Filed under: Uncategorized | Comments Off on My research work on Daniel Shays (174?-1825) and the Daniel Shays Rebellion
My home town in Massachusetts is near the home town of Daniel Shays, who was one of the leaders of the insurgency in 1786-1787 to protest property taxation, foreclosures of farms, and the state government actions of the officials in Boston that affected the people of Central and Western Massachusetts.
Daniel Shays led a force of about 1200 men to Springfield, Massachusetts to attempt to seize the federal arsenal (now known as the Springfield Armory) which had 7000 muskets and 1300 kegs of gunpowder. The state militia led by General Shepard repulsed them, and a militia force from the Boston area led by General Lincoln went after the insurgents. The insurgents first encamped in Pelham and tried to negotiate with General Lincoln who was encamped in Hadley. After negotiations failed, the insurgents retreated NE and encamped in the town of Petersham. They were probably trying to return to their base in Rutland, 12 miles NW of the city of Worcester. General Lincoln marched his militia by night during a blizzard and surprised the insurgents at Petersham. They had not posted guards because they thought that no one would ever attempt to march at night in a blizzard. About 150 were captured, but Shays and others escaped. Shays eventually went to a town in Quebec just over the border line (I think that it had an English name at the time, but now has a name that includes the words Sainte and Richelieu in it.)
Shays and some of his party settled in Sandgate, Vermont (Bennington County). He moved to Sparta, New York, where he died in 1825.
There are some intriguing gaps in the story about the Rebellion that I have been trying to research and fill. Why did Daniel Shays leave his home in Pelham and go 50 miles east (2 days by horseback) to join others in Rutland? Who recruited him? Who provided food and supplies for the insurgents? The insurgents encampment was at the barracks built in 1778 after the Convention Army of British General Sir John Burgoyne was moved from Cambridge to Rutland.
The Convention Army of 4to 5 thousand was causing the local firewood supply to be depleted, and was a strain on the local economy of Cambridge and Boston. It was also thought that a British fleet with marines and soldiers might try to land and rescue the prisoners, or return them into a fighting military force. Rutland, 50 miles inland, was considered to be a better location,
There is a place in Rutland known as Barrack Hill, fronted by Barrack Hill Road. The U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System Feature ID number for Barrack Hill is 617546 http://gnis.usgs.gov search Domestic Names to get to the search engine. This system also includes several mapping systems with topographic and or satellite imagery. Using the Microsoft Virtual Earth System a few days ago, I saw that the home of Colonel Rufus Putnam is about 1 mile east of the site of the POW barracks that were used by the insurgents led by Shays. The Putnam home is now a bed and breakfast inn the RufusPutnamInn.
Shays met with Putnam and told him that he was not the overall leader of the movement. Putnam had been one of Shays’s regimental commanders during the Revolutionary War, as commander of the 4th or 5th Massachusetts Regiment of the Continental Army. Putnam was also one of George Washington’s chief engineering officers during the war. Putnam led a group that moved to the area that is now Marietta, Ohio and settled it when it was still a frontier area.
One of the leaders of the insurgent movement was Francis Stone (1740-1802) of North Brookfield, a nearby town. He had been a captain in the army during the Revolutionary War. His brother was one of the militia members who remained loyal to the state.
Shays fled Massachusetts after the failed attempt to take the arsenal. Francis Stone was able to remain in Massachusetts.
Putnam was loyal to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts government led by Governor James Bowdoin. But what might have he known about the insurgent force assembling in his home town of Rutland, and its leadership group and those who were financing and training the force. Did he have any information about who the leaders were, and did he send any intelligence information to the Governor or other state officers? Did he know which members of the militia in Worcester County could be counted on to support the state government, and which members were of dubious loyalty or active supporters of the movement?
Who owned the land that contained the Barrack and other cabins on its grounds? Who permitted it to be used as an assembly point for the insurgent force?
I know the town of Rutland parcel code numbers for the land that is found on both sides of Barrack Hill Road. Is it possible to trace the ownership of the parcels back to the 1780s by looking at Registry of Deeds microfilms? Could a title search company do this kind of work, and what is it likely to cost to have a deed searched back into the 1780s?
Slavery was legal in Massachusetts until several cases in 1780 by the Supreme Judicial Court ruled that it was not permitted under the new constitution enacted in 1780. The 1790 Federal Census tallied 5,403 All other free persons and 0 slaves in Massachusetts. Some of the “all other free persons” may have been non-white free people (African-American descent, and some may have been Native American descent in 1780. But looking at the Heads of Families schedules for the 1790 Census show that most of the AOFP were living in households headed by a white male or female.
How many of them were owned as slaves in the same household in 1780, and then emancipated by the Supreme Judicial Court decisions of 1780? Were they staying in the same household because they did not have money of their own to move out and buy property of their own in town or to migrate to another town. The name of any person who was in the AOFP group was not recorded unless he or she was the head of a household.
Was resentment against the Supreme Judicial Court for emancipating slaves without compensation an issue at the time of the protests that led to shutting down sessions of the court? I am assuming that that no compensation was made by the state government after the Supreme Judicial Court ruled that slavery was now illegal in Massachusetts.
I could go look up the Acts and Resolves of the Legislature, which are online, to see if there was any compensation. I can also go look at copies of early newspapers which have been digitally scanned online to see if there are stories or commentaries about the effect of freeing the slaves in Massachusetts.
I am also trying to find the names of members of the state senate and the state house of representatives. I think that these journals have been digitally scanned and put up for research on the internet. I am making an assumption that the names of members of each chamber appear somewhere as in a list of those who have taken an oath of office. This is another thing that I will be looking into in the future.
I know that a substantial number of members of the 1786 legislature were replaced by newly elected members in the 1787 legislature. Who were the members of the 1780-1786 legislatures? Did any of them win election to future legislatures?
There is a lot to research, and I have many email messages to send out to libraries and archives asking for help.
So long for now, Tom Lindsey