J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Sunday, September 29, 2013

“Voucher for rations delivered at the Port of Williamston”?

Last month the Boston Globe reported on the opening of a vault in the Massachusetts State House. Officials found nothing earth-shaking inside, and the contents produced more small mysteries than they solved.
But perhaps the most intriguing item, provenance unknown, was a note inked in elaborate cursive script on a small piece of aged paper dated 1787: “Voucher for rations delivered at the Port of Williamston.”

Treasury staff members said they had no idea where the item was from or its significance. But that note and other historical documents from the safe are set to be examined this week by a specialist from the state archives.
That document is not among the items shown in the photo gallery accompanying the article, so I’m working with no more information than in those paragraphs. But here are some guesses.

Might “Williamston” be how this receipt writer spelled “Williamstown”?

Might “Port” actually be “Post” or “Fort”?

Why would Massachusetts have supplied food to a military post in Williamstown? There were forts built there when Englishmen settled the town in the 1750s, but they had long been put to other use by 1787.

That was the the year of the Shays Rebellion, however, when special militia regiments recruited in and around Boston marched west to confront an uprising of farmers and veterans. After a couple of skirmishes, the rebellion melted away (as did the militia, a few weeks later).

Some of the uprising’s leaders found refuge in Vermont, then an independent state. Militia officer Royall Tyler crossed the border to try to capture Daniel Shays in early 1787. He wrote home of “Driving 40 miles into the State of New York at the Head of a Party to apprehend Shay” and “closing the Pases to Canada.” Williamstown is at the border of Massachusetts, New York, and Vermont, so perhaps that was where Tyler’s militiamen were stationed and supplied for a while.

(Photograph courtesy of teacher Mr. Voelger.)

1 comment:

Mr Punch said...

My thoughts exactly. Otherwise they're sending materiel to North Carolina (?), which makes no sense.