Poultney was chartered in 1761 when Royal Governor Benning Wentworth, in the name of King George the Third, granted 61 proprietors equal shares in a township six miles square "for the due encouragement of settling a new plantation within Our said Province (of New Hampshire)." Governor Wentworth had made 16 of these "New Hampshire Grants" in what is now Vermont before 1761, most of them east of the Green Mountains; in 1761, he made 60 grants, many of them west of the Greens, including Poultney.
Most of the Poultney grantees were at the time residents of Litchfield County, Connecticut, and Berkshire County, Massachusetts. In exchange for the land, the grantees were required to pay "the rent of one ear of Indian corn only, on the 25th day of December, annually", for ten years, and one shilling per 100 acres held thereafter. In addition the proprietors were required to cultivate 5 acres for every 50 they owned and reserve white and other pines of a certain size for masts for the Royal Navy.
This was a period of great land speculation with rival claims of ownership by New York as well as New Hampshire. The famous Ethan Allen, of Green Mountain Boys fame, along with his brothers, was in the thick of the speculation as well as resistance to the "Yorkites". At the end of the decade, fully one third of the land in Poultney belonged to an Allen. Only two of the grantees named in the original charter actually ever settled here.
At the last annual proprietors meeting in Connecticut, in February, 1772, Ethan Allen was elected Proprietors' Clerk, and the meeting was adjourned until April to the Poultney home of Heber Allen, Ethan's brother.
The first settlers, who had come in April, 1771, and built shanties near the present-day main intersection in Poultney, were Ebenezer Allen, a cousin of Ethan, and Thomas Ashley, an Allen in-law. At the first town meeting, on March 8, 1775, the First Town Clerk was elected – Heber Allen.
The Allens, the Ashleys and the Green Mountain Boys were successful in resisting the Yorkites and became famous for the taking of Fort Ticonderoga from the British early in the Revolutionary War. Poultney men accompanied Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold in taking the Fort. It is reported that as Allen entered the room of the commander, Poultney resident Thomas Ashley was the man next to him and stood watch at the head of the stairs.
After the Declaration of Independence, Poultney men participated in a series of state-wide conventions that culminated in January, 1777, with the adoption of the Vermont Declaration of Independence, which declared "that the district of territory known by the name and description of the New Hampshire Grants, is, and of right ought to be, considered as a free and independent jurisdiction or State, by the name, and forever hereafter to be called, known and distinguished by the name of New Connecticut, alias Vermont."
Vermont remained independent until 1791, when it joined the Union as the 14th state.
Comments are closed.