Pine Tree Riot
The Pine Tree Riot was an act of resistance to British royal authority undertaken by American colonists in New Hampshire in 1772, placing it among the disputes between Crown and colonists that culminated in the American Revolution.
British success in the War of Jenkins' Ear (1739-1748) and the Seven Years' War (1756-1763) were due in large part to the control of the seas by the British Navy. By the late 17th century, due to the number of ships built and repaired, Great Britain had few trees remaining which were suitable to be used as masts for merchant and naval ships. White pine trees were considered to be the best type of tree to use for these single-stick masts. To maintain Britain's naval and trading advantage, laws were passed in North America to protect white pine trees until they were fully grown for British ship building.
Pine Tree Law
In 1722, the New Hampshire General Court passed a law making it illegal to cut down "any white pine tree of the growth of 12 inches of diameter" or face a fine of ₤5 to ₤50, depending upon the diameter of the tree and whatever lumber was unlawfully cut down. "Surveyors of the King's Woods" were assigned to identify all trees suitable for the king's use with a broad arrow, before a settler could do their clearing and regardless of their needs.
The passage of this law was not just an inconvenience, it was an impediment to essential building construction by the colonists, causing more anguish and anger than the Stamp Act or tea tax. The result of the law caused a patriotic backlash of sentiment, making it unfashionable to have floorboards less than 12 inches wide. The law was not strictly enforced until John Wentworth was appointed governor of the New Hampshire colony in 1766. Although often sympathetic to the colonists, he held firm on this issue.
Pine Tree Riot
John Sherman, Deputy Surveyor of New Hampshire, ordered a search of sawmills in 1771-1772 for white pine marked for the British Crown. His men found that six mills in Goffstown and Weare possessed large white pines and marked them with the broad arrow to indicate that they were the property of the King. The owners of the mills were named as offenders in the February 7, 1772 edition of the New Hampshire Gazette. The mill owners hired a lawyer by the name of Samuel Blodgett to represent them, and he met with Governor Wentworth in hopes that he could persuade the governor to drop the charges against the mill owners. Instead, the governor offered Blodgett the job of Surveyor of the King's Woods, which he accepted. Upon returning from his mission, Blodgett wrote to the sawmill owners and instructed them to pay a settlement. The mill owners from Goffstown paid their fines at once and had their logs returned to them. Those from Weare refused to pay.
On April 13, 1772, Benjamin Whiting, Sheriff of Hillsborough County, and his Deputy John Quigly were sent to South Weare with a warrant to arrest the leader of the Weare mill owners, Ebenezer Mudgett. Mudgett was arrested and released with the understanding that he would provide bail in the morning. The sheriff and deputy spent the night at Aaron Quimby's inn, the Pine Tree Tavern. Many of the townsmen gathered at Mudgett's house to decide what course of action should be taken - some decided to help him pay his bail, while others wanted to run the sheriff and deputy out of town.
At dawn the next day, 20 or 30-40 men led by Mudgett with faces blackened with soot entered Whiting's room and assaulted him and his deputy with tree switches. They gave him one lash for every tree for which they were being fined. They cut off the ears and shaved the manes and tails of Whiting and Quigley's horses to render them valueless. In a further effort to disgrace the men, the people of Weare forced Whiting and Quigly to ride out of town through a gauntlet of jeering townspeople.
Whiting, with Colonel Moore of Bedford and Edward Goldstone Lutwyche of Merrimack, assembled a posse and returned to arrest the rioters. By this time, the townspeople had fled. After searching, they arrested one of the men involved in the assault, and the others were named, ordered to post bail and appear in court. Eight men were charged with being rioters and disturbers of the peace and with "making an assault upon the body of Benjamin Whiting." Four judges, Theodore Atkinson, Meshech Weare, Leverett Hubbard, and William Parker, heard the case in the Superior Court in Amherst in September 1772. The rioters pled guilty, and the judges fined them 20 shillings each and ordered them to pay the cost of the court hearing.
The Pine Tree Riot, although conducted in a remote section of the British colonies, was a test of the British Royal Authority. This is partially evident by the light fines exacted against the rioters. Some believe this to be an inspiring act for the Boston Tea Party.
Of the men charged, Timothy Worthley, Jonathan Worthley and William Dustin fought against the British in the Revolutionary War, as did Samuel Blodgett. Benjamin Whiting fought for the British and had his land confiscated. Meshech Weare, one of the judges, assisted in framing the New Hampshire constitution adopted in 1776, establishing its own government, and becoming the first colony to declare its independence; Weare became the first President of New Hampshire.
Samuel Blodget went on to construct the first canal around Amoskeag Falls in Derryfield, which was completed in 1807, shortly before his death. In 1810, the town of Derryfield changed its name to Manchester, New Hampshire in honor of Blodget's vision that the Amoskeag Falls would someday power a manufacturing center to rival Manchester, England. Blodget Street in Manchester is named in his honor.
- John Sherburn - Deputy Surveyor
- Samuel Blodget - lawyer and later Surveyor
- Benjamin Whiting - County Sheriff
- John Quigley - Deputy Sheriff
- Aaron Quimby - owner of the Pine Tree Tavern
- Ebenezer Mudgett - leader of sawmill owners in Weare, rioter
- Colonel Moore - head of a regiment that marched to Weare
- Colonel Edward Goldstone Lutwyche - head of a regiment that marched to Weare
- Timothy Worthley - resident of Weare, rioter
- Jonathan Worthley - resident of Weare, rioter
- Caleb Atwood - resident of Weare, rioter
- William Dustin - resident of Weare, rioter
- Abraham Johnson - resident of Weare, rioter
- Jotham Tuttle - resident of Weare, rioter
- William Quimby - resident of Weare, rioter and brother of Aaron Quimby
- Honorable Theodore Atkinson - Chief Justice
- Honorable Meshech Weare - Justice
- Honorable Leverett Hubbard - Justice
- Honorable William Parker - Justice
- Danver, S, ed. (2011). "Pine Tree Riot". Revolts, Protests, Demonstrations, and Rebellions in American History: An Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO, LLC. pp. 183–190. ISBN 978-1-59884-221-0.
- Webster, K (1913). Browne, G, ed. History of Hudson, N.H.: formerly a part of Dunstable, Mass., 1673-1733. Manchester, NH: Granite State Publishing. pp. 364–367.
- Garvin, D; Garvin, J (1988). On the road north of Boston: New Hampshire taverns and turnpikes, 1700-1900. University Press of New England. p. 140.
- Burke, J (2007). American Connections: The Founding Fathers. Networked.. United States of America: Simon & Schuster Paperback. p. 312. ISBN 0-7432-8226-4.
- The Wild Woods Guide: From Minnesota to Maine, the Nature and Lore of the Great North Woods. United States of America: HarperCollins Publishers. 2003. p. 317. ISBN 0-06-093601-0.
- Hechtlinger, A (1976). The Pelican Guide to Historic Homes and Sights of Revolutionary America 1. Pelican Publishing Company. p. 19. ISBN 0-88289-090-5.
- Weare Historical Society - "The Pine Tree Riot"
- New Hampshire History Curriculum Sample Lesson Plans - "We Had a Riot"
- An account of the survey of logs by Deputy Surveyor John Sherburn in the History of Goffstown
- Joseph J. Malone. Pine Trees and Politics (New York: Arno Press, 1979)
- Roberts, Strother E. (2010). Pines, profits, and popular politics: Responses to the White Pine Acts in the colonial Connecticut River Valley. The New England Quarterly, 83(1), 73–101. (The subject of this article is mentioned on page 76.)