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Alfred M. (Alfred Minott) Copeland.

Our county and its people : A history of Hampden County, Massachusetts. (Volume 2) online

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M^illiam Province, James MacCletick, Samuel Ferguson, James
Freeland, Jr., John Houstin, Samuel Cook, Daniel Stone, Robert
Houston, David Boyce, John Stuart, William Knox, Samuel
Crooks, Samuel Tyger, William Anderson, William Barker,
Samuel Wark, Alexander Osborn, Thomas Reed, Matthew Blair,
Robert Cook. John Cockhoran, Robert Hambleton, Hugh Ham-
bleton, Daniel Howe, Adam Knox, John Knox, Joseph Freeland,.
John Stuart, Robert Huston, Samuel Cook, William Dunaghoi,
AVilliam Province, James Beard, John Cockran, Robert Hamble-
ton, for the settlement of 60 families on said land in such manner
and within such time as in the said proviso, in the aforemen-
tioned grant is contained and expressed, to whom the said Chris-
topher Jacob Lawton hath covenanted to grant the several quan-
tities hereafter mentioned, viz. : To fifty families 120 acres,
each, to two families 60 acres each, to five families 40 acres each,
to one family 30 acres, rendering to him, his heirs and assigns
six per cent current lawful money of New England yearly if de-
manded for each 120 acres of land and so proportionably, which
said settlers have given bonds and covenants to John Foye and
Francis Wells, both within the province aforesaid, merchants,
and the said Christopher Jacob Lawton in penalty amounting in
the whole to £22,500 lawful money of New England with con-
ditions to accomplish their several settlements and pay their
aforesaid bonds. Noiv iciUiesseth these presents, that the said
Christopher Jacob Lawton for and in consideration of £3,000 in
lawful public bills of credit to him in hand paid by Francis
Brinley of Roxbury in the county of Suffold and province afore-
said, Esq., before the sealing and delivery of these presents, the
receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged, ' ' etc. Then follows, in
usual form, a deed to said Brinley of one undivided fourth part
of said township. This deed is dated July 8th, 1735. Lawton
had already, by deed dated January 17th, 1735, conveyed to-
Francis Wells of Cambridge and to John Foye of Charlestown,
one undivided fourth to each, of his interest in said township.
And on March 30th, 1737, these several proprietors executed a
deed of partition among themselves ; so that from that date eacb

( 490 )



THE TOV,^' OF BLANDFOBD

became the owner of certain lots located in different parts of
the town containing 500 acres each.

The people named in the above cited deed from Lawton to
Brinley, Avere, for the most part, those who came to Glasgow from
Hopkinton, J\Iass. It came about in this way: A Congrega-
tional church was organized in Hopkinton Sept. 2d, 1724.
"Seven of the original members of the church were Scotch Pres-
byterians, and five others soon after joined. As nothing was
said at the outset about a form of church government, these men
could conscientiously assent to the covenant and unite in Chris-
tian communion. April 9th, 1731, the church voted 'to comply
with the Platform of Church Discipline agreed to by the Synod
of Churches assembled at Cambridge, 1649, as the rule of their
discipline, so far as they apprehended it to be agreeable to the
Word of God.' This voting the church Congregational gave
great offense to the Presbyterians. About ten families with-
drew from the communion of the church. They were brought
under discipline, and eventually several of them excommuni-
cated. In 1734, they organized a Presbyterian church, built a
small meeting-house about one and one-half miles west of the
village, near what is known as the Ellery place. Subsequently,
on the removal of many of these families to Blandford. this
church organization was, by consent of Presbytery, transferred
to that town, where it existed till 1800."

The list of membership of the First Congregational church
in Hopkinton, contains the names of those who were excommu-
nicated. Of them are the names of Robert Cook, "William Duna-
ghoi, Robert Hambleton, Robert Huston, Hugh Black and his
wife, William Henry, Matthew Blair, Sarah Montgomery, Robert
Black, Jane Wark, Rebecca AYark, James Montgomery, John
Hambleton, Adam Knox, Israel Gibbs. Mary Gibbs, Israel
Walker. Mrs. Robert Sennet, Mrs. Robert Cook, Hugh Hambleton
and wife, Walter Steward and wife, Mrs. J. S. Montgomery^
Mary Hambleton, and these people went to Blandford, then
called New Glasgow, and took their church with them. Tradi-
tion has it that they were promised a church bell from the city
of GlasgOAV if they would call the town Glasgow, and continue
that name.

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OVR COUNTY AND ITS PEOPLE

Previous to the coining of these people (to quote from Wm.
H. Gibbs' historical address in 1859) "they sent a number of
bold and courageous young men to select the best route and erect
habitations for their reception. These hardy adventurers
rc^ached the centre of this town in the latter part of April, 1735.
On the day of their arrival, a severe snowstorm commenced and
continued three days, leaving a body of snow on the ground to
the depth of three or four feet. We can but faintly imagine their
sufferings." Such shelter as they could find in the forest under
the protectiiig boughs of pines and hemlocks they had. But the
snow soon began to waste, and they were then able to clear away
trees and to erect temporary cabins. ' ' The lEirst families arrived
the following autumn, the residue the succeeding spring. Hugh
Black Avas the first man who arrived with his family. "
"The next individual who emigrated to this town with his family
was James Baird." The locations selected by these settlers, as
given by Mr. Gibbs, cannot at this late day be definitely given.
We can only say that they were somewhere Avithin the bounds
of the township— probably within the limits of the tract laid out
for the settlers— a tract about 2 miles Avide by about 4 miles long.
It included the AA'hole of North street extending northerly nearly
to what is knoAvn as "Beulah Land," on its Avesterly line, and
southerly about to a soapstone quarry lying betAveen "Fall road"
and Little river; its easterly line extending from Tarrott's hill
to near Chester line. It included the territory on Avhich the
village of Blandford is built, and it includes the road located
easterh' of, and little more than a mile from and parallel with
North street. In this tract of land the lots for settlers AA^ere laid
out. Mr. Gibbs says that, ' ' The settlers selected their farm lots,
and the names of several families who obtained farms on the
west side of the town street, are left on record, viz. : Messrs.
Black, Reed, McClinton, Taggart, Brown, Anderson, Hamilton,
Wells, Blair, Stewart. Montgomery, Boise, Ferguson, Campbell,
Wilson, Sennett, Young, Knox and Gibbs. The majority of the
above-named persons became permanent residents upon the lots
they drew." The northernmost lot drawn was in the vicinity,
probably, of Dug hill and near Avhere the highAvay to Huntington

( 492 )



THE TOWN OF BLAND FORD

turns off from North street. Mr. Gibbs suggests that the entire
country from this spot to Canada was a trackless wilderness.
The nearest settlement was Westfield, ten miles east. ' ' The team
which drew the first cart that entered the town was driven by
Widow IMoses Carr while the men were repairing the road. It
is said that the team belonged to Israel Gibbs, who settled on
Ihe farm now (1850) occupied by John Gibbs; and his son Israel
M'as the first male child born in this town."

"The number of families which emigrated with the second
company, cannot be ascertained. Their progress in ascending
the mountain through Russell (then part of Westfield), was
laborious and disheartening. They commenced the ascent at
'Sackett's Tavern' (probably near the four-mile house), on the
old Westfield road, a distance slightly exceeding seven miles to
the centre of this town. The ascent of the mountain began on
the margin of the river, and continued up a rocky ledge, which,
from its rude and forbidding appearance, acquired the name of
'De^dl's Stairs'. Such was the difficulty of forcing a passage
up the hills and through the unsubdued forest, that the team was
able to travel only two miles the first day. As night came on,
they encamped in the forest. The second day they reached the
top of 'Birch Hill,' and again encamped for the night in the
midst of beasts of prey and venomous reptiles. On the third day,
the wearied families arrived at their anticipated home, and
seated in their log hut. participated in the bounties it afforded."

' ' Soon after a part of these families removed further north ;
in reaching their locality they had to pass through the 'Caus-
way, ' then a pathless hemlock swamp. This passage required a
day of severe toil. James Baird, an athletic man belonging to
the company, was so fatigued in accomplishing this task, that
on leaving the swamp, he immediately threw himself upon the
earth and quietly slumbered during the night beneath the
branches of a large hemlock. His family, consisting of eight
persons, is believed to have removed with him. In a similar
manner other families urged their toilsome way to their respec-
tive places of residence. The trial and perplexities which they
endured cannot be described ! Probably there is not a parallel

( 493 )



OVR COUNTY AND ITS PEOPLE

in the history of the settlement of any town upon the moun-
tains."

Patrick Boise, Esq., in an address upon the early history of
Blandford, says: "In 1737 the proprietors became owners of
"their lands, severally by a deed of partition. By this they appor-
i;ioned between themselves fifty-one lots of land. IMessrs. Lawton,
Brinley and Foj'e took thirteen lots aside from the two sixty-acre
lots given to each of the first fifty settlers. A grant was made
of a ten-acre lot in the center of the town, for public uses and
as a general common. The other lands in the town were laid out
in 500-acre lots. It is here worthy of remark that the exact
figure of the town plot and the uniformity in the location and
dimension of the lots of land, form a system of order and ar-
rangement which is not to be found in any other town in the
county— if in the State. It was a method well adapted to make
certain the limits, preserve the boundaries, and secure the
property of land-holders and purchasers. To this cause more
than any other may be attributed that harmony which has so
generally prevailed among the owners of land in this town. Few
questions of disputed title have arisen to create disturbance and
jealousy in the minds of the inhabitants."

In 1741 the general court of the Province of Massachusetts
Bay, passed an act as follows: "Whereas, it hath been repre-
sented to this court, by the inhabitants of Suif [e]i[e]ld equiva-
lent lands, commonly called Glasgow, in the county Hampshire,
that they labor under great difficulties by reason of their not
being incorporated into a township. Be it enacted by His Excel-
lency the Governor, Council and Representatives in General
Court assembled, and by the authority of the same.

"Section 1. That the lands aforesaid be and hereby are
erected into a separate and distinct township by the name of
Blandford: the bounds whereof are as follow^eth, viz.: beginning
at a black birch, marked, with stones about it, being the southeast
corner, and is near a small brook that runs into Westfield River,
and on the west side of a steep round mountain; from thence,
running west, twenty degrees north, one thousand nine hundred
and forty-five rods, to a maple tree, marked; thence north,

( 494 )



THE TO^yN OF BLAXDFOKD

twenty degrees east, one thousand nine hundred and twenty rods,
to a beech tree, marked, with stones about it ; from thence, east,
twenty degrees south, one thousand nine hundred and forty-five
rods, to a yellow pine tree, marked, with stones about it; from
thence, running south, twenty degrees west, one thousand nine
hundred and twenty rods, to the bound first mentioned.

"Sec. 2. And the inhabitants on the land aforesaid be and
are hereby vested with all the powers, privileges and immunities
which the inhabitants of other towns are or ought to be vested
with." Passed April 10, 1741.

The people of the town wished it called Glasgow, but Gov.
Shirley, who had recently arrived in the good ship Blandford,
insisted that this toAvn should be called Blandford.

■'These early inhabitants were so poor that they were com-
pelled to solicit many favors from the proprietors of the town.
They frequently petitioned the Colonial Legislature for grants
of money and remission of taxes. This being a frontier settle-
ment the court patiently listened to their prayers, and cheerfully
imparted the solicited boon. At one time forty bushels of salt
were given to the town to be distributed among the inhabitants.

In 1755 a special favor granted by the court to the town is
noticed upon their records, and acknowledged in the following
terms: "By virtue of a petition put into the Great and General
Court of Boston by Rev. Mr. Morton in behalf of this town, the
Honorable Court was pleased to grant us one sivivel gun as an
alarm gun, with one quarter barrel of powder and one bag of
bullets for the same, and also one hundred flints for the use of
the town, which we have received and paid charges on the same,
from Boston to this town, which is two pounds and sixteen
shillings old tenor, to Captain Houston.''

"In 1758 (quoting further from Gibbs), owing to the em-
barrassing circumstances of the first settlers, the General Court
discharged them from the obligation of furnishing their quota of
men for the public service. In the spring of 1749, the Indians
began to make encroachments upon the white settlers of the town,
and all the families but four fled to the neighboring towns ; some
to Westfield. others to Windsor. Suffield. Simsbury. and "Wethers-

( 495 )



OUR COUNTY AND ITS PEOPLE

field, Conn. A portion of tlieiu returned the following autumn,
the remainder the next spring. At an early period three forts
were erected; the first upon a lot now (1850) owned by Elijah
Knox, another upon a lot now (1850) owned by Col. Justin
AVilson, and the third upon the farm now (1850) owned by John
Gibbs. At night all the families were collected into these forts.
This state of things continued for the space of a year ; and even
long after that, on the least alarm, the inhabitants fled at dead of
night from their OAvn dwellings to seek refuge in these fortifica-
tions. How imminent and trying their situation ! They seldom
repaired to the field to their daily toil without taking fire-arms
and placing a sentinel to keep guard while the others labored.
Nor did they deem it safe to meet on the Sabbath for religious
worship unarmed."

There Avas no grist-mill nearer than Westfield, which fact
added to the hardship of the inhabitants.

"Many are the instances when they carried their grain and
returned -with their meal on foot, thus performing a journey
Avith a load upon their back of more than twenty miles. Some
families, considering the distance, fatigue, and time it required
in going to and from mill, used to pound the corn in mortars."

"The inhabitants who first settled at the center of the town
obtained most of their hay for many years from North Bland-
ford, Avhere we are informed were two beaver dams; one stood
where the factory dam now (1850) stands, and the other near
the sawmill of Mr. Orrin Sennett. These were demolished, and
the grass sprang up and grew luxuriantly."

About twenty years after the settlement of the town a grist-
mill was erected upon the stream and farm owned in 1850 by
Levi Sizer, and it was known as "Bunnell's Mill." The next
year after its construction, a salmon weighing 13 lbs. was taken
in the pond. Salmon were known to ascend the river for many
years later, and they gave name to Salmon falls in Russell.
The most available source of information touching the early his-
tory of Blandford is Mr. Gibbs' historical address written in
1850, and it is used freely in this sketch of the town.

The civil affairs of the town advanced as fast as could be
expected in a situation so secluded, and where the inhabitants

( 496 )



THE TO^YN OF BLANDFORD

were devoted to agricultural pursuits. It appears from the
records that the people were deeply interested in the political
questions agitating the country at that early date. They par-
ticipated in the general grievance that agitated the colony
because of the arbitrary taxation imposed by Great Britain ;
and they were prompt in selecting delegates in 1775, to
attend conventions at Concord, Watertown and Boston, hoping
to obtain a redress of these grievances. The persons chosen as
delegates were William Boies, William Carnahan and William
Knox, AA^hen the national independence was declared, and the
people took up arms against the mother country, some of the
citizens of this town demurred and boldly avowed their loyalty
to the king. And these loyalists were forbidden by the com-
mittee of safety to pass beyond the boundaries of their own
farms. But these men occasioned the town little trouble.

The town met its proportion of the expenses of the war, and
furnished its quota of soldiers. Though poor in purse, and at
the same time taxed to the utmost of its ability to sustain the
war, this town voluntarily selected a committee of enterprising
men to collect money for those who would enlist as soldiers for
the northern companies. In 1778 the town raised £106, and
placed it in the hands of the selectmen, to furnish clothing for the
soldiers. Committees of safety, inspection and correspondence
were cliosen, who were vigilant in watching the movements of
the enemy, hoping to be ready for any emergency. In 1779 new
troubles and difficulties arose because of the depreciation of the
value of money used as a circulating medium. It was difficult
to obtain credit, and dangerous to give it.

About this time Justus Aslimun was chosen delegate to
attend a convention at Concord, to deliberate upon this subject,
and to prevent, if possible, the further depreciation of the cur-
rency. The town assessed and raised £682 of the existing cur-
rency for military bounty, also to meet a demand brought against
the town for blankets which were provided for the soldiers who
were employed in the service upon the Hudson river. Most of
the military stores used in the West during the Revolution were
transported from Boston through this town. The roads were so

32-3 ( 497 )



OVR COUNTY AND ITS PEOPLE

bad at that time that 20 yoke of oxen and 80 men were required
to convey a mortar over Blandford hills on its way to West
Point.

When the news reached this town that Burgoyne was march-
ing from Canada down the Hudson, many of Blandford 's citizens
shouldered their muskets and hastened to join our army. Isaac
Gibbs received the intelligence at sunset, and during the evening
moulded 300 or 400 bullets, and was ready in the morning to
mount his horse and repair to the scene of action. He, together
with others, arrived at Bennington just after the victory in that
celebrated battle had turned in our favor. The fresh troops that
had collected from the surrounding country were stationed as
guards of the provisions they had captured, while the regular
soldiers, weary from hard fighting, enjoyed a season of repose.
Some of the prisoners taken at this battle were marched on their
A\'ay to Boston through this town, where they were caught in a
severe snow storm, which occasioned them much suffering. But
the people did what they reasonably could for the comfort of
the prisoners. The snow soon dissolved and they were able to
resume their march.

It is said that, in 1791, Mr. Gibbs brought into town the
first single wagon used here. Previous to this time, heavy bur-
dens were transported upon the back of horses. A man, his wife
and two or three children would mount a single horse to attend
church or to make a visit, so says tradition. The ladies of those
days were great equestrians. It was a common occurence for
them to ride on horseback from Blandford to Western (now
AVarren), a distance of 40 miles, in a day. When a number of
young ladies rode in company, they enjoyed much pleasure in
trying the SM^ftness of their steeds.

The expenses of the revolutionary war, and the deprecia-
tion of the general currency, reduced many of the inhabitants
almost to penury, and during a long period after the war, our
agriculturists obtained but little cash for their produce. They
cleared their lands and prepared the way for future prosperity.
Pease, beans, flax and flax-seed were the principal articles of
produce. These ai-ticles for the most part were transported to

( 498 )



THE TOWN OF BLANDFOBD

Hartford and exchanged for salt, groceries, and such other
goods as they needed. INIost of the clothes worn in those times
were of home manufacture.

About 1807, Amos M. Collins took up his residence in this
town. He was a merchant of considerable wealth from Con-
necticut. Previous to his arrival, the farmers had devoted their
efforts to the cultivation of grain and wool; but the soil and
locality were not eminently favorable for growing grain. Mr.
Collins induced the farmers to try dairying with reference par-
ticularly to butter and cheese. This proposal being accepted
by many, he proceeded to New York state and purchased a large
drove of cows, which were distributed among the inhabitants.
He devoted his efforts patiently and persistently to teaching
the people hoAv to make cheese, going from house to house for
that purpose. His efforts were highly successful, and resulted
in the prosperity of the people. And it became a saying among
the farmers that "Mr. Collins was the making of the town." In
1837 there were 1535 cows in the town; 230,000 lbs. of cheese
were manufactured annually and 20,000 lbs. of butter. The annual
product of cheese was valued at $16,000 and the butter at $3,000.
The capital invested was estimated at $60,000 and there were
employed 200 men and 300 women. During the time ]\Ir. Collins
was in Blandford he is said to have accumulated the handsome
little fortune of $25,000. He was succeeded by Orrin Sage, who,
for more than thirty years was extensively engaged in buying
cheese. He always paid the market price, and the pay was sure.
He was highly esteemed as a man of high moral worth in addi-
tion to his excellent business ability, and used to be spoken of
as "the Bank" of Blandford.

From the period above referred to down to the present time
there has been no change in the agricultural prosperity of an
upward tendency in the town. It has shared the decadence of
the towns of Avestern Hampden. There are many so called aban-
doned farms, and not a few old farm buildings, evidently erected
by prosperous proprietors, have gone to decay. The Blandford
farmers of to-day who are blessed with business ability and good
business habits are well-to-do. Many of the less well-to-do

( 499 )



OVR COUNTY AND ITS PEOPLE

famers cut off the wood and timber from their land and eon-
verted it into railroad ties, cord wood and lumber, and many-
farms are left partly or wholly nntilled.

HIGHWAYS

In so mountainous a town as Blandford the making and main-
taining of roads is so important in every way, especially in diffi-
culty and expense of construction, as to be an item of historical
interest. In Blandford as in all the mountain towns the high-
ways pass over high points of land to the great inconvenience of
travel, when, as we view it to-day, better grades could have been
secured. One reason at least for this, as in the town of Chester,
the settling lots were laid out and located where inconvenient
grades could not well be avoided. It cannot justly be charged
upon the early settlers that they lacked good judgment in this
respect. The fact is, they were poor and had to submit to dicta-
tion where they had not the power to choose for themselves.
There may have been other reasons. But one good reason is
better than many speculative reasons. At any rate the settling
lots were from 1000 to 1500 feet above the sea, and the ascent to
them from the Westfield river was rather abrupt, and there are
a good many "Devil's Stairs" on the way. Mr. Gibbs says: "We
are informed that when the first road was made from Springfield
west, the pioneers who laid it out traveled to the top of the first
hill, then started for the highest peak of the next, and so on, until
they arrived at Albany." This is rather fanciful.

The proprietors' plan shows an oblong tract of land laid out
in the southwesterly part of the town, and marked on the plan
as "Pixley's Farm." A road was laid from Springfield to Great



Online LibraryAlfred M. (Alfred Minott) CopelandOur county and its people : A history of Hampden County, Massachusetts. (Volume 2) → online text (page 40 of 43)