History of Berkshire County, Mass., with Biographical Sketches of its Prominent Men

 

 

TOWN OF MOUNT WASHINGTON

By Herbert F Keith, C E, Chapter XIII, Pgs 226-230

Transcribed by Michele Valenzano

 

 

  LOCATED in the extreme southwest corner of Berkshire County, and rising in noble grandeur above the valley of the Housatonic, is Mount Everett, or Bald Mountain, rising 2,000 feet above the valley, or 2624 feet above tide water, and flanked by a short range of mountains extending north and south. Behind them, about four miles to the west is another range, along the State line of New York, of nearly equal height above the Harlem Railroad which skirts their western base.

 

  Between these two ranges, which form the boundaries of the town, there is an elevated area from two or three miles in width, from east to west, and seven in length, from north to south. This town among the clouds, as it were, is not only rich in picturesque scenery, but has an eventful and interesting history. Its location and height of 1,000 feet above the neighboring towns place it in a disadvantageous position as a business center, but as a popular summer resort no town in Berkshire County is so favorably situated. It is accessible from New York City and vicinity by means of the Harlem and other railroads, to Copake, 104 miles from New York, and a very pleasant drive of three miles up the mountain.

 

  Its business is wholly agricultural, and the keeping of summer boarders. Many of the farmers are far better off than would be expected in such a location.

 

  Who was the first white settler, when he came, and where he was located, are now lost in obscurity; but there is good evidence that several families were living here as early as 1730, if not earlier, for settlements were begun in the adjoining town of Salisbury in 1720, and the Dutch from New York had already pushed their settlements into the Housatonic Valley. In the report to the Massachusetts Legislature of a committee in 1753, in a list of settlers then living west of Sheffield, with a statement of their improvements, time of occupation, etc., are found the following names, most of whom, if not all, were residents on this mountain:

 

  The number of years of occupation previous to 1753, given by these persons over 130 years ago, indicate a much earlier settlement than is generally supposed; but when we consider the adventurous spirit of our ancestors, the proximity of this territory to the early settlements along the Hudson River Valley, its natural facilities for protection and isolation from the Indians, who were generally more numerous in the Housatonic Valley, it is not improbable that the earliest settlements of Berkshire County were within its limits.

 

  About this time, 1752, we find abundant evidence of settlements from the voluminous correspondence and petitions of these and other inhabitants to the Massachusetts government on the one hand, and of Robert Livingston to the government of New York, and the correspondence between the two governments in relation to a continual border war that existed between them and Mr. Robert Livingston for many years thereafter: Livingston’s grant from the governor of New York in 1715 including about one third of the present town.

 

  During these title and boundary disputes, the line between the States of Massachusetts and New York not then having been established, many men were carried to the jails at Albany and Springfield by the respective disputants, and one William Race was shot dead by the Livingston party, April 14th, 1753, in the easterly part of the town, probably near Race Mountain, which may have taken its name from him.

 

  May 7th, 1757, Livingston’s party burned and destroyed the houses of Jonathan Darby, Andrew Race, Christian Hallenbeck, Christopher and Henry Brazee, and Simon Burton, who fled to the Housatonic settlements for protection.

 

  November 27th, 1753, the following petition was presented to the General Court:

 

“Petition praying that your honors in your great wisdom and in your wonted goodness, would be pleased for to setel us in our possessions, or, if not, for to make a Grant of land to us in a place to the east of Taghknack (Columbia County) and to the west of Sheffield, to wit in the mountain, where there is a valley of land lying between two great mountains, and may contain a few famileys, even to that number as to make a small parish: but it will cost a great deal of time to make a road in to the mountain on both sides, or to deal with your poor subjects as in your great wisdom and wonted goodness shall think fitt, and we your poor petitioners, as in duty bound shall ever pray.

 

- Josiah Loomis, George Robinson, Jan Hollenback, Jacob Loomis, Joseph Oricutt, Michael Hollenback.”

 

  This petition was not granted.

 

  March 15, 1757, Benjamin Kaukewenakonaunt, sachem, and Mauhauwee Hunter, both of Stockbridge, in consideration of £261 New York money, in hand paid, conveyed to seventy-nine persons, residents of Mount Washington and the adjoining towns, “one certain large tract of land, situate and being within the county aforesaid, bounding south on the south bound line of the said Province; north on a line drawn parallel to said line seven miles distant from said province line, which is on the township sold to Robert Noble and others; in part east on the great mountain called Taconock Mountain (that is the steep mountain); west on a line to be drawn parallel to Hudson River, at twelve miles distant from said river, & c.” of these seventy-nine purchasers the following appear to have been residents at the time of the purchase, viz.” Christopher and Henry Brasie, Simon Barten (or Barton), Jonathan Darby, Benjamin Franklin, Daniel Webster, Michael and John Halenbach, father and son, Christian Halenbach, Jacob and Josiah Loomis, Joseph Paine, George Robinson, Andries or Andrew Race, William Race. jr., Elezer Stockwell, Jacob Van Gilder, James Van Deusen, Thomas Wollcot, Simon Willard, William Webb.

 

  In a tax list of Egremont, of 1761 (with which Mount Washington voted previous to its incorporation), the following names are given as mountain men: Nathan Benjamin, Joseph Benedict, Francis Belud, John Dibble, James H Dosser, Jacob Fosbrey, Samuel Griffin, Silas Howard, Charles Miller, David McQuire, Nathan McQuire, Ruben McQuire, Benjamin Osborn, Joseph Osborn, Jonathan Ozbon, widow Shaw, Philip Welch, Thomas Wolcut, John Wright. This indicates a considerable change in ownership in four years, but when we consider that the former change in residents were pioneers or squatters, that the lands were first surveyed into lots in 1759-60, and assigned to residents, and that the houses of many of the first named had just been burned and pulled down by the Livingston party, it is not improbable.

 

  In 1757 the proprietorship was organized by the choice of Jonathan Darby as clerk, which office he held for ten years or more. He probably lived some three quarters of a mile north of Sky Farm, as he sold a lot there in 1764, and removed farther down the mountain into Egremont.

 

  Most of the roads now in use, with slight changes, were laid out as early as 1760, with the exception of the Bashabish and one or two cross roads. An old road, now impassable, from the Lee place, now P C Garrett’s, on the west side of Plantin Pond, to Bear’s Rock, was in use as early as 1780. They were all originally laid out four rods wide, but were reduced to three in 1820, with the exception of that from Bear Rock to the Sheffield line, which is still four.

 

  The early town records, and probably the first proprietor’s book were destroyed at the burning of the town clerk’s house some twenty years since.

 

  November 5, 1778, the first recorded meeting in the second proprietor’s book was held at the house of Stephen Bump, which stood near the boarding house of Henry P Weaver. At this meeting “John Dibble was chosen moderator; John Hulett, proprietor’s clerk; and Captain John King and Peter Woodin a committee to receive the money of the proprietors, and apply it to the General Court to secure the lands to the proprietors, or to employ some trusty hand to do the service for them. Voted to call the place Mount Washington.”

 

  At a meeting March 1st, 1779, at the vacant house of Mr. Samuel Dibble, Lieut. John Dibble was chosen moderator, Mr. Samuel Dibble, clerk; Charles Patterson, Capt. John King, Mr. Wm. Campbell, and Sergt. John Woodin a com. To take care of the minister and school lots, clear them from incumbrances, let them out and oversee the undivided lands; and Lieut. John Dibble, Chas. Patterson, and Capt. Robert Campbell a com to assist John King and Peter Woodin chosen at the last meeting.”

 

  These two meetings were just previous to its incorporation as a town June 21st, 1779.

 

Of the doings of the town from its incorporation to 1796 but little is known, as the town records embracing that interval were lost. Charles Patterson was the first town clerk, and the town furnished soldiers for the Revolutionary war. Colonel Elisha Sheldon, a distinguished cavalry officer of that war, was a land owner from 1760 to 1788, and possibly a resident of the town.

 

  Previous to 1806 the inhabitants appeared to have held their meetings at private houses, school house; and barns. Rev. Benjamin Abbott, a Methodist preacher, said that in 1789 he preached at Esquire King’s to a fine congregation, considering the place, and had a precious time. Rev. John Culver, in 1791, preached there frequently in dwellings, school house, and barns, and in 1801 the noted Lorenzo Dow preached there.

 

  April 7th, 1806, the town voted “to build a meeting house 24 by 30 feet.” And chose “Fenner King, David Booth, and William Lee a committee to oversee the work, and that they proceed to build this spring, and that said house be free for all religious sects no intruding upon each other’s appointments.” At a subsequent meeting $284 were appropriated for the building, and it was used September 6hth, 1806, for a town meeting. It stood at the west end of the cross road leading west from the present church. The pulpit was not built until 1808, and there were no seats until 1818. About that time the funds derived from the letting of the minister’s lot were divided among the Methodists, Presbyterians, Universalists, and Baptists. The funds derived from the sale of the minister’s lot yield an income of about $70, which is under the control of the town, and is now generally appropriated for the benefit of the new Congregational society, organized December 11th, 1874. The present church was dedicated November 24th, 1869. It was built at a cost of $2,700, contributed by the townspeople, the benevolent people of Berkshire, and the American Congregational Union. Mr. H H Van Dyke, assistant U S Treasurer, furnished the bell; Rev. Dr. Gale, of Lee, procured the funds for the pulpit and painting; and he and Rev. Winthrop H Phelps, of South Egremont, were active in procuring the erection of the building.

 

  A Congregational church was organized here October 6th, 1881; but by deaths and removals it became extinct.

 

  The old town house and church went to decay. In 1876 a new town house was erected.

 

  The Methodists had the earliest church organization here, but the society is now practically extinct.

 

  The first recorded appropriation for schools was in 1800, when $60 were divided between two districts. There were three districts in 1809, when the town had its largest population, but there were only two now.

 

  At an early day there were saw mills in various parts of the town. There is now only one, which is but little used. There was formerly also a grist mill, but none now. In 1837 there was a forge for the manufacture of bar iron, and an axe factory at what is now called the City; and in 1845, shovels, spades, forks, hoes, and castings were made there; but all this business was abandoned about 1850.

 

  The patriotism of the people of Mount Washington was fully equal to that of the other towns in Berkshire County during the Civil War of 1861-5. The town furnished more than its quota of men and contributed liberally of money. The patriotic ladies of the town contributed many comforts and luxuries for the soldiers in the field.

 

  The increasing annual influx of summer boarders in Mount Washington seems to indicate the dawning of a new era of prosperity for the town. Its population in 1880 was 205.

 

  One of the most popular summer resorts is the “Alandar,” Frank S. Weaver, proprietor. This house, formerly called the “South End,” and is a deservedly popular resort for those seeking rest, health, and pleasure among the mountains of old Berkshire. The post office address of the proprietor is Copake Iron Works, N Y.

                  

Source: History of Berkshire County, Massachusetts with Biographical Sketches of its Prominent Men. 1885, Thomas Custin/J E A Smith, Publisher J B Beers & Co, NY.

Collections of the Berkshire Historical and Scientific Society, Published Pittsfield, MA, 1886-1913, Vol. 2, Pgs 226-230 Chapter XIII, TOWN OF MOUNT WASHINGTON, by H F Keith, CE.

Berkshire Anthenaeum, Family History Dept, Pittsfield, MA. Dewey Call# 974.41 B