I am sure that there is a directly inverse relationship between the joy that I find in reading this letter and the horror that Darby Cronin had when he was writing it in 1807. Historically, this letter is an absolute gold mine. The document itself is a written complaint about the behaviour of Thomas Hanley who had been threatening the inhabitants of Lower Granville. Not only does it tell a story which has fallen out of common memory but, it gives us a great deal of insight into the lives of people living along the Granville shore in 1807. Now I ask you, what more can a humble Curator who enjoys telling a good story ask for?
A fascinating element of this letter is the claim that, if war came with the United States, Hanley claims he would pilot a vessel through the Digby gut to essentially lay waste to the community living along the Granville shore. Not a particularly charitable sentiment. While this may have been hyperbole on the part of Hanley, it shows local knowledge of an evident political tension with the United States. This tension would of course erupt into the war of 1812 a mere five years later.
Now to counter my excitement at the contents of the letter, you really have to feel for Darby Cronin who was the author. The poor man obviously feared for his life. Nobody would appreciate a madman wandering around their house and through their fields with a musket and bayonet. For someone who had lived through the horrors of the American Revolution, this must have seemed hauntingly familiar.
Sadly, I do not know what became of Thomas Hanley. Did he join an American privateer in 1812? Did the local Constable come for him? Did he find a 19th century version of anger management? On the other hand, after some sleepless nights Darby Cronin went on to have a prosperous life along the shores of the Annapolis Basin where he worked as a storekeeper, school master and ship owner.
All for now,
The Complaint of the under named Subscriber
Against Thomas Hanley
Thomas Hanley has told me that he positively would take my life, and I can be qulifyed on the Holy Evangelist that I am Dealy and Ourly afraid that he will Execute his Wicked Design,
He has told John Johnson, John Sidicust, Wm. Anthony, Mrs. Harvey and others that he was determined to drive lead bullets true one or more men in this settlement before many days – He has been Several times true my fields where he Expected I was at worke Inquiring for me with a loaded musket.
He has been Seen at all times of the Day and night for about twenty Days back going up and down the Road with aloaded musket pistol & some times abayonet, He has made use of the following language at Different times for about twelve days past that is, he hoped that american war would take Place, and Swore by his meaker, and that he may be Damd, if he would not Enter on board of american Privateer pilot her into the Gut rob all the inhabitant And Slauter everry One of the that he could find in one night
George Harvey and his wife, James Sidicust, Jack Sidicust, Michael Dugan, Wm. Sidicust & Wm. Anthony Each and Everry one of the above mentioned people is Ready to be qualified to this treatning language of Thomas Hanleys & the all say the will much more if the are called for before the Authority, Most all the people in this Lower End of the Settlemt is very much afraid of his Conduct and Most Certainly your Very Humble Servant
21 July 1807 Granville Darby Cronin