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Before the Revolution: Pine Tree Riot (1772)

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  • Ebenezer Mudgett (1726 - bef.1784)
    Leader of the Pine Tree Riot. In 1777, Ebenezer was one of fifteen men sent to Vermont to help the militia there under Stark. On August 16 the hastily raised troops attacked and defeated British and ...
  • Lt. Timothy Worthley (c.1740 - 1830)
    Known participant in the Pine Tree Riot. He was lieutenant in the Revolutionary army. DAR Ancestor # A130654 , MASS. Red Flagged: "FUTURE APPLICANTS MUST COMPLETE".
  • Benning Wentworth, Royal Colonial Governor Of Hew Hampshire (1696 - 1770)
    Governor of the Province of New Hampshire In office 1741–1766 Preceded by John Wentworth Succeeded by Sir John Wentworth Born 24 July 1696 Portsmouth, New Hampshire Died 14 October 1770 P...
  • Meshech Weare, 1st Governor of New Hampshire (1713 - 1786)
    Patriot of the Revolutionary War Service NH, Rank Civil Service, Patriotic service Ancestor # A 123090 Service Source: DOW,HISTORY TOWN OF HAMPTON VOL I, P 1030 BOUTON,DOC & REC, RELATING TO STATE ...

It happened at dawn, April 14, 1772 in Weare, New Hampshire. Twenty-forty men, faces blackened with soot, entered the room of sheriff Benjamin Whiting at the Pine Tree Inn and assaulted him and his deputy, John Quigly, with switches cut from trees. Their horses had their ears cut off, their tails and manes shaved. Whiting and Quigly were forced to ride out of town through a gauntlet of jeering townspeople.

This event, which came to be known as the Pine Tree Riot, was an act of resistance to British royal authority undertaken by American colonists. By the late 17th century, due to the number of ships built and repaired, Great Britain had few trees remaining which were suitable to be used as masts for merchant and naval ships. White pine trees were considered to be the best type of tree to use for these single-stick masts. The forests of New Hampshire were filled with white pine trees, a valuable resource for Britain.

Laws were passed in North America to protect white pine trees until they were fully grown for British ship building. In 1722, the New Hampshire General Court passed a law making it illegal to cut down "any white pine tree of the growth of 12 inches of diameter" or face a fine of ₤5 to ₤50, depending upon the diameter of the tree and whatever lumber was unlawfully cut down. "Surveyors of the King's Woods" were assigned to identify all trees suitable for the king's use with a broad arrow, three slashes cut with an ax, before settlers could clear their land. And, to add insult to injury, the colonists had to pay to have their trees surveyed and marked.

The law was not strictly enforced until John Wentworth was appointed governor of the New Hampshire colony in 1766. This law was more than just an inconvenience. The colonists could not clear their land for farming. They couldn't use trees from their own land for lumber to build homes, or other buildings such as churches. The law caused more anger and anguish than the Stamp Act or tea tax. The result of the law caused a patriotic backlash of sentiment, making it unfashionable to have floorboards less than 12 inches wide.

John Sherman, Deputy Surveyor of New Hampshire, ordered a search of sawmills in 1771-1772 for white pine marked for the British Crown. His men found that six mills in Goffstown and Weare possessed large white pines and marked them with the broad arrow to indicate that they were the property of the King. The mill owners hired a lawyer by the name of Samuel Blodgett to represent them, and he met with Governor Wentworth in hopes that he could persuade the governor to drop the charges against the mill owners. Instead, the governor offered Blodgett the job of Surveyor of the King's Woods, which he accepted. Upon returning from his mission, Blodgett wrote to the sawmill owners and instructed them to pay a settlement. The mill owners from Goffstown paid their fines at once and had their logs returned to them. Those from Weare refused to pay.

Sheriff Whiting and Deputy Quigly were sent to South Weare with a warrant to arrest the leader of the Weare mill owners, Ebenezer Mudgett. He was arrested and released with the understanding that he would provide bail in the morning. Instead, the sheriff and deputy were awakened by the men with soot-blackened faces.

Whiting, with Colonel Moore of Bedford and Edward Goldstone Lutwyche of Merrimack, assembled a posse and returned to arrest the rioters. Eight men were charged with being rioters and disturbers of the peace and with "making an assault upon the body of Benjamin Whiting." Four judges, Theodore Atkinson, Meshech Weare, Leverett Hubbard, and William Parker, heard the case in the Superior Court in Amherst in September 1772. The rioters pled guilty, and the judges fined them 20 shillings each and ordered them to pay the cost of the court hearing. The small fine suggests the judges were in sympathy with the colonists.

Some believe the Pine Tree Riot was an inspiring act for the better known Boston Tea Party.

Known participants:

Mill owners:

  • ______ Richard
  • Asa Patty
  • ______ Dow
  • ______ Clement
  • Job Rowell
  • Ebenezer Mudgett (riot leader)

Identified rioters:

  • Timothy Worthley
  • Jonathan Worthley
  • Caleb Atwood
  • William Dustin
  • Abraham Johnson
  • Jotham Tuttle
  • William Quimby (brother of Aaron)
  • Ebenezer Mudget (Weare mill owner)

Owner of Pine Tree Inn

  • Aaron Quimby (brother of William)

Government officials:

  • Benning Wentworth, Governor
  • Hon. Theodore Atkinson, Esq., Chief Justice of the Superior Court
  • Hon. Meshech Weare, Superior Court Justice
  • Hon. Leverett Hubbard, Superior Court Justice
  • Hon. William Parker, Esq., Superior Court Justice
  • Benjamin Whiting, Esq. of Hollis, sheriff of Hillsborough County
  • John Quigly, Esq. of Francestown, deputy
  • Col. Moore of Bedford, posse member
  • Edward Goldstone Lutwytche of Merrimack, posse member
  • John Goffe of Derryfield, posse member
  • Samuel Blodgett, Esq. of Goffstown, deputy Surveyor of the Kings Wood
  • Gov. John Wentworth, Surveyor of the Kings Wood
  • John Sherman, Deputy Surveyor of New Hampshire

Sources: