Collections of the
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Hughes Farm Joseph Loomis
Sky Farm George Robinson
O C Whitbeck’s Joseph Orlcutt
Taconic Farm John 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
Volume six, page
two hundred twenty-four, Nov. 22, 1765. “To
the Honorable Spencer Phips Esq. Leutenant Governor and commander in chief of
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
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
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
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.
history is somewhat unique and interesting from its location as a border town
and with a mixture of the early Dutch tenants of
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.
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
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
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
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
July 4, 1824, one
of the most enjoyable celebrations ever held in
Norman Hicox, a noted wit and public speaker of
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 Anthenaeum, Family History Dept,