JAMES WHITELAW TO HIS
FATHER, 1773.—JAMES HENDERSON’S BOND.—MEETING
HOUSE ACCOUNT.—VOTE OF MEMBERS ABOUT
TIMBER.—ROBERT BROCK’S BOND.—WEIGHT OF MILL IRONS.—CERTIFICATE OF
MEMBERSHIP.—LETTER FROM MANAGERS IN SCOTLAND.—MONEY REMITTED TO
SCOTLAND.—BILL OF EXCHANGE.—LETTER FROM SCOTLAND, 1809.—RYEGATE MEN IN THE
REVOLUTIONARY WAR, THE WAR OF 1812, THE
MEXICAN WAR AND THE CIVIL WAR.
THE following letter from James
Whitelaw to his father gives such an interesting account of the country
just before the revolutionary war that we reproduce it:
Having an opportunity of being once
more in this place and of two ships being ready to sail for England, I
again write you that I am in good health and have reason to be thankful to
God that I never was so well in my life as since I came to this country,
for to the best of my remembrance I never gave a single cough since I left
As we have now been through all the
places which we intend to visit in this province, I will give you a short
account of what we have seen, since we left this place. On Wednesday the
9th of June we set out for Albany in a sloop, and arrived there on
Saturday the 12th at night, the distance being 165 miles. We met with
worse weather going up the river than we did in all our passage from
Europe. One night it blew so hard that I was obliged to stand for a sailor
the whole night. The land on the banks of river is very steep and rocky,
most part of the way between this and Albany, but when you come near
Albany it becomes flat and very pleasant. Albany is a handsome little town
about twice as large as Anderstown, and the inhabitants mostly Dutch. We
set out from there for Johnson Hall. where Sir William Johnson lives,
which is on the bank of the Mohawk River about 44 miles west from Albany
where we went to view some lands he had to Fell. The lands are very good,
but the situation not so good, being over a high mountain and through a
large swamp, and there is no navigation nearer than Albany.
Here we saw great numbers of Indians
of which there are always plenty about this place; they are of a tawny
complexion with long straight black hair, which their squaws or women wear
long and tied behind, and the men wear theirs short. Their shape is
handsome for the most part, and of an ordinary size. They wear no clothes
except a kind of blanket which they wrap about their shoulders, and two
pieces of skin which they wear, the one before and the other behind to
cover their nakedness. They seem to be very fond of jewels, as the best
part of them have bracelets, ear-rings and nose jewels, which is an
ear-ring which they hang between their mouth and nose, the gristle of
their nose being pierced for that purpose. We saw one in particular which
beside the aforementioned jewels had a round piece of leather hung before
his breast, which was all drove full of white~headed nails, and a great
number of buttons and other trinkets hung around it, and he wore a cap
made of some beast’s skin with the hair on it, and a long tail came down
to his waist, at the end of which hung about 20 or 25 women’s thimbles.
You may easily conjecture what a noise these trinkets made as he walked
along. What makes them most remarkable is the painting of their faces
which they color all over with red and black streaks.
We bought two horses here and set
out from this place for New Perth, where one Dr Clark lives, who was to
inform us about lands, and he told us that he had some small lots, but
none large enough for us. From this we were to have gone to Crown Point,
but he told us that all the lands about Lake Champlain were in dispute
between the two governors of York and New Hampshire, and indeed all the
land in the province, so we went from there to Charlestown in New
Hampshire, where Mr. Church lives, who is partner with Dr. Witherspoon and
Mr. Pagan in their township on Connecticut river, and he went along with
us and showed it to us, and it seems to be good land, but very far back,
being more than 300 miles from New York, and it lies along the bank of
Connecticut river. It is 200 miles above Hartford which is the highest
that sloops run up the river. The nearest seaport is Portsmouth which lies
about 100 miles east of it.
On our way to this place we lodged
one night where Dr. Wheelock has his Indian Academy or College, when we
went and called for him, and as it was night he invited us into prayers in
his college, where he prayed very earnestly for all the people who had
contributed to the building and maintaining of the college. He told us
that he now has upwards of 80 students in his college of whom about 30
were on charity, and 17 of these were Indians.
On our way from Doctor Clark’s to
Charlestown we had a very bad road being over some very steep mountains,
and one morning we set out from a house at 6 o’clock and did not see
another till 12, our road being through the woods where we had no way but
by marks on the trees as the road was not cut out. From Charlestown to New
York the road is pretty good as it is mostly through an old inhabited
country. The hay harvest is all finished along the road and now they are
busy with their wheat and rye harvest. They have a curious way of managing
their stacks, so that as soon as they are up they are thatched and it is
this: They have 4 long trees which they set up at the 4 corners of the
place where they are to build the stack and they make a frame on which
they erect a roof.
The crops in this country are not so
good as I expected to find them as their wheat does not commonly produce
above 6 or 7 boils an acre, and their rye about the same. Their barley
looks to be very good, but their oats are rather indifferent. Their Indian
corn will produce 12 or 14 boils an acre, and they have several ways of
cooking it so it makes excellent food. They have plenty of white peas and
a kind of bean, but none of our Scotch peas or beans. If the country were
properly cultivated they might perhaps have larger crops for they do
nothing but just plow and sow, and in some places they summer fallow their
wheat land, which turns out greatly to their advantage.
There are several ways of clearing
land in this country such as girdling, cutting and grubbing. Girdling is
only cutting a notch about an inch deep, and two inches wide round the
root of the tree which makes it die. Their method of cutting is to stand
upright and cut the tree about two or three feet from the ground, as for
grubbing, it is very little practiced. tho it is surely the best way.
When they want only pasture, they
only cut the small brush aud girdle the trees, and for tillage they cut
all except the very large ones which they girdle, and then they set fire
to them and burn them, and with the leaves lying on the ground burn the
whole surface, then without doing anything else they harrow through the
roots with a three-cornered brake, then sow their grain which will grow
tolerable good. This they continue for three or four years, after which
they use the plow.
The weather they tell us has been
warmer than ordinary for three weeks past. and though it is warmer than at
home it is in no way intolerable, and the people in this country seem very
I never expected to have stood my
journey so well for though we have rode, since we bought our horses about
five hundred miles, I have never been the least weary.
Pray Remember me to my Mother, and
to all my brothers and sisters, and all other friends and acquaintances.
I have no more, but remain yours,
NEW YORK, July 13, 1773.
After nearly all the previous part
of this volume had been printed, some papers of James Henderson, the
pioneer, were found among his descendants in another state, and were sent
to us. They came too late to be used in the narrative but some of them are
so interesting and valuable that we decided to reproduce them in full.
CONTRACT WITH JAMES HENDERSON.
This Contract of the date
underwritten made and entered into between the partys following
William Houston, Farmer in Craigend,
Praeses ; John Erskine, Farmer in Beiley; William Neilson, Farmer in
Glenshinnock; Andrew Arthur, Son to John Arthur, Farmer in Boghall;
Alexander Barnhill. Brewer in Port Glasgow; Matthew White, Farmer in
Garneland; William Blackwood, Farmer in Bottom; John Paterson and Robert
Brock, Farmers in Barns of Clyde; William Semple, Farmer in Brickhouse;
John Cross, Milner at Braehead, and John Allen, Weaver in Paisley;
Managers of the Scotch-American Company of Farmers on the one part, and
James Henderson, Wright.
On the other part in manner
following Witnesseth, That the said James Henderson hath become
bound As he hereby.binds and oblidges himself to proceede on a voyage as
Soon as the said managers shall require him So to do alongst with the said
Companys Commissioners. And that to any of His Majestys Colonys or
Dominions That the said Managers or Commissioners shall direct, or wherein
they shall purchase lands for the said Companys behoof, in manner
mentioned in the Contract of Copartnery entered into by the several
partners of the said Company and the said James Henderson shall there
remain for the Space of Fourteen days after his arrival at the said
Company’s Charges And thereafter at his own proper expense and Charges
until Such time as the Said Companys, Commissioners shall have purchased
said Lands and require him to begin to work for them And that he shall
there serve the said Company or their Commissioners or Managers in America
for the time being in such Service and Employment as the said Company’s
Managers or Commissioners in America Shall Employ him in. And that for the
Space of One year Compleat from & after he the said James Henderson Shall
be required and begin to work to the said Company. And further the said
James Henderson doth hereby bind and oblidge himself to carry with him the
whole Tools that he presently hath And to use them at the said Company’s
work during the Sd Space. And the said James Henderson doth
hereby declare & Covenant that he at the time of Subscribing hereof is of
age of ———-— years and — mo.
RYEGATE, Dec. 6th, 1803.
At a meeting of the Members of the
Scotch American Company of Farmers. holden this day at the dwelling house
of Mr. Andrew Brock in this town.
1st Voted, That all the persons who
own company’s land shall have leave in an equal proportion to cut pine
timber on lots No. 130, 131 & 132 Lying south of Mr. Henderson’s land and
West of Mr. Whitelaw’s land.
2d Voted, That all newcomers who
have not formerly cut timber on Sd lots. shall have leave to
cut and draw to the Mill sufficient timber to make three thousand feet of
boards, each, besides paying the mill’s share.
3rd Voted, That all who have
formerly cut, and all others after having 3000 feet shall pay a square
edged board out of their half of each log, provided nevertheless
that no person shall cut timber on Sd lots to make any more hoards than
they want for their own use, except Mr. Andrew Brock who is to have every
privilege that his father was understood to have when that land was deeded
4th Voted, That unless the timber
that is now cut down be cut into logs within one week from this date, any
one in the company may cut what are left at that time and put their mark
on them and draw them and have them sawed for their own use, the same as
if they had first cut down the trees, and in future every person who cuts
a tree shall immediately cut it into logs and mark it else forfeit his
right to it, extraordinarys excepted.
5th Voted, That after any given log
has lain a month from the time it is cut, any person in the Company may
take the log and mark it with his own Mark and immediately draw it to the
Mill, after which the person who cut it shall have no claim to it and
those who have timber which was cut before this winter shall draw it to
the Mill within two months else it shall be forfeited as above.
Attest: JAMES WHITELAW, Clerk to the
BOND GIVEN BY ROBERT BROCK.
Know all men by these presents that
I, Robert Brock, of the town of Ryegate, County of Orange, and State of
Vermont, for Myself my Heirs, Executors and Assigns and Administrators am
firmly Bound and Obligated unto James Henderson, John Gray and William
Neilson, Agents of the Scots American Co., and their successors forever in
penal sum of One Hundred and Thirty Pounds Sterling Money to be well and
truly paid to the said Managers, Agents and Successors, viz.:
The Condition of the above
Obligation is such that if I, the said Robert Brock, above Bounden, my
Heirs and Successors, keep the Mills now in my possession on the Great
Falls on Wells River, in sufficient repair so as to do Business for Two
days in the week, or oftener if necessity requires until such time only as
the Town or Company erect a Mill or Mills in Newbury or Ryegate bounds, or
refuse to haul Millstones, then this obligation to be null and void.
Otherwise to remain in full force.
Given at Ryegate this 29th day of
WILLIAM JOHNSON, Witneses
CERTIFICATE OF MEMBERSHIP IN THE
WILLIAM WALLACE, Shoemaker in the Parish of Eastwood
having offered himself as a Member of the Scots American Company of
Farmers and having paid the sum of Five Pounds Sterling Money to the
Managers of the said Company, and further has become bound to Obtemper and
fulfil the whole Article—Clauses and Conditions contained in the bond of
their association, an exact copy whereof is hereto prefixed and therefore
for the better security of the said William Wallace and to entitle him to
his proportioned share of Lands and other profits arising from the
management of the said Company in so far as he may be concerned— He is
therefore Entered as a Member and partner upon the said Company’s record
and the said Entrance signed by William Houston, Preces.
Houston, 19 Aug. 1774.
That the above is a just and true
copy of the said William Wallace’s Entrance, and that by virtue thereof he
was allowed by the Managers to draw for his Lotts Effering to the above
Inputt, when he drew the Number one Hundred and one Hundred and one
All which is extracted from the said
company’s record and is attested by
WILLIAM STEWART, Co. Cl’k.
The following letter shows the
difficulty which the managers on both sides of the ocean found. in
adjusting their accounts.
RENFREW, 1st March, 1797.
Gentlemen: Your letter to the
managers of date 13 May, 1796 came safe to hand in answer to ours of the
6th Feb’y, 1796 by which we are happy to learn of your welfare and
prosperity and approve of your conduct in the management of what concerns
us in Ryegate.
Upon the 10th day of Feb’y last
there was a meeting of the managers here when your letter was read before
them, by which you inform us of the state of lots in Ryegate as it at
present stands as to number. Also you inform us there has been sold by you
and Rob’t Brock about sixty-three lots at twenty-eight Dollars per lot.
Now after all the inquiries we have been able to make we cannot be certain
of the number of vacant or forfeited lots because the Members are so
scattered. Deaths &c., have happened, and also that several of our number
set out in war time after having paid every charge then due, yet were
carried into Boston or other places in the time of the war, when the
British were in possession of the places where they were landed, a number
of whom never got to Ryegate to possess the lands they had paid for, in so
far as we know, for which reasons we are of opinion that no more lots
should be sold for some time at least, in case any of the heirs of some of
these people who had been so unfortunate should yet claim, and we should
not wish that any having right should be disappointed.
You wish us to appoint the way of
conveyance for you to remit to us the money or price of these lots-you
have sold for the Co. when due, according to the terms on which you have
strict bargains with your buyers.
But considering the distance and
other impediments that would lie in our way, the Managers at the above
meeting were unanimous in opinion that you yourselves had far better
opportunities than we. Such as you must be acquainted with several good
merchants about N. York or elsewhere who have business in this country and
from whom you could easily purchase bills upon some good house in Glasgow,
Greenock or other place in Scotland, where we could draw the cash, which
is the easiest and safest way of remittance for us both. Our meeting on
the 10th Feb. last authorized us hereto subscribing to write you these
their resolutions, and we remain,
Gentlemen, sincerely your most
The following is added as a
postscript to the foregoing letter.
RENFREW, 1 March, 1797.
Gentlemen: As I wrote Messrs. James
Nelson and William Craig of date 29th Feb. 1796, desiring them to such
measures unto my six lots of land in Rye-gate (for which all charges are
paid) as should secure my property there, but I am now informed by the
Co’s letter of 3d of May last that nothing short of settling the lands can
secure the property. But I have since seen a letter from Mr. Andrew Brock
to his brother William saying that if any of the Co. wished to redeem
their property that on writing him for that purpose he would do it for
By this I hereby empower Mr. Brock
to secure mine, viz.: My six lots in Rye-gate, and in the meantime as Mr.
James Nelson is said to wish to purchase them, let him inform me by first
opportunity what price he will give for my six lots and how he will remit
the money to me.
I remain yours, &c.,
The above are addressed,
MR. JAMES HENDERSON IN RYEGATE,
County of Orange, State of Vermont,
Care of Mr. Peter Hatridge, mercht,
Pearle Street, New York.
The following extract from the books of the Managers
show how much was received by them: