This Place in History: Jacob Bayley

Vermont Historical Society


At ‘This Place in History’, we’re in Newbury, Vt. with Executive Director of the Vermont Historical Society Steve Perkins.

“We’re going to talk a little bit about General Jacob Bayley. [This story] starts back in the French and Indian War. When he was a mere colonel fighting with the British forces, he made his way up the Champlain Valley. He ended up fighting in Canada and really made a name for himself,” began Perkins.

“Then, he decided that in order to get home, rather than coming down Lake Champlain, he was just going to take a compass heading and make a beeline. That brought him to the Connecticut River and down to this spot, ” explained Perkins.

“This part of Newbury is called the Great Oxbow of the Coos Meadows. It’s a beautiful fertile area and it was on the northern edge of where the British were starting to settle New England. He said this is where I want to live. So, he went to Governor Benning Wentworth and he got himself a charter for this town right here. He named it Newbury after Newbury, Massachusetts and ended up settling here. He’s considered one of the founders of this area, and of course, Newbury was one of the earliest towns to be settled in the state.”

“It became the frontier during the American Revolution and part of this line of forts which protected northern New England. Regularly, there were raids which came down. He worked with another guy and they started building a military road between here and Montreal. We’ll talk about that in a different segment,” teased Perkins.

“But what I think is really cool, we’ll talk about some spy intrigue. During the American Revolution, Jacob Bayley was very much a patriot. He really believed in the American cause and was not really happy with anything to do with the British.”

“But in the 1780s, 1781 and 1782, we were the Vermont Republic and we were feeling pretty bruised as a republic that we weren’t included as the new United States. And the Allen brothers started negotiating with the governor of Canada, General Haldimand to supposedly bring the Vermont Republic back into the fold as part of Great Britain,” said Perkins.

“Bayley did not like that at all. He was very outspoken about it. So the British Secret Service sent some operatives down here to kidnap him. Now, there were royalists living in this area and patriots living in this area and there are all sorts of stories about what happened.”

“Supposedly, his neighbor, who was a paroled officer which meant that he had been captured by the British but gave his word he wouldn’t fight and would report on Bayley as part of his parole, was living here. He heard that they were coming to kidnap him and he warned him by dropping a slip of paper in front of his plow while they were out plowing next to the Connecticut River. Bayley read the paper and ended up running off to hide. The British operatives still bust into this house and shot one of his men – in the arm, didn’t kill him – and ended up kidnapping his son, or as they would say, taking him prisoner and brought him back to Canada. He did get his son back. It’s a great story about what was happening on the northern frontier and how important Bayley’s voice was in creating not only Vermont, but also the United States,” concluded Perkins.

At ‘This Place in History’!

For more from our ‘This Place in History’ series, click here.

To view a map of Vermont’s roadside historic markers, click here.

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