"A shameful and corrupt neutrality on the lines, for the purpose of gain"
Brigadier-General Wade Hampton, United States Army, October 1813
It was difficult for the British forces in
Canada to procure provisions, and their commissaries often came secretly into the border towns
of the United States to purchase supplies. They found some in Coventry, as well as in other towns,
whose covetousness was greater than their patriotism, and from them cattle were bought at enormous
prices and driven to Canada by night to feed the enemies of America. The detection of some of these
unpatriotic men aroused no little indignation, and caused alienations of feeling which lasted for
many years. Smuggling was also greatly increased by the war. The unsettled state of affairs along
the borders made this crime easy and profitable.
Pliny White, History Of Coventry Vermont
Approximate location of early 1800 smuggling routes
From Wallings State Map of Vermont
"Barton Landing. This was a quiet smuggling town in the war of 1812."
The Connecticut by Daylight: From New York to the White Mountains, Wallace Bruce, Published 1874
These men made roads from inland towns at great distances from the boundary, through the
dense forests - and along the mountain ridges for the sole purpose of carrying on this
contraband business. The old road that led from Albany Center down across the river by
where Hiram Chafee now lives - and thence along on the mountain to where Mr. Fisher now
resides in Lowell - and on through Coventry Gore and Duncansborough (now Newport) to Potton
in Canada was one of these old smuggling thoroughfares.
Smuggling in 1813-1814: A Personal Reminiscence
[In Irasburg around 1807] a road was opened from Capt Richardson's, by Mr. Kidder's, to Troy.
This was in embargo times, when much of the pearlash made in the State was drawn, in winter
through the wilderness to Montreal. This road to Troy was cut in the Fall of 1807, by
parties from Danville and Peacham, who transported hundreds of tons of salts and pearlashes
through to Canada. In the spring of 1808, a large quantity remained in the country, and
Barton river was cleared out, the casks put on to rafts and barges, and transported by water
to Quebec. This circumstance gave the name of "the landing" to that part of Barton near Irasburgh
where the merchandize was put on board the boats. The principal business of the inhabitants,
at this time, was the making of salts and pearl-ashes, which were taken, in winter,
on ox-sleds to Missisquoi Bay and Montreal.- Those portions of the town which which were
timbered with maple and elm were first settled because those kinds of wood yield more ashes,
and will burn with less trouble than many other kinds. These times also encouraged smuggling
which was carried on by residents of the town to considerable extent...
The war of 1812, was declared while the people of Irasburgh were making salts and whiskey and smuggling goods from Canada, An association had formed consisting of a dozen or more men who gave a joint and several note to Wm. Baxter of Brownington for funds which they used in the smuggling business. This ring was not broken up till 1814, when an association of anti-smugglers, who worked for their own interest, frustratred all their plans and overpowered them.
VT Historical Gazeteer Volume III Orleans County Irasburg
The War Of Eighteen Hundred and Twelve was particularly disastrous in its
effects to the Northern part of Vermont and exhibits an instance of the ruinous
effects of war on a country, even when it does not suffer from the invasions of
the enemy...The labors of the husbandman for a season were generally interrupted,
few felt much confidence to till the earth when the prospect of remaining to the
time of harvest was deemed so uncertain. All improvements in clearing farms and
erecting buildings were of course discontinued. Speculation and smuggling soon
followed, and diverted the time and attention of the people from more profitable
and honorable pursuits. In the Winter of 1812-13, a small detachment of troops was
stationed at North Troy. It is probable that the desire of quieting the fears of
the people, and preventing smuggling and driving cattle into Canada, was the object
of the government stationing this body of troops in Troy rather than the apprehension
of an invasion from that quarter.
VT Historical Gazeteer Volume III Orleans County Troy
A SMUGGLING STORY OF "YE OLDEN TIME"
[In Albany] About 1813 smuggling was carried on in this locality to a considerable extent. Mr. Hayden, who had been custom officer, had, for some reasons, lost his appointment, and there was no officer nearer than Irasburgh. On one occasion Robert Rogers, then a lad, had been out in the timber, where he detected a large drove of cattle on the line of what was then called Cory's smuggling road, cut through from Crafsbury under the mountain towards Lowell, coming into the Gen. Hazen road, nearly west of Albany center. Young Rogers was where he got sight of this drove of beef on the way to feed the British army in Canada. Robert hastened home, and then to Irasburgh, to see Major Enos, then U. S. officer of customs. The Major, taking the boy up behind him, started in hot haste for Craftsbury, where, gathering up a posse of determined loyal men, taking the Gen. Hazen road by Rogers's, and he and Robert in company, on they went for Lowell. A herd of hungry cattle are not rapid locomoters. Our boys came up to them at Curtis's tavern near Lowell corners. The drovers were just baiting their cattle. It is said, by the way, that at this time there were lots of the men then in Lowell, that would throw up their hats as high as anybody when they were over the line. This gave confidence to the smugglers, and when our Major politely informed the drivers of these beeves that Uncle Sam had sent him to secure this fine lot of beef, and that he was under the necessity of taking them back over the mountains for the use of our own men, they refused to let the cattle go. Two men were posted at the bars with orders to shoot down the first man that should touch one of the bars. What was to be done ? The Major, or his posse, had not so much as a horse pistol, but he had men. Mr. Joseph Chamberlain and Mr. Onios Skinner, each with an ample cane in hand, uplifted high, quickly strode up to these men, and with looks and voice said, "Hold! the first man that fires a shot shall be the first in hell." At this juncture Mr. Hiram Mason of Craftsbury stepped up and coolly took out all the bars, laying them by, one by one. Through these bars the cattle were driven, and started back. It is said that the Major even offered to compromise the matter with the owners, proposing to all go in company to Burlington with the cattle, when he said the men should receive for their beef government contract prices. This offer they spurned, thinking to be able to rally forces enough to return the cattle that night, but their efforts proved abortive. The cattle, 110 in number, were taken to Craftsbury common, by the Hazen road, and watched by the citizens till morning when they were started for Burlington. They were met by Capt. Patridge on the route. Several skirmishes for the recovery occured on the road, the last of which was in Underhill, where, it is said, some blood was let. A suit was afterward instituted to recover the value of these cattle, and the Rogerses were summoned to Windsor to the trial, but the case was thrown out of conrt, and thus ended one of the most exciting and interesting seizures in this locality.
VT Historical Gazeteer Volume III Orleans County Albany
- Pliny White, A History of Coventry, Vermont
- VT Historical Gazeteer Volume III
- The best defence is...smuggling? Vermonters during the War of 1812, Alcock, Donald G., Canadian Review of American Studies; Winter95, Vol. 25 Issue 1, p73, 19p
- Smuggling in 1813-1814: A Personal Reminiscence, author unknown, Vermont History, 38 Winter 1970, p22