Connecticut land speculator, politician, jurist and Patriot Eliphalet Dyer dies on this day in 1807.
Born in Windham, Connecticut, in 1721 and a 1740 graduate of Yale College, Dyer spent his life in the service of his home colony-turned-state. He served in the colonial militia in 1745, and then became a justice of the peace and began practicing law in his hometown one year later. Under the British crown, Dyer won repeated election to the colonial assembly in 1747, 1748, 1752, 1753 and consecutively from 1756 to 1784.
Dyer was a dedicated supporter of Connecticut’s land claims in the Wyoming Valley through which the Susquehanna River flows. Both Connecticut and Pennsylvania claimed a roughly 80-square-mile area in what is now Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, based upon their colonial charters. In pursuit of Connecticut’s claims, Dyer acted as the Susquehanna Company’s agent in London in 1763, during which time Connecticut Yankees began settling the region. He was unable to gain title for the lands in London and the dual claims to the region ultimately led to bloodshed during The First Pennamite War of 1769-1771. The Wyoming Valley was also the scene of a brutal attack upon Connecticut settlers by Loyalists in 1778 during the American Revolution. The dispute continued after the birth of the new nation with The Second Pennamite War of 1784. Finally, the Connecticut residents’ land claims were recognized by the state of Pennsylvania and they became Pennsylvanians.
Two years after his stint in London, Dyer served in the Stamp Act Congress coordinating the colonies’ protests against the British Stamp Tax. That body served as a model for the Continental Congress, which organized the Patriot war effort and included Dyer in its number from 1774 to1779 and 1782 to 1783. He continued his public service after independence was achieved, sitting as chief justice of the state of Connecticut from 1789 until his retirement from public life in 1793.