NORTH ADAMS, MASS.
1749 – 1885
Reminiscences of Early Settlers.
Extracts from Old Town Records
Its Public Institutions
Industries and Prominent Citizens,
With a Roster of Commissioned Officers
The War of the Rebellion.
BY W. F. SPEAR
North Adams, Mss.:
Hoosac Valley News Printing House
The town of Adams, including what is now
Adams and North Adams, was originally known as East Hoosac.
This township was first explored and surveyed in 1749, by a committee of
the General Court of Massachusetts. They
were instructed to lay it out six miles square.
Not believing in the doctrine of instruction, however; it was laid out
seven miles long, from north to south, and five miles broad, from east to west.
It is the only town in Berkshire County of a perfectly regular form.
In 1750 Captain Ephraim Williams secured a grant of two hundred acres of
land in the town, on condition that he would reserve ten acres for a fort, and
build and keep in repair for twenty years a grist and saw mill.
In June, 1762, East Hoosac, with nine other townships, was sold at
auction, for £3200, to Nathan Jones, who soon after received as partners in
this land speculation Colonel Elisha Jones and John Murray.
In October, 1762, forty-eight building lots of one hundred acres were
laid out, embracing the very heart of the township, mostly interval land along
the Hoosac river and its south branch. In
1776, twenty more lots of similar size were laid out, and Israel Jones, having
then become a resident, was authorized to admit sixty settlers, in accordance
with the requirements of the General Court.
Two years after, the remaining lands were apportioned among the settlers.
The town was incorporated October 15, 1778, with the name of Adams, in
honor of Samuel Adams, the illustrious leader in the Revolution, the signer of
the declaration of independence, and afterward Governor of Massachusetts.
The first annual town meeting was held March 8, 1779, when Captain
Phillip Mason was chosen moderator; Isaac
Arnold, town clerk; Captain Phillip Mason, Captain Israel Jones and Captain
Reuben Hinman, selectmen. Captains
were plenty in those days of war and commotion, and were naturally looked upon
as the leading men in civil as well as military affairs.
Captain Reuben Hinman was also chosen town treasurer.
The meeting was adjourned till March 22, when Luther Rich, David Jewell
and Eleazer Brown were chosen assessors; Elias Jones, Gideon Smith, Jonathan
Husse, Stephen Smith, Phillip Mason, Ruluff White, Oliver Parker, Johnathan Hale
and Daniel Sherman, surveyors of highways:
Lemuel Levenworth, collector, (he was superceded June 17 by Justus Holt(:
William Barker, collector of tax: Edmond
Jenks, Benjamin Baker, William Smith, Jedediah Hurd and John Kilburn, committee
of safety. Their business was to watch and thwart the tories, Indians,
British and other enemies of American liberty.
Similar officers existed in all the towns, and kept the courage of the
people of New England from slumbering.
The first town tax on record was £100, for making and repairing the
highways, to be paid in labor at two shillings six pence per day, or Indian corn
at two shillings six pence per bushel. The
building and support of the roads was then, as now, a heavy burden. A stony soil, rapid running streams, enormous tree stumps and
steep hillsides must have made the travelling anything but desirable in olden
times. It was voted to pay the
collector of taxes nine pence on the pound for collecting of rates.
This was equal to 3 3-4 per cent. The
collector of the present day gets 11-16 of 1 percent for this work.
The pay of town officers was not so large as to cause much wire pulling
to get offices. For the first year the bills of the selectmen were as
follows: Reuben Hinman, one pound,
thirteen shillings; Phillip Mason, nine shillings; Israel Jones, eighteen
shillings, receiving thirty-six for one, Continental money having depreciated to
less than three cents on the dollar. The
assessors were each allowed £3 for their services, at the ratio of forty for
one. The practice of sinking taxes
began in the very first year, nineteen pounds and twelve shillings, due from six
different unfortunates, were abated in the collectors’ bills.
The number of voters at the time of the town’s organization is not
ascertainable. An estimate,
however, may be formed from the vote case April 19, 1779, in favor of forming a
new state constitution. It was
unanimous—44 present—and a delegate was empowered to represent the town in a
At a town meeting held November 5, 1779, the question of annexing a part
of Adams to New Providence-now Cheshire- was put and decided in the negative;
yeas 24, nays 48. This would show
72 votes cast. As such a local
question must have been somewhat exciting, it may be supposed that special
efforts were made to bring out the voters, and that their attendance was full.
A town meeting was held May 1st, 1780, for the purpose of
considering the new constitution or frame of government.
Two of the articles were passed by 60 votes.
One relative to the judiciary was rejected unanimously, and that the
judges mentioned should be elected annually.
One relative to the executive power was voted against unanimously, with
this objection: That every person
liable to do duty ought to have a voice in choosing the officers to command him. Article 2 of chapter 6 was passed with this addition, That
the justice be debarred from holding a seat in the General Court.
A committee, consisting of Nathan Comstock, Justus Holt and John Eaton,
was appointed to examine and make amendments.
The watchful, independent spirit of the people of that time is seen in
these votes in favor of an elective judiciary, elective military officers, and
the separation of the judicial and legislative departments of the state.
During the two or three years after the town’s organization, town
meetings were very frequent. They
were held every few weeks. In 1779
there were ten. A great deal of
work had to be done. The critical
events of the war raised new questions continually for the voters to act upon;
and it is no disparagement to the early settlers to say that they were
inexperienced in the arts of wire-pulling and sly political scheming, and could
not “Fix” things so they would stay “fixed” for a whole year.
Besides the feeling of the town was very democratic, and the voters would
not tolerate encroachments or meddlesomeness by their officers. The votes in regard to the constitution of 1780 show a
wholesome distrust of rulers.
The patriotism of the early settlers is evinced by their liberal
contribution toward carrying on the revolution.
Probably no community in the state was more deeply imbued with the spirit
of ’76, or more free in offering her best blood and her hard-earned property
to the cause. Money she had little
or none, as is proved by the taxes being paid in produce.
Following are some resolves of the various town meetings, copied from the
5, 1779 – Voted to give the nine months men ten dollars a month, to be
paid in grain at the stipulated price, viz:
What at 6 shillings, rye at 4 shillings and Indian corn at 3 shillings
per bushel, and 100 Continental dollars as a bounty before the march.
23, 1779 – Voted that the selectmen make provision for the men that
are draughted to the place of rendezvous.
20, 1790 – Made choice of David Smith, John Kilburn, Ambros Parker,
committee of safety.
May 25, 1780
– Voted to pay William Harrendeen 270 Continental dollars to make good the
depreciation of money due to him as wages, for service in the Continental army.
20, 1780 – Voted that the town will raise money by a tax to hire their
quota of soldiers to serve in the Continental army six months.
Voted to give each man that shall engage in the service for six months a
bounty of two pounds ten shillings for each month he shall serve, to be paid in
produce at the stipulated price or in money equal thereto.
10, 1780 – Voted that Captain Reuben Hinman be refunded the sum of
three hundred dollars, which sum he gave a six months man, out of the town
Voted that the three months men now to be raised have fifty shillings per
month in addition to the state wages, to be paid in the same manner and at the
same time for the six months men are paid.
28, 1780 = Voted that a committee be appointed to report what bounty
shall be given to the soldiers now to be raised for three years.
Voted that Enos Parker, Levi Brown and Samuel Law be a committee for that
Report of the committee – That each person who shall engage in the
Continental army for three years, or during the present war, shall be entitled
to receive the sum of fifty pounds per year for every year he shall serve,
including the Continental pay, and each soldier so engaged shall receive the sum
of thirteen pounds previous to his marching if he chooses, thirteen pounds more
at the expiration of the first year, and the remainder of the money annually.
Voted that the town agree to and will comply with the above report.
12, 1781 – The question being put whether the town will agree to class
its inhabitants in order to raise its quota of men for the Continental service,
voted in the negative.
Voted to choose a committee to hire or raise said men.
Voted that Joab Stafford, Solomon Gardner, Giles Barnes, Sam’l, Lowe
and Sam’l Day be a committee for the above purpose.
15, 1781 – Voted to lay a tax on the town of three hundred pounds hard
money for the purpose of procuring a stock of ammunition and defraying town
chares, Continental currency to be received at the common exchange.
19, 1781 – Voted that each soldier engaging to serve in the
Continental army three months shall receive from the town of Adams the sum of
four pounds for each month he shall serve, to be paid in silver or in grain;
wheat at six shillings, rye at four shillings and Indian corn at three shillings
per bushel; the soldier so engaging to sign an order for the selectmen of Adams
to draw his state wages; that three pounds of the four be paid such soldier
previous to his marching, if required, and the remainder by the first day of
Voted to assess a tax on the inhabitants of Adams for the sum of two
thousand one hundred and eight pounds state money, to purchase 24,000 weight of
beef and a quantity of clothing.
17, 1781 – The question being put whether the town will make good the
wages of the six and three months men, carried in the negative.
21, 1782 – The question being put whether the town will do anything
toward procuring a man to serve three years in the Continental army for Captain
Isaac Hathaway’s class, voted in the negative
is here very proper to give South Adams her full credit as the principal
settlement in the time of the Revolution. The “South End,” so called in the records as early as
July, 1780, had probably ten times as many inhabitants seventy-five years ago as
the “North End,” and the latter could never have caught up and gone ahead
but for her more extensive water power on the two streams.
The land is much better for farming in the vicinity of South Adams, and
her sturdy yeomanry were for many years the backbone of the settlement.
Therefore, the patriotism and self-sacrifice of Revolutionary times were
chiefly displayed by our southern friends, and are not cited here as proofs of
the early glory of this part of the town. It
had little or no glory, because there was scarcely anybody living here to let
their light of patriotism shine. On
the site of this village there were probably not five houses in 1780.
Following is an exact copy of an antique paper whereby a soldier of this
town bound himself to serve in the Revolutionary army three years:
Benjmin Hazzard of the Common Welth of massachusetts County of Berkshire and
Town of Adams have inlisted my Self as A Soldier in the Sarvice of the United
States of America For the Time of Three years and Promis to Obey and Subject my
Self to all the Laws and Regulations of the Army and my Superior Officer in
Witness whare of I have Set my hand this Twenty Third Day of march 1781 and For
Class No 2 of Whome Mr. Darius Bucklin is Head.
Among the first settlers of the township of Adams were Abiel Smith and
his sons Gideon and Jacob, John Kilborn and John McNeal of Litchfield, Conn.;
Reuben Hinman and Jonathan Smith of Woodbury, and Messrs. Parker, Cook and
Leavenworth of Wallingford. These
settlers, and others who settled with them, did not remain a long time.
Most of them sold their land to purchasers from Rhode Island, many of
them Quakers. Others not belonging
to that order soon followed from the same state, until Rhode Islanders occupied
nearly the whole town, and Adams still contains many of their descendants.
The site of this memorable fortress is so near our village, and literally
at the extreme north end of the town of Adams, that a brief recapitulation of
its history will be most appropriate.
About 1741 Fort Massachusetts was built in a narrow part of the valley
leading toward Williamstown. It was
a part of the line of defense erected to protect the northern and western
settlements of New England against French and Indian hostilities.
The enemy directed their principal movements toward Connecticut river,
but some came down the Hudson, and, proceeding eastward up the Hoosac, assailed
this fortification in smaller or larger parties, and several bloody skirmishes
The fort was located in a then very exposed position, pushed far out into
the wilderness, twenty or thirty miles from any abode of civilized man.
Williams and his hardy companions erected their fort of logs, surrounded
with pickets of squared timbers driven into the ground so as to form a
continuous fence, mounted with a few iron guns on swivels, and defensible
against musketry alone. The
garrison at this time numbered about fifty men.
After being rebuilt, in 1747, the fort was garrisoned by one hundred men.
Feebly can the present generation conceive of the hardships endured by
these brave men nearly a century and a half ago.
Besides the regular garrison duty, small scouting parties were
continually ranging the woods from one fort on the line of defense to another,
penetrating far into the northern wilderness, to discover the Indian trail,
intercept and defeat their war parties. Armed
with his gun, hatchet and scalping-knife, with provisions and blanket on his
back, the hardy soldier scoured the woods in quest of the savage, to meet him
with his own weapons and on his own ground.
Every tangled thicket was the place of ambush, and the tomahawk and
scalping-knife ever gleamed before his eyes.
The garrison of Fort Massachusetts had its full share of this adventurous
June 11th, 1745, the enemy appeared, attacking a number of men
who were at a distance form the fort, wounded two, Elisha Nims and Gershom
Hawks, and took Benj. Tenter captive. One
of the enemy was killed, and the others fled after a short skirmish.
May 6th, 1746, as Sargeant John Hawks and John Miles were
riding out from the fort they were fired upon and wounded by the Indians.
Miles escaped to the fort. Hawks,
having the spirit of an eagle, fought for some time, and might have made both
the Indians prisoners had he understood their language, for they asked for
quarter before he took leave of them.
August 20th, 1746, an army of about 900 French and Indians,
under General De Vaudreuil, made an attack upon the fort.
Colonel Hawks, who was in command at that time, had only twenty-two
effective men, and thirty-three persons, including men, women and children.
He was also short of ammunition. Yet,
under such discouraging circumstances, this Massachusetts colonel defended the
fort twenty-eight hours against the Canadian general with more than forty times
his number of men, and would probably never have surrendered had his powder and
balls held out. He finally
capitulated, upon terms which were violated by the French commander.
It was agreed that none of the prisoners should be delivered to the
Indians; but De Vaudreuil gave up half his captives to the savages, on the plea
that he could not otherwise pacify them. The
Indians immediately killed on of the prisoners, who was sick and unable to
travel. In the seige Colonel Hawks
lost but one man, while the enemy, as near as could be ascertained, lost
forty-five, killed or mortally wounded. The
fort was demolished by De Vandreuil. The prisoners were marched to Canada, where twelve of them
sickened and died. The residue,
with other prisoners, were sent in a vessel with a flag of truce to Boston,
where they arrived August 16.1747. Rev.
John Norton, chaplain of the fort at the time it was taken, wrote an account of
his captivity, which was published. Another
of the prisoners was Benjamin Simons, who afterward became a distinguished
inhabitant of Williamstown and a colonel of militia.
May 25, 1747, while the fort was being rebuilt by the government of
Massachusetts, who sent a large force thither, an army of the enemy came to
hinder the undertaking; but they fled on a sally from the fort and being also
frightened by the return of about 100 men from Albany with military stores and
provisions. There were charges of cowardice in connection with this
affair, and “bush fighting” has a tendency to beget extreme caution, if not
timidity, in many men. In this
skirmish three persons were wounded, and a friendly Indian from Stockbridge was
October 1st, 1747, Peter Burvee was taken prisoner near the
fort, and went into his second captivity from the same spot, having been one of
De Vaudreuil’s prisoners two years before.
August 2nd, 1748, the fort was commanded by Captain Ephriam
Williams, the founder of Williams College, who grant of two hundred acres of
land in East Hoosac has been already mentioned.
Four men were fired upon while outside the fort.
Captain Williams sallied out with thirty men, and after driving the enemy
about a furlong a party of fifty Indians in ambuscade suddenly fired and
endeavored to cut off his retreat. By
a quick movement he regained the fort, having one man, a Mr. Abbott, killed, and
two, Lieutenant Hawley and Ezekiel Wells, wounded.
At once a large body of three hundred Indians and thirty French advanced
and opened their fire on the fort. After
sustaining a sharp fire from the garrison for two hours, the enemy despaired
from effecting anything, and drew off with their killed and wounded.
On the cessation of hostilities, in the fall of 1748, the forces on the
frontier were reduced, and a small garrison left at Fort Massachusetts.
When the last French and Indian war broke out, in 1754, immediate
measures of defense were adopted by the General Court of this state.
Fort Massachusetts was strengthened and the garrison increased, making it
the foster mother of the infant settlements in the town, now known as North
Adams, Adams, and Williamstown. This
command was continued to Ephraim Williams, with a colonel’s commission in the
provincial army of 3000 men which undertook the expedition to Crown Point.
At Fort Massachusetts he met his old companions in arms, and gave them
his last words of council and encouragement.
Tradition informs us that at the parting interview some slight
expressions fell from his lips of the
purpose to leave to them, in the event of his death, more substantial tokens of
his regard. This generous purpose was carried out by his bequest of
property to open a free school in the west township – now Williamstown; a
handfall of good seed which sprung up in the noble harvest of Williams College.
After the lamented death of Colonel Williams, in battle with the French
and Indians near Dieskau, near the southern extremity of Lake George, September
8, 1755, the oversight of Fort Massachusetts was committed, it is believed, to
Captain Wyman. He is known to
have lived in the house within the pickets, and to have occupied the land
reserved for the use of the fort.
June 7, 1756, a body of the enemy came again to this fort.
Benjamin King and a man named Meacham were killed.
The garrison was probably withdrawn and the fortification began to decay
immediately after the conquest of Canada, in 1759.
In the time of the revolution it was a ruin, many of the solid old
timbers having been taken to erect less patriotic structures.
Tradition states that the three-quarters of an acre of land was inclosed
within the stockade, and that there were five or six blockhouses, with families
The site of the fort—as everybody knows—is on a slight rise of land
in the beautiful meadow now owned by Mrs. Bradford Harrison.
A thrifty elm tree marks the spot. It
was planted in the spring of 1858 by Prof. A L. Perry and some of the students
of Williams College.
Captain Clement Harrison, who purchased in 1830 of the administrators of
Isreal Jones, Esq., the farm on which his grandson now resides, discovered in
his work of renovating the soil many relics of the fort, and munitions of the
old, bloody times of deep significance. Hundreds
of bullets, coroded and turned white, Indian arrow-heads curiously carved of
flint, a metal tomahawk, the muzzle of a small cannon, several bombshells,
pieces of pots and kettles, broken bottles in which the pretended “good
liquor” of former days was perhaps contained, a silver spoon with a very large
and nearly round bowl, strongly-made but badly rusted jackknives and cartloads
of brickbats are among these curious and suggestive mementoes.
Captain Harrison presented many of them to chance visitors, and a
considerable variety to the cabinet at Williams College, where they attract the
reverent gaze of all who have any sentiment of the hero-worship in their nature.
Captain Harrison, from the indications discovered in clearing up that
part of his farm where the fort stood, was of the opinion that there were six
different houses, or log cabins, within the inclosure, scattered three of four
rods apart; and that the inclosure may have been double the size mentioned
above, or one and a half to two acres. Solid,
large beams of pine timber were found on one place, and masses of brick and
brickbats where the six chimneys had stood.
Southwest of the fort was the burial ground.
Though the graves were long since leveled, in the summer of 1852 a
headstone was found and carried to Williams College, by Captain Harrison’s
permission. The stone is shaped like a letter V with the bottom cut off;
it is about two feet nine inches in height, four inches thick, and sloping in
width from sixteen inches at the top to six inches at the bottom.
It is a common dark stone, and is apparently just as it was found, never
having been wrought at all except to cut the letters and figures upon it.
Prof. Perry was fortunate in being the means of saving so interesting a
relic. Had it remained on the
meadow the letters, already dim, would before now have become quite illegible.
Once such inscription as the following is worth more, as authority, than
any amount of tradition:
This is undoubtedly the Elisha Nims mentioned above as having been
wounded June 11,1745 and his death took place the following day.
In the grave beneath this stone the partially decayed skeleton of a man
was found, and lodged in one of the joints or vertebrae of his backbone was the
fatal bullet which caused his death. This
bone, with the bullet in it, may be seen at Williams College, a sad memento of
the marksmanship of those perilous days. The
thigh bones are very sound and perfect, and of large size, indicating that their
owner was over six feet tall. The
skull was perfect, and the jaw had every tooth sound, excepting one gone. Tradition states that this young man was shot outside the
fort, while obtaining water from the excellent spring on the north bank.
There was a well inside the fort, but the preference for spring water is
not strange in any one, and especially not in those who toiled as the soldiers
of that day did. Tradition also states that an Indian was shot on the north
bank by a soldier named Howland, with a “long gun,”
after he had repeatedly and grossly insulted the men in the fort.
Instances occurred in which the enemy were thus killed at the
extraordinary distance of sixty rods, and they often fell when they supposed
themselves in perfect security. Habituated to sharp-shooting, the garrison signaled out the
assailants whenever they exposed themselves, and brought them down at a long
shot. The bank west of the Harrison
residence, on which this saucy redskin is supposed to have stood when he
received his punishment, is still called the “Indian ledge”.
In the burial ground were four other small headstones but they bore no
inscriptions. The names of the men whose honored dust they marked are
unknown. They have faded into
obscurity, together with a thousand incidents that would interest and astonish
the present generation, accustomed as it is to plenty, security, and ease.
Some of the first settlers of the town were soldiers located at Fort
Massachusetts. One of them, a
John Perry, had settled here, built for himself a home and cleared a small farm
at the time the prisoners were taken, August 10, 1746, he being one of them.
His house and effects it seems were destroyed, and a short time after his
release from captivity he petitioned the General Court for compensation for his
losses. This quaint petition, which
is given below, was disregarded by the Court.
It is dated November 5, 1747, less than three months after his return
“Whereas, your Honors’ humble Petitioner enlisted in the service of
the country, under the command of Ephriam Williams, in the year 1745, and was
posted at Fort Massachusetts, in Hoosuck, and upon ye encouragement we had from
ye late Colonel John Stoddard, which was that if we went, with our families, he
did not doubt but that ye court would grant us land to settle on, whereupon, I,
your Honors’ humble petitioner, carried up my family with my household goods
and other effects, and continued there till we were taken, when we were obliged
to surrender to the French and Indian enemy, August 20th, 1746.
I would humbly lay before your Honors the losses I sustained then, which
are as followeth: A house which I
built there for my family, £80; two feather beds with their furniture, £100;
two suits of apparel a piece for me and my wife, £150; two brass kettles, a pot
of pewter, with tramel tongue and fire slice, and knives and forks to ye balance
of £20; one crosscut saw, £20; and one new broadax, £5; three new narrow
axes, £8; two steele traps, £14; two guns; £32; one pistol, £5; one hundred
weight of sugar £20; total £457, with a great many other things not named.
The losses your humble petitioner hath met with, together with my
captivity, hath reduced me to low circumstances, and now humbly prayeth your
Honors of your goodness to grant him a grant of land to settle upon near ye
forts, where I fenced, which was about a mile west of the fort, or elsewhere,
where your Honors pleaseth, and that your Honors may have a full reward
hereafter for all your pious and charitable deeds, your Honors’ humble
petitioner shall always pray.”
This date places John Perry as the first settler in the Hoosac Valley,
though he never returned here after his captivity.
The estimates he made of the property, it must be remembered, were in
“lawful money,” that is, Colonial bills made legal tender, and these during
that very years, were being redeemed by Massachusetts at the rate of eleven for
one silver dollar.
location of this village proper, by the original survey, was known as part of
settling lot No. 24. The great water power -- the Hoosac river then being, much
deeper than now -- and the probability of the early erection of mills here, must
have attracted the attention of farmers and other settlers to this point, as it
will be recollected that in the year 1750 Captain Ephraim Williams was bound, in
consideration of the grant of 200 acres of land, to "build a grist and saw
mill within two years on the Hoosac river, and the same in repair for twenty
years." These mills were erected at North Adams. The dam was thrown across
the river at, or near where the furnace and machine shop of James Hunter &
Son now stands, just above the Main street bridge. The grist mill was upon the
west and the saw mill upon the east side of the river, about where the machine
shop is now located. An old-fashioned trestle bridge, uncovered, with no railing
except a huge log, on each side, but supported by strong abutments, spanned the
river just below the mills, and exactly where the "Phoenix bridge" now
dam and mills were erected by a Mr. Hurd, undoubtedly according to some
arrangement made by Captain Williams with him. Although no data can be
ascertained of the time of erection, yet it is reasonable to suppose that it was
as early as 1752, in order to conform to the requirements of the grant. Mr. Hurd,
perhaps the Jedediah Hurd who was on the committee of safety in 1779, sold the
water power and mills directly to Elisha Jones, or to some one who did sell to
him, before or in the early part of the Revolution. Elisha Jones was the father
of [sic or] Captain Isreal Jones, a staunch Whig, and a member of the first
board of selectmen in Adams; but Elisha, his father and several brothers, it is
said, were Loyalists, and having left in the year of the battle of Bennington,
1777, probably to avoid the rough Whig discipline of tar and feathers and
fence-rail riding, this mill privilege and five acres of land adjoining,
principally on the east side, were confiscated to the Commonwealth. Giles Barnes
derived his title from a committee of the Massachusetts Legislature, appointed
to take care of "spoils" of the Tories.
In 1780 Mr. Barnes had a partner,
for at a town meeting held October 25th of that year it was voted that "the
bridge near Day Barnes' mills be repaired at the town's expense." Mr.
Barnes appears to have been a business man of some ability, for he was chosen
assessor at the March meeting in 1780, and selectman and town clerk in 1781. In
1782 he seems to have become sole owner, of the mills again, for a road survey
was made on the west side of the river at Mr. Barnes' mill." along the very
spot from which the iron horse now runs his race with "old Sol" toward
The staunch Whig patriotism of
Isreal Jones has been denied. The grounds of denial were that he is believed to
absented himself from town in 1777, the year of Burgoyne's capture; that his
family connections were Tories, and fled to the British provinces; that his
chimney tops were painted white, the usual telegraphic signal of Torvism in the
days of the Revolution. Whatever rumors may have been afloat respecting Mr.
Jones' political sentiments, they did not affect hiss standing among his
townsmen, who were zealous Whigs and sagacious observers. His character as a
man, a citizen and a Christian impeached. He was a member of the first board of
selectmen chosen in 1779, and held town offices innumerable for years, being,
very frequently moderator in town meetings. He was chosen representative to the
General Court of Massachusetts In 1785, re-elected in '86, and re-elected again
for six years, from 1792 to 1797, inclusive.
Isreal Jones was the fourth of fifteen children, and was born in Weston, Middlesex County, in this state. Hiss father, Elisha Jones, was one of the three original proprietors of the township of Adams. Isreal first settled in Pittsfield, but removed to East Hoosac in 1766. He owned and resided for sixty-three years on the farm now occupied by Robert Harrison. He was extensively engaged in settling and dealing in lands. Many of the early deeds were given by him, either as principal or agent. He was by profession and in practice an excellent surveyor, and was constantly employed in that capacity. Most of the roads described in the town records were laid out by him. The federal government, in 1798, appointed him, one of the commissioners to adjust the line between the United States and southeastern Canada.
He was a trustee first of the free
school and afterward of the college in Williamstown. He was probably one of the
first Justices of the Peace appointed in town, and served in that capacity more
or less for forty years. He married, in 1767, Alithea, daughter of Rev. Mr.
Todd, the first minister settled in this town, and lived with her fifty-nine
years. They had nine children. In 1803 he became a member of the church in
Williamstown, and regularly attended worship there until lie aided in organizing
the Congregational church in this village, in 1827. Although a small man in
stature, he must have possessed all iron constitution, as he was active, hale
and hearty up to the very day of his death, September 11, 1829, when he lacked
only ten days of being ninety-one years of age. He rode on horseback to Stamford
and returned the forenoon before his death. Laying down to take an after-dinner
nap, as was his custom, desiring to be called in an hour, that he might ride to
Williamstown before night. When his daulghter tried to awaken him the effort was
in vain; his soul had departed without a struggle. His death created a profound
sensation, for he was truly one of the pillars of the town amid its early
The site of this village was
formerly a pine forest, with some white oak intermingled. The principal staple
of early traffic was, therefore, pine and other lumber, and the material of
which the fences and many of the earlier, buildings were constructed was such as
to give it the name of " Slab City." Like those farmers who eat only
such produce as they can't sell, many of the men who built took lumber that was
not merchantable. The stumps of huge trees remained for a long time in the very
streets, and Main street, it is said, was only cleared by a "bee" of
some fifty men, with teams, headed by that indefatigable roadmaker, Jere
Colgrove, Sr. The digging of cellars and the preparation of gardens were very
much impeded by these stumps. In times of freshet the lower portion of the
village was flooded by the river, rocks of enormous size and gravel by the ton
being distributed plentifully across the "flats." There are evidences
of the river having formerly been much broader than now, and it certainly rose
higher and was more ungovernable at the dreaded season of "breaking
up" of the ice after the vigorous winters of one hundred years ago. The
furious flood has been known to sweep from the point where the lower bridge on
Union street is located across the entire village south, to the bank bordering
Church and Summer streets. The entire flat where now most of the trade and
mercantile business of the village are transacted, would be washed with an ice
cold stream, driving the settlers from their houses, sweeping away or greatly
damaging the little property they possessed, and literally drowning the hopes
they had cherished of a prosperous season, by obliging them to begin anew. The
clearing up of the forests and consequent drying of the springs, as well as the
more gradual melting of the snow, has diminished the volume of water in all the
streams, and such extraordinary freshets are no longer to be feared. Like other
dangers, out of sight, they are out of mind.
The village site and its immediate
vicinity was called by early settlers the poorest part of the town of Adams. It
was miserable land for farming purposes, like most pine land. The first farmers
preferred settling on the mountain slope; they said the "flat would hardly
bear white beans." The pine lumber, however, was of first rate quality.
Tradition states that one tree was felled of the extraordinary height of 114
feet to the first limb. Very little pine timber grew at any other point within a
dozen miles or more.
About the Year 1756, and during the
last French war a saw mill was erected near the site of the cotton mill now
owned by the Freeman Manufacturing Company, called the "Estes mill."
This saw mill is supposed to have been on the south bank of the river and the
primitive forest extended to the north bank. Tradition further states that an
Indian, standing on a rock on the north bank, fired across the river and shot
the man who was running the mill while he was at work, and caused his death.
This was the Indian method of warfare.
Oliver Parker, Sr., who settled in
this town in 1766, and was a conspicuous Whig and a town officer for many years,
built two dams and a saw and grist mill at the "upper union" -- the
saw mill standing near the southern end of the Eclipse mill and the grist mill
near the northern end. These mills were in operation before 1780, and did
considerable business. They were carried off in the terrible freshet in the
month of April, 1785, called the "Parker's flood" for many Years
after, on account of the damage it inflicted upon him. He lost about 50,000 feet
of sawed lumber by the flood, and the grist mill stones were lodged in the bed
of the river, and remained there visible for many years. This flood was one of
those which deluged almost the entire village, as above described. Giles Barnes,
whose mill property was in great danger from it, and who was a blunt-spoken man,
said "Noahs flood was the only one that ever equalled it." The only
road to Parker's mills was the old clay-bank road, over Church hill, which
afterward sunk to the ignoble condition of a foot path, but of late years
repaired and made a public highway.
Daniel Harrington built another saw
and grist mill on the site of Parker's mills, probably before 1790. He ran [sic
run] these mills for several years; was reputed a very straightforward man, fair
in his dealings, plain and downright in expressing his opinion.
Amos Bronson, familiarly known as "Elder Bronson," ran a saw mill near the corner of Union street and the road connecting this street with Eagle, past the Eagle mill, prior to 1790. The only road to this was from Eagle street, up the north fork of the river, and is to-day a very passable highway, making a short cut out between Eagle and Union streets. Mr. Bronson lived in an old house at the corner of River and Eagle streets, which was torn, down in 1858 to make room for the store now occupying that site. Elder Bronson was a remarkable man in many respects. He was a very ingenious mechanic, a millwright, a carpenter, and, in fact, handy at anything. He worked by the day at almost any jobs. He was a sort of doctor and a preacher of the Baptist denomination. He labored in the latter capacity for many years. Though plain and rough-cast in his speech and manners, he was a man of sterling honesty and sincere piety. He removed West before 1815 and died there at a very advanced age.
In 1792 or '93 David Estes came to
this town from Rhode Island. In 1795 he bought settling lot No. 25, embracing
all the land north of Centre street almost to Liberty, and extending eastward to
the site of the Freeman Print Works. This lot was formerly owned by Murray &
Jones, who were among, the original grantees of the towidhip. Murray fled in the
Revolutionary struggle, being a Tory, and his share of the lot was confiscated.
Eli Persons bought it of the Commonwealth and sold it to Burrall Sutton and
Burrall Wells. These parties sold it to Jencks Ruttenfur, and he in turn sold it
to David Estes for £150, or about $500 of our money at that time. This lot was
in those days a complete wilderness, and valuable only for its mill privileges.
The garden plats did not thrive.
David Estes was a man of great
industry and economy, and had a keen eye for practical utility. He commenced
making cut nails by manual labor in 1793 or '94, having procured the tools in
Rhode Island, and brought the nail rods from Salisbury, Conn., in a one-horse
cart. The nails were cut of proper length by heavy shears, and headed cold in
dies brought together by pressure of the foot on a spring. Most of the early
buildings after Mr. Estes came were put up with his nails. They were tough, and
would clinch like wrought iron -- differing from the deceitful cut nails of
modern times. Many of these nails, taken out of old buildings, would last
another century, and many yet remain in buildings. Shingle nails sold for 17
cents per pound, or 50 cents per 1000; larger nails at from 12 1-2 to 15 cents
per pound. Saddle nails were also made by Mr. Estes, and sold in Brattleboro,
Greenfield and many other places. The nail business was continued until about
the year 1810, when Mr. Estes became absorbed in more extensive enterprises.
In February, 1794, Jere. Colgrove,
Sr., with his brother-in-law, Elisha Brown of North Providence, R. I., bought
Giles Barnes' property, heretofore mentioned as doubtless the first mill in
North Adams. The estate included an old saw and grist, mill, the mill privilege
and about 80 acres of land, 5 acres being west of the river and a part of the
confiscated lot No. 26. The remaining 75 acres were east of the river, and is
now the most thickly settled part of the village. It included a 1 1-2 story
frame house, standing near the corner of Main and Marshall streets, having a
large garden. The price paid Mr. Barnes was about $1200. Most of the pine timber
had been cut off. The mills, being probably forty years old, were much
dilapidated. The grist mill was never run by Mr. Colgrove and the saw mill was
only run to prepare lumber for building new mills. The following year he built a
new dam where the present dam of M. D. & A. W. Hodge now is, and a grist
mill on the present site of their grist mill, thus obtaining a greater head of
water than Barnes' mills enjoyed. The new saw mill was directly opposite, on the
west side of the river. These mills stood until about the year 1820. They
enjoyed a steady run of custom. Wheat was a staple crop on new land, one farmer
in the notch raising nearly 700 bushels in one year. Lumber for building
purposes was also furnished on contracts by Mr. Colgrove. After the first year
he operated the mills alone, having purchased the interest of Mr. Brown.
About the year 1800 Jeremiah
Colgrove built an oil-mill on the west side of the river. The process of
manufacturing oil by him was quite simple. Flax seed was crushed between iron
rollers and under mill stones; it was then mixed with water, heated and steamed
in all iron barrel, then pressed with a screw-press of great power, operated by
a horizontal wheel that would turn the screw up or down as might be desired. The
arms of this press consisted of two oaken logs of the utmost solidity and
strength that could be obtained. They squeezed out the oil in a pure state. It
was sold in Troy, Albany and elsewhere. The oil cake being an excellent article
of food for cattle and sheep, met with a quick sale in the vicinity of the mill.
Flax being extensively raised in this section and made into domestic linen, the
seed was plentifully obtained and the oil business paid well.
The introduction of cotton cloth,
and the rapidity with which it superceded home-made linen, blighted the culture
of flax and the seed could not be obtained cheaply enough to render the business
a lucrative one. It gradually declined after the year 1828 and the oil of this
mill ceased to lubricate the wheels of the machinery here about 1830. The mill
was run by various parties, among them being, E. D. Whitaker who in 1827
advertised in the first newspaper printed in the village for "500 bushels
flax seed." Portions of this mill were afterwards used in the construction
of a grist and saw mill run by water and steam power, and which was burned in
Prior to 1785 there were only five
dwellings in the village.
Giles Barnes resided in one standing on the west side of Marshall street near the corner of Main. The cellar afterwards formed a part of the ditch for the old Brick Factory. This is believed to have been the first house erected in North Adams. It was a one-story structure.
Josiah Wright resided in a house on
Marshall street, just south of the Arnold Print Works property.
Eli Colton, from Wilbraham, built
and resided in a house on the present site of the old part of the Berkshire
Samuel Day resided in a house near
the corner of Main and State streets, which was afterwards part of the Old Black
Tavern building, most likely the eastern part of that famous structure.
Wm. Farrand purchased and lived in a
house on the site of the large square house on the hill at the foot of Main
street and west of the main street bridge.
The principal land holders in the
village in the year 1795, were Jeremiah Colgrove Sr., Israel Jones, David Estes
and David Darling. In the year 1794 when Mr. Colgrove moved here there were less
than a dozen dwellings in the whole village. Their locations and the occupants
names were as follows:
A small house occupied by Mr. Rose,
stood on the site of the dwelling, on Robinson's hill at the foot of Main
Asa Doty resided in a house located
under the hill, a little west and north of Main street bridge. The same was many
years afterwards occupied by Hodge & Dean, tanners, in part for finishing
off leather, etc.
Mr. Corliss lived in a house just in
the rear of where now stands the Berkshire house.
Amos Bronson had a dwelling on
ground where Freeman's store is located north of Eagle bridge and corner of
River and Eagle streets.
David Darling, owned and resided in
a low structure and kitchen attached to same, which afterwards formed the east
wing of what is familiarly known as the "Black Tavern," on the corner
of Main and State streets. In 1795 Mr. Darling opened and kept a public house in
this small structure, the first and for a long time the only hotel in North
Adams, and to be particularly described hereafter.
Ebeneezer Slocum resided in a house
on Church street.
Elisha Houghton had a dwelling about
25 rods north of the one above mentioned, believed to be on the site of house at
south corner of Liberty and Eagle streets.
David Estes owned and occupied the
house now standing on Centre street, west of J. A. Bond & Bros.' stable. No
street was then laid out and only a foot path or lane lead from his house to
Captain Geo. Ray lived in a dwelling
near the river bank a little north of the site of Hodges grist mill.
Josiah Holbook lived in a log house
near the residence of Ivory Witt on State street.
Jeremiah Colgrove Sr. resided in a
small frame house near the corner of Marshall and Main streets until 1810.
Total number of dwellings in 1794,
Holbrook, mentioned above, was a man of giant stature, almost as large boned as
the horse he bestrode. He had a voice like thunder, and was remarkably bold and
determined in spirit. He was one of the American volunteers at the battle of
Benninton in 1777, and tradition states that he made prisoners of thirteen of
the Hessian soldiers who had wandered from the battle field. He caught them
drinking at a spring, seized all their guns and pointing one at them while lie
shouldered the others, bawled in terrible tones to his imaginary comrads to
"Come on, boys! here they are," drove the whole baker's dozen of
mercenaries, like unresisting sheep, into the camp. On being questioned by
General Stark as to the manner in which such a herd was captured, he replied
"I surrounded them, sir." Mr. Holbrook was one of the rebels under
Shays in 1786, and marched eastward with several others. After the defeat of
that movement and his return home, a party of four troopers tried in vain to
arrest him, but be frighted [sic frightening] them away. He was only captured by
a company surrounding his house at night, breaking in the door, seizing him and
binding him to the bed. He submitted because he could not help it. Gave up all
his arm, took the oath of alliegance to the commonwealth, and was released. His
name with junior appended, his father being of the same name, appears in the
town records as one of the rebels who was pardoned by General Lincoln when he
marched into this county in 1787. Mr. Holbrook resided in this house for many
years, and though it is some 80 rods south of Main street, it was a standing
joke among the villagers that Holbrook's whisper could be distinctly heard by
everybody when be was out of doors, while his voice resounded to the top of
Hoosac mountain. He had one of those heroic souls set in an iron constitution
that were well fitted to grapple with the difficulties of a new settlement in a
country like this.
obstacles in the way of conducting, business successfully, for want of a
circulating medium, were such as to be beyond the comprehension of the present
generation. There was a constant money pressure, equal to that of hydraulic
power. There was neither money nor property enough in town to pay the taxes and
leave a fair support behind. The rates were abated to a large extent every year.
The old Continental money had depreciated so as to be almost worthless. At the
close of the war it required $20 of this money to buy a dinner, and $1000 or
more to buy a suit of clothes, while the condition of the poor discharged
soldiers, who were paid off in the miserable shinplasters at their normal value
was pitiful indeed.
Parker Sr., in 1777 "got his name up" for tavern-keeping, on the
Isreal Jones (now Harrison) place. Soldiers from the east and southeast passed
through the town on their way to take Burgoyne in such numbers that Landlord
Parker had almost a captain's company to dinner every day for a while, and they
consumed four or five beeves per week. Every nook and cranny of the house was
filled at night, the barrooms and other floors were piled thickly with weary
soldiers, and even the barn and sheds were appropriated for their use. Hardship
and fatigue made sleep sweet on the roughest couch. A large share of these
customers would leave no pay for their entertainment, but the Parkers were too
staunch Whigs to act penuriously toward the defenders of American liberty. Hotel
keeping under these circumstances could not have been a very lucrative business,
and the Continental or "card money" that was paid in had a sort of
imaginary fluctuating value that might make a man the poorer the more he
possessed of it. While Oliver Parker sustained the bodies of the soldiers with
good fare, whether he made or lost by it, his brothers, Didimus and Ezra, with
his nephew Giles, marched to Bennington and shared in the glory of winning that
memorable victory. Didimus Parker was a Captain at Bennington.
At a town meeting held January 17,
1786, it was "voted" that it be recommended to the General Court to
pass a law making both real and personal estate a tender. "Voted"that
it also be recommended to the General Court to strike a paper currency in this
The heavy burden of debt in which
most of the towns were involved by their aid to the Revolution, the suspension
of industrial enterprises and loss of profit therefrom by drawing off so many of
the best men for the army, and especially the lack of a uniform circulating
medium in which payments of all kinds could be made, maddened men into violent
and lawless demonstrations. Shay's rebellion was mainly kindled by the
oppressive load of taxation and the impossibilities of casting of the load
through the courts or Legislature. The state tax imposed on this town was felt
to be peculiarly onerous. In one instance it was not paid under four years. At a
town meeting held January 9, 1792, Israel Jones was chosen an "agent to go
to the General Court and obtain an abatement of the tax laid on the inhabitants
of the town in 1788."
Oliver Parker, Sr., was ruined
pecuniarily, sent to jail and his bondsmen mulcted, because he could not perform
impossibilities -- collect the taxes in such hard times. Town meetings without
number were held on the great question of "how to raise the wind."
Farmers' produce was accepted for taxes at a stipulated price, the town debts
were paid in the same way in 1781, and all the highway taxes were worked out by
men and oxen for many years. But even with a general system it was "hard
sledding." A great many honest, industrious, frugal men were unable to feed
their households and satisfy the tax gatherer from the produce of their stony,
stumpy and rudely tilled acres.
At a town meeting held August 26,
1786, it was voted "that the present assessors of this town be a committee
to settle with the collectors and make abatements of such taxes as they shall
suppose necessary." October 30, 1786, the selectmen were appointed a
committee for the same purpose; but at the same meeting it was voted "that
the collector collect the town taxes and pay them to the town treasurer
immediately, and the town will support him in so doing."
The pressure of poverty was so
severe that the town's poor were increasing with undue rapidity, and March 11,
1791, Ezra Parker was instructed by the selectmen "to warn and give notice
unto twenty-eight persons," whose names were set down in the warrant,
"the same being laborers or transient persons, as the case may be, who have
lately come to this town for the purpose of abiding therein, not having obtained
the town's consent thereto, that he or she depart the limits thereof, with their
children and others under their care, if such they have, within fifteen
days." The constable makes returns that the warning was given by him in due
form to the twenty-eight persons named, and such further legal proceedings were
threatened as will save the town from becoming a paupers' nest. The crime of
being poor and shiftless was more severely punished in those days than now. No
man was allowed to vote, unless he owned a freehold estate of the annual income
of £3, or some estate to the value of £60.
The river and brooks were nobly
stocked with trout at the first settlement here, and before the mills and
factories had bewitched the water. The woods afforded considerable game -- deer,
squirrels, wild fowl, etc. Deer have been shot within the village limits. Bears
ranged the mountains, foxes were more numerous than poultry yards and wolves
were so troublesome that the town offered a bounty for their heads. Among the
early residents there was so much destitution, and yet such a neighborly spirit,
that Giles Barnes, who seems to have been a decided wag, said a family would
make soup of beef bones one day, pass them to another family next day to be made
a second soup of, and so they would go around until the whole settlement had
STORES, TRADING AND BARTER
the men of this town who were implicated in Shay's rebellion, in 1786-7, and
were pardoned on giving up their arms and taking the oath of allegiance to the
Commonwealth, were Joshua Read and Trulove Brewster, traders.
nearly as can now be ascertained, Joshua Read was a trader at Adams, and
probably Trulove Brewster, also. Read was born on a farm in Cheshire. They are
alluded to as the only traders mentioned in the town records prior to 1800, and
if they are mentioned as culprits, that only proves their opponents were the
strongest. If Shays had succeeded, his movement would have been a "glorious
revolution." There was undoubted1v in this region strong sympathy felt for
the insurrection, and some of the "first men" were engaged in it.
first store ever kept within the limits of North Adams, though outside of what
are considered village limits, was by Marshall Jones. He commenced in 1793, in a
shop previously occupied by Christopher Penniman as a cabinet shop. Penniman was
one of the apprentices who came here from Boston with a Mr. Veazie, before 1789.
The shop stood a few rods west of Isreal Jones' house, now Mrs. Harrison's.
After a few months Mr. Jones removed to a building which stood near Daniel
Wells' present residence, and remained there about two years. His father built
the house on Robinson hill, with a store near it, opposite Main street bridge,
and the son removed down into the village and continued in trade for several
years, until he left town. He had kept store about a year when Chad Brown
commenced. The house has undergone some alterations since Mr. Jones' time. The
store was of a red color, and was torn down some few years ago.
A couple of men -- names and date
unknown -- came this village and opened the first store for the sale of dry
goods near the Main street bridge. They did not keep a large stock nor continue
business more than a month or two. The Williamstown traders kept a better
variety and undersold them. In very early times people walked from this place to
Williamstown to purchase groceries or teas. Though the roads were terribly
rough, and the river had to be forded more than once, the stalwart boys (and
frequently the girls) of those days did not shrink from the trip. Indeed, they
enjoyed it. Bounding, health made severe exercise to our ancestors a pastime.
The trade of this town also went to Lanesboro to some extent. Oliver Parker,
Sr., brought grain one season from Greenfield on horseback, by an Indian path
over Hoosac mountain, and a part of it was carried to Williamstown to be ground
at the "Krigger mills," fording the river three times to get there.
These mills had a great reputation.
The first store for the sale of
groceries in this village was kept by William Farrand, near his house. He hauled
the goods from Boston by ox-teams, and therefore kept but a limited stock,
perhaps one or two loads. He sold a bushel of salt to Captain Shippee of
Clarksburg for $10! To say that a man was "not worth the salt for his
porridge" could not be considered in those times a very severe slur,
especially if he ate porridge with a wood-chopper's appetite, for the salt was
the most expensive ingredient.
Sutton & Wells, in 1795, opened
and kept a store for the sale of merchandise, in a shop-like building near or
adjoining the Corliss House, now the site of the Richmond House.
Marshall Jones, in 1800. having
returned to town, built the house and store (now standing) on the 11111 west of
Main street bridge. This building, is now converted into a tenement house. Mr.
Jones kept store there for several years. The building is still substantial
Chad Brown sold goods in a small
building located about on the corner of Bank and Main streets. Mr. Brown was a
man of fair capacity, and was elected Town Clerk in 1802, which office he held
for four years. He finally removed to South Adams, which was then the larger and
more thriving, settlement, and supposed to afford the best field for Yankee
shrewdness in bargaining.
A grocery store was kept where the J. H. Adams block now stands, on Main street.
Dr. James Cummings, in 1803, built a
house, with store in front, and sold general merchandise on the site of the
building, east of L. W. White's jewelry store. This store was afterward occupied
by William E. Brayton as the National Express office and flour and grocery
store. The old store oil this site was kept after Dr. Cummings by Henry
Remmington, also by Tinker & Brayton. Dr. Cummings was a man who combined
world1y wisdom with religious zeal in such proportions as gave him great
influence in the community. He was a conspicuous member of the Baptist church,
organized here in 1808.
Captain Carter kept groceries for sale on Eagle street, in the brick building afterward well known as the "brick meat market," which was near the site of the Catholic church.
Dr. Cummings, in 1810, purchased the
house and lot on Church street on the site of S. Blackinton's residence, and
soon after built a store in front of the house then located there. The store
stood very near the corner. About the year 1826 the store was removed down Main
street, and was afterward owned and occupied by James Brolly as a store, though
it was completely remodeled in 1858.
E. Brayton, in 1822, built a store and carried on the mercantile business. It is
the same building now occupied by Dr. H. J. Millard as a drug store on Main
street. It is said Mr. Brayton would refuse to take butter into the store at ten
cents per pound and pay for the same in goods at a handsome profit, there being
no home market for the article and much uncertainty in sending it to the cities.
Richmond, in 1825, erected a store and kept it on the site of where G. & C.
W. Billings' store now is on Main street.
Ezra D. Whitaker, in 1823, erected the store which he still owns, which is occupied by L. Childs, and followed merchandizing therein, opposite the Berkshire House.
Q. Robinson & Soil, about 182 7, built a store oil their lot, corner of
Alain and Marshall streets, and carried on trade for many years. They had
previously done all extensive business at South Adams.
The tide of enterprise was now beginning to flow a little more strongly in this part of the town.
1816 J. Q. Robinson, Esq., then extensively engaged in merchandizing in Adams,
opened a store in what is now the middle of State street, between the Richmond
House and Martin block. The building was removed to Marshall street and
converted into a shoe shop, now forming a barn in rear of B. F. Robinson's
house. Nehemiah Allen, afterward Judge Allen, kept this store as a clerk for Mr.
Robinson, about one year, with a fair stock of goods.
1826, Caleb B. Turner built and occupied a brick store at the corner of Eagle
and Union Streets. This was the
first store on Eagle street, and was then the best built one in the village.
1778, when Adams was first incorporated, to 1827, nearly half a century, all the
stores which had been kept in the village at different times numbered only
thirteen. In 1825 there were only
five stores, kept by the following persons:
Dr. James Cummings, W. E. Brayton, Edward Richmond, Ezra D. Whitaker and
early and long-continued scarcity of money necessitated a general system of
bartering. The tradesmen and
farmers went “swap, swap, swapping,” everywhere and in almost everything.
Most of the circulation was silver and copper coin, and an old-fashioned
“ninepence,” now so rarely seen, but then one of the most common pieces,
looked nearly as large in the eyes of many persons as the pewter platters from
which they ate their frugal meals. Money
was not emphatically a “cash article.”
No bank of issue was in operation nearer than Troy or Northampton, the
first bank in Berkshire county, The Agricultural of Pittsfield, not being
chartered until 1818, and the Greenfield bank not until 1822.
A man with $25 in his pocket was looked upon as a citizen gloriously
favored by the goddess of fortune. The
usual resort for many years of those who were compelled to raise so small a sum
as $10 for immediate use was to see a promissory note to one of their more
wealthy neighbors at Williamstown. There
were no capitalists here. Every man
was actively conducting business and making each dollar of his profits earn him
another dollar as quickly as possible. He
had seldom any money to lend, or rather he considered it more advantageous to
invest his small funds in his own business than to loan the same to others, and
was therefore apt to be “short.” Whether or not it is creditable to own up to such tight
squeezes, we are stating nothing but what our old residents will recognize as
facts. They deserve to be told for
the benefit of many of the present day, who, as they scatter change and display
bank notes with a lavish hand, seem apparently to have not the slightest
appreciation of the toils, anxiety, and self-denial that weighed down the lives
of the early settlers.
Edward Richmond came to this village in the year 1803.
Only two stores were then kept here, one by Marshall Jones, on the hill
west of Main street bridge, and the other by Dr. Jas. Cummings in a building he
had just erected on the site of where Dr. H. J. Millard’s drug store now is.
calicos were sold at 50 to 75 cents per yard; Bohea tea, 75 cents per pound;
molasses, 67 to 75 cents per gallon; cut nails, 12 1-2 to 17 cents per pound.
Calicos were sold at an earlier date, also during the war of 1812 and
1815, when importation was stopped, for $1 per yard, the quality not being
superior to 10 cent goods of the present day.
As late as 1825, English calicos sold from 30 to 42 cents per yard.
Only six yards of goods were required in those days to make a lady’s
1803, and for a number of years after, the wages of a farm laborer were $80 to
$100 per year. Mechanics’ wages,
including board, $1 per day. The
ten hour system was not in vogue in those days, and carpenters were obliged work
during the long summer days from as early in the morning as they could see the
head of a hammer until as late at night as they could see the head of a nail.
and rye sold from 42 to 50 cents per bushel; oats from 20 to 25; port from $3.50
to $4; BEEF, $2.50 to $4 per cwt.; prime cows, in spring, $15 to $20; the best
horses, $80. Mountain land adjacent
to the village was not salable; $1 per acre was the highest price asked.
About the year 1828 or ’30, William Bradford bought 200 acres of
valuable wood land on Bald mountain, northwest of the village, for $1 per acre.
but few owners of real estate in the early settlement of the village, and no
particular inducement for speculation either in the fertility of the soil or the
rapid development of business. This
was a narrow field for speculators or trading men.
The scarcity of cash made swapping, bartering or credit necessary in
almost every kind of large transaction, and when real estate changed hands, it
was generally by bargains of the above character. As an illustration of this Yankee characteristic may be
mentioned George Whitman, an excellent citizen, a kind neighbor, and a man of
honor and integrity in his dealings. He
was one of our most conspicuous “trading men.”
Being of rather infirm bodily health, he had to rely on his brains rather
than his muscles for a livelihood. His
widow related the following curious facts relative to her husband’s buying,
selling and oftimes removing:
1807 to 1829 he owned eleven different dwellings and lots, and removed fifteen
times. Sometimes she would move
into a house, and before getting her goods in and fairly unpacked and settled
her husband would make another trade, and the summons would come to remove
again! Mr. Whitman owned at various
times four farms, the entire lot of land now forming the Union, large lots of
land in Clarksburg and Florida. He
traded a farm for the Mansion House in Williamstown, traded that for a saw mill
and land, and the last trade before his decease was for the valuable farm and
quarry adjoining this village on the southwest, and now owned by Ivory Witt.
is believed that up to the year 1825 no man settled here with as much as $2000
cash capital; consequently the growth of the place was exceedingly slow, and
even that slow growth was interfered with by the fluctuating tariff policy of
the federal government, which knocked about our early manufacturing enterprises
CARDING, CLOTH FULLING, AND DRESSING.
About the year 1798-9, the first
cloth dressing was done in North Adams by one Roger Wing from Connecticut. The
fulling mill was put into Captain Colgrove's grist mill, and the finishing was
done in a small building near where Burlingame & Darby's store now is. About
1801 a carding machine was also put into Captain Colgrove's grist mill.
In 1801 David Estes, having
constructed a dam across the north branch, erected the first buildings in town
for carding wool and dressing cloth. They stood on the site of the Estes
factory. Roger Wing carried on the clothier's business successfully in the above
named buildings five or six years. He also kept a hotel in the old portion of
the "Black tavern." About 1804 be sold the tavern stand to Bethuel
Finney, Esq., and removed with his clothier's machinery to Granville, N. Y.
In 1804 Captain J. Colgrove, like a
true man of business, not liking to see a vacancy unimproved, erected, for the
purpose of wool carding, cloth fulling and dressing, a two-story building-now
standing, on the east bank of the Hoosac river, the first dwelling north of
Hodges' grist mill. He procured new machinery, and a large share of Wing's
custom flowed to the establishment. About half of each season, from May to
November, was devoted to carding "rolls," for the active, strong-armed
housewives to spin, while in the remainder or winter months of the year, the
cloth dressing was fully performed. The business was carried on by Captain
Colgrove for fifteen years at this mill. He was subjected to the disadvantage of
no previous knowledge of the business. He also had an untiring,
close-calculating competitor in David Estes.
In 1794 Joseph Darby built a
blacksmith shop and set up a trip-hammer, probably the first in North Adams. It was located on the notch road, above Daniel Wells’
residence, about two rods from the stream that flows down the notch.
Mr. Darby made scythes, saws, axes, hoes, steelyards, etc.
The iron was brought from Salisbury, Conn.
Emigrant parties passed through here frequently bound for the “Great
West,” which was then western New York, and Mr. Darby did many jobs for them
in iron work, such as traps, cow bells, etc., besides repairing their vehicles
and shoemaking their horses. It was
then a more dreadful undertaking to move to the shores of Lake Erie than it now
is to move to the shores of the Pacific. Adventurous
men, who in those days went 300 or 400 miles into the wilderness to settle,
where war parties of Indians still roamed, were regarded with the same
admiration for their bravery that Captain John Brown and the heroes of freedom
who emigrated to Kansas to save that lovely territory from the foul curse of
Colgrove built the first blacksmith shop within our village limits in 1795.
It stood near the corner of Pearl and Main streets.
Darling built the second blacksmith shop in 1802, where the Wilson House now
stands. Mr. Darling was a kind
neighbor, a man of decision, with a strong sense of justice, though plain and
unassuming in his ways. On a
certain occasion, the use of the village church having been denied by two or
three of its self-constituted guardians to a Universalist preacher, though it
was built by the contributions of men of different religious beliefs, Mr.
Darling (who kept the key) declared that it was the agreement and understanding
that the church should be opened to any respectable preacher whom the people
wished to hear, when not occupied by the Baptist society, and he would open it
to the Universalist. He was as good
as his word, and the Word according to Universalism was preached perhaps for the
first time in our village.
Darby, having previously moved to this village, in 1810, built the third shop,
near the corner of Main and Eagle streets, which site is now occupied by the
Baptist church. Mr. Darby sold this
stand to George Darling, who carried on an extensive business until his death,
the early years of this village no carpenter shops existed.
The most important class of mechanics worked by the day or month, as they
now do. They performed their labor either in the building which was
being erected or in a shed near by. Carpenters
and joiners’ labor was then much more laborious than at present, as the tools
were of English make, coarse and clumsy, and only a few of them.
The pod auger and gouge were used, the screw auger not having been
invented. Circular saws, planing and mortising machines and all other
contrivances for saving the human muscle and rushing jobs through were then
Mixer in 1805 made a venture and built an addition to his house, then standing
near where Mrs. Frank Colgrove resides, on Church street.
This addition Mr. Mixer opened as the first regular carpenter shop in
Torrey, in 1809 settled here and opened a carpenter shop, which he carried on
Burlingame, father of S. Burlingame, commenced business in the basement of the
old brick factory in 1812. He
afterward occupied a part of Captain Colgrove’s grist mill
Paine, about the year 1814, carried on carpentering here.
Weaver, about the year of 1815, established himself as a carpenter in a building
near the grist mill of Captain Colgrove.
must have become an extensive pursuit here as early as 1815.
When orchards had multiplied and bore abundantly cider was pressed on
almost every farm, and became the common beverage of almost everybody. Plenty of pine and oak lumber for barrel, cask, tub and
firkin staves then grew near the village. All
the labor was done by hand.
Carver made the first drive in the hoop line by commencing cooperage, about the
year 1800, in a small building near where the American House now stands on Main
Stafford opened a cooper shop about 1803.
Salisbury, in 1809, opened a shop near Ivory Witt’s on State street.
other shops were established prior to 1820.
About that year Joel Fosket had a shop on Eagle street, which was
afterward removed to Main street.
the men who were implicated in Shay’s rebellion, in 1786-7, we find recorded
the name of “George Thresher, brickmaker.”
He was pardoned and allowed to resume his business, having failed in threshing
the state government. It cannot be
told whether he carried on business in the north or south village.
At the March meeting in 1792, Jonathan Remington was chosen “sealer of
brick moulds” for the town of Adams, showing that brick were then manufactured
to a sufficient amount to require such an officer.
The business was also carried on near the residence of Mr. Harrison, as
many tokens of that branch of industry have been found there.
the year 1880 Baker Jones established a brick yard just to the north and east of
where the Freeman Print Works now stand. The
brick for the old factory on Marshall street were made here. It was carried on by various individuals until the year 1825,
when Benjamin F. Hathaway and Evenel Estes assumed the management of the yard.
After a few years they were succeeded by Benjamin and James Hathaway, who
were in turn succeeded by Benjamin Franklin Hathaway, who run the yard alone for
a number of years. In 1859, he sold
out to the firm of Homer & Hall, who conducted the yard until 1861, when
their lease ran out and the property reverted to the owner.
After the expiration of the lease in ’61 the sheds were destroyed and a
building which stood on the eastern side of the property was moved down Union
street and converted into a tenement, which is laid down as 32 Union Street.
Saddle And Harness Makers
Evans established himself here in the above business about the year 1800.
His shop was on the east side of Eagle street, near the site of Cody
& Carpenter’s warehouse.
Damon, about the year 1810, opened a shop on Main street, and afterward removed
to Eagle street.
W. Sterns, about 1826, opened a shop on Main street.
Dickinson opened the first regular wagon shop in 1798, about twenty rods north
of the Eagle bridge.
Brown commenced wagon making about 1808 on Eagle street.
In 1812 he built a shop on Centre street, which was afterward altered
into a dwelling.
Loveland occupied a dwelling and had a wagon shop on the site of J. H. Adams’
block, Main street.
the best information that can be obtained it appears that no kind of wagon
springs were in use in this town until the year 1808, when Shubael Wilmarth,
Sr., purchased of the New Lebanon Shakers a two-horse pleasure wagon, paying for
it $84, having what was termed “spring seats.”
These springs were of the simplest possible construction, being two
pieces of ash timber, one on each side, bolted to a bed-piece in the wagon box.
They run up at an angle of about 30 degrees, the seat being placed on
them. The spring was imparted by
the elasticity of the timber, and two persons found them easier riding than one.
Similar springs are seen at this day on team wagons, but they are not
considered “first-class,” as they were eighty years ago.
Cabinet Makers’ Shops
first cabinet maker’s shop was established about 1788 by a Mr. Veazie from
Boston, and was located where the schoolhouse stands in the Braytonville
Penniman had a shop near the present residence of Mrs. Bradford Harrison.
1800 Mr. Isbell had a shop within the village limits.
1806 Christopher Penniman had a shop and kept the turnpike gate, located about
at the entrance to the fair grounds.
1824 Daniel Remington opened a shop in a small building on the south side of
Main street, near the corner of Pearl.
1827 John Krigger started a shop on the north side of Main street, nearly
opposite the one above mentioned.
1830 Ezra Ingraham and William Shattuck opened a shop on Eagle street.
Mr. Shattuck sold out and moved to Williamstown.
E. Ingraham, and the firm of Ingraham, Isbell & Dewey afterward
conducted the business. This shop
was in a wooden building, now standing, just south of the Catholic church.
1847 Cyrus P. Isbell located on Eagle street, where his industry and
accommodating spirit secured him a liberal patronage.
S. 7 H. H. Adams succeeded E. Ingraham in 1852 at the stand on the corner of
Eagle and North Church streets. Being
enterprising and trustworthy young men, their business increased, and they
became favorable known throughout this region, especially as undertakers.
They continued the partnership until the death of D. S> Adams, when J.
H. bought his brother’s interest and has since conducted the business alone.
Water Works, Pumps and Lead Pipe
Parker, in 1808, began pump making and the boring and laying of logs for water
works. His shop was on the site of
the present residence of A. H. Potter, No. 87, Eagle street.
The manufacture of lead pipe began here about 1823.
Up to 1859-60 Oliver Parker still continued the business on Brooklyn
street, and had a machine for making lead pipe.
Being a reading man, and of mechanical skill, he was well posted on all
matters pertaining to hydraulic uses. He
was as ready to lay a pipe as to make it, solely for the public benefit,
Stone Cutting and Marble Manufacture
the stone cutting done here in early years was for gravestones and a few facings
of underpinnings, mantel pieces, fire jams and hearthstones for the better class
of dwellings. All tenements and stores then had fireplaces, stoves being
almost unknown. The stone cutting
of olden times was done in rather a coarse, rude manner, by inexperienced men,
who were employed occasionally.
1810 Solomon Sherman, a good workman, commenced the business of stone
cutting here for home trade. He was
succeeded by Manson Sherman.
1830 Elijah Pike, an ingenious workman, followed this calling.
As the quality of North Adams marble became known a wider market was
secured, and in 1835 Mr. Pike was aided with capital by Dr. E. S. Hawks, and
commenced the first regular operations at the quarry below the natural bridge.
1848, the North Adams Marble and Lime Company was incorporated with a capital of
$75,000, and it continued for a number of years, turning out a large amount of
building stone, chimney pieces, window caps, sills, etc., for the New York and
western markets. Mr. L. B. Graves was the resident partner.
R. Allen and A. B. Hosley commenced the marble business at the quarry in April,
1855. They opened a shop on Eagle
street, north of River, in the spring of 1856, and acquired an excellent
Hat Manufacturers and Hat Stores
Peck and Henry Crittenden commenced the business of manufacturing hats about the
year 1804 in a building demolished about the year 1855, and which was located
near the residence of H. Clay Bliss, No. 69 Eagle street.
Hat making was there carried on quite extensively for many years, and the
product was retailed, furnished to order, or carried to Troy and Albany to be
disposed of to country merchants. Peck
& Crittenden were afterward succeeded by Alvin Crittenden and Samuel G.
Chase purchased the premises and succeeded the above named gentlemen in the same
business about 1816. He retailed
hats and made them to order for many years, until the new inventions and cheaper
methods of manufacture in the large cities made competition with them out of the
1816 Solomon Bulkley made and sold hats in a building on Main street.
first store for the sale of hats in north Adams was opened by D. C. Corey, about
1830, in a small building near the residence of E. D. Whitaker, No. 52 Main
Ferguson built and opened a hat store on Eagle street, about 1835, in a
building, since burned, which stood on the lot adjoining E. Ingraham’s flour
store, or about on the site of the building occupied by Tower & Porter at
No. 20 Eagle street.
Hastings, in 1840, commenced the hat, cap and fur trade in the building now
standing on the corner of Main and Bank streets, known as the stone office.
He continued the business in town until his death.
first regular tailor in North Adams was a Mr. Thomas, a Welchman.
Harvey opened a tailor’s shop about 1815.
1817 James Estes opened a shop on Main street, and carried on an extensive
1827 Alexander F. Ashley had a shop n the small front part attached to the Widow
Bradford’s dwelling on Main street, now the site of Bradford’s block.
1828 Levi Randall opened a tailor’s shop in the second story of a store on
Main street, occupying the present site of the Wilson House.
Forge for Making Wrought Iron
1799 Dickinson & Brown erected a forge for making wrought iron from the ore.
This forge was built up the stream from Eagle street bridge, about half
way between that and Union street bridge. Benjamin
Sibley, one of the early settlers of the village, who was quite a trading man in
real estate, and one of the original owners and builders of the Eagle factory,
was in some way connected with the early operations of this forge.
The ore was procured from Cheshire, Adams, some from Stamford, and from
various other places. It made a good quality of iron, but owing to some
cause-perhaps the cost of transporting the raw material-it did not pay very
a later period, about the year 1801 to 1804, during the operations of the forge
by Mr. Brown, he used some ore, mixing it with pig iron brought from Salisbury,
Ct., and turned out excellent wrought iron.
This was called refining. The
business was superintended by Edward Witherell, practical iron maker.
The wrought iron business at this time paid well, from the fact that the
product commanded $140 per ton. Subsequently
these works passed into the hands of a Mr. Sprague, who undertook to make iron
from the ore; but owing either to the poor quality of the material, which was
hauled in the winter, or a decline in the price of the product, or some
depressing cause, it entirely failed.
town in its history can boast of having had three trip-hammer shops.
The first opened was that of Joseph Darby’s, on the road to the notch,
and which has been described on a previous page of this work.
The next was erected about the year 1800, on the site of what was
afterward the Cupola furnace, on or near the present site of the Freeman Print
Works. About 1828 Giles Tinker had
a trip-hammer shop near his machine shop, occupying the present site of
Hodges’ grist mill.
First Cupola Furnace
1817 Loring Darby of this village and Buel Norton of Bennington fitted up for a
cupola furnace the building which had previously been erected for a trip-hammer
shop, on or near the site of the Freeman Print Works.
The building was afterward used in connection with the print works under
& Norton made iron castings for mill gearing and machinery, and sold the
same from six to eight cents per pound. Iron
machinery was then coming into more general use, from the increased skill in its
construction and the development of cotton and woolen manufacturing, as
confidence began to revive from the effects of the then late ware with Great
Britain. In consequence of this, American industry was paralyzed to
some extent for a certain period.
very few stoves were then in use, or even manufactured, and these were
principally cooking stoves of inconvenient and clumsy shape.
Some kinds were made at the cupola furnace of Darby & Norton, such as
box stoves and cooking stoves, nearly square, with two ovens, one above the
other, and boiler holes on top. The
plates were very thick, and held together by rods and nuts.
This cupola furnace, after being in operation a short time, stopped –
it did not pay. Scarcely any branch
of manufacturing was permanently profitable then.
Capital, labor-saving machinery and ease of transportation were all
lacking, and the factory kings of Great Britain spared no effort to crush our
republican enterprises. They were
aided in this scheme by narrow-minded legislators, as they have often been in
more recent days.
1826, Otis Hodge, Jr., purchased the above premises, and, in connection with
William E. Brayton, Carried on an extensive business for some two years in the
manufacture of machine and plow castings—the latter of which was rapidly
coming into use. The aggregate
value of the castings made the last year was
about $5000. The real estate was soon purchased by Caleb B. Turner.
first regular machine shop in this village, and probably the first in the
country, was started by Giles Tinker in 1811, in a portion of what was known as
the “old yellow building,” which stood at about the center of the Davenport
block, on the south side of Main street. This
building was enlarged by Mr. Tinker three different times.
Here all the machinery for the old brick factory was made.
Mr. Tinker continued the business for several years in this shop, doing
his own forging and brass casting. Most
of the machinery was of wood, and the iron work was wrought instead of case.
Loring Darby was foreman of the shop for many years. In
1825 the business had become so extended and the need of water so great that Mr.
Tinker purchased of Captain Colgrove a lot and mill privilege near the Main
street bridge. In 1828 Mr. Tinker
erected a brick building for preparing his own castings.
It stood east of and near his machine shop, on the present site of
Hodges’ grist mill.
Mr. Tinker’s decease, in 1832, Alanson Cady and Loring Darby, both practical
machinists, hired the furnace and the machine shop and carried on the same. Afterwards Mr. Cady rented the furnace alone, and made
castings. It was also hired and run
four years by William Hodgkins. Finally
the whole property came into the hands of James E. Marshall.
In 1847, the furnace building was taken down.
B. Turner (afterward Turner & Laflin) in 1831 commenced a machine shop in
the building known and the Gould mill, which was built and designed for a cotton
mill, located on the site of Dickinson & Brown’s forge, previously
mentioned. The first considerable
lot of machinery built was for the Slater mill at the Union, then being built by
Hodges, Sanford & Co., and which forms the east end of the Eclipse mill.
The contract to build this machinery by the job was taken of C. B.
Turnery by William Hall and Samuel Wilson.
Mr. Hall was an experienced and very ingenious iron worker, having
recently come from Patterson, N. J., and he introduced many important
improvements. S. Wilson of Adams
executed the wood work. Large
quantities of machinery was turned out, until in 1835 the Gould mill was again
devoted to manufacturing. About
this time most manufacturers found it advantageous to connect a repair shop with
their mills, and some of them constructed portions of their own machinery.
the fall of 1847 James Hunter bought the patterns, tools, etc., of the foundry
of Mason B. Green, then located in front of the Phoenix mill.
In the spring of 1848 David Temple and Abel Wetherbee bought an interest,
and the business was conducted under the firm name of James Hunter and Co. During the summer of that year they started, in connection
with this foundry at North Adams, another at Adams.
During the winter of 1848-9 Mr. Temple withdrew from the firm, taking the
1849 James Hunter and Abel Wetherbee purchased the house and lot near Main
street bridge. The land where the
furnace now stands was then a low marsh; they filled it up and erected a foundry
building 76 x 40 feet and two stories high.
The whole outlay was about $3500. Mr.
Wetherbee sold his interest the same year to Daniel and Stillman M. Thayer.
In 1850 Joseph D. Clark purchased a part of James Hunter’s interest,
and the firm was known as Hunter, Thayer & Co.
They run a grist mill for a short time, then displaced it, putting in a
planing machine and made boxes. In
1855 the planing machine was removed, in order that the machine shop might be
started. This was started on a
small scale, having only one engine and one drilling lathe. In the same year, in connection with the furnace and other
business, they erected a store for the sale of merchandise, and kept also a
general assortment of bar iron, steel, etc.
In 1856 Daniel Thayer sold his interest to the other partners.
In 1857 J. D. Clark and S. M. Thayer sold their interest to James E.
Hunter and Martin C. Jewett. The
firm became James Hunter & Co.
business had gradually increased until, in 1885, it is the largest foundry in
the county, and one of the largest in the state, the firm being known as James
Hunter & Son.
1847 William Hodgkins purchased 1 1-2 acres of land and erected a brick building
near the present site of the Troy & Greenfield freight house, on State
street. Machine castings and
ploughs were manufactured. Mr.
Hodgkins carried on business here about five years, when a mortgage which was on
the property was foreclosed and he was obliged to retire.
When the Troy & Boston Railroad run in here, about 1859, they
utilized this building as an engine house, and it continued to be used as such
until 1872, when it was demolished.