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. http://www.masshist.org/collection-guides/view/fa0256

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.   https://history.state.gov/departmenthistory/people/pickering-timothy

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.   https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/20978/timothy-pickering

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.

About BJ MacDonald

Interested in travel, really into genealogy and researching my family history, classic novels and movies, fantasy and science fiction, photography, history and more... Here is a tip. Make sure you are commenting on the blog you were visiting and the post you were interested in. My blogs are listed by hovering over my pictures and clicking. Clicking one of them will take you back to the correct blog. You can try me here: bjmcdonell@gmail.com
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