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Wild Yankees

The Struggle for Independence along Pennsylvania's Revolutionary Frontier

Paul B. Moyer

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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pp. 1-2

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 3-8


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pp. vii-10


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pp. ix-12

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pp. xi-xii

This project first germinated in my mind during a graduate research seminar I took with Carol Sheriff at the College of William and Mary. It was with her guidance and encouragement that I developed the idea of examining the intersection between daily life and agrarian unrest—a concept that has guided this...

A Note on Terminology

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pp. xiii-16


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pp. xv-xvi

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Introduction: A Farmer’s Revolution

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pp. 1-12

The Wyoming Valley occupies a roughly twenty-mile stretch of the Susquehanna River between the mouths of Nanticoke Creek and the Lackawanna River. “Wyoming” is a corruption of the Delaware word Maughwauwam, which translates into “the large plains.” The name certainly described the wide,...

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1. “Among Quarrelsome Yankees, Insidious Indians, and Lonely Wilds”: Natives, Colonists, and the Wyoming Controversy

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pp. 13-36

On July 20, 1775, the Reverend Philip Vickers Fithian prepared to set out from Sunbury, Pennsylvania, up the north branch of the Susquehanna River. Fithian, a New Jersey native, graduate of Princeton, and one-time tutor in the employ of the powerful Virginia planter Robert Carter, had received a license...

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2. “A Great Many Wrangling Disputes”: Authority, Allegiance, Property, and the Frontier War for Independence

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pp. 37-64

In the summer of 1785, Pennsylvania claimant and Northumberland County magistrate David Mead found himself under siege. His troubles began in the winter when Connecticut claimants started to harass Pennsylvania settlers and force them from their lands. In the spring, this trickle of dispossessions...

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3. “A Dangerous Combination of Villains”: The Social Context of Agrarian Resistance

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pp. 65-93

On the night of June 26, 1788, a band of Yankee insurgents crept into Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, broke into the home of Luzerne county clerk Timothy Pickering, and entered the room where he, his wife Rebecca, and their nine-month-old son slept. Startled awake, Pickering asked who was...

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4. “All the Difficulties of Forming a New Settlement”: Frontier Migration, Land Speculation, and Settler Insurgency

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pp. 94-119

In October 1792, frontier entrepreneur and Pennsylvania land speculator Samuel Wallis led a group of men up Tunkhannock Creek to survey lands claimed by Samuel Meredith and other Philadelphia merchants. Wallis’s survey was interrupted when Wild Yankees lying in ambush fired on his workmen...

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5. “A Perfect Union with the People”: Cultures of Resistance along the Revolutionary Frontier

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pp. 120-147

By the summer of 1804, Yankee settlers along Sugar Creek found themselves struggling to shield their community from intruding sheriff ’s deputies, surveyors, and land agents. In the spring, they got word that a group of Pennsylvania surveyors were at work near their settlements. Thr ee parties of settlers...

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6. “Poor and Ignorant but Industrious Settlers”: Frontier Development and the Path to Accommodation

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pp. 148-174

The chief agent of the Pennsylvania Landholders’ Association, Robert Rose, made his way to Sugar Creek in July 1803 with the aim of subduing its Wild Yankees. Knowing that the only way to conquer resistance was to break it down one person at a time, he hoped to meet individually with each householder...

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7. “Artful Deceivers”: Yankee Notables and the Resolution of the Wyoming Controversy

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pp. 175-195

In rural communities across early America, a few leading inhabitants stood above their neighbors in ter ms of wealth and social status. In Nor theast Pennsylvania, one such man was Bartlett Hinds. A Revolutionary War veteran who often went by the title “Captain,” Hinds was no ordinary frontier settler. A native...

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Epilogue: Closing the Revolutionary Frontier

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pp. 196-200

On March 1, 1831, the most notable of Northeast Pennsylvania’s Yankee notables, John Franklin, died in his Athens home at the age of eighty-one. At the time of his death, he possessed a 580-acre farm, a sawmill, a horse, some livestock, and a house. Assessors valued Franklin’s personal property at $316.20. His...

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 201-209


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pp. 211-216

E-ISBN-13: 9780801461729
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801444944

Page Count: 232
Publication Year: 2007

Edition: 1