Conway — Revolutionary Recollections
Extracted from "History of the Connecticut Valley in Massachusetts, Volume II," by Louis H. Everts, 1879.
The first action taken by the town touching matters which led to the war of '76 was Aug. 5, 1774, when, the pamphlet from the Boston committee of correspondence being considered, a committee, consisting of Captain French, Deacon Wells, Robert Oliver, Mathew Gould, and Consider Arms, was chosen and instructed to prepare a reply, which they did in the following:
"Having read and considered the letters sent us from Boston, respecting the rights of the colonies, and the infringements of those rights, we fully agree with you that those rights and privileges are invaded, and of this province in particular. We shall join with you in all lawful and salutary measures for the recovery of those inestimable privileges wrested from us and firmly to secure those that remain, for we are sensible that should we renounce our liberties and privileges we should renounce the quality of men and the rights of humanity. We fully pay our proportion of money desired by the General Court, in order to the support of the Hon. Committees of Congress, greatly relying and depending on their resolutions."
In September, 1774, a committee, being appointed to "regulate mobs for fourteen days," reported as follows:
"1st. Resolved, That the Committy have power to Inspect, Judge, and Determine with respect to ye conduct of any person or persons that shall Do or speak anything that tends to Hender uniting of the people iii opposing ye King's laws yt Infringes on our Rights Contrary to our Charter; that when any complaint shall be presented to sd Committy against any person or persons, sd persons shall appear before said committy, and Upon Having good evidence, they shall have power to appoints, certain competency of punishment to be inflicted on them, not exceeding the Punishment of contempt and neglect, sd punishment to be ordered by the sd committy.
"2d. Resolved, Yt the sd Committy nor no other person shall not have liberty to go out of this town, except it be to assist a mob in the General Good Cause, in prohipiting persons taking or holding commissions under the present constitution, except it be for their own particular business.
"3d. Resolved, With regard to the late acts of Parliament, we look upon them to be unconstitutional, tirrannical, and oppressive, tending in their opperation to the Total Subversion of our natural and Chartered Rights; Do look upon it our duty, from a regard to the true interests of our Selves, our country, and posterity, to oppose ye sd cruil acts in every vertious manner to prevent their taking place, and we hereby manifest our Readiness and Resolution, Reather than submit to them, that we will resist them, even to the shedding of blood."
Consider Arms, who was one of this committee, and one of the first committee of correspondence, was also selected, in 1774, to attend the Provincial Congress. Later on, as will he seen, he became a rank Tory, and with others suffered some persecution.
In December, 1774, a committee was chosen "to observe the conduct of all persons in this district touching the association of the Continental Congress."
In 1775, Daniel Dunham was chosen a delegate to the Congress at Concord, and it was agreed also "to allow Minute-Men the assistance of one barrel of powder, lead, and flints, on condition that they are called to march in defense of their country; to provide them forty bayonets and forty cartridge-boxes, and to give them $40 when they march."
May 24, 1776, the town made the declaration that "If the Honorable Continantial Congress Should think it Requisit for the Safety of the North-american Coloneys on this Continent to Declare a State of Independency of Greatbriton, that we will abide By and Conform to their wisdom to the Expense of our lives and fortunes."
Conway was nobly patriotic in furnishing men and means for the struggle, and at one time, in 1777, every able-bodied man within the town's limits was under arms.
In the summer of 1775 the Toryism of some of the inhabitants began to manifest itself, and in July of that year it was
Voted "that the town will acquiesce with what the committee have done with respect to Consider Arms, viz., taking away his arms; also, voted they did right in clearing Messrs. Deacon Dickinson, Jona. Oaks, Sam'l and David Fields; also, in what they did in disarming James Oliver; also, that they did right in what they did Wm. Galloway, Elijah Wells, Joseph Catlin, and Elias Dickinson, and that the resolves of the committee respecting Joseph Brunson and Simeon Hawks shall be put into execution, which is to commit them to goal."
Consider Arms would not willingly relinquish his sword when commanded to do so, and hid it in a grain-bin, where it was, however, found and confiscated. Upon the close of the war it was restored to him, and is now in the possession of Elijah Arms, Esq., of Conway.
August, 1777, it was resolved to proceed to some measure to secure "the inimical persons called Tories," it being first voted that those who were "dangerously inimical to the American States" were Joseph Catlin, Elias Dickinson, Joseph Brunson, Elijah Wells, Elijah Billings, James Dickinson, William Billings, John Hamilton, Jonathan Oaks, Capt. Consider Arms, Ebenezer Redfield, and David Field.
It was then voted "to draw a line between the Continent and Great Britain," and subsequently,
"Voted that all those persons that stand on the line of the continent take up arms, and go on hand in hand with us in carrying on the war against our unnatural enemies. Such we receive as friends, and all others treat as enemies. Voted the Broad ally be the line, and the South end of the meeting-house be the continent, and the North end the British side. Then moved for Trial, and found six persons to stand on the British side, viz.: Elijah Billing, Jonathan Oaks, William Billing, Joseph Catling, Joel Dickinson, and Charles Dickinson. Voted to set a gard over those Enemical persons. Voted that the town clerk Emediately desire Judge Marther to issue out his warrants against those enemical persons returned to him in a list heretofore."
As an evidence of the depreciation of currency during the war, it may be mentioned that in 1780 it was voted to give a bounty of $700 to men drafted into the militia service, and to raise £10,000 to pay bounties.
Among the men of Conway who fought in the first Revolution were Josiah and John Boyden, Lieut. Robert Hamilton, Jason Harrington, Daniel Newhall, Maj. James Davis, Lieut. Alexander Oliver, Lucius Allis, Amos Allen, Abel Dinsmore, Isaac Nelson, Moses Childs, William Marble, and William Gates, the four latter being killed in the service.
The declaration of war in 1812 did not meet Conway's approval, and in that year Joshua Billings and John Bannister represented the town at the Northampton peace convention.
Under the draft ordered in 1814, several Conway men went to Boston prepared for active service, but returned luckily to their homes shortly afterward, without having been called upon to take part in bloody strife.
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14 Jul 2005