Search This Blog

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Frederick Douglass in Whitney’s Point, 1880

by Richard White

Frederick Douglass
“Bear with me kindly, for my voice is broken, and my throat is ragged and sore.” These were the words of the famous orator, Frederick Douglass, on October 22, 1880 in Whitney’s Point (now known as Whitney Point) as published a few days later in the weekly Broome Republican. In spite of a sore throat, he spoke to hundreds of people in “front of the academy” for two hours on an almost sacred topic to him — to rally voters to the Republican Party in this Presidential election year. Douglass had often stated, “The Republican Party is the ship, all else is the sea.” In the Point and elsewhere, he addressed crowds of all races about the seaworthiness of this “ship.”

For the second year in a row, the Republican State Committee selected him to campaign around the State on behalf of its candidates. After all, not only was he skilled speaker but also a devoted Republican. In fact, in 1879 in Binghamton, he addressed a crowded Ouaquaga Hall on behalf of the Party, and its gubernatorial candidate, Alonzo Cornell.

The Binghamton Daily Republican offers the most thorough coverage of this event in its October 23 issue. Most of Douglass’ speech in the Point extolled the virtues of Republicans. After all, he declared, “thanks for the magnanimity, humanity, and greatness of the Republican Party, I am an American citizen.” A “grand procession” led by people carrying flags and banners, and “a large cavalry company,” took Douglass to the stage where “a vast audience” awaited him. Not surprisingly, local Democrats were anxious. Earlier on the 22nd , the Binghamton Daily Democrat demeaned Douglass, stating that he only supported Garfield in order “to hold onto a good thing four years longer” in regard to Douglass’ position as U.S. Marshall for the District of Columbia. The newspaper concluded by suggesting that “Fred., although not a full-blooded white man, has more brains than all the [unreadable] law combined in the county.” But Douglass was at least used to such derision, and worse.

His opening remarks were patriotic, and not partisan-- Frederick Douglass profusely praised America. The Daily Republican recorded Douglass's words, some of which were,

“Ours is a great land. We see its greatness manifested in its commerce….in agriculture, invention, and the cultivation of the high arts. But it is greater in nothing than in the recognition which it bestows upon the rights of its people. We are here to exercise this afternoon one of its rights—the unchecked freedom of speech.” 

Later, he reasoned why voters must consider Republican office seekers. “Parties make candidates….Whatever may be said in behalf of a candidate it is better to know and understand the party that supports him. Parties are the assimilation of moral conditions….and principles of a people. ” Douglass must have praised to his Party’s nominee for President, James Garfield — as he would at a rally in New York City on October 25—but the Daily Republican’s coverage does not say so. (The local Democratic newspapers do not offer follow-up coverage on this rally).

Douglass did not stay in Broome County for long. His schedule required a political stump speech the next day in Woodhull in Steuben County. In Whitney’s Point, though, he illustrated why he was sometimes called “Old Man Eloquent,” especially for his devoted support of the Republican Party.

About the author: Richard White's articles have appeared in Civil War HistoryThe Journal of Negro History, and other publications.

Friday, February 10, 2017

“No Man’s Land” Revisited

The New York and Vermont State 1814 Border Monument and
 the 1904 Marble Obelisk on Washington County Route 153.
By William A. Cormier
Salem, New York Historian

When James and Marilyn Alcott, residents of Beattie Hollow Road, invited me to visit the deteriorating Beattie Hollow boundary monument with them, I realized that another chapter regarding “no man’s land” needed to be written.

Few people remember the long-standing, and sometimes violent, border disagreement between New York and Vermont. In particular, the land of the Town of Rupert, Vermont, bordering Salem and Hebron, was hotly contended. In fact, the boundaries between New York and her other neighboring states and Canada were contested for many years until properly surveyed, agreed upon by the surveyors of both sides, and officially approved by their respective legislatures. New York agreed to the boundary on June 8, 1812; Vermont agreed to the boundary on November 6, 1812.

According to The History of New York State, Book I, Chapter I, Pt. III, by Dr. James Sullivan, once the boundary survey had been approved, markers were to be placed every mile along the boundary of Canada, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Nevertheless, until uniformity was decided upon as to the placement and type of the monuments, monuments were of various sizes, shapes and materials.

Historical records show that state and international boundary line settlements with New York took place over a span of years as the boundaries were resurveyed with more accurate equipment and old monuments located. Sullivan notes the years other land surveys were approved: Canada in 1842, Connecticut’s original 1731 boundary was re-certified in 1879, Massachusetts in 1853, New Jersey in 1834, and Pennsylvania’s 1786 boundary was recertified in 1885.

The settlement between New York and Vermont citizens was particularly contentious as described in Crisfield Johnson’s History of Washington County, New York, 1737 to 1878 and as found in the personal stories recorded by Dr. Asa Fitch, Jr. in his Manuscript History of Washington County, NY.

In 1742, the first Vermont settlers arrived from Massachusetts to settle near Brattleboro, Vermont. Their settlement became controversial since both New York and New Hampshire claimed the land between the Connecticut and Hudson River. In 1764, King George III, ruled in favor of New York State, but the early Vermont settlers refused to pay for land they considered theirs under the title of the New Hampshire Grants awarded by Royal Governor Benning Wentworth. They organized militias in 1771 and vigorously resisted the authority of New York State. Crisfield Johnson, and later, genealogist Merritt C. Barden in his 1928 book, Vermont, Once No Man’s Land noted that many of the skirmishes against the Yorkers, led by Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys, were violent. Barden tells us that when Yorker landholders and suspected Tories like Rueben Nobles, Charles Hutchinson and John Reid were forcibly driven from their Vermont property, they sought refuge on the New York side in Upper White Creek [Salem] and Black Creek [Hebron].

Numerous recollections, taken from witnesses, are found in the Dr. Asa Fitch, Jr. manuscript notes. Their statements reflect the hotly divided political and land ownership conflict on both sides. The violence against Charles Hutchinson and John Reid is recorded in the Fitch manuscript. Charles Hutchinson “was a former Sgt. in a Highland Regiment, residing in Hebron, [Black Creek] NY.” He was “driven by Ethan Allen from lands granted to him on Indian River because he would not admit that the N.H. title was as good as a N.Y. title. Allen ejected him from his house & burned it. On the same day, John Reid’s house was burnt & 8 or 9 other families were driven from the area.” The burned out pioneers took shelter in Salem at the house of [Presbyterian Minister] Dr. Clark where on “November 12, 1771, Esq. McNachten swore out warrants for the “rioters’ arrest.”

Hutchinson and Reid were not alone in the attacks, according to Fitch’s notes: “Other settlers in the lower section of Arlington, Vt. considered themselves as part of N.Y.; Dr. Samuel Adams was a known Yorker, but never took an active role in the controversy beyond expressing his opinion; nevertheless, he was taken by the Bennington people (Hampshire men) & tried at Bennington before the Allens & Warner; tied him in a chair, he was drawn up to hang from a tavern sign for 2 hrs., exposed to the insults & jeers of the rabble assembled there.”

The Yorkers retaliated according to Fitch. Sheriff John Esq. Munro and his “posse attempted to eject settlers and the Bennington people rallied with Ethan Allen & Remember Baker, stationing themselves on a hill at Sancoick [Hoosick Falls] N.Y. , with Munro’s posse at its base.” Believing Allen had a canon, really a hollow log, Munro and his posse left. Sheriff Munro did not give up, however. “On March 22, 1772, Remember Baker was arrested, (probably in Est. Arlington).”

The capture of Baker and his ultimate escape shows the fast change of events between the Vermonters and the Yorkers. Fitch continues:

When 5 others; Munro’s party arrived in a sleigh & found Baker alone with his wife and son; when taken, he [Baker] was slightly wounded, presumably by a cutlass, bound, & kept with a guard in the rear of Munro’s sleigh; his [Baker’s] son Oziah attempted to give alarm, but was also detained. Passing by Mr. Bottom’s house in Shaftsbury, Baker raised a bloodied hand, feigning to wave, & was noticed from a window by Dolly Bottom, who alerted the house; 2 riders were sent to Bennington with news, & a party of 12-15 men were mounted to intercept Munro’s sleigh at N. Hoosick; they arrived behind him & followed his track for several miles when he turned into ‘beaten wood-road’; when the road ended in the forest, Munro’s party had to leave behind the prisoner for fear of their own capture.

As fate would have it, the land dispute soon took a backseat to the start of the Revolutionary War in 1775, at which time the Vermonters joined the rest of the Colonies in opposing British rule, and the Green Mountain Boys made history at Fort Ticonderoga.

After the final battles of the Revolutionary War in 1781, Crisfield Johnson states that the residents of Cambridge, Salem, Granville, and seven other border towns that had been caught up in border skirmishes over property rights, considered joining the State of Vermont. The secession failed when strong threats of war were made by the legislatures of New Hampshire and New York. Furthermore, objections were loudly voiced by those Scottish soldiers and settlers of Upper White Creek [Salem] and Black Creek [Hebron] who “had had their houses burned and had been otherwise ill-treated by Ethan Allen’s mob before the Revolution.”

Despite this setback, Vermont remained independent, forming its own Republic in 1784 until the discord between New York, Vermont, and New Hampshire was put aside. On October 7, 1790, New York State relinquished it claim on the Vermont lands when Vermont paid $30,000 to settle all land claims, and on March 4, 1791, Vermont was recognized as a separate state and admitted to the Union.

However, admittance to the Union did not end the boundary dispute between New York and Vermont. Determining the boundary lines took another 21 years at the end of which time both states passed laws, setting up Commissioners to describe the joint boundary line.

According to the Report of the Regents of the University, “On the boundaries of the state of New York,” Vol. 2, 1874, the New York State legislators on June 8, 1812 passed an official “Act to designate and establish the Boundary Line between this State and the State of Vermont.” New Yorkers Robert Yates, Robert R. Livingston, John Lansing, Jr., Julian C. Verplanck, Simeon DeWitt, Egbert Benson, Richard Sill and Melancthon Smith were commissioned to confirm the joint boundary line. They worked with Vermont appointed commissioners Isaac Tichenor, Stephen R. Bradley, Nathaniel Chipman, Elijah Paine, Ira Allen, Stephen Jacob, and Israel Smith, who verified the boundary survey.

The New York State boundary law preamble spelled out the purpose of the law: “Whereas it is represented to the legislature that the boundary line between this state and the state of Vermont has not been designated by permanent marks of monuments: And whereas it is necessary, in order to prevent litigation between the citizens of the said states, that the said line should be plainly designated and finally established.” The full text of the law further describes in surveyor’s terms the location of surveyor’s markers and monuments on the New York and Vermont state boundary.

Along the whole of the New York-Vermont state line are surveyor’s markers and boundary monuments, originally consisted of marked trees, natural rocks, rock piles and marble tablets. The original marble tablets were engraved with Vermont on one side and New York on the other. Later, granite obelisks were erected. Tyler Resch, research librarian, of the Bennington Museum attributes the granite monuments to Vermont Governor John McCullough who, during his 1902-1904 terms, ordered their placement. The Vermont granite boundary monuments are four feet and eight inches tall and mounted on a rubble stone and mortar base on which the east side is engraved with the word Vermont 1812 and the west side engraved with the word New York 1812 and the inscription “Renewed 1904.” A number, identifying the stone, can also be seen on some of the bases still intact. The Beattie Hollow Road and the Rupert Road monuments are good examples showing all engravings. For example the Beattie Hollow monument is engraved with “No 60.”

The Salem-Vermont markers, seven of which can be seen from the road today, mark the border between State Route 313 and County Route 153. Two monuments exist on Hog Back Ridge but require a good mountain hike. Also, the granite monument found on the way to Egg Mountain can be accessed by Blind Buck Road but also requires a good mountain hike by a private trail. This writer did not attempt either hike, but according to local hunters (most hunters and hikers know of the marker whereabouts since they make good landmarks in the woods) these granite monuments still stand in the general vicinity identified on the topographic map as State Line Ridge and Hog Mountain Ridge, but more locally known as the Tate Hill and Prindle Hill markers.

The location of the Salem markers can be found on the United States Department of the Interior Geological Survey Maps showing the Salem-Rupert and Shushan Quadrants. This writer found them on an old 1946 version. Easily seen by taking a road trip, as this writer did with a car and camera, are the seven roadside monument sites.

Beginning in the southeast corner of the town of Salem and running south to north on the border are markers in the southeast corner of Salem on State Route 313 and Chunks Brook Road. The State Route 313 monument, directly across from the State Line Lunch diner, is gone, and its base deteriorated almost beyond recognition—it is rubble. However, about 25 feet north of the old base and almost hidden, the top of what is left of the granite obelisk sticks up out of a pile of rubble stones. The remains of this monument base and top are easy to find with a brief walk along the north side of the highway.

After a short drive north, the granite monument at the north end of Chunks Brook Road stands, but its base is badly deteriorated. A short drive away, the granite monument on Camden Valley Road-West Sandgate Road is also easily seen from the road. Its base is damaged also, but the engraved words “Renewed 1903” are visible.

The granite monument on Beattie Hollow Road is easily seen from the road. It too has a deteriorating base, but all of the engravings are mostly legible. The granite monument at the end of Chambers Road (leading to Perkins Hollow) is broken off--the top part lies at the feet of the almost completely deteriorated base on which few engravings survive.

The granite monument and marble tablet across the road from each other on County Route 153 (Rupert Road) are both in excellent shape except for a corner broken on the obelisk base. The New York marble tablet found here is the only one this writer found in his search. The marble tablet is inscribed on one side with Vermont and the other with New York and dated 1814. With the exception of one granite obelisk base inscribed with “Renewed 1903,” all other bases that had enough left of them to read were engraved with the words “Renewed 1904.”

To this writer’s knowledge, no repair of the bases or the boundary monuments of either state has taken place recently. Obviously, their deteriorating state signals a need to evaluate the condition of all state boundary monuments.

The wise decision over two hundred years ago to fix the boundaries with boundary monuments began an era of cooperative between our neighboring states and Canada. The monuments remind us of that cooperation.
About the author: William “Al” Cormier was born in Massachusetts where he earned his B.A. at the University of Massachusetts. He later earned his M. Ed. at Cornell University. In 1984 he became the Salem, NY town and village historian, writing books of local history and articles for the local newspapers.


Barden, Merritt Clark. Vermont, Once No Man’s Land. Rutland: The Tuttle Company, 1928.

Daniel J. Pratt, ed., Report of the Regent of the University on the boundaries of the State of New York.
(Albany: The Argus Company Printers, 1874).

James Sullivan, ed., History of New York State, Book 1, Chapter 1, Part 3 (New York: Lewis Historical
Publishing Company, 1927).

Johnson, Crisfield. History of Washington County, New York, 1878. Philadelphia: Everts and Ensign
Publisher, 1878.

Kenneth A. Perry, ed., The Fitch Gazetteer an Annotated Index to The Manuscript History of Washington County, New York, vols. 4 (Bowie: Heritage Books, Inc., 1999).

Tyler Resch, research librarian, The Fourteenth State.
Available from