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‘Hunt’ing down history, Part 4 — The shot heard round the world

By Barbara Emery Moseley

NOTE: This series chronicles the generations of Vernon’s Hunt family, all related to Jonathan Hunt of “Governor Hunt Road” fame. If you’ve missed any installments in this series, you can catch up here!

The “shot heard ‘round the world,” that launched the American Revolution, echoed in Vermont. On receipt of the news from Concord and Lexington, Vermont farmers left on foot and horseback to join the determined patriots.

Vermont, as a newly formed republic, was in a struggle of its own to divest itself of any further control by the provincial governors of New Hampshire and New York. Many in Guilford, however, were stubbornly loyal to New York’s Governor Tryon. Nor did they recognize the power of the new state to draft men for the Revolution or else require them to secure a substitute.

The Guilford Selectmen at the time were of the Vermont faction and directed Sheriff Jonathan Hunt to levy, in the name of the State, “the sum of 15 pounds in goods,” which the Town had spent securing substitutes for the five who had refused military service.

Sheriff Hunt placed his warrant in the hands of a Guilford deputy, Barzillai Rice, instructing him to execute it immediately. The zealous deputy proceeded to do so, carrying off a cow of one of the draft-dodgers, as partial payment. According to accounts, this attracted a large crowd, which intercepted the deputy as he drove his bovine captive down the road. The cow was retrieved and Rice permitted it to go back to its owner unharmed.

The incident touched off a series of verbal conflicts within the town, resulting in a Special Town Meeting where a committee was appointed to resist “the pretended State of Vermont,” and the deputy was warned not to reappear except at his own peril. Hunt, meanwhile, had attempted to obtain some goods from a Brattleboro “Yorker” to settle another claim and was told he couldn’t remove them from the man’s farm “unless Hunt were the stouter man of the two.”

Hunt immediately made application for a military force to aid him in the duties of his office, resulting in a visit to Guilford by Ethan Allen and about 400 armed men. It was on this visit by the leader of the “Green Mountain Boys” that Allen deliver his well-known ultimatum that unless the people of Guilford would submit to the authority of Vermont, he would “lay it as desolate as Sodom and Gomorrah, by God.”

All those parties involved with the rescue of the cow were jailed and tried and fined of far greater limits than the original request of 15 pounds, plus ordered “to act with propriety in the future.”

Perhaps Jonathan Hunt was outraged by the excessive action of the Vermont force, for he resigned as sheriff within three weeks of Allen’s assault upon Guilford.

Other important work for Vermont lay ahead of him. There were also the demands of fatherhood. The “mansion” on today’s Governor Hunt Road became home to five children, all of who would achieve distinction in surprising ways.