Charles J. (Charles James) Taylor.

History of Great Barrington, (Berkshire County,) Massachusetts online

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following. The meeting-house, which had been built
nineteen years, was still in process of finishing ; and it
was voted to finish the galleries with seats, and that
two new pews be built in the front gallery. In this
gallery two pews had been previously built by some

(1) Encyclopedia Brittanica.



"yoiing persons" at theii* owti expense, and, by an ar-
ticle in the warrant for this meeting, the town was now
called upon "to quiet them" in the possession of their
improvements, but refused to do anything in the prem-
ises. It was also provided that new and good steps
should be setup at the doors of the meeting-house;
and that Timothy Hopkins should employ some person
to sweep the house and keep it "clean and decent;"
and, as the first session of the coui^ts for the county
w^as soon to be held, and as no place for holding the
courts had yet been pro\dded, it was voted that the
Court of Common Pleas and General Sessions of the
Peace may sit in the meeting-house in this town. But
the more important business of this meeting was to
hear and act upon a list of jurors to be presented by
the selectmen. The list, as reported and accepted,
contains the names of forty-nine "freeholders" — a large
number for the small j)opulation of the town — and
probably included most of the inhabitants who were
competent, and not disquahfied, to serve as jurors. The
following is the list:

Heudrick Burghardt, David Church, Daniel Munger,

Josiah PheJps, Thomas Willcocks, Moses Church,

WiUiam Pixley, Jouathan Read, Samuel Lee,

Jonathan Pixley, Zephaniah Phelps, Asahel Dewey,

Moses Pixley, Bill Williams, Thomas Pier, Jr.,

Jonathan Nash, Israel Dewey, Stephen King,

William King, Jr. , Timothy Hopkins, John Church,

Hewit Root, William lugersoll, Israel Root,

George King, Wilham Jones, Thomas Root,

Joseph Gilbert, Aaron Sheldon, Joshua Root,

Elias Gilbert, Daniel Allen, Garret Burghardt,

Peter IngersoU, Peter Burghardt, Peter Sharp,

David Sanford, Jacob Burghardt, Phineas Nash,

Nathaniel L e, Eliatha Rew, William Brunson,

John Burghardt, Anthony Hoskins, Stephen Kelsey,

Jonathan Younglove, John Hamlin, Elnathan Brunson,
John McLean.

The leading men in the management of town busi-
ness, and in giving direction to the will of the inhabi-
tants, were Gen. Joseph Dwight, who had had large ex-
perience both in the civil and mihtary affaiis of the
province, Mai'k Hopkins, a young lawyer of superior
abiUty, Deacon Timothy Hopkins, whose unswerving


:integrity and honesty of purpose commended him to
the resj^ect of the citizens. Among the younger men
who afterwards became prominent in town affairs were
WilHam King, Jun'r. — Major King — Jonathan Nash,
WiUiam Ingersoll, David Sanford, EHjah D wight, Bene-
dict Dewey, and Jonathan Youngiove.

The population of the town, numbering about 500,
was composed of somewhat incongruous materials, rep-
resenting but little wealth, with no extraordinary
amount of intelligence or ability, and already divided
on questions of morals and rehgion. Few matters of
special importance agitated the earher town-meetings.
The principal business, aside from the annual election
of town officers, consisted in approj)riations of money
for the support of preaching, schools, highways, and
. general town charges ; and on these matters the inhab-
itants were frequently at variance, and sometimes re-
fused to raise money for these or any other purposes.

The first appropriation of money made by the town,
was on the 16th of November, 1761, when £65 was voted
-as a salary for the Kev. Samuel Hopkins for that year,
£10 to provide his firewood, £30 for the support of a
school, and £15 for town charges. A committee was
-also appointed to determine in what places ''the schoor
should be kept, how many school-houses should be
built, and where they should be located. Probably,
.acting upon the recommendations of this committee,
-the town voted — April 1762 — "that there be one, and
but one, school-house built at the charge of and for the
use of said town" — "that the said school-house be
built on the highest of the land between Mi\ Aaron
.Sheldon's barn and Mr. Israel Dewey's land on the bend
of the river, (1) and that said house be twenty feet
square beside or exclusive of the chimney." The sum
of £25 was granted for building, and Israel Dewey,
Samuel Lee, and Joshua Koot were appointed to super-
intend its erection. This school-house, the first and
(until quite recently) the only one erected by the town

(1) Aarou Sheldon's barn — near where the Berkshire House
stands ; Israel Dewey's laud, the same now occupied by Henry
Dresser aud Frederick Langsdorff,


in its corporate capacity — was completed in the follow-
ing autumn, and stood near the site of the present
Congregational church, where it is mentioned as a
boundary in the east line of the county road in 1764.
Some misunderstanding ai'ose between the town and
the committee which built it, and Israel Dewey — always
vigorous in maintaining his own -^dews of right, both
in church and state — brought a suit against the town,
in which he eventually recovered judgment. This ap-
pears, then, to have been the only school-house in the
town; and the inhabitants voted, March 15, 1768, to
remove this school-house, and to build two new ones,
and appoiated a committee to determme to what place
"the present school-house" should be removed and
also where the two, proposed to be built, should be set.
But this vote was not, apparently, carried into execu-
tion. Still, connected with this vote are the specifica-
tions adopted by the town, which convey some impres-
sion of the appearance and cost of the average school-
house of that period. The town proj^osed to pay Peter
Ingersoll and Oliver Watson £20 ($66.67) provided
they would build the two houses in such 2:>laces as a.
committee might direct, "and in the following manner, .
sixteen feet wide and eighteen feet long, with two
floors, and three glass windows with twelve squares 7
by 9 each, each house. The outside or body to be
plank, and the roof to be well shrogled, and chimney b
in each ; to be completed b}^ the 1st day of September
next." The sum, £20, to be paid, we presume to be
for each building, though not so definitely expressed
in the record. From 1761 to 1770 approjoriations for
"the school" or schools were annually made, varying
fi'om £30 to £40. and in one year reached £50. The
school was maintained with some regularity, though, in
1764, the town was complained of, and summoned to
answer before the court of General Sessions "for not
having provided a school-master according to law."'
Daniel Allen was appointed to defend agamst the com-
plaint, and the town escaped the usual penalty of a fine.
For several years, one teacher only, appears to have
been employed, and the itinerating custom, in vogue
under the parish rule, was kept up.


Money was from time to time, though quite iiTegu-
larly raised for the repau' of highways, and the inhabi-
tants, so disposed, were permitted to work out their
highway rates ; and in March, 1762, it was provided
"that the price of a day's work at highways, from this
time to the last of September next, be three shilUngs,
and after that, to the end of the year two shiUings, and
that a team of four cattle, a day, be the same price of
a day's work of a man." But the roads were not al-
ways well cared for, and in 1766, the town having been
presented by the Grand Jury, was fined for not keeping
them in repau-.

One of the early mmor improvements was the build-
ing of a town pound, in 1763, by Joshua Root, for
which he was awarded a compensation of £7. 14s. 2d.
The site of this pound is the now front door-yard of
Frederick Lawrence, where it marked the boundary of
the county road in 1764.

A work of considerable importance at the time, was
the rebuilding of the Great Bridge over the Housa
tonic River, which was accomplished in the autumn of
1766, under direction of Doctor William Whiting,
George King, and Oliver Watson, at a cost of £56. 18s.
6d. The next year the bridge over the Williams River,
at Van Deusenville, was built, on the site of an earlier
one, with an appropriation of £10. 10s. ; this was again
rebuilt in 1778 at a cost ot £90 in Continental money,
more than thirty of the inhabitants turning out to work
upon it. In 1770, we find Peter BurgLaLdt asking-
compensation for having erected a bridge over "See-
konks River," at Seekonk, on the road "leading from
the Court-house to Podunqe" — Podunk, as Alford was
then called.

In 1768, Deodat Ingersoll was granted 19s. 7d. If.
from the treasury, in consideration of his late suffering
by fire; and in 1771, £3. 10s. w^as approj^riated on the
petition of Daniel Bailey, to procure a cow for his use.
Timothy Younglove was desired to make the purchase
and see that the cow was well cared for.

The seating of the meeting-house was occasionally
attended to, which the selectmen, in one of their war-
rants, described as "a very important and difficult


work;" thus, in 1767, it was voted to seat tlie meeting-
liouse anew ; Isaac Van Deusen, Israel Dewey, Jona-
than Yoiingiove, WiUiam Ingersoll and Daniel Allen
committee for seating. Voted " that the Hst of the
present year be the rule for said committee to go by in
seating said meeting-house, and that said committee,
in seating, shall consider each year of every person's
age equal to forty shillings estate." Votes were an-
nually passed permitting swine, properly ringed, and
horses, fettered, to rim at large. Deer Reeves, to at-
tend to the enforcement of the law for the prevention
of the killing of deer, out of season, were frequently
chosen, and instances of prosecution and fine for the
violation of this statute are not wanting in the court
records. Tything-men, and Sabbath wai'dens were
annually chosen.

In the first year of its corporate existence, the town
chose thi-ee selectmen ; but as a larger number was
fomid desirable, the board for nine succeedmg years
consisted of five freeholders. A work-house, with a
board of overseers, was aimually provided, to which
paupers and transient persons were sent ; and the
custom prevailed of wai'ning out of town such new
comers as had no visible means of support, in order
that they might not become chargeable to the town for
theii' maintenance. The first, and for many years the
only paupers mentioned in the records, were Bernard
Campbell and his wife — -'Europeans.'' These were
frequently the subject of town legislation; were assisted
from 1768 to 1781, when they were still on hand. In
1777, the to^Ti haviag appropriated £10 for their sup-
port, coupled the grant with the proviso that Camp-
bell " is to be put to business, at the discretion of the
selectmen," and iq case of his refusal to comply, he was
not to have the benefit of the appropriation. Until
1770, it was customary to vote upon and audit all de-
mands against the town m open town meeting ; but in
that year and afterwards the adjustment of accounts
was referred to the selectmen or to committees. For
several years the compensation of the Town Clerk and
the Treasurer was eighteen shilliQgs per annum, each.

The early town meetings were fi'equently character-


izecl by fitful moods of temper, having their origin, for
the most part, in a contention which existed from 1760
to '69, relative to the support of the Rev. Samuel Hop-
kins, in which the supporters and opposers of the min-
ister were pitted against each other. These meetings
were at times of a noisy and turbulent character; es-
pecially so whenever the question of raising money for
the support of preaching was discussed ; and a dispo-
sition to vote down every proposition which was pre-
sented — however reasonable — was occasionally mani-
fested. Thus in May, 1763, the inhabitants — for the
second time in that year — refused to raise money " for
defraying the necessary charges of the town ;" refused
to choose a committee " to reckon with the treasurer ;"
refused to appoint a committee " to examine and pass
the accounts of Samuel Lee and Isarel Dewey for build-
ing a school-house ;" and refused to join with Sheffield
in the choice of a representative to the General Court.
But in October of the same 3^ear, the inhabitants, in
better temper, granted £40 for the support of " the
school," £20 for contingent expenses, and £55 for re-
pair of highways. At this meeting Mark Hopkins
asked permission to build for himself, at his own ex-
pense, a pew in the meeting-house — a privilege which,
the parish had formerly accorded to others — but his
prayer was not granted. In Januaiy of the next year
the petition of IVIi'. Hopkins was renewed and acceded
to, and he was permitted to build his pew in the rear
of the body seats, on the east side of the "great alley,"
adjoining to and east of General Dwight's pew ; and at
the same time liberty was given to some other persons
to build a pew at the west end of the front gallery.

The inhabitants were averse to taxation, and scruti-
nized closely all approj^riations and expenditures for
public purposes. In 1765, they were greatly exercised
over the proposed purchase — by the county — of a house
— the lately demolished old Episcopal parsonage — and
an acre of land, for a jail house and site for a jail, and
appointed Timothy Hopkins, David Sanford, and John-
athan Younglove "to prefer a petition, with other towns
in the county, to the court of General Sessions of the
Peace for the county of Berkshii-e, praying that they


would consider the distressed circumstances of the
county, and not obHge them to pay such large sums
for purchasing land and buying a house and barn for
accommodating a Gaol in said county, and also that
they may not be holden to build such an expensive
Gaol, and to represent said afiairs in such a dutiful way
as to them should seem proper."

By the act of incorporation. Great Barrington jointly
with Sheffield was entitled to the privilege of sending
a representative to the General Court, and Egremont
was afterwards united with these towns in the exercise
of that right. The elections were held in Sheffield;
and the first inhabitant of Great Barrington, chosen to
that office, v>'as David Ingersoll, Jun'r, Esq., in 1770.
Mark Hopkins, Esq., was also the representative in 1773.

The office of Town Clerk was filled by Mark Hop-
kins 1761-64, when Elijah Dwight was chosen; he was
succeeded in 1770 by William King, Jun'r, who is sup-
posed to have been the clerk until 1776. During the
first ten years the records of town proceedings were
intelhgibly written and well kept ; but from November
1771, to March 1776, no minutes of the town meetings
appear on the book of records, nor are such minutes
known to have been preserved. The eaiiy to^\^l meet-
ings were held at the meeting-house, and as no means
were provided for warming that building, were some-
times in inclement weather, adjourned to the tayern of
Captain Hewit Root near by. After the erection of the
court-house meetings were held both there and at the
meeting-house, but more frequently in the former, from
which they \vere often adjourned to the neighboring
taverns of William Bement, Gamaliel Whiting, and
Josiah Smith. The court-house was first occupied for
town-meetings October 27th, 1765, and the last meet-
ing, there held, was on January 21st, 1793.

Brigadier General Joseph Dwight.

Ill the foregoing chapters frequent mention has
been made of General Joseph Dwight, than whom no
individual among the early inhabitants either of the
town or count}' occupied a more eminent jDOsition or
exercised a more salutary influence ; and although the


yeaxs wliich he spent in this town were few in number —
the nine latter years of his hfe — nevertheless the im-
portant part which he took in that period, in forming
and shaping the character of the town and in the direc-
tion of its affairs, together with his earlier public serv-
ices, both civil and military, entitle him to a particular
notice in these pages and to a more faithful portrayal
than we are able to produce.

Joseph Dwight was a son of Captain Henry Dwight
of Hatfield — one of the committee for settling the
Housatonic townships — and a descendant of John
Dwight, who emigrated from England m 1734-5 and
settled at Dedham, Mass. He was a native of Hatfield,
born October 16th, 1703, and a graduate of Harvard
College in 1722. He studied law, and resided for
several years in Springfield, where he was engaged in
trade, and where he married, August lltli, 1726, Mary
Pjnchon of that town. About 1730-31 he removed to
Brookfield, where he soon entered ujoon the practice of
the law, and in 1731 was the representative of the town
of Brookfield in the General Coui't, an office to which
lie was chosen in ten subsequent years ; he was also a
member of the Provincial Council, and in 1748-9
speaker of the House of Representatives. In 1739, he
was appointed judge of the court of Common Pleas of
Worcester county. In addition to his legal and judicial
employments, he devoted much time to military affau's,
was a colonel of militia, and at the time of the expedi-
tion against Louisbourgh, on Cape Breton, was com-
missioned a Brigadier General — February 20th, 1745
— ^by Governor Shirley. In that year he distmguished
himself as the commander of the Massachusetts Artil-
lery at the siege and capture of Louisbourgh, and was
commended by General Pepperell who commanded in
that expedition. General Dwight, soon after, raised a
regiment for a proposed expedition against Canada ;
but his regiment was for the most part employed in
frontier service. Not long after the death of his wife,
which occurred March 29th, 1751, he removed to Stock-
biidge, as a " trustee of the Indian schools," and there
married Mrs. Abigail Sergeant, widow of the Rev.
John Sergeant, in August 1752.


From 1753 to 1761, he was one of the judges of the-
courts for Hampshire county, and at the incorporation
of Berkshu'e county he was appointed judge of both the
County and Probate courts, which offices he held to^

the time of his decease. In the second French war

1756 — he commanded a regiment in service about
Lakes George and Champlain, and soon after his return
fi'om this campaign removed from Stockbridge to Great:
Barrmgton — probably in 1757. In 1759, he purchased
the place in the village, since occupied b}' the late
Deacon Allen Henderson, with twelve acres of land ad-
joining — including the premises on which Parley A.
Eussell now resides — and erected the Henderson
House. This house, which was at that time considered
a very fine one, is still well preserved, and if spared by
the hand of improvement, may last through another

In the act for incoi']^)orating the town — 1761 — Gen-
eral Dwight was authorized to issue his warrant for
convening the first town meeting of its inhabitants ;
he was chosen moderator of that meeting and also one
of the selectmen of the town. General Dwight died
June 9th, 1765 ; his remains were interred in the south
buiial ground, where a broad, antiquated and some-
what elaborately carved slab of white marble marks
his grave and bears this inscription :


To the memory of

Brig'dr Gen'l Joseph Dwight

Died June 9th 17()5.

M 62.

Though great in council and in arms,
The pious, good, and just.
Yet death her cruel debt demands,
Dwight slumbers in the dust.

The widow^ of General Dwight continued to reside,,
for several years in this town, but eventually re-
moved to Stockbridge, where she died February 15th,
1791. In a notice of General Dwight, m the History
of Berkshii^e, it is said: '' His personal appearance was
very fine. He was dignified in his manners, an upright
judge, and an exemplaiy professor of the religion of


the gospel. No man in the county, in civil life, was
more esteemed ; and aged people still speak of him
with great respect." Another writer says, "he was a
man of singular veracity ; and all who knew him spoke
of liis virtues with enthusiasm."

Geneml Dwight had a large family of children,
among whom were : Dorothy, who married the Honor-
able Jedediah Foster of Brookfield, and whose daugh-
ter — Kuth Foster — was the wife of General Thomas
Ives of Great Barrington ; Elijah, who was first Clerk
of the Oounty Courts, and a prominent citizen of Great
Barrington ; by his second marriage — Pamela, who be-
came the wife of Hon. Theodore Sedgwick, and Henry
Williams Dwight w^ho resided in Stockbridge and was
for many years Clerk of the Courts.





The town early dii-ected its attention to recovering
possessionof the water power of the Housatonic River,
which had thirty-five years before, been sequestered by
the setthng committee for the joint use of both the
Upper and Lovrer Townships, but which had for a long
time been occupied by David Ingersoll, and of which,
John WiUiams, as successor of Ingersoll, then claimed
possession. At the meeting of November 16th, 1761,
Joseph Dmght, Timothy Hoj^kins and Daniel Allen
were chosen agents, in behalf of the town, to join and
act wath agents that might be appointed by the town
of Sheffield, "in ejecting and dispossessing any person
or persons who may unlawfully hold the aforesaid
towns out of their right to such part of the Housaton-
nock River, so called, which is the joint right or in-
terest of said towns." This action was with reference
to the water privilege now occupied by the Berkshire
Woolen Company, as well as to that on which, a little
lower down the stream, the now abandoned, India
Rubber Works stand. Some allusion has already
been made to the earlier occupancy of this water privi-
lege, and to the decrees of the settling committee, made
with, reference to it. It will be remembered that the
di^dsional line between the two townships, as establish-
ed by the setthng committee in 1726 — afterwards the
north Une of Sheffield — crossed the river at the Great
Bridge, or, in the language of the records, ''that the
Lower Township shall extend up the Maine River,
from ye Path yt goeth over ye River by ye Great wig-
wam, something above the jMiddle Falls, which is some-


thing above half a mile from s'd Path, and if there
should be a mill or mills sett up there in ye Great
River ^ that each Toion shall have ye privelege of ye
streanie for yt Rorposs /" and that the committee also
decreed that the proprietors "must not divide the land
above the path that goes over the river by the Great
Wigwam." This reservation of the water power was
definite and explicit, and the premises were carefully
guarded by the provision that individuals should not
lay out the land adjoining the falls of the river. But,
in 1736, Moses Ingersoll, disregarding the decrees of
the settling committee, made a pitch of land, of seven-
teen and one-half acres — lying on both sides of the
river — which extended from the divisional line south-
erly, nearly to the present " Rubber Bridge," and in-
cluded a large part o-f the water power. Three years
later — in 1739 — Moses Ingersoll, b}^ deed, conveyed
this property to David Ingersoll, who — as we have be-
fore stated — built a dam, and erected a saw-mill, grist-
mill, and forge on the east bank of the stream, a short
distance below the Great Bridge. It is probable that
doubts then existed as to the validity of Ingersoll's
title — though we have no evidence that his right of
possession w^as disputed — but as his improvements
were both a convenience and a public benefit, it may
be inferred that he was, by common consent, per-
mitted to remain in occupancy. It is, however, a note-
worthy cii'cumstance in connection with this convey-
ance, that the deed, though dated in March, 1739, was
not officially acknowledged until February 1749, nor
placed upon record until 1752 — after th6 decease of
Moses Ingersoll. David Ingersoll continued in occu-
pancy of the premises for several years, but became
pecuniarily embarrassed ; and in December 1755, the
"corn-mill and saw-mill, mill-dam and stream," together
with about one and one half acres of land adjoining —
on the east side of the river — the whole appraised at

Online LibraryCharles J. (Charles James) TaylorHistory of Great Barrington, (Berkshire County,) Massachusetts → online text (page 16 of 44)