The Legend of the Indian Stream Republic

Granite Staters love freedom. After all, New Hampshire’s state motto is “Live Free or Die.” 

But, back in the 1800s, the people of what is now the town of Pittsburg in far northern New Hampshire took freedom to a whole other level, actually creating their own independent nation – the Indian Stream Republic.

This independent nation was created due to a border dispute between the U.S. and Canada (controlled by the British at the time), and it nearly caused a war between the two countries in the 1830s.

The roots of the Indian Stream Republic date back to just after the American Revolution, when the United States and the British couldn’t agree on where the border dividing New Hampshire and Canada should be. 

The British felt the border should run along the Connecticut Lakes. The U.S. claimed it should run along Hall’s Stream to the west, which (spoiler alert) is the border as it is today. The result was the territory was claimed by both sides, with both countries regularly sending tax and debt collectors into the region.

The nearly 300 inhabitants of the region grew tired of being taxed by two countries, and in 1832 they declared their independence, saying they would remain independent until the two sides could agree on a proper boundary. 

For the next several years, the Indian Stream Republic operated as its own country. The residents drafted their own constitution, created their own court and legislative system, operated their own militia and even issued their own stamps.

The system worked well until 1835, when one resident’s hardware store debt led to an international incident that almost caused a war. 

An Indian Stream resident was arrested by a British sheriff for the unpaid debt and faced time in a Canadian debtor’s prison. A group of Indian Stream residents then invaded Canada to free the man. They shot up a judge’s house where the man was being kept, and brought him back to Indian Stream. Tensions along the border rose, New Hampshire’s governor ordered the state militia to occupy the area, and for a while it looked like the incident could lead to a war. Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed.

The British agreed to relinquish their claim to the area in 1836, and in 1840, Indian Stream was incorporated as the town of Pittsburg.

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