« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »
was invaded by a throng of pioneers, who came to clear the land and upon it build their homes. These were, for the most part, young men with little money, who had not the means to purchase lands in the older settlements where the prices were much higher. Some (though these were in the minority) possessed means, and were either original proprietors or those who had purchased from the proprietors vast acres of land, because they foresaw in speculation an opportunity to increase largely their fortunes, and were willing to bear the privations necessary for that end.
During the progress of the wars, farmer soldiers, in passing through, had noted the fertile lands and recognized their possibilities. Rangers, many of whom were hunters and trappers, when on their perilous missions, had penetrated the forest wherever led an Indian trail or could be paddled the light canoe, and so had come to know what of value the forest held for them. Lumbermen had discovered its wealth of pine, oak, and other trees, and were casting greedy eyes upon this longtime hunting-ground and highway. Manufacturers and millwrights were not blind to the power locked up in the swift-running streams, and knew that their hands had the cunning to undo the lock.
As most of these soldiers were of New England origin, it came to pass that the settlers of the Wilderness were mainly of the good old Puritan stock, from the older set. tlements of Massachusetts and Connecticut, men of strong constitutions and industrious habits.
Rapid Growth of Settlements.—Old war-paths now became the ways of peace; and the rapidity with which settlements sprang into existence was remarkable, considering the difficulties which existed in the way of travel. No settlement was made in Bennington till 1761, though its charter was granted twelve years previous to that time; but so rapid was its growth that in 1765 its inhabitants numbered 1,000; and it had mills, a church, schools, and a militia company. Guilford, settled about the same time, soon became the largest town in the State as to numbers, and remained so for some years.
Colonial Charters.--The kings of England, who made large grants in this country, must have been densely ignorant of the vast extent of the lands in America, as is shown by the charters granted, which were often very vague in their phrasing. The charters of Massachusetts and Connecticut gave to these colonies all lands extending westward to the Pacific Ocean, excepting any lands which might come in between that had previously been settled by other Christian nations. New York's charter, granted in 1614, some years previous to either of these, gave to the Dutch all lands lying between the Connecticut River and the east shore of Delaware Bay. When, fifty years later, New York came into the possession of the English, King Charles gave to his brother, the Duke of York, all lands included in the early charter.
But in the meantime settlements had been made in both Massachusetts and Connecticut beyond the Connecticut River on land claimed alike by New York and these colonies. The matter had been amicably settled, however ; and now for a long time it had been generally understood, both in England and America, that the eastern boundary of New York was a line twenty miles east of Hudson River and running parallel to it. This was plainly shown by the records and maps of that time.
New York Lays Claim to the New Hampshire Grants.No sooner did Lieutenant-Governor Colden, of New York,
learn that Governor Wentworth was granting townships west of the Connecticut, than he began to covet for himself the profits of those lands, and commanded Wentworth to desist : and when, after the close of the French and Indian War, the granting was renewed with so much vigor, Governor Colden sent out a proclamation laying claim for New York to all that territory between Lake Champlain and the Connecticut River. He insisted that Governor Wentworth had no right to make such grants, and ordered the sheriff of Albany County to report to him the names of all persons who, under the government of New Hampshire, were holding lands west of Connecticut River, that they might be dealt with according to law. Wentworth, in no way intimidated, kept on making grants, at the same time encouraging those who had begun settlements “to be industrious in clearing and cultivating their lands.”
To substantiate his claims, Governor Colden produced the old charter granted by Charles Second to the Duke of York, 100 years before, which gave the Duke all lands included in the old Dutch charter, making the Connecticut River the eastern boundary of New York.
New Hampshire's Defense.- New Hampshire refused to recognize this claim as valid, it being too remote. Moreover, when the line was run between New Hampshire and Massachusetts, it had been extended west to a line twenty miles east of Hudson River and running parallel to it, which must, therefore, have been considered at that time New Hampshire's western limit. Furthermore the king had repeatedly affirmed that Fort Dummer ought to be maintained by New Hampshire, as it was stationed upon her territory ; and Fort Dummer was well known to be situated west of the Connecticut River.
Dispute Settled.-Finally representatives were sent to England with a petition to the king, purporting to be from the settlers, affirming that it would be for their advantage to be annexed to New York, and asking that the Connecticut River be made the eastern boundary of that colony. The settlers subsequently denied having ever signed any such paper or having any knowledge of it.
Acting upon this petition, the king, in 1764, declared the eastern boundary of New York to be the west bank of the Connecticut River. This decision does not seem to have been founded on the ancient charter at all, but on a supposed appeal from the grantees themselves.
Governor Wentworth at first demurred, but at length abandoned the contest, recommending to the proprietors and settlers due obedience to the new jurisdiction ; but certain acts of New York officials now made it impossible for the settlers to follow Governor Wentworth's suggestions. The grantees were at once plunged into a long contest, from which they were destined to emerge only after many years. Before following them farther in this, perhaps it would be well to take a glimpse of the home life and customs of the pioneer and his family. It must not be understood, however, as being a representation of the life peculiar to the people of this period alone, for the customs of our early ancestors did not change materially for many years ; and such changes as did come were of the kind naturally bronght about as the result of increased prosperity.
HOME LIFE OF THE EARLY SETTLER
The Pioneer and his family. The pioneer did not always bring his family with him when he made his first journey into the Wilderness. Sometimes he came alone, sometimes he was attended by one or two other sturdy woodsmen, who had accompanied him hither with an object like his own, that of preparing homes for themselves and families, or perhaps as hired help to our pioneer. They had little equipment save axes, guns, and corn-meal, as they paddled their slow-moving boats along the waterways, with now no fear of an ambush, or made their way through the unbroken virgin forests, blazing the trees as they went.
The journey ended, the first task was that of clearing the land ; and now, perhaps for the first time, the silence of the woods was broken with the stroke of the ax, and for the first time the Wilderness resounded with the echoes of toil. Right speedily a space was cleared, sufficiently large for a cabin and the first planting; and the manner of effecting such clearing was most ingenious. Finding a number of trees in a line, the pioneer partly chopped each one ; then felling a large one at one end, he let this fall against the second, which, falling, brought down the third, and so on.
Some of the logs were used in constructing the log house, while others were piled up and burned ; and the