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Charles J. (Charles James) Taylor.

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

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HISTOEY



OF



GREAT BAERINGTON,

(Berkshire County,)

MASSACHUSETTS,

BY

CHARLES J. TAYLOR.



' ' People will not look foncard to posterity,
loho nemr look backward to their ancestors.''''

Edmund Burke„



GREAT BARRINGTON, MASS. :

CLARK W. BRYAN & CO., PUBLISHERS.

1882.



To the Inhabitants of the Town of Great Barring-
ton^ and those who may succeed them ;

To those whose dwelling place in time past has been
with us;

To all who look back to the town as the place of
their nativity^ or whose early associations are
connected loith it;

And to the descendayxts of the pioneers who founded
the town and its i?istitutio7is, this volume is re-
spectfully dedicated.

Chas. J. Taylor.



21 4 n



PREFACE.



This volume of Great Barrington History is the re-
sult of researches begun long ago, and continued at
intervals of leisure through many years. These re-
searches were undertaken, not with the original inten-
tion of gathering material for a town historj^, but for
the gratification of my own personal tastes. My inter-
est in the matter was heightened in searching the
records of land titles and ancient boundary lines, for
business purposes, and the desire to know more of the
town and its early dwellers was thereby increased.
In process of years, notes, memoranda, and old manu-
scripts accumulated to such an extent as to appear to
me worthy of preservation ; and these were, eventually,
written out in some form of historic order. I then
concluded to follow my examinations with greater
thoroughness and to write, in part at least, the history
of the town, which I did, as leisure permitted, and ar-
ranged my gatherings in chapters.

The work had thus far j)rogressed, when Clark W,
Bryan, having purchased The Berkshire Courier, ap-
plied for permission to print, in that journal, what had
then been written, and accordingly did print, in short
weekly articles, most of the matter which was then pre-
pared. The publications in The Courier, beginning



VI PREFACE.

on the first day of January, 1879, extended over a
period of fourteen months.

For the purpose of encoui'aging the pubUcation of
the History in book form, the Town at its adjourned
annual meeting, April 2d, 1881, on the motion of Mer-
ritt I. Wheeler, Esq., voted " That a committee of three
be appointed and authorized to procure the writing
and publishmg, for the use of the town, fifty copies of
a Town History, and that a sum not exceeding seven
hundred and fifty dollars be raised and appropriated
for that purpose f and Clark W. Bryan, J. Milton
Mackie and Justin Dewey were appointed as such com-
mittee. This action of the town was taken under an
article in the warrant, inserted without consultation
with or the previous knowledge of the writer. I then
revised and corrected that portion of the Historjr
which had been printed, and added to it much new-
material. The result is this publication.

In the preparation of the History, I have made ex-
amination — more or less extended — of the town records
of Great Barrington and Sheffield; the Proprietary
records of the Upper and Lower Housatonic Town-
ships ; the records of the Kegistries of Deeds at Great
Barrington, Pittsfield and Springfield ; the records of
the County and Probate Courts at Pittsfield ; and the
records and archives in the office of the Secretarj^ of
State at Boston. Much material has been gathered
from ancient manuscripts and books of accounts in my
own possession or which have been furnished me hy
my townsmen. I have also received valuable assist-
ance from others, to all of whom I wish here to express
my thanks. I am particularly obligated to Isaac See-
ley, Esq., — Town Clerk and Eegister of Deeds — for
many acts of coui'tesy in facilitating the examination
of the records in his office ; to Merrit I. Wheeler, Esq.y



PREFACE.



for the manuscripts and account books of his grand-
father, — Capt. Truman Wheeler — the Town Treasurer
and Muster Master in the Kevolutionary period ; and
to Mrs. Caleb B. Culver, for a copy of the diary of Eev.
Samuel Hopkins. From Henry W. Taft, Esq., of
Pittsfield, I have received many kind attentions, copies
of records, and of interesting papers from the files of
the County Court. Henry Holland, Esq., of West-
field, has assisted with much genealogical information
of the early settlers from that town ; and Isaac Hunt-
ting, Esq., of Pine Plains, N. Y., has contributed many
items of Indian lore and history. The Rev. George
Mure Smith, formerly of Lenox, now of Edinburgh,
Scotland, has rendered valuable aid in notes gathered
at the ofiices of the Secretary of State, both in Boston
and Albany. Frank L. Pope, Esq., of Elizabeth, New
Jersey — a native of Great Barrington — has taken a
great interest in the preparation of this history, and
has rendered very material assistance by furnishing
abstracts from the state archives and from rare publi-
cations, but above all in compiling and drawing, from
data gathered by himself, the map which accompanies
this work. In the map, the ancient boundary lines of
the Upper and Lower Townships and of the Indian
Town are delineated from original plats and from the
records of early surveys ; the geographical features
are from Walling's map of the state ; the old roads
laid down and some of the town lines are from a verj^
well executed — though long forgotten — map of Great
BaiTington, made by David Fair child in 1794, which
Mr. Pope discovered in the office of the Secretary of
State. c. J. T.

Geeat Baerington, March, 1882.



NOTE.



The reference, "VIII," ou the map, '^The North Parish
'Of Sheffield set oflF to Great Barrington, 1761," requires a word

of explanation. The North Parish^ instituted in 1743, embraced

the whole of the territory which was, in 1761, incorporated as
^Great Barrington. The tract '• VIII," is that part of the Lamer

Tmonship or the original town of Sheffield^ which was included in
•^fche North Parish at its formation, and later in Great Barrington.

The territorial changes arc fully explained in Chapter IX of this
ihi story.



(JOI^TENTS.



CHAPTER I.

Westeubook, or the Patent of Westenhook, ^

CHAPTER II.

Talcot's Fight-The Housatonic Eiver-Derivation of its ^
Name,

CHAPTER III.

The Upper and Lower Hoiisatonic Townships -1722-1733. 14



CHAPTER IV.

The Upper Township,— 1722— 1742.

CHAPTER V.

Geographical and Topographical,

CHAPTER VI.

Aboriginal Inhabitants -The Housatonic Indians,

CHAPTER VII.

The Indian Mission,— 1734-1736,

CHAPTER VIIL

The Indian Reservation and Indian Claims,



2^



sr



50



55"



69'



XU CONTENTS.

CHAPTEK IX.

Great Barrington as the North Parish of Sheffield, —
1742-1761, 77

CHAPTER X.

Early Settlers — Their Families and Locations, — 1726-1743, 101

CHAPTER XI.

Alarms of the French and Indian Wars,— 1744-8-1753-60, 135



CHAPTER Xn.

Oreat Barrington as the North Parish of Sheffield, —
1743-1761, 144



CHAPTER Xni.

'Great Barrington — Derivation of the Name of the Town —
Town Organization— Early Town Meetings,— 1761-1770, 166



CHAPTER XIY.

Water Power and Israel Dewey's Mills,— 1762-1791, 178

CHAPTER XV.

KeHgious Dissensions — QuaiTels over the Minister's Salary,

—1757-1769, 184

CHAPTER XVI.

The Organization of the Episcopal Church — The Erection
of the Church— Rev. Gideon Bostwick,— 1760-1793, 196

CHAPTER XVII.

•Changes and Improvements — New Inhabitants and New Lo-
cations,— 1761-1776, 208

CHAPTER XVIII.

"The Revolutionary Period, —1768-1783. 225



CONTENTS. XIU'

CHAPTER XIX.

Great Bai-rington the Shire Town of the County, — 1761-
1787, 279^'

CHAPTER XX.

Constitutional and Political,— 1774-1780. 299

CHAPTER XXI.

Incidents of the Shays Kebellion,— 1786-7, 304-

CHAPTER XXII.

Support of Preaching — Formation of Rehgious Societies, —
1769-1800. 320^

CHAPTER XXIII.

New Families and New Locations — Old Roads and Old In-
habitants,— 1780-1800. 32&-

CHAPTER XXIV.

Early School Houses — Support of Schools — Formation of
School Districts — Select Schools^High School, 347'

CHAPTER XXV.

Early Industries — Merchants — The Post Office — Stages —
Taverns — Magistrates — Lawyers and other Notables, 356-

CHAPTER XXVI.

Days of Recreation — Militia- -Changes in Inhabitants — Poli-
tics — Lieutenant George Wainwright — William Phillips, 374

CHAPTER XXVII.

Churches, Religious Denominations, and Cemeteries, 384

CHAPTER XXVIII.

Improvement of Water Power below the Great Bridge — The
Kellogg Mill — The Leavenworth Marble Works — The
Seekonk Distillery, 398-



.:X1V CONTENTS.

CHAPTER XXIX.

Improvements at Van Deusenville,

CHAPTER XXX.

Housatonic and its Industries.

CHAPTER XXXI.

Town and Village Improvements and Institutions.

CHAPTER XXXII.

-Great Barringtou in the War of the RebeUiou,



408



415



424



443



Roll of Soldiers,

Appendix,

Index,



471

488
495



HISTORY

OF-

GEEAT BAERINGTON.



CHAPTER I.

WESTENHOOK, OE THE PATENT OF WESTENHOOK.
It is well known that the province of New York
originally claimed all that part of Massachusetts which
Ues west of the Connecticut river, mcludmg the whole
of Beiishire and a large part of Fra^khn, Hampshire
^d Hampden counties, and that the divisional line be-
tween thi two provinces was long a subject of con-
troversy between their respective governments. But,
whilst New York-not without apparent good reason
insisted upon the Connecticut river as her eastern
Wdar^ she neglected to extend her settlemens east
of Te TaghkaBiok mountains, and Massachusetts by
occupanc/obtamed possession and eventually esteb-
Ushed her right to the disputed territory. This divi-
s'onS Une, after long and vexatious quarrels some-
Zes resu ting in bloodshed, was finally agreed upon,
STrntand temporarily established at a general dis-
Lce of about twenty miles east of the Hudson river,
but was not permanently settled until 1 '^7.

Wnat little is preserved of the history of Berkshnre
previous to its ocJ-upancy by Massachuset^ts set lets is
of New York origin and of an earlier date than the
boundai-y disputes. In early records aiid documents
as w ell as in later historical works we find occasional
mention of the name of " Westenhook," apphed to a
Sact of country lying west of Sheffield and Great Bar-
r^gton, now a pa^-t ^of Mount Washington and Egre-



2 HISTORY OF GREAT BARRINGTON.

mont, and we sometimes meet with vague intimations
that this tract extended eastward as fai' as the Housa-
tonic river. But the fact seems to have been generally
overlooked, that Westenhook, or the Patent of West-
enhook, embraced a much larger area and included a
very large portion of the Housatonic valley in Berk-
shire county. The original history of Westenhook is
l)riefly this : Forty years before the commencement of
settlements in Southern Berkshire, Peter Schuyler and
Denick Wessells were engaged in the Indian trade at
Albany. Both were members of his "iVIajesties Coun-



Online LibraryCharles J. (Charles James) TaylorHistory of Great Barrington, (Berkshire County,) Massachusetts → online text (page 1 of 44)