It’s the Fourth of July and I’m spending my time researching New England records. Today it’s the elusive Collins clan…just too many of them to easily pin down the right ones in the record deficient period. Fun to look, though, and I learn a lot in the process. Our Collins – Timothy Gilbert – married Theodocia Dean, daughter of William Dean and granddaughter of Captain William Dean.
So to the rascals. Our ancestor, Captain William Dean, purchased land in the Windsor (now), Vermont township in 1766. This area was controlled by the New Hampshire Colony government, as administered by Governor John Wentworth who was also the “Surveyor of the King’s Woods for all of North America”. Clearing the land for farming was one of the improvements that was wanted, as well as selling timber that was not designated for masts for British sailing ships. No matter who owned or cleared the land, the white pines on the land belonged to the King George III of England. Once a surveyor was designated, he would make marks on the suitable trees to claim the large white pine trees as masts for the Royal Navy. Cutting additional timber for other purposes was then permitted.
For reasons not clear, and despite his neighbors getting surveys when requested, Captain William Dean wasn’t able to get his land surveyed. At the time, New York authorities and New Hampshire leaders were in conflict over who controlled what; and it’s surmised that since Dean purchased his land through the New York authority that his affinity was for them. Perhaps that was one of the roots of his trouble.
Captain Dean is described as an upstanding citizen. Having gotten verbal permission from a deputy surveyor, he advised his sons they could begin cutting any trees not appropriate for masts. Not being satisfied with the verbal permission he traveled to Portsmouth to obtain written permits to that effect and was told a surveyor would soon arrive to mark his trees. When he returned home he found his sons had begun cutting trees and knew he could be in trouble. His neighbors had sent word of the cutting to Portsmouth and the Governor came in the dead of winter to investigate. The Deans, Captain William, William, and Willard were arrested and set to be tried in Admiralty Court.
The Governor’s attention to this matter had deep roots. <smile> His animosity rose from conflicts over jurisdiction between New Hampshire and New York – the boundaries had been changed by the King in 1764 – and the fact that some of the Dean land had previously been granted to the governor’s father. He hoped to bring attention to New Hampshire and extend their jurisdiction by prosecuting the Deans for their felonious behavior. New York partisans had the last word: they supplied funds to defend the Deans and although they were convicted they spend very little time in jail and the Captain’s lands were not confiscated.
The Wentworth’s era of authority ended in 1775 when Governor John Wentworth fled his post under pressure from the Revolutionaries. Captain William Dean spent the rest of his life in Windsor and is buried there.
William, Jr., Theodocia’s father, moved to Weathersfield, Vermont soon after his father’s land titles were confirmed and eventually died in New York.