January 3, 1849: The first of the New Hampshire Grants is made. Also called the Benning Wentworth Grants, they were land grants issued between this date and 1764 by Benning Wentworth, the provincial governor of New Hampshire. During that time, about 135 land grants were made, including 131 towns. The land was claimed by New Hampshire and was situated west of the Connecticut River. The land in question was also claimed by the Province of New York. Because the two entities quibbled over ownership, it led to the establishment of a new region – the Vermont Republic. It would later become the state of Vermont.
European settlers first came to the region when William Dummer was acting governor of the Province of Massachusetts Bay. He ordered a fort to be built and had settlers move in west of the Merrimack River and built settlements along the Connecticut River. In 1741, a royal decree fixed the border between Massachusetts and New Hampshire at three miles north of Pawtucket Falls which then kept Massachusetts out of the disputed lands. Wentworth, a native New Hampshire man was also appointed as the first governor of New Hampshire in 1741. He was the first governor of New Hampshire who was not also the governor of Massachusetts.
Wentworth’s understanding of the decree was that the line of demarcation extended as far west as the border of Massachusetts which led to his seeking control over the lands which New York claimed. The New Hampshire-Massachusetts border extended to a point 20 miles east of the Hudson River. Wentworth assumed this meant he held jurisdiction in the lands west of the Connecticut River. New York’s claim was based on Letters Patent issued by Prince James, Duke of York and brother of the King which gave lands west of the Connecticut River to Delaware Bay to New York.
Wentworth began selling land grants which were usually about six miles square which was the standard size of a survey township. Each grantee paid £20 for the lands. The grants were then subdivided among proprietors and six lots set aside. One for a missionary organization, one for the Church of England, one for the first clergyman to settle in the township, one for a school, and two for Wentworth. New York was also selling land grants, usually of about the same size but irregularly shaped. Their grants were usually issued to wealthy landowners while New Hampshire’s were more often issued to middle class farmers. Most of the New York boundaries were ignored in favor of the New Hampshire boundaries when Vermont eventually achieved statehood.
Wentworth’s “New Hampshire Grants” set the stage for a bitter struggle between “Yorkers” and settlers who, having bought land from the speculators, had endured the hardships of making a life in a wilderness. – from Virtual Vermont
People want to go out and travel around and meet cool people. I could just go live in Vermont, but is that what I really want? – Tom Brady
I represent a rural state and live in a small town. Small merchants make up the majority of Vermont’s small businesses and thread our state together. It is the mom-and-pop grocers, farm-supply stores, coffee shops, bookstores and barber shops where Vermonters connect, conduct business and check in on one another. – Peter Welch
I am often reminded that the wellspring of Vermont liberty flows from Main Street, not State Street. – James H. Douglas, Jr.
Also on this day: Tokugawa Shogunate – In 1863, the Tokugawa shogunate ended.
British Empire – In 1833, the Falkland Islands came under British rule.
Slurrrppp! – In 1888, the straw was patented.
Eiffel Tower – In 1956, a fire damaged the top floors of the Eiffel Tower.
The Maid of Orleans – In 1431, Joan of Arc was handed over to Pierre Cauchon.