Part 2: Escalation

Fries and his men left Quakertown to return to Milford. It was at this time, that Fries learned of the arrests made in the Millerstown (Macungie) area. Fries went to the inn of Conrad Marx (Marks) with most of his men. They would join with a group of men, reported to be going to Millerstown to free these prisoners. As they proceeded to Millerstown, they met a son of Marx, who told them the prisoners had already been taken to Bethlehem and that they should go home, as the people of Northampton had called out their community home guard, who had remained active since pre-Revolutinary days, and under the command of Captain Henry Jarrett, would free the prisoners themselves.

Fries urged his men to stay and go with him to Bethlehem to assist in the liberation. Two groups set out for Bethlehem on March 7. The Millerstown group, led by Jarrett and Fries’ group from Milford. In Bethlehem, word spread that a party was en route to rescue the prisoners. The Marshal with 13 or 14 men, guarding the 19 prisoners at the Sun Inn, in Bethlehem, would be out numbered. He set some of the prisoners free on bail and told them to report into Philadelphia. The Marshal hoped to persuade Fries and Jarrett to return home and leave this matter to the government and sent a delegation to meet them at the Bethlehem toll bridge.

Fries told the delegation they would return home with the prisoners, paid the required toll and the group continued to the Sun Inn. A group of 400 surrounded the inn, some were armed and part of the rescue party and some were spectators. Fries, had felt from the outset, that there might be bloodshed. He ordered his men to wait until he was killed and then attack the inn. Fries was reportedly unarmed and entered the inn to speak with the Marshal and issue his demands for the release of the prisoners. With the numbers and emotion so obviously against him, the only thing the Marshal could do, was surrender the prisoners. The raid was a success. The men returned to their homes; however, the Marshal immediately sent a report of the events to President Adams in Philadelphia.

Adams ordered troops to be raised from the Lancaster area under the command of Brigadier General William McPherson and capture the rebels. Twelve hundred men were called up for this purpose. They were friends of the government, opposed to these farmers and unfortunately, fond of women and drink. Tales of extreme violence and crudeness came out of the behavior of these troops and they were considered scoundrels by the natives of Bucks and Northampton Counties.

The marshals who had been involved in the incident at the Sun Inn, went to Northampton to make arrests in that area, then returned to Millerstown where they rearrested the original group of prisoners. At the same time, in Bucks County, there were many in the German community, that favored the government and assisted in identifying members of Fries’ group to the marshals. One by one they were apprehended. Fries himself, hid in the area, appearing in public, only when it was safe to do so. But, on April 6, while hiding in brush at Bunker Hill (Rich Hill), he was betrayed by his little dog “Whiskey” (ironically, named and acquired during his participation in quelling the Whiskey Revolt) and he was arrested. Fries was immediately taken to Philadelphia to be tried in Federal Court, along with four of his fellows, for treason. The rest would be tried for high misdemeanors.

The charges against these men as follows: 1 Opposition to the House Tax. 2 Hindering the assessors in their duties. 3 Holding unlawful meetings and interfering with the execution of the laws. 4 Suppressing the friends of the government or any one who should aid or assist the officials in their duties. 5 To rescue any one arrested by the government. 6 No explanation of the law heeded by the people. 7 Violence as used by the people. 8 Opposing the United States officials while performing their duty.

A total of forty one of the men arrested, lived to be tried in court. Two died in prison. John Fries, George Gettman and Fred Hainey were found guilty of treason and sentenced to death. The others, tried on various degrees of the high misdemeanors charges, were found guilty except one. Little is known about those who escaped capture. Some left the state and others simply went into deep hiding in the most recessed areas of Northampton.*

President Adams Proclamation. Part 3

* Condensed, with permission from: “The Saga of John Fries”Chapter Seven of: “Richland the Manor, the Township and Quakertown”A History by the Quakertown National Bank, 1877-1977. Editor and Publisher: Harry Adams . MediaDynamicsHistoric Research : Peggy Adams . Pauline Cassel
©1977 Media Dynamics and Adams Apple Press, all rights reserved