The Reverend Mr. David Craft
In November, 1788, a court was ordered to be held at Wilkes-Barre for the trial of Franklin and the rioters. Chief Justic McKean presided. Franklin’s strong frame was bowed and weakened by sickness and thirteen months’ imprisonment, and his spirit broken. "The lion was tamed." He was indicted for high treason, but the trial was never called on, and Franklin was admitted to bail.
Twenty-five persons engaged in the abduction of Pickering were indicted, several fined or imprisoned, but from policy the sentence was never fully carried out. Pickering wisely judged that, while the people should be taught that the laws of the State could be enforced and offenders punished, it was far better to conciliate the disaffected than to punish the guilty.
The confirming law was suspended March 29, 1788, and finally repealed on April 1, 1790, having been declared unconstitutional by the legislature.
Efforts had been made from time to time, both by the settlers and by the State of Connecticut, to bring the question of the right of soil before Congress for the appointment of the court, under the ninth article of the Confederation, to determine the case, but the Pennsylvania delegates were successful in thwarting the measure. On the 30th of April,1789, the Federal government went into operation, and at the first session of the first Congress an act was passed organizing the supreme court, which, by the constitution, had jurisdiction over cases arising between citizens claiming lands under grants of different States. To this court therefore the Connecticut settlers determined to carry their case. Opportunity was speedily offered. Cornelius Vanhorne, a Pennsylvania lessee, brought suit against John Dorrance at the April term of 1795, in the circuit court of the United States for the district of Pennsylvania, at which the jury, under charge of the court, brought in a verdict for the plaintiff. An appeal was at once taken to the supreme court of the United States, but owing to an informality in the notice, a non pros was entered. Neither party considered this suit as deciding the question in controversy. Several other cases involving the same questions were then pending, but for some reason none of them were brought to an issue. At various times the respective parties agreed to make up a case which should be submitted to the courts, but always failed to agree on the details, and so the matter ended.
Under the proprietary government land was disposed to whom, on what terms, in such quantities, and such locations as the proprietor or his agents saw proper. The unoccupied lands were never put on the market, nor their sale regulated by law. Every effort made by the assembly to secure uniformity in the sale and price of land was resisted by the proprietor as an infringement upon his manorial rights. After the commonwealth became vested with the proprietary interests, a law was passed, April 9, 1781, for establishing the land-office, for the purpose of enabling those persons to whom grants had been made to perfect their titles. July 1, 1784, an act was passed opening the land office for the sale of vacant lands in the purchase of 1768. The price was fixed at 10 per 100 acres, or 33 1/3 cents per acre, in addition to the warrant, survey, and patent fees, and the quantity in each warrant limited to 400 acres and the six percent allowance. The purchase of 1784 having been completed and confirmed by the treaty at Fort McIntosh, January, 1785, the land-office was opened for the sale of lands in the new purchase, December 21, 1785, at which the price was fixed at 30 per hundred acres, and warrants were allowed to contain 1000 acres with ten per cent, over plus, besides the usual allowance. Col. Pickering, Samuel Hodgdon, Tench Cox, Duncan Ingraham, Andrew Craige, and Myers Fisher entered into an association for the purpose of purchasing 63,000 acres under this act, a considerable part of which was located in Bradford county. Nevertheless the price of land was place so high that but few speculators ventured to invest in the hilly and heavily timbered lands of northern Pennsylvania. Under the pressure of certain land-jobbers who were holding important offices in the commonwealth, like John Nichols, Robert Morris, and William Bingham, an act was passed, April 3, 1792, in which the price of the vacant lands was reduced to fifty shillings per 100 acres or 6 2/3 cents per acre. Speculation ran wild. Applications for warrants poured into the land-office by tens of thousands. The law, while it appeared to favor persons of small means and prevent the wealthy from acquiring large portions of the public domain, was so drawn that by means of fictitious applications and poll deeds, that is, mere assignments of the application without the formalities of acknowledgement, any party could possess himself of an unlimited quantity of the unappropriated lands. Within a year or two nearly all the lands in the county had been applied for; Nicholson, Morris, Bingham, James D. Le Ray, Henry Drinker, John Vaughan, Pickering, and Hodgdon being the principal holders. *
*The following is a list of the Susquehanna company’s townships, giving the date of the grant and the name of the grantor:
Armenia, Feb. 23, 1795, to Reuben Fowler.
Alba, Feb. 24, 1795, to Daniel Brown, Jr.
Albany, Feb. 28, 1795 to Sebastian Visseher.
Allensburg, March 12, 1785, to John B. Allen.
Athens, May 9, 1786, to Prince Alden, Elisha Satterlee, and others.
Augusta, June 18, 1794, to Aaron Sherwood.
Bath, April 10, 1795, to John Spalding
Bachelor’s Adventure, Dec. 6, 1794, to Elisha Tracy and Joseph Kingsbury
Burlington, June 5, 1794 to Nathaniel Allen.
Bloomingdale, March 10, 1795, to David Paine and Wm. Young.
Bristol, Feb. 27, 1795, to Mason Fitch Alden.
Cabot, Dec. 25, 1794, to Elisha Hyde and Capt. Elisha Tracy, regranted.
Claverack, June 4, 1778, to Jeremiah Hogeboom.
Columbia, March 15, 1795, to Elisha Satterlee and others.
Durkee, Jan. 17, 1795, to John Spalding.
Enfield, Sept. 5, 1794, to Sheldon Graham.
Ensurance, April 10, 1795, to John Spaulding.
Fairfield, June 9, 1794, to Chester Bingham.
Fullersville, March 1, 1795, to Capt. Stephen Fuller.
Graham, March 4, 1795, to Sheldon Graham.
Halestown, Oct. 27, 1798, to George Hale.
Jay, April 10, 1795, to John Spalding.
Juddsburg, Aug. 13, 1793, to Maj. Wm. Judd and others.
Leffertstown, Feb. 28, 1795, to Leffert Lefferts.
Litchfield, Jan. 17, 1795, to James Irwin, Thomas Parks, and others.
Lovisa, April 1, 1795, to John Tucker.
Martel (Delaware company), Oct. 14, 1795, to Elisha Hyder.
Minden (Delaware company), April 25, 1796, to Elisha Hyde and Elisha Tracy.
Murraysfield, March 15, 1795, to Noah Murray.
New Barrington, Jan. 17, 1795, to James Irwin.
New Haven, Aug. 5, 1795, to Peter Hogeboom and others.
New Milford, Feb. 28, 1795, to Abel Brownson.
Oblong, April 6, 1795, to Jonathan Hibbard.
Seeleysborough, Dec. 25, 1794, to Bezeleel Seeley.
Smithfield, Sept. 23, 1795, to David Smith and others.
Springhill, May 21, 1796, to Noah Pratt.
Springfield, Oct. 22, 1777, to James Wells, Jeremiah Ross and others.
Standing Stone, 1774, to David Smith.
Spring Hill, Jan. 17, 1795, to Robert W. Nash and others.
Walsingham, Dec. 20, 1795, to Samuel Gordon.
Watertown, Dec. 20, 1794, to Daniel Brown.
Windsor, Feb. 28, 1795, to John Spalding.
Orange, Aug. 12, 1795, to Isaac Cash and Silas Jackson.
White Haven, May 22, 1786, to Joseph Elliott and others.
In the meanwhile the committee of the Susquehanna company were not idle. Rights were thrown upon the market and sold for almost any price. Townships were granted upon more liberal terms. Renewed efforts were made to bring on settlers, the validity of the Susquehanna company’s claim was stoutly argued, companies were formed for the purchase of townships. Speculation in the Connecticut title was intense, the company’s office at Athens was thronged with eager applicants, while their surveyors were daily employed in locating and surveying rights. By the close of the year 1796 nearly every foot of land was held by both Susquehanna company rights and Pennsylvania warrants.
Both parties were now arrayed in earnest, defiant opposition. Since the repeal of the confirming law the settlers had been left very much to themselves, but now, at the instigation of the wealthy and influential land-holders, the State entered into the controversy. A general policy had been agreed upon. It was determined to carry into effect the principles of the confirming law by efficient legislation. Within the seventeen townships, Pennsylvania claimants were to be compensated, and the old settlers confirmed in their possessions, while "the companies and half-share men were to be cut up by the roots." Under these two heads the subsequent legislation on this subject is to be classed.
The legal principles upon which this legislation was based, as they were from time to time expounded by the courts, were the following:
By an act passed April 4, 1799, commonly called the Compensation Law, commissioners were appointed to ascertain the quality, quantity, and situation of lands in the seventeen townships held by Pennsylvania claimants before the Trenton decree, to divide the lands into four classes, and affix the value to each class. To lands of the first class a sum not exceeding five dollars per acre; the second class, three dollars; the third class, one dollar and fifty cents; and to the fourth class, twenty-five cents per acre, for which certificates were given, on the release of the title to the State, receivable as specie at the land-office; no certificates were to issue until forty thousand acres were thus released, and till Connecticut claimants to that amount under their hands and seals agreed to abide by the decision of the commissioners. All disputes between Pennsylvania claimants were to be decided in the usual way, by the board of property, from which an appeal could be taken to the courts.
Lands of the Connecticut claimants against which no adverse Pennsylvania title appeared, or where such title had been released, occupied by actual settlers at or before the time of the Trenton decree, which lots were particularly assigned to the said settlers prior to the said decree, agreeably to the regulations then in force among them, were also to be divided into four classes; the price of the first class to be two dollars per acre, of the second class one dollar and twenty cents, of the third class fifty cents, of the fourth class eight and one-third cents per acre, payable in eight equal annual installments. The lots were to be resurveyed, certificates issued, on which patents would be granted to the Connecticut claimants, after the usual patent and surveying fees were paid.
Unexpected difficulties, growing out of the refusal or neglect of the Pennsylvania claimant to execute their releases, rendered the law inoperative. To meet this difficulty a supplement was passed, April 6, 1802, which directed the commissioners to survey, value, and certify the whole of each tract claimed by a Connecticut claimant, whether released or not by the Pennsylvania claimant, who should not recover the same as against the Connecticut claimant, but should have liberty to bring suit against the Commonwealth, at which trial the court and jury, provided he established title, should have power to award just compensation. It was also provided that every Connecticut claimant applying for a certificate must first deliver up to the commissioners all title-papers, which were to be transmitted to the secretary of the commonwealth.
The provisions of this act differed from the confirming law in that it was limited in its operations to the seventeen townships, while the other included all rights acquired before the Trenton decree; it also paid the Pennsylvania claimant in cash instead of in land. Thomas Cooper, Gen. Steele, and Mr. Wilson, were the commissioners. Their duties were difficult and delicate. The Pennsylvania landholders were opposed to the law because it took away their lands without rendering what they thought a just compensation, while many were mortified and chagrined to see the lands, for which they had so long contested, taken from then and given to their adversaries. The half-share men opposed the law because it ignored the claims of the companies, and left them without the pale of its beneficent provisions; but the great mass of the old settlers saw here a way of ending a contest of which they were weary, and cheerfully took title under the State, while the energy, tact, and liberal construction of the law manifested by Judge Cooper won the confidence and esteem of all parties.
Perhaps no better account of the work of this commission, the operations of law, and the feelings of the people towards it, can be given, than is furnished by the letters of Judge Cooper to the governor. Under date of March 8, 1802, he says, "The proceedings of the legislature from that time (the Trenton decree) to the present have, unfortunately, been so indecisive as to inspire neither confidence nor terror. No regular plan, either of conciliation or of force, has been steadily pursued, and the case presents as many difficulties at this moment as at any former period." After giving a synopsis of the legislation on this question, he adds, "Previous to the commission of last summer seven distinct commissions have acted ineffectually in the settlement of the controversy. The present is the third under the law of 1779. When Gen. Steele, Mr. Wilson, and myself proceeded last summer to Wilkes-Barre, we found no inclination among the Connecticut claimants in the townships to take the benefit of the law under which we were to act, and there seemed no expectation that any future commission would surmount the obstacles which had deterred the former. Hitherto no Connecticut claim had been examined, or any survey made of a Connecticut lot, under the law of 1799. Those who were willing to merge their Connecticut in a Pennsylvania title, and to accept of the latter, whether by gift or purchase, were deterred from proceeding by the repeal of the confirming law, under which many of them had applied and submitted their titles to no effect. He recommends the following amendments:
"1. The introduction of pitches.
"2. The extension of the privilege of release to Pennsylvania claimants whose titles originated since the decree of Trenton; and
"3. The taking the property not released, and referring the Pennsylvania owner to a jury."
The second and third recommendations were subsequently adopted, the last the following April.
Under date of Oct. 20, 1802, he writes, "Every Connecticut claim of every Connecticut claimant, under the law of 1790 and the supplements thereto, has been examined and decided upon, except in cases of townships rejected and appeals from my jurisdiction."
"The townships of Bedford and Ulster were not able to make out a title to my satisfaction under the Susquehanna company and the law of 1799. I rejected, therefore, every application within those townships. The case of Ulster I was very sorry for, as the applicants there deserve far more for their submission to the law of 1799 than those of any other township. Ulster is the very focus of opposition, and the applicants have met with much rancor and ridicule from their opponents. In Ulster live Franklin, the Satterlees, the Spaldings, the Binghams, and all the decided and leading characters among the half-share men. In that township, and there alone, will opposition arise, if at all. Or all the persons who have applied for the benefit of the act of 1799 (about 950) the proportion of nine-tenths, as near as I can now conjecture, have exhibited their titles….. I have a found a very general and great anxiety amongst the Connecticut claimants throughout all the townships, who by mistake, misconception, ignorance, or accident have been deprived or defeated of the benefits of the law of 1799, to submit cheerfully to the conditions offered by the legislature."
Under date of Nov. 15, 1802, after giving the facts upon which his estimates are founded, he adds, "I cannot be far wrong when I state the utmost force of the ‘wild Yankees,’ as they are called, at 200 men; these are for the most part poor and ignorant, but industrious settlers, thinly scattered over a wild country, misled and ruled by about a half a dozen leaders living chiefly in the township of Ulster, viz.: Franklin, Satterlee, Spalding, Bingham, Flowers, and Kingsbury, John Jenkins, of Exeter, and Ezekiel Hyde, of Willingborough. In fact, all the active opposition is confined to three or four miles above and below Tioga Point, and about a dozen miles east and west of it." After speaking of the number and attachment of the old settlers to the State, and of the divisions among the half-share men, and the defection of some of the leaders to the half-share interest, he concludes: "I indeed know of no other way of making the county of Luzerne useful to the State but by encouraging New England settlers under Pennsylvania titles. The Philadelphia land-holders, who are infatuated as to the value of their lands, may induce the legislature to make the country a desert and keep it so; but less time, less trouble, less expense will make it a garden. Yet if measures of conciliation do not produce the effect within a twelvemonth, better it is the country should be a desert than a hot-bed of lawless opposition and insurrection. But I sadly begrudge such an exertion for the sake of the Philadelphia speculators. They have little claim upon the State, for independent of the speculating transactions of 1792 and 1793, out of upwards of 750 lottery orders under applications of 1769 laid in this county, not more than 104 are patented and paid for."
Another source of annoyance rose in the land-office. Some cases of contested Connecticut claims were appealed to the board of property. In regard to one such case arising in our own county Judge Cooper writes a decided and indignant letter to Governor M’Kean. The heirs of Wm. Stewart had contested the claim of Justus Gaylord to his lots in Wyalusing before the commissioners who had decided against Stewart, whereupon a caveat was filed against issuing a patent on the certificate and the parties cited to appear before the board of property. The judge says, "If the secretary of the land-office has a right to drag one claim before the board of property to defend the certificate we had given him, and this on the application of the party whose claim the commissioners have rejected, then might the whole county be cited before the board at Lancaster, and all that the commissioners have done be rendered useless and perhaps undone. Surely, if there be any meaning in the law of 1799, the commissioners were exclusively vested with the power of deciding on the conflicting claims of Connecticut settlers." He advises Mr. Gaylord to show the letter to Andrew Ellicott (the secretary of the land office), refuse to defend against the caveat, demand a patent, and if refused apply for a mandamus, and concludes: "If I hear of any more instances of such wanton, such unauthorized oppression, I shall feel it my bounden duty to excite the people of this county to lay the case before the next legislature and ask for the removal of an officer so dangerous and inconsiderate."
A number of other acts were passed by the legislature to meet certain emergencies and render the general law more effective. The most important of these was the act of April 9, 1807, which provided that Pennsylvania claimants in the fifteen township under titles prior to March 28, 1807, may release their claims in the same manner as those holding under old warrants, and Connecticut claimants within those townships are not required to have occupied their lands prior to the decree of Trenton, but are to receive certificates if, under the rules and regulations of the Susquehanna company at any time, they were entitled to them. By an act passed March 19, 1810, the townships of Bedford and Ulster, which were rejected by the commissioners of 1799, were included in the provisions of the compromise, but no certificate was to issue for lands upon which the Pennsylvania claimant resides. This had been the practice before, but now it was affirmed by statute.
Thus after years of bitter conflict, of much fruitless legislation, of oppression which blackens the pages of Pennsylvania history, the claims of the old settlers were recognized, they were quieted in their possessions which had cost them so much, and held titles for their lands which every court in the commonwealth was bound to protect.
But there was another class, the wild Yankees, half-share men, new-comers, many of them holding their lands on condition of "manning their rights," who were induced to come on for the purpose of defending the claims of the Susquehanna company, who have been described by Judge Cooper, and whose number he estimates at about 200, towards whom a very different policy was pursued, a policy of force, not of conciliation, of coercion instead of compromise, a policy, as Judge Shippen expressed it, designed "to cut up the Susquehanna company by the roots."
On the 18th of February, 1795, a large and enthusiastic meeting of the Susquehanna proprietors, reported in the minutes of the meeting to have been more than twelve hundred in number, was held at Athens, at which it was resolved to take vigorous measure to prosecute the claim of the company; "to prevent any ill-disposed persons, without due authority, unlawfully intruding upon, surveying, or attempting to seize and settle any of the aforesaid lands; afford a just protection to the property of the real owners and such settlers as enter on the same land peaceably, in due course of law, and under real proprietors thereof, being fully determined, in a constitutional and legal manner only, to maintain and defend the title and claim which the aforesaid company have to the aforesaid lands; and also to recover such parts thereof as are possessed in opposition thereto."
The Pennsylvania land-holders were not slow to take up the gauntlet thus defiantly thrown down by the company. They were now at the height of their power, and the legislature was meekly subservient to their wishes. On the 11th of April the intrusion law was passed, inflicting heavy fines and imprisonment upon any convicted of taking possession of, entering, intruding, or settling "on any lands within the limits of the counties of Northampton, Northumberland, or Luzerne, by virtue or under color of any conveyance of half-share right, or any other pretended title not derived from the authority of this commonwealth, or of the late Proprietors of Pennsylvania before the Revolution," making it a crime to combine or conspire to convey, possess, or settle any such lands under any half-share right, but excepting the land within the seventeen townships.
The half-share men were not to be diverted from their resolution by threats of civil punishment nor military force. They had compelled Pennsylvania to recognize the claims of the old settlers after a conflict of thirty years, and they would keep up the opposition for thirty years more if she did not sooner deal justly with them. So determined was this opposition that Pennsylvania surveyors were violently driven from their work, and Pennsylvania settlers were compelled to abandon their claims.
To meet the organized movements of the Susquehanna company, those holding Pennsylvania titles formed an association, which was called the Pennsylvania lands-holders’ association. At a meeting held in Philadelphia, January 10, 1801, they sent a memorial to the legislature praying for more efficient measures to be put in force against the intruders, as the half-share men were called. On the 16th of February the supplement to the intrusion law was passed, making the penalty for settling or selling under the Connecticut title still more severe, enacting that every person coming upon the territory must file a declaration stating of what country he was last a resident, and under what title he held his lands; also providing for the appointment of an agent by the governor, who should make diligent inquiry into all offenses committed under the act, and report for prosecution to the attorney-general the names of all offenders, and of witnesses to prove their offense, and also providing for calling out the military force of the commonwealth in case the agent apprehended danger or resistance. The half-share men, especially in the northern part of the county, were unsparing in their denunciation of the law, which they called the "Fire and Brimstone Law," of the legislature, and of the land-holders in whose interest and at whose instigation it had been passed. About this time was formed what was known as the "Wild Yankee League," in which, after recounting the wrongs which Pennsylvania had heaped upon the settlers, they resolved to protect each other and bid defiance to the law and the Pennsylvania authorities.
Colonel Abraham Horne was appointed agent, with a salary of twelve hundred dollars per year, to put the law in force. He was required to report to the attorney-general all who were engaged in the survey or transfers of land under the Susquehanna company’s title, all who were holding their land under such a title, unless, under hand and seal, they would relinquish all such claims and promise submission to the laws of the State. The duties of his office were odious to a free people. He was a legalized inquisitor. He was regarded and treated by the half-share men as a spy and an enemy, and shunned as men would shun the plague.
On April 9, at another meeting of the land-holders, which represented claimants to more than one million three hundred thousand acres of land, of which Samuel Hodgdon was president, it was resolved that each land-holder would contribute, in proportion to the amount of land claimed by him, towards the necessary expenses of putting in full force the law against intrusions, which were estimated at three thousand two hundred dollars. Legal counsel were retained, and Dr. Robert H. Rose was appointed a special agent to treat with the settlers for the sales of lands.
Whatever may be thought of the merits of the conflicting claims to the right of soil in the Susquehanna company’s purchase, the intrusion law was deserving of the odious epithets applied to it by the half-share men. It arrayed the courts and the military power against one class of citizens in favor of their adversaries. It gave one party the exclusive power of deciding grave legal questions involving the dearest rights of the opposing party. The law was not only in the interest of the land-holders’ association, but was executed by them. Their counsel were the actual prosecutors in the criminal as well as the civil suits which arose under it. They assumed and did speak for the government on questions arising under the law. At their dictation parties were tried or pardoned, convicted or set free. The land-holders were most of them residents of Philadelphia, who had invested far beyond their means in wild lands on which they set a fabulous value. The settlers were poor, industrious and economical. So what whether we consider the parties, the policy of the law, or the manner of its execution, we need not be surprised at the indignation it aroused in the half-share men.
Colonel Horne entered at once upon his mission. In June he came into Bradford County, but apprehending danger from the violent opposition of the people, he stopped at Asylum. Rev. Thomas Smiley, then residing near Franklindale, had written to the agent that nearly all the forty settlers on Towanda creek would renounce their Connecticut titles and purchase of the Pennsylvania claimant. A conference was held at Asylum. Mr. Smiley was commissioned deputy agent, and furnished with the necessary papers. July 7, he obtained the signatures of nearly forty to their reliquishments and submissions, and started for Asylum. A meeting was held, and the wild Yankees determined that the business must be stopped. About twenty men from Sugar creek, Ulster, Sheshequin, armed and disguised started in pursuit. Mr. Smiley, hearing the arrangements of the conspirators, went down to Joshua Wythe’s near Monroeton, where he remained until dark, and then stopped for the night at Jacoob Grantier’s, then living where Major Hale’s residence now is. The party, learning of his lodging-place, followed him, broke into his room, compelled him to burn his papers, took him near the creek, poured a bottle of tar over his head, covering it with feathers, when, after giving him sundry kicks, ordered him to leave the country. John Murphey, David Campbell, Jacob Irvine, Ebenezer Shaw, Stephen Ballard, and Benjamin Griffin were arrested for the assault, but the proof being insufficient, the grand jury returned the bill ignoramus. It has been said the man who carried the bottle of tar was on the grand jury, but as in this capacity he was supposed to take cognizance only of the facts proved, he was not expected to decide from his own personal knowledge, and therefore voted with the majority.* Mr. Smiley removed to Lycoming county, where for twenty-five years he was the pastor of the Baptist church in White Deer Valley. In 1819, the legislature granted him two hundred and fifty dollars in compensation for his sufferings.
"The settlers from the heads of Towanda creek until Allen’s Mill, or below, a distance of about twenty miles, have, ever since I have been there (that is about two years), been unitedly in favor of the Pennsylvania claim, and desirous to purchase of the proper owner, if he could be found, but being unacquainted with land affairs in this State, had but very incorrect ideas of attaining to it, therefore, when the supplement of the intrusion law came out last February, after advice with my neighbors, we sent an address to Mr. Cox, with a desire that he might lay it before the governor, wishing that we might have (if the thing would admit) some favor. This I hear has now come into your hands, but at that time we knew nothing about a committee of land-holders or any general association of them having been formed.
"Upon the earliest information that I had of Col. Horn’s being in Wilkes-Barre, I wrote to him concerning the situation of myself and neighbors. He received the letter after his return from the city with the proposals made by the land-holders by their committee; he therefore sent forward a specimen of both the proposals and declaration to me. I communicated it to my friends, to their infinite satisfaction, and they sent me to Col. Horn to procure further instructions, and the means of their compliance, which has been done and executed, but I blush to relate to you that there are none of the certificates now in existence, therefore, for particulars on this point, I refer you to the agent himself, who is able to give you full information.
"What I have wrote already is designed as an introduction, therefore I would further wish to inform you that, since the last-mentioned disaster took place, I have revisited my neighbors, and find them all fixed in the principles they first acted upon, wherefore, I take this method to inform you further that there is a party that are much set against government, and use every means in their power to make both the laws and means of compromising abortive. Their argument against the law is that it is unconstitutional, ex post facto, etc., and against the compromise offered; that the Pennsylvania claimants are sensible of the Connecticut claim being of some value, or else they would not want it to be abandoned; that the people are signing away their labor as well as the soil, and so they say it is their own death-warrant; that it has been formerly experienced that proposals of this kind cannot be relied on; that there are ten owners to one tract under Pennsylvania; that the reasonable price at which the settler will get the lands at, will, in our back country, be seven or eight dollars per acre, and money all paid down, or else leave the lands instantly. These things are artfully circulated with, I had almost said, a thousand others, in order to deter innocent people from their duty. For the remedy of this, I would beg leave to recommend that the most early and effectual measures be set on foot, to let the settlers on Towanda have their lands according to their expectation on their compliance; and if the present point of time will not permit their acting in it, if there could be some short acknowledgment for what is done by them, and an answer sent to the objectors with the testimony of a design of the land-holders to persevere in the plan proposed, it would work most powerfully, or else I am mistaken, not only on the people of the place aforesaid, but on the neighboring settlements around, for I would wish to inform you that I know of, I suppose, more than two to one settlers that would comply, than what have given me certificates, but dare not for the mob. This I have stated would make them therefore more active and bold. A considerable number of honest, industrious people of the last descript on is on the heads of Sugar Creek, and the few days I staid in the country after my defeat, I had intimations from people repeatedly desiring me to assist them what I could. Where I am and what engaged in, Col. Horn will inform you, and I’ll therefore circulate anything that comes to my hands amongst the settlers as quick as possible." (Note: A few lines of the letter are partly torn, which is in substance that the seat of opposition was about Tioga and the mouth of Sugar creek.)
ELDER SMILEY’S LETTER TO COL. HORNE.
"Sir, I have been looking over the instructions given you by the governor, published in Mr. Wright’s Wilkesbarre paper, and find it enjoined by it and the laws also that all good citizens should be aiding and assisting in carrying on matters so that the law may fully operate; therefore, although a stranger, I take the liberty to beg of you for your attention in a few particulars, while I do assure you that I am in every respect a real friend to you, his excellency, the governor, and the laws of the State. This I hope you will be the more ready to believe when I inform you that although I am so unfortunate as to be living in Luzerne County, I am a born citizen of Pennsylvania, and early in life took the oath of fidelity to the State, which with a good conscience I can say I have never violated, and have appeared repeatedly in her defense, in the last war, where I exposed my life for her defense, and am now a steadfast friend to it, in regard to the Pennsylvania title. On this account I am also willing to assist government in carrying into operation the instrusion law and the supplement to it; but as I possess both humanity and philanthropy, I would wish to inform you also that myself for one, and a great number more of my neighbors that appear to me to be innocent, if it is put in its full force against us, must suffer greatly. I can speak for my own part, as I was drawn into this place by misfortune that befell me, and being no friend to the pretensions of the Connecticut claimants, I have settled on land, expecting to purchase it as soon as I could find the right and lawful owner, and if that could not be done, leave it; but expected there would be no doubt but it might be bought. However, no owner has appeared, nor can we conveniently find them; therefore, what I would now wish to know is whether it would not be in your power to favor me so that I might have a chance of buying the lands, and if not, as I deny no faults, please to let me have a little time and I will move off and leave it, and I will give you or the State all necessary assurances for the same; or, if it would be no transgression, I would be willing to dispossess myself and be repossessed by you as a tenant for the State, and pledge my honor I should never violate the law. I have been an unfortunate person, but I regard my country and its laws, therefore beg of you for favors if it can be anyhow consistent with your duty. As to my neighbors, I know of a great many innocent people among them who have been imposed upon, while they lived in different States, by Connecticut speculators, who deceived them and sold them land here which they had never seen nor known of (the dispute about it), for which they paid their money, and are now very sorry for it. A great many others better informed have settled in the same manner I have done, and are by no means wanting to oppose the law, but would wish to do as I would want to do. I have this much further to say, that I believe it would be in my power to bring a great many more into the same principles. And if you give me any encouragement I shall. And in this manner, I should be happy in being a good citizen, and assist in causing the law to have its full force and effect. As to the Connecticut speculators, I am not knowing to anything that would be proof against any of them, but if the law can take hold of them, I believe it would be exactly right.
"I live in the aforesaid county, district of Wysoks, and about twelve miles up Towanda creek, and have heard you are a humane person. Will be glad, therefore, to see you here acting in your appointment, and treat you with respect as such when you come. Write, if you please, as soon as you receive this, and send it up by the next post. And if it is your mind that I should do as I have proposed, I expect I could have the influence to bring many persons of the Sugar creek settlement into the same sentiments.
"I remain, with great respect, a friend to you and the law.
"Towanda, May 18, 1801
"To Col. Abraham Horn when he came to WilkesBarre."
COL. HORNE’S LETTER TO THE SETTLERS BY THOMAS SMILEY.
(The rest is torn off.)
At Mr. Smiley’s suggestion the settlers on Towanda creek sent a petition to the land-holders, asking that they might not be disturbed in their possession, and promising submission to the Pennsylvania government. The following are the "names of them that signed the petition that was sent:" * Truman Holcomb, Thomas Smiley, David Wooster, Joel Bodwell, Thomas Green, Seely Crofoot, Peter Gordon, Nicholas Gordon, Thomas Granger, Miles Oakley, Luther Hindman, Elihu Knight, George Brown, Henry Seegar, David Andrews, Reuben Jones, Aaron Cook, Isaac Wooster, Daniel Allen, Joanna Latimer, John Knap, Luther Austin, Samuel Knap, Benjamin Stone, David Austin, Isaac Allen, Nathaniel Edsal, Samuel Cramer, Usel Carter, Noadiah Cramer, William Dougherty, Peter Edsal, Joseph Van Sick,-33.
COPY OF A LETTER SENT TO DR. VAN SICK BY TENCH COX.
"Lancaster, Pa., June 10, 1801
"Sir, I have received you letter of the 19th of May, and have sent the names of the 34 persons therein named to the commissioners for Colonel Horne, the agent, and to the committee, but it will be necessary for them to sign a declaration to the effect, communicated through you. The disposition you express in their behalf are proper, and I am glad to have received them.
"The commissioners are Thomas Cooper, Esq., General John Steele, and William Wilson, Esq., and they (Mr. Horne, the agent, Mr. Sanbourn, the deputy surveyor) have completed maps of the country. From them owners of the lands may be learned. Perhaps the commissioners may know them. If the settlers in any part will send me, post-paid, the best draught, or plan, of their farm, or farms, in their power, with a declaration, signed, that they unreservedly disclaim all right, title, pretension, or claim under Connecticut and the Susquehanna company, and acknowledge a desire to purchase the Penn title, I will endeavor to have it made known to the owners, and to secure them a preference; but there must be no delay, for any person who persevered through the summer as an intruder will suffer from the law, and cannot expect to obtain a purchase of the land from the injured Penn owner.
"Those who will submit in writing will find me a sincere and active friend. Those who do not will meet the whole power of the government and the whole force of the land-holders and their counsel. I send you a statement of our affairs for the public information, and am, with a tender of my services for the peace of your neighborhood, your very humble servant."
"Lycoming Co., ss.
"I, the said Thomas Smiley, resident upon Towanda creek, in Luzerne County, on the 24th day of June last, received instructions from Colonel Horn, the governmental agent, under the intrusion act, to receive from the settlers on the creek relinquishments of title under Connecticut and submission to the laws of Pennsylvania. In this business I continued until the eighth of July, inst., on which day I had appointed to meet Colonel Horn at Asylum.
"On the morning of that day, before daylight, being in bed at the house of Jacob Grandadier at the mouth of the Towanda creek, I was awaked out of sleep by a voice asking the man of the house for Thomas Smiley. Mr. Grandadier assured them that I was there in a room that he directed to. At this I got up and saw the passage between me and the door full of men. While I was putting on my clothes, they (by order of one of this company, who afterwards acted as leader) kindled the fire. They asked for the certificates that I was carrying to Colonel Horn. I asked by what authority they demanded them. The leader presented a large pistol to my breast, saying it was his authority, or a similar expression. I then discovered that they were all blacked, and several, if not all of them, had pistols. I think they demanded the papers a second time, and that quickly, under awe by their appearance, thinking it was vain to resist, I delivered up the relinquishments that I had procured to be signed. They took them to the light of the fire and examined if they were the real papers that they wanted. They had asked for a candle of Mr. Granadier, but on his rising they told him he might go to bed again. While they were examining the papers at the fire, their leader and one other stood by me with pistols. After they had looked at them some time, one cried out, saying, ‘Here is one David Allen has been signing.’ The papers were in two bundles. The one which they first opened was by the leader put into my hands, and I was by him ordered to burn it. This I complied with. The other bundle was next put into my hands like orders by the leader, which I likewise complied with. While they were burning I was asked if I had any more papers. I answered that I had not. With the papers they had got from me a letter that I was carrying from Joshua Wythe to Colonel Horn, which they examined and said they would keep, and they kept it. When the papers were done burning, the leader took hold of my left arm and said that I must go with them. Another held the skirt of my coat on the other side. They led me a small distance down the creek towards Bowman’s, but upon some of them behind me saying that I was to go the other way, they turned and took me up the creek about twenty or thirty perches above the house of Mr. Granadier. They told me on the passage that I must leave the country. A series of apprehensions of danger presented themselves to me, and I had doubts of being shot, rode on a rail, beaten, or otherwise. They seated me on a log, and the leader put tar over my head and beard, and another put feather over it. Daylight in a clear morning was just now appearing. The leader, after giving me a kick, told me that I might go; I asked for my hat which I got, thanked them, and they were off precipitantly and were soon out of sight. As near as I could ascertain their number was eight. I could make no certain discovery of the persons of any of them. While the papers were burning, as is above stated, or about that time, strict inquiry was made by the leader for Colonel Horn. I answered that I believed he was at Wyalusing. I have come into Lycoming county for protection. I feel apprehension of personal danger from returning to my residence on Towanda.
In 1803, an assault still more serious was made upon Mr. Bartlet Hinds, of Susquehanna county. In 1801, Mr. Hinds had been indicted with others under the intrusion law, but becoming convinced that the land-holders would succeed in maintaining their claim, bought the Pennsylvania title, and endeavored to persuade others to do the same. This gave great offense to the half-share men on the Wyalusing creek. Miss Blackman says, "They purchased a note of Mr. Hinds, commenced a suit upon it, took him fourteen miles from home for trial before D. Ross, Esq., (near the forks of the creek), at a late hour of the day, making it necessary for him to remain overnight. In the evening, the house in which he lodged was surrounded by a mob, who forcibly entered the house, and tying him to a horse’s tail, dragged him through the Wyalusing creek, near its forks. When nearly exhausted, Mr. Hinds made the Masonic sign, which induced one of the fraternity to give him assistance, but when he had reached the shore his assailants formed a ring, and seizing his hands, drew him around his burning effigy, and occasionally pushed him into the flames. For this deed eighteen persons were indicted for riot and assault, and taken to Wilkes-Barre, as the parties belonged to what was then Luzerne county. On the trial the defendants withdrew the plea of ‘not guilty’ and entered ‘guilty.’"
In the Luzerne Federalist, of April 15, is an account of the trial and of the sentence. "The judgement of the court is, that Ichabod Halsey, Salmon Bosworth, Isaac Brownson, Jabez Hyde, Jr., and Ephraim Fairchild be imprisoned in the common goal of the county to Luzerne for three months, that Ichabod Halsey pay a fine of ten dollars to the commonwealth, and that Salmon Bosworth, Isaac Brownson, Jabez Hyde Jr., and Ephraim Fairchild pay to the said commonwealth each the some of twenty dollars, and that Dimon Bostwick, Nathan Stevens, John Passmore, Asa Lathrop, Samuel Robinson, Seril Peck, Lloyd Goodsel, Joseph Utter, and Ezekiel Mowrey do each of them pay a fine of thirty dollars to the commonwealth. In addition, each was required to give surety in the sum of five hundred dollars for his good behavior for one year, and pay for the cost of the prosecution." The editor makes the following comments: "From a variety of circumstances it is evident the Yankees were not prosecuted so much because they had broken the law, as because they were Connecticut claimants. The Pennsylvania land-holders are believe to have taken a very active part in urging the prosecution. The defendants were indirectly assured if they would purchase the Pennsylvania claim, and relinquish that of Connecticut, intercession should be made with the court to withhold the decision until the next term, or with the governor for a pardon; but, with a firmness which does them the highest honor, they rejected the proposal, and preferred a prison to a sacrifice of their just and equitable claim." The writer adds, "The court has been pleased (with regard to costs) to order a departure from the general practice, and each witness was allowed to demand of each defendant the same fees that formerly the whole would have been obliged to have paid. As there are fourteen of the Yankees, the costs amount to fourteen times as much as the usual practice of the court would allow. The costs, therefore, instead of being eighty-four dollars, amount to more than eleven hundred dollars, which, when added to fines, makes a sum of fifteen hundred and eight-five dollars."
Outbreaks between those in the interest of the opposing parties were of frequent occurrence, some of which will be noticed in the annals of the various townships.
The following are among the closing paragraphs of Col. Horne’s report to the governor:
"Against those who executed relinquishments no prosecutions were instituted, it being understood, in consequence of a communication from your excellency, through the committee of Pennsylvania land-holders, that it would be unnecessary and improper to proceed on the part of the commonwealth, against men who exhibited such unquestionable proof of their attachment to the laws of Pennsylvania.
"In cases where the settlers refused to execute relinquishments, the agent proceeded to the enforcement of the intrusion law and the supplement, by causing a number of the offenders to be bound over to the sessions to answer for their conduct."
Another and still more stringent law, passed April 6, 1802, entitled "an act to maintain the territorial rights of this State," required every conveyance of land within the counties of Luzerne, Lycoming and Wayne, in order "to pass any rights, title, estate, interest, or claim, either at law or equity, to be derived from this State, or the late Proprietaries thereof, before the 4th of July, 1776, and to expressly refer to and recite the substance of the warrant, survey, patent, or title under which the same is derived." It forbade any judge or justice to take the acknowledgment or any recorder of deeds to record any deed or conveyance of land under Connecticut title, "provided that nothing herein contained shall be so construed as to make valid any conveyance heretofore made of any pretended title or claim to land under the colony or State of Connecticut, or either of the companies known by the names of the Connecticut Susquehanna or the Connecticut Delaware company." Also that "no person in any manner interested in the said pretended title or claim shall sit as judge or serve as juror in any cause, civil or criminal, wherein the said pretended claim or title shall or may, directly or indirectly, be brought into question." Lands lying within the seventeen townships were excepted from the penalties of the act.
By these several enactments the half-share men were completely surrounded and cut off, and placed at the mercy of their adversaries. It was made a crime to buy or sell land on their half-share rights, to acknowledge or record their deeds, or to plead their half-share titles in the courts. Every measure was resorted to rather than tamely submit to be driven from their homes by the Pennsylvania claimants.
"At a meeting of delegates from a number of townships in the county of Luzerne, holden at the house of Peter Stevens, in Springfield (Wyalusing), May 22, 1801, to consult and advise on the most safe, prudent, legal, and constitutional method of defense against any suits that are now pending or may hereafter be brought against any settler or settlers under the Connecticut title, Daniel Kinne was chose chairman, and Samuel Baldwin clerk.
"Whereas, the Constitution of the United States provides that the judicial authority shall extend to controversies between citizens of the same State, claiming lands under grants from different States; and, whereas, by the laws of the United States, it is provided that in actions commenced in a State court, the title of land being concerned, and the parties are citizens of the same State, and the matter in dispute exceeds five hundred dollars, etc., if either party before the trial shall state to the court, and make affidavit, if the court request it, that he claims and shall rely upon a right or title to the land under a grant from a State other than that in which the trial is pending, etc., and shall move that the adverse party shall inform the court whether he claims a right or title to the land under a grant from the State in which the suit is pending, the said adverse party shall give such information, or be debarred from pleading such grant or giving it in evidence upon the trial; and if he informs that he does claim under such grant, the party claiming under the grant first mentioned may then, on motion, remove the cause for trial to the next circuit court to be held in the district; and, whereas, we have settled lands under a title from the State of Connecticut antecedent to the settlement of the jurisdiction between the States of Connecticut and Pennsylvania, and do rely upon a right or title to the land under a grant from the State of Connecticut aforesaid, therefore,
"2. That three agents be appointed to appear for us and in our names to support and defend the title to our lands, held and claimed under the aforesaid title, in all suits now pending, or that hereafter may be commenced as aforesaid, with full power and authority to engage counsel learned in the law to appear for us and defend said title in the courts of this State or of the United States.
"3. That Messrs. John Franklin, John Jenkins, and Ezekiel Hyde be, and they are hereby, appointed agents for the purpose aforesaid.
"4. That we will each of us advance our equal proportion in money according to our interest in the aforesaid title, and deposit the same in the hands of our agents, or such other person or persons as they may appoint, for the purpose of maintaining and defending our just title to our lands aforesaid; and we do hereby recommend to all settlers holding lands and relying on the title aforesaid to advance such sums, in proportion to the interest they severally claim and hold under said title, as well enable said agents to employ counsel and defray other necessary expenses in prosecuting and carrying the foregoing resolves into effect.
"5. And whereas it hath been represented to this meeting, by an instrument of writing under the hand of Abraham Horne, Esq., the agent appointed under the act of the General Assembly of this State, passed Feb. 16, 1801, that he is authorized to acquaint the settlers of Luzerne ‘that the Pennsylvania land-holders, agreeable to the instructions given to the agent, are disposed to offer an easy compromise,’ therefore resolved, that our agents be, and they are hereby, directed to receive any proposals that may be made by the Pennsylvania land-holders, or their agents, legally authorized, respecting an amicable compromise of the lands in controversy, and report such proposals to the settlers aforesaid."
These papers have been quoted at length because they show the attitude of the parties towards each other, and are the first of a series of efforts towards effecting a compromise between the conflicting interests.
In a conference between Mr. David Smith and the committee of the land-holders’ association, the matter of compromise was again proposed. As the result of this conference, a meeting of the Susquehanna company was held at Athens, Oct. 20, 1801, and a committee consisting of John Franklin, Samuel Avery, John Jenkins, Ezekiel Hyde, and Samuel Baldwin were appointed for the purpose of opening a correspondence with the land-holders’ committee, and agreeing upon an amicable settlement of the dispute. Under date of Oct. 24, the company’s committee in opening their correspondence say, "Having been advertised that the Pennsylvania land-holders were disposed to offer an easy compromise to the settlers in Luzerne claiming lands under the Connecticut title, and that the committee on the part of the said land-holders had expressed a wish that the claimants under Connecticut, in a general meeting for that purpose, would constitute and empower commissioners to treat with them," they recite that a meeting had been called and themselves appointed a committee to secure a reconciliation of the contested claim by an amicable compromise, continue, "Having an ardent desire, on our part, to prevent litigation, and to put an end to a contest that has been of long duration, and to promote and cultivate peace and harmony with our fellow-citizens, we take the earliest opportunity to advertise our appointment, and to inform you that we are ready, on our part, to open a correspondence on that subject, to receive propositions respecting the mode of proceeding, and to receive, consider of, and answer any propositions that may be made on your part, which may have a tendency to bring about a reconciliation of the contested title."
In reply, the land-holders’ committee, after declaring they had made no other proposals than those contained in the letter to Mr. Bowman, to which they will adhere, declare "they will proceed vigorously to support the government in the execution of the intrusion law and supplement, the last of which was voted for by Mr. Franklin. Convinced of the absolute nullity of the claims of the Susquehanna and Delaware companies, as they are commonly called, the committee can never for a moment think of treating with any men, or body of men, who affect to derive title from those companies, and assume it as a ground of composition. In the mean time, if the settlers come forward, agreeably to the terms specified in the letter to Mr. Bowman, and apply to the individuals who are entitled under Pennsylvania, we declare, with confidence, that such settlers shall have the benefit of those terms, and the committee will use their utmost exertions and influence with his excellency the governor, to prevent any proceedings against them under the said law and supplement."
Early in the following year there was a meeting of the half-share men held at Athens, when, as the committee of land-holders refused to recognize the companies, the same committee were instructed to make the following propositions to the committee of the association:
This was about the last concerted effort made by the half-share men to effect a compromise with the land-holders. In the southern part of the county, where the feeling of opposition was not so strong, small parties of the settlers in the various localities began to give up their Connecticut claims, file their submissions, and acknowledge the Pennsylvania claim. Feb. 14, 1803, a meeting of settlers was held at Wyalusing, at which Messrs. Samuel Avery, Joseph Kingsbury, and John Spaulding were appointed a committee to negotiate with the Pennsylvania claimants, a more kindly spirit began to be manifested, and the way was opened for a successful arrangement of the controversy. On Towanda creek, Mr. Smiley had obtained forty-three relinquishments; at Asylum, the French had purchased both the Connecticut and the Pennsylvania titles; the settlers at Standing Stone gave in their relinquishments to Col. Horne; in Springfield and Claverack the claims of the settlers were confirmed under the compensation law; while in Sheshequin, Ulster, and Athens there were quite a number who either held Pennsylvania titles, or, tired of the contest, were ready to take them. Of this class were Judge Gore, Isaac Cash, Solomon Tracy, and the Paines. In old Ulster, Judge Cooper reported that thirty-three settlers applied for the benefits of the act of 1799. Altogether it was claimed that 160 relinquishments had been signed before the beginning of 1802.
The Sugar Creek settlements, as they were called, held out the longest, and were the most determined in their opposition. At a meeting of the inhabitants and settlers on Sugar Creek settlement, settled under the Connecticut Susquehanna company’s purchase, held at the house of Joseph Ballard (2d), on said creek, Aug. 10, 1803, Nathan Fellows was chosen chairman, and Nathaniel Allen clerk. It was "Resolved, That we have a just, genuine, and regular title to the lands we possess and occupy," etc. They sent a letter to Dr. Rose, the land-holders’ agent, in which they say, "You have, with unwearied pains, traversed every part of our settlement, endeavoring, as far as in your power, to practice on us the vilest impositions, to destroy that harmony which unites us like a band of brothers in the cause of justice. We therefore, sir, hope you will not call on us again, or give us any further trouble about your business, as your conduct has been as impudent and rascally as it is intriguing; and as you have been very solicitous to get our signatures, we hereby subscribe to you," etc.
On July 27, 1804, a Mr. Edward Gobbin was shot through the thigh, at the home of Henry Donnel, near the present village of Mainsburg, in Tioga County. In offering a reward for the perpetrators, the governor says, "I have received information, on oath, that about eighteen persons, dressed like Indians, and said to be employed by persons residing on Sugar Creek, in said county, at the rate of twelve dollars per month, during the summer, to prevent, by force of arms, any person or persons from surveying lands under the laws of Pennsylvania," offers a reward of eight hundred dollars for the arrest and conviction of the principal offender, and four hundred dollars for the arrest of each of his accomplices, and a full pardon to any of the accomplices who shall give information against the principal offender or any of his confederates to any magistrate.
These acts of violence, however, did not meet with the approval of the better class of the settlers. They felt their cause was injured, the laws for the peace of society outraged, and feelings of hostility against them embittered by such lawless proceedings.
Want of support, the increasing number who were securing Pennsylvania
titles, defection in their own ranks, and the growing power of the State,
finally induced the most ultra either to submit to the laws regulating
titles, or leave the State. Many chose the latter, and emigrated into the
State of New York, or into the Western Reserve, so that peace and quiet
were, after so many years of conflict and suffering, finally secured.