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centre of the city. The man who
located the fort cannot be said to have
been of consummate military genius ;
he placed it at a point on a plain over-
looked by hills but a few rods distant,
and at the same time not near enough
to the neighboring river to make that
an easy source of water supply. The
fort was a wooden enclosure, formed
by logs placed one upon the other and


interlocked at the corners. At one
corner, the northwestern, was a watch
tower, and inside the enclosure were
several buildings used as quarters for
the garrison, and on the eastern side
a well with the long well-sweep so
familiar in old New England.

Such was the condition of afifairs in
western Massachusetts in August,
1746, when the French, who were ex-
pecting an attack on Canada by the
English, ordered Rigaud de Vau-
dreuil, town major of Three Rivers, to
repair to Lake Champlain to repel the
expected attack, or if no such attack





should be made to strike a blow on
the English frontier. Rigaud de
Vaudreuil was a person of some im-
portance in Canada, and his brother
was after-
wards gov-
ernor general
of Canada.
He had with
him a force of
about seven
hundred men,
of whom five
hundred were
French and
the remainder
Finding that
the fort on
Lake Cham-
plain was not
in danger of
attack from the English, the French
commander found himself with a free
hand. He was in doubt where to
strike. The Indians held numerous
councils, but could not
make up their minds.
Finally some of the Indians
who had lived on the bor-
ders of Massachusetts drew
on the floor of the council
room a map of a river,
showing a fort near its head
waters. The river thus
shown was the Hoosac, and
the fort was Fort Massa-
chusetts. They pointed out
the isolated position of the
little fort and also implored


assistance to avenge the death of
Cadenaret, a chief who had been killed
near the fort the year before. The
scheme was acceptable to all, French
and Indians alike ; and so on they
came, through Lake Champlain, down
the Hudson, and up the valley of the

On the banks of this river the in-
vaders passed the houses of numerous
Dutch settlers from the Hudson.
These Dutchmen were not on the best
of terms with the English soon to be
attacked at Fort Massachusetts, and
they fled, leaving their houses, furni-
ture and cattle, and not even taking
pains to warn the garrison, soon to be
besieged, a few miles to the eastward.
The Dutch-
men perhaps
had a grim
smile on their
faces as they
thought of the
storm soon to
burst on the
little fort ; but
when in a few
days they re-
turned to their
farms and
found that the
French party,
on the return
through the
valley of the
one hundred
churches and

Hoosac, had burned

and fifty houses, barns

other buildings, besides destroying

all the cattle and grain, their smiles


,"fe-' ■

'i -^^^m


. 4

"^ ^^^^H


- ... ...-.^s^.




must have been anything but mirth-

The night before the attack on the
fort, De Vaudreuil and his party en-
camped in what is now WilHamstown.
Early the next morning, after a march
of about four miles, the fort came into
view. What was intended as a sur-
prise failed through the youthful ar-
dor of the young French cadets and
the wild enthusiasm of the Indians.
Unable to restrain themselves at the
sight of the fort, they rushed forward
with yells and a useless discharge of
fireams. The garrison of the fort was
nominally fifty-two
men ; but the com-
mander. Captain
Williams, was
away on an expedi-
tion to threaten
Canada, and others
of the garrison had
been sent to Deer-
field for a supply of
powder and lead, so
that when the stress
of war came there
were but twenty-
two men, including
the chaplain, Nor-
ton, and the com-
mander. Sergeant
Hawks, of Deer-
field, in the fort,
and half of these
were disabled bv

sickness. There were also
in the fort three women
and five children.

The siege lasted for
twenty-eight hours, during
the course of which the be-
siegers tried all the strata-
gems known to border
warfare. At the end of
that time the garrison had
killed one Indian chief and
wounded sixteen of the
Frenchmen and Indians — •
which, under the circum-
stances, as Parkman says,
was good execution for ten
farmers and a minister.
The garrison had lost from its efifective
force three men by wounds. Then
the end came. The chaplain, Norton,
claimed that the French opened the
parley for surrender; and the French
commander in his report claimed that
the first sign of weakening came from
the English. However, the situation
of the "garrison was desperate ; they
were outnumbered, sixty to one, their
ammunition was gone, and, accepting
the word of De Vaudreuil that they
should be protected from his Indian
allies, they surrendered. The French
burned the fort, took the prisoners,




turned back through the valley of the
Hoosac, destroying- the homes of the
Dutchmen as they went, and made
good their retreat to Canada. Before
the fort was destroyed the flag of
France was raised over it; and so that
now peaceful meadow at the foot of
the Taconic range has seen the un-
furling of three different flags: the
English by the right of exploration
and settlement, the French by the
right of conquest, and the American
as the just and lawful heir to the pos-
sessions of both the old-time rivals.
To East Hoosuck probably belongs
the distinction of being the only spot
in Massachusetts ever under the do-

minion of a French king by the
right of conquest.

In 1750, three years after the de-
struction of the fort, and after the
fort had been rebuilt, Captain
Ephraim Williams secured a grant
of two hundred acres of land in East
Hoosuck, on condition that he
build a sawmill and a gristmill. This
he did, building one on each side of
the river at the point where Main
Street, North Adams, crosses the
stream. These two rude structures
were the beginnings of the present
manufacturing greatness of Adams
and North Adams.

The records of the next few years
are meagre and the growth of the
population was slow. The growth
was by far the greatest at the central
and southern parts of the township,
in what is now Adams. There the
rudiments of a village began to ap-
pear ; and all the credit of aid and
effort for the cause of the American
Revolution must be given to the
southern part of the township. When
fighting Parson Allen of Pittsfield led
his men to aid General Stark at Ben-
nington in the memorable fight of
August 16, 1777, he came down the




valley to the site of North Adams,
and then took a short cut over the
hills to Bennington. He was joined
by men from the township of East
Hoosuck ; but they were all from what
is now the town of Adams, — for at
that end of the township there were
ten inhabitants where there was one
in the north-
ern section.

When we
consider the
physical con-
dition of af-
fairs at the
north end of
the township
at this time,
we can readily
why the
growth was
not faster.
The two
streams form-
ing the Hoo-
sac were much
broader and
deeper than at
the present
time, and when
the spring
floods came
they rose rap-
idly and swept
over the whole
t e r r i t o r >■ ,
where are
now located
the princi-
pal business
and manu-
facturing es-
of North Adams, with an icy flood.
Tall, gloomy pines dominated the
scene, covering the valley and extend-
ing far up the foothills and mountain-
sides. Some of them were giant
trees, tradition saying that one when
felled measured one hundred and
fourteen feet to the first limb. Their
stumps and roots were tremendous
and proved an annoyance to travellers


on Main Street for years, until some
public spirited citizens formed a "bee"
and cleared up the ground for good.
Where the pines were cut away the
ground proved to be poor for cultiva-
tion, so poor that it was said that it
"would not raise beans." As an
agricultural township East Hoosuck
would have
starved. At
this period
must have
been devel-
oped that
spirit which
has made
Adams and
North Adams
what they are
to-day. If
they could not
"raise beans"
they could cut
lumber and
build small
factories along
the river
banks; and
that is pre-
cisely what
they began to

Up to this
time there was
no other
name for this
section but
the Plantation
of East Hoo-
suck ; but on
October 15,
1778, there was
passed an act
the "Plantation called East Hoo-
suck, in the county of Berk-
shire, into a town by the name of
Adams." The name of Adams was
given in honor of Samuel Adams, the
Revolutionary leader and patriot.
And so in the .midst of the Revolu-
tionary struggle the town was born.
The first town meeting was held
March 8, 1779. The inhabitants seem



to have enjoyed these meetings so
well that they held them on the slight-
est provocation. There were ten of
them called during the year 1779. It
is to the credit of the young town,
however, that nearly all of these meet-
ings were called to see what could be
done in aid of the Revolution.

From this time on, the small manu-
facturing concerns began to appear.
There were sawmills for working the
neighboring pines into merchantable
lumber ; there were gristmills ; there
were mills for producing oil from
flaxseed; there were forges erected,
and iron ore from the vicinity and
from afar was brougnt and turned
into wrought iron ; there were marble
quarries opened ; and limestone was
broken up and burned for lime. In
fact, all the small industries open to a
people who could not gain a living
by agriculture were exploited one by
one. Of course money was scarce,
and tradition says the inhabitants of
Adams often went to their more
favored neighbors in Pittsfield and

Williamstown and had notes for ten
dollars discounted. But these indus-
tries, although humble, had a sure
foundation, and they were backed by
the indomitable pluck of a group of
men who have transmitted the same
quality to their successors of to-day.

In 181 1 the cotton industry began
to reach out from Rhode Island, its
first home in this country. Adams
was ready for just such an enterprise ;
and we find the "Old Brick Factory"
was built in
this year,
and the cot-
ton industry
was fairly

No sketch
of northern





Berkshire could be complete without
some reference to the Hoosac Tunnel ;
and to North Adams belongs the dis-
tinction of having within its limits one
end of the longest tunnel on the Amer-
ican continent and the pioneer long-
distance tunnel of the world. Owing to
the physical conditions of the country,
Berkshire, so far as its business and
social interests lay, was for a long
time more a part of the state of New
York than of Massachusetts. Cut
off by the high Hoosac ranges on the
east, it was only natural that trade
should seek an outlet to the west
through the valleys leading to the
Hudson River. For years the line of
communication for exports and im~
ports lay through Williamstown and
Pownal to Hoosick and thence down
the "old stone road" to Troy, N. Y.
Over this road the four-horse teams
carried the manufactured goods from
the township of Adams, and in return
brought back the groceries and neces-
sary supplies. This "old stone road"
was a turnpike extending from Troy,
N. Y., to Bennington, Yt., and was
one of the earliest specimens of mac-
adamized road in this country. It
is related that on one occasion a
unique cargo came over this thor-
oughfare into North Adams. It

was nothing less than a wagon load
of specie, the entire capital of the first
bank started in North Adams. There
could have been no question of stock
watering in regard to this institution,
as the stockholders and patrons could
actually see and handle the entire

But larger interests than those of
northern Berkshire were seeking an
outlet to the West. About this time
the question of the carriage of freight
from Boston to the West was the sub-
ject of earnest discussion. For some
years prior to 1825 the project was
seriously contemplated of building a
canal through Berkshire, to connect
Boston and the east with the Hudson
River. Nothing came of this scheme
until July, 1825, when a party of gen-




tlemen from various towns in Uerk-
shire met in North Adams to talk
over the matter. Hon. Daniel Noble
was chairman, and William E. Bray-
ton was secretary of this meetinq' ;
and as a result of the meeting a com-
mittee of five was appointed to ex-
plore the land and streams between
the north branch of the Hoosac and
the Deerfield and ascertain whether
in their opinion it was practicable to
build a canal over the Green Moun-
tains. This committee made an ex-
amination and reported that the
grades would not prohibit building
such a water way and that the neigh-
boring streams were sufficient for
supplying the proposed canal. This
report was sent to the canal commis-
sioners at Boston. In this same
year, 1825, however, the first railroad
in America was put into successful
operation ; and the canal project was
abandoned and the idea of tunnelling
the mountain was conceived. But
nothing further was done until a
quarter of a century had passed.

The completion of the Western,
now the Boston and Albany Railroad,
in 1843, suggested a connection with
the same by way of Pittsfield, twenty
miles away. The town took up the

matter with its accustomed energy
and appointed a committee to confer
with the Western Railroad directors.
The estimated cost of the new road
w^as $400,000 ; but although the man-
ufacturers and merchants of the town
strained every nerve and subscribed
for $90,000 of this stock, the Western
directors declined to build the road.
Then the northern Berkshire citizens
tried a new tack. They raised $31,000
in cash, to serve as a guarantee fund
and to be used in bringing the divi-
dends up to a certain per cent. This
plan was acceptable; and the Pittsfield
and North Adams road was built and
equipped, at a cost of $450,000. And
so the "iron horse" began to make its
trips, connecting the long isolated
north Berkshire region with the out-
side world. The first passenger train
was run between North Adams and
Pittsfield on the occasion of the an-
nual cattle show and fair, and the
population turned out in such num-
bers that all the rolling stock, freight
cars included, were pressed into ser-
vice, and the day was one of universal

But the project of a tunnel unde:
Hoosac Mountain and a competing
line from Boston to the West would




not down; and in 1848, when the
Troy and Greenfield Railroad Com-
pany was formed, we find the citizens
of tiie town eagerly interested, and in
the next few years holding town
meetings, appointing committees and
subscribing for stock and bonds in

the same date, car-
ried it on to comple-
tion. It was on
Thanksgiving Day,
November 2/, 1873,
that the final blast
was fired and the
valley of the Hoosac
and the valley of the
Deerfield were
united. The tunnel
was completed after
a work of nineteen
vears, an expend-
iture of twelve to
fifteen millions and
the loss of over one
The total length
is four and three-quarters miles,
and when the final blast was fired
there was a variation of but five-six-
teenths of an inch in the meeting of
the two headings.

Dvtring the construction of the

hundred lives.

the enterprise. The work was act- great work over one thousand men

ually begun in 1854, with a loan from
the state of Massachusetts, and was
prosecuted with more or less vigor
until 1 861, when the funds gave out,
and in the next year the state fore-
closed its mortgage on the property.
Commissioners were then appointed,
and for six years the work went on bv
state appropriations. At the end of
that time seven million dollars had
been expended, and the work was
about one-third completed. Au-
thority was then given by the Legis-
lature for the completion of the work
by contract: and in i86g Francis and
Walter Shanley entered
into an agreement to com-
plete the tunnel for about
five million dollars. Thev
entered upon the work
with great vigor, and not-
withstanding dire predic-
tions of ultimate failure
and the openly expressed
opinion of Dr. Oliver Wen-
dell Holmes in some of his
verses that the millennium
and the opening of the tun-
nel would occur at about

were employed ; and the period was
one of growth and prosperity for
North Adams. The presence of this
large body of miners gave that section
of the town the appearance and many
of the characteristics of a western
mining camp ; and it may be that at
this time the town took on the air of a
western town, w4iich many strangers
at the present claim they can readily
detect. At any rate, besides securing
a new route to Boston, North Adams
gained in prestige, wealth and popu-
lation during the tunnel period, and
in addition to this had fastened to hei




the nickname of the "Tunnel

It was during these struggles to
secure railroad outlets and to push
forward the interests of the Hoosac
Tunnel that the citizens of the town
acquired the faculty of standing
as a unit for any broad public
improvement benefiting the whole
community. This spirit was again
exemplified in recent years, when
the citizens of North Adams
united as one man to secure
the location of a State Normal School
in the city.

While the scenery about Adams
and North Adams is as fine as any
to be found in Berkshire, fashion has
not set the stamp of its approval upon
these particular spots as it has upon
Lenox, Stockbridge and Pittsfield, in
the south part of the county. To
many, not only those who know
them best, but even to chance visitors,
the rugged mountains of the Hoosac
and Taconic ranges, with their forest-
covered sides, rocky ledges and deep
ravines, appeal more powerfully than
the beautiful but more subdued and
cultivated scenes of southern Berk-
shire ; and it is a satisfactory thing to
have this view confirmed by such


readers of nature as Thoreau and

It was in the summer of 1838 that
Hawthorne first came to Berkshire ;
and the storv of his visit to North
Adams is most delightfully told in the
pages of the "Note Books," published
many years after by his widow.
Hawthorne was, more than most
writers, influenced by surrounding
scenes, and many of the influences
he met in North Adams, influences
both of men and mountains, crop out
through much of his subsequent
work. We can well imagine how the
wild beauty of the Natural Bridge and
the Bellows Pipe appealed to one of
his nature ; and we can almost see him






standing watching the shadows as
they chase one another across the
slopes of the Hoosac range. Then,
too, there were the people themselves.
Hawthorne came to North Adams by
stage from Pittsfield and stopped at
the North Adams House, a tavern
which occupied the site of the present
Wilson House. On its porch and in
its bar room were wont to congregate
not only the substantial men of the
place, but also the quaint characters
and loafers so characteristic of the
Yankee village of that day. It was
to these latter odd specimens that the
future novelist gave most of his atten-
tion ; and besides being minutely de-


scribed in his "Note Book," they
figure from time to time in his sub-
sequent books. There was Piatt, the
stage driver, who drove Hawthorne
from Pittsfield, and whom he de-
scribes as "a friend of mine." There
was Captain Gavett, who sold sweet-
meats and talked philosophy on the
tavern porch. There was "Black
Hawk," a dissolute, unkempt fellow,
who was once a lawyer of some re-
pute, but then a soap boiler and
phrenologist. It is he who figures
as "Lawyer Giles" in the romance of
"Ethan Brand" ; and it is at an old
limekiln on one of the foothills of
Grevlock that Hawthorne lavs the




scene of this tale. Some of these
characters are remembered to this
day by a few of the older inhabitants.
Professor Dale of Williams College
tells us that ten thousand years ago
the site of North Adams and Adams ,
was occupied by a lake some six hun-
dred feet in depth, extending west
through Williamstown and north to
Stamford in Vermont. The shores of
this lake are easily discoverable on the
sides of the valley. The same author-
ity also tells us that Greylock is one of
the oldest mountains in the world. On
its summit and in many other places
in the section are clearly defined
glacier scratchings. To the south be-
tween North Adams and Adams are
to be found numerous low, round hills,
the result of glacier actions. These
same hills were early identified and ex-
amined by Professor Hitchcock of
Amherst, the great geologist. The
ravines and gorges are considered re-
markable examples of erosion ; and
perched high on the mountain-sides
are found immense bowlders left by
the drift of floods and glaciers in by-
gone ages. There is one such stone of
tremendous size, high on the side of
Hoosac Mountain, called the "great
Vermonter," because of the, probabil-
ity that some centuries ago it left its
moorings in the Green Mountain State
and journeyed to its present location.
The whole region is one of remarkable
interest to the scientific observer.

The principal settlement in the
township of Adams at the time of the
Revolution was at the "South End."
As early as 1780 the two sections be-
gan to take the names of "North End"
and "South End." These designations
gradually changed into "North Vil-
lage" and "South Village," and finally
into North Adams and South Adams.

The early church records of the
township are very meagre. The early
settlers, being from Connecticut and
Rhode Island, for the most part,
brought with them their early reli-
gious sentiments and habits. They
formed a Congresfational church and
built a meeting-house of logs at a spot

about midway between the North and
South villages. This was on what is
now the "Cross road"; and nearly
within the limits of the present Valley
Park is to be found what is probably
the oldest burial place of the two set-
tlements. The records of this church
are entirely lost. All we know is that
the first minister was Rev. Sam-
uel Todd, a graduate of Yale, and that
he was installed probably about 1776.

With settlements so far separated as
were the North and South Ends, it
was only natural that there should
come rivalries and misunderstandings.
As early as 1826, when after a long
struggle a town house was built
about midway between the two vil-
lages, there was a movement looking
to a division of the township. But
matters drifted along until 1878, just
one hundred years after the "Planta-
tion of East Hoosuck" became the
town of Adams ; and then one April
morning the people awoke to find that
by act of the Massachusetts Legisla-
ture the village of North Adams
and all territory north of the "Old
Military Line" had been set ofif and
incorporated as a new town, to be
known as North Adams. The divi-
sion left South Adams with the
name of the old township of Adams
and a population of between five and
six thousand. The new town of
North Adams had about ten thou-
sand people.

So much for the past. To-day there
are in the territory of old East
Hoosuck two thriving communities, — •
North Adams, the city, with a popula-
tion of twenty-two thousand, and
Adams, still with the old town govern-
ment, and a population of from ten to
twelve thousand. All past differences
are forgotten, and the rivalries be-
tween the old mother town of Adams
and the young city to the north are
generous rivalries. Each rejoices in
the prosperity and growth of the
other, and both point with pride to the
fact that their united populations, if

Online LibraryNebraska State Historical SocietyThe New England magazine (Volume n.s. v.21, yr.1899-1900) → online text (page 20 of 89)