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History of Wyoming
Charles Miner
1845

 

History of Wyoming, by Charles Miner, in a series of letters, this son William Penn Miner, Esq

Letter 6

Having brought down the history of Wyoming to 1763, including the murder of Tedeuscung, the massacre and expulsion of the first Connecticut settlers, and the general removal of Indians from the valley, other matters of weighty interest call for our consideration.

For many years the public mind has been made familiar with the fact that a dispute long existed between Pennsylvania and Connecticut, for the jurisdiction and soil over a large extent of territory, within which the valley of Wyoming is included. So many important events trace their origins to this controversy, that it becomes necessary to set forth the grounds thereof somewhat in detail. Indeed, we cannot doubt but a fair and candid exhibition of the claims of the respective parties, will be acceptable not only to the general reader, but particularly so to every intelligent person resident within the contested limits. In an especial manner may it be desirable to the numerous descendants of those who first removed from New England, to make their home in this, then savage and inhospitable wilderness. The Connecticut claimed is at rest; dead and buried. Pennsylvania, so far from being regarded as an unkind stepmother, extending reluctant protection to the New England people, and their children, is universally esteemed as a kind parent, entitled to the warmest affections of every good citizen, who has the happiness to live within her borders, among whom the population on the old Susquehanna claim, are second to none in true allegiance, better aeration and love.

Were it conceded that the claim of Connecticut was a baseless speculation, merited reproach would necessarily attach to all those numerous settlers, who came to this debated land, with a view to its possession. Nor would the parent colony, or state, escape severe censure. With a twofold view, therefore, of imparting information to those who wish to understand that the ancient grounds of controversy, and to vindicate the state, and the early colonists from being reckless and unprincipled invaders of the property of others, we shall proceed to show-not that the Connecticut claimed was absolutely just, but that there were at the time, with lights before them, such grounds to believe in its justice, as to warrant the adoption of all proper measures to secure its possession.

Early after 1600, a contest commenced between France and England for the possession of North America. In November 1603, Henry IV of France, (a name that awakens all that is chivalrous in war, gallant and love, or romantic in incident,) granted to Sieur de Monts, American territory, under the name of Acadia, extending from the 40th to the 46th degree of latitude. Aroused by this measure King James of England, three years after words, that is, in 1606, divided that part of North America line between the 34th and 45th degrees of latitude, into two nearly equal parts; the northern half, namely, the country between the 38th and 45th degrees of latitude, he granted by Patton to Thomas Hanham and others, principally inhabitants of Plymouth and Bristol. Out of this claim, as we shall trace its step-by-step, grew the Connecticut claimed.

Subsequently the King, by letters patent dated November 3, 1620, Inc. the great Plymouth Council, and granted "all that circuit, continent, and limits in America, in breadth, from 40 degrees of northerly latitude, from the equinoxial line to 48 degrees of said northerly latitude, and in length, by all the breadth throughout the mainland from sea to sea, with all the rivers, seas, and etc., within the same degrees of latitude and longitude; and incorporated the Duke of Lenox, and divers other persons, by the name of the Council established at Plymouth, in the County of Devon, for the planting, ruling, ordering and governing of New England in America; and to them and their successors grants all the lands, etc., viz: that aforesaid part of America, lying in being in breadth from 40 degrees of northerly latitude, from the equinoxial line, to 48 degrees of the said northerly latitude, inclusively, and in length, of and within all the breadth aforesaid throughout the main lands, from sea to sea, together also with all the firm lands, soils, grounds, etc., and all and singular other commodities, jurisdictions, royalties, privileges, franchises and pre-eminences, both within the said track, upon the lands upon the main, and also within the said Islands, and seas and joining; provide always, that the said Islands, or any of the premises herein before mentioned, and by these presents intended and meant to be granted, were not actually possessed or inhabited by other Christian prince or state, no within the bounds, limits or territories, of that Southern colony heretofore by us granted, to be planted by divers of our loving subjects in the south part. And did further command and authorize the said Council and their successors, or the major part of them, to distribute, convey, assign, and set over such particular portions of said lands, tenements and hereditaments, to such subjects, adventurers and planters, as they should think proper."

You'll observe not only, that authority is given, but the charge is expressly made, that the Plymouth Council "shell distribute, assign, and set over," to others, such portions of the territory as might be deemed politic and proper. Accordingly, Massachusetts was carved out of the Plymouth patent in 1628.-the granted for that purpose to Sir Henry Rosswell and others, runs thus: "all that part of New England in America aforesaid, which lies and extends between a great river there, commonly called Monomack, alias Merrimack, and a certain other river there, called Charles River, being in the bottom of a bay called Massachusetts, alias Mattachusetts, alias Mattattusetts bay, and all and singular, the lands and hereditaments whatsoever, lying within the space of 3 English miles, on the south part of said Charles River, or of any or every part thereof; and all and singular, the lands and hereditaments whatsoever, which lie and the within the space of 3 English miles to the northword of the said River, called Monomack, alias Merrimack, into the northword of any and every part thereof; and all lands and hereditaments whatsoever, lying within the limits in aforesaid, north and south and latitude and in breadth, aforesaid, throughout the main lands there, from the Atlantic and western sea and ocean on the east part, to the south sea on the west part; and all the lands, and grounds." Etc,

King Charles confirmed this charter in 1629. It will attract particular attention that the words are clear, the language explicit in the description, that the grant extends, "throughout the main lands from the western ocean to the south sea."

Next in order we come to the Connecticut Charter. In 1630 the Earl of Warwick, president of the Plymouth Council, received a grant of a large track of land, which he conveyed to Lord Say and Seal, Lord Brook and others, after having obtained the King's charter of confirmation. His deed is dated March 19, 1631, and the following is a copy of the descriptive part: "all that part of New England in America, which lies and extends itself from a River, their called Narragansett River, the space of 40 leagues upon a straight line near the north, towards the southwest, west and by south, or west, as the coast lieth, towards Virginia, accounting three English miles to the league; and also, all and singular the lands and hereditaments whatsoever, lying in being within the lands aforesaid, north and south and latitude and breadth, and in length and longitude, of and within all the breadth aforesaid, throughout the main lands there, from the western ocean to the south sea, and all lands and grounds, place and places, soil, wood and woods, grounds and havens, ports, creeks and rivers, fishings and hereditaments whatsoever, lying within the said space, and every part and parcel thereof; and also all Islands lying in America aforesaid, in the said seas, were either of them, on the western or eastern coast, or parts of the said tracts of lands, by these presents mentioned to be given, granted," etc.

Again it will be observed that the words of description expressly include "the main lands from the western ocean to the south sea."

This grant having been partially settled, an association under the name of the colony of Connecticut, purchased out the right of Lord Say and Seal, Lord Brook, and others, for 16,000 pounds sterling. In 1662, April 20, king Charles the second renewed and confirmed the Charter, distinctly recognizing the territory as part and parcel of the old Plymouth grant, set off and allotted according to national policy and the royal will. As this is the Connecticut Charter proper, we quote the descriptive words.-"to the Governor & Co. of the English colony of Connecticut, in New England, in America," was certain privileges and powers of government; and "granted and confirmed to the said Governor & company., and their successors, all that part of our dominions in New England, in America, bounded on the east by Narragansett River, commonly called Narragansett Bay, were the said river falls into the sea; and on the north, by the line of Massachusetts plantation; and on the south, by the sea; and in longitude, as the Massachusetts colony, running from east to west, that is to say, from the said Narragansett Bay, on the east, to the south sea, on the west part, with the Islands thereunto adjoining, together with all for lands, soils, grounds, havens, ports, rivers, waters, fishings, mines, minerals, precious stones, quarries, and all and singular other commodities, jurisdictions, royalties, privileges, franchises, pre-eminences, and hereditaments whatsoever, within the said tracts, bounds, lands, and Islands of aforesaid, or to say or any of them belonging: to have and to hold the same onto the said Governor & company, their successors and assigns, for ever, upon trust; and for the use and benefit of themselves and their associates, freemen of the said colony, their heirs and assigns."

A third time it will strike the reader, the descriptive words distinctly mention, "from the said Narragansett Bay and the east, to the south sea on the west." More particularly is attention directed to the repetition of those words, because Mr. Stone quotes a somewhat recent opinion of Col. Pickering, "then in early times the continent was (probably) supposed to be of comparatively little breadth." In respect to an opinion from authority so respectable we may observed, first that several of the southern colonial charters were also bounded westerly by the south sea. Second a boundary used and repeated many times, for more than 50 years, by a government so intelligent in maritime affairs, and consequently of the position of the ocean’s shores, it would be an unwarrantable presumption to suppose that ignorant of. Third that Col. Pickering having removed to Wyoming, as a Pennsylvanian, and suffered violence from the Connecticut settlers, would be little apt to form an impartial opinion on any point connected with the dispute. Fourth and more important, the great extent of those early grants, was manner of profound policy, thereby to appropriate as much of the continent as possible, a settlement on one part of the grant being claimed as possession of the whole, by such means straightening the claim of England against that of France, or any other nation. It is moreover asserted by Avery, I know not on what authority, that at the time of the Connecticut Charter, the distance from the Atlantic Ocean to the south sea was spoken of in public documents as about 3000 miles.

A grave question here presents itself. Why, on each new grant growing out of the Plymouth Company’s Charter, did the crown renew the conveyance, and issue a new Charter? Was it claimed or admitted that the crown could resume is grants at pleasure?-certainly not. All the rights of soil and property passed by grants from the proprietors; but the powers of government were considered of the nature so sacred, that they could only be derived directly from the king. It was held, that to assign the powers of government was to relinquish them.

Hence the uniform opinion existed, where mere territory was sold, that a deed from the proprietors was sufficient. For a new colony, with powers of government was to be established, a release was made to the crown, and a new Charter granted, in expressly recognizing the rights of, and confirming the conveyance from those who had derived title from the old Plymouth Company.

In the Connecticut Charter, it will be noted that no exception in terms is made of lands "actually possessed or inhabited by any other Christian power or state," yet the exception in the patent, or old Plymouth Charter was suppose sufficient, and held to govern in all grants growing out of it. The descriptive words of the Charter, east, north and west, are clear and explicit-Narragansett River on the east; on the north by the Massachusetts Plantation-a well-established boundary; being the ending of the 42nd, and beginning of the 43rd degree of latitude-on the west the south sea." It will be seen hereafter they could use was made by England and her negotiations with France, of these extensive Charter boundaries, as sagacity contemplated, when the grants were originally made. How far south the southern line would have run if accurately defined, it is not necessary hereto inquire. A degree of latitude was claimed.-that these boundaries included Wyoming, has never, that we are aware of, been controverted.

The colony of Connecticut then claimed the west of Delaware River the 42nd degree of latitude, west, until bounded by the south sea. The territory east of the Delaware within that parallel of latitude to the line dividing New York and Connecticut, being in possession of the Dutch when her Charter was granted, was of course excepted, out of the grant.

In that part of America claimed by New England, three requisites were demanded to render title to lands perfect.-first,-a grant or Charter from the king;-secondly,-a purchase of the soil from the Indians;-thirdly, possession. Having exhibited the Connecticut claimed by Charter, we proceed briefly to examine their title by purchase of the natives.

In 1754 a Congress of delegates, from a number of British colonies was called, with the appropriation of the crown, to assemble at Albany, to hold the conference with the Six Nations of Indians, and consult together of the general welfare. That Pennsylvania was fully and ably represented, will be seen when we state that her delegation consisted of John Penn, Isaac Norris, Benjamin Franklin, and Richard Peters.

The preceding year, 1753, a number of persons had united, with a view to purchase the Indian title, within the Charter limits of the colony of Connecticut, on the waters of the Susquehanna.

The persons so uniting were styled "The Connecticut Susquehanna Company," in consisted, at first, of 840 persons, including a large proportion of the leading men of the colony. Afterwards the number of proprietors was augmented to 1200. It may be regarded as an unofficial popular movement of the colony itself.-Meaning fairly, they proceeded openly. That a time should have been selected for the negotiation and purchase, once so large an assembly of delegates had convened, would seem to evince consciousness of right and fairness of purpose. In error they might have been; ignorant or stupid they were not; and yet to suppose they selected the time of such a public meeting, to make clandestinely a fraudulent treaty with the Six Nations of Indians, would be the imputation of an unexampled folly.

During this session of this Congress, under the eye of the Pennsylvania delegation, a treaty with the Indians, acknowledge proprietors of the territory, was executed, dated July 11, 1754, and a purchase of land made. "After describing the grantors, and their right and authority, as cheeses, sachems and heads of the Five Nations, and the native proprietors of the land, and that the same lies within the limits of the Royal Charter to Connecticut; mentioning the application of the grantees being subjects of King George the second, and inhabitants of Connecticut, and expressing all the good understanding which had mutually subsisted between the parties, their wish for its continuance, and the benefits which would result from a settlement on the premises, the deed contains these words:-" now, thereupon, for and in consideration thereof, and for the further, full and ample consideration of the sum of 2000 pounds of current money, of the province of New York, to us, to our full satisfaction, before the ensealing thereof, contended and paid, the receipt whereof, to our full content, we do hereby acknowledge; thereupon do give, grants, bargain, sell, convey, and confirm to," etc. (here follow the names of the grantees, etc.) "which said given and granted track of land is butted, bounded and described as follows, viz.-beginning from the one and 40th degree of north latitude, at 10 miles distance east of Susquehanna River, and from thence, with a northerly line 10 miles east of the River, to the 42nd, or beginning of the 43rd degree of north latitude, and to extend west to degrees of longitude, 120 miles, and from thence south to the beginning of the 42nd degree, and from thence east to the aforementioned bounds, which is 10 miles east of the Susquehanna River, together with all and every the mines, etc., and all other the hereditaments, etc., to have and to hold the above granted and bargained premises, etc., to them and to their heirs and assigns forever," etc. There are also the usual covenants of seizin and warranty."

The deed was signed by 18 chief sachems of the Six Nations. It is stated that the consideration money was counted out in a stoop of Col. Lydius, agent and interpreter for the Company, taken by the Indians in a blanket, in open day, into an orchard, and they are divided among them. The Rev. Mr. Heckewelder states, that one principal reason given by the Christian Indians, at Wyalusing, the wishing to remove to the Ohio was, that the Six Nations had sold the lands they resided on, to the New England people. The Rev. Samuel Kirkland, a missionary to the Six Nations, in an affidavit taken on the subject, some years after; "deposeth, that soon after he came to reside among the five Confederate Nations of Indians, which was then 1765, and Indian Chief with whom he resided near two years in the Seneca country, told him that the Five Nations (or Six Nations as they were then styled,) had sold a large track of land on the Susquehanna, or Wyoming, to the New England people, and had received a large sum of money for it; and that one Lydius, of Albany, was concerned in the purchase, as interpreter or principal agent. This information, with many other transactions of a similar nature, to said deponent received from the Indians, at their own voluntary motion, will they were giving him an historical account of their country, and various negotiations of the white people. The same account of the Susquehanna purchase, and other similar to it, the deponent has frequently heard related by different Indians of the Five Nations, having resided in the territory for near 30 years, and scarce ever absent from them more than three months at a time, during that term; and never, to his remembrance, heard any the said Indians complain of said purchase."

Subsequently to the Susquehanna Company's purchase; a second association of persons took place in Connecticut, styled "the Delaware Company," who bought with less formality, the Indian title, from certain chiefs, of all the land, bounded east by Delaware River, within the 42nd degree of latitude, west to the line of the Susquehanna purchase, to wit, 10 miles east of that River.

"In May 1755, a committee of the Susquehanna Company, consisting of Phineas Lyman and others, petitioned the assembly of Connecticut, reciting their purchase aforesaid of the Indians, and praying the acquiescence of the assembly, and their consent for an application to his Majesty, to erect then into a new colony and plantation. Whereupon it was, among other things, resolved by the assembly, that, they accordingly hereby manifest their ready acquiescence therein," etc. During the same year, the Company sent surveyors to begin the laying out of the land; but the war with a French prevented any actual settlements."

To of the three requisites for the acquisition of a perfect title, having, as alleged, been obtained, namely, the Charter Right and the Indian title, the proprietors next proceeded to add the third, by taking possession of the soil.

So early in 1757, a settlement was commenced by the Delaware Company at Coshutunk, to establish a colony on the Delaware River, which flourished for several years, having in 1760, 30 dwelling houses, a block house for defense, with a grist mill and sawmill. A previous attempt to establish a colony, made by people of Connecticut, and 1670, at the Minissinks, was almost immediately abandoned, the Indian title not having been extinguished; and the fact is thought worthy of preservation, chiefly as it proves the opinion, then existing, that the Charter, passing over New York, was in full force west of that province.

We have, before, recorded the attempted settlement in 1762, at Wyoming, and the massacre the year following. In 1769, the settlement was renewed, and with various interruptions, rendered permanent.

The adverse claim the Pennsylvania we shall endeavor to set forth with equal precision and fairness. To do so, we copy "The Statement and Representation" of Messrs. Bradford, Reed, Wilson, and Sergeant, agents, on the part of the state, at the Trenton trial.

"To the honorable of commissioners and judges, appointed to hear and finally determined the controversy subsisting between the state of Pennsylvania and the state of Connecticut. The agents of the state of Pennsylvania beg leave, humbly, to state and represent in behalf of the said state, "1st. That King Charles the Second, then king of Great Britain, on the fourth day of March, in the year of our Lord, 1681, by his letters patent, dated on the same day and year of aforesaid, did grant to William Penn, the first proprietary and Governor of Pennsylvania, his heirs and assigns, all that track or part of land in America, with the islands therein contained, as the same is bounded on the east by Delaware River, from 12 miles distant northward of Newcastle town, onto the three and 40th degree of northern latitude, if the said river doth extends so far northward; but if the said river shall not extends so far northward, then by the said river so far as a doth extend, and from the head of said river the eastern bounds are to be determined by a meridian line to be drawn from the head of the said river unto the said 43rd degree; the said land to extend westward five degrees and longitude, to be computed from the said the eastern bounds; and the said lands to be bounded on the north by the beginning of the three and 40th degree of northern latitude, and on the south by a circle drawn at 12 miles distant from Newcastle, northward and westward onto the beginning of the 40th degree of northern latitude, and then by a straight line westward to the limits of longitude above mentioned." By which letters patent the jurisdiction and right of government within the limits of aforesaid, and also the right of soil were conveyed, and under which Pennsylvania have been held, settled and possessed.

"2nd. That the said William Penn, and the succeeding proprietaries of Pennsylvania, at different periods, purchase from the native Indians their right of soil within different districts of the limits of aforesaid, and received deeds of them for the same, and particularly on the 25th day of October, and the year of our Lord, 1736, the said Indians conveyed to Thomas Penn and Richard Penn, the then proprietaries of Pennsylvania, the full and absolute right of preemption of, and in all lands not before sold by them to the said proprietaries, within the limits of aforesaid.

"3rd. That the southern bounds of Pennsylvania, so far as the same adjoins on Maryland, have been long since settled; and the same, so far as the state adjoins upon Virginia, have also been settled by a line, called Mason and Dixon's line, continued to the end of five degrees of longitude from the River Delaware; that the northern bounds have always been deemed to extend to the end of the 42nd degree, where the figures 42 are marked on the map, the River Delaware being found to extend so far north, and farther; that the said river, pursuing the east or main branch they are all above the forks of Easton, has ever been deemed to be one boundary of Pennsylvania, from 12 miles above Newcastle, on the said river, to the said end of the 42nd degree, and that a straight line, from thence to the place where the same shall intersect another straight line, drawn from the end of said Southern line of boundary of Pennsylvania, commonly called Mason and Dixon's line, continued to the extent of five degrees of longitude from the River Delaware, is another boundary of the said state of Pennsylvania.

"4th. That the late province of Pennsylvania, on the fourth day of July, in the year of our Lord, 1776, did join with the other 12 late provinces, now states, in the Declaration of Independence, and soon after established a constitution and government, founded on the authority of the people, which they continue still to exercise and enjoy; and they did also join in the Articles of Confederation of the United States; and that being so independent and sovereign, on the 27th day of November, in the year of our Lord, 1779, dated by an act of their legislature, consisting of the representatives of the freemen of the said Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, in general assembly met, duly made in passed according to the directions of their frame of government, vest the right of soil and a estate of the late proprietaries of Pennsylvania and the said Commonwealth; and that by means thereof, and of several matters and things to herein before set forth, the said Commonwealth, or state of Pennsylvania, is entitled to the right of jurisdiction, and right of soil, within all the limits of aforesaid."

The charter of Pennsylvania, was, therefore, and 1681, 19 years after that to Connecticut. It would hence appear, and that both cover the controverted territory.

The Pennsylvania agents do not set forth a conveyance of the land from the natives; but a deed of preemption, or the promise to convey at some future time.

No settlement or possession is alleged.

From this fair and candid statement of the facts in the case, we infer, confidently, and claim for Connecticut, and the early settlers, this verdict:-that, without deciding the nice question of the absolute right, the reasons of the case were so strong in favor of Connecticut, that intelligent and honorable men may have regarded her title so far just-that the Susquehanna and Delaware companies, and the settlers under them, may have felt warranted in taking possession of the lands, and defending them by all fair and lawful means, into legally dispossessed by a solemn judicial decision.

So much for the outline. In our next we shall proceed to more minute, but we trust, not uninteresting particulars.

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