Berkshire County, Massachusetts GenWeb Project


A History of the Town of Lanesborough

By Rev. Henry B. Hooker

Transcribed by Dawn Newton Quinn

In January, 1741, Samuel Jackson and 75 others, inhabitants of Framingham, in the county of Middlesex, petitioned the General Court to grant them a tract of wilderness land, situated on the Housatonic river, near to an Indian town. The grant was made, and they were authorized to survey and locate "a township, of hte contents of six miles square, adjoining south on Indian Town, (so called,) on the Housatonic river, or as near that place as the land would allow," upon certain conditions mentioned in said grant. Under this act, this township was surveyed and located. At a meeting, held Oct. 19, 1742, the proprietors voted to call it Ritchfield, until a name should be given to it by the Legislature. It was afterwards called New Framingham.

The settlement was commenced about 1754 or 5, by Capt. Samuel Martin, a Mr. Brewer, and a Mr. Steales. A party of Indians, in the second French war, drove off these families, and Capt. Martin was the only one who returned. A fort for the protection of the settlement, was erected near where the house of Dea. Wolcott Hubbell now stands. On the approach of the Indians, the settlers fled to Pittsfield. A scout was sent after them from Massachusetts Fort. In following tracks which were found, two Indian chiefs were discovered, stooping down and tying on their moccasins. Each of the scouts selected one, and both chiefs were killed on the spot. The scout safely escaped to the fort, though closely pursued by the Indians. A party immediately set out from the fort in search of the bodies of the slain chiefs, who found them buried in their war costume.

Among the earliest settlers, after those which have been mentioned, were Nathaniel Williams, Samuel Tyrrell, John, Ephraim, Elijah and Miles Powel, (four brothers,) Lieut. Andrew Squier, James Loomis, and Ambrose Hall. They all settled here as early as 1759. William Bradley, James Goodrich, Thaddeus Curtis, Ebenezer Squier, Benjamin and Joseph Farnum, settled here not far from that time.

The town was incorporated on the 20th of June, 1765, and then included a large part of the present town of Cheshire. It is bounded by New Ashford on the north; by Cheshire and Dalton on the east; by Pittsfield on the south, and by Hancock on the west. The length of the town from north to south is 6 miles; the breadth on the south is 6 miles, and on the north 3 miles and 20 rods.

The soil is generally of an excellent quality, consisting principally of a clay loam; and the chief attention of the inhabitants is turned towards grazing. Little grain is raised, beside what is needed for home consumption.

The south branch of the Hoosic rises in the southeast corner of the town. The west branch of the Housatonic enters the town from New Ashford, passes by the centre of the town, and runs through the large pond, called Lanesborough pond, into Pittsfield. This pond is partly in the latter town. It abounds with fish, such as pickerel, perch, and trout, and affords at its outlet some very valuable mill-sites. The principal settlements are on a street which extends several miles along the eastern side of this branch of the Housatonic. Here are the three houses of worship belonging to the different religious denominations. The neighbouring meadows are remarkably luxuriant and beautiful, while the hills beyond them strike the eye with great pleasure. The scenery from various points of elevations is picturesque and delightful.

Some valuable beds of iron ore have been found here, from which considerable quantities of iron were formerly manufactured; though but little attention has been paid to them for some years.

There are several extensive quarries of valuable marble; some of which, in the western part of the town, were opened at an early period; others, near New Ashford, were opened 15 or 20 years ago. The principal are on the estates of Dea. Elijah Phelps, Abiel Platt, Bethuel Baker, and the Hon. Judge Savage, of New York. A large portion of the marble in the capitol at Albany, was transported from these quarries. Great quantities are now sent on the Western Canal into the interior of New York.

The number of inhabitants in 1810 was 1303, and in 1820, 1319. The number of deaths for the last 25 years is 487, averaging 19 annually. The largest number in a single year was 34, and the least 7.

There are 8 schools in town, 5 stores, 4 taverns, 1 grist-mill, 4 saw mills, and 3 mills for sawing stone.

The Congregational church, consisting of 5 males and 3 females, was organized March 28, 1764, by Rev. Messrs. Samuel Hopkins, of Great Barrington, and Stephen West, of Stockbridge.

Before this, the Rev. Levi Hart, afterwards Dr. Hart, of Preston, Con., and Mr. Woodbridge Little, who afterwards became a distinguished inhabitant of Pittsfield, preached here for a short time. The first pastor, the Rev, Daniel Collins, was ordained April 17, 1764; and the first meeting-house was erected in 1768, though it was not entirely finished until several years after. The present meeting-house was built in 1828, and dedicated Jan. 1, 1829.

Mr. Collins continued in the ministry until he died, Aug. 26, 1822, in the 84th year of his age; though in the latter part of his life he had the assistance of a colleague.

He was born in Guilford, Con.; took his first degree at Yale College in 1760, where he sustained the reputations of a good classical scholar, and afterwards read theology with Dr. Bellamy, of Bethlehem. Settling here when the town was new, and discharging the various duties of pastor, in the seasons of prosperity and adversity, for nearly half a century, he had an extended and happy influence in forming the manners and habits of the people. Some seasons of refreshing from the presence of the Lord, occurred under his ministry. Sound in judgment his counsel was often sought in cases of difficulty, by churches in the vicinity and at a distance. He possessed good sense, dignified manners, and exemplary piety; was affable, hospitable, and benevolent, and greatly beloved and esteemed in all the relations of life. He was first a trustee of the Free School, and then of the College in Williamstown.

In 1812, in consequence of infirmities, he was induced to desire a colleague; and on the 8th of July in that year, the Rev. John De Witt, of Catskill, N.Y., was associated with him in the pastorial office.

Mr. De Witt was dismissed on the 8th of Dec. 1813, and afterwards settled in the second Reformed Dutch Church in Albany. He is now a professor in the Theological Seminary at New Brunswick, N.J.

The Rev. Noah Sheldon was settled as colleague with Mr. Collins, July 15, 1818, and became sole pastor upon Mr. Collins's death. He was dismissed, by reason of ill health, May 2, 1827, and now instructs a private school in Stockbridge, boarding the scholars in his own family.

The Rev. Henry B. Hooker, the present pastor, was installed on the day of Mr. Sheldon's dismission, having been previously ordained an evangelist.

The number of members at the formation of the church, was 8

Mr. Collins (during his whole ministry) admitted 283

Mr. Sheldon admitted, after the death of Mr. C., 14

Mr. Hooker has admitted 11

Total, 316

The number of members, at the commencement of the present year, was 74.


Ebenezer Buck; died 1805, aged 90.

Azariah Rood; removed to Vermont.

Nehemiah Bull; chosen 1780; died Dec. 1815, aged 77

Ebenezer Squier; chosen 1783; died 1797, aged 67.

Andrew Squier; chosen 1798; died 1824, aged 93.

Gideon Wheeler; chosen 1809; died 1822, aged 77.

Wolcott Hubbell; do. 1818.

Elijiah Phelps; do. do.

Zenas S. Clark; do. 1829.

The Episcopal church in this town, called St. Luke's church, was initiated by the Rev. Samuel Andrews, of Wallingford, Con., Oct. 2, 1767, and the house of worship belonging to this denomination was erected in 1783. The rev. Gideon Bostwick, of Great Barrington, had the pastoral charge of the church, and preached to it occasionally from June 26, 1770, until his death, June 14, 1773.

The Rev. Daniel Burhans succeeded him immediately, and continued here until June, 1799, when he removed to Newtown, Con., where he still officiates.

The Rev. Mr. Thacher laboured in this church from Dec. 28, 1799, until June 18, 1801. He removed to Ballston, New York, where he died.

The Rev. Amos Pardee, graduate of Yale College, 1793, took the charge of the church; Feb. 13, 1802, and continued in it until Sept. 28, 1818, when he removed to the State of New York, where he has since been employed in missionary labours in different places.

The present rector, the Rev. Aaron Humphrey, was born and educated in the State of Maine, and took the charge of this church, March 9, 1820.

A revival which prevailed in the north part of the County in 1826, reached this people, and some souls were hopefully brought into the kingdom. The present number of communicants is about 50.

The Baptist church was formed in 1818, with 12 members. About 34 have been since admitted. The number of members reported at the last meeting of the Baptist Association, was 35.

The Baptists have enjoyed the labours of Elder Augustus C. Beach, and of Elder Richmond Taggart.

Joel Redway was chosen deacon of this church, July 13, 1822.

Their house of worship was erected in 1828, and dedicated Feb. 10, 1819.


Francis Guiteau; native of Bethlehem, Con.

Reuben Garlick; removed to Canada, and became an Episcopal clergyman.

Hezekiah Clark; native of Lebanon, Con.; removed to Pompey, N.Y.

Asa Burbank; native of Williamstown; graduate of Williams College 1797; died at Williamstown the previous year.

Enoch Perce; a native of Peru.

Joseph Jarvis; removed to the state of New York.

William H. Tyler; a native of New Ashford.


Samuel W. Wheeler; native of this town; removed to the State of New York.

Chauncey Lusk; native of this town; graduate of Williams College 1795; admitted to the bar in 1800; died 1803.

Luther Washburn; native of Hardwick; removed to Pittsfield.

Calvin Hubbell, Jun.; native of this place; graduate of Williams College 1810; admitted to the bar in 1813.

George N. Briggs; native of Adams; admitted to the bar in 1818.

Hooker, Henry B. "A History of the Town of Lanesborough." In A History of the County of Berkshire, Massachusetts,

ed. Samuel W. Bush, 386-391. Pittsfield, MA: Samuel W. Bush, 1829.

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