By Ron Patch
With Chester’s 250th Birthday rapidly approaching I thought I would write some of Chester’s early history. This history comes from several sources including a copy of an original multi-page document of 1774 Chester Town Meetings located at Chester Town Hall.
Chester’s first charter was from New Hampshire for the town of Flamstead and dated February 22, 1754. The French and Indian War was underway at this same time. Because of the Indian threat no one settled in Flamstead and the charter failed.
The second New Hampshire charter was for New Flamstead. That charter was granted on November 3, 1761. The Proprietors of this charter did hold a number of meetings, but none in Chester until 1763. This second charter also failed.
So that the reader understands, New Hampshire issued charters and New York issued patents. What is the difference? New Hampshire charters were usually six miles square. The grants were then subdivided amongst the proprietors.
A New York patent was an irregular shape parcel and of varying dimensions and sold to wealthy people. New Hampshire grants were sold to middle class farmers.
So, on July 14, 1766, New York issued a patent for the former New Flamstead they now named Chester. This patent would later result in much conflict. The area Chester was in Cumberland County, Province of New York. Chester was the Shire Town of Cumberland County with a courthouse and a jail. This courthouse and jail was a poorly built stockade style building located where the new Jiffy Mart is being built today.
Thomas Chandler, one of the first settlers in Chester, was very active buying and selling land in Chester. There is no doubt that many of his dealings were shady. When Chandler petitioned New York for the Chester patent he added almost 10,000 acres to the New Flamstead charter. He had stolen the acreage from Andover, Springfield, Ludlow and Cavendish. Peter Farrar will tell us more of Chandler’s dealings this August 12th. Today, Chester is well over six miles square.
Here’s another piece of Chester’s early history taken from a 1774 Chester Town Meeting document. It is copied as written.
October 3rd 1774
We the subscribers, Inhabitants of the Town of Chester desire Col. Thomas Chandler as Clerk of the Town aforesaid, to call a Town Meeting to know the mind of the People. Whither they are willing to choose a Comtee to make Report to Comtee of Correspondence and whither the People will stand for the Privileges of North America, or whither they are willing to consent to Re=ceive the late Acts of Parliament as just, or whither they view them as unjust, Oppressive and unconstitutional and to act as they think proper.
October 10th, 1774
First: That the people of America are Naturally Intitled to all the Privileges of Free Born Subjects of Great Britain, which Privileges they have never Forfieted.
2nd: Resolved that every mans Estate, Honestly acquired is his own and no person on Earth has a right to take it away without the Proprietors consent unless he forfiet it by some crime of his committing.
3rd: Resolved that all Acts of the British Parliament Tending to take away or abridge these Rights, Ought not to be Obeyed.
4th: Resolved that the People of this Town will joyn with their Fellow American Subjects in Opposing in all Lawful ways Every Incroachment on their natural rights.
Thos Chandler Moderator
Entered by Thos Chandler Clerk
The October 10th, 1774 meeting was held at the home of Jonathan Tarbell and is considered the first Declaration of Independence. Tarbell lived at the upper end of High Street on land many would know today as Crocker’s camp.
The photo with this article is a bronze token in my collection. It was minted to celebrate the 1966 Chester Bicentennial. A few of these tokens were minted in sterling silver as collector items. I have never seen one.
This July 14th is the 250th anniversary of the 1766 founding of Chester. Many events are planned to celebrate this milestone beginning July 14th – July 17th. For a schedule of events you can visit the Chester Historical Society web site: www.chesterhistory.org
Instead of an old saying I offer this verse from the 1779 “The Song of the Vermonters.”
“Come York or come Hampshire, come traitors or knaves,
If ye rule o’er our land ye shall rule o’er our graves
Our vow is recorded—our banner unfurled,
In the name of Vermont we defy all the world!”