Edward Wilton Carpenter.

The history of the town of Amherst, Massachusetts online

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Online LibraryEdward Wilton CarpenterThe history of the town of Amherst, Massachusetts → online text (page 1 of 108)
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i 7 3 i 1896


Town of Amherst,








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Amherst is child of Hadley, grandchild of Hartford and Wethers-
field, great-grandchild of the settlements that, clustering around Boston
Harbor, united to form the Province of the Massachusetts Bay. Never
was there more honored lineage, never a more honorable descendant.
The life-story of those strong men and true-hearted women who braved
the perils of the North Atlantic and dared the dangers of a wilderness
unknown that, in a stranger land, they might find the freedom which a
jealous and imperfect civilization denied, who built their rude cabins in
Roxbury and Cambridge and Charlestown, surrounding primitive meeting-
houses wherein they found "freedom to worship God," their story, rich in
heroism, in devotion to principle, in glorious self-sacrifice, has been written
and rewritten, in poetry and prose, in song and legend, in history and
romance, until it has become a classic. Nor has the historian slighted the
doings of that goodly company who sailed from Boston Harbor, rounded
Cape Cod, traversed the waters of Long Island Sound and ascended far up
New England's fairest stream, the broad Connecticut, until they reached the
fertile meadows where they planted the first inland settlement and called it
Hartford. Hadley's history has been written by a master hand, a noble
history, bravely written, a wealth of information secured to generations yet
to come. What of Amherst? A settlement in 1731, a district in 1759, a
town in 1776, its history has, up to this time, remained unwritten save in
the pages of old record books, with naught else to preserve it save the
memory of succeeding generations. The history of Amherst should have
been written long time ago ; each passing year destroys or renders less
available historic matter of interest and value ; each year removes from the
scene of life's activities men and women whose memories are treasure-
houses of historic fact. These facts borne in mind furnished a leading
motive to those who have compiled and published this History of the Town
of Amherst. Claiming no special fitness for the work, realizing that others
might, if they would, achieve greater success in such an undertaking, they
believed that the time for action had come, that a history of Amherst
should be written, and written now. Realizing fully the magnitude of the
work involved, they entered upon it with the determination that no effort
should be spared to make the history worthy of the town. In what they
have succeeded, in how much they have failed, time must bear witness.


A town, not without a history, but without an historian. Such a dis-
tinction is not to be coveted, but it has rendered Amherst unique among
the towns of any considerable size or importance situate in Massachusetts
or New England, dating back in time of settlement to the earlier years of
the Eighteenth century. Amherst is not a town of mushroom growth such
as dot the prairies of the West, whose history can be written in one brief
paragraph. It is rich in historic incident and association ; it occupies
historic ground. The forests that clothed its hills and valleys once
resounded with the savage cries of King Philip's dusky warriors as they
rallied to the attack upon Old Hadley. the parent settlement. Along its
highways marched the captive troops of Burgoyne on their weary journey
from Saratoga to Boston. Later on, these same highways re-echoed to
the hurried tread of Shays' insurgents retreating to Pelham after their
unsuccessful attack upon the arsenal at Springfield. Amherst militia-men
were in the army that Gov. Strong reviewed on Boston common when a
British fleet threatened invasion during the war of 1812. For more than
one hundred and sixty years Amherst, as settlement, precinct, district
and town, has borne an honored and honorable part in history-making
events in the life of the grand old Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
The history of such a town is worth the writing, and the reading-
That writing might well have engaged the services of some student of
history, some polished rhetorician, but such have failed to embrace the
opportunity and, lacking these, the task has fallen upon one who may,
with some propriety, be regarded as an intruder in the field of historical
writing. The importance of the work and the inexpediency of longer
waiting may excuse what otherwise might seem presumption on the writer's

For many years the proprietors of the Amherst Record have been
engaged in the collection of material relating to the history of the town of
Amherst. This was done, at the first, with no settled purpose of writing
and publishing an historical work, but with knowledge that such material
is of value and should be preserved. When the suggestion of compiling
and publishing a history of Amherst was first made to some of the older
and more influential residents of the town, it was received with such hearty
favor and so warmly encouraged that a determination was formed to enter


upon the work forthwith. After careful consideration, it was decided to
arrange and print the history in two parts, to be bound together in the
same volume. The first should contain such matters relating to the general
history of the town and its inhabitants as could be gathered from available
sources of information, the second, a transcription of the records of town-
meetings from the earliest days of the settlement down to the year 1800,
with a record of the more important votes passed at such meetings from
1800 up to and including the year 1865. The material for the second
part being already in hand, the work of printing began at once. The
records from 1735 to 1800 have been copied entire, and generous extracts
made from the town books covering the period between 1800 and 1866.
The value of these records can hardly be estimated in dollars and cents.
They are a mine of information, and by placing them in print they have
been made easily accessible and rendered secure from loss or injury.

The matter contained in Part I. has been collected from sources
almost innumerable. Two aims have ever been in mind, completeness
and accuracy. The task involved was the greater in that there had
been no previous attempt at historic writing in connection with the
town of Amherst. The lands comprised in the township of Amherst once
formed a part of Hadley, hence for the earlier history of the settlement
recourse must needs be had to the records of the parent town. The Hadley
records were carefully examined and afforded an abundance of interesting
and valuable information. Other facts relating to the town's beginnings
were gathered from Judd's History of Hadley and from the unpublished
manuscripts of Sylvester Judd, now in possession of J. R. Trumbull of
Northampton, to whose courtesy in permitting free access to this most
valuable collection the publishers are greatly indebted. In the arrange-
ment of matter it was thought best that the opening chapters should follow
closely the chronological order of prominent historical events up to the
time of the founding of Amherst College, while after that date particular
subjects should be treated under separate chapter headings. Thus the first
eight chapters of the History are devoted to a review of the causes leading
to the settlement of Hadley, the early history of that settlement, the setting
off from Hadley of its " Third Precinct," the first settlers in the precinct,
the founders of Amherst families, the organization of the First church and
settlement of its first pastor, the first school-houses, the boundaries of the
lands comprised in the precinct and annexations of land as made from time
to time, the laying out of highways, and matters of interest concerning the
early settlers, their homes and their occupations. In the ninth chapter is
recorded the service of settlers in the precinct in the French and Indian
wars, largely compiled from manuscript archives on file in the State-house at
Boston. This is followed by a chapter containing facts relative to the


setting off of Amherst as a district, including an interesting biographical
sketch of Teffery, Lord Amherst, written for this work by Prof. Herbert B.
Adams of Johns Hopkins University. A very complete and accurate history
is given of the part borne by Amherst and its inhabitants in the war of the
Revolution. But little of this matter has before appeared in print in any
form. The list of Amherst soldiers who served in the war is compiled from
original muster-rolls now on file among the state archives. Especial interest
must attach to the story of the treatment accorded by the patriots to the
tory element which was powerful in the town.

The next prominent event in Amherst history was the effort made to
divide the town, and the bitter controversy which led to the organization of
the Second parish ; these subjects are treated at considerable length. Three
chapters are devoted to the " Shays Rebellion," one of the most unique
events in Massachusetts history, which affected the whole commonwealth
but had its storm-center in Western Massachusetts, with Amherst and
Pelham as rallying points for the insurgents. Much of interest concern-
ing this attempted revolution is gathered from Minot's history, printed at
Worcester in 1788, while valuable documents concerning it have been
copied from the state archives and are printed for the first time in this
volume. The history of Amherst Academy is of peculiar interest, from
the fact that it was the first literary institution established at Amherst which
gained more than local celebrity, and that it furnished a foundation for
Amherst College. The originals of the petition for establishing the acad-
emy and the charter granted it by the state are copied entire from the state
archives. Four chapters are devoted to an outline history of Amherst
College, especial attention being paid to the part borne in its establishment
by Amherst citizens. Brief sketches are given of the presidents of the
college and prominent events of their several administrations.

Nearly 80 pages are devoted to the churches and other religious organ-
izations of the town. This material was gathered largely from church and
society records, access to which was readily granted by those having them
in charge. Of particular interest are the records relating to the controversy
between the First and Second parishes, the ownership of the meeting-house
in the North parish and the great church quarrel in the South parish. The
doings of the Hampshire East Association and Hampshire East Conference
are here recorded. A chapter is devoted to educational institutions, includ-
ing public and private schools. Extracts are made from records of the old
school districts and sketches given of the Mount Pleasant Institute, the
Amherst Female Academy, and other academies and schools well-known
in their day. A chapter on agriculture gives a very complete history
of the Hampshire Agricultural society, describing the old-time cattle-shows,
and the controversy that arose over the purchase of the society's grounds


at East Amherst. Two chapters are devoted to a review of manufacturing
industries, prominence being given to the textile industries which flourished
for a time at North Amherst and the many manufacturing enterprises which
centered at East Amherst and about the New London Northern depot.
Residents of Amherst at the present time will be surprised to learn the
extent and variety of the industries that from time to time have found a
home in Amherst. Some twenty pages are devoted to a history of the
various railway enterprises in which the town and its citizens have inter-
ested themselves. The " Hampshire and Franklin" and "Amherst Branch"
railway companies may well be considered as the forerunners of the two
railway lines that now pass through the town.

Other subjects treated under special chapter headings are banks, post-
offices and courts, newspapers and printing, libraries and lyceums, fire
organizations, militia companies, taverns and stage-routes, liquor selling
and societies for the promotion of temperance, the care of the town's
poor, cemeteries, village improvement, public improvements, including
street-lighting, concrete walks, water supply and sewers, highways and
bridges, public buildings, crimes, accidents and epidemics, schemes for
acquiring wealth, including the " mulberry craze," the " mining craze " and
assessment insurance, old business firms, old houses, town politics, amuse-
ments and celebrations, weather phenomena, the " old cannon," slavery
and the abolition movement, authors and scientists, natural features of the
town, locality names, society organizations. Fifty pages are devoted to the
part borne by the town and its inhabitants in the war for the preservation
of the Union. This feature of the History is as complete and accurate as
careful investigation of all available sources of information could make
it. It is presented in a form calculated to make it especially valuable for
reference. An outline history of the Massachusetts Agricultural College
occupies nearly forty pages, containing matter which must prove of value to
the future historian of the college.

Six appendixes contain lists of town officers and representatives to the
General Court, an exhaustive review of the town debt, showing how it was
contracted and what payments have been made upon it, tables showing
appropriations made for certain specific objects since the first settlement,
a tabular review of total appropriations and expenditures for the past fifty
years, valuation lists and tax-rates for the past thirty years, complete valu-
ation lists for the year 1759, when the district was set off, and the year
1776, when it became a town, a voters' list compiled in 1802 and original
documents of interest in connection with the town's early history. A
special feature of the work is its illustrations, comprising a large number
of portraits of some of the best known of the earlier inhabitants, together
with many landscape views and pictures of old buildings, some of the


latter yet standing, others existing but in memory. The work involved ia
securing the originals of these illustrations was very great; many of them
were copied from old daguerreotypes and oil paintings : many were pro-
cured from parties residing in distant parts of the country. The publishers
consider themselves fortunate in having secured the portraits of so many
representative men ; they regret that of others whose names frequently
occur in these pages no portraits are in existence. For the uniform excel-
lence of these illustrations great credit is due to J. L. Lovell, the artist
photographer, who secured nearly all the negatives from which the plates
were made, and in them may be found some of his best work. The half-
tone plates from which the illustrations were printed are the work of the
Springfield Photo-Engraving company. It will be noticed that this History
does not contain a portrait of any man now living. There are many
residents of the town yet living whose portraits would honor these
pages, but all could not be printed, and the task of selecting certain ones
among them would be ungrateful.

In compiling the material contained in this volume the publishers
have received valuable assistance from many sources. A complete list of
individuals who have willingly and gladly aided in the work would occupy
more space than the publishers feel at liberty to devote to it. There are
some whose services deserve special recognition, and the publishers take
pleasure in extending their cordial thanks to the officials in charge of the
state archives at Boston, to James R. Trumbull of Northampton, to Presi-
dent Henry H. Goodell of the Agricultural College, to Librarian William
I. Fletcher of Amherst College, to Town Clerk Charles H. Edwards, to
Charles O. Parmenter, to Henry Jackson, to Deacon Thomas B. Read of
South Amherst, to Loomis H. Merrick, and to any and all who have in any
way aided them in their labors. The citizens of Amherst generally have
shown a generous interest in the undertaking and have gladly furnished
any desired information in their possession. Without their cordial coop-
eration success would have been impossible. Many valuable manuscripts
have been contributed by lineal descendants of the earlier settlers.

This History contains no attempt at fine writing, makes no claim to
especial literary merit. It is a record of facts, written in language concise
and fairly intelligible, and so arranged that the reader will have little diffi-
culty in referring to particular subjects. Comprehensive in design, it deals
with many subjects in detail, the aim being to make it especially valuable
as a book of reference. It is compiled in the main from original manu-
scripts ; copies have not been used when originals could be obtained.
Many interesting and valuable documents are copied entire, liberal extracts
being made from others. Especial prominence has been given to matters
pertaining to the earlier history of the town. Anything of possible value


concerning that history that could be secured is here preserved. So far as
possible the line has been drawn between fact and tradition. While an
attempt has been made to bring the History down to date the happenings
of recent vears have been accorded comparatively little space.

The publication of this volume will naturally invite criticism. While
an attempt has been made to secure accuracy in all its details, it is hardly to
be expected that it should be entirely free from errors. In many instances
there has been discovered a conflict of authorities concerning matters here
recorded; where such has occurred that authority has been accepted which
has proved most uniformly accurate and reliable. Great difficulty has been
experienced in insuring accuracy in recording the names of the earlier
inhabitants. Old-time methods of spelling were largely phonetic, and a
man's name underwent surprising transformation as it was recorded by one
and then by another of his contemporaries. The common names such as
Smith and Clark and Strong, could generally be recognized despite the
various orthographical indignities to which they were subjected. Abbre-
viations were common, some readily recognized, others, like ''Toon" for
Mattoon and "Crummy " for Abercrombie, taxing the resources of one not
an expert in philology. Confusion is also caused in many cases by the
number of persons bearing the same name, family names being handed
down from generation to generation. Such names as Daniel Dickinson
and Jonathan Cowls and Edward Smith have figured on the assessors' rolls
from the date of earliest settlement down to the present time. In indexing
these names but one title has been used, although apparent that the refer-
ences relate to different persons. The names of Cowls and Cowles are
indexed together, being of common origin.

Several persons who have expressed a deep interest in the publication
of this History have urged that space be accorded to genealogical reviews
of the families of the earlier settlers. The publishers would have been
glad to accede to this request, had they not realized that the addition of
any considerable amount of matter to that already in hand would necessi-
tate the publishing of the History in two volumes, making it more cum-
bersome and less convenient as a book of reference. There can be little
question that, at some time in the future, probably not far distant, the gen-
ealogies of families prominent in the first settlement of Amherst will be
written and published ; the tendencies of the times are encouraging to labor
in the field of genealogical research. There is hardly a family that can trace
back its ancestry to the earlier settlers in New England but numbers among
its members some one who is engaged in collecting statistics concerning
the family history. Valuable beginnings for the genealogies of Amherst
families may be found in the genealogies of Hadley, Amherst, Granby and
South Hadley families compiled by Lucius M. Boltwood and published in


Judd's History of Hadley, and in the lists of Amherst families compiled
by James W. Boyden and now on file in the office of the Amherst town
clerk. These sources of information are in the main correct and are of
great interest and value.

Brief biographical sketches are here presented of certain citizens who
were prominent in the town in their day and generation. The list is not as
complete as might be desired ; it is possible, even probable, that names
have been omitted from the list whose owners well deserve special mention.
In making their selections the publishers have been largely governed by
the prominence accorded to individuals in the town records and in the mass
of historical data which they have collected. Information concerning
many men known to have been prominent in the earlier history of the town
has been gained with great difficulty. Some of the families once leaders
in the community have no living descendants so far as can be ascertained.
While it is matter for regret that these sketches are incomplete there is, on
the other hand, reason for congratulation that so much of information con-
cerning the early settlers has been secured and is here recorded.




Indian Deed of Lands — River Indians — Original Bounds of Hadley — Causes
Leading to Hadley's Settlement— Beginnings of the Town of Hadley —
Indian Wars, 1675 — '74^, • • • • • - • 1

Early Settlements in Hampshire County — Division of Hadley Outer Commons

— Equivalent Land — Flat Hills Lands — East Inhabitants in 1731. . 10

Founders of Amherst Families — Biographical Sketches of the Early Settlers, 22

Burial Ground for East Inhabitants — Occupations — Wild Animals — Hadley
Votes Concerning East Inhabitants — Third Precinct Set Off. . . 29

David Parsons, the First Minister— Organization of the First Church — Mr.

Parsons' Salary and Firewood — The First Meeting-House, . 34


School Appropriations by Hadley and by the Third Precinct — First School-
Houses — Lands Comprised in Hadley Third Precinct — Annexations of
Land, . . . . . . . . . . 41

The First Highways — Encroachments on Highways — Hadley Votes Concern-
ing Roads and Bridges — John Morton and NathanDickinson — New High-
ways Laid Out, . . . . . . . . .48

Innkeepers — Cemetery and Town Lot — Occupations — Pauper Expenses —
Negroes — Physicians — Lawyers, . . . . . 56

French and Indian Wars — An Old Lawsuit — Amherst Troops in the Wars —

Petitions for Relief — Militia Company, . . . . .61

Petition to Become a District — The District Organized — Amherst and Lord

Amherst — Province Taxes — Statistics in 177 1. . . . . 65


Amherst in the Revolution — Minute Men — Tories — The Canadian Campaign

— Names of Amherst Soldiers, . . . . . -77

The Committee of Safety — Tories Imprisoned — Simeon Strong's Blanket —
The Battle of Saratoga — Hiring and Drafting Soldiers, . . .86

Prominent Patriots — Ebenezer Mattoon — Leading Opponents of the Revolu-
tion — Josiah Chauncey — John Field— The Boltwoods, . . .98

Proposed Division of Amherst — Petition Against a Division, . . . 102

Controversy Concerning a New Minister — Dr. David Parsons — Action by

Church and Parish — Ecclesiastical Councils — Second Parish Organized, 108

Second Parish Meeting House — Rev. Ichabod Draper, the First Pastor — A

Letter of Discipline — Decree by the General Court, . . .114

Hard Times Following the Revolution — Causes Leading to the Shays Rebel-
lion — Heavy Taxation — Legal Troubles — Mob Law at Northampton —

Online LibraryEdward Wilton CarpenterThe history of the town of Amherst, Massachusetts → online text (page 1 of 108)