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CHARTER OF NORWICH, VERMONT,
NAMES OF THE ORIGINAL PROPRIETORS :
BRIEF HISTORICAL NOTES.
THE KEV. EDMUND F. SLAPTER, A.M.
00&. sso't h. b. msT. anNrsooisTT.
Beprinted from the "Sew EzTGLiHD Hzstobioal ahd OiirKALOGiOAL Bsgistbb for Jan., 1869.
DAVID CLAPP & SON, PRINTERS.
^% i^^^^• W
CHARTER OF NORWICH, VERMONT.
The towns in the State of Vermont, chartered by Governor Ben-
ning Wentworth, are known as the New-Hampshire Grants. The
boundary between the colony of Massachusetts- Bay and the province
of New-Hampshire, which had long been in controversy, was settled
by a decision of the king in council in 1740, and gave to the province
of New-Hampshire a large area of territory hitherto conceded by all
parties to belong to the former, and the boundary then fixed is the
same that exists between the States of Massachusetts and New-Hamp-
shire at the present time. After this line had been established, New-
Hampshire claimed as her western boundary a line running from the
western border of Massachusetts to the southern point of Lake Cham-
plain, at a distance twenty miles east of the Hudson river. After the
close of the war between France and England in 1 748, it became
practicable for New-Hampshire to extend her border settlements.
Accordingly on the 3d of January, 1149, Governor Benning Went-
worth issued his first grant of a tcfwnship within the limits of the pre-
sent State of Vermont, which he called Bennington, in obvious allu-
sion to his own name.
From the issue of this charter a controversy between New- York
and New-Hampshire immediately arose relating to their boundary
line, the former claiming to the Connecticut river, while the lat-
ter persistingly demanded a line twenty miles east of the Hudson.
The contest was carried on by correspondence, proclamation and coun-
ter-proclamation, and finally by appeal to the king in council. On
the 20th of July, 1164, a decision was rendered constituting the
" western banks of the river Connecticut from where it enters the
Province of the Massachusetts Bay, as far north as the forty-fifth
degree of northern latitude, to be the boundary line between the said
two Provinces of New Hampshire and New York." After a feeble
remonstrance, New-Hampshire withdrew from the contest and yielded
her claim. But the struggle was yet to come. In the mean time,
while the controversy was going forward. Governor Wentworth had
vigorously pushed the work of granting new townships, and when
the order in council was received by him, the number of townships
granted had reached a hundred and twenty-eight ; a large body of set-
tlers had established themselves on the territory in question, claiming
under the grants of the royal governor of New-Hampshire ; forests had
been felled, houses had been erected, and by the cultivation of the soil
the settlers had greatly enhanced J;he value of their property. It was
a matter of comparatively small moment to them, whatever might
have been their preference, whether their territory belonged to the
one province or the other, provided their rights of property were held
sacred and undisturbed.
But in the mean time the governors of New- York had granted the
lands to other parties which had already been granted by the governor
of New-Hampshire, and had adopted the extraordinary policy of re-
4 Charier o/Nortvich, Vermont.
garding the rights of the New-Hampshire settlers as null and void
notwithstanding they held under a royal charter, and had made known
his purpose to dispossess them of their lands, or require them to re-
purchase them of his New- York grantees. But the honest and hardy
pioneers of the Green-Mountains, bringing from their homes in Con-
necticut, Massachusetts and New-Hampshire a large degree of enter-
prise, energy and determination, did not for a moment entertain the
thought of yielding to this unreasonable demand. Kemonstrances
against the conduct of New- York were laid before the king in coun-
cil, and an order was issued, in peremptory terms, requiring the gov-
ernor of New-York to make no more grants till his Majesty's further
pleasure should be known. But little heed was given to the orders
of the king in council. Grants were still made, writs of ejectment
were issued, sheriffs and surveyors appeared on the grants. But they
were not permitted to accomplish their purpose. The settlers assem-
bled in arms, and though no collisions took place, the agents of New-
York justly regarding " discretion as the better part of valor,'' made
a hasty retreat to Albany without executing their orders. From this
time the inhabitants of the grants may be regarded as an independent
people. After the war of the American revolution broke out, they be-
gan to act in convention, and continued so to do, encountering un-
ceasing opposition on the part of New-York, until by act of the Con-
gress they were admitted, on the 4tlf of March, 1791, under the name
of Vermont, as one of the United States of America. For a full state-
ment of this whole controversy, of engrossing interest to the student
of our colonial history, an outline of which we have very imper-
fectly sketched, we refer the reader to the able and exhaustive work,
by the Hon. Hiland Hall, entitled ''The Early History of Vermont,"
just from the press of Mr. Joel Munsell.
The charters issued by Gov. Benning Wentworth of towns in the
'' Grants," were all alike, being filled up from printed blanks, varying
only in title, boundaries, the number of acres covered, and the names
of the grantees. We have copied, and present here, the charter of
Norwich, which may serve as a type of the whole. The italics indi-
cate the words that were written into the printed form. It will be
noticed that among the reservations for religious and educational pur-
poses, the governor himself was to receive 500 acres to his own per-
sonal right. And this reservation for himself he made in all the grants.
The propriety of this proceeding might at first blush be properly
questioned, and perhaps in other circumstances it would have been
wrong. But if he bore his part of the burdens, the taxes levied for
the construction of roads and other necessary expenditures, his inte-
rest and influence in facilitating settlements may have been of great
value to the grantees, and would go far to compensate for the appa-
rent selfishness in taking such a generous moiety of what he seemed
to be officially giving to others. ^
The grantees of the township of Norwich, whose names are attached
to the original charter, and which we here insert, were mostly from
Mansfield, Conn., and towns adjacent, with the exception of a few
which we recognize as being from Portsmouth, N. H., and its vicinity.
t The town was organized as provided in the charter, at a meeting
It held on the 26th of August, 1761, at the house of Mr. Wm. Water-
man, in Mansfield, Conn., and what is commonly called the " March
Charter o/Norwichj Vermont. 5
meeting'' continued to be held at the same place until 1T68, at which
SL full board of town officers was annually elected.
But the proprietors held meetings of the corporators from time to
tinie to take measures for the speedy settlement of the town, for divid-
ing* their lands, and raising money for current expenses. The records
of these proceedings were transcribed by the writer a few years since,
for preservation, the leaves on which they were written having fallen
ixom their binding, and being generally in a state of dissolution.
As it is hardly probable that many of the '' corporation-records " of
any of the towns are preserved, we give below the proceedings of the
first meeting of the proprietors of Norwich, as indicating the first
steps usually taken at that time for the settlement of a new town :
* ' At a meeting of ye proprietors of Norwich in New Hampshire on
Wednesday ye 26*^ day of August, A.D. 1T61, sd meeting at the
dwelling house of Mr W"* Waterman, innholder in Mansfield in
ye Colony of Connecticut.
1 . Eleazer Wales was chosen Moderator of s^ meeting.
2. Eleazer Wales was made choice offer proprietors clerk.
3. Voted that Mr. Sam^ West, Capt. Abner Barker and Mr. Andrew
Crocker should be proprietors Committee ye current year.
4. Elisha Carpenter was chosen collector for the said proprietors, and
6. Samuel Slafter chose Treasurer.
6. Samuel West, Capt. Abner Barker and Andrew Crocker were made
choice of for assessors for q^ proprietors.
T. Voted that ye proprietors Committee should have power to call
proprietors meeting for ye future by inserting ye time and place
of s^ meeting with ye business to be transacted or done in ye
Boston Gazette three weeks successively before ye s^ meeting.
8. Voted that Capt. Abner Barker, Andrew Crocker, Adoniram Grant,
Solomon Wales and Amos Fellows be a Committee to allot some
of ye land in ye Township of Norwich as soon as may be.
9. Voted that ye Committee should allot to each proprietor an equal
share of ye interval lying on ye river.
10. Voted that in ye regard to ye number of acres in ye shares of ye
second division it shall be left discretionary with ye Committee.
1 1. Voted that each proprietor should forthwith pay to ye Treasurer
ye sum of ten shillings for to defray ye Committees charge in all
matters of said land.
12. Voted that proprietors meeting should be held at Mr. William
Waterman's ye current year.
13. Voted that said Committee should lay out ye one-acre lot accord-
ing to ye direction of ye grant.''
The spelling of the name in the charter with an h, following the w,
we presume to have been a lapsus pennce. It does not appear to have
been followed even in the organization of the town.
Only a few of the grantees became actual settlers. Many conveyed
their rights to their children, or sold them to others. Perhaps more
would have become actual settlers had not their rights been called in
question by the claims put forth by New- York. Hezekiah Johnson,
a descendant* of the renowned Capt. Edward Johnson of Woburn, was
from Mansfield ; he became a settler and was a leading citizen for
many years ; he presented to the town the cemetery at the mouth of
Ompompanoosuc river. Jacob Fenton, of Mansfield, came for the pur-
— " ^1-^-w^
6 Charter of Normch, Vermont.
pose of settling, but died on the 16 July, 1T63, and was the first white*
man who died within the township : from him is lineally descended
the Hon. Keuben-Eaton Fenton, the present governor of New- York.
From Samuel Slaffcer, the first treasurer of the proprietors, is desbend-
ed the Hon. David G. Slafter, of Worth, Mich., the Hon. Judge Jew-
ett, of Niles, Mich., as also John G. Saxe, LL.D., and the Hon. Abra-
ham B. Gardner, of Bennington, late Lieut.-Governor of Vermont.
Mr. S. conveyed his rights to his son, who became a settler in 1163,
and was prominent in the affairs of the town for more than forty years.
Adoniram Grant was of Coventry, Ot. ; from his brother is line-
ally descended Gen. Ulysses-Simpson Grant, the President-elect of
the United States. (See " Grant Family,'' ante, vol. xxi.)
The tax of " one ear of Indian com annually," to be paid on the 25th
of December, perhaps as a Christmas present to the governor, we
presume was never "lawfully demanded." The "proclamation
money " was of course never paid, as New-Hampshire had yielded
her claim to the "territory of the Grants " before it became due.
g L.S. a
Province of New-Hampshire.
George the Third By the Grace of God, of
Great Britain, France and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, &c.
To all Persons to whom these Presents shall come, Greeting.
Know ye, that We of our special grace, certain knowledge and
mere motion, for the due encouragement of settling a new plantation
within our said Province, by and with the advice of our trusty and
well-beloved Benning Wentworth, Esq., our Governor and Commander
in Chief of our said Province of New-Hampshire, in New-England,
and of our council of said Province, Have upon the conditions and
reservations herein after made, given and granted, and by these pre-
sents, for us, our heirs and successors, do give and grant in equal
shares, unto our loving subjects, inhabitants of our said Province of
New-Hampshire and our other Governments, and to their heirs and
assigns forever, whose names are entered in this Grant, to be divided
to and amongst them into Sixty nine equal shares, all that tract or
parcel of land situate, lying and being within our said Province of
New-Hampshire, containing by admeasurement. Twenty three Thou-
sand acres, which tract is to contain Six miles square, and no more,
out of which an allowanpe is to be made for high-ways and unimprove-
able lands by rocks, ponds, mountains and rivers, one thousand and
forty acres free, according to a plan and survey thereof, made by our
said Governor's order, and returned into the Secretary's office, and
hereunto annexed, butted and bounded as follows, viz. — Beginning at
a Hemlock tree marked with the figures 5 d^ Six that stand on the hank
of Connecticut River just at the head qf while River falls and is opposite
to the North-west corner of Lebanon from thence North l^xty Degrees
West six miles, from thence North forty five degrees East six miles from
thence South Sixty degrees East sev^ miles to an Elm tree mark^ with
the figures 6 db ^ from thence down the river to the first bounds mentioned.
And that the same be and hereby is incorporated into a Township by
Charter o/Norunchj Vermont. 1
the name of Norwhtoh And the inhabitants that do or shall hereaf*
ter inhabit the said Township, are hereby declared to be enfranchised
with and entitled to all and every the privileges and immunities that
other towns within our Province by law exercise and enjoy : And fur-
ther, that the said Town as soon as there shall be fifty families resi*
dent and settled thereon, shall have the liberty of holding two Fairs,
one of which shall be on the and the other on the annually,
which Pairs are not to continue longer than the respective fol-
lowing the said ■ and that as soon as the said Town shall con-
BiBt of fifty families, a market may be opened and kept one or more
days in each week, as may be thought most advantageous to the in-
habitants. Also, that the first meeting for the choice of Town officers,
agreeable to the laws of our said Province, shall be held on the last
Wednesday of August next which said meeting shall be notified by Mr,
Eleazer Wales who is hereby also appointed the Moderator of the said
meeting, which he is to notify and govern agreeably to the laws and
customs of said Province and the annual meeting forever hereafter
for the choice of such officers for the said Town shall be on the Second
Tuesday of March annually, to Have and to Hold the said tractof
land as above expressed, together with all privileges and appurte-
nances, to them and their respective heirs and assigns forever, upon
the following conditions, viz —
1st, That every Grantee his heirs and assigns shall plant and culti^
vate five acres of land within the term of five years for every fifty
acres contained in his or their share or proportion of land in said
Township, and continue to improve and settle the same by additional
cultivation, on penalty of the forfeiture of his grant or share in the
said Township, and of its reverting to us, our heirs and successorp,
to be by us or them regranted to such of our subjects as shall efibctu-
ally settle and cultivate the same.
2d, That all white and other pine trees within the said Township,
fit for masting our Royal Navy, be carefully preserved for that use,
and none to be cut or felled without our special license for so doing
first had and obtained, upon the penalty of the forfeiture of the right
of such grantee, his heirs and assigns, to us, our heirs and successors
as well as being subject to the penalty of any act or acts of parlia-
ment that now are, or hereafter shall be enacted.
3. That before any division of the land be made to and among the
Grantees, a tract of land as near the ceotre of the said Township as
the land will admit of, shall be reserved and marked out for Town
Lots, one of which shall be allotted to each Grantee of the contents of
4. Yielding and paying therefor to us, our heirs and successors for
the space of ten years, to be computed from the date hereof, the rent
of one ear of Indian corn only, on the tv)enty fifth day of December
annually, if lawfully demanded, the first payment to be made on the
26*^ of Dec' 1T62.
6. Every proprietor, settier or inhabitant, shall yield and pay uoto
us, our heirs and successors yearly, (md every year forever, from and
after the ea^iration of ten years, from the above-said iu)€nty fifth day
of December namely, on the twenty fifth day of December which will be
in the year of our Lord IT 12— one shilling proclamation money for
every hundred acres he so owns, settles or possesses, and so in pro-
Charter of Norwkhj Vermont,
portion for a greater or lesser tract of the said land : which monejr
shall be paid by the respective persons above-said, their heirs or as-
signs, in our Council Chamber in Portsmouth, or to such Officer or
Officers as shall be appointed to receive the same ; and this to be in
lieu of all other rents and services whatever.
In Testimony whereof, We have caused the Seal of our said Province
to be hereunto affixed.
Witness Benning Wentworth, Esq. our Governor and Commander in
Chief of our said Province the fourth day of July in the year of our
LORD CHRIST, One Thousand, Seven Hundred and Sixty one and in
the First year of our Reign.
By his Excellency's Command, B. WENTWORTH.
With advice of Council,
Theodore Atkinson, Secy, Province of New-Hamp'® July 6. 1161
Recorded according the original
Charter under the ftovince Seal.
Attest' Theodore Atkinson, Sec^.
The names of the Grantees of Norwhich.
William Johnson ye 3^
The Hon. Theod' At-
Richard Wibird Esq.
Henry Sherburne Esq.
Mr. Andrew Clarkson
Clement March Esq
Mesheck Weare Esq
Rev. M*^ Samuel Haven
& Peter Oilman Esq.
One whole share for the Society for propagating the Gospel in for-
eign parts. One whole share for a Glebe for the Church of England
as by law established, one share for the first settled Minister. One
share for the benefit of a school in said Town. His Excellency Ben-
ning Wentworth Esq. five hundred acres to be laid out as marked in
the plan B W and is to be accounted two of the within shares.
Province of New Hampshire July 5*^ 1T61. Recorded from the
back of the original Charter of Norwhich under the Province Seal.
Attest' Theodore Atkinson, Sec^
Samuel Root Jun'
Abner Barker Jr