Berkshire Geology - By James D Dana

Collections of the Berkshire Historical and Scientific Society, Vol III, Pgs 319-335

 

MOUNT WASHINGTON

Historical address, June 1st, 1907 

 

 

I have found it rather difficult to select from my voluminous material of the history of the town, which dates back to the first settlers in 1692, such part as would be of the most interest to those who have so kindly gathered here to help us take some notice of an important event in our history, the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the organization of the township under the New England plan and the declaration of independence from the tenantry system of New York which for two generations had been maintained here by Robert Livingston.

 

Many of you have doubtless heard of the anti-rent wars of Columbia County of a later date which finally resulted in its overthrow some sixty years ago in New York, and an unsuccessful attempt of the inhabitants of the town of Livingston in 1795.

 

This declaration of independence as it were one hundred and fifty years ago by the rightful purchasers of the Indians, was not accomplished by smooth sailing by any means. Six years of previous contest were followed by ten more before their rights were fully secured and not until 1787 was the state boundary fully established. The town was first settled in 1691 or 1692, by Dutch tenants of Robert Livingston from Columbia County, New York, who, after the later settlements of the neighboring towns of Great Barrington, Sheffield and Egremont in Massachusetts, and Salisbury in Connecticut, under the New England plan of individual ownership, with school and church privileges, became discontended under Livingston’s tenantry system.

 

Finding themselves to be east of the generally understood boundary between Massachusetts and New York, beyond which the grant of the New York Governor to Robert Livingston in 1714 could not extend, but which he claimed here, they presented a petition to the General Court of Massachusetts sometime in 1751, headed by William Bull, their physician of Sheffield, who died May 28, 1758 and Is buried in the Sheffield Village Cemetery.

 

This petition in Volume six, page thirty-two of the State Archives says: “There is a tract of land west of Sheffield within this Province which Robert Livingston Jr. Esq. is endeavoring to engross and annex to his manor and many families are already settled thereon & c.”

 

In answer to this petition is the following report in Volume one hundred sixteen, page thirty-six of the Archives: “Pursuant to the order of the Honorable House of Representatives of Oct. 11, 1751 I have reviewed the lands mentioned in the petition of Wm Bull & others and conferred with the inhabitants living on sd lands who are chiefly Dutchmen who inform me that they were encouraged to settle sd land many years since by Mr. Livingston to whome they have paid great rents from year to year but he never gave a leave to any one of them but refused to do it they further inform me that upon examination they find that they have not settled within sd Livingstons Patent thereupon divers of them the last year have refused to pay him any rent & that he declares that he will send them all to gaol very soon if they do not pay their rents they appear very selicitous to be taken under the protection of this government. As to the quality of the lands some of them appear very good they lie on a small river or brook which heads in Taucaunnuck’s mountain runs northerly and southerly some miles. The most valuable lands are in possession of about twenty families. More than half of the lands mentioned in sd petition are upon the great Tauconnuck mountain which is very high and impassible many miles together the other lands except what is under improvement as above sd are chiefly White Oak Rock Oak Hills. Some of them are pretty good other of them mean and poor.” – O V Partridge

 

Following this report is one from the following committee: Joseph Dwight, Colonel Bradford and Captain Livermore (Volume forty-six, page three hundred seven) giving the names of forty-four men  owning thirty-two houses, having nine hundred and sixty-six acres fenced, seven hundred and seventy-two improved and making forty-nine barrels of “Syder” with the years occupied by each and their predecessors. Among the largest are Christopher and Henry Brasee, John Hallenbeck, Abraham and Richard Spoor, sixty years, and Eph Race, fifty.

 

This doubtless one of the earliest statistical papers of any town of western Massachusetts and would indicate a population of from one hundred and fifty to two hundred, or more than double the present number.

 

From this time for many years afterwards the history of this town was exciting and interesting in its contests between Robert Livingston backed by the governor of New York and the inhabitants of Massachusetts, and doubtless had much to do with securing to Massachusetts the western part of Berkshire County as the contentions of the Green Mountain boys the State of Vermont.

 

As a result of these petitions and reports the under mountain section of Sheffield with this town was annexed to Sheffield until its incorporation, June 19, 1753, when the present boundaries between the two towns were established. Leaving a strip on the easterly slope of the mountain between it and the original early large grants by the state of the lower land west of the original proprietor’s line of Sheffield, which was sold early in the last century by state commissioners and bought generally by the under mountain farm owners. Boston Corner was never a part of the town and belonged to the state, which sold to various parties in 1804, and was set off to New York in 1853. The south boundary of Egremont, incorporated August 23, 1775, took in all of the Sky Farm and Mr. O C Whitbeck’s land north of the highway, while Mount Washington, incorporated June 21, 1779, went as far north as Orrin Curtis’ house, at the foot of the mountain, or to the north line of the strip known as the “Indian Reservation.” Mount Washington, the older town, and purchaser from the Indians, allotting the lands and the residents thereon, paying taxes and voting in Egremont until the establishment of the present boundary, June 17, 1817. Since then there has been no change in the town boundaries.

 

March 29, 1757, a syndicate of forty proprietors purchased the land of the Indians to be divided into forty-eight shares, John Dibble having five, Josiah Loomis, Jacob Loomis three and Benjamin Barney, Jr. and Ichabod Stickwell one half a right, the others one. Following this purchase May 7th, was the culmination of their troubles as stated in the following petition. Volume six, page two hundred forty:

 

“May 30, 1757, to his Majesties’ most honorable council, the supreme court of the House of Representatives of the province of Massachusetts Bay now sitting at Boston. The humble petition of Jonathan Darby, Andrew Race, Christiana Hollanbach, Christopher Brasee, Henry Brasee and Simon Burton, humbly sheweth that the said petitioners were lately inhabitants but are now sufferers of the Township of Taughconnack through the tyrannical riotous and murdering proceedings and practices of Capt. Robert Livingston, are obliged to seek shelter and fly for refuge within the known bounds and limits of this your province of Massachusetts Bay, for that he the said Livingston did on Saturday, the 7th., of this present May come with a large banditti and in a most barbarous and inhuman manner pull down and burn and destroy others that the said Livingston had caused or procured to be pulled down sometime ago and also murdered one man, wounded others and took some captive and sent them to prison so that your sd poor petitioners were forced with their wives & children to fly for succor into this your said province to our great loss and almost utter ruin leaving our goods, corn, wheat and cattle behind & c.” – Signed by, Jonathan Darby, Andrew Race.

 

Two days afterwards, June 1st, 1757, the purchasers organized and chose Jonathan Darby clerk, and proceeded to survey and assign the first division lots or farms; thus beginning the organization of the township on the New England plan under the laws of Massachusetts. The proprietors’ records being lost, nothing is known of their doings or troubles for ten years thereafter, when in Volume six, page three hundred seventy-three, of the State Archives we find the following, showing that these contests were still unsettled:

 

“At a legal meeting of the Proprietors of the Township of Taughkinnick settled under the government of the Province of Massachusetts Bay regularly notified and assembled the seventeenth day of December A D 1767, voted that William Kellogg be and hereby is authorized to sign a humble petition to his majesty in council, setting forth our grievances and humbly praying that we may be continued or retired to the jurisdiction of the said Province of Massachusetts Bay or if his majesty should otherwise determine that the Governor of the Province of New York may be restrained from granting any of the lands upon which we are settled to any person or persons whatsoever and that such other relief may be afforded us as to his majesties great wisdom shall seem meet and the said William Kellogg is like wise authorized to substitute any person or persons in our behalf to prefer the said petition and to represent us before his majesty in council.: - attest Jonathan Darby, Proprietors Clerk

 

“I do hereby certify that it being made to appear to me that Jonathan Darby was duly chosen clerk of the propriety of the township called Taukennick. The said Jonathan was duly sworn on the first day of June Anno Dom 1757 to the faithful discharge of the duty of his office.” – Before me, Timothy Woodbridge, Justice Peace

 

Among the numerous petitions in these troublesome times previous to and subsequent to this declaration of independence from the Livingston tenantry system are the following from the Massachusetts unpublished archives:

 

Volume six, page one hundred twenty-nine, August 19, 1753. “The testimony of Joseph Pain of a place called Taghkanack of lawful age testefyeth that on the 19th day of August 1753 it being the Sabbath or the Lords Day, I being in my own house and sick in my bed their came a man unknown to me and forced open my door and came in to my house and sat down on a chest with a sword by his side and I sd Pain desired my dagter to shut the door and bolt it and as she went to push the door to the man made attempt to draw his sword and I sd Pain desited my daghther the second time to shutt the door and bolt it and he drew his sword almost out of his scabbard and put his foot to stay her making the door fast and imeditly Timothy Connor came in and went to my other room and my son in law Jeebord Eavery was in bed with one of his children and sd Connor sd git up you devil and sd Eavery sd I wont. Stand off then sd Connor sd git up or I will run my sword in to your ass and sd Eavery sd you will kill my child and emedetly sd Connor took hold of him sd Eavery and pulled him out of bed by the sholders and dragged him out of the bed room till an other mett him which took hold of sd Eaverys sholder and imedetly the house was filled full of men with swords drawn in their hands and some with pistels I their girdles to the number of about ten men and dragged the sd Eavery out of doors into the yard in his shirt this is the truth according to the best of my remembrance.” Aug 4, 1753 Joseph Pain, Sept 4, 1753 sworn to before David Ingersoll.

 

Volume six, page one hundred twenty-eight. “The testimony of Cathrean Hollenbach of a place called Taghknack of lawful age testefyeth and saith that she was at the house of Mr. Michael Hollenbach of Taghknack on the 26 day of July 1753 and there came a company of men to Michaels house with swords and pistels from towards Josiah Loomis and one Doct Huntt was with me and Michael said to me and Doct Hunt come into the house and their being a double door or in other words the door was cut in two in the middle and Michael shut the under door towe and when they had goten off their horses they said good morning and came towards the door and came upon the stoop of the door and Michael said do not come any nearer to the door then they took stones and flung against the door Michael took a hay fork In his hand and they pleaded to be let in, Michael said they were come to take him, they said that they had nothing against him but they , that is the sheriff, sd he wanted Loomis which was there. Michael said Loomis was not their and I said Cathrean also sd that Loomis was not their but they said he was and insisted to come in and swore they had n nothing against him the sd Michael and they requested that one man might come in and search the house for Loomis and Michael at least gave liberty that one John Robson might come and no more but Robson refused to come in and went away and as Michael was standing with his fork over the door they got hold of the fork and as they puled the fork one of the company with a sword cut Michael on the back of his hand and Michael steped behind the door & took his gun and bid them off or else he would shute and they again pleaded to come in but being denied the sheriff called for an ax to cut the door down and one of them took a great stone and flung against the door which made it tremble and they flung many great stones against the door and they not making that do they pleaded again to come in swearing they would not medel with said Michael but search for Loomis and if he was not their they would be contended and Michael said if they would not take him one of them might come in and no one came to come in he was told to climb over the under door the sheriff said that was robbery but one of them came in and as soon as he was in he clasped Michael on the sholder seizing him as his prisoner and so they all came n and Michaels two sons was in the chamber and one of the………… to the stairs and went up two or three stairs and swore he would shute and cocked his pistel and it missing fire three times & did not go off.” Sept. 4, 1753

 

Volume six, page one hundred twenty-six, September 4, 1753. “The testimony of Jacob Spoor of Sheffield being of lawful age testefyeth and saith that on ye 19th day of August 1753 being Sabbath or Lords Day I being at a place called Taghnack at the house of Mr. John Hollenbach I heard the report of guns and being told that there was a company of men at Mr. Michael Hollenbacks house I went to see what was the meaning of the noias and as I was in the road I meeting with Patrick Megg, I shook hands with him and said how do you do Patrick. Then I said Patrick will this do you the Sabbath day and he made answer what I asked him if he could give an account to God for it and he said he could not help it and rid along. I did nothing to interrupt them. I moved out of the road and one Mr. Connar came up to me with his sword in his hand and said what have you to do to stop or exemen men on the Kings Road saying Damn you and struck me on the head with his sword and cut through my hat and cap and cut my head so that the blood came out and sd Connar said he would cut off my ears. I said that was easy for him to do and I went to make my escape and then their came a company after me with clubs and struck me with the clubs and I tried to make my escape but was seized by some, their names I did not know, but their was Jocob Dacker and Jacob Wheler and John Robson in the company this is the truth according to the best of my remembrance.” Sept ye 4th 1753 Jacob Spoor. Sworn to before David Ingersol.

 

Massachusetts Archives, book forty-six page three hundred twenty, November 27, 1753. “Petition praying that your honnours in your great wisdom and in your wonted goodness would be pleased for to setel us in our persessions or if not for to make a grant of land to us in a place to the east of Taghknack and to the west of Sheffield to wit in the mountain where there is a valley of land laying 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 side 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.” Dated in Taghknack November ye 27 A D 1753.

 

   Location                           Name

Hughes Farm                 Joseph Loomis

                                      Jacob Loomis

Sky Farm                       George Robinson

O C Whitbeck’s              Joseph Orlcutt

Taconic Farm                 John Hollenbach

                                      Michael Hollenbach

 

This was the first petition for incorporation as a town.

 

Volume six, page one hundred ninety-one, April 14, 1753. “To the Honl Spencer Phips Esq. Lieut. Gov. & commander in chief of the Honl his Maj Council &House of Rep in Gen Court assembled Apr 22, 1755. The memorial & representation of John McArthur living on the province land W of Sheffield humbly shews that on Monday the 14 of Apr inst a considerable number of men armed with guns & swords broke open the house of Jonathan Darby living on the province land and there in a violent & tumultuous manner assaulted Josiah Loomis, carried him away to Albany Gaol and on the next day a number of men with swords and fire arms appeared at the house of Joseph Gillet living on sd land where two of the ranulews were present broke open his house knocked down his wife took him prisoner & sent him to Albany Gaol. Then the sd gang proceeded to the house of Jacob Bacon broke open his house & threatened the life of his wife who was sick in bed & robed the house of sundry things then proceeded to the house of Robert Noble, broke it open & stole & carried away sundry valuable things. The next morning about brake of day they assaulted the house of William Race, broke it open & as sd William Race was attempting to escape they shot him dead with a charge of buck shot. May it please your honors the case of that poor people living on sd lands is most distressing they daily expect repeated assaults from Livingston & Ranslaus Banditti which consists of abandoned Irishmen & negroes. If your honors do not appear for their relief they are finally dumed. They mive out what they do is agreeable to orders received from the Gov. of N Y which is humbly submitted to your Honr wise consideration – John McArthur.”

 

Volume six, page two hundred twenty-four, Nov. 22, 1765. “To the Honorable Spencer Phips Esq. Leutenant Governor and commander in chief of his majestys province of Massachusetts Bay in New England. The Honorable council and House of Representatives & c. The petition of Joseph Pain humbly sheweth that he was possessed of a farm in a frontier town of sd province called Teonick and with great expence bought the sd farm too and enjoyed peacable possession for six years then one Mr. Livingston came and demanded the premises and said that the farm was his and said your petitioner must give him possession or he would send him immediately to gaol soon after he sent a part of his men and a sheriff with a writ under pretext of your petitioners girdling of trees in sd town and took him and cast him into Albany Gaol and obtained judgment in a duck court for 275 pounds damages and costs where your petitioner has lain at his own charge there three years and three months till your petitioner is brought to the greatest degree of poverty and the small pox is in the city and neither your petitioner nor his wife ever had it and as he is now seventy years and through the want of the necessities of life, both he and his wife being upwards of 80 are become like skilitons. Your peti’r therefore most humbly prays your honour would vouchsafe to consider his miserable circumstances and help him to his liberty that he may have some comfort before he die and your petitioner as in duty bound shall ever pray.” – Albany Gaol November ye 22nd 1756, who has nothing left, Joseph Pain.

 

Following these petitions and testimony is this petition in January 1774 for incorporation:

 

Volume one hundred eighteen, page eight hundred thirty-five. “To his Excellency Thomas Hutchinson Esq Captin Genl and Governor in Chief in and over his Majesty’s Province of the Massachusetts Bay the Honble his Majesty’s Council and House of Representatives in General Court Assembled.

 

Humbly shews the subscribers, inhabitants of a tract of land lying on Taconnocg mountain so called in the County of Berkshire which was granted by the Great and General Court at their last sessions to your petitioners that they are so situated that it is and ever will be extremely inconvenient for your petitioners to have communication or connection with any town or district adjoining to said tract of land and that they have increased in number so as to render it not only convenient but necessary that the said tract of land & the inhabitants thereof should be erected into a separate & distinct town or district & be invested with all the priviledges and immunities that other towns and district in this province enjoy wherefore they pray that they may be incorporated accordingly or otherwise to do and act thereon as to your Excellency and Honor shall recommend. As in duty bound shall ever pray.

 

Nathan Benjamin                                       Charles Patterson                                        Daniel Dibble

Benjamin Osborn                                         Abraham Grimes                                         Allen Sage

Elnathan Hall                                             John King                                                   Michel Palmer

John Dibell                                                 John Woodin                                               John Wright

Jonas Osborn                                               Peter Woodin                                              Abner Woodin

Philip Roff (Race)                                     Daniel Mead                                                John Barber

Samuel Dibell                                              Gilbert Murray                                           William Campbell

Thomas Jones                                               Andrew Patterson

 

This was passed in the House to be engrossed June 15th, and the Council concurred on the 17th, but the sudden dissolution of the Assembly on that eventful day prevented its enactment.

 

In August, 1776, another attempt to procure an act of incorporation was made as follows:

 

Archives, Volume one hundred eighty-two, page two hundred twenty-one. “To the Honlble the Council and House of Representatives of the State of Massachusetts Bay humbly sheweth the petitioners inhabitants of a new plantation called Tauconnuck mountain lying west of Sheffield in the county of Berkshire that your petitioners have a great charge and expense made a settlement in said new plantation that the same is situate on the height of a great mountain and that it is separated from Egremont and Sheffield the only towns to which it joins by a very long and steep precipice and that the roads communicating between said new plantation and said Sheffield and Egremont are at all times extremely rugged and at some seasons almost wholly impassible that the number of inhabitants are now so great and their circumstances such as to enable them to maintain the expenses attending their incorporation as a town or district that at present they are debarred the enjoyment of many privileges attending that state your petitioners therefore humbly pray your honors that said plantation bounding south on the line of the state of Connecticut west on the line of the state of New York. East on the line of said Sheffield and north on the line of said Egremont may be incorporated into a town of district and as in duty bound shall pray.”

 

John King                                                    John Wright                                                Nathan Benjamin

John Dibell                                                  Abraham Grimes                                          Gilbert Murray

Samuel Dibell                                              Peter Wooden                                                Thomas Cade

William Cogswell                                          Allen Sage                                                   Jacob Hatt

John Woodin                                                Charles Patterson                                          Samuel Nickerson

Amos Woodin                                                Elnathan Hall                                             Christopher Grimes

Jesse Mead                                                  Daniel Dibell                                                 Phillip Ruff (Race)

William Palmer                                           Allen Sage Jr                                                Ephraim Race

Asa Sparks                                                  Sebah Sage                                                  John Race

John Wright Jr                                            William Campbell                                         Abijah Woodard

Solomon How                                               Thomas Jones                                               Philip Ruff (Race) Jr.

Joseph Robinson                                          Daniel Porter                                                John Ruff (Race)

Stephen Bangs                                             Daniel or Samuel Whitmarsh                      Charles Owens

Moses Buck                                                 Daniel Mead

 

On the twenty-ninth of August this petition was referred to a committee of the House, reported and read the second time, but no further action taken. The following spring, March 15, 1777, still another application was made in a petition by John King and thirty others, “in behalf of themselves and forty-five families, which alleges that they with others purchased the lands in question of the natives some years since, by and with the consent and advice of a committee of the General Assembly.” Charged with the duty of settling some affairs relative to the lands west of Sheffield; that they had improved the lands, and built roads on to the mountain and from house to house: moreover that they had, “for some years past paid a province rate of support government.” And raised their full quota of men for the army, and that they were willing to continue to do their “proportion both of men and money,” in case they should be incorporated into a district or town with power to accomplish their objects, and to lay out and repair highways. “and also to take proper care of some persons among us that are unfriendly to the United States of America.” The following postscript appearing immediately after the signatures. “as we are on a great mounten we desire your honers to give us the name of Mount Washington.”

 

This petition was referred March 25, 1777, to a committee of the House, but no further action taken.

 

It will be noticed that these petitions of August 1776 and March 1777 are t the Honorable Council and House of Representatives of the State of Massachusetts, instead of to a captain general or Governor of a province, and that the latter seeks to honor the name of Washington nearly a month previous to the incorporation of our other Washington, east of Pittsfield.

 

Adams, Hancock and Lee, incorporated during the Revolution, bear distinguished names of that period during which no less than eleven towns in Berkshire County were incorporated.

 

Owing to the loss of the town records previous to 1792, but little information is to be had of its action from its incorporation in 1779 to 1792, including the Revolution, except that in the petition for incorporation in 1777, the State War records and the following item in the Sheffield records of December 25, 1780: “Voted that the assessors procure a list of real and personal estate of Mount Washington (reconsidered) Mr. Robert Campbell and Mr. Jesse Royce having appeared in the meeting and engaged on the part of the town of Mount Washington, of which they are the selectmen and impowered that the said town shall raise two men and 3100 pounds weight of beef towards the men and beef required by the general court of the town which proportion is acceded to and the said selectmen have engaged on the part of sd Mount Washington in case sd men and beef on the settlement of the next valuation shall appear to be less than their proportion of men & beef compared with the sd town of Sheffield that they will pay immediately on demand the balance into the treasury of sd Sheffield and John Fellows and Theo Sedgwick Esq. have engaged on the part of Sheffield that if she sd men and beef shall by sd valuation appear to be more than the proportion of sd Mount Washington that they sd Fellows & Sedgwick will immediately on notice thereof pay the balance into the treasury of sd Mount Washington which agreement is ratified by the town.”

 

Among the state lists of Revolutionary soldiers which are uncertain as to localities. I find at least twenty-five who went from this town or one-tenth of the total population at the time, also the following interesting receipt:

 

Volume nine, page one hundred twenty-two. “I Nicholas Louke hereby acknowledge that I have received of William Campbell committee man of the town of Mount Washington the sum of sixty three pounds hard money as an encouragement and inducement to me to enter into the Continental Service for the term of three years to be under the Continental officers that is or shall be appointed. I say received by me this 26 Day of February A D 1780 in presents. – Nicholas Louke. Robert Haxton, George Campbell, witness”

 

The town paid the state in 1782, one hundred and five pounds towards war expense.

 

RELIGIOUS HISTORY

 

Its religious history is somewhat unique and interesting from its location as a border town and with a mixture of the early Dutch tenants of Livingston who were without religious privileges for two generations, except what they could obtain from a long distance. For these reasons and on account of its small population it had no settled minister of the established New England faith and was apparently a mission field for any denomination who might enter. The earliest of record is that of the Methodists, the early records of which were borrowed some years since of Mrs. Linus Melcus by Rev. Merwin R. Lent, then preaching at Copake, and never returned. Of its condition in 1789 Dr. Benjamin Abbott says: “After visiting and preaching in Egremont. I next went to my appointment at Esq. Kings on Mount Washington and preached to a fine congregation considering the place. And we had a precious time in class, a young man prayed very powerfully and in such a manner that I concluded in my mind he would be a preacher, and so it proved, for he shortly after set out in the work.”

 

In 1791, Rev. John Culver, licensed in 1790, and appointed to the Dutchess circuit, visited and preached here frequently, followed by Lorenzo Dow in 1801, and Billy Hibbard in 1804-5. Earlier than 1789 it is quite probable that the Rev. Simon Dakin, living in the adjoining town of North East in 1773 and previous to John King’s removal to Mount Washington from America, a near neighbor and preacher there was invited by King in the early years of his ministry, which he began in 1754-5, to preach in Mount Washington some years earlier than we have any record. John King born in 1730 and a contributor to the building of a union church in America for the Congregationalists and Methodists, was probably a Methodist convert previous to his removal in 1757, and must have invited his neighbor Dakin to preach here soon after his removal, and the further fact that he sold his first lot to Joshua Dakin, a son of Simon, in 1779, who with his brother Simon Dakin, Jr., became large land owners here soon after.

 

John King’s house, destroyed a few years ago, stood on the east side of the road to Bear Rock, about on e-half mile south of the present church. He gave the land for the center cemetery and is buried there. His descendants, own and conduct the Fort Edward Methodist boarding-school and Rev. James M King, another, is or was lately a prominent Methodist clergyman of New York City, and Major King, recently in command of the fortifications of New York harbor, was of that family.

 

SHAKERISM

 

Ann Lee, the Mother of Shakerism in this country, held some of her first meeting in 1781, at the house of Benjamin Osborn, now owned by Mrs. Spurr and remodeled last year. Her biography says: “Though quite unexpected deceived. Benjamin, and several of his sons with their wives, and some others in that place and its vicinity, had already embraced the testimony. On hearing of Mother Ann’s arrival, the believers in the neighborhood, also from Livingston’s Manor and other places around, gathered here to hear the Word of God. Great labors were made, those who already believed were greatly strengthened in the way of God and a number of others added to the faith. On the Sabbath following a large concourse of the world besides many believers attended. Great power of God with much manifestations of the power of the Spirit upon the physical body attended the testimony. * * * * this was also followed by much opposition. One Dr. Hollebest attempted to dispute with the Elders, but being confounded and put to the blush by Elder James Whittaker, she went and advised the mob to let them alone: so no acts of violence were committed.” Benjamin Osborn died in 1787 and his children convey their interests in real estate as residents of Canaan, N Y.

 

Baptist meetings were early held at the house of Charles Patterson, now owned by F B Schutt, a grandson, and shared with the Universalists, Presbyterians and Methodists in the use of the church and the income from the lease of the minister’s lot in the early part of the last century as follows:

 

1806 voted to build a meeting house and that said house be free for all religious sects not intruding upon each other’s appointments. 1818 voted that the minister lot funds due this spring be expended as follows: $1.50 for one discourse or $2,00 for two discourses delivered in one day at the meeting house on the Sabbath or Lord’s Day of every denomination that is requested to preach and chose Capt. Isaac Lamson, Jeremiah Dibble and Comfort Sparks to be a committee to see to the expenditures.

 

1819 voted to pay the same as last year for preaching and to divide it as follows: 1st Sabbath in each month to the Methodists: 2nd to be the Presbyterians: 3rd to the Baptists; 4th to the Universalists, beginning the 1st Sabbath in May. The residue of the year Methodists 1st Sabbath in Nov. Presbyterians 3rd, Baptists 1st in Dec. Universalists 3rd on every other Sabbath through the year.

 

I find no record of any Baptist or Presbyterian or Universalist church organization. There was a Congregational church organized October 31, 1831, at the old meeting house which stood at the west end of the cross-road leading west from the present church by the Rev. Sylvester Bart of Great Barrington. Rev. James Bradford of Sheffield and Rev. Gardner Hayden of Egremont, with twenty-four members. But owing to deaths, removals and other causes became extinct in a few years.

 

After the tearing down of the old church sometime previous to 1850, services were held in the center school house which stood on the ground recently added to the center cemetery.

 

About 1866, efforts were begun by Rev. Winthrop H Phelps, then preaching here and at Egremont, which resulted in the erection and dedication of the present church building. November 24, 1869 at a cost of two thousand seven hundred dollars by the people of the town and their friends elsewhere. Rev. Nahum Gale of Lee furnished the pulpit and had the church painted, and Mr. Van Dyke, assistant United States Treasurer, a boarder, gave the bell. At the dedication almost the entire population of the town were present, coming in sleighs. Dr. Gale preached the sermon and Mr. Phelps made the prayer.

 

December 11th, 1874 the present church was organized with thirteen members and is still in a flourishing condition. At times when preachers could be obtained having services through the year, but of late, with a small population, only for five or six months paying our pastors fourteen dollars per sermon instead of one dollar and a half.

 

MILLS AND MANUFACTURES

 

Mount Washington early had the grist and saw mill necessary to the building and maintenance of a town, having two or more of each about 1760, and possibly a third grist mill at Bashbish Falls.

 

Abner Woodin of Mount Washington, probably a son of Peter Woodin the first owner of the city grist mill, made the first iron at Mount Riga in Salisbury and in company with Jesse Roys built the first dams there.

 

During the war of 1812-15, _______ Way of Hillsdale, had a tannery on the Bashbish brook, and William Murray a saw mill above the falls about 1822, which George H Ives, who built the Berkshire House at Great Barrington, afterwards purchased and erected tenements and a school house about 1850, succeeded by __________ Powy, during whose ownership a heavy freshet on the streams carried one of the houses over the falls and ended the business there.

 

About 1836 a tannery was in operation on Huckleberry brook and at the city, but the culmination of manufacturing in Mount Washington was that of John D Joyce. Beginning with a blacksmith shop near the Dewey Melius barn he moved to the city, so called, in Mount Washington, about 1821, and enlarged his business so as to include a forge and trip hammer, making and repairing all kinds of agricultural implements, harpoons for Hudson whalers, ox chains, and the large chains and tires for raising and hauling the immense blocks of marble from the Goodale quarry in Egremont to Hudson for Giraud college. In this business he employed some twenty men previous to his removal to Salisbury in 1845, where he continued in business until 1857, when he sold to his son David.

 

CELEBRATION ON MOUNT EVERETT

 

July 4, 1824, one of the most enjoyable celebrations ever held in Berkshire County was on the summit of Mount Everett. In the early morning there was a severe thunder shower accompanied by hail but soon after the sun shone forth in unclouded splendor and the inhabitants of Mount Washington and the adjoining towns began the ascent to the summit where flags were planted in the various crevices of the rocks, a large liberty pool erected and tables were set with refreshments in abundance. Cannon of considerable size was hauled up and salutes from that and guns frequently fired.

 

Norman Hicox, a noted wit and public speaker of Sheffield, weighing upwards of three hundred and fifty pounds, was to deliver the address. His route from Sheffield was up the east side of the mountain. He became exhausted before reaching the summit and the address was delivered by Charles Patterson, a resident, followed by Rev. Ebenezer Lamson, a Baptist chaplain in the Revolution. Mr. Lamson, although eighty-three years of age, spoke for a long time with much vigor of his revolutionary experiences, interspersed with anecdotes and songs of the Revolution. He died just ten years after on July 4th, 1834, aged ninety-three.

 

Among those who attended and spoke of it as one of the most enjoyable celebrations they ever attended was the last Ralph Taylor of Great Barrington, who went on horseback with General Ives and gave me the above account. It was probably intended to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of their incorporation which as before stated required only the signature of the Colonial Governor.

 

Source: Berkshire Geology, James D Dana, 1886, Collections of the Berkshire Historical and Scientific Society, Vol. 3 Pgs 319-335

Berkshire Anthenaeum, Family History Dept, Pittsfield, MA. Dewey Call# 974.41 S03