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Pennymite and Yankee War.

Trouble began in Wyoming Valley between Connecticut settlers under the auspices of the Susquehanna Company and the Pennsylvanians in 1769, when the former made a second attempt to clear the way for planting a colony in that region. In 1768 the proprietary of Pennsylvania purchased of the Six Nations the whole Wyoming Valley, and leased it for seven years to three Pennsylvanians, who built a fortified trading-house there. In February, 1769, forty pioneers of the Susquehanna Company entered the Wyoming Valley and invested the block-house, garrisoned by ten men, who gave Governor Penn notice of the situation. Three of the Connecticut men were lured into the blockhouse under pretence of making an adjustment of difficulties, and were seized by the sheriff and taken to jail at Easton. Other immigrants flocked in from [127] Connecticut, and the sheriff called upon the posse of the county to assist in their arrest. The Connecticut people also had built a block-house, which they named Forty Fort. The sheriff broke down its doors, arrested thirty of the inmates, and sent them to Easton jail. When admitted to bail, they returned with about 200 men from Connecticut, who built Fort Durkee, just below Wilkesbarre, so named in honor of their commander, John Durkee. Then the sheriff reported to the governor that the whole power of the county was insufficient to oppose the “Yankees.”

Meanwhile the company had sent commissioners to Philadelphia to confer upon a compromise. The governor (Penn) refused to receive them, and sent an armed force, under Colonel Francis, into the valley. The sheriff joined Francis with a strong armed party, with a 6-pounder cannon. Colonel Durkee and several of the inhabitants were captured, and the fort was surrendered upon conditions which were immediately violated. The next year Colonel Durkee, released, took command of the Connecticut people, and captured the sheriff's cannon; also one of the leading Pennsylvanians (Amos Ogden), who had fortified his house. Imitating the bad faith of their opponents, the Yankees seized his property and burned his house. Governor Penn now (1770) called upon General Gage, in command of the British troops at New York, for a detachment “to restore order in Wyoming.” He refused. In the autumn Ogden marched by the Lehigh route, with 140 men, to surprise the settlers in Wyoming. From the mountain-tops he saw the farmers in the valley pursuing their avocations without suspicion of danger. He swooped down upon the settlement in the night, and assailed Fort Durkee, then filled with women and children. The fort and the houses of the settlement were plundered, and many of the chief inhabitants were sent to Easton jail. The Yankees left the valley, and the “Pennymites,” as the Pennsylvanians were called, took possession again.

On the night of Dec. 18 the Connecticut people, led by Lazarus Stewart, returned, and, attacking Fort Durkee, with the shout of “Huzza for King George!” captured it and drove the Pennymites out of the valley. In January following they returned in force, when Stewart, perceiving that he could not long resist them, fled from the valley, leaving a garrison of twelve men in the fort, who were made prisoners and sent to Easton. Peace reigned there until near midsummer, when Capt. Zebulon Butler, with seventy armed men from Connecticut and a party under Stewart, suddenly descended from the mountains and menaced a new fort which Ogden had built. The besieged, within strong works, were well supplied with provisions, and defied their assailants. Ogden managed to escape, went to Philadelphia, and induced the governor (Hamilton) to send a detachment of 100 men to Wyoming. The expedition was unsuccessful. The besiegers kept them at bay, and the siege, during which several persons were killed, was ended Aug. 11. By the terms of capitulation, the Pennsylvanians were to leave the valley. So ended the contest for 1771.

The Yankees held the coveted domain, and, under the advice of the Connecticut Assembly, they organized civil government there upon a democratic system. The government was well administered, the colony rapidly increased, and the people were prosperous and happy. The settlement was incorporated with the colony of Connecticut, after a judicial decision in England. The territory was called Westmoreland, and attached to Litchfield county, Conn., and its representatives were admitted into the General Assembly. Wilkesbarre was laid out, and for four years peace smiled upon the beautiful valley. Suddenly, in the autumn of 1775, the Pennsylvanians, encouraged by Governor Penn, renewed the civil war, killing and imprisoning the inhabitants. The Continental Congress interfered in vain; but when the proprietary government was abolished, in the progress of the contest for independence, this Pennymite and Yankee War was suddenly ended. See Susquehanna Company.

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