Pennsylvania Ratifies the Constitution of the United States December 12, 1787 and a visit to the National Archives.

While all the political maneuvering of the Connecticut settlers and the Pennsylvania Government and others was going on, it was becoming apparent that the newly independent 13 colonies needed a stronger Federal government and this led to the Constitutional Convention of 1787.

Much to my amazement Timothy Pickering was voted a Luzerne County delegate to the Constitutional Convention. He pushed to have the new constitution ratified. He was an influential man and had a lot of connections, so this was probably an advantage to the new county.

In my opinion, the new constitution brought order to the new country and probably improved chances for the Connecticut settlers in Pennsylvania to get their titles confirmed. It would take a good decade for a finalization of those titles and more.  In any event, it is pretty amazing to know that our ancestors, my Solomon Goss and his siblings were there when this new country was established.

1940 Picture of the signing of the constitution

See Constitution Daily for a list of 10 reasons why American’s first constitution failed:

The states and the dates of ratification of the new Constitution are listed here, in order of ratification

Ben’s Guides online

  • Delaware: December 7, 1787
  • Pennsylvania: December 12, 1787
  • New Jersey: December 18, 1787
  • Georgia: January 2, 1788
  • Connecticut: January 9, 1788
  • Massachusetts: February 6, 1788
  • Maryland: April 28, 1788
  • South Carolina: May 23, 1788
  • New Hampshire: June 21, 1788 (With this state’s ratification, the Constitution became legal.) This is when the Articles of Confederation ended and the the date began to operate a new government under the Constitution.
  • Virginia: June 25, 1788
  • New York: July 26, 1788

The new government began on March 4, 1789

George Washington was elected first President of the United States. John Adams was Vice President. War and Treasury Department are established by Congress. Henry Knox will be the Secretary of War, Alexander Hamilton will be the Secretary of the Treasury.  The Supreme Court is created and composed of six men and five associate justices. Also provided for an Attorney General and judicial system of 13 district courts and three circuit courts. Thomas Jefferson is officially named Secretary of State, and John Jay is Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

  • North Carolina: November 21, 1789
  • Rhode Island: May 29, 1790 (Rhode Island did not hold a Constitution

The Bill of Rights was ratified on December 15, 1791.

In June of 2011, I wrote about a trip that my hubby and I where planning to Washington D.C.  At that time he went to conferences a lot and I would tag along. Here is what I wrote about seeing the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights at the National Archives Rotunda. I wrote this post on my blog: Massachusetts Meanderings which was originally on Blogger but I later moved it to WordPress. At some point I will remove it from the internet and turn it into a PDF that is edited and updated for viewing on a PAGE on this blog at the top in the menu area under the picture.

I have done a minor amount of editing to the entry below and do wish to caution you that things might have changed since I visited there in 2011, so go and study up before you visit the National Archives, which is amazing experience.

While planning our trip to D.C., I struggled with whether to do research at the National Archives or not.  I  decided that I was content.  However, I had not toured the Rotunda in a long time and that was very cool.  The Nation’s Charters of Freedom documents are on display there. 

Here is a Wikipedia short blip about them: 

Since I could not take pictures inside Wikipedia has a nice one showing what the Rotunda looks like, however, the Rotunda is now darkened so it is not quite as bright as their photo implies. 

The Charters of Freedom are:  The Declaration of Independence, The Constitution and the Bill of Rights.  Three of our Nation’s most important documents. 

There is so much to do at the National Archives I was surprised.  I don’t remember all this from 1999?  I think things have changed a lot and restoration has been done for there was evidence that the Rotunda area was quite different than memory serves.

You stand in the line to the left and enter into the National Archives in what might be the lower floor.  Once through security you can pretty much wander around to different areas and exhibits on your own following the signs. 

National Archives, Washington D.C.

Statues in front of the National Archives

Another Statue

The National Archives building on the outside is very ornate as you see from the photos.

To do research you go into the Archives on the North side of the building.  I just remember the security checkpoint but there might be more to see there according to a reliable source?  There are actually two buildings one in D.C. and the other in College Park.  You will have to determine which works for you.  When I went years ago I was so green I didn’t know how to use a microfilm reader.  I was so intimidated by it all. I suggest that you prepare by visiting the website and studying the rules and regulations.  Also do a search of the NARA catalog and pin down as much as possible what you want to research like Civil War pensions or Revolutionary war pensions and more.  I know that they have changed things greatly since then and have hours for pulling the documents, so you do need to study up and plan. 

The other option is to hire someone to help you via the APG (Association of Professional Genealogist).  There is a chapter in D.C. called the National Capital Area Chapter of APG.  The cost of a Civil War Pension file has gone up greatly and this is an alternative.  A professional will be working for you and knows what they are doing and will make sure copies of the whole pension or service file are made for you.  Yes, they will charge you but they can get the documents for less, I believe.  

My great grandfather George A. Barclay’s Civil War pension file was not at NARA!  I waited so patiently for it but they said they didn’t have it. AUGGH!!!  It was at the Department of Veteran’s Affairs! They, the VA, copied the whole thing and didn’t charge me anything.  It was at least 2 inches thick.  Yes, I was very fortunate.  I obtained other documents as well before they raised the rates.

My first stop was the Archives Shop.  Now I did see the movie “National Treasure.”  The gift store that is in the Archives did not look a bit like the one in the movie…giggle!  I studied the gift shop carefully and pondered how I wish I could do more reading.  I am amazed at all the books that are written about many topics of history. So little time!

Now they have restrooms near the Archives shop and a Cafe?  I don’t remember all that from before? I did not go to the Cafe for I was not hungry.  I headed to the Rotunda and was immediately stopped with the crowd of people waiting to get in. 

The line wandered around with cording to guide you and there were these reading boards and a video being displayed but I had to keep moving so I didn’t get to read all of that part.  As you enter you first find a display about the Magna Carta.  They had one of seven copies of this document.  There is actually a hereditary organization you can join:  It would take a lot of work to prepare for membership.  I counted 10 generations for a client to just get to crossing the Atlantic Ocean and that didn’t include England and those generations. 

As I waited to get into the Rotunda area, I observed the murals on the wall showing our founding fathers looking very much like a Renaissance painting which was a little odd to me????  I tried to count the eagles but could only find six and not the nine they said were in the area. It was very dark and cool in there. 

At a certain point they let in a group of people, lining you up shoulder to shoulder four lines deep by the gates and steps.  I think they wait ten minutes and let you into the Rotunda area as a big group.  I headed for the left which was backed up with a line but you can move about if you want.

They have display boards with glass and they have prepared materials to lead you to the viewing of the main document.  First was the Declaration of Independence and I was amazed that they have copies with corrections on them. 

The sad part was the Declaration of Independence is so faded.  They say it was in light for many years at another location and the ink and parchment do not do well in those conditions.  This time the containment area they had it in did not keep dimming and coming back.  So it seems they have learned to preserve documents of this type in a different manner.  It did make me nervous when the people would lean on the glass but apparently it is okay to do that.  There are guards standing there watching. 

It was difficult to read all that they had prepared and keep the line moving but I noticed that the crowd had diminished.  It was about 5:20 pm and they are open till 7 pm for summer.  Hmmm…maybe it is in the timing?

The next document was the Constitution and the displays led up to how it was created after the Articles of Confederation did not work.  They had George Washington’s copy with his corrections.  The last was the Bill of Rights and more explanation about its origins. 

I wish my dad was here to see these documents.  He was the true Patriot in my family!

If you do make it to Washington D.C. I suggest that you go and visit the Rotunda at the National Archives and view these documents. I would do it again, if I get the chance.

Posted in Solomon Goss and Olive (Scott) Goss (Son of Philip & Mary (Kendall) Goss, TRIP - Massachusetts & Connecticut Genealogical Trip April 2011 (formerly Massachusetts Meanderings), Washington DC | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Land Titles and the Confirming Act of 1787…what happened!

So did anything get done regarding the claims of the Connecticut settlers with land purchased from the Susquehanna Company now in Pennsylvania under the Confirming Act of 1787. Unfortunately, nothing seems to be discussed in the histories books on this topic.

The Confirming Act was put into law in March of 1787 by Pennsylvania. There was limited time to accomplish the claims process.

Here is a description of what happened:

Timothy Pickering was appointed to be one of the Confirming Act commissioners while Peter Muhlenberg and Joseph Montgomery were to be the other two, but both Montgomery and Muhlenberg resigned in the face of opposition and needed to be replaced. These changes coupled with other delaying tactics meant that five months transpired after the passage of the Act before settlers could begin to submit their claims on August 21, 1787. 

Once the commissioners began their work they “had more than” they could do – generally every day.” Due to the November deadline, the commissioners accepted and recorded all claims offered, but waiting to determine their validity hoping to entice as many applications as possible.

Before their work was over, however, the legislature suspended the Confirming Act on March 29, 1788 and later repealed it on April 1, 1790. The claims that had been collected were saved and later bound under the title Claimants Vol. 1….For the next decade the rights of the Susquehanna Company settlers were left undetermined.

 Source: Historical Setting: The Claimants Vol. III – Connecticut’s Pennsylvania “Colony” 1754 to 1810, Donna Bingham Munger. 

So according to Donna Bingham Munger some progress was made and the work done by the Commissioners was saved and bound. Donna explains in her Third Book “Claimants” what those sources are in the source I have listed above.

We now turn to Paul Henry Goss, the man who did a lot of research on the Goss Family History back in the 1930 to the 1960’s. I have featured him on this blog in a PAGE at the top of this blog if you are interested in his work.

In his manuscript he has published “Proceedings of the Commissioners under the Confirming Law,” dated September 27, 1787 in the form of a letter.

Paul placed the information in his Goss Family Manuscript. Here is the link to my PAGE about this manuscript:

From the date on this form of  September 27, 1787 it appears that the Goss family and others made some progress toward getting their titles confirmed within six months of the Confirming laws passage.  Just click on each photo and it will open in another window.

Proceedings Under Commissioners Confirming Act 1787 page 1

Proceedings Commissioners under Confirming Act 1787 page 2

Proceedings Commissioners under Confirming Act 1787 page 3

Proceedings Commissioners under Confirming Act 1787 page 4

Proceedings Commissioners under Confirming Act 1787 page 5

Here is a link to a PDF of the 5 pages above that I retyped so make it easier to read years ago. ProceedingsofComPHG

Unfortunately, Paul does not tell us where he obtained this information. I suspect it is at the Luzerne County Historical Society in Wilkes-Barre but when I visited I didn’t find anything referencing this back in 2008. Based on the information below I would not have found it. In any event, Donna Bingham Munger references Claimants Vol. I in the above quote from her “Claimants Volume.”

She gives the following sources:

  • Susquehanna Company Papers 9: XXIV and No. 99
  • Envelope 33, Wilcox MSS. Luzerne County Historical Society.
  • Connecticut Claimants, Vol. 1 (Binding No. 71), Pennsylvania State Archives, LO micro: 25.32.

In summary, the troubles of the Wyoming Valley were not yet resolved. It would take a lot of efforts over the next decade of the 1790’s to resolved these issues of land claims. In past posts about Philip Goss IV, I have featured deeds that may be reflected in the above. I will do my best to figure this out and explain it in future posts and how it was resolved for each of the settlers mentioned in the Proceedings letter above and more.

Note: For further information about Donna Bingham Mungers Books see my past post: Connecticut’s Pennsylvania Colony – Untangling the Land Records of the Susquehannah Co., December 18, 2017.

Posted in David Goss and Anna Slater, Huntington Twp., Luzerne County, Nathaniel Goss, Obadiah & Hannah Howe Scott, Paul H. Goss 1890 to 1963, Philip Goss (Jr. or V) and Hannah Darby, Philip Goss IV & Mary (Kendall) Goss, Solomon Goss and Olive (Scott) Goss (Son of Philip & Mary (Kendall) Goss, Wyoming Valley PA Land Claimants | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Timothy Pickering appointed Luzerne County Administrator and the Confirming Act of March 28, 1787

What I write about in this post is a summary and only highlights of the events that took place.  It is all very complicated and confusing.

Timothy Pickering (July 17, 1745 to January 29, 1829) visits the Wyoming Valley area because he is interested in purchasing some land. He learns of the need for a county administrator and he applies for the position for Luzerne County. There were actually two who applied but he was appointed.  His job required him to ease the transition in the valley to the new county. Upon his arrival he was shocked at the condition of the settlers, the poverty and harshness. He was in the Wyoming Valley from 1787 to 1791 and during that time period a lot happened. This was a period of 4 years.

Timothy Pickering

At Google Books you can see the Historical Index to The Pickering Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.

By 1785, he (Pickering) had acquired a large speculative interest in the Wyoming Valley of Pennsylvania. When that area was organized as Luzerne County, with its seat at Wilkes-Barre, Pickering secured a blanket appointment to the county offices. Charged by the state authorities with settling conflicting land claims and establishing order, he found himself in the middle of the dispute between the Connecticut and Pennsylvania claimants. On one occasion, he was kidnapped by the Connecticut faction and kept prisoner in the woods. Unable to convince Pickering to recognize their claim, they let him go after twenty days.

After the war, Pickering moved to Pennsylvania and represented Luzerne County in the 1787 convention that ratified the Federal Constitution and in the state Constitutional Convention (1789-1790). 

Source: Office of the Historian website.

The Life of Timothy Picking Vol. II, by Charles W. Upham, Little, Brown and Co., 1878, is online at Internet Archive for viewing.

Starting with Chapter IV and going through to Chapter XIV in the book above:

Chapter IV 1785, 1786 – He resolves to become a Pennsylvania Farmer….Appointed to civil Offices in the County of Luzerne, page 177-196

Chapter VI 1753-1778 Wyoming Lands Controversy pg. 197-246

Chapter VIII 1786, 1787 Colonel Pickering organizes the County of Luzerne. –removes his family to Wyoming…pages 247-287

Chapter IX. 1787 Disturbances in Wyoming – John Franklin’s Arrest and Imprisonment – The Pennsylvania Commissioners driven out of the Country. — Colonel Pickering Escape into the Woods…pgs 288-325

Chapter X 1787 – Colonel Pickering in Philadelphia – An Exile from Wyoming – Member of the Convention of Pennsylvania, to act upon the proposed Constitution of the United States pages 326-343

Chapter XI. 1787 – Argument in favor of adopting the Constitution of the US.  pgs 344-368

Chapter XII 1788 – Colonel Pickering returned to Wyoming – Ineffectual Attempts to procure proper Measures of Legislation for the People of that Territory – The whole Country much excited on the Question of Ratifying the Federal Constitution – Colonel Pickering’s Abduction — The Failure of the Design of his Captors – Their Dispersion – The final Establishment of Law, Order, and Peace in Wyoming….pgs 369-411

Chapter XIII, 1788, 1789 – Family business

Chapter XIV 1789-1791 – Colonel Pickering’s Mission to the Seneca Indians – Appointed Postmaster-General of the United States 1791.  pages 447-509

What follows is excerpts taken from the The History of Wilkes-Barre Vol. III. I will referred to various chapters in that book that cover the events of this time period. This book and other volumes are online at Internet Archive.

Starting with Chapters XXVIII and XXIX, on page 1520 summarizes some of the information found in the books about Pickering’s life. Apparently Pickering wrote a journal of 90 pages about his return to the Wyoming Valley in 1786 and some of it is featured in these chapters.

page 1542 — October 9, 1786 appointed and on October 12th commissioned Colonel Pickering to the following offices, in and for Luzerne County: Prothonotary, Clerk of the Court of General Quarter Sessions of the Peace and Jail Delivery, Clerk of the Orphan’s Court, and a Justice of the Court of Common Pleas. On November 7, 1786 he also become the Register of Wills and Recorder of Deeds.  He took the oats of qualification December 18, 1786. 

Find A Grave has his memorial and he is buried in Salem, MA.

Chapter XXX page 1552:

Thursday, February 1, 1787 the inhabitants of the new county of Luzerne were to decide on matters of great importance.

In accordance with the requirements of the Act of Pennsylvania Assembly, passed March 4, 1786, it was necessary that each freeman of the Commonwealth, in order to become a qualified elector, or voter, should take–if he had not already taken–an oath or affirmation of allegiance to the Commonwealth, according to a form dully prescribed.

A list of the 146 freemen who took the oath in front of Colonel Pickering and Zebulon Butler was pulled together from the Pickering Papers (LVII:97-114). This list is on page 1553 to 1555 of The History of Wilkes-Barre Vol. III. It gives the name of the person, occupation and were they resided.  A large number of these men on the list were newcomers locating at Wyoming 1785 to 1786. I do not see any Goss names, only one Scott – Leonard Scott.

Following this was the election results with the names under the position and the number of votes. This is on page 1554 of the Wilkes-Barre history.

On page 1557 another petition about title to their lands was prepared by Colonel Timothy Pickering, One hundred and thirty persons signed this petition. This petition was presented by Col. Nathan Denison to the Pennsylvania General Assembly.

What followed as a result of this petition was the Confirming Act  of March 28, 1787. This act is written out on pages 1560 to 1561 in The History of Wilkes-Barre Vol. III.

Whereas, Before the termination of the said claim of Connecticut, a number of its inhabitants, with their associates, settled upon and improved divers tracts of land lying on or near to North-East Branch of the River Susquehanna, and the waters thereof, now within the county of Luzerne.

Here is the rest of the act:

More of the confirming act

In summary: Pennsylvania agreed to recognize Connecticut claimant’s rights to lots occupied or acquired before December 30, 1782 the date of the Trenton Decree.

The act required that the settlers had 8 months to comply and submit their claim(s) and chain of titles from the Susquehanna Company.

  1. Re-survey of lots would be done
  2. Patented at the individual settler’s expense

The townships that qualified under this act:

1st 5 twps. – Wilkesbarre, Kingston, Hanover, Plymouth and Pittstown surveyed in 1769 and lots drawn 1770 and 1773.

Huntington, Providence, Exeter, Salem, Newport, Springfield, Claverack, Bedford, Ulster, Putnam, Northmoreland & Braintrim been granted 1772 and 1777.

1783-1787 the Company granted 8 more twps. These would not be eligible. This would all get eventually worked out over time.

Pickering had hoped that the Confirming Act would benefit the Connecticut Settlers but when he returned to Wilkes-Barre he found that John Franklin was physically going about the area and actively turning the settlers against the act. Pickering reacted by making an attempt to befriend the settlers, talk to them, ask them about farming methods, answer their questions in an effort to negate Franklin’s efforts.

There were two factions of settlers.  The Wild Yankees lead by Franklin and the more moderate group whose leader I am not sure maybe Zebulon Butler?  John Franklin also had a journal with the Tioga Historical Society (I believe) and there are a collection of papers at the Pennsylvania Archives. These are also featured in the Wilkes-Barre history. John took over the Susquehanna Company during this time period and he continued to carve out townships and sell shares.

John Franklin

Chapter XXXI History of Wilkes Barre:  We continue the story of what was  going on in the valley. Col. Franklin continued to fight against Pennsylvania and eventually the Supreme Assembly turned against him. A warrant for his arrest and others was issued and a plot to apprehend him took shape. Pages 1584 to 1586 describe his capture and incarceration. In reaction to the arrest of Franklin you will find on page 1587 is the description of the abduction of Col. Pickering by Franklin followers. Pickering escaped to Philadelphia.

While there in Philadelphia, Pickering was voted in as a delegate of Luzerne County and so he attended the ratification of the new Constitution.

Unfortunately or fortunately the Confirming Act was suspended 29th of March 1788 and then on April 1, 1790 The Confirming Act was repealed by the Pennsylvania Assembly. Timothy Pickering tried to prevent this from happening but he was not successful. What follows shows us that things were still not settling down in the valley and politics was still causing trouble with the settlement of the claims by 1788.

“Its suspension and its subsequent repeal…was tinged with duplicity and dishonor. Beneath the surface could be found an active and earnest part, consisting of capitalists in high places, and speculators in low, who, in one of the intervals when the Connecticut settlers had been driven from these lands, had purchased of Pennsylvania, overlapping claims to the territory. This party was known to possess an influential backing in the Assembly, and gave no indication of resting until all Connecticut titles in the Commonwealth were wholly repudiated. Fear of the accomplishment of this sinister lobby tended, more than any other agency, to keep alive the insurrectionary spirit in Wyoming.” page 1596.

Chapter XXXII and XXXIII discusses the imprisonment of John Franklin which was terrible. He petitioned for release several times.  His health was at risk. The Pennsylvania government refused to release him. A plot to abduct Timothy Pickering took hold as a reaction to the arrest of Franklin and in June of 1788 it was put into motion. The rest of the chapters talk about what happened for both men. Chapter XXXIII covers the pardon of Col. John Franklin and Pickering’s conference with the Six Nations and appointment to Postmaster General in 1790.  Both Pickering and Franklin will leave Luzerne never to return.

So did anything get done with the settlers claims and titles during all these events? Let’s take a look in the next post.

Posted in Huntington Twp., Luzerne County, Plymouth | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment