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of the state; little attention was given to the petition forwarded to the government by the convention. The legislature met in September following, passed some stringent laws against disorderly and riotous meetings of the people, suspended the writ of habeas corpus, eight months, and took some measures to relieve the public burthens. The disturbances continued and several of the leaders were arrested and confined in Boston jail. The main object of these people seems to have been to prevent the sittings of the courts of common pleas which they alleged imposed a heavy burden on the public. About 1000 met at Worcester, but committed no other offense than to place guards round the houses where the judges put up, to prevent them from holding the courts. While here, Daniel Shays urged them to proceed to Boston and release by force the prisoners confined in jail there.
The project was not carried out. They obstructed the holding of the courts in some of the western counties in the state. They afterwards made an attempt, in 1787, to take the Springfield arsenal. They were met by Gen. Shepard at the head of 1000 militia, and after having three men killed the rest dispersed.
These rebels, as they were called, then petitioned for a pardon for the offenses committed by them, but it was refused because they stated they had reason to complain of the wrongs and sufferings they endured. They had collected in a considerable body at Petersham in the winter of 1787-8, when they were surprised by General Lincoln, who took 150 prisoners, and the remainder returned home or left the state. This was the last of the famous Shay's rebellion. No lives were lost except on the part of these disaffected people. They do not seem to have aimed at the overthrow of the government, but sought relief from unbearable burthens. They took an unwise course. The remedy did not lay in that direction. John Hancock was again elected governor in the spring of 1788. He was a moderate politician of the federal school. The state was federal when the people arranged themselves into parties. In the western part, the seat of these disturbances, the anti-federalists or republicans contended resolutely for victory at the first election under the federal or national constitution, and in some places had a majority. The head and front of this offending could not have been very grievous. There were no executions for treason. There can be no doubt the government of the state was at that time very exacting and intolerant, and the people had not then learned the true method of self-government.
In resuming the history of the county, after the above digression, it may be proper to state the following persons were appointed justices of the peace; ou the 27th March, 1790, George Henry Bell, John Frank, Henry Dygert, Michael Myers and John Bowman, and on the 17th February, 1791, Henry Staring, Michael Myers, John Frank, Patrick Campbell, William Veeder, William Dygert, Jun., Moses Foot, Benjamin Bowen, Hanyost Schoonmaker, Melchert Folts, Lodowick Campbell, Johannes Finck and Abraham Hardenburgh. These persons are believed to have then lived within the limits of this county.
Soon after President Adams's famous stamp act went into operation, and the agent for vending stamps had been furnished with them to sell, the people in different parts of the county became a good deal excited, and a combination was set on foot to destroy the obnoxious stamps, or prevent their being sold. At the fall musters or trainings, the people marched down from the hills, north and south, and up from the valleys, to Herkimer, "armed and equipped as the law directed," to make war on the stamps, with field piece ready charged. They tore down the agent's sign, demanded of him a promise that he would not sell the paper eagles, and otherwise behaved somewhat noisily, but committed no other act of violence. It was a bloodless affair. A number of the leading men were indicted and taken to Albany under arrest, when Governor Jay met them, and after giving them sound and judicous advice sent them home. One can not help thinking that the worthy governor was somewhat annoyed, during the conference, with the reflection "that he, not long before, had been in arms against his king and the mother country on account of stamps and stamped paper."
In March or April, 1804, the county clerk's office was consumed by fire with all the records and papers it contained. Mr. Joab Griswold had held the office of county clerk from March 19th, 1798, and Mr. Elihu Griswold was appointed in his place April 6th, 1804. The office was burned in the night, and it had been arranged previously that the new incumbent should take possession of the office the day after the fire occurred.
"In the war with Great Britain, declared by the United States on the 18th day of June, 1812," the militia of Herkimer county behaved nobly. They claimed no exemption from service when the governor ordered them to the frontier to protect and defend the state from hostile aggression or foreign invasion. It is no disparagement to the militia of any other county, to say the Herkimer militia met these calls and suffered the privations of the camp with a patriotic devotion and zeal not excelled by any of them.
A detached regiment under Col. C. P. Bellinger, had been ordered to Sacketts Harbor before war was declared, under a six months' draft. Others followed soon after, and in 1813 and 1814, volunteers, detached, and the militia en mass, were on the lake and St. Lawrence frontier nearly the whole time. Companies and regiments succeeding others, whose terms of service had expired. The pay granted by the United States was no compensation to the farmer and mechanic, and substituted service could only be afforded by the wealthy. If the sacrifice was great, each man could well console himself with the reflection that he had done his duty to his country. Governer Tompkins bestowed high praise upon the citizen soldiers of Herkimer county, and it was well deserved.
It is now more than forty years since these events happened, and many farms have been and are being located under the operation of the bounty land laws of 1850 and 1855, by the descendants and relatives of those who performed the military service. Although a land recipient under the former law, I can not admire a policy which is dictated by a present expediency and not by a rule of equal and exact justice. There are thousands who are excluded, whose husbands and fathers performed service as meritorious as any now living; and there are other thousands, long since laid in their graves, to whom this little pittance would have been grateful; whose hunger it would have assuaged, and whose cold and palsied limbs it would have warmed. But these can not vote now. They are tenants of the graveyard, under an eternal lease; an immovable fixture, and can not swell the population of the illimitable west.
The restoration of peace with Great Britain in 1815, found our population in a state of universal embarrassment, which they did not recover from fully in ten years. The merchants with large stocks of goods on hand, found themselves undersold by more than one-half on the new importations. A series of cold and unproductive seasons, from 1816 to 1820, had cut off the surplus of agricultural products. Farming lands during the war had been sold at very high prices, and were eagerly sought for at nearly four times the value they bore from 1817 to 1825. The county did not produce exportable commodities sufficient to balance the mercantile imports, and shinplasters were the circulating medium. Cheesman's plasters were a more sure remedy for the public ailments than his balsams. Lands sold during the war at such prices that the purchaser, who paid one-third of the consideration money at the sale, and kept the interest on the balance paid up, could not the first ten years after the peace sell them for a price sufficient to pay the balance of principal due. In other words he could not give them away and get indemnity against his bond. The state expenditures in constructing the Erie canal gave some relief; but the completion and opening of that great work brought the graingrowing regions of the west into direct competition with the then staple agricultural product of the county, wheat. The Mohawk valley had more than seventy-five years enjoyed, without competition from the west, the advantages of the Albany and eastern markets. The county recovered slowly from its depressed and embarrassed condition. It lost, however, very considerable of its German population between 1818 and 1830.
The Asiatic cholera has never prevailed in the county to much extent. On its first appearance in this country in 1832, when fright and apprehension nearly paralyzed the whole community, a few cases occurred in several of the villages, most of them fatal, and along the canal. Since that time, however, the county has been nearly exempt from that dreadful pestilence.
In the years 1833, 1834 and 1835, the legislature authorized the supervisors of the county to contract loans to the amount of $ 10,300 to erect a new jail and purchase a site for it. An annual tax was also levied to reimburse the principal of these loans by installments and pay the interest. The building is of stone, procured at Little Falls, strong and permanent. The interior arrangements are such as to afford comfort to and insure the safety of offenders. Martin Easterbrooks contracted to complete the mason work, and Edmund Varney, Cornelius T. E. Van Horn, Isaac S. Ford, Jacob F. Christman, Warner Folts, Frederick P. Bellinger and Charles Gray, were the commissioners appointed to superintend the erection of the jail.
On the night of January 25th, 1834, the old court house and jail was destroyed by fire. This was an old two-story structure of wood, and had been standing many years.