Some of the settlers did not have a lot of money. They were afraid that the New York courts would take their land away because of their debts. Both the settlers who got their land from New Hampshire and the settlers who got their land from New York were afraid of losing their property.
In March 1775, a session of New York’s court was meeting in Westminster. The judge knew that some settlers were angry at the courts. But there was a murder trial, so the judge wanted to do his duty and keep the court as planned.
A mob of men took over the court house. They thought the judge could not foreclose on their land if he could not be in the court house. But a sheriff and his posse wanted to chase them away. No one is sure exactly what happened, but when the mob refused to leave the court house, a fight broke out between the two groups. Two of the protesters were killed and others were injured. The next day, more protesters and the Green Mountain Boys took back the court house and put the sheriff in jail.
The New York Governor decided that there would be no more courts in the area of the New Hampshire Grants. And the Westminster Massacre made many people angry at New York, not just those who supported the Grants.
|The Green Mountain Boys||The Vermont Constitution|
Thinking about History
The word "massacre" ususally means a terrible killing of many people. Why was this called the Westminster Massacre?
How would the sheriff tell the story of the Westminster Massacre? How would Willam French's family tell the story?
|First Blow for Freedom (PDF)|
|Reading William French's Gravestone|