Years in the making, a decisive confrontation occurred on July 19th, 1771 at James Breakenridge’s farm in North Bennington, Vermont.
A New York sheriff’s posse, including the Mayor of Albany, lawyers, magistrates, and militia clashed with the emerging Green Mountain Boys militia near the current location of the Henry Bridge which crosses the Walloomsac River, stopping the serving of papers and blocking the New York surveyors. The success of Hampshire Grants settlers in resisting the New York land claims made July 19, 1771 the birth of the Green Mountain Boys, and in a sense, the birth of the state of Vermont.
The Green Mountain Boys, led by Ethan Alllen and his brother Ira, controlled the area of disputed land grants. Based at a tavern in Bennington, they evaded arrest warrants from New York State and harassed settlers from New York, surveyors, and other officials, often with severe beatings and destruction of their belongings.
At a stand-off at the New York established court in March of 1775, two men were killed and Ethan Allen called for independence from New York.
In May 1775, the Green Mountains Boys, along with Benedict Arnold, captured Crown Point, Fort Ticonderoga, and Fort George from the British. Their cannon were taken by Henry Knox to Boston, to break the siege of Boston.
Vermont declared itself an independent nation in January 1777, initially supporting the Revolutionary War, but eventually adopting a neutral position that provided a haven for deserters from both armies and set the stage for the Haldimand Affair, when some Green Mountain Boys, including Ethan Allen, secretly negotiated with the British to restore Crown rule.
A celebration of the 250th anniversary of the historic “Breakenridge Stand-off” is set for Sunday, July 18th from 1 to 4 pm, in and around McWaters Park in North Bennington, Vermont.
The day will feature local and regional volunteers with history tours, presentations, re-enactors, a grand ceremony, and more.
There will be several public information tables to explore, representatives of several regional living history reenactor organizations, interactive demonstrations and presentations, and self-guided history tours. At 2 pm a commemoration will honor the birth of Vermont and of the Green Mountain Boys, a proclamation read by Vermont Rep. Mary Morrissey, and brief remarks from honored guest Chief Master Sgt. Adrianne Schulz, the mission group superintendent for the 158th Fighter Wing of the Vermont Air National Guard. At 3 pm, historian Robert Hoar will lead a public history walking tour from McWaters Park to the Breakenridge farm property.
A variety of activities for all ages will be offered at McWaters Park, in the area next to the covered bridge and under the trees.
Phyllis Chapman will share with children some fun games such as hoops and graces, quoits, and tabletop ninepins. She will also give informal presentations about medical care in the 1770s, through displays and demonstrations of typical medicines and procedures used in the treatment of illness and injuries. She will explain the method used for smallpox inoculation and simple surgical procedures.
Benjamin Whitcomb’s Rangers, a Vermont-based living history unit, will offer Jim Casco doing and showing the work of an armorer, Pam Monder leading game and toy play, and Michael Barbieri showing how to start a fire with flint and steel. Several of the various reenactors will be available to demonstrate the workings of firelock muskets, the type of weapon present but not fired at the Breakenridge Stand-off.
The Village Garage Distillery, which produces handcrafted spirits in the Vermont tradition, will host tastings at the corn crib barn on the Henry House property. The original Green Mountain Boys frequented Bennington’s Catamount Tavern.
The public may park in a designated mown area on the grounds of the Henry House, just southwest of the south end of the historic Henry covered bridge. From there it is a short walk across the bridge to McWaters park. After the ceremony at 2 pm, local historian Robert Hoar will lead a tour from McWaters Park to the Seth Warner house and continuing, ending near the site of the Breakenridge farmhouse.
This program is free and open to the public. Public parking is located entirely in a side yard of Henry House on Orebed Road.
Photo of mural (located inside a federal building on West Street in Rutland) depicting Hampshire Grants settlers inside the James Breakenridge farmhouse in Bennington defending their land claims from an Albany posse intent on evicting many of Vermont’s early settlers in favor of disputed land claims by colonial authorities representing New York.