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Welcome to the Official website of the Utah Society Sons of the American Revolution (Utah SAR)

Members of the Sons of the American Revolution (SAR) are direct descendants of those patriots that achieved the independence of the American people. We remember and honor our patriot ancestors sacrifice and devotion to the cause of liberty.

The objectives of our organization are intended to perpetuate a more profound understanding and appreciation for our founding heritage, the principles of liberty, freedom and self-government as established by our Founding Fathers.

Whether or not you have a Patriot Ancestor, we invite you to explore our website, to learn more about us, who we are, what we do, and how to become a Member or Associate.

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In 2026 Americans will celebrate
The 250th anniversary of The Declaration of Independence,
the year America became an independent nation!
In 2022 we will consider a significant event

of 1772 leading up to July 4, 1776.

The Road to Independence
250 years ago – 1772

1772 was a significant year for events leading up to the American Revolution. Two major events were the Gaspee Affair and Sam Adams forming the first Committee of Correspondence. We however will look at an event not often talked about in history, we will examine The Pine Tree Riot. The Pine Tree Riot was an act of resistance to British royal authority undertaken by American colonists in New Hampshire. Having read this story, you will have an understanding why pine trees appeared on American Revolutionary War flags.

A similar flag is shown engraved on the February 1776 powder horn of Major General Richard Gridley as a flag used at the siege of Louisbourg in 1745.

Mast Pines

The Broad Arrow

By the late 17th century, the construction and maintenance of the huge number of ships required to build and defend the British Empire left few trees in Britain suitable for use as large spars. Eastern white pines from colonial New England were superior timber for the single-stick masts and booms of the day. These trees became highly coveted by the King’s master ship builders, so to satisfy their demands, and maintain Britain’s naval and trading advantage, a law in 1708 was passed in New Hampshire to protect selected white pines for British shipbuilding. The act of 1708 replicated a 1691 law in England declaring  all pines with a diameter greater than 24 inches to be the exclusive property of the Crown. In 1722 The New Hampshire General Court changed the diameter to 12 inches. Violators  faced a fine of 50 pounds for each illegally harvested tree. The Crown appointed “Surveyors of the King’s Woods” to identify all suitable “mast pines” with the “broad arrow”.

In 1734 history records “The Mast Tree Riot of Copyhold Mill”. David Dunbar, Surveyor General to the Crown decided to inspect a lumber mill in Copyhold. When word got out that Dunbar was in town, several townsmen gathered at the mill, and refused to let him conduct his inspection. Some even shot off their flintlocks as a warning for him to leave. He did leave but returned with ten armed men. They stopped at the local tavern to refresh themselves before going to the lumber mill. Several of the local townsmen had gotten word that Dunbar was back in town and was at the Tavern. They “Disguised as Indians” and attacked Dunbar and his men. No one was seriously injured, but the message to Dunbar was clear, don’t come back!

After this incident, for a number of years, The Pine Tree law was not strictly enforced. This changed when John Wentworth was appointed governor of the New Hampshire colony in 1766. Wentworth was not a tyrant, but he chose to hold firm on The Pine Tree law, and this contributed to growing discontent among the colonists.

Cheated From A Defense

Governor John Wentworth

In late 1771 and early 1772, the Deputy Surveyor of New Hampshire, John Sherman, ordered a search of all sawmills for illegally harvested white pines with the broad arrow mark of the Crown. Six mills were found to be in violation. On February 7, 1772 the New Hampshire Gazette published the names of the owners of the mills as offenders. Samuel Blodgett was hired as the mill owners’ lawyer, but Blodgett was persuaded by Governor Wentworth to accept the job of Surveyor of the King’s Woods. Blodgett told the mill owners they should pay their fines and declined to take any further action on their behalf. The mill owners in the town of Goffstown paid the fine, but the mill owners in the town of Weare would not pay.

The Choice Is Made

The mill owners in Weare were organized and led by Ebenezer Mudgett. The court issued a warrant for his arrest and Benjamin Whiting, Sheriff of Hillsborough County and his Deputy John Quigley served the warrant on April 13, 1772, arresting Mudgett. Mudgett agreed to pay his bail the next morning and was released. The Sheriff and his Deputy took a room at the Pine Tree Tavern for the night. Meanwhile, word of Mudgett’s arrest spread throughout the town, many of the townsmen gathered at Mudgett’s house. Emotions were high, people incensed, yet some offered to help pay the bail. Others strongly opposed paying the bail and advocated that the Sheriff needed to be punished. The townsmen finally determined Sheriff Benjamin Whiting would be taught a lesson he would never forget!

The Pine Tree Riot

When the sun rose the next day, 20, some say as many as 40 men with their faces disguised, blackened with soot, were led by Mudgett to the tavern. The men kicked down the door to Sheriff Whiting’s room, seeing him in bed they rushed him before he could grab his pistols. The men had brought pine branches and were determined to give him a lash for every tree being contested. Sheriff Whiting was grabbed by his arms and legs with his face to the floor. As several of the men held him up, several others brutally beat him with the tree branches. The Sheriff would later say he was convinced the men were going to kill him!

Another group of men broke into Deputy Quigley’s room and gave him the same treatment. When the beatings were done, the rioters found the Sheriff’s and Deputy’s horses and cut off their ears, shaved their manes and tails – this to make the horses worthless in monetary value. The Sheriff and Deputy were hauled out of the Tavern, put on their horses and forced to ride out of town through a gauntlet of jeering townspeople, shouting and slapping at them as they road toward Goffstown.

The King’s Soldiers Take Action

British soldier re-enactors

Once free from the rioters, Sheriff Whiting immediately engaged the services of Colonel Moore and Edward G. Lutwyche who led a group of soldiers to Weare to arrest the perpetrators. The rioters had already fled into the woods without a trace, so the soldiers conducted a door-to-door search, one of the rioters was discovered and arrested. After having been persuaded to talk, others were named. They were ordered to post bail and appear in court. Eight men in total were charged with assault, rioting, and disturbing the peace. A four-judge panel heard the case in Superior Court in Amherst in September 1772. All eight of the rioters plead guilty and were fined 20 shillings each and ordered to pay the cost of the court hearing.

The Aftermath of the Riot

Two years prior to the Boston Tea Party and three years before open hostilities began at the Battles of Lexington and Concord, The Pine Tree Riot was one of the first acts of forceful protest against the Crown. Newspapers across the Thirteen Colonies reported the riot, the Committee of Correspondence wrote about the riot. Those who were becoming discontented with the Crown, were incensed by the Crown’s law concerning pine trees.

According to legend, months prior to Colonel Joseph Reed’s suggestion for using the pine on a flag, the pine was used on the flag that the colonists flew at the Battle of Bunker Hill in June 1775. The historically accepted flag has a red field with the green pine tree in the upper left corner as depicted in John Trumbull’s The Death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunker’s Hill, June 17, 1775, painting.

Trumbull’s Bunker’s Hill Flag of 1775

Given the pine tree’s significance to the colonists, General George Washington approved of a flag that would fly over America’s first Navy colonial warships, the pine offered an appropriate and ironic symbol, as it flew atop the very structure for which the British had sought to harvest the white pine.

Washington’s Cruisers Flag – 1775

Appeal To Heaven

The phrase found on Washington’s Cruisers Flag is a particular expression of the “right of revolution” used by British philosopher John Locke in chapter 14 of his Second Treatise on Civil Government which was published in 1690 as part of Two Treatises Government refuting the theory of the divine right of kings.

And where the body of the people, or any single man, is deprived of their [unalienable] right, or is under the exercise of a power without right, and have no appeal on earth, then they have a liberty to appeal to heaven, whenever they judge the cause of sufficient moment. And therefore, though the people cannot be judge, so as to have, by the constitution of that society, any superior power, to determine and give effective sentence in the case; yet they have, by a law antecedent and paramount to all positive laws of men, reserved that ultimate determination to themselves which belongs to all mankind, where there lies no appeal on earth, viz. to judge, whether they have just cause to make their appeal to heaven.

John Locke

Locke’s works were well-known and frequently quoted by colonial leaders, being the most quoted authority on the government in the 1760-1776 period prior to American independence. Before Colonel Reed’s suggestion and Massachusetts General Court establishing the Pine Tree flag as the standard of the Massachusetts navy, “an appeal to Heaven” or similar expressions had been invoked by the Massachusetts Provincial Congress in several resolutions, Patrick Henry in his Liberty or Death speech, and the Second Continental Congress in the Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms. Subsequently, it was used again by the Second Continental Congress in the Declaration of Independence.

 

 


Sources:

Wikipedia.com, Commons.wikimedia.org, revolutionarywar.us, http://loeser.us/flags/revolution.html, barracks.org,
revolutionary-war-and-beyond.com/american-revolution-flags