After declaring their independence in 1776, the United States agreed with British North America (the territories that had remained under the control of the United Kingdom, and part of what is now Canada) on what the border between the two states. The boundaries were decided during the Paris Treaty of 1783 on the basis of a map made years earlier by the geographer John Mitchell, obviously based on a partial knowledge of the territory, even if it was impossible to observe it from above. To mark part of the border between New Hampshire and British North America, the treaty said, in summary, that one had to look at the northernmost section of the Connecticut River: all that was west of that “northernmost section” was British; everything in the east was American.
The problem is that British and Americans were unable to agree on where the Connecticut river began and if certain waterways should be considered the beginning or instead of the different rivers, perhaps its tributaries. Obviously, everyone saw it based on how convenient it was for them. For the Americans, the border had to be placed on the Hall Stream (the most westerly river), for the British, the border was instead placed a few tens of kilometers further east, in correspondence with a series of lakes (already known at that time creative name of First, Second, Third and Fourth Lake Connecticut). Thus a disputed area was created as early as the end of the eighteenth century which included the Indian Stream, a stream of thirty kilometers.
Those who lived in that area therefore found themselves in the midst of a territorial dispute between two different states that demanded taxes and imposed rules. On July 9, 1832, the Republic of Indian Stream was established, with a population of about 300 people and an area of just over 700 square kilometers (three times more than the island of Elba). The Republic included everything that was east of the Hall Stream and west of the lakes.
One of the Republic’s main promoters was the shoemaker Luther Parker and the constitution spoke of a “free, sovereign and independent” state. As the book explains The Indian Stream Republic and Luther Parker (fully available online), however, provided that the Republic of Indian Stream could be something temporary, to allow people to govern themselves pending “to ascertain which government was right to respond to”. A school built in 1828 was also chosen as a court and government seat and it also appears that there were those from the United States who imposed a customs tax on products from the Republic of Indian Stream, implicitly recognizing their existence and legitimacy.
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There is not much information about how the short life of the Indian Stream Republic went, but it looks like it did quite well. Shortly thereafter, however, William I, the king of the Netherlands who mediated between the United States and the United Kingdom, tried to resolve the matter by deciding that the area belonged to the United Kingdom. Republic members tried to react by asking to be part of the United States instead, but as an autonomous province, not dependent on New Hampshire. However, the United States did not like this, and even less to New Hampshire.
In the summer of 1835, the sheriff of Coos County, New Hampshire finally led two infantry units to the territories of the self-proclaimed Republic. Canada, which technically that territory belonged to by decision of William I, did not oppose in any concrete way, thus leaving alone the promoters of the Republic, which in turn did not offer particular resistance to the infantry units of New Hampshire. In a couple of days the Republic decided to accept the annexation to New Hampshire. Richard I. Blanchard, one of the men who had dealt with the Indian Stream government, was appointed deputy sheriff in Coos County.
However, it took a few months for things to settle down properly. Initially there were tensions between the small factions that had meanwhile created among the former members of the Republic of Indian Stream: someone had now peacefully accepted to be part of the United States but someone else still dreamed of independence and was hostile to the United States (and therefore partly close to the British).
In the fall of 1835, there were several problems when Blanchard arrested a man guilty of not repaying a small debt contracted at a hardware store. After that arrest Blanchard was the protagonist of some very hectic hours, in which for a few times he was arrested and freed by former members of the Republic, some pro-US, others still interested in independence from the United States. It all ended with Blanchard wounded but finally freed, for fear of any US retaliation.
For a few months, until February 1836, the presence of New Hampshire officials and “militants” in the inhabited areas of the Republic of Indian Stream was increased, to avoid new accidents and possible new independence ambitions. The issue relating to the territories of the Republic of Indian Stream was definitively resolved in 1842, in the Webster – Ashburton treaty, which formalized the fact that all areas of what had been the Republic of Indian Stream belonged to New Hampshire, and therefore to the United States.
The Webster – Ashburton treaty also resolved other disputes related to the complicated and long border between the United States and future Canada. Among the most interesting – and often bizarre – stories of disputes and peculiarities of that border are the history of the Caroline Case (in 1837, linked to an occupation of an island on the Niagara River), that of the Aroostook War (ended in 1939 without even one dead, but with two Canadian soldiers injured by bears) and that of the Republic of Madawaska (which lasted a few months and which had a porcupine as a symbol). The history of the Northwest Angle is relatively better known, a place that by land borders only Canada and which is in the United States by mistake.
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Returning instead to the Republic of the Indian Stream: thanks to current knowledge, it is believed that the Connecticut River originated in one of the lakes east of the old Republic of the Indian Stream, that is where the British said, and that the Hall Stream – along which the current border between Canada and the United States runs – is in fact only a tributary of the Connecticut River.