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Robert Treat Paine Papers, Volume 4


On February 3, 1783, up to a dozen men of Paxton and other towns in Worcester County instigated a riot when they attempted to liberate cattle that had been confiscated as tax payments. Ten of the men were arrested—Asa and Reuben Stearns, John Davis, David Peirce, Ebenezer Boyinton, Nathan and James Snow, Nathan and Jonathan Wheeler, and Abijah Bemiss—and indicted for disorderly conduct, prevention of tax collection, and rioting. The men appeared before the grand jury in April. They were found guilty when the case went to trial before the September session of the Supreme Judicial Court in Worcester.

Grand Jury notes
Supr. Jud. Court Worcester April 1783

Cor: Grand Jury.

vs. Paxton Rioters

Mark Heard before the vendue break the Road, at Landlord Snow. Reuben Sterns with a mug of Flip in his hand says to his brother Nathl. here’s a health to all the brave Tories & to George our King then Nathl. took the mugg, Danl. Witt says as big a Tory as I am I would not take the mugg in such a manner Thomas Pollard 3d. Feby. a Vendue at Paxton: I had sued the Town & had an Exn. vs. Treasurer, & his pr. oxen & cows were taken by Coroner to pay it: at Mr. Snows Tavern, Wait the Consble. had distrained for Taxes & the Cows were to be sold at the same time: John Davis of Worcester sd. if any bid more than a Copper for a Cow they shall go away with a Sore head; Asa Sterns’s cow was taken for Taxes & he sd. if he pd. the 5. Doll for Taxes he shd. have no money to buy flip: Reuben Sterns, Asa Sterns John Davis, David Peirce, Jona. Wheeler appeared on head Nathan Wheeler, Abijah Bemiss had sticks & in the time of the Vendue opned the Barn & drove away the Cow: some that were freindly to Gov: drove them back John Fessenden Esqr. Saturday eving. before Sale, I was at Snow’s in Paxton. on Monday the 3d. at Vendue people collecting with Clubbs: I tryd to compromise David Peirce whose cow was taken sd. he had paid as long as he cd. & wd. pay no longer: then Asa Sterns sd. the same of his Tax: 262 at Vendue sd. whosoever bids bids at his peril: Somebody else sd. who bids more than a copper it won’t be wholesome. this cow was sold & dd. to Capt. Ph. Newall: David Peirce bd. the Consbl. go to Hell for proposing to accomodate Ebenr. Wait I was Collector abt. a fortnight before Asa Sterns sd. he wd. pay no more taxes, the 1st Cow of Danl. Snow was sold to Phin Newal & Asa Sterns attempted to stop her being put into the barn & sd. she shall not stay there long: David Peirce’s Cow was next put up Asa Sterns next: all the list there Peter Taft Saturday before Vendue I was Eb. Boynton Jno. Dennis there, they askd is the Cattle will be sold, they sd. no. no body will bid, wd. you bid if you see half a doz. stand round with Clubbs to knock yo. down: I saw all the list there with Clubbs & in the mobb: Boynton sd. they intended to have prevented the Taxes being pd. by bidding off the cattle at /6d. Abraham Smith junr. Saturday before Vendue Nathan Snow at Danl. Bemiss, told who the cattle was taken from guess’d they wd. not be sold, there wd. be eno. to stop it. a No. of good hearty fellows coming from Holden. ask’d me if I wd. not come & see em he sd. he that bid first wd. be knockd Down, that he was then going after hands, he ask’d Danl. Bemiss if he wd. not come up & help kill some of them. I was at Vendue. it was James Snow pulld the Barr down Josiah Livermore. Nathan Snow came over on Saturday to my Father’s to get me & my brother to come over & stop the vendue. he sd. a No. of good fellows coming from Holden: he sd. Oliver Witt sd. they wd. carry clubbs: he sd. if he was put to Goal & they did not come & help him he hoped Thunder & Lightning would strike at Vendue: Lt. Browning bid Abijah Bemiss sd. you shall have whipping for this—the Cow was drove out, James Snow pulld down one Barr, David Peirce another. Nathan Wheeler sd. if he cd. get at Frink he wd. settle him Bradley Livermore Saturday before vendue Nathan Snow at our house; he askd me to go, sd. he hoped some wd. be killed, at Vendue the list there, unusual Clubbs. Bemiss came to me sd. he had some thing to do & meant to do it: the cow turnd out of the yard. James Snow & David Peirce pulled up barr & tryd to stop the Cow being drove back 263 James Browning I was at Vendue. I was the list all there, some of them sd. to Lt. Frink wt. business have you to order us Damn’d Congress officer: Jonathan Wheeler spit at Lt. Frink & he struck him Oliver Earl on Vendue day Nathan Wheeler had a very large Clubb sd. he was going to lick Frink John Davis sd. they wd. not be sold for more than 6d—some body sd. lads turn her out of the Yard James Snow let down barrs & Reuben Sterns drove out the Cow. she was drove back: David Peirce then pulld out a Rayl & after word sd. Damn the Authority. Asa Sterns sd. if he had been a mind to he cd. have had 1000 men Aaron Morse Thursday night before vendue. James Snow sd. his cow was taken to pay Rates, but they wd. not make out to sell her & he wd. buy Stone Buttons & pay his Rates wn. he could, at Vendue David Peirce sd. if they had not been D——d fool they might have drove their Cattle out. Nathan Wheeler sd. Frink shold. have as bad a bruizing as my brother. Asa Sterns endeavoured to pull the Barrs down Nathan Brigham Newton Vendue day, they sd. they had paid Taxes long enô. Reuben Sterns sd. damn the Authority. Asa Sterns sd. he’d keep his money to buy flip. Jona. Wheeler told Silas Newton to hold his tongue or he’d split his head open. this was before sale, all the list there Capt. Phineas Morse the list went out wth. their Clubbs: Abijah Bemis threatn’d to flogg me this was after Cow sold—Nathan Wheeler sd. Frink shd. have a d——d flogging with the Clubb, before he gets home. Asa Sterns sd. to me if we get the day will use you well & your country Pliny Moore at Vendue wn. Lt. Browning bid. Ab. Bemis sd. J:G:D. him he shall have his head broke: Jona. Wheeler chuck’d Lt. Frink under his chin & Frink struck him with his Fist Heza. Newton jr. at Vendue Jona. Wheeler sd. the first man that bid he’d knock his brain out, & bid Mr. Wait set her up if he dared—after Cow sold I saw Jona. Wheeler spit on Lt Frink & he struck him—afterward I saw Jno. Wheeler chuck Frink under the Chin then Frink struck him with his Fists—Reuben Sterns sd. to Esqr. Fessenden damn Civil Goverment: have often heard him speak contemptble of Govt.—Friday before at Worcester John Davis & Asa Sterns talked of opposing the Vendue. Samll. Moore sd. people were sick of Genl. Washington—the 2 Snows & 2 Wheelers set down the Barrs 264 Daniel Witt. before Vendue. Reuben Sterns drank a health to K. George & all his loyal Subjects. Heza. Ward Esq. just after Vendue, Asa Sterns said he cd. have had 1000 men here to day:

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