By Netanel Crispe
During a hot, summer day in Danby, Vermont, a surveyor en route from New York took respite in the confines of Mr. Abraham Chase’s tavern, situated one mile south of Danby 4 Corners. His decision to do so would ultimately be one he was soon to regret. Having had his fill of refreshments, he made his way to the exit with the intention of continuing on his mission to survey the town and its neighbors. It was during his attempted withdrawal from this establishment that he was confronted with hostility and unrest. With the end of a barrel unwaveringly presenting itself only a few feet from his head, he was inclined to submit himself to arrest and restraint. Local Danby inhabitants soon rushed to the place of commotion to understand the events that had transpired and to be witness to those that were to come.
That ominous day, Danby’s committee of safety gathered to employ legal action against the man from New York. Tensions were high as he pleaded his case knowing the potential severity of his punishment were he to be deemed guilty. In the eyes of Danby’s residents, he stood there accused as a defiler of all that they held dear. The New York surveyor had been sent with the intention of exploring the land and providing an estimate to its worth for New York’s governor to examine before selling it off. This, of course, outraged the local Danby inhabitants for they had toiled long and hard for the betterment of the land they now called home and they had acquired their meager properties through purchase from the State of New Hampshire, purchases that in their eyes were of the highest legality and as such defended their claims to the property they now possessed. Consequently, the argument presented by the defendant as to his legal standing in the town fell upon deaf ears and his sentence was soon proclaimed and executed without hesitation. The New York surveyor was escorted outside where a post, perfectly applicable for use in his punishment. stood. Alongside his compliment of guards proceeded a relatively large procession of local residents from around town, eager to witness this exciting deployment of justice by their elected officials and respected peers. The New York surveyor was stripped of his shirt and tied to the post in full view of all to see. On his naked back were laid 100 stripes with no sparing of the beech rod. Such punishment was of the most painful caliber and was sure to exact vengeance on his vulnerable flesh. With the conclusion of his punishment, he was released and sent forthwith from this town with a thunderous warning that any return would result in his death.
Events like these are hard to believe and yet they can be found in every corner of our State’s remarkable history. It is truly fascinating to see how the occurrences I have just described took place at such a precarious time in American history and how they so perfectly reflect the values and determination of Vermont’s early settlers and the atmosphere of its young frontier towns. The whipping at the tavern of Abraham Chase, (a soldier of the American Revolution), took place in the summer of 1774. Placing its conclusion no more than a year before such tensions over the rights of man would reach a climax at the Battles of Lexington and Concord, battles that define the beginning of America’s War for Independence. Such conflict between the New Hampshire’s grantees and those of New York raged throughout Vermont and did not fully subside until after the war when Vermont stood as a sovereign nation. This episode is one of the thousands of unbelievable local stories that all speak to Vermont’s early history and which forms the fabric of our collective memory.