Pine Tree Riot
millstone marks the site of the Pine Tree Riot
where Quimby's Inn once stood.
It is located on Rte. 114, South John Stark Byway
near the Avon store on Eastman Hill.
(Photo by Sherry Hadley Burdick)
of Pine Tree Tavern
where took place April 14, 1772
THE PINE TREE RIOT
one of the first acts against
the laws of England
about this event was obtained from William Little's
History of Weare, New Hampshire
1735-1888 (Lowell, MA: published by the town,
Information about the masting trade came from
New Hampshire Crosscurrents in Its Development
by Nancy Coffey Heffernan and Ann Page Stecker
(Hanover and London: University Press of New England,
The Pine Tree Riot
occurred at Quimby's Inn in South Weare on April
14, 1772. The event that spring morning was precipitated
by men from Weare and surrounding towns illegally
cutting white pine trees reserved for masts for
the Royal Navy. But there was much more to it.
"The story of the English need for ship's
masts, ship's timber, and naval stores and young
New Hampshire's ability to provide these commodities
is a tale of market dynamics, imperial politics,
ecological shortsightedness, and crafty survival
timber was to the world at that time what oil
is to the world today--a finite resource for which
When the first shipment
of masts from Portsmouth to England occurred,
in 1634, England had already suffered deforestation.
In order to dominate the high seas, new sources
of abundant timber for shipbuilding were needed.
"No ships, after all, could catch the wind
without as many as twenty-three masts, yards,
and spars varying in length and diameter from
the bulky mainmast to its subordinate parts."
Although New Hampshire's white pine was not as
hard as Europe's, its height and diameter were
superior. It also weighed less and retained resin
longer, giving the ships a sea life as long as
When granting lands
in America in 1690, King William prohibited the
cutting of white pine over two feet in diameter.
In 1722, under the reign of George I, parliament
passed a law that reduced the diameter to one
foot, required a license to cut white pine, and
established fines for infractions.
This law was basically
ignored until John Wentworth became governor in
1767. Appointed Surveyor of the King's Woods,
he recognized the revenue potential and appointed
deputies to carry out the law. He conducted his
own inspections of mill yards in the Piscataquog
valley by having a servant drive him around in
Before settlers could clear the land or build
cabins, barns, or meetinghouses, the king's sanction,
a broad arrow mark, was required on trees reserved
for the Royal Navy. The deputies charged them
a "good, round sum" to mark the trees
and for the license required to cut the rest.
No wonder the law became unpopular. The consequences
involved arrest and fines. Contraband white pine
already sawed into logs could be seized and a
large settlement required; if not paid, authorities
sold them at public auction.
In the winter of
1771-72, a deputy Surveyor of the King's Woods
found and marked for seizure 270 mast-worthy logs
at Clement's mill in Oil Mill (now called Riverdale),
in South Weare. He fined the log-cutters from
Weare and those from nearby towns where illegal
logs were also found. Men from other towns paid
the fines, but those from Weare refused. Consequently,
the Weare men were labeled "notorious offenders."
The county sheriff,
Benjamin Whiting, Esq., of Hollis, and his deputy,
John Quigley, Esq., of Francestown were charged
with delivering warrants and making arrests in
the king's name. On April 13, 1772, they galloped
into Weare and found major offender Ebenezer Mudgett,
who promised to pay his fine the next day. The
officials then retired to nearby Quimby's Inn
for an overnight stay.
News that they had
come for Mudgett flew through town, and a plan
was hatched. The following morning more than twenty
men with blackened faces and switches in hand
rushed into Whiting's room led by Mudgett:
his pistols and would have shot some of them,
but they caught him, took away his small guns,
held him by his arms and legs up from the floor,
his face down, two men on each side, and with
their rods beat him to their hearts' content.
They crossed out the account against them of
all logs cut, drawn and forfeited, on his bare
.They made him wish he had never heard
of pine trees fit for masting the royal navy.
Whiting said: "They almost killed me."
As for Deputy Quigley,
the Weare men wrested the floorboards from the
room above his and proceeded to beat him with
long poles. Nor did the officials' horses escape
the men's wrath. They cropped the animals' ears
and sheared their manes and tails. To "jeers,
jokes and shouts ringing in their ears" the
sheriff and deputy rode toward Goffstown and Mast
Road, named for the logs that were moved overland
to the sea and off to England for the king's ships.
The Weare men were
ultimately arraigned and paid a light fine, but
their rebellion against the crown, which preceded
the Boston Tea Party (1773), helped set the stage
for the Revolution. People in New Hampshire were
probably more offended by the pine tree law than
the Sugar Act of 1764; the Stamp Act (a rebellion
that took place in Portsmouth, NH, in 1765); and
the duty on tea, passed in 1773, which precipitated
the Boston Tea Party. According to Weare's 1888
history, "The only reason why the 'Rebellion'
at Portsmouth and the 'Boston tea party' are better
known than our Pine Tree Riot is because they
have had better historians." 4
years after the Pine Tree Riot, sawmills still
dotted Weare's landscape. This picture of a sawmill
in Riverdale (Oil Mill Village) was probably taken
in the early 1900s.
(from Weare Historical Society archives)
Nancy Coffey Heffernan
and Ann Page Stecker, New Hampshire Crosscurrents
in Its Development
(Hanover and London: University Press of New England,
Heffeman and Stecker, 33.
William Little, History of Weare, New Hampshire
1735-1888, (Lowell, MA: published by the town,
printed by S.W. Huse & Co., 1888), 189.