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History of Ryegate, Vermont
Chapter XXV



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 Greenock.

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 healthy.

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, etc.


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.


This Contract of the date underwritten made and entered into between the partys following viz.—:

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 to him.

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 Meeting.


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 Sept. 1786.




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


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 humble servants.


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 them.

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,

County of Orange, State of Vermont,
N. America.

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:

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