Pine Tree Riot

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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.[1]

By the late 17th century the construction and maintenance of the huge number of ships required to build and defend the British Empire left few trees in Britain suitable for use as large spars. Eastern white pines from colonial New England were superior timber for the single-stick masts and booms of the day. To maintain Britain's naval and trading advantage, laws were passed in North America to protect selected white pines for British shipbuilding.[1] 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 Royal Navy.

Mast pines[edit]

In order to preserve suitable timber for the Royal Navy, the New Hampshire General Court passed a law in 1722 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 by the Crown to identify all suitable "mast pines" with the broad arrow wherever they were found.

The law caused more anguish and anger than the Stamp Act or tea tax.[citation needed] The result of the law caused a patriotic backlash of sentiment, making it unfashionable to have floorboards less than 12 inches (0.30 m) wide.[citation needed] 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.[1][2]

Pine Tree Riot[edit]

John Sherman, Deputy Surveyor of New Hampshire, ordered a search of sawmills in 1771-1772 for white pine marked for the 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 Crown property. The owners of the mills were named as offenders in the February 7, 1772, edition of The New Hampshire Gazette. The mill owners hired lawyer Samuel Blodgett to represent them, who met with Governor Wentworth. When the governor offered Blodgett the job of Surveyor of the King's Woods, he accepted, and rather than getting the charges dropped instructed his clients 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.[1]

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 subsequently 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, some offering to help pay his bail, others wanting to run the sheriff and deputy out of town.[1][2][3]

At dawn the next day Mudgett led between 20[1][4] and 30-40 men[3] to Whiting's room and assaulted the offending officials. Their faces blackened with soot, the rioters gave the sheriff one lash with a tree switch for every tree being contested. They then cut off the ears and shaved the manes and tails of Whiting and Quigley's horses, after which Whiting and Quigly were forced to ride out of town through a gauntlet of jeering townspeople.[1][2][3][5]

Whiting engaged Colonel Moore of Bedford and Edward Goldstone Lutwyche of Merrimack, who assembled a posse and returned to arrest the perpetrators. 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 rioting, disturbing the peace, and "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 pleaded guilty, and the judges fined them 20 shillings each and ordered them to pay the cost of the court hearing.[1][3]

Following events[edit]

The Pine Tree Riot was a test of the British royal authority. This is partially evident by the light fines exacted against the rioters.[citation needed] Some believe this to be an inspiring act for the Boston Tea Party.[1][how?]

The first Pine Tree Flag flown by colonists against the British was red with a pine tree within a white square in the upper left corner.[5]

Of the men charged, Timothy Worthley, Jonathan Worthley and William Dustin fought against the British in the Revolutionary War, as did even Samuel Blodgett. Benjamin Whiting fought for the British and had his land confiscated as a Tory sympathizer. Meshech Weare, one of the judges, assisted in framing the New Hampshire constitution adopted in 1776,[1] establishing its own government, and becoming the first colony to declare its independence; Weare became the first President of New Hampshire.[6]

Samuel Blodget went on to construct the first canal around the Amoskeag Falls on the Merrimack River in Derryfield, completed shortly before his death in 1807. In 1810, the town of Derryfield changed its name to Manchester in honor of Blodget's vision that the Amoskeag Falls would someday power a manufacturing center to rival Manchester, England.[citation needed] Blodget Street in Manchester is named in his honor.[7]


  • 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


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j 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. 
  2. ^ a b c 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. 
  3. ^ a b c d 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. ISBN 9781584653219. 
  4. ^ Burke, J (2007). American Connections: The Founding Fathers. Networked. United States of America: Simon & Schuster Paperback. p. 312. ISBN 0-7432-8226-4. 
  5. ^ a b Bennet, Doug; Tiner, Tim (2003). The Wild Woods Guide: From Minnesota to Maine, the Nature and Lore of the Great North Woods. United States of America: HarperCollins Publishers. p. 317. ISBN 0-06-093601-0. 
  6. ^ 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. 
  7. ^

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • 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.)