Tri-Counties Genealogy & History by Joyce M. Tice
1786-1789 Letters on the Kidnapping of Thomas Pickering
From Pennsylvania Archives
Bradford County PA
Chemung County NY
Tioga County PA

This postcard of the Hendy Cabin best 
typifies the lodgings of our settlers at this early date.
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Joyce, I have always been interested in the Pennsylvania-Connecticut land disputes since at least two of my ancestors were involved in it - Richard Mitchell & Thomas Keeney. Over the years I have collected a lot of information on it. Although it takes quite a while to read through all of the material from the Printed Pennsylvania Archives I feel that having copies of the correspondence dealing with the kidnapping does verify that it happened and make it real.  I did add a few notes of my own which are in bold. I hope you enjoy reading this.

The kidnapping actually took place on 26 June 1788 so the letters in the year 1787 document the unrest concerning the Connecticut land titles which led to the kidnapping. There may be a few of the early letters that focus more on the road they wanted to build from the settled area near Philadelphia to the Wyoming Valley and "letting the Towns on the Tioga."


The kidnapping of Timothy Pickering

as recorded in correspondence published

in the Pennsylvania Archives.

Note from JW: This letter was written by John Franklin, the Connecticut Land Agent. The settlers were trying to get title from Pennsylvania for the lands they had settled and improved. Also tells about a great flood on the Susquehanna River.

PA Archives - 1786 Series I; Vol II; pg 85

John Franklin to Dr. Joseph Hamilton, 1786

Wilkesbarre, Nov’r 7, 1786

Dear Doctor,

I Received your Packet by Mr. Bateman in its time, also that sent by Doct’r Benton, I have not seen the one you mentioned by Mr. Bates, I have not time to give you an Answer, as the bearer Mr. Brown, is waiting. I expect you have heard from here by Esq. Beach.

A Meeting of the Inhabitants was held yesterday to hear the report of the Agents from Philadelphia, and for other purposes, as there has been no Meeting before, since our return, I send enclosed a Resolve Respecting the Law for Erecting a New County. We have passed a Resolve appointing a Committee to Act in Conjunction with Major Jenkins and myself to Enquire into the Claims of the Settlers, as we had not a quorum of those appointed by the Company it is a matter that Concerns the Setlers more immediately. We have also Past a Resolve Prohibiting the Exportation of grain from this settlement. I have not time to copy them, but will send them the first opportunity.

That old Traitor Smith, made his appearance at the meeting, I have not seen him these 4 months before—he urged a Petition to the Assembly of Pennsylvania, and would give up our Connecticut title throw ourselves on the Mercy of Pennsylvania, and pray for our improvements—however he had no influence on any of the Meeting, a Number urged a Petition for five miles each side of the River, but nothing done on that head—we expect another meeting next Tuesday, I am not sure whether the Inhabitants will Petition or not—I don’t know why we need Petition unless we withdraw our last, as nothing is Determined on that—but should we Petition it will be for a Certain Territory, 5 miles Each side of the River, it is most likely I shall Draught the Petition (if any is sent,) you may depend the foundation shall be laid in such way as it will do no injury to the Company—I am sure the State Cannot, nor will not grant us one foot.

I expect you have heard of the late Deluge, the rain on the 5th Oct’r, which fell in about 24 hours, Raised the River about 6 feet, and in the narrow 10 feet, Deeper than ever known, the small streams became mighty Rivers, the Mills are mostly swept off, and one half of all kind of food for man and Beast is forever lost—even the Roots in the Earth such as Potatoes, turnips, Parsnips, &c., are mostly Rotten in the Earth. The greatest part of the Rain fell in the afternoon and evening of the fifth, the Susq’h River that was fordable at 4 of the Clock after noon was over the face of the Earth from Mountain to Mountain, at 6 o’clock the morning of 6th—it is surprising to see the Mountains in smallest Runs of Water, you may see Stones from three Pounds to three Tuns Weight Drove to a great Distance and hove up in heaps, a stone judged to weigh two tons Lies mounted on two stumps near Tobies Creek, that was drove from a considerable distance, a number of Cattle were drowned, our fences all gone, one man was Drownd attempting to save some effects, but as I am in haste shall say no more.

I am your humble Serv’t,

John Franklin

N.B. Mr Brown has been here to do Duty for Col. Wall, but is disappointed about his land being laid as was promised, has been here since the 20th of June.

Directed,—To Doc’r Joseph Hamilton, City of Hudson.

Note from JW: [It was difficult to travel and move goods to the new settlements. These letters concern building a road from the settled areas near Philadelphia to the Wyoming Valley. Also the settlement of the lands of Tioga.]

PA Archives 1787 pg 133

Timothy Pickering To Gen. Muhlenberg, 1787.—Road To Wyoming

Philadelphia, April 5, 1787

Dear Sir,

The Assembly having granted £150 for the purpose of opening a road from the mouth of Nescopeck Creek to the Lehigh (a distance of about three & twenty miles,) two persons will undertake to perform the work, if that sum can be appropriated to that use. They proposed getting an additional sum by subscription, to be called for if the public grant proved inadequate. But this seemed a beginning at the wrong end; and after a full consideration of the matter, I proposed the following plan of proceedure viz.

That application should be made to Council to appoint Evan Owen a commissioner to explore, survey, & mark the best route for the road—and that Jacob Weiss should contract to open it, so as to render it fit for the passing of Waggons carrying a ton weight.

This proposal I made on this principle—That persons deeply interested in having the shortest and best road out, would be the fittest to be employed to execute the work.

Mr. Owen is an intelligent man, and (I find on enquiry) a man in whom the public may repose great confidence. He owns a tract of land opposite the mouth of Nescopeck, which he has laid out into lots for a town, and has no intermediate interest. He, therefore pursuing his own interest will seek the shortest & best route; and is so solicitous to have the work done, that he has consented to undertake the trust; and as the public grant will probably be insufficient for opening a good road, he will perform the duty of Commissioner & Surveyor, gratis; the public only furnishing, out of the £150 granted, provisions and paying the hands necessary to be employed as chain carriers and markers, this service of his to come in place of the sum he would otherwise subscribe to the work.

Mr. Weiss has an interest near the hither end of the proposed road, and is equally anxious to have it opened. He will contract to do it, for the remainder of the £150, trusting to obtain by subscriptions what shall be requisite to complete the road, if that remainder should be insufficient.

Mr. Owen will explore & Survey the road, & return a plan of it to Council, by the last of this month; and if the Council approve of it, Mr. Weiss will open it without delay; and he thinks he can complete it by midsummer; provided he can begin to work early in May and is furnished with a part of the money to lay in provisions &c.

I confess that I cannot conceive of a more eligibe[sic] mode of executing this business; and I hope it may be agreeable to Council ‘Tis an object of great importance. At present the only way in which any necessary goods can be transported to the county of Luzerne, is by land from Philadelphia to Middletown 98 miles, or to Harrisburg upwards of a hundred miles; and then by boats up the Susquehanah about 120 miles to Wyoming. This circuitous route is so expensive as to forbid the attempt to bring any produce from Wyoming to this city.

I trust this matter will appear to you deserving of the immediate attention of Council; and that the necessity of the measure, and the ease and certainty with which, in the way above proposed, it may be executed, will be motives sufficient to induce Council to adopt it if it be possible to furnish the money, and I hope the circumstances of this case may warrant an extraordinary exertion.

I feel the greater solicitude on this subject, because I fear a direct road to Wyoming, (for which the Assembly granted £300) cannot soon be opened. The sum being double what is granted for the other road, cannot so conveniently be spared; and perhaps it will be proper to have another examination of the country before the route is fixed. When last at Wyoming I had good information that a road might be opened from thence to this city, without ascending or descending a single mountain; and that the part of it which would cross the Great Swamp would be easly made good; and yet that the distance would not probably exceed 110 or 115 miles.

I wished to have conversed with you on this business, & called this evening at your house; but you were not at home. If I could learn the opinion of Council upon it, before I set off for Wyoming, it would give me great pleasure & therefore I pray you to introduce it tomorrow morning.

I am respectfully sir,

your most obedt. Servt.

T. Pickering

General Muhlenberg.

Page 135

Timothy Pickering To Gen. Muhlenberg, 1787.

Philadelphia, April 7, 1787

Dear Sir,

Since I saw you this afternoon, I have consulted with Col’o Denison on the subject of a road to Wyoming, and we are clearly of opinion that it will not be expedient to open one until the country is farther explored. We have such information as to induce us to believe that a road may be cut from the Water Gap of Lehigh to Wilkesbarre, without ascending or descending a single mountain; there being very practicable gaps in all the mountains which intervene; and the taking the advantage of those gaps, it appears to us, will not materially increase the length of the road; or whatever that increase may be, the greater facility of making & travelling the road, will more than counterbalance the greater length. On Mr. Balliots route several bad mountains appear; & he passes them by many detours, or zigzag directions; and the making in such places a tolerable waggon road, will occasion a great expense; and tis an expense which will never have an end; for such steep roads are generally in bad condition, because every great rain will destroy what much labor has effected; and however well repaired; still the toil of horses & cattle in passing them is severe and perpetual. Whereas a road thro’ a swamp or morass, when once well made, will last an age, and is passed with loaded teams with perfect ease. But what is called the Great Swamp is generally hard ground; and all the miry parts on the present route, (being what is called Sullivan’s road,) which is by no means deemed an eligible one would not together exceed two miles. This is the opinion of a man who has passed it a hundred times. Can it admit of a …..

Note from JW: I did not copy the rest of letter which is on pg 136.

Note: President Franklin is Benjamin Franklin who was president of the executive council of Pennsylvania.

Pg 159

Commissioners on Connecticut Claims to Pres. Franklin, 1787

Philadelphia, June 29, 1787.


As the examination of the Connecticut Claims to lands in the county of Luzerne will be of several months continuance, and we may not return hither untill the business shall be accomplished, we are desirous of receiving some part of our pay in advance, and if this shall be thought proper by Council, we request such grants may be made to us and Mr. Evans, (whom we have appointed our Clerk) as Council shall judge expedient.

The law for confirming the lands of the Connecticut Claimants required that it should be published in the news-papers of Connecticut. But there are divers claimants under Connecticut, who live in the State of New York; and other Claimants under Pennsylvania who live in New Jersey. We submit to the consideration of Council whether it is not expedient to cause the law to be published in one of the news-papers of each of those States. It may supersede applications which may hereafter be made for allowing further time to make their claims, under pretense that they were not informed of the law.

We are respectly sir,

yor. Most hble Servants,

T. Pickering,

Dan. Hiester, Jr., } Commissioners

Stephen Balliet.


His Excellency the President of Pennsylvania

pg 175

Caleb Benton to Co. John Franklin, 1787

Aug. 9, 1787.


I have carefully perused your’s dated the first of Sept., [?] & think your policy good—with regard to letting the Towns on the Tioga. I think it best that it should be done immediately, that any man who goes on may immediately occupy his own farm. You requested me to repair to the Tioga without loss of time but I think if you reconsider the matter you will determine to the contrary, for I am sensible that if I at present leave home for any considerable time there will be no possibility of my throwing on many settlers this Fall, for which reason I shall not go on at present, but determine to exert myself to the utmost to throw on settlers & I think I shall send on a very considerable number this fall & fix a plan to fill the Country in the spring—your policy will undoubtedly induce you to not suffer provisions to be carried from your settlement, but above all I most earnestly advise you to crush your enemies & pursue them to the pit & depend I will assist you so far as in my power & shall expect that when I hear from you again, there will not be an Acan [sic] found in your Camp & trust you will not suffer the unhallowed feet of a Penimite to tread on the Land which the Lord hath given you.

I am, Sir, with Respect.

Yr. Most Obedient Servant

Caleb Benton

N.B.–Please to present my compliments to Major Jenkins & inform him I am determined that his God shall be my God.

[Letter Book, Vol. I., p. 422]

Note from JW: John Franklin was the land agent for Connecticut. A Penamite was a Pennsylvanian.

Pg 176

Timothy Pickering to Pres. Franklin, 1787.

Wilkesburg, County of Luzerne,

Aug’t 13, 1787


A letter from a friend advised me that Council had appointed William Montgomery, Esq’r, a Commissioner to examine the claims of the Connecticut Settlers in this County, in the room of Genl. Heister, resigned*. I had an opportunity of writing to Mr. Montgomery to inform him of it, or rather to urge his acceptance of the office. I rec’d his answer last evening; by which I find that my letter which reached him last Thursday gave him the first notice of his appointment. He has consented, nay determined, to serve. I expressed my opinion to him, that not only the peace of this county, but perhaps of the state, depended on an immediate execution of the law for confirming the Connecticut titles. The uneasiness of the people at the delays which have happened is greater than I could have imagined; and John Franklin and his adherents are very industrious to infuse suspicions into the minds of the settlers that these delays are designed, and that the law will never be carried into execution. Until this law begins to operate, to undeceive the people, misled by Franklin’s predictions and falsehoods, the execution of the laws in general will be difficult. The people, with such doubts on their minds, will be averse from aiding the sheriff and magistrates, or yield them but a faint support.

If Mr. Montgomery’s commission should have been forwarded, I pray that a certificate of the appointment, duly authenticated, may be furnished to Mr. Evans who will return hither without delay; and that certificate forwarded to Mr. Montgomery (if his commission should not sooner reach him,) would authorize his coming hither & being sworn; for which reason, Colo. Denison (who was going to attend in Council,) will remain here, to administer the oath to Mr. Montgomery; because the law requires that it be taken before one of the Council, or a Judge of the Supreme Court.

I have the honor to be,

very respectfully sir,

your Excellency’s obed’t servant,

Timothy Pickering


His Excellency the President of the State of Pennsylvania

*See page 160

Pg 177

V. P. Biddle To Stephen Balliet, 1787

In Council,

Philad’a, August 17th, 1787


If you should not have set off for Wilkesberry before you receive this, Council request you will proceed with Mr. Evans—the situation of affairs in the settlement requires there should be as little delay as possible.—If anything should happen to prevent your attending, inform Council by the first opportunity, that we may appoint some person in your room.

I am Sir,

Your obedient and very humble Servant,

Charles Biddle,

V. President.


Stephen Balliet, Esq’r

V.P. Biddle To T. Pickering, 1787.

In Council,

Philadelphia, August 17th, 1787.


Your letter to Council of the 13th inst., was this day received by Mr. Evans. Council wrote to Mr. Montgomery the day after his appointment, and a commission was sent for him by Mr. Balliot, who we expected would have been with you before the date of your letter, we now send another Commission for him, you can cancel one of them.

We have been informed that some people at Hudson, in the settlement are determined to oppose the execution of the Law; as government is dong every thing they can to satisfy the settlers we hope there is no foundation for what we have heard; however, you had better be on your guard, and attentive to the proceedings of any person or persons in the settlement, you suspect of being unfriendly to Government.

I am, Sir, Your

obedient and very

humble servant,

Charles Biddle,

V. President


Timothy Pickering, Esq.

pg 179

V. P. Biddle To Z. Butler, 1787.

In Council,

Philadelphia, September 1st, 1787.


Having the utmost reliance upon your vigilance, and attachment to the state, Council have appointed you Lieutenant of the County of Luzerne.* Should any person be so wicked as to attempt to disturb the settlement, you may rely upon the support of government in any legal measures you may find necessary to preserve the peace of the County.

You are to hold the Election for officers for the militia as soon as you can agreeable to law.

I am, Sir, Your

Obedient and very

Humble Servant,

Charles Biddle,

Vice President.

*See Col. Rec., Vol. XV., p. 264

V. P. Biddle to T. Pickering & S. Balliet, 1787

In Council,

Philadelphia, September the 1st, 1787


Notwithstanding, Government are taking every measure in their power to satisfy the people of Luzerne, we are informed some wicked persons are endeavouring to deceive the people and prevent the execution of the Law. Understanding that John Franklin is at the head of this opposition, we have thought it necessary to send a warrant to apprehend him. If you are of opinion it will tend to preserve the peace of the Country, you can have it executed during the sitting of the Court, however, we leave you to judge of the time it should be executed, or if you think it advisable you may have it suppressed.

You may assure the people of the county, that every encouragement will be given to the Peaceable Citizens, and that those who may occasion any disturbance in the settlement shall be prosecuted with the utmost rigour of the Law.

I am, Sir, Your

obedient and very

humble servant,

Cha. Biddle,

Vice President

Pg 192

Z. Butler, & C., To Pres. Franklin, 1787

His Excellency, Benj’n Franklin, Esq., Pres. of State.

Wilkesbarre, Luzerne Co., Oct. 6, 1787


Doubtless your Excellency & the Hon. Council have heard of the disturbance in this place on the night of the second inst., caused by the taking of John Franklin (as now supposed) with a state warrant; with pain we should give a statement of all the circumstances, did we suppose your honors not informed thereof. Yet we conceive it now our duty to acquaint you with the state of this County. We have reason to suppose that various & shocking accounts of the late disorders in this county have arrived at Philadelphia, and while we lament the abuse offered to Colonel Montgomery by an individual, we can inform you that no other person has been hurt on the occasion, & that those persons who fell into the hands of the disturbers are liberated. The disaffected party dispersed the next day, regretting exceedingly their disorderly conduct. We believe they feel a degree [of] Compunction equal to the magnitude of their Crimes. This day we met the principal of that party who made the disturbance, upon their request by them, we were informed that they supposed the manner of taking Franklin was illegal, that those persons who seized him had formerly exercised cruelty in this settlement, & by the Report of a number of pistols, their intention was to take his life; We can assure your Excell’y and the Honorable Council that we are convinced of their penetence, & have reason to believe that in future the administration of law will not be interrupted in this County, that Elections will not be opposed & that they will demean themselves as peaceable citizens of this State. They have expressed to us their wishes that the Commissioners for ascertaining claims in this County would return for the Completion of their business again; we would inform your honors that we believe them to be sincere, & with them join in requesting that the said Commissioners would return & proceed in their business.—Had we reason to doubt of the future submission to law & Civil government in this County, we should deviate far from our duty when we represent that the situation of this County at present is not such (in our opinion) as calls for the immediate exertions of a military force. Messrs. Wells & Bowman (the bearers of this letter) will be able to give an account of the particulars of our situation, Col. Pickering’s family, &c.

Those persons who assembled under arms upon Franklin’s being taken (and now disposed for peace, good order, and submission to Government) have in the most humble manner solicited us to represent their submission & orderly disposition to your Excellency & the Hon’ble Council, begging that Franklin’s person may be treated with as much tenderness as the nature of his charge will possibly admit, & if consistent with the laws & dignity of this State, that he be admitted to bail. We also join with them in this last request, observing that many people in this country, entirely submissive for Law & Gov’t, wish Franklin to be treated with as much lenity as will be consistent with his [position.]

We have the honor of Being,

Your Excellency’s humble servants,

Lieutenants of County

Zebulon Butler,

Obediah Gore,

Wm. Hooker Smith.

P.S. The principals of the party above mentioned have in their Letter to Col. Dennison said something in Corroboration of our Opinions to which Letter we would refer your Excellency.

Pg 295

Timothy Pickering to Judges of the Supreme Court,


Wilkesborough, May 26th, 1788


I was lately honoured with your letter of the 10th instant, and agreeably to your request have taken a recognizance of ten freeholders to the amount of two thousand pounds, for the appearance of John Franklin at the next court of Oyer and Terminer to be held in this county, to take his trial for high treason, & his keeping the peace & being of the good behaviour in the mean time. The sureties acknowledged themselves indebted each in a certain sum, being as I judged, owners of lands of those respective values; and it did not occur to me till now that it might be your intention that they should be jointly bound for the entire sum of £2000. But I was led to take the recognizance in that form from the usual practice of binding two sureties each in half the sum required of the principal. I trust however it will answer the purpose for which it was designed.

I am, Gentlemen,

very respectfully

your obed’t servant

Timothy Pickering.*


The Honorable Thomas McKean, Esquire, & Jacob Rush, Esquire, Philadelphia.

*See Col. Rec., Vol. XV., p. 465

Pg 296


I received information last evening by Capt’n Hartsoff that one of Franklin’s best friends told a person in Wilkesbor’g that all that party wanted was to Git Franklin out of Confinement and if as much again bail had been required they would have Given it but as soon as Franklin was at liberty; Bail Law and all should go together for they did not regard those bonds Given. I shall be at Wilkesburgh tomorrow. I think enquiry ought to be made before somebody goes to Philadelphia. I am, Sir, yours,

Law. Myers.

May 27th, 1788.


Col. Pickering.

Pg 296

Timothy Pickering to V.P. Muhlenberg, 1788

Wilkesborough, May 27, 1788

Dear Sir,

The inclosed letters to the Chief Justice & Mr. Burd I should have transmitted directly to them had I not just been informed that the Supreme Court were sitting now at Carlisle, & both those gentlemen might be absent. The letter to the Chief Justice is in answer to one rec’d from him & Mr. Rush, desiring me to take a recognizance of so many freeholders here as were worth £2000.—The letter to Mr. Burd incloses the recognizance I have taken. Should those gentlemen be absent, you will take what order is necessary in the matter.

The half Sharemen are taking possession of the lands assigned them by Franklin, particularly at Tioga. John Swift, Elisha Satterly, Wm. Slocum & Matthewson (all I believe late officers of Franklin) are among them. These four persons (I am just informed,) have taken possession of the lands they claim there, turning off by force the former occupants. Whether the latter had any right to their possessions I know not: but Force is the mode generally adopted in that part of the county to gain possession of lands; and this morning John Jenkins (usually called Major Jenkins, & Franklin’s compeer,) avowed to me explicitly that there was no other mode by which any man in the county claiming land under the Susquehannah Company could get possession of them. "There is, said he, no law in this county for trying the titles of land: For the only rules by which they should be tried are the regulations of the Susquehanna Company; and those regulations are not, nor can be admitted to govern the courts of law in their decisions, until declared to be laws by an act of the General Assembly." I answered, That such of those regulations as were made prior to the decree of Trenton, would govern the courts of law in all disputes about the titles of land among the Connecticut Claimants, and that a positive declaratory act was not necessary for that purpose. But he persisted in his former assertion. Then (said I) your meaning is, that there being no law as you say, to try the title of your lands, when any one claims a particular tract, he is to take possession by force? "It is," said he.

I will make no comments on these transactions and opinions.

I beg the favour of you to deliver the inclosed letter to Mr. Hodgdon as speedily as may be, and remain.

With respect & affection

your most h’ble servant,

Timothy Pickering


The Hon’ble Peter Muhlenberg, Esq.

Pg. 312

Col. Timothy Pickering To V.P. Muhlenberg, 1788.

Wilkesboro, June 14, 1788


Just before I left Philadelphia in January last, a letter from Council dated the 31st of December, was put into my hands, desiring among other things, that I, in conjunction with the county lieutenant & others would make enquiry relative to the conduct of those elected militia officers whose commissions were withheld. The inquiry was for a good while omitted, but this Spring, the county Lieutenant, Col. Hollenback & myself, met together, and those persons attended. It did not appear that M Fitch Alden, & William Hyde, were concerned in the disorders consequent on Franklin’s capture; particularly they were not in arms. Nesbitt owned he was in arms, and Prince Alden had early crossed the river, & was coming up the bank (alone I believe) with his musket, but was disarmed by Mr. Evans & Major McCormick, all of them, however, gave us positive assurances of their future good behaviour, and determination to support the laws of Pennsylvania. Upon the whole, it was our joint opinion that it would be expedient to commissionate them. Prince Alden has since moved up the river to Tioga, & a commission for him would be useless. Since the above mentioned examination, this battalion has had a field day. The officers elect appeared under arms as privates; and the whole battalion behaved very well.

By George Smithers I recd. a letter dated May 6th* from the Secretary of Council, mentioning That a petition had been presented to Council by Smithers, complaining of James Nisbett & Benjamin Carpenter Esqr., Justices of this county, and desiring me to enquire particularly into their proceedings in this matter which was the ground of Smither’s complaint. I gave notice to those gentlemen, of this request of council. Mr. Carpenter, a worthy man & possessed of feeling was, as I expected, much hurt. I am entirely satisfied that he meant to act uprightly, but the prejudices against Pennsylvanians (or Pennamites) amongst whom Smithers is ranked, are so extreme, that men of the best intentions are thereby too apt to be warped in their judgements. The law is clear, that if Smithers had been in quiet possession for three years, the process for forcible entry & detainer could not apply; but because Smithers came into possession in the summer of 1784, when the New England people were violently driven from their possession here, it was concluded that he was of the party, & therefore that he got possession, not peaceably, but by force. Parks was the complainant against Smithers, and one of his witnesses deposed that he heard Smithers say that if any came to possess themselves of the land in dispute, he would defend the same by force & arms, they might depend the consequence. When this threat was uttered is not mentioned in the Justices proceedings. The notes of Smither’s councel state this evidence differently—That Smither’s said if Parks came, & came without law, to take possession, he would keep him off with force & arms. This threat however, as stated by the Justices, seems strongly to have influenced Mr. Carpenter, & he turned to the conductor Generalis, where 1 Hawkins 145, is quoted, in which an entry, or detainer is considered as forcible, if threats only of bodily harm are used. Major Myers was foreman of the Jury, and he thinks there was evidence to warrant their verdict. But people here have adopted the unwarrantable opinion, that Jurors may be determined by their private knowledge of facts never made known to the court & parties an opinion indeed, which once was conformable with the law. For further information on this subject, I beg leave to refer you to Mr. Bowman the Bearer of this letter, & who was counsel for Smither’s. I will only remark, that without minutely enquiring into the proceedings, there was one irregularity which I presume is sufficient to set them aside, Esqr., Nesbitt was father-in-law to Parks the complainant. Of this impropriety Esqr. [defendant’s] plea, he urged that the plea should be withdrawn, that the decision might not rest with the Justices, but be made on the merits of the cause by the Jury. As I said before, I am persuaded that he acted with upright intentions, & I should be sorry to have him censured. Esq. Nesbitt who is old & very infirm, made a formal declaration of his resignation of his office of Justice of the Peace, immediately after the examination was over.

I am Sir,

Very respectfully your most obedt. Servant,

T. Pickering


General Mulenberg, Vice president of Pennsylvania

Pg 326

Council to Govs. of New Jersey and New York, 1788

In Council

Philadelphia, July 2d, 1788


Having received undoubted information from the County of Luzerne, in our state, that Timothy Pickering, Esq., the Prothonotary, was in the night of the 26th ultimo Violently taken out of his house by persons unknown, being painted like Indians, and as they will probably elude the pursuit of a party of the inhabitants by passing into your State, we request your Excellency’s aid and authority may be interposed for apprehending and bringing the Villains to justice.

I have the honor to be,

With great Respect,

Your obedient and very humble Servant,

Benjamin Franklin,


His Excellency the governor of New Jersey, and His Excellency the Governor of New York.

Pg. 327

Deposition of Andrew Ellicott Relative to Timothy Pickering, 1788

June 8th 1788

This day I arrived at Tyoga. I found the inhabitants up the river above Wyoming, (with few exceptions,) disaffected to the Jurisdiction of Pennsylvania, and anxious for the liberation of Mr. John Franklin. At Tunchannock I found a number of people assembled in a riotous manner about the House of a Mr. –—— Marcey, they had taken off the Roof of his House, and were preparing to level it with the ground, which they effected before night. From my appearance they supposed me to be a Traveler, and enquired from what part of the Country I came, I informed them from Philadelphia; they then requested information relative to the liberation of Col. Franklin, as they were pleased to call him, I gave them all the satisfaction I could, and closed my relation with observing that I believed they gave him a military Title to which he had no claim. They answered that a free people had a right to appoint their own commandant. I advised them to submit to the Jurisdiction of Pennsylvania, but they treated the advice with contempt.

At Mishopping I found one Mr. Dudley and his sons violently opposed to the Laws and Jurisdiction of this State.

At Tyoga I could plainly perceive the disposition of the people in favour of Franklin and the half Share rights.

On the 17th I was informed that a plan was just ready for execution that would throw the County into confusion, and was desired to put Col. Pickering on his guard. On the 19th I set out by water for Wyoming, in the afternoon I stopped at Obediah Gore’s, Esq., while I was there we received information by a person who was a stranger to me, that on a day which he named, a meeting (in which John Jenkins presided) had been held down the river by the leaders in opposition to the Jurisdiction of Pennsylvania, in which it was resolved to take Col. Pickering, and retaliate for the captivity of Mr. John Franklin; he likewise informed us that the day preceding this meeting, John Jenkins passed chiefly at Col. Butler’s. On the 22 I arrived at Col. Pickering’s and gave him all the information I could relative to the state of affairs up the River, and the general disposition of the People—he would not give any credit to that part of the information respecting the determination to take, and retaliate on him for the imprisonment of Franklin. On the 26th, in the evening, between the hours of 11 and 12 o’clock, Mrs. Pickering sent a person to inform me that a number of armed men, painted like Indians, had a few minutes before entered their House, made her husband prisoner, pinnioned him and carried him off; immediately after receiving this information I went and alarmed Col. Butler and Cap. Schott. On the 27th, about 10 o’clock in the afternoon, Cap. Schott followed the Insurgents with 18 Horse Men; by 10 o’clock in the morning about 140 of the Militia were collected at Wilksborough; and on the 28th, about 9 o’clock in the morning, 28 of the Militia were sent off. In the evening Capt. Schott returned with the Horse Men, after advancing within 7 miles of 7 of the Insurgents—the same evening 10 of the Militia also returned. On the 29th, in the evening, the remaining 18 Militia also returned, after taking two suspicious characters. On the first of July 50 of the Militia, under the command of Major Mires and Capt. Ross, set out from Mr. John Hollenback’s up the river after the Insurgents.

The following persons compose part of the body of Insurgents, Viz, John Hyde, Capt., Daniel Earle, Benjamin Earle, ——Cady, Wilkes Jenkins, Joseph Dudley, Gideon Dudley, David Woodward, John Whitcomb, Timothy Kilbourn and Thomas Kinney.*

And. Ellicott.

In Council, July 7th, 1788

Personally appeared Andrew Ellicott, Esq., and declareth on his solemn affirmation the foregoing narrative to be true.

Affirmed & subscribed in presence of

*See Col. Rec., Vol. XV., p. 489

Proclamation to Arrest John Jenkins &c., 1788

Pennsylvania, ss

By the Vice President and the Supreme Executive Council of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.


Whereas, by depositions taken according to law, it appears that several evil disposed persons have conspired to obstruct the execution of the laws in the county of Luzerne, and have violently seized and carried off the person of Timothy Pickering, Esquire, an officer of Government, whom they still retain as a prisoner:—And Whereas, it is of great importance to the good people of this Commonwealth, that such heinous offenders should be brought to condign punishment: —We have thought fit to offer and do hereby offer a public reward of three hundred dollars for apprehending and securing John Jenkins, three hundred dollars for apprehending and securing John Hyde, and the sum of one hundred dollars for apprehending and securing each and every of the following named persons, viz. Daniel Earl, Benjamin Earl, ——— Cady, Wilkes Jenkins, Joseph Dudley, Gideon Dudley, David Woodward, John Whitcomb, Timothy Kilburne and Thomas Kinney, or for apprehending and securing any other persons who shall be convicted of aiding and assisting in taking off the said Timothy Pickering—the reward for apprehending and securing any of the above named persons, will be paid on their being delivered to the jail of the county of Northampton:—and all Judges, Justices, Sheriffs and Constables are hereby strictly enjoined and required to make diligent search and enquiry after, and to use their utmost endeavours to apprehend and secure the said offenders, so that they may be dealt with according to law.

Given in Council under the Hand of the Honorable Peter Muhlenburg, Esquire, Vice President, and the seal of the State at Philadelphia this eighth day of July, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty-eight.

Peter Muhlenberg.

Attest Charles Biddle; Secretary.

From hand bill, printed in German as well as English

pg 330

V.P. Muhlenberg to Joseph Cowperthwaite, Sheriff, 1788

In Council, Philadelphia July 8th, 1788


From a change of circumstances since the last determination of Council with regard to Franklin, and to prevent the pernicious consequences that would probably arise from his escape. Council request that the Liberty Franklin at present enjoys be abridged & that you will be pleas’d to direct the Jailer to take every prudent measure in his power to prevent any possibility of an escape, but to prevent any injury to the Health of Franklin. The Board wish he may be permitted twice a week to enjoy the Benefit of the air in the Jail yard, for a limited time, & with circumspection.

I am Sir,

your very humble Servant,

Peter Muhlenberg.


Joseph Cowperthwaite, Esq.

Pg 330

Zebulon Butler & c., to Pres. Franklin, 1788

Wilkesbarre, July 9th, 1788.


As the Bearer, Mr. Wigton, goes this day to Philadelphia on his own private business, we think it highly expedient by him, to inform your Excellency & Council of the present situation of this County.

In our last, we informed that the People in general, were spirited and seem’d determined to do all in their power to silence the lawless Banditti who committed the Riot of taking Col. Pickering. In this we have to inform that we were not deceived. The Militia under the Command of the Sheriff repaired near to the place where the Rioters were posted, and after the scheme was agreed upon in which they were to be attacked, Capt. Ross with a party of twelve or fourteen began his march & just after day light appeared the next morning, met the Rioters, gave them Battle and oblig’d them to leave the ground. In the attack Capt. Ross behaved with much intrepidity and Calmness, but had the misfortune of receiving a wound through his arm and another through his body. However we are happy to find them not mortal. By appearances we have much assurance that he will soon recover, as yet we have no certain intelligence that more than one of the Rioters are wounded, However it is to be believed that there are more, how many we cannot tell.

After this small engagement the Militia soon returned. The places of the Rioters resort is so situated, that after mature deliberation it was concluded a smaller body of Men would much better effect their reduction. Their number does not exceed eighteen and it is generally thought and indeed reported that many of them are much dissatisfied with the imprudence of their conduct, and some of them have left the County. Col. Pickering, by the remainder of them is still detained, but we have some expectation that he will be released by them in the course of a week. The fathers of most of the Rioters we have in close custody—Some or all of them have advis’d to the nefarious plan, and afforded comfort to the Rioters since their appearance in arms, for which proceeding we think their liberty ought to be restrained. They appear to be much affected with their confinement, and seem willing to acknowledge that they have been embarked in a most glaring enterp[r]ize. All possible pains are taken to transmit intelligence to their Children to release Col. Pickering, But whether they will do it or not immediately we cannot say. Measures to oblige them to it are now concerting, and will, the latter end of this week be carried into execution. A number of Men are preparing themselves to steal a march upon them and should the Rioters get no information of it (which we imagine they will not) no doubt but they will fall into our hands.

Whatever accounts may be given your Excellency & Council of the inactivity of the People of the County we are confident they will gain no ground of belief, when we inform every thing practicable to be done has not been omitted. The militia have done their duty with chearfulness and stand ready for the second Toure. On the whole, it is probable, and almost morally certain, that we shall disperse the Rioters if not captivate them in a very short time. In the fulest belief of this, we beg leave to subscribe ourselves your Excellency’s most obedt and very humble servants,

Zebn. Butler,

Wm. Hooker Smith,

Lord Butler.


His Excellency, Benjm. Franklin Esquire, Philadelphia.

Note from JW: See answer July 28

Pg 332

Commissioners of Luzerne to Pres. Franklin, 1788.

Wilksbarre, July 9th, 1788


We have the Honor to Inform You we arrived at this place on the first Instant, & found the whole settlement in motion, on acc’t of Col. Pickerings being carried off a few days before, by a Bandity here called Halfshear men or wild Boys, a Detachment of the Militia accompanied the Sheriff up the river, & several small parties were sent on in Quest of the Insurgents, on the 3d, a few random shotts ware fired across the river, & on the 4th, the Detachment Commanded by Cap’t Ross, consisting of 18 men, who had six suspected persons under his Caire, fell in with the Insurgents in number 13, the letter we are Informed had several wounded & ware Obliged to retire, Cap’t Ross was wounded, but it is Expected not Mortal. Nothing has happened since. Mrs. Pickering rec’d a letter from the Col., Dated the 3d instant., Informing hir that he is well & that his Keepers Expected to Exchange him for Franklin, which Idea he Treats with contempt, aledging the State would act Consisting to there Dignity. We Rec’d a hint that a partie is raising secreatly, who are to take the woods in Quest of him. The bearer waits at the dore, You will excuse hast.

We remain with much Esteem

Your Honors most Obedient

& very Humble Servants,

Stephen Balliet,

Wm. Armstrong.


To His Excellency the President in Council, Philadelphia

pg 340

Warrant—C. J. Morris, N.Y., against Wyoming Insurgents, 1788

State of New York Ss: By Richard Morris, Esquire, Chief Justice of the state of New York.

To the Sheriffs of the several Counties of the said state

[L.S.] and to their Deputies and to all constables in the said several

Counties and to each of them Greeting.

Whereas by Letters from his Excellency Benjamin Franklin, Esquire, Governor of the Common Wealth of Pennsylvania to his Excellency George Clinton, Esquire, Governor of this state, and by a Proclamation* by the Vice President and the Supreme Executive Council of the said Common Wealth dated the eighth day of July Instant, laid before me by his said Excellency Governor Clinton, it appears that John Jenkins, John Hyde, Daniel Earl, Benjamin Earl, ——Cady, Wilkes Jenkins, Joseph Dudley, Gideon Dudley, David Woodward, John Whitcomb, Timothy Kilburne and Thomas Kinney have Conspired to obstruct the Execution of the Laws in the County of Luzerne in the said Common Wealth and have Violently seized and Carried off the person of Timothy Pickering, Esquire, an officer of Government whom they still retain as a prisoner, and whereas it is suggested by the said Executive Council, that the said John Jenkins, John Hyde, Daniel Earl, Benjamin Earl, — Cady, Wilkes Jenkins, Joseph Dudley, Gideon Dudley, David Woodward, John Whitcomb, Timothy Kilburne and Thomas Kinney will, probably to elude Justice, pass into some parts of this state, These are therefore in the name of the people of this state to strictly charge and Command you and each of you to apprehend and take the said offenders and each of them that may be found and all and every other person in whose Custody the said Timothy Pickering, Esquire, may be found, within this state and them forthwith to bring before me in Order that they may be respectively examined touching the premises and to be further dealt with according to Law and the Confederation of the United States and all magistrates, ministerial officers and the good people of this state are, hereby required and Commanded to be aiding and assisting in the Execution of this precept as they will answer the same at their peril. Given under my hand and seal this seventeenth day of July, 1788


[L.S.] By his Excellency, George Clinton, Esquire, Governor of the state of New York, General and Commander in chief of all the militia and admiral of the navy of the same.

The within Warrant is Issued in Consequence of an application made to me by the Supreme Executive Council of the Common Wealth of Pennsylvania and all officers civil and military within this state are hereby required and Commanded to be aiding and assisting in the Execution thereof.

Geo. Clinton

*See page 329

Gov. Clinton to Officers, &c—Wyoming, 1788.

Poughkeepsie, July 18, 1788


The inclosed warrant ag’t the Persons therein named, charged with having unlawfully carryed off the person of Timothy Pickering Esqr., a civil officer of the state of Pennsylvania, will point out to you your duty should any of them be found within your County, and I flatter myself you will not fail on this occasion to evince a sister state, of your readiness & disposition to preserve the peace and execute the Laws I have only to add that should any of the officers of the state of Pennsylvania, in pursuit of the offenders come within this state, it is expected that you will afford them every necessary aid and assistance. I am Gent.,

your most obed’t servant,

Geo. Clinton.


The Officers, Civil & Military, at Chemung, in Montgomery County.

Pg. 341

Gov. Clinton, Of New York, To Pres. Franklin, 1788.

Poughkeepsie, 18th July, 1788.


I have had the honor to receive your Excellency’s Letters of the 2d and 11th instant. The latter was delivered to me by the Honorable Mr. Redick, with whom I have conferred very fully on the subject matter of your Excellency’s Letters, and have directed such measures to be taken on the part of this state, as I hope will prove satisfactory and efficient, and of which Mr. Redick will be able to inform your Excellency more particularly.

I have the honor to be,

With the highest respect and esteem,

Your Excellency’s most obedient servant.

Geo. Clinton


His Excellency, Governor Franklin.

Pg. 344

Deposition Of Ira Manvil — Wyoming, 1788. Ira Manvil of Plymouth in the county of Luzerne, yeomen, charged with being one of the party who on the 26th of last month, in the night, being armed, entered the dwelling house of Colonel Pickering in Wilkesbarre, and with force took and, carried him away, & detained him a prisoner, in open violation of the law, being brought before William Hooker Smith & Benjamin Carpenter, Esq’s Justices Of the Peace for the said county, and, asked what he had to say to the charge, answered, that he was guilty. He then made relation of the circumstances under which he engaged and continued in the party, in order to show that he was unwillingly drawn into it; and that, after he had been at Tioga to inquire into the foundation of the proceedings, & did not get satisfaction, & had returned to the party, he used his endeavours with the Party to get colonel Pickering set at liberty.

The above examination & Confession taken & made the 19th day of July, 1788, before us.

Wm. Hooker Smith,

Bej’n Carpenter.

Justices Of The Peace.*

*See Col. Rec., Vol. XV., p. 505

Pg 344

Deposition Of Benedict Satterlee, 1788.

County of Luzerne, ss. July 19, 1788

Benedict Satterlee of Plymouth in the county of Luzerne yoeman, charged with joining & being one of the party of armed men, who with force entered the house of colonel Pickering in Wilkesborough in said county, on the 26th ultimo, took & carried him away and detained prisoner, was brought before William Hooker Smith & Benjamin Carpenter Esqrs., Justices of the peace for said Countv, and being asked what he had to say to the charge aforesaid, answered That he was guilty. He further confesses & says that he had not heard of the design to take Colonel Pickering, untill the day on which he was taken. That Frederick Budd & Ira Manvil on that day came to him at his School house, and told him that a bond had been sent to Phila. to bail Colonel Franklin according to directions from the Chief Justice, that he was not bailed, & that the bond was kept. That he Budd had come with a party to take Colonel Pickering as a hostage, to redeem Colonel Franklin, and asked, the confessor to join the party, which he declined, but at length said he would go and see them, which he did,, but without joining them, and came and attended his school that afternoon. That he and Manvil afterwards went down to the river to see the party, where he was strongly urged, for full three quarters of an hour to join them, they saying that they had a good foundation for their proceedings, that they were to have reward, or to be made good for their trouble, and when he still declined, John Hyde jr., one of the party said full two thirds of the settlement were with them & that if he, the confessor, did not join them, he would not be able to live in the settlement, and he consented to join them.

Taken and made before us,

Wm. Hooker Smith,

Benj. Carpenter,

Justices of the peace

Copy, Commitment Of Two Wyoming Insurgents, 1788 Luzerne County ss.

To the Sheriff of the County of Luzerne and to the

Sheriff of the County Northampton in the State of Pennsylvania Greeting.

Whereas complaint has been made to us William Hooker Smith and Benjaminn Carpenter Esquires Justices of the Peace for said County of Luzerne against Ira Manvil and Benedict Statterlee both of the same County, Yeomen, for that they said Ira and Benedict with divers other persons on the twenty sixth day of June last in the night, being armed with guns & other weapons, and most of them having their faces disfigured, surrounded and entered the dwelling house of Timothy Pickering Esqr., at Wilkesbarre in said County of Luzerne and seized and bound him and carried him away, and detained him a prisoner until the fifteenth Instant in flagrant violation of the peace, of which Crime they have this day before us confessed themselves guilty. Therefore in the name of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, we Command you the said Sheriff of Luzerne to take and safely convey the said Ira and Benedict to the Common Goal of the said County of Northampton and there deliver them to the Sheriff of the said County of Northampton, and you the said Sheriff of the County of Northampton are in like manner commanded to receive and keep in close custody the bodies of the said Ira Manvil and Benedict Satterlee untill they shall be delivered by due course of Law. Given under our hands and seals the nineteenth day of July in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred & eighty eight. (Signed,) Wm. Hooker Smith, Indorsed thereon, Benjn. Carpenter

Commitment pursuant to an act of General Assembly passed the 29th day of September 1787.

(Signed) T. Pickering, Clerk of the Peace for the County of Luzerne

Copy, July 1788. Rob. Traill.

Pg 346 Timothy Pickering To Pres. Franklin, 1788. Wilkesbarre) July 19, 1788. Sir,

I have the pleasure to inform you and the honourable Council that I am restored to my liberty. The band of ruffians who took me, finding themselves unsupported, even by the men who advised and directed them in the affair, came to me last Monday with proposals to set me at liberty, saying they had been advised by their friends & one of the magistrates whom they had seen, to make their peace with me, & petition Council for a pardon. With respect to myself I told them that the injury was very great & that I was entitled to heavy damages, that nevertheless I would forgive the personal injury on the single condition of their strict obedience to the laws in future. This they said they were willing to comply with, and become engaged, the whole for each one of the party; and on failure by any one the whole to be still liable to my action. They then pressed me to intercede with Council for the pardon they should petition for, but I refused. However, as they continued their importunities, I at length told them, that on one condition I would intercede for them, this was, that they should give me the names of all their head men (as they called them) and advisers. They took time to consider of it, ‘till the next day, when they finally declined it. They then begged me to forward their petition to Council, as they should not have an opportunity of doing it. This I told them I would do. And I now inclose it. The last name of the petitioners I have dashed out; the young man having joined the party but a few days before I was released, and for the sole purpose of discovering their lurking places, that he might conduct a party to relieve me. This young man has since collected three or four of his acquaintances, and with them lain in wait for two of the party, whose intended movements he was informed of while with them, and just before day yesterday morning, took both of them, and last night these two were sent off to be lodged in Easton goal. The party were also very urgent with me to intercede for Franklin’s being admitted to bail as soon as possible, but this I utterly refused to do. They expressed their fears that if not soon released he would die in goal, and wished me to believe, that it was not for the sake of getting him into the county again that they were so anxious for his enlargement; for if bailed on condition of his residing with his father in Connecticut they should be perfectly satisfied. They added That Major Jenkins had said that if Franklin had been released on the bail sent to Philadelphia, it was his intention that he should remain here not more than a month, just to settle his affairs & get new cloaths, when he would leave it. Altho' no reliance is generalle to be put on what Jenkins says in such cases, yet it is probable he spoke the truth in this instance, for both he and several others of Franklins principal adherents are closely connected with Livingston, McKinstry & others, now usually called the York Lessees, whohave a plan to execute, as I have heretofore taken the libertyof suggesting to Council. Jenkins and Swift, by last accounts, were both with the lessees at Canadesago lake, where they expect to hold a treaty with the Indians. From the testimony of the young man who has turned States Evidence, there is room to believe that Livingston & McKinstry encouraged the party to detain me as a hostage for Franklin’s release. The reason is obvious, But there is another of the party which took me, who knows more, & the Justices have sent him a passport to come down & give his evidence. To this and the other the Justices have given the usual assurances of a pardon on condition of their making full discoveries of the whole scene of villainy. These two perssons, after I was released and was on my way home, sent me a message declaring their readiness to turn States evidence if they could be pardoned. Council, I trust, will eventually cause the expectations of pardon to these two witnesses to be fulfilled, agreeable to the encouragement held up to them by the magistrate & me.

I have honor to be,

Very respectfully Sir,

your most obedient Servant

Timothy Pickering.*


His Excellency The President of the State of Pennsylvania. *See Col. Rec., Vol. XV., p. 502, 505, 507.

Certificate of Gaoler respecting Manvil and Satterlee, 1788

I do Certify that Thomas Drake has this day delivered into the Goal of the County of Northampton the bodies of Ira Manvil and Benedict Satterlee committed as being two of the persons concerned in apprehending Timothy Pickering Esq., lately at Wyoming.

Witness my hand at Easton July 21st, 1788.

Henry Bush, Goaler.

Pg. 352

Resolution Of Congress—Wyoming, 1788

July 25th, 1788,

By the United States in Congress Assembled,

Resolved, That the Secretary at War direct the detachment of Troops marching to the westward to rendezvous at Easton in Pennsylvania, and from thence march into the County of Luzerne for quelling the disturbances in that County; provided the Executive Council of Pennsylvania shall find the assistance of those troops necessary; provided also that the said Troops shall not be delayed in their march to the Ohio, more than two weeks.

Cha. Thomson,* Sec'y.

*See Col. Rec. Vol. XV., p. 502

Pg. 353

Part One Part Two
Bradford County PA
Chemung County NY
Tioga County PA
Published On Tri-Counties Site On 03 APR 2007 
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