History of the Town of Alburgh

The town of Alburgh, like many other towns in Vermont, passed through the most interesting period of its history during the first half century of its existence. To Vermont the town as one of the sub-divisions of the commonwealth first became known when, in 1781, a charter was granted, including its lands, to General Ira Allen and his sixty-four associate proprietors. But long before the Vermont charter was made, and as early even as the beginning of the first French and English wars, in the year 1744, on the 1st of November, the king of France granted the lands now comprising Alburgh, and then known as a seigniory, to Francis Focault, a subject of France. After the conquest of Canada ad the final overthrow of the French dominion in America this grant was confirmed by the king of Great Britian; and confirmed, it is confindentaly believed, for the reason that Focault transferred his title to General Haldimand, the instigator of the friendly negotiations with Vermont during the latter years of the Revolution. From General Haldimand the title passed to Henry Caldwell, and from him to John Caldwell, all British subjects. During the ownership in the Caldwells the region of the town became known as Caldwell's Manor, and in the some control the manor was settled, occupied, and improved.

As has been stated, the grant of the seigniory comprising what afterwards became Alburgh by the French sovereign was confirmed to its subsequent British owner. However, the American colonies and the mother county at length found themselves involved in a long and terrible war, with the final result of the defeat of the latter and the success of the former, followed by the peace treaty of 1783, and the establishment of the boundary lines between the United States and the British provinces in America. And one of the articles of the treaty of 1783 provided that Congress "earnestly recommended to the legislatures of the several states to provide for the restitution of all estates, rights, and properties which have been confiscated, belonging to real British subjects, and also of the estates, rights and properties of persons resident in the districts in the possession of his majesty's arms, and who have not borne arms against the United States." This Congress did in due time recommend; but even before that recommendation was made, and while there was yet existing the possibility of British success in the then waging war, before the treaty was made, Governor Chittenden made the grant to General Allen and his associates.

But Great Britain insisted that the above quoted article of the treaty had been violated by the United States, in that the manor had been permitted to be granted by state authority and that settlements and transfers of its lands were being prosecuted, and acts of jurisdictional authority were being attempted; upon which the British commander in Canada sent and maintained an armed force in the town and its immediate vicinity. But the action of Governor Chittenden in exercising authority over the district of Alburgh was based on strong and tenable grounds. By an act, to which Lord Dorchester himself was a party in 1766, the town was severed from Canada and remained a part of New York, in law, until the controversy between Vermont and New York had been settled; it was assigned to Vermont by the resolution of Congress of August 10, 1781, to which New York consented in 1790; by the treaty of 1783 Great Britain confirmed it to Vermont, and Congress further confirmed it by the act of 1791, which admitted the state into the Union. Thus in 1792 Governor Chittenden had a perfect right to assert the jurisdiction of Vermont, and also to assert that the establishment of civil government there had no bearing whatever upon the legal rights of citizens of the town claiming or possessing land there, or of Caldwell or other British subjects. The former had ample remedy in the state courts, and the latter under the treaty of 1783 and the Federal constitution in the courts of the United States.

In 1785 Henry Caldwell appealed to the sympathy and generosity of Vermont, in a letter in the nature of a petition, asking that his title to the manor lands be confirmed to him; but the prayer of his petition could not well be granted. The settlers under Caldwell, however, held their lands by possession, and Caldwell sold his other interests to Herman Allen, of Highgate, who resorted to the courts with the result of final defeat. The Caldwell title failed because, on one ground at least, it had not been recorded in New York state.

The town of Alburgh has been variously and numerously known, bearing, perhaps, a greater number of names than any town in the entire state. From its ancient Indian occupancy it was once known as Point Algonquin, a name applied by the French; also to the latter it was otherwise known as Point Detour and as Point Detouror. To the English the town at one period was called Turn About, from the story, it is said, of a certain man who journeyed to its southern extremity, expecting to pass on south, but found himself obligated to "turn about" and retrace his steps. It was also called Missisco Tongue and Missisco Leg from the peculiar shape of its lands, forming a promontory and extending far into the lake. Under the English confirmation of the French grant it was Caldwell's Upper Manor; and finally the name Alburgh was applied, the latter, it is understood, being a contraction of Allensburgh, which name was received from its ownership by Heman Allen, purchaser of the Caldwell title, and from Ira Allen, one of the grantees under Vermont, and the active agent of the proprietary. The town was once advertised as Allensburgh.

As has already been stated, Alburgh occupied a singular and interesting situation with reference to the disturbances on the northern frontier. The lands here were occupied and settled by the English and a few French under the Caldwell titles, and these settlers were in actual possession when Governor Chittenden grated the town in 1781; and the settlers too, had not only possession, but as well a sort of local or town organization, with such officers as were authorized under British customs and laws. And the manor extended north into the province, and was not comprehended within the compass of the Vermont grant. The mere act of granting the town by Governor Chittenden was not of itself sufficient to occasion much concern among the settlers nor the authorities, but was viewed by the Caldwells as dangerous to their titles. But when the proprietary under the Vermont charter sought and assumed to create titles of their own, and put settlers on the lands under those titles, then the provincial authorities, from their point of view, saw a flagrant breach of the treaty provisions, and they therefore thought fit to possess the territory with troops and exercise surveillance over the region, both of land and lake. Their garrisons were maintained at Dutchman's Point, in North Hero, and at Point au Fer, in New York state opposite to Alburgh. In addition they exercised a general surveillance over the whole country of this town, and Isle La Motte and North Hero as well. But there were no overt acts of hostility, nor conflicts of authority, until the settlers under the Vermont charter attempted to organize the town in 1792. The period of the British surveillance commenced in 1783 and was continued until 1796, when, in compliance with the terms of Jay's treaty of amity and commerce with Great Britain, the troops were withdrawn and the Vermont authorities left in undisputed possession of the town.

The organization of the town of Alburgh under Vermont authority, which seems to have been the occasion of all the troubles in this particular region, and came so near involving the countries in another war, was effected in pursuance of the following warning:

"Pursuant to express orders from his Excellency the Governor of the State of Vermont to us directed, These are to warn all the Inhabitants of the town of Allburgh qualified as the law directs to vote for town officers, to meet at the house of Michael Housinger's on the 7th day of June next at 10 o'clock in the morning for the following purposes:

1st. To chuse a moderator to regulate said meeting.

2nd. To chuse such civil officers as the laws directs in the State - And to do any other businsess that may be found necessary to be done on said day.

Given under our hands at Alburgh this 16th day of May, 1792.

Samuel Mott, Benja. Marvin, Justices of Peace."

In accordance with the warning the meeting was held, and these officers elected: Town cler, Thomas Reynolds; selectmen, Richard Mott, John Chambers, Joshua Manning, Jacob Cook; treasurer, Benjamin Marvin; constables, Abel Parr, Joseph Mott; listers, Moses Parr, Joseph Weeks, John Ladue, Ichabod Babcock, Alexander Griggs; leather sealers, James Sweet and Gabriel Manning; grand jurors, William Brandigo and John Ladue; surveyors of highways, Richard, Mott, Daniel Smith, Stephen Sweet, Sylvester Sweet, Titus Clark, Jacob Babcock, John Van Vleet, Philip Cook, Alexander Griggs; pound keeper, Michael Housinger; fence viewers, Jacob Mott, Ichabod Babcock, Sylvester Sweet, James Fisher, Peter Carrigan, Frederick Hoxie; haywards, Michael Duell, Daniel Beazall, Joseph Hayden, Peter Truman, Joseph Mott, Conrad Burghardt, Joseph Sowles; petit jurors, Richard Mott, David Staunton, Michael Duell, John Griggs, Sands Helmes, Timothy Sowles, Abraham Holbrook, James Andrews; tithingmen, Hendrick Miller and Thomas Reynolds; wardens, Titus Clark and Timothy Sowles.

Under all ordinary circumstances it would appear somewhat singular that the first meeting of the inhabitants should elect a full complement of officers for the town, but while such was occasionally done the occurrence was not frequent. Governor Chittenden and the proprietary had determined upon the full and thorough organization of Alburgh under Vermont authority; they well knew the sentiment existing in the town on the part of the Caldwell and British adherents, for of the latter there was quite a number, and by his action the governor proposed to and did test the loyalty of the town, those holding under all claims to title; and the result was an immediate conflict of authority and threatened open

To be Continue page 633

[History of Franklin and Grand Isle Counties, Vermont : with illustrations and biographical sketches of some of the prominent men and pioneers. Syracuse, N.Y.: D. Mason & Co., 1891. Chapter XXXIII, Page 628-632- Transcribed by Nancy Piper]

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