The Struggle for Independence along Pennsylvania's Revolutionary Frontier
Publication Year: 2007
Northeast Pennsylvania's Wyoming Valley was truly a dark and bloody ground, the site of murders, massacres, and pitched battles. The valley's turbulent history was the product of a bitter contest over property and power known as the Wyoming controversy. This dispute, which raged between the mid-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries, intersected with conflicts between whites and native peoples over land, a jurisdictional contest between Pennsylvania and Connecticut, violent contention over property among settlers and land speculators, and the social tumult of the American Revolution. In its later stages, the controversy pitted Pennsylvania and its settlers and speculators against "Wild Yankees"-frontier insurgents from New England who contested the state's authority and soil rights.
In Wild Yankees, Paul B. Moyer argues that a struggle for personal independence waged by thousands of ordinary settlers lay at the root of conflict in northeast Pennsylvania and across the revolutionary-era frontier. The concept and pursuit of independence was not limited to actual war or high politics; it also resonated with ordinary people, such as the Wild Yankees, who pursued their own struggles for autonomy. This battle for independence drew settlers into contention with native peoples, wealthy speculators, governments, and each other over land, the shape of America's postindependence social order, and the meaning of the Revolution. With vivid descriptions of the various levels of this conflict, Moyer shows that the Wyoming controversy illuminates settlement, the daily lives of settlers, and agrarian unrest along the early American frontier.
Published by: Cornell University Press
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Title Page, Copyright
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This project ﬁrst germinated in my mind during a graduate research seminarI took with Carol Sheriffat the College ofWilliam and Mary. It was with herguidance and encouragement that I developed the idea ofexamining the inter-section between daily life and agrarian unrest—a concept that has guided thisproject ever since. When I selected the Wyoming controversy for the topic of...
A Note on Terminology
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I use the terms settlers, farmers, and backcountry inhabitants interchangeablythroughout this work to designate non-Native frontier inhabitants, knowingfull well that Indians also settled, farmed, and inhabited the land. I refer tothose who held land under Pennsylvania as Pennamites, Pennsylvania claimants,or at times, just Pennsylvanians. Likewise, I use the terms Connecticut claimant,...
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The Wyoming Valley occupies a roughly twenty-mile stretch ofthe Susque-hanna River between the mouths of Nanticoke Creek and the LackawannaRiver. “Wyoming” is a corruption of the Delaware word Maughwauwam,which translates into “the large plains.” The name certainly described the wide,fertile ﬂats that bordered each side ofthe Susquehanna before the land rose into...
1“Among Quarrelsome Yankees, InsidiousIndians, and Lonely Wilds”
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On July 20, 1775, the Reverend Philip Vickers Fithian prepared to set outfrom Sunbury, Pennsylvania, up the north branch of the Susquehanna River.Fithian, a New Jersey native, graduate ofPrinceton, and one-time tutor in theemploy ofthe powerful Virginia planter Robert Carter, had received a licensefrom the Presbytery of Philadelphia the previous December to make mission-...
2“A Great Many Wrangling Disputes”
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County magistrate David Mead found himselfunder siege. His troubles beganin the winter when Connecticut claimants started to harass Pennsylvania set-tlers and force them from their lands. In the spring, this trickle ofdispossessionsbecame a ﬂood as Yankees systematically cleared the Wyoming Valley of Pen-namite settlers. Mead gathered evidence against the rioters and sent reports to...
3“A Dangerous Combination of Villains”
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On the night of June 26, 1788, a band of Yankee insurgents crept intoWilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, broke into the home of Luzerne county clerkTimothy Pickering, and entered the room where he, his wife Rebecca, andtheir nine-month-old son slept. Startled awake, Pickering asked who wasthere, to which he received the curt reply, “get up.” Pickering got out ofbed...
4“All the Difficulties of Forminga New Settlement”
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In October 1792, frontier entrepreneur and Pennsylvania land speculatorSamuel Wallis led a group of men up Tunkhannock Creek to survey landsclaimed by Samuel Meredith and other Philadelphia merchants. Wallis’s surveywas interrupted when Wild Yankees lying in ambush ﬁred on his workmen.No one was injured but a musket ball smacked into a tree, narrowly missing...
5“A Perfect Union with the People”
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By the summer of 1804, Yankee settlers along Sugar Creek found them-selves struggling to shield their community from intruding sheriff’s deputies,surveyors, and land agents. In the spring, they got word that a group ofPenn-sylvania surveyors were at work near their settlements. Three parties ofsettlersscoured the woods for the Pennsylvanians but failed to intercept them. A short...
6“Poor and Ignorant butIndustrious Settlers”
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The chiefagent ofthe Pennsylvania Landholders’ Association, Robert Rose,made his way to Sugar Creek in July 1803 with the aim of subduing its WildYankees. Knowing that the only way to conquer resistance was to break itdown one person at a time, he hoped to meet individually with each house-holder along the creek. The settlers upset this plan when they intercepted Rose...
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In rural communities across early America, a few leading inhabitants stoodabove their neighbors in terms ofwealth and social status. In Northeast Pennsyl-vania, one such man was Bartlett Hinds. A Revolutionary War veteran who of-ten went by the title “Captain,” Hinds was no ordinary frontier settler. A nativeof Boston, Massachusetts, he came to the Susquehanna Valley in 1800. Once...
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On March 1, 1831, the most notable ofNortheast Pennsylvania’s Yankee no-tables, John Franklin, died in his Athens home at the age of eighty-one. At thetime of his death, he possessed a 580-acre farm, a sawmill, a horse, some live-stock, and a house. Assessors valued Franklin’s personal property at $316.20. Hissingle most valuable possession was a clock worth $15. Franklin was well offbut...
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Page Count: 232
Publication Year: 2007