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Entered according to the Act of Congress, in the year 1845, by
The History of Wyoming remains to be written. The book of Mr. Chapman is certainly valuable, so far as it extends. A man of talents, research and industry ;-had his life been prolonged, he would have produced a work worthy of the subject, and his own fame. Cut off in mid-life, his manuscript was the first rude essay—the mere outline of what he must have intended to accomplish. The eagerness with which the volume was sought after and read, shows the lively interest which the public mind possesses in respect to the subject.
Col. Stone's popular book, “ The Poetry and History of Wyoming," deserves commendation. His polished pen has thrown a charm around the narrative, easier to admire than imitate. But the fact that he was obliged to reprint Campbell's Gertrude, with Irving's Biography of the Author, shows that, in his view, the materials of interest relating to the subject were either too few, or too remotely accessible, to form the ground-work for a respectable volume. Most of the more striking facts, and many of the more touching personal incidents, he has wrought up with a master hand, and given with all the sparkling raciness which genius imparts to an interesting subject.
I came to Pennsylvania in 1799, a settler under the Connecticut claim. The grounds of that claim, connected as they were with the early hopes of the writer, were then examined with care. Editor of a Paper, at Wilkesbarre, for thirteen years, including the period of the sharp conflicts under the Intrusion Law, the claim of Connecticut was discussed—the services and sufferings of the early settlers were inquired into, until the whole subject became one of absorbing concern, interwoven with the most interesting associations of my life. When Judge Marshall published his first edition of the Life of Washington, I took the liberty of writing to him, stating that the
account of the Wyoming Massacre was exceedingly erroneous, and gave him a version of the affair, derived from the best sources. I beg leave to remark, that no important subject was ever before involved in such embarrassing contradictions. The reason I take it is this : On the invasion by Butler and his Indians, most of the leading men were slain, and the rest of the inhabitants scattered in the wildest state of alarm. Rumour brought to every flying group a tale of seven-fold horror, and these, repeated by the fugitives, whereever they fled, were told and received as historic truth. Hence the exaggerated account published at Poughkeepsie a few weeks after the massacre, which was, without doubt, the ground.work, probably the sole authority, of Gordon and Ramsay, as they were the sources from which Marshall derived materials for his first edition. Black with cruelty, and crimsoned with blood, sufficient to harrow up the soul with horror, is the simple narrative, attested by truth, which displays the ferocity of demons—the malignity of fiends. The false account was immeasurably worse. It may excite inquiry, Why the oft published error was not earlier corrected ? It is obvious that the false statement which took its published form at Poughkeepsie, and was thence circulated, not only in the United Colonies, but throughout every Nation in Europe, was calculated to arouse the most powerful emotions of the human soul-pity for American suffering-detestation of blackest perfidy—and horror at unheard of cruelty on the part of Great Britain and her Savage allies: and hence to strengthen our cause, by bringing popular sentiment to bear in our favour both at home and abroad.
With motives so powerful to allow the published story to run its course, it may be doubted even if the truth was known whether any American would at the time have felt it his duty to hunt up the evidence, and publish a new version of the matter. After the war, Wyoming was, from her remote, reduced and harrassed state, too much engaged in more immediately pressing concerns, to leave her people free to study her early annals, and correct the errors of the Historian.
In 1832 I returned to Wyoming from Chester County, where I had resided fifteen years, and commenced farming. Much excluded by local position from society, I sought relaxation from labour, with more than usual pleasure, in my books. Four volumes of the Journal of Congress, during the Revolution, were upon the shelf, presenting in their details slight attraction, as I had thought, and of little use, except for occasional reference: but the leisure now afforded led
me to examine them with more care, and I presently found, scattered through a mass of interesting matter, much that related to Wyoming. Communicating some facts which I had discovered, that seemed of particular interest, Gen. William Ross mentioned to me, that a bound volume containing the old Westmoreland Records was in the possession of a person in the Borough, who had used the blank leaves. A treasure to the antiquarian of themselves, they came to me with the increased charm that their contents harmonized with early and cherished studies. Every page opened new views to me. Light broke in upon the deep gloom that had heretofore, in an especial manner, enshrouded the Civil History of Wyoming. From the facts obtained in these precious records, and those elicited by the perusal of the Journals of Congress, I formed the conclusion that the old sufferers had endured grievous and unredressed wrongs, from their own Country as well as from the Briton and Savage. Two or three numbers, setting forth, though very imperfectly, the grounds of their claim to redress, I published in the Wilkesbarre papers, when Chester Butler, Esq., in whose prudence and judgment I had, and have, the utmost confidence, came to me, and said, "Mr. Miner, the case you are stating seems to me a very strong one, indeed almost irresistible;" and he immediately, with the greatest kindness, offered me the use of the papers of Col. Zebulon Butler, his grandfather. Mr. Anderson Dana also placed in my hands some very interesting papers belonging to his father. Thus excited and cheered, I resolved to lose not a moment in obtaining all the facts which obliterating time, and relentless death had spared, relating to the History of Wyoming. To this end I folded up little books of blank paper, for convenient carriage, took pens and ink, and accompanied by my daughter Sarah, (who though blind is, I think it not inappropriate here to say, besides being a most cheerful and agreeable companion, quick to hear, ready to understand, sound to judge, retentive of memory, and like myself, deeply interested in the subject,) we visited thirty or forty of the ancient people, who were here at the time of the expulsion. “We have come to inquire about old Wyoming, pray tell us all you know. We wish an exact picture, such as the valley presented sixty odd years ago. Give us the lights and shadows, its joys and its sorrows." In every instance we were treated with courtesy and kindness—communications, full and free, were made, not only with patience, but cheerfulness. This is said, as many of the statements, being combined of matters within the personal knowledge of the one examined, and things learned from others, our
inquiries were often almost tediously minute. At night on returning home, I read over to Sarah what I had taken down, and carefully corrected any error into which the pen had fallen. If in ex. amining several persons I found a material fact stated differently, they were revisited, the subject considered again, and new sources of information sought until we were satisfied of having arrived at a correct conclusion. This particular care was the more necessary, since, from the cause stated, multitudinous errors prevailed in respect to numerous details, in the minds of many intelligent persons.
With a view at once to communicate and elicit information, I made from time to time, publications of what we had learned, under the name of the “ Hazelton Travellers.” The title pre-supposed that two gentlemen were traveling from Hazelton through Wyoming. One, perfectly acquainted with the valley, its people and history, the other, eager to learn every thing that concerned them. The communications of one to the other in their passing conversation constituted these numbers which have excited so much public attention, and have been liberally used by Col. Stone in his recent work. I wish here distinctly to say, that the censure cast upon Col. Stone for making use of those materials, because he was aware that I was collecting the facts for my intended history, was wholly unmerited on his part. They were before the world in a newspaper—this would have been sufficient. But moreover, that gentleman had my most full and unreserved assent to his using them at his pleasure.
Interesting as are the incidents growing out of the Revolutionary war, other matters of scarcely less moment will claim the reader's attention. For nine years Wyoming, or Westmoreland, was under the jurisdiction of Connecticut-derived its laws from that Stateand sent Representatives to her Assembly.
For seven years, Civil war prevailed or raged, between Wyoming and Pennsylvania. The events attendant on those unhappy conflicts demand from the historic pen a faithful record.
I have chosen to give the subject the form of familiar letters to my son, because, besides being indebted to him for aid and many valuable suggestions, it must be obvious that a variety of minute details necessary to be preserved to present a perfect picture of life, manners and events, among a plain people, in a new and rude settlement, requires an easier style and freer scope of pencil, than might be deemed fitting to the grave Delineator of the fate of Nations, or to the Historian who records the revolutions, the rise and the fall of Empires.