Home Politics and Military The Frustrating Loyalist Life of the Other Samuel Adams

The Frustrating Loyalist Life of the Other Samuel Adams

It didn't help that nobody liked him


All the world knows about brew master and Massachusetts patriot Samuel Adams. But less celebrated is the life of the other Samuel Adams of Vermont.

In 1764, Dr. Samuel Adams joined the migration of Newtown, Conn., residents leaving for the greener pastures of Vermont. Between 1765 and 1770 roughly 50 people would move from the Newtown area to Arlington, Vt. There they bought land, built a grist mill along the Battenkill River and began farming.

Fog along the Battenkill

The Other Samuel Adams in Boston

To get their new town up and running, the settlers approved taxes for such investments as surveying the land and improving roads. The taxes caught some of the absentee property owners by surprise. One of Adams’ first duties was to travel to a meeting in Boston to explain the new expenses.

Adams was not successful, and the town chose another representative. This is the first glimpse we get of Adams’ personality, suggesting he was an argumentative and unlikeable sort.

In that fractious era, New York and New Hampshire were still fighting over who owned what land in Vermont. The Newtown settlers had purchased their land from owners whose rights derived from New Hampshire. They were developing the town to further the interests of the New Hampshire owners. Others insisted New York had granted rights to the land.

Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys enforced the New Hampshire grants through the 1760s, sending New Yorkers packing. All the while, the town was gradually splitting, its members choosing sides between loyalists and revolutionaries.

Arlington Divided

Seth Warner, Thomas Chittenden, Remember Baker – all now well-known Vermont historical figures – were Arlington residents who sided with Ethan Allen and the patriot cause. And Arlington itself would become the first capital of the Vermont Republic.


Ethan Allen

Dr. Samuel Adams, on the other hand, remained a British loyalist. In 1774, Adams publicly crossed Ethan Allen. He announced to his fellow citizens that they should re-purchase their properties to obtain the New York rights. It’s unclear whether he had bought those rights himself and wanted to resell them or he was acting as an agent for the New Yorkers.

For his impudence, Allen and his supporters conducted a trial of sorts at the Fey’s Catamount Tavern in Bennington. Adams’ hostile stance against New Hampshire was a recent development, as Adams obtained his own property through New Hampshire grants. He was probably motivated in part by the shifting political alliances of the day.

The Catamount Tavern and a woodcut of Adams’ punishment

As punishment, Allen and his men tied Adams to a chair and hauled it to the top of the tavern sign, a stuffed mountain lion mounted on a pole. Suspended midair, Adams was turned facing New York to look upon his chosen state.

Following two hours of much entertainment at the doctor’s expense, Allen sent Adams home and told him to stop talking nonsense about the New Hampshire grants. It was a relatively mild punishment by Allen’s standards.

Adams’ Rangers

Adams’ anger was building and it finally boiled over in 1777. A group of patriot soldiers were dispatched around Manchester, Arlington and Bennington to gather supplies. That meant stealing food and cattle from loyalist farms. Learning of the plan, Adams gathered a group of men to resist the theft of their property.

Adams was leader, with his four sons, of a loyalist militia called Adams’ Rangers. The militia supported General John Burgoyne in his disastrous Saratoga campaign, though most of its history is lost.

Gen. John Burgoyne

Adams squared off against David Mallory, another Arlington resident. Mallory had lived with the Adams family and taken training as a physician from the doctor. But the war had divided the two. As Mallory and the patriots gathered up the cattle, the two sides argued. Adams shot Mallory as he attempted to drive the cattle through town.

Mallory died hours later. Adams, meanwhile, fled to Canada with his family. Increasingly frustrated by the British and their refusal to grant any of his requests for a role in the British side of the American Revolution, Adams disbanded his rangers.

He and his loyalist compatriots were granted land in Canada and settled there. Adams spent the remainder of his working life as an innkeeper in Montreal. There he ran a successful tavern serving British troops and expatriates. He died in 1810.

Images: Fog over the Battenkill CC BY-SA 3.0, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13301585. This story was updated in 2023.


Jim Philbrick September 28, 2016 - 7:48 am


Michelle Moon September 28, 2016 - 9:01 am

Sam Adams wasn’t a brew master. He was a maltster briefly, who inherited the business from his father, but he was poor at business and it closed very soon after his takeover. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_Adams#Early_career

In 1777 a Deadly Fog of War Swept Across Vermont and Claimed John Irish - New England Historical Society August 20, 2017 - 7:59 am

[…] the American Revolution under way and the countryside thick with spies, both British and American, Clough said he wanted Irish to guide him across his land so he could […]

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