Page images

Armstrong's Expedition. Stratagem. Change in Public Sentiment. The Censors. Appeal for Relief.

were a committee appointed by the state council to proceed to Wyoming and disarm both parties. A conference was held, and such was the state of feeling that neither party would listen to the commissioners. Stronger measures were now deemed necessary, and Colonel John Armstrong was sent with a considerable force to establish order in the valley. From Easton he sent forward a detachment, which was captured among the mountains on its way to Wyoming, by Augusts. a party of Connecticut people. Armstrong pushed forward, and on the 4th of Au- 1784. gust reached Wyoming, where his whole force numbered about four hundred men, including the garrison in Wilkesbarre or Dickinson Fort. He found Forty Fort too strong for success. ful attack, and resorted to stratagem. ... He professed pacific intentions, and proposed to the people of all parties to deliver up their arms at Fort Dickinson, and there reclaim any property which they might identify as their own. Numbers of the Connecticut people believed him sincere, went to the fort, delivered up their arms, and were captured. Forty of them were sent to the prison at Sunbury, and nearly as many to Easton. The jailer of the latter place was knocked down by a young man named Inman, and the whole party escaped.a. They returned to the valley in company with about forty Vermonters, and, finding Armstrong and the few men left with him (for a large portion of his men had been discharged when the prisoners were sent to jail) harvesting the crops, they attacked them and drove them into Fort Dickinson. Forty Fort was again garrisoned by the people, and a plan was arranged for recovering the arms which they had surrendered. A blockhouse in which they were stored was attacked, and the arms recovered. Two men in the block-house were mortally wounded. On hearing of this latter event, the executive council sent another expedition to Wyoming, under Armstrong, who was at the same time promoted to the office of adjutant general of the state. But the sympathies of the people of Pennsylvania began to be enlisted in favor of the Wyoming settlers, and they were regarded as a persecuted party. President Dickinson also remonstrated with the Council and General Assembly, but to no purpose." It so happened that about this time the Board of Censors held their septennial meeting. They called upon the Assembly for papers relative to Wyoming. The Assembly refused acquiescence. A mandamus was issued, but the Assembly treated it with contempt. Thus treated, and viewing affairs justly, the Censors openly espoused the cause of the Connecticut people, condemned all of the military proceedings, and passed a vote of censure upon the government of the state. This strengthened the hands and hearts of the Wyoming people. They defied Armstrong and his troops; and as winter was approaching, food scarce, and not a recruit could be obtained, that officer discharged the garrison and returned to Philadelphia. Though relieved of the presence of the military, the condition of the settlers was indeed deplorable. What the spring flood had spared was small, and the presence of the troops had prevented sowing and reaping. They appealed to Congress and to Connecticut for aid,” but they received little more than the cold charity of words—“Be ye clothed, and be ye fed"— without contributing to their necessities. The last military expedition against Wyoming had been accomplished, yet the question of possession was unsettled, and they had but little heart to improve their lands, not knowing how soon other efforts might be made to dispossess them. The population, however, increased rapidly, and for two years quiet prevailed

* September 17.

* Pennsylvania, under its first independent state Constitution, had no officer bearing the title of governor. The government of the commonwealth was vested in a House of Representatives, a president, and council. There was also a Board of Censors, elected by the people, who were to meet once in seven years, to inquire whether the Constitution had, in the mean while, been violated, and to transact other general supervisory business, such as trying impeachments, recommending the repeal of unwholesome laws, &c.

* In their appeal to the Connecticut Assembly they set forth that their “numbers were reduced to about two thousand souls, most of whom were women and children, driven, in many cases, from their proper habitations, and living in huts of bark in the woods, without provisions for the approaching winter, while the Pennsylvania troops and land claimants were in possession of their houses and farms, and wasting and destroying their cattle and subsistence.”

Luzerne. Timothy Pickering in Wyoming. Organization of the County. Memoir of Pickering.

in Wyoming. On the petition of the people, the district of Wyoming and vicinity

were formed into a new county, which they named Luzerne." About this time Colonel Timothy Pickering,” of Massachusetts, but then a resident of Pennsylvania, visited Wyoming, and made himself thoroughly acquainted with the affairs of the valley. He became convinced that the settlers were satisfied with the political system of the state, and were ready to become obedient citizens of the commonwealth if they could be quieted in the possession of their farms. These views he communicated to Dr. Rush and other eminent men in Philadelphia, who, anxious to have an amicable adjustment of the difficulties, proposed to Mr. Pickering to accept of the five principal county offices, and remove to Wyoming; for he, being a New England man, would doubtless exercise great influence over the people. He accepted the proposition and went to Wyoming, bearing to the Connecticut people the full assurance that the Pennsylvania Legislature would pass a law quieting them in their possessions.

Clothed with the necessary power, Colonel Pickering proceeded to hold elections and to organize the county. He succeeded in persuading the people to memorialize the Legislature for a compromise law, the chief provisions of which should be, that, in case the

* So called in honor of the Chevalier de Luzerne, the distinguished embassador from France to the United States during the latter years of the Revolution.

* Timothy Pickering was born in Salem, Massachusetts, on the 17th of July, 1745. He entered Harvard University at the age of fourteen years, and received collegiate honors in 1763. He was elected register of deeds in the county of Essex; and before the Revolution he was a colonel of the Essex militia, and acquired a thorough knowledge of military tactics. When the town meeting was held at Salem in 1774, and an address voted to General Gage on the subject of the Boston Port Bill, Colonel Pickering was appointed to write the address and deliver it in person to the governor. For him is claimed the distinction of conducting the first resistance, in arms, to the power of the mother country. On Sunday, the 26th of February, 1775, an express arrived at Salem from Marblehead with the intelligence that British troops were landing from a transport, with the intention of marching through Salem to seize some military stores in the interior. The people were dismissed from their churches, and, led by Colonel Pickering, they opposed the progress of the British at a draw-bridge. A compromise was effected, the British were compelled to march back to Marblehead, and bloodshed was avoided.* When he heard of the battle of Lexington, Colonel Pickering marched, with his regiment, to intercept the enemy. In 1775 he was appointed a judge of the Court of Common Pleas for Essex. In the fall of 1776, with seven hundred Essex men, he performed duty under Washington, and was with the chief in his retreat across the Jerseys. He was engaged in the battles of Brandywine and Germantown, holding the office and rank of adjutant general. Congress appointed him a member of the Board of War with Gates and Mifflin; and in 1780 he succeeded General Green as quartermaster general. At the close of the war he fixed his residence in Philadelphia, soon after which he was deputed to attempt the settlement of the troubles in Wyoming. He was a member of the convention called to revise the Constitution of Pennsylvania in 1790. Washington appointed him postmaster general in 1791, which office he held nearly four years, when, on the resignation of General Knox, he was appointed Secretary of War. In 1795 Washington made him his Secretary of State, which position he held until 1800, when he was removed by President Adams on political grounds. He was poor on leaving office, and, building a log house for his family upon some wild land that he owned in Pennsylvania, he commenced the arduous duties of clearing it for cultivation. Through the liberality of his friends, he was induced to return to

* Of this exploit, Trumbull, in his MFingal, wrote:

“Through Salem straight, without delay,
The bold battalion took its way;
March'd o'er a bridge, in open sight
of several Yankees arm'd for fight;
Then, without loss of time or men,
Veer'd round for Boston back again,
And found so well their projects thrive,
That every soul got back alive!"


New Difficulties in Wyoming. John Franklin. Arrest of Franklin. Ethan Allen.

commonwealth would grant them the seventeen townships' which had been laid out, and on which settlements had been commenced previous to the decree of Trenton, they would, on their part, relinquish all their claims to any other lands within the limits of the Susquehanna purchase. The law was enacted, but new difficulties arose. Many of the best lands in these townships had been granted by the government of Pennsylvania to its own citizens, in the face of the claims of the Connecticut people. These proprietors must be satisfied. Commissioners were accordingly appointed, under the law, to go to Wyoming to examine and adjust claims on both sides.” They met in May, arranged the preliminaries, and adjourned until August. The law satisfied those within the seventeen townships, but the Connecticut people had extended settlements beyond these limits, and these, excluded from the benefits of the law, were much dissatisfied. It was also said that, pending the negotiations, the Susquehanna Company had been using great exertions to increase the number of settlers in the unincluded districts, and Colonel Pickering positively asserted that gratuitous offers of land were made to such as would come armed, “to man their rights.” The most active man in this alleged movement was John Franklin, whose great popularity enabled him to stir up a violent commotion among the “out-siders"—so violent that the commissioners were obliged to flee from the valley for personal safety. Chief justice M'Kean issued a warrant for the arrest of Franklin, on the charge of high treason. But how should they catch him 2 They could not trust the proper officer, the sheriff of Luzerne eounty, who was living in the midst of the insurgents, as they were called. Four strong, bold men, two of whom had served in the Revolutionary army, were selected for the purpose, and they repaired to Wyoming." Franklin was then thirty-five miles - interfered. Observing the commodistant, exciting the people to arm- o - tion from the window of his house, ed resistance. Preparations were he sallied out with his pistols, and, made for his safe-conduct to Phila- presenting one to the breast of delphia, and, on his return, he was Franklin, kept him quiet while he arrested at the “Red House,” near was securely bound to a horse. the river. It was with great dif. Franklin was carried to Philadelficulty that he was secured, and, as o phia and cast into prison. the people were assembling for his The interference of Colonel Pickrescue, he would doubtless have es: T.I., no... ering greatly exasperated the peocaped, had not Colonel Pickering - ple, and retaliatory measures were immediately adopted. He was informed of the fact that a party was about to seize him,

his native state, out of debt, and a comfortable living in prospect. He was a United States senator in 1803, and again in 1805. He was a member of the Board of War in Massachusetts in 1812, and in 1814 was elected a member of the United States House of Representatives. He retired from public life in 1817, and died in Salem on the 29th of January, 1829, aged eighty-four years. * These townships were Salem, Newport, Hanover, Wilkesbarre, Pittston, Westmoreland, Putnam, Braintree, Springfield, Claverack, Ulster, Exeter, Kingston, Plymouth, Bedford, Huntington, and Providence. These towns were represented as nearly square as circumstances would permit, and to be about five miles on a side, and severally divided into lots of three hundred acres each. Some of these lots were set apart as glebes, some for schools, and others for various town purposes. * The commissioners were Timothy Pickering, William Montgomery, and Stephen Balliott. * About this time “no little sensation was produced in the valley,” says Minor, “by the appearance of the far-famed General Ethan Allen, from Vermont, arrayed in cocked hat and regimentals. The purpose of his visit was as well understood by Pickering as by Franklin and his associates. A grant of several thousand acres was made to him by the Susquehanna Company. How many men he was pledged to lead from the Green Mountains we have no means of ascertaining; but it was not doubted that his object was to reconnoiter, and concert measures for early and decisive action.” *Three of these were Captain Lawrence Erbe, Captain Brady, and Lieutenant M'Cormick. The other name is not known. * The “Red House” is situated upon the street in Wilkesbarre next the river, and about seventy-five rods below the bridge. It is the place where John Franklin was arrested. On his return from a political tour down the valley, he came up by the way of Hanover to Wilkesbarre. While standing near the ferry, an acquaintance came up to him and said, “A friend at the Red House wishes to speak to you.” Franklin walked to the house, where a person caught him from behind, and attempted to pinion his hands. He was a powerful man, and shook off his captors; but, a noose being thrown over his head, he was secured. They


Pickering's Escape to Philadelphia. His Return. Abduction and Treatment. Wyoming quieted. Departure from Wyoming.

and he fled to the mountains, whence he made his way to Philadelphia. The partisans of Franklin now became alarmed. They acknowledged their offense to the council, and prayed for pardon. Under these circumstances, Pickering thought it safe for him to return to his family, particularly as the very people whose acts had driven him away had chosen him a delegate to the General Assembly during his exile ! He returned, but found many of the people still much exasperated against him, and he was often menaced. Finally, one night in June, fifteen ruffians, with painted faces, burst open the door of the room where himself and wife were sleeping, bound him with cords, and in the darkness of the night carried him up the valley. For twenty days he was kept by them in the forest, and subjected to ill treatment in various forms. Sometimes they threatened him with death; then he was manacled and chained, and in this way the miscreants tormented him, and tried to wring from him a letter to the executive council recommending the discharge of Franklin. When this requirement was first proposed, and his own release promised on his compliance, Pickering promptly replied, “The executive council better understand their duty than to discharge a traitor to procure the release of an innocent man.” This determined tone and manner he preserved throughout. They finally released him, and he found his way back to Wilkesbarre, where his death was considered a matter of certainty. Haggard and unshaven, his wife regarded him with consternation, and his children fled from him affrighted. This was the last scene in the drama of violence so long enacted in Wyoming. Franklin was liberated on bail, and finally discharged; and he and Pickering often met as friends in public life afterward. The disputes about land titles and possessions in Wyoming remained unsettled for nearly fifteen years, while the population rapidly increased. Ultimately the claims were all quieted by law, and for the last forty years the sweet vale of Wyoming has presented a beautiful picture of repose and prosperity." We will close the record and retire, for the moon has gone down behind the western hills, and chilly vapors are coming up from the bosom of the river. September 20, I left Wilkesbarre on the mail-coach early on Tuesday morning, for the Lack1848. awanna Valley and the coal regions of Luzerne. The whole of Wyoming was wrapped in a dense fog, and from the driver's box, where I had secured a seat, it was with difficulty that we could observe objects beyond the leaders. The coveted pleasure of another view of the beautiful scenery as we passed along the uplands was denied ; but when we arrived at Pittston, the cool breeze that came through the mountain gateway of the Susquehanna, and from the valley of the Lackawanna, swept away the vapor, and revealed the rich plains at the head of the valley, the majestic curve of the river where it receives its tributary, and the grandeur of its rocky margins toward the north. At the junction of the rivers we turned eastward, and in a few moments Wyoming and all its attractions were left behind, and scenery and associations of a far different cast were around us. The Lackawanna River flows in a deep bed, and its valley, wider than Wyoming, is very rough and hilly, but thickly strewn with fertile spots. Iron and anthracite every where abound; and the latter is so near the surface in many places, that the farmers in autumn quarry out their winter's stock of fuel upon their own plantations with very little labor. Several iron manufactories are seated upon the river between its mouth and Carbondale, and little villages, brought forth and fostered by these industrial establishments, enliven the otherwise ungenial features of the route. At one of these, called Hyde Park, we lunched and changed horses, receiving an addition to our company in the person of a tall, cadaverous Yankee lumberman, who, with a huge musk-melon and jack-knife in his hand, took a seat


then attempted to get him on horseback, when he cried out, “Help, help ! William Slocum ! where is William Slocum?” and, drawing his pistols, discharged one, but without effect. He was felled by a blow, and laid almost senseless. It was seeding time, and nearly all the men were in the fields. But the Yankee blood of Mrs. Slocum (the mother of the “lost sister”) was up, and, seizing a gun, she ran to the door, exclaiming, “William I Who will call William 2 Is there no man here? Will nobody rescue him?”— Minor. Colonel Pickering's dwelling was near the “Red House.” It is still standing, but so modernized that its original character is lost. Chapman, Gordon, Minor, Stone.

A Yankee Lumberman. Carbondale. The Coal Mines. Fatal Accident. Heroic Benevolence of Mr. Bryden.

beside me on the driver's box. Having satisfied his own appetite with the melon, he generously handed the small remainder to the driver and myself; and the moment his jaws ceased mastication, his tongue began to wag like a “mill-tail.” He discoursed fluently, if not wisely, upon the general demerits of sever and ague, whose subject he had been for nearly a year, and upon the particular productiveness of “Varmount.” “It’s a garden of flowers,” he said, “while York state, and all 'tother side on’t, is wild land, raisin' nothin' but snakes and agers.”

“Compared to New England, our horses are colts,
Our oxen are goats, and a sheep but a lamb;
The people poor blockheads and pitiful dolts—
Mere Hottentot children, contrasted with them.”

He was a capital specimen of the genus “brag,” refined by superb Munchausen polish. His voice was a shrill falsetto, and, every word being audible to the passengers, we soon had a laughing chorus within the coach that awoke the echoes of the hills. Approaching Carbondale, the road gently ascends a mountain ridge until all traces of cultivation disappear, and pines and cedars compose the forest. From this rugged height it winds along the steep acclivities; and the mining village, in the bosom of a deep, rocky intervale, may be seen below, at a distance of more than a mile. It was about two o'clock when we arrived at Carbondale. Having two hours leisure before the departure of the mail. coach for Honesdale and the Delaware, I applied to Mr. James Clarkson, the chief surveyor at the mines, for permission to enter one of them. It was cordially granted, and, in company with his assistant, Mr. Alexander Bryden, as guide, I entered the one wherein an appalling circumstance, resulting in the death of several miners, occurred on the morning of the 12th of January, 1846. Indications of danger were observed several months previously in one of the chambers. The pillars of coal and pine logs that supported the roof seemed to be crushing beneath the superincumbent weight, and the chamber was abandoned. Other portions of the mine appeared to be safe, although in some cases the roof of slate was cracked. Suddenly, at about eight o'clock on the morning in question, nearly sixty acres of the hill covering the mines sunk about two feet, crushing every thing beneath it, and producing a powerful concussion. The fall was accompanied by a sound similar to distant thunder, and a shock which was perceptible throughout the village. Fortunately, a large portion of the workmen were at breakfast. Under or beyond the fallen body were about sixty men. The intelligence of the disaster rapidly spread, and general alarm pervaded the town. There were few who did not fear that some relative or friend was buried in the mine. The scene was exceedingly painful, and not easily described. There were daughters, wives, and mothers at the mouth of the mine, in an agony of expectation that a loved one was lost, and for a while it was difficult to enter to attempt a rescue of those within. The superintendents and others proceeded immediately, and at the risk of their own lives, to examine the bounds of the destruction. It was soon perceived that some, whose station must be within the limits of the fall, were probably killed. Beyond the point where the roof was secure, some thirty or more of the men had escaped immediate death, but their situation was truly horrible, having lost their lights, the roof still cracking and breaking around them, and scarcely a hope left of escape from the spot. Mr. Bryden, with courage sustained by love for his fellow-men, boldly entered the mine, and endeavored to reach the point where the men were imprisoned. He succeeded, after much labor, and released them. Informed that a man who had met with a serious accident had been left in another chamber, Mr. Bryden directed his steps thitherward. He found the wounded man, and carried him upon his back to his companions. Within five minutes after Mr. Bryden left the chamber with his burden of life, the passage he had traversed was entirely closed by the crushed pillars of coal. Among those known to have been at about the center of the fall a short time before the occurrence, was a young Scotchman named Hosea, another of the superintendents. Diligent search was made for him on that and the succeeding day without success. On the third day, while a party were in search of him, he emerged from the mines unaided, having

« PreviousContinue »