware river. Several children starved and died in the woods, and the sufferings of the whole impoverished throng, as they wandered night and day over rugged mountains and through deep swamps, were terrible beyond description. Elisha Harding, who was one of this suffering multitude, says: "It was a solemn scene; parents, their children crying for hunger—aged men on crutches—all urged forward by an armed force at our heels. The first night we encamped at Capouse; the second at Cobb's; the third at Little Meadow, so called. Cold, hungry and drenched with rain, the poor women and children suffering much. The fourth night at Lackawack; fifth, at Blooming Grove; sixth, at Shehola; on the seventh arrived at the Delaware, where the people dispersed, some going up and some down the river. I kept on east, and when I got to the top of Shongum mountain I looked back with this thought: Shall I abandon Wyoming forever? The reply was, No, oh no! There lie your murdered brothers and friends. Dear to me art thou, though a land of affliction. Every way looked gloomy, except toward Wyoming. Poor, ragged and distressed as I was, I had youth, health, and felt that my heart was whole. So I turned back to defend or die."
These cruelties to the settlers excited sympathy throughout the whole country, and the companies of Shrawder and Christie were discharged by State authority. But the inhuman Patterson re-enlisted many of the soldiers, and continued to perpetrate his hellish deeds in spite of instructions to the contrary. After an absence of several weeks the Yankees returned and fortified themselves under a cliff or rock, on the Eastern or Wilkes-Barre mountain. This, Mr. Minor says, they called Fort Lillope, but we have in our possession several orders, sent by John Franklin, John Jenkins and others, from this cave-fortress, to Matthias Hollenback, in Wilkes-Barre, for rum, tea, sugar, etc., and these orders are dated at Fort Defence. From this fort three or four persons entered Wilkes-Barre under the promised protection of Patterson, who arrested and beat them with iron ramrods. Franklin and Jenkins. [p.58] now having no faith in the promises of anybody connected with Pennsylvania, removed in the month of July, with their associates, to Kingston. On the 20th of that month a company of thirty young men, marching to Plymouth, met a body of Patterson's men on Rosshill. A conflict ensued, and Elisha Garrett and Chester Pierce were slain. Several of Patterson's men were wounded but none of them killed. Forty-two effective and twenty old men, now aroused to vengeance by this bloody deed, placed themselves under the command of John Franklin. They first marched to Shawnee, and dispossessed the Pennamite families there, then crossing the river at Nanticoke, they drove off all from their dwellings on the east side, and compelled them to take refuge in the fort at Wilkes-Barre. This fort Franklin's men proceeded to surround. Patterson's troops made a sortie from the fort, and set fire to twenty- three buildings, which were consumed. Franklin continued to invest the fort, and demanded its surrender, which was refused. An engagement ensued, in which the Yankees were worsted, and deemed it prudent to retire to Kingston.
Patterson and forty others were now indicted by the grand jury of Northumberland county, and Sheriff Antis was sent to arrest them. But Patterson and his associates saved themselves from arrest behind their threatening ramparts, and the sheriff was compelled to return without them. On the very day the sheriff attempted this arrest, Maj. Moore, who was returning from Northampton county, where he had secured a number of recruits for the Pennsylvania cause, was met by Capt. John Swift, at the head of thirty men, on Locust Hill. A conflict ensued. Jacob Everett, one of Moore's men, was killed, and several were wounded on both sides. Moore retired to Easton, while Swift marched back to Kingston.
The next movement in this unhappy struggle was the appointment of Col. John Armstrong, in conjunction with Hon. John Boyd, commissioners, to restore peace to Wyoming. Boyd was a member, and Armstrong was the secretary, of the supreme executive council of Pennsylvania. This Col. Armstrong was the author of the Newburg letters, had been minister to Spain and France, and was secretary of war in 1812, under the administration of President Madison. The commissioners arrived in the valley on August 8, 1784. Three-hundred infantry and fifteen horsemen were ordered to be placed at their disposal. They issued their proclamation declaring peace and good-will. They demanded a cessation of strife, and the surrender of arms by both parties. The Yankees were fearful of treachery and hesitated to accept the proffered mediation of the commissioners. But Armstrong pledged his honor as a man and as a soldier to respect his engagements, and make good his promises. The Yankees believed and laid down their arms, when they were immediately arrested. Capt. Swift's company of men, who had defeated Moore at Locust Hill, were bound with cords and handcuffed. In this condition they were marched away to Easton jail. Forty-two others were bound and sent to jail at Sunbury. Patterson's men were not disarmed. Armstrong then returned to Philadelphia covered with infamy.
The Sunbury prisoners were released on bail. The Easton prisoners procured their liberty through Edward Inman, a man of great physical strength, who knocked down the jailer, seized the keys, and liberated himself and comrades. Fifteen of them escaped to Wyoming, but eleven were taken and confined in jail three months. An attempt was then made to indict them for the murder of Jacob Everett, who, as before stated, was killed at Locust Hill. The attempt, however, proved a failure, for the grand jury ignored the bill. No bills were found in Northumberland county against the prisoners sent thither by Armstrong. On the other hand, Patterson and Moore were both indicted, which shows that the people generally through Pennsylvania sympathized with the Connecticut settlers in their sufferings.
In September, Armstrong returned to the valley with fifty men and arrested Franklin, Pierce and Johnson for treason, but they were never convicted. On the 29th of the same month the Yankees, under Capt. Swift, attacked a house which [p.59] Patterson occupied as headquarters. They set the building on fire, and two of his associates, Henderson and Read, in attempting to escape to the fort, were shot down. Capt. Swift was severely wounded, but his loss did not in the least abate the ardor and efforts of his men, who spiritedly invested the Pennamite garrison. In this conflict Franklin was wounded in the wrist, Nathan Stevens was shot in the eye and died instantly, William Smith and one or two others were also killed, and finally the Yankees were compelled to abandon the siege.
By the constitution of Pennsylvania, established after the colonies had declared themselves free and independent states, in addition to the supreme executive council and the house of representatives, there existed a council of censors who assembled once in seven years. This body was elected by the people, and had power to send for persons and papers, and to examine into all questions respecting the rights of the people and the administration of justice. After an examination, by the censors, of the Wyoming difficulties, and after the refusal of the house of representatives to furnish certain papers, in the autumn of 1784 they issued a declaration enumerating the wrongs committed against the Connecticut settlers, and severely censuring the supreme executive council and the house of representatives. These bodies, however, disregarded the reproof of the censors, and prosecuted the unholy war. Armstrong was promoted to the position of a general, and at the head of 100 armed men, on October 17, 1784, again entered the valley. The day following, he attacked the Yankees. who had fortified themselves in four log houses, placed in the form of a diamond, situated above Forty fort. The contest lasted one hour, when Armstrong, was compelled to retreat, having lost Capt. Bolin, and having had three or four severely wounded. On the side of the Yankees, William Jackson was dangerously wounded, and as he lay bleeding, Capt. Franklin seized his friend's bloody rifle and swore he would never lay down his arms until death should arrest his hand, or Patterson and Amstrong should be expelled from Wyoming. The next day Armstrong sent thirty of his men to gather the buckwheat on the Kingston flats, but the Yankees, stealthily encircling the workmen, carried away the grain, amounting to about 100 bushels.
At this juncture the assembly of Pennsylvania passed an act restoring the dispossessed Yankees to their lands and recalling Armstrong and Patterson with the forces under their command. This was temporary relief. The settlers at once set about the appointment of committees to organize the militia, to provide for the punishment of offenders, etc. Franklin was elected colonel of the troops. A petition signed by ninety-six men and women, setting forth their grievances and sufferings, and praying to be permitted to elect their own officers and to be protected in their rights, was sent to the assembly at Philadelphia. John Jenkins was appointed to wait on the assembly and to secure the passage of a law for the final settlement of matters in dispute, and for the permanent establishment of the rights of the Connecticut settlers. These efforts proving of no avail, Franklin waited upon the session of congress, and upon the assembly of Connecticut and endeavored to interest them in the wretched fate of the Wyoming people. He also made a bold effort to revive the slumbering energies of the Susquehanna company, which, like Connecticut, had been stunned by the Trenton decree. In this he succeeded. In July, 1785, the company met and reaffirmed its rights in these disputed lands; land was voted to recruits, called half-share rights; committees were appointed, and extensive preparations were made. Franklin returned to Wyoming, held meetings, and addressed the people in the several townships, in regard to a new plan which had been settled upon. It remained for the people to carry it out. It had been determined to form a new state out of northern Pennsylvania. The disputed territory was to be dismembered and downtrodden Wyoming was to be set free from the thraldom of Pennsylvania. Wise heads at Philadelphia saw the gathering storm, and on December 24 following, the assembly of Pennsylvania passed an "Act for [p.60] quieting disturbances at Wyoming and pardoning certain offenders."' This law required the Yankees to give bail for their good behavior, but gave them no security in return. It was consequently disregarded. In July, 1786,the Susquehanna company held another meeting in Connecticut, and Col. Franklin, Maj. Jenkins, and Gen. Ethan Allen, Col. Butler and others, were appointed a committee to locate townships, to decide upon claims, etc. The ball set in motion by the bold and fearless Franklin was now being rolled onward by such men as Oliver Walcott, Joel Barlow and Gen. Ethan Allen, the hero of Ticonderoga. Stout hearts and heroes, who had braved the tempest of battle during the Revolution, and who sympathized with the widows and orphans of their comrades in their sufferings and wrongs, were gathering at Wyoming, and the result could not be mistaken. The authorities of Pennsylvania saw at once that the infamous policy which they had pursued was fast leading to a dismemberment of the State, and that the time had arrived for other and prompt measures. A division in the ranks of the Yankees was determined upon, and the question arose, who can accomplish it?
Timothy Pickering, a native of Massachusetts, and a man of distinguished ability, was at this time engaged in the practice of law in the city of Philadelphia. He was requested to visit Wyoming and examine into the condition of affairs there. This he did in August and September, 1786, and returning to Philadelphia reported "that the Yankees were entirely satisfied with the constitution of Pennsylvania, and were ready to submit to its government, provided they could be quieted in the possession of their farms." A few days after this report, September 25, 1786, the act creating the county of Luzerne passed the assembly, and Matthias Hollenback, Timothy Pickering and others were commissioned justices, with power to hold courts, etc. Pickering was also appointed prothonotary, clerk of the court and register and recorder. Lord Butler was commissioned high sheriff.
On December 27, following this event, the Susquehanna Company held a meeting at the State house in Hartford, Conn., when measures were adopted preparatory to the organization of the new State. An executive committee of twenty-one persons, among whom appear the names of Oliver Walcott, Joel Barlow, Zebulon Butler, John Franklin and John Jenkins, was appointed with full powers to organize the government. On the same day, at Philadelphia, the Assembly of Pennsylvania passed a supplement to the act creating Luzerne county, by which Timothy Pickering, Zebulon Butler and John Franklin were appointed to notify the electors of Luzerne county that an election would be held there on the 1st day of February, 1787, for the election of one supreme councillor, one member of the house of representatives and a high sheriff. Thus, Pennsylvania succeeded in dividing the Yankees, and now they were no longer one people united against a common enemy.
As the 1st day of February approached the breach widened, and on the morning, of the election, "for the first time," says Minor, "was presented the spectacle, equally gratifying to foes and painful to friends, of open and decided hostility among the Wyoming people. Col. Butler, Col. Denison, the Hollenbacks, the Rosses, the families of Gore, Carey, Nesbit and others were in favor of election, while Franklin, the Jenkinses, the Slocums, Satterlies, Dudleys and others opposed it." The former were ready and willing to swear allegiance to Pennsylvania, and trust to her honor for a confirmation of their titles, and for the security of their homes; but Franklin and his adherents, remembering Pennsylvania's oft repeated and plighted vows, and the outrages of Armstrong, and Patterson, would not trust her without security. Confirm us in our titles, and protect us in our possessions, said they, and then we will swear allegiance, but not till then. The election was held, but not without riot and confusion. Col. Nathan Denison was chosen a member of the executive council, John Franklin was elected to the house of representatives, and Lord Butler to the office of high sheriff of the county. It was understood if Franklin could be reconciled, the new state project would be seriously damaged. It was consequently [p.61] a prime object to seduce him from his former connections. With this view he had been appointed with Pickering and Butler to give notice of the election, and it was with this view he had been elected a member of the Pennsylvania assembly. It was doubtless intended as an exquisite stroke of political management. It was a cunningly-spread net, in which most men would have been caught. But Franklin was not so to be taken, for he stubbornly adhered to his first position, refusing to take a seat in the assembly or the oath of allegiance.
The settlers who had united with Pennsylvania, and who recognized Pickering as their leader, denounced Franklin and his associates as "wild Yankees," prosecuting a project which would involve them in endless war. On the other hand, Franklin and his adherents proclaimed them as traitors, who had gone over to the enemy, and against whose treachery they, even now, had not the slightest guarantee.
On March 28, following the election, the assembly of Pennsylvania, seeing that all efforts to reconcile the "wild Yankees" had failed, passed the confirming law, under which Timothy Pickering, Joseph Montgomery and Peter Muhlenberg were appointed commissioners, to sit at Wilkes-Barre, to hear and decide claims. Both parties now agreed to hold a general mass meeting, of all the settlers at Forty fort, and to discuss the merits of the late act of assembly. A stand was erected, and Samuel Sutton was chosen chairman. Timothy Pickering opened the discussion by a lengthy and persuasive argument in favor of the law. He declared that Pennsylvania was honest and sincere, and pledged his honor as security for her good faith. Stephen Gardner, half doubting, said, "Your lips speak fair, but oh! that there was a window in that breast that we might see and read your heart."
Maj. John Jenkins replied to Pickering, "What guarantee have we that Pennsylvania will keep her plighted faith? She has forfeited her honor time and again. If we accept the provisions of this law, when she finds we are tied hand and foot she will repeal it, and leave us without hope."
John Franklin now followed in a powerful and sarcastic speech. He denounced, in the most bitter and irritating language, the conduct of Pennsylvania, as well as of those who had taken part with Pickering. The pent-up emotions of the excited assembly could no longer be restrained—a fight ensued, clubs were cut and used, and for a moment serious consequences were imminent. When order was partially restored a vote was taken, when it was decided to accept the law.
The commissioners appointed under this law in August opened their court and decided upon a number of claims; but, being threatened with violence, adjourned.
A constitution for the new State was drawn by Oliver Walcott, and officers were decided upon. In September Gen. Ethan Allen arrived; finding the Connecticut people divided, he, with Col. John Franklin, set hard about reconciling them. The latter traveled over all the country from house to house and addressed meetings at Kingston, Hanover, Pittston, Newport and other places. But their efforts were in vain. Gen. Allen openly declared he had made one new State and that with 100 Green Mountain boys and 200 Susquehanna riflemen he could make another State in spite of all Pennsylvania.
A companion incident and nearly simultaneously was the action of John Sevier, in carving the now State "Franklin" out of Tennessee, North Carolina and Georgia. Col. Franklin and his followers had determined to make the capital at Tioga Point (Athens).
The new State was to extend into the unorganized portions of southern New York. The Independent Gazetteer of October 5, 1787, says: "A few days since Capts. Craig, Brady, Stephenson, Begs, Pim and Erb went to the camp of Luzerne and there, by order of the supreme executive council, apprehended John Franklin, and yesterday brought him to this city. This man has been very active in fomenting disturbances in the camp, has great address and resolution, as was shown by the [p.62] gentlemen employed in conducting this business; they were all officers of the continental army, who distinguished themselves by their bravery during the late war—it is to be hoped they will receive sufficient compensation for their services."
Asburn Towner's novel, Chendayne of Kotono, gives an interesting description of this event. The real hero of those days was Col. Franklin. Franklin, the wilderness hero, lay in jail while the national constitutional convention assembled to form our wonderful constitution. When after in prison a year or more Franklin was brought before the court, the court said: "There was evidence that he and the people had assembled for the purpose of opposing the authority and law of the commonwealth, and that a paper subscribed by him had been posted inviting the people to throw off allegiance to the State of Pennsylvania and to erect themselves into an independent State; also it appeared that the insurgents had appointed a court of three judges, vested with jurisdiction in all criminal and civil cases.
This was approaching rapidly, if not actual treason, but the commonwealth, in its great mercy, only charged misprison of treason.
Franklin's followers quickly retaliated his arrest by literally kidnapping Pickering and carrying him into the mountains. In this their hope was to compel the release of Franklin and instead of helping him it hurt. When bail was asked for Franklin, the Chief Justice said: "Yesterday we might have allowed it; but to-day's news of the arrest of Pickering shuts out all such idea and the charge is reverted to treason.
November 5, 1787, Dr. Ben Franklin, then secretary of the commonwealth, sent the following to the council:
GENTLEMEN: Since the last session there has been a renewal of the disturbances at Wyoming, some restless spirits there having imagined a prospect of withdrawing the inhabitants of that part of the State and some of the State of New York from their allegiance and of forming them into a new State, to be carried into effect by an armed force in defiance of the laws of the two States. Having intelligence of this, we caused one of the principal conspirators to be apprehended and secured in the goal of this city—and another, who resides in the State of New York, at our request has been taken up by the authorities of that Government. The papers found on this occasion fully discovers the designs of these turbulent people and some of their letters are herewith laid before you. . . . To protect the civil officers of our new court of Luzerne in the exercise of their respective functions, we have ordered a body of militia to hold themselves in readiness to march thither; which will be done unless some future circumstances and information from those points may make it appear unnecessary.
[Signed] B. FRANKLIN,
President Supreme Ex. Council.
Session of general assembly, October 31, 1787, mostly taken up with the Luzerne troubles, a resolution was passed to raise troops. Benjamin Franklin sent another message to the assembly recommending the adoption of effectual measures to suppress rebellion and enforce the laws.
The people drove the commissioners from Luzerne court and at November election following, Timothy Pickering was elected to the legislature from Luzerne. He was afterward Washington's secretary of state.
Franklin was cruelly treated, being ironed down in a cold, miserable dungeon, with insufficient food, no clothing except the light suit he had on when arrested, prohibited all communication with friends and all use of pen, ink and paper. Here he was kept nearly two years. His friends were desperately willing to do anything in their power to secure his release. June 26, 1788, they kidnapped Pickering, and proposed holding him as a hostage, or secure his influence for the release of Franklin. The kidnappers were pursued by Pickering's adherents, and were fired upon and serious wounds inflicted, when the pursuit was given over. This was the last time that blood was shed in the long and cruel contention. Pickering resolutely refused to yield to the demands of his captors, and was, after three weeks, released. The arrest of Franklin and the acceptance by the people of the "confirming [p.63] law" no doubt arrested the movement for the new State, which had already gone to the extent of completing its frame of government, and arranged that Maj. William Judd, of Farmington, Conn., should be governor, and Col. Franklin lieutenant-governor.
Col. John Franklin was born at Canaan, Litchfield county, Conn., September 26, 1749; removed to Wyoming in the spring of 1774; was many years an acting magistrate under Connecticut; captain of an independent company during the Revolutionary war, and, while attached to Sullivan's expedition against the Indians, was wounded in the attack on Chemung; member of the assembly of Connecticut in 1781; in October, 1787, he was arrested on a charge of treason against the State of Pennsylvania, for "endeavoring, to subvert the government, and to erect a new and independent State in the room and stead thereof;" was confined in Philadelphia nearly two years, a great part of the time heavily ironed, released on bail, and never brought to trial; in 1792 he was elected high sheriff of Luzerne county, while an indictment for treason was still hanging over him, was commissioned and served, in 1795, 1796, 1799, 1800, 1801, 1803, he was a member of assembly from Luzerne county; by the act of April 2, 1804, a small portion of Luzerne county, including his farm, was set off to Lycoming county; this act was avowedly for the purpose of keeping him out of the legislature, but in 1805 he again appeared in that body as a member from Lycoming; in 1789 he removed to his farm in Athens (then Luzerne, now Bradford county), which was laid out to him under Connecticut title, and there resided until his death, March 1, 1831. He never accepted nor recognized a Pennsylvania title, but after his death his heirs were required to purchase the title to his farm.
In the settlement of northern Pennsylvania he was the recognized leader, making annual pilgrimages to New England, and bringing back hosts of industrious settlers, whose descendants, to this day, preserve the virtuous character of their Puritan ancestry; the people whom he brought thither, he never forsook. Their battles he fought in the courts, the assembly, in newspapers and pamphlets, and, if necessary, with his strong right arm, with a zeal, persistency and fidelity which deserved for the cause he thought to be right, a better fate.
But little of the history of the county in the Revolutionary times could be written without some mention of the Gore family. An ancient document rescued by chance from oblivion, is so full of history as to need no further words for its insertion here. In January, 1832, Samuel Gore penned his own petition to congress, asking for a pension; after a respectful address, he says:
"Your petitioner's request is of a singular nature, differing from the common case of those who served in the war of the Revolution; he was not engaged for any limited time; that he resided at Wyoming settlement at the commencement of the late Revolutionary war; that in the year 1777, in the month of May, he was enrolled in the militia of Capt. Aholiab Buck's company, and took the oath of allegiance to be true and faithful to the cause then at issue; that in December, the same year, he was drafted on a tour of duty up the river as far as Wysox and Towanda; the command he was attached to took twenty-eight prisoners, men that had served under Gen. Burgoyne the preceding campaign; that in the year 1778 the settlement was in almost continual alarm the afore part of the season; and what added mostly to their fears was that three companies of soldiers had been enlisted in the settlement and had joined the main army of Washington.
"The militia that was left was on duty the principal part of the time, in fortifying, scouting, and learning the military discipline till the month of July, when the settlement was invaded by the British and Indians, under the command of Col. John Butler, and Brant, the Indian chief.
"Your petitioner was in the memorable battle and massacre of Wyoming, and narrowly escaped the fate of five brothers and officers and the principal part of the company to which he belonged. [p.64] "In addition to his misfortune, in running across a bay or morass, the Indians in close pursuit, every step over knee-deep in mud and mire, by over exertion, caused a breach in his body, which has been a painful and troublesome disorder ever since.
"It is unnecessary to describe the entire destruction of the settlement by the enemy, dispersion and hardships of the fugitives, old men, women and children, fleeing through the wilderness, carrying with them scarcely enough to support nature by the way.
"The place was retaken in August or September following, by Col. Zebulon Butler, and Capt. Simon Spalding and a garrison replaced there. Your petitioner returned soon after and served as a volunteer during the years 1779, 1780 and 1881, and was subject to be called on in every case of emergency.
"The expedition of General Sullivan to the Genesee country did not prevent wholly the depredations of the enemy being frequently harassed by small parties. In the year 1782 Captain Spalding's company was called to join the main army at headquarters and a company of invalids was stationed at the post, commanded by Capt. Mitchell, soldiers that were not calculated for the woods, scoutings, etc., Col. Dennison gave orders to have the militia organized and classed, which took place."
Afterward, April 3, 1832, Sergt. Gore wrote a private letter to Philander Stephens, member of congress, and from which is taken the following extracts: "I would take it as a favor if you would inform me what is the prospect of a bill for the general compensation of old soldiers and volunteers of the Revolution. * * Some cheering information on this subject would revive my spirits, which have been almost exhausted during the severity of the past winter. * * * * On reflecting back in these trying times, I would state some particulars respecting our family at the commencement of the Revolution. My father had seven sons, all zealously engaged in the cause of liberty. Himself an acting magistrate and a committee of safety, watching the disaffected and encouraging the loyal part of the community. * * * * Three of his sons and two sons-in-law fell in the Wyoming, massacre. Himself died the winter following. One son served during the war, the others served in the continental army for shorter periods." Then he draws a picture of some of the things he saw in that war, and says: "Let any person at this time of general prosperity of our country, reflect back on the troubles, trials and suffering of a conquered country by a savage enemy. Men scalped and mangled in the most savage manner. Some dead bodies floating down the river in sight of the garrison. Women collecting together in groups, screaming and wringing their hands in the greatest agony; some swooning and deprived of their senses. Property of every description plundered and destroyed, buildings burned, the surviving inhabitants dispersed and driven through the wilderness to seek subsistence wherever they could find it." "This," he says, and its truth is on its face, "is but a faint description of the beautiful valley of 1778," and it should be remembered the savages continued their depredations until 1782.
"John Franklin was chosen captain. Your petitioner was appointed to sergeant and had the command of a class which was ordered to be ready at the shortest notice to scout the woods and to follow any part of the enemy that should be sent on their murderous excursions, that he performed four tours of scouting that season of about eight days each.
"Your petitioner never drew any pay, clothing or rations during the contest for independence, but ammunition he was supplied with from the continental store.
"He had the charge of a family at the time (his father being dead), had to support himself as well as he could by laboring, between spells and frequently plowing with his musket slung at his back."
He concludes with this pathetic sentence, after stating that he had been informed [p.67] by the newspapers of the great spirit of liberality manifested by congress toward old soldiers: "I take the liberty to request of your honorable body to take my case into consideration; and if you in your wisdom and justice should think that your petitioner is entitled to any remuneration, to do what you may think right and just; and your petitioner will ever pray."
Such was the language of the old Revolutionary soldier who had served his country "without any pay or rations" and had to support himself and his dead father's family by "working between spells; often with his gun strapped on his back." It is much of the story of the war in Luzerne county.
The story of the wives and mothers of those times is condensed and typified in that of Samuel Gore's mother. When the battle was raging, she was watching at the door of the fort to catch the first news where were her four sons and two sons- in-law. The first panting courier told her the horrid story that her three sons, Ralph, Silas and George, and her two sons-in-law, John Murphy and Timothy Pierce, were dead, and their scalped and mangled corpses lay side by side—the brave woman's heart was broken, and her stricken soul cried: "Have I one son left?" The fort was pillaged the next day, and the Indians carried all the feather beds to the river's bank, and scattered the feathers to the winds. They burned Mr. Gore's house, and the children, while the Indians were sacking the fort, gathered enough feathers to make the noted "Wyoming Bed," and hid them. Mrs. Gore procured a horse, threw this "bed" across it, and started on the long journey across the "Shades of Death" that lay before them on their way to the Delaware. The old people and the children rode alternately, and in hushed silence, not knowing what moment the red devils would spring upon them. The small children endured agony in silence, and trudged on and on.