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Home > Virtual Village > Virtual Tours > West Springfield Through the Eyes of the Day Family > Shays' Rebellion

Shays' Rebellion

When Shays Rebellion occurred from 1786-1787, rebels tore through the region demanding a change. Luke Day was a leader of the rebellion, and used his cousin, Josiah Day’s, house as a headquarters while in West Springfield. Interestingly enough, Captain John Potter of the Potter Mansion’s Brookfield regiments were called at one point to quell the rebellion in the region. It is unknown if John Potter and Luke Day ever encountered one another.

Second in Command

In 1786, farmers of Western Massachusetts were pushed to the brink. Farmers had received very little compensation for serving in the Revolutionary war and businesses were demanding payment up front for items that could have previously been put on credit or bartered for. The lack of money drove many farms to form under leaders such as Daniel Shays and Luke Day, who would come to revolt against the Articles of the Confederation in what is now known as Shays’ Rebellion.[1] In the end, it took George Washington coming down with men to squash the revolt.

This rebellion highlighted the weakness of the Articles of the Confederation, in spite of the ostracization of its participants afterwards. Lawmakers began debates for a stronger government that wouldn’t have the same issues as the contemporary Articles of the Confederation. Today, historians recognize that Shays’ Rebellion is directly connected to the formation of the Second Continental Congress. Governor John Hancock pardoned many of the farmers and leaders of the rebellion, but some leaders remained shunned. Daniel Shays, one of the leaders and namesake of the rebellion, moved to Sparta, NY after being pardoned from the $750 bounty placed on his head. When he passed in 1825, he was buried in an unmarked grave. Eventually a section of US Route 202 in Pelham, MA that was built in 1935 was named in his memory.[2]

Luke Day's Gravestone,
Commissioned by Ramapogue Historical Society, 1987.

Luke Day did not fare much better. Despite being publicly pardoned, he was still shunned by many, including his own family. He had played a major role in the rebellion, acting as, essentially, second in command. At one point, a bounty of $500 was placed on his head as well as two other leaders of the rebellion. When Luke Day passed away, he was buried in an unmarked grave next to his parent’s graves in Paucatuck Cemetery in West Springfield, MA. In 1987, the Ramapogue Historical Society sought to remember him and paid for a gravestone to be made and placed on his grave. Captain Luke Day was a Revolutionary War veteran who fought under Benedict Arnold and in the Continental Army. He even fought to put down an uprising in the spring of 1782 known as “Ely’s Rebellion”.[3]

Luke Day was a cousin of Josiah Day, builder of the original property that is memorialized in West Springfield. Captain Luke Day used the house as a sort of headquarters with his soldiers. The presence of the rebels is immortalized by the marks of guns leaning against the walls and ax marks in the floor from cutting stolen pork when the Day House was taken over. Although he never lived within the house, Luke Day's influential position holds incredible historic significance to the entire country.

[1], [2] A&E Television Networks (2009). Shays' Rebellion. History.com. A&E Television Networks.
[3] Springfield Technical Community College. (2008). Luke Day. Shay's Rebellion & the Making of a Nation.
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