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History of Wyoming
Charles Miner
1845

 

History of Wyoming and a series of letters from Charles Miner to his son William Penn Miner, Esq.

Letter XXI

In this letter I propose to include the incidence of 1781-82. The winter of 1780 – 1, passed without any event worthy of particular record. The weather was exceedingly fluctuating an unsettled. January was so open, that Franklin, in his minute journal, speaks of the first being warm; the second, third, and forth, as warm and muggy; the fifth, as warm and pleasant; and the fact is thought of sufficient note to be recorded, that in the night it froze. Early the preceding December the river was closed with for a day or two, but soon opened, and the 23rd, 24th, and 25th of that month, are spoken of as warm and pleasant. Singing meetings, call in the language of the day, "a chorus," was the amusement of the evening-thus: "Monday, Jan. 1st, a chorus at Mr. Ryans."

On the 10th of March, the savages made an attack on Samuel Ransom's house, in Plymouth, wounding him, though not severely. A spirited resistance was made, and one Indian left dead on the field.

At Plymouth, Shawney, (or more properly, and far more sweetly, Chuanois) the possession had been kept up. At the commencement of the war, the proprietaries, foreseeing danger, and the whole settlement being desirous that those beautiful, and productive alluvial lands, consisting of 1000 acres of the richest river bottoms, should not be entirely neglected, and run two waste

"Wanting the scythe, all uncorrected, rank,

--where nothing teems

but hateful dock, rough thistles

losing both beauty and utility,"

they made an arrangement with several persons to give them the use of all the land they could cultivate during the war, if they would build blockhouses of sufficient strength to defend it and keep possession. Among those who associated for the purpose, were Major Prince Alden, Alexander Jameson, Joseph Jameson, Abraham Nesbitt, Jonah Rogers, Samuel Ayers, Mr. Ransom, and others. Except at the general expulsion after the massacre and 1778, the lessees, some of whom were proprietors, held their ground; attacked, defending themselves, fighting, suffering, they still maintained their position. Little, very little, were they able to farm, as less than 200 acres were cultivated in 1781, in the whole valley.

On Sunday the 18th January, Joseph Kinney and Sarah Spalding were called off, that is, the banns were published, and on Thursday the 22nd married. It was an occasion of unusual festivity and joy. The bride was the eldest daughter of Capt. Simon Spalding, the gallant commander of the Connecticut Independent Company. (Mr. Kinney was a learned and accomplished gentleman, of a peculiar philosophic turn of mind. He settled at Sheshequin, and had a large family. One of his sons represented Bradford County for several years in the assembly. Recently, at the advanced age of 84, he resigned his spirit to his Maker, and his body to its parent earth. I well remember this spirit, and ingenuity, with which he used to controvert the theory that the sun was a ball fire. He scouted the idea that it was perpetually wasting itself by combustion; or if it was fire, that its heat could be radiated to give effective warmth to the distant planets.)

It may, by the curious, be regarded as sufficiently remarkable to deserve preservation, that during the war, heavy cannonadings were heard at Wyoming, proceeding, as was supposed, from the forts on the seaboard, or fleets near the coast. On the 28th of March, Chambers’ Mills on the Delaware were attacked, and Joshua Farnham slain.

During the spring several meetings were holden by the commissioners, under authority of the resolve of the General Assembly of the preceding year, to take an account of losses by the enemy, preparatory to making compensation. Whether a return was made to the Legislature is not known. Is presumed not, from the fact that the settlement was so broken, and the remnants of families so scattered, that it would have been impossible to obtain returns approaching to accuracy. Among Col. Butler's papers was found a memorandum of his loss, amounting to 387 pounds. John Jenkins, Esq., by a memorandum made by his son, claims 580 pounds 1s 3d. Several other partial lists have been found among the papers of the old settlers. As a real extent of loss cannot be ascertained, the motive approximating nearest to the truth seems to be to take the assessment, made under oath, of the year before the massacre, in comparing it with those taken after the battle.

In 1776, Westmoreland was assessed 16,996 pounds 13s.

In 1778, returned to January previous to the massacre, 20,322 pounds, 17 shillings.

November, 1780, the first assessment after the battle, 2353 pounds; showing a diminution or loss, of 17,960 pounds, 17 shillings, or in dollars, 59,899.

The assessment of 1781, though larger than that of the preceding year, we here record, it having been found entire, as a document illustrating, this singular clearness, the utter destitute of the settlement, three years before flourishing in palmy a prosperity and gladness.

"A true list of the polls, and the state of the town of Westmoreland, rateable by law, the 29th of August 1781.

114 male polls from 21 to 70, not especially exempted, at 18 pounds each,
 
  £18 00 00 £2,052 00 00
Twenty-six male polls, from 16 to 21, at 9 00 00 234 00 00
45 oxen, four years old and upwards, 4 00 00 180 00 00
208 cows, three years old and upwards, 3 00 00 642 00 00
14 steers three years old, 3 00 00  42 00 00
18 steers and heifers two years old, 2 00 00 36 00 00
57 steers and heifers one years old 1 00 00 57 00 00
    £3,243 00 00
173 horse kind, three years old and upwards 3 00 00 519 00 00
4 horse kind, two years old 2 00 00 8 00 00
7 horse kind, one year old 1 00 00 7 00 00
127 swine, one year old and upwards 1 00 00 127 00 00
191 1/2 acres of upland, mow&clear Pasture 08 08 76 12 00
95 acres bush pasture, at 02 00 9 10 00
2 silver watches, at 1 10 00 3 00 00
Assessment, traders and tradesmen.    
Hollenback and Hageman, merchants £ 50 00 00  
Benjamin Bailey, blacksmith 15 00 00  
Capt. John Franklin, one silver watch 1 10 00  
Sarah Durkee, do. do.  1 10 00  
    68 00 00
Total,   £4,534 17 00
If from this we deduct to the polls   2,286 00 00
There will remain   £2,248 17 00

Or in dollars, $7498.17!

Rumors of Indians on all sides of the settlement were rife. Lieut. Buck, of Sunbury, brought news that Capt. Campbell, Capt. Champlain, and two other man, were killed or taken prisoners on the West Branch; that on the 8th of April, Mr. Dunn was killed, and Capt. Solomon taken near Fort Augusta. A family was also taken near Fort Allen, and another near Brinkers. On the 28th of the month, orders were received that Capt. Spalding's companies should march to camp. Earlier in the year, Capt. Michael had been directed to assume the command at Wyoming, in place of Col. Butler, both movements being of deeper import than ordinary military regulations. The very natural, (perhaps very proper) certainly never sleeping jealousy of Pennsylvania, gloomy as was the hour, yet confident, since France had entered zealously in the contest, of ultimate independence, could not see Wyoming supported by a military force so hostile to her interest, and sought successfully to have the Connecticut troops withdrawn, and replaced by those in whose favor and fidelity to the State could rely.

On Sunday, the 9th of June, a party of 12 Indians made an attack on a block house at Buttonwood, in Hanover, three miles below the Wilkes-Barre Fort. They met with a warm reception. The house was gallantly defended, the women aiding the man with the alacrity and spirit. A party from the Fort, on receiving the alarm, hastened down and found pools of blood, where Lieut. Rosewell Franklin had wounded, probably killed, an Indian. A terrible revenge followed. Scouts constantly on the alert, one going out as another returned, ascended the river from 50 to 80 miles, and sought the enemy in every direction. On Tuesday the 14th, Lieut. Crain shot and wounded an Indian, within 600 yards of the garrison. The Rev. Mr. Johnson, now returned with his family from their exile to Connecticut, having been compelled to fly after the massacre in 1778. Glowing with ardor for religion, liberty and the Connecticut claim, the return was welcomed by his flock, indeed by the whole settlement, with cordial congratulations. Sunday the 17th, he preached, and thenceforward "in season and out of season," he went from place to place, awakening sinners to repentance, arousing the people to new efforts, and sacrifices against the tyranny of England, and exhorting them by all means to adhere to, and support their righteous claim to their lands. But the cup of joy in coming to his devoted people, was almost immediately dashed from his lips by the death of Mrs. Butler, his daughter, consort of Col. Zebulon Butler. She died on the 26th of June, of typhus fever, and was buried the following day. The year, like the preceding, was extremely sickly, and more mortal; typus fever being added to the remittant and intermittent, which had previously prevailed. A servant of Capt. Michael fell dead in the Fort. A son of the late Capt. Durkee bled to death from the nose.

It's a party of Indians made their appearance at Shehola, and on the 17th of June killed an old man, and took three prisoners, on the Delaware. Pursuit being made, the prisoners were liberated, and one Indian mortally wounded, the American party having a man severely shot in the thigh. The Indian, before dying, said they had been long out, and were the party that had attacked the block house at Hanover.

On the 3rd July, a bloody and most melancholy tragedy was enacted on the road leading from Wyoming to the Delaware, at Stroudsburg. Mr. Larned, an old man, and his son George, were shot and scalped near their house. Another son, John, shot an Indian, who was left dead on the spot where he fell. The savages carried off George Larned’s wife, and an infant four-month old, but not choosing to be encumbered with the child, they dashed out its brains. Being pursued, they abandoned the horses and plunder taken, and left the old man’s scalp behind them. Larned’s was the scene of another tragedy several years afterwards, which, in due time we shall record.

July 19th, Capt. Franklin says; "a cannonading has been heard for several days, and appears to be about New York." That the sound could travel so far over of the ocean, would not seem strange, but considering the broken country, the deep forest, especially the high intervening Kittatiny mountain, may it not be regarded as extraordinary?

In the autumn, the settlement was surprised and gratified by the return of the aged Capt. James Bidlack, and Mr. Harvey, also advanced in years, two of the prisoners taken from Shawney the preceding December. They had been liberated on parole by the British at Niagara.

As usual, the bustling and social town meetings, were "legally warned," and frequently holden. Capt. John Franklin and Obadiah Gore, were chosen representatives to the assembly, that was to sit in October. A petition was agreed upon to be presented for an abatement of taxes, in consequence of the distress state of the inhabitants; and it is honorable to the assembly, that they remitted the taxes for the year. But a town tax was agreed to be raised, and the County Court on proper representations made, issued their writ, (the town meeting having no authority to do so,) for its collection. Legal gentleman who may honor these pages with a perusal, indeed other intelligent men may be pleased to look in upon the bench, see its organization, and note briefly their Honors proceedings.

"At a County Court, holden within and for the county of Westmoreland etc.

present,

Nathan Denison, Esq., Judge

Justices of the Quorum

John Franklin, Esq.

Hugh Forseman, Esq.

Abel Pierce, Esq.

Jonathan Fitch, Esq., Sheriff

"Westmoreland County Court, ss, November term, 1781

Ordered-that there be a tax granted upon the list of 1781, on the inhabitants of Westmoreland, of two pence in the pound, to be paid by the first of January, 1782, either in hard money, or in specific articles, at the following prices: viz. wheat, at four shillings (Connecticut currency, 67 cents.) Rye, at 3 shillings. Corn, and 2 shillings. Flax, at 9 pence per pound.

The above specific articles to be delivered at the County Treasury."

"Westmoreland County Court, ss, November term 1781.

Upon a memorial of Abigail Haddon, of said Westmoreland, praying for a bill of divorcement from Simeon Haddon, her husband, as per memorial, on file, which facts, in said petition, being sufficiently supported,

therefore, ordered, by the court that the marriage of the said Simon Haddon and Abigail, his wife, be declared null and void, and she is hereby declared single and unmarried."

In an action of felony. In this case, the jury find that the defendant is guilty, in manner and form, as the plaintiff in his declaration has alleged; therefore, find for the plaintiff the sum of six shillings lawful money, damages, and his costs.
 
  £ s. d.
Damages, 0 6 0
Costs taxed, 5 18 6
  6 4 6

Execution granted July 25th, 1782.

As not a single lawyer remained, Dana and Bullock having been slain in the battle, whether courage and spirit of patriotism lead them; although by law exempted from militia duty, and the court having appointed Lieut. John Jenkins State Attorney, and authorized either party to plead his own cause, or avail himself of the aid of any other person, in whose wisdom he could confide, it would seem probable that the technicalities of the law may have been not infrequently violated; but it is believed that substantial justice was awarded by the court. Disjointed as were the times; aroused as were the passions, and unloosed as moral ties generally are, during the prevalence of war, it is a just and pleasing tribute to Wyoming, and neither tradition, the court records, nor any memorandum found, disclosed a single crime that deserves the character of heinous. There never was a record for the same number of years less stained with guilt, its pages more pure and free from the taint of malignity and corruption.

"Jabez Sill vs. Susannah Reynolds.

In action on Plea of Trespass, party, committed on a 3rd division lot, in the district of Wilkes-Barre, No. 33, demanding damages, etc. Upon which the defendant set up title in the following manner:-that her late husband, Mr. Christopher Reynolds, (killed in the battle,) was the original proprietor of said lot. That he was lawfully seized and possessed of the same, at the time of his death. It appeared to the court, that previous to administration being taken on said estate, Mr. Thomas Park sold the lot of aforesaid, and by sundry conveyances came into the hands of the plaintiff. Whereupon the court were of opinion, the defendant is not guilty of the charge, therefore find for the defendant her costs. It also appears at the investigation of the cause before the court, that the property of the aforesaid 33rd lot, in the 3rd division of the district of Wilkes-Barre, is in the defendant (as being the relict of the said Christopher Reynolds, deceased,) and his children.

Costs taxed at six shillings."

It would seem that this was not a jury trial. In numerous instances, the jurors are named as part of the record. On one occasion, a special County Court was called at the instance of the plaintiff, and a fellow promptly convicted of stealing and Ox belonging to the public stores.

From the general character of fairness in the judicial proceedings, we find but two exceptions. The first; but let the record speak for itself.

"Westmoreland County, December 28, 1782.

Mary Pritchard is found guilty of unnecessarily going from her place of abode, on the Lord’s Day, on the 10th of November last; therefore, ordered, that she pay a fine of five shillings, lawful money, to the treasury of the town of Westmoreland, and costs.

John Franklin, justice of the peace."

The other being also a trial not by the County Court and jury, but before a single justice. We copy from the justice docket.

"Samuel Ayers vs. John Wolcott.

At a Justice’s Court, holden at Westmoreland, December 26, 1782, present, John Franklin, Justice of the Peace, wherein John Wolcott, a transient person is brought before the said court, by the virtue of an advertisement put forth by Samuel Ayers, of said Westmoreland, wherein the said John Wolcott is accused of feloniously taking a buckskin from the said Samuel Ayers, about the 30th of November last, of the value of 19 shillings, lawful money.

The delinquent pleads not guilty. The court, on examining the delinquent, and hearing the evidence, and after taking the case into consideration, are of the opinion that the said John Wolcott is guilty of feloniously taking a buckskin from the said Samuel Ayers, of the value of 19 shillings, lawful money.

Therefore ordered, that the said Wolcott forfeit and pay to the said Samuel Ayers, the sum of 19 shillings, lawful money, with it treble damages, as the law directs, together with costs. And also pay a fine to the Treasury of the Town of Westmoreland, of the sum of 15 shillings, lawful money, or receive 10 stripes upon the naked body.
 
Bill of Costs, Taxed at £10 £ s. d.
Costs:viz: Reward of Advertisement 0 18 00
Lt Ranson, Pursuit to Juniata & bring back the delinquent 2 04 10
Expenses, and a horse for the journey, 4 06 00
Hiring a man to assist, 10 00
Plaintiff look at delinquent 0 06 00
Plaintiff, two days attendance,  0 03 00
Officers’ Fees 0 01  08
Two evidences 0 04 00
Subpoena 0 00 06
Court fees, assignment and indenture,  06 00
  £10 00 00

Whereas the above named John Wolcott, is unable to make restitution, or to pay the threefold damages and costs, it being the sum of £12 17s. In the whole: therefore, ordered, by said court, that the said John Wolcott be assigned in service to the said Samuel Ayers, for the sum of two full years from this date, to be disposed of in service to any of the subjects of the United States. December 31, 1782

John Franklin, Justice of the Peace."

The whole proceedings bear the impress of extreme severity, at variance with the generally mild and equitable dispensation of the law. Sixty years, to be sure, have wrought a great alteration in our notions of justice, and public sentiment could now but ill endure what then was regarded as entirely proper. The pursuit of Wolcott to Juniata, an 100 miles, for so small an affair as a deerskin, worth perhaps a dollar, appears not a little singular. If nothing existed more than appears on the Record, we might be led to suppose that the spirit of the far famed Connecticut blue laws was not yet entirely extinct. This was the last but two decisions before the jurisdiction of Wyoming was severed from Connecticut. At Trenton, the court had been in session two months. Their decision was anticipated, and indeed was rendered about the time of the trial of Wolcott. Whether he was regarded as an emissary of the Pennsylvania landholders, and the binding him out for two years was deemed the surest way to get rid of him, knowing, of course, he would run away, we cannot aver, but deem it probable, is the most charitable conclusion. We returned back to our narrative, 1781.

On Friday the 7th of September, a band of the Indians made an attack on the Hanover settlement, and took off Arnold Franklin, and Rosewell Franklin, Jr., the sons of Lieut. Franklin, who had shot an Indian the preceding June. Several horses were stolen, and much grain, and stack, consumed by fire. Capt. Michael, with a detachment of men, went in pursuit; but the enemy eluded his vigilance. Perhaps the narrative of Lieut. Rosewell Franklin may be most properly concluded here, although events that subsequently occurred be anticipated.

A more distressing tragedy scarcely crimsons the page of history. In April following, Sunday the 7th, 1782, the Indians, still burning with rage, and intent on vengeance, rushed into Lieut. Franklin's house, and took off his wife and there four remaining children, one an infant, set fire to the building, which, with furniture not plundered, was consumed to ashes. Parties went immediately in pursuit. Sgt. Tomas Baldwin, (Joseph Elliott second in command,) led seven determined men, with great celerity, taking an unfrequented course to head the savages. Arrived at Wyalusing, near sixty miles, they were satisfied, by examining the fording place, that the Indians had not crossed the stream. Pushing on until they came to the mountain, nearly opposite Asylum, a slight breastwork was thrown up, and arrangements made to receive the enemy. Every precaution had been taken to conceal the defense by setting up bushes in front; but the wary Chief, on approaching, discovered the snare, changed the road of his party, leaving the path, and attempted to ascend the hill, and pass our men, fifty or sixty rods more easterly. The attack was instantly commenced, a mutual fire was opened, and continued for some time with spirit, and yet with caution; the Indians being desirous to get off with their prisoners and plunder; the pursuing party being afraid of hurting Mrs. Franklin and the children. In the midst of the firing, the two little girls and the boys sprung from their chapters, and found refuge with their friends! Instantly the savages shot Mrs. Franklin and retreated; the Chief, either to preserve the infant prisoner as a trophy, or to save himself from being a mark for the American rifles, raised the infant on his shoulder, and thus bearing her loft, fled. Having recovered three of the children, and seeing the bleeding remains of the mother, the Yankees suspended pursuit. Mrs. Franklin was buried decently as circumstances permitted, and the children brought safely to Wyoming, where they arrived on the 16th. To the men, Sgt. Baldwin and Oliver Bennet, were wounded, the former severely, by the enemy's fire. The vigorous pursuit and spirited action were worthy of empathetic commendation.

It would almost seem as if a fell spirit pursued the fortunes of Lieut. Franklin. He was a worthy man, undecided courage; in the battle, as ensign in Capt. McKerrican's company, having behaved with spirit. Enterprising and industrious, yet nothing prospered under his hand. When the troubles with Pennsylvania, after the war, were renewed at Wyoming, he sought repose in the long conflicts he had been engaged in, by removing with his family into the Genesee country, where he settled without title; the lands there being in controversy between Massachusetts and New York. After two years of arduous labor, winter approached and found his cellar stored and his granaries full, the product of a fruitful soil, and unremitted industry. A ray of gladness broke in on his dwelling, and "hope and pleasure smiled." Gov. Clinton had bided his time, and seizing the moment when his measures cannot fail to be effective, veiling all the feelings of humanity, suppressing all the kindlier sympathies of our nature, under the pretense or play of public policy, he sent a band of men, early in winter, into the Genesee country, to destroy the settlements making there. Every habitation was burned, the improvements laid waste, and all the grain consumed by fire. Lieut. Franklin looked around him a moment on this new scene of desolation and woe, in utter despair; seized his rifle and put an end to his existence.

We must be allowed to relieve the gloom thrown around our pages, by the melancholy fate of the unfortunate Franklin,

"And cause the sable cloud

Turn forth her silver lining on the night."

The winter was cheered by several marriages of persons eminent in the valley. Lieut. Lawrence Myers was married to Miss Sarah Gore, Jan. 3rd, 1782. She, of the patriotic family that sent five brothers and two brothers-in-law into the battle. That she was very handsome cannot be doubted, for in 1837, then eighty years of age, the round face, regular features, and pleasing expression told of remarkable youthful beauty. (Lieut. Myers was of a German family from Fredericktown, Maryland. Robust in early manhood, he became corpulent with advancing age, and presented a singular contrast with the spare forms of the Yankees, worn down by exertion and care. But he was ever a favorite. His large round face seemed radiant with benevolence and cheerfulness. Besides several offices in the militia, he was for 30 years a magistrate, and in 1800, commissioner of the county. The plan of the Courthouse, a cross, was introduced by him, taken from that at Fredericktown; which doubtless owned its origin to the Roman Catholic settlers of Maryland, under their liberal intolerant founder, through that it was an emblem of Catholicism, or had any Christian illusion, was probably unknown to Mr. Myers, or those in Luzerne who approved thereof. The delight of his life was to talk of Frederick, and anything that existed or came from there was an object of his special regard. Owning one of the noblest plantations on the Kingston flats, adjoining the Plymouth line, though he did not personally labor, he caused it to be highly cultivated, the produce of which yielded a liberal support. The ancient people are still pleased to tell of his almost daily crossing the river to Wilkes-Barre, accompanied by the little shaggy water dog, spotted black and white, his unfailing attendant, running by his master's side, or sitting by his feet. If perchance the ferry boat put off from shore without him, the dog would seem to measure the distance with mathematical precision, run up the river so far that the stream should not taken below the landing place, plunge in and swim over. In winter, the large and elegant cloth coat, in those early days an article of dress to fine and costly not to be rare, gave to his noble person an imposing appearance. He died of dropsy, aged about fifty years, leaving, as he had no children, his fine estate to Mrs. Myers and his two brothers. In times of high excitement, from Washington's administration onward to the time of his decease, "Esquire Myers," which was the usual designation, was a zealous Federalist, but to liberal and kind to cherish a particle of ill will against his opponents. The fact is the rather noted, because it is believed he was the only one of the name who did not entertain different sentiments, because his name and character for several years gave that party great influence, aiding to preserve it in the ascendancy. But this is a digression.)

Sunday, the 17th of February, 1782, Hugh Forseman, Esquire, and Judith Slocum were called off; and on the succeeding Sunday, viz. the 24th, were married. Miss Slocum was a sister of the lost Francis, and daughter of Mr. Jonathan Slocum, who, with Mr. Tripp, was so audaciously murdered by the Indians inside the fort, three years previously. (Mr. Forseman we have seen as Justice of the Peace, and sitting as one of the Justices of Quorum in the County Court. A man of business and propriety, few shared more highly the general confidence. As clerk of the town, his writing is singularly neat and accurate. To his care we are indebted that the old Westmoreland records were preserved. Mr. Forseman was from Ireland, where a lease of considerable value depended on his life. The lessee being accustomed annually to send him a piece of fine linen, his receipt therefore being the proof that he was still alive.)

As shadows and sunshine chase each other over the plain, so to the events of our narrative alternate.

On Sunday, the 10th of March, the good deacon John Hurlbut departed this life; a life full of respect and usefulness. The confidence reposed in him, is attested by his having been, when, from the distressed state of the country, the sagest man for wisdom, and the brightest in virtue, were required for public trust, three times chosen member of assembly, besides the filling out of other offices of lesser note. If he did not live to enjoy the repose and prosperity that resulted from his labors, it is pleasing to be able to record that a son of his, Napthali Hurlbut, Esquire, was in after days honored by the citizens of Luzerne with the office of High Sheriff of the county.

A lad was murdered by the Indians near Bunkers, on Saturday, the 1st. of June, 1782.

Hanover was the scene of another bloody deed on Monday, the 8th of July. John Jameson, and a lad, his brother, accompanied by Asa Chapman, were riding up from Nanticoke, their residents near (now) Lee’s Mills, intending to go to Wilkes-Barre. As they came opposite the Hanover Meetinghouse, Jameson exclaimed, "there are Indians." Before he could turn his horse he received three rifle balls, and fell dead to the earth. Chapman being behind him, had time to draw the rein and turn, but was instantly wounded. Clinging to the saddle, the frighted horse bore him beyond their reach. The lad being in the rear, escaped. Chapman lingered several hours, sent for his wife, and took an affectionate leave of her. Capt. Franklin cut out the ball, but it done its office, and he presently expired.

On the 26th of the month, a man, a woman, and two children, were killed near Catawissa, 30 miles below Wyoming.

Saturday the 27th.-The gloomy monotony of war was broken, and the settlement cheered by the return of George Palmer Ransom, one of the seven prisoners taken in December 1780. A young man full of courage and ardor, he could not brook confinement, made his escape and, encountering great hardships. The events of his captivity and return, will furnish an interesting page in our chapter of personal narratives. We have the satisfaction to say that, as I write, (April 20, 1845,) Col. Ransom still lives.

Saturday the 12th.-Daniel McDowal was taken prisoner at Shawney, and carried to Niagara. He was son of the benevolent Scotch gentleman at Stroudsburg, who, as we have previously seen, befriended with such disinterested and untiring perseverance, the Yankee settlers in their first efforts to establish themselves at Wyoming. He was the brother of Mrs. McKean, wife of General Samuel McKean, of Bradford County, recently United States Senator.

Imperfectly protected, constantly harassed, wounded, bleeding at every pore, Capt. Spalding and the Wyoming Independent Company, consisting of nearly all the remaining able-bodied men of the town, cruelly drawn away below the mountains, the handful of people remaining, in town meeting, with a fortitude and devotion never surpassed, still struggle for existence. In April voted,-"that the town treasurer be desired to grind up so much of the public wheat, (receipt for taxes,) as to make 200 pounds of biscuits, and keep it made, and so deposited, as that the necessary scouts may instantly be supplied from time to time as occasion requires."

And subsequently, September the 10th,

"Voted-that Col. Nathan Denison be desired to send scouts up the river, as often and as far as he shall think it necessary, to discover the movements of the enemy; receiving his instructions from time to time, and to make immediate returns to him, as soon as they shall return back, and the subject to be examined under oath, touching their faithfulness; they to be found bread and ammunition, and be paid six shillings a day while in actual service, by this town. The selectman to draw an order on the town treasurer for such sums, to be paid in produce at the market price.

The ever memorable surrender of Lord Cornwallis had taken place on the 19th of October, 1781, which, in effect, decided the contest in favor of America and independence. The Rev. Benjamin Bidlack and Nathan Beach, Esquire, at that time young men in the prime of life, both from Wyoming, and both now living here, each having numbered more than four score years, were present at the capitulation.

Gen. Conway, on the 27th of February, 1782, moved in the House of Commons: "that it is the opinion of this house, that the further prosecution of offensive war against America, would, under present circumstances, be the means of weakening the efforts of this country against her European enemies, and tend to increase the mutual enmity so fatal to the interests both of Great Britain and America;" which was carried against the strenuous opposition of the ministry. On the 4th of March following, Parliament choosing to be explicit, resolved, "that the house will consider as enemies to his Majesty and the country, all those who should advise, or attempt a further prosecution of offensive war on the continent of North America." And immediate change of ministry ensued, and negotiations for peace soon followed.

Although clouds still lowered, the thunder growled along the hills, and an occasional leven bolt burst in the valley, yet the bow of promised peace, with its radiant hues, spanned the eastern sky, and awakened sweet hopes of security and rest.

The number of lives actually lost in Wyoming, during the war, it is impossible to estimate with certainty. Probably 300, being one in ten of every inhabitant, or exceeding one-third of the adult male population at the commencement of the war. Connecticut to have suffered in the same proportion, would have lost near 23,000, and the United Colonies 300,000.

Almost immediately after Lord Cornwallis’s surrender, the contest being regarded as virtually closed, that is, on the third of November, 15 days after that event, a petition was presented to Congress, "from the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania, stating a matter in dispute between the said state and the state of Connecticut, respecting sundry lands lying on the east branch of the river Susquehanna, and praying a hearing in the premises, agreeable to the ninth article of the confederation."

Connecticut promptly met the overtures of Pennsylvania, and both parties during winter made preparations for the trial. Preliminary proceedings were adopted early the following summer. On the 12th of August, 1782, the delegates from the two states announced, in a joint memorial to Congress, that they had mutually agreed on gentlemen to constitute the court: the Honorable William Whipple, Esquire, of New Hampshire; the Honorable Maj. Gen. Nathaniel Greene, of Rhode Island; the Honorable David Brearly, and William Churchill Houston, Esquire, of New Jersey; the Honorable Cyrus Griffin, and Joseph Jones, Esquire, of Virginia.

A subsequent communication August 23rd, from the joint delegates, stated, it was ascertained that Gen. Greene and Honorable General Rutledge, (whose name does not previously appear on the journal,) could not attend, and substituting Honorable Welcome Arnold, of Rhode Island, and Honorable Thomas Nelson, of Virginia; any five of whom to constitute a quorum.

Five commissioners, viz: Messrs. Whipple, Arnold, Houston, Griffin, and Brearly, opened their court at Trenton, November 12, 1782. Messrs. William Bradford, Joseph Reed, James Wilson, and Jonathan D. Sergeant, appearing as Council on behalf of Pennsylvania. Messrs. Eliphlet Dyer, William S. Johnson and Jesse Root, being the agents from Connecticut.

The court having declined to order notice to be given to the settlers at Wyoming, claiming the land-as the right of soil did not come before them; the question they were empowered to decide, being solely that of jurisdiction, the parties proceeded with their several allegations and pleas, and after a sitting of 41 judicial days, viz: on Monday, December 30, 1782, gave their decision in these words:-

"We are unanimously of opinion that Connecticut has no right to the lands in controversy.

"We are also unanimously of opinion, that the jurisdiction and preemption of all the territory lying within the charter of Pennsylvania, and now claimed by the state of Connecticut, do of right belong to the state of Pennsylvania."

Clear, comprehensive, and explicit, Pennsylvania was satisfied, and Connecticut submitted without breathing a sigh for the loss of so noble a domain, the right to which she had so strenuously maintained, or a murmur at a decision which seemed to the surrounding world so extraordinary.

But as his trial, spoken of before in our examination of the titles of the two states, to Wyoming, will be found more fully treated of hereafter, we take leave of it, with this brief notice for the present.

With the close of the year 1782, and the Trenton decree, the jurisdiction of Connecticut, which had continued nine years, ceased; the cheerful and salutory town meetings were no longer holden, and we close the old parchment bound book with the most profound sentiments of respect, and with feelings of sincere regret, as the departing from a long cherished friend. A box of finely polished oak should be made for it; as the descendants of the old settlers may look back upon that humble volume, from seats of affluence or high places of power, centuries hence, with on honest pride at the recorded transactions of their fathers.

Joyce Tip Box -- December 2007 -
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