Historical Sketch of Bernardston, MA
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IN 1735, the general assembly of the province of Massachusetts Bay granted a tract of land six miles square, north of Greenfield, including the present towns of Bernardston and. Levden, and a part. of Coleraine, to the officers and soldiers who were in the Fall Fight, an account of which may be found under the head of Gill. In consideration of the services and sufferings of these men, the tract above mentioned was granted to them or their descendants 59 years after the battle. From the fact that this battle took place at the Falls, the town took the name of Fall Town, which it was called for nearly 20 years. The first meeting of the owners of this tract of country was held at Northampton, in January, 1736, the next month after it was granted by the legislature. The proprietors were 97; among the names of these were the following: Atherton, Field, Hitchcock, Cook, Chamberlain, Alexander, Chapin, Connable, Dickinson, Edwards, Hoit, Lyman, Munn, Hunt, Smith, Wright, Pomeroy, Pratt, Rogers, Sikes, Smead, Scott, Wells. The town was first settled in 1738. The four first houses that were built in town were Major Burk’s, Mr. Samuel Connable’s, Lieut. Ebenezer Sheldon’s, and Dea. Sheldon’s. Major Burk’s house was situated a little north of the present Berk house; Mr. S. Connable’s stood near the house now occupied by Mr. Joseph Connable; Lieut. E. Sheldon’s house was situated a little west of Mr. Hatsell Purple’s late residence; and Dea. Sheldon’s stood near Mr. Seorin Slate’s, on Huckle Hill.

These houses, or forts, as they were called, were built of hewn logs, and served the double purpose of houses to live in, and a defence against the sudden, and often fatal, attacks of the Indians. They were built with port-holes through the sides, through which those within could fire, with elevated stands for a watch, where they could better see the approach of the enemy, and give the alarm. These houses were occupied by those by whose name they were called, and the occupants were among the first settlers in this town. At a proprietors' meeting held in Deerfield, in June, 1739, it was voted that a meeting house should be built, 59 feet long, 40 feet wide, and 23 feet between joists. This house was built in two years after the first settlement of the town. It was situated on Huckle Hill, and was the first meeting-house built in Fall Town. In Oct. 1740, it was voted that there be £20 paid out for the support of preaching. And at an adjourned meeting it was voted that a committee be chosen to cut the brush and burn them ten rods round the meeting house. Rev. John Norton, from Windham, Con., the first minister, was ordained in 1741, and was dismissed, on account of the unsettled state of the timrs, in 1745. In the first French war, he acted for a season as chaplain at the fort which was kept at Hoosic, near Adams. He was there at the time that fort was surprised and. taken by a party of French and Indians, whence he was carried captive into Canada. After his release, he was installed a pastor in Chatham, Con. From 1750 to 1761 there was no ordained preacher in Fall Town. The Rev. Job Wright, the next minister, was settled in 1761. About 1755, commenced the French and Indian war, in which the settlers in the town suffered severely; while it continued, the people lived mostly in Burk's fort. Every man that was capable, bore arms, and, in some cases, females were under the necessity of bearing arms to defend their dwellings from the attacks of a barbarous enemy. When the men went into the fields, they took their arms with them, and constant]y had some one on guard. Agriculture and education were but little attended to. The Indians were almost constantly lurking in the woods, which kept them in a perpetual State of danger and alarm.

Fall Town was incorporated into a township in 1762, by the name of Bernardston, after Governor Bernard, the provincial governor of Massachusetts. The first selectmen were Messrs. John Burk, Rememberence Sheldon and Moses Scott. During the Revolutionary war the inhabitants of Bernardston furnished their full quota of men and means during the continuance of the struggle, and made many sacrifices for the American cause. In Jan. 1782, a vote was passed "that those persons who are professed Baptists, and have attended that particular form of worship. shall be free from the minister tax;" this appears to he the first account of the Baptist society in this town. The Rev. Arnasa Cook, the third settled minister in this town, was ordained in Dec. 1873. In 1790, the first census was taken by Mr. David Saxton, of Deerfield, by order of the general government. The population. of the town at that period was 691, being divided into 108 families. In 1789 the Baptist society was organized, and in 1790 their first meeting house was built, and the same year Elder Hodge was ordained, and continued here about ten years. He was succeeded by Elder Rogers and Elder Green. The present Baptist meeting house was built in 1817. in 1821 the Universalist society was organized, and their meeting house was built in 1823, and the same year Dr. Brooks was ordained as minister. The first Orthodox Congregational society was organized in 1823.

The following is a representation of the public buildings and. Cushman's tavern, in the central part of the village, as they appear when passing through to the northward. The Universalist church is the one story building with four windows, on the western side; Cushman's tavern appears on the left. The distance between this tavern and the Universalist church is about 35 rods. In the engraving this distance is contracted, and some buildings are left out, in order to show Mr. Cushman's house, long known as an excellent tavern stand, and, with the elms standing south, is a very striking feature in the appearance of this village. Within the distance of half a mile from this place there are upwards of fifty dwelling houses, which, though mostly small, are neat in their general appearance. Distance, 7 miles from Greenfield, 13 from Brattleboro', Vt., and 96 from Boston. Agriculture is the principal business of the inhabitants. Population, 878.

The following is a letter of Maj. John Burk, (one of the principal men of Bernardston,) to his wife, giving an account of the battle of Lake George. For this, and the journal of Maj. Burk, together with the materials for the preceding historical sketch, the author is indebted to the politeness of Henry W. Cushman, Esq., of Bernardston.

Lake Sacrament, now called Lake George, Sept. 11, 1755.

DEAR WIFE I wrote to von yesterday. but was not allowed to say any more than that I was well, and. that we have had a battle &c. The particulars of the engagement I now send you by Capt. Wyman. On the 7th inst., our Indians discovered the track of a large body of the enemy east of us. On the 8th. Col. Williams. with a detachment 1000 strong, marched in pursuit or to make discover. They marched in the road 3 miles south, and. being discovered by the enemy, (as we are told by the French general who is taken by us.) were waylaid by 1800 Grench and Indians. The French lay on one side the road on rising ground; the Indians on the other side, in a swamp. Part of the French were regular troops these lay south. Their scheme was to let our men march quite to the south end of the ambush, the regular troops to give the first fire, then all to fire and rush on; which if they had done, they would have cut our men all to pieces. But the general says that a heady Indian, who was very eager, fired as soon as they entered the ambush. Then the enemy pursued and fired briskly, and, having the advantage of the ground. obliged our men to retreat, which, the French general says, they did very regularly. We at the camp heard the guns; were not suffered to go out, but to make ready to receive the enemy, lest they should rout us and take our baggage, for we knew they retreated by the guns, (viz, our men.) The enemy drove on very furiously, but while they were coming we placed our cannon, felled trees and rolled. logs to make a breast-work all round the camp, but it was a poor defence. The regulars marched along the road, 6 deep, till they got near our camps; then all fired upon us, and we upon them with cannon and small arms. They made a very smart push, but we stood firm, and I believe there was never such firing before, and had not our cannon broke their regulars and aifrighted their Indians, they might; perhaps, destroyed more of us, if not taken the camps. The battle began between 10 and 11; continued till between 5 and 6 afternoon, at which time we were so hot upon them, that they began to draw off. Our men pursued some way; we were so fast upon them that they left their dead and wounded on the spot. The enemy all drew off to where they ambushed our men at the first. While we were engaged, the people at the other fort, at the carrying place; heard our great guns, and sent 200 New Hampshire and N. York men to relieve us. These met the enemy stripping our dead, engaged them smartly, drove them off the ground. They fought 3 hours; took 2 prisoners and 2 scalps. We have taken about 25 prisoners in all. One is the general of all the French forces in North America. Another officer, called aid-de-camp, who was stunned by a cannonball and lay till night, came in and surrendered himself. The French general is wounded in the knee and in the thigh, and like to recover. Some of the captives are dead, others very badly wounded. One is Mr. Thos. French's sister's son, cousin to Luc. He says that Luc was killed in the engagement. We have had a very smart battle, but got the victory. The French general says we have broke his army all to pieces. We have been out and buried our dead, and got a great deal of plunder, guns, blankets, provisions, &c. We have lost some famous men in the battle, a list of which I send, belonging to our regiment, and also of the wounded and missing, as far as I am able. [Here follows a list of the dead and wounded, d.c.]

This is the best account I can get at present of the dead, wounded and missing. Let cousin Chapin know that her dear husband is certainly dead and buried. Joel and Ilezekiah are well. 1 can sympathtze with her, for it is a great loss to mc, as we were friends and neighbors. Pray God to comfort her. Hope our friends will not be disheartened at this news, and so fail of coining to assist us. They that love their religion and. liberty I hope will 'lot fail to come to the help of the Lord against the mighty. Now is the time to exert ourselves.

P. S. I have wrote in great haste, not so well as if otherwise. I received a letter from you last night. Pray send as often as you can. The army is in high spirits. Hope we shall have Crown Point sooner or later. We have done a good lob toward it.

Loving wife, since the scout is detained till to-morrow, I add something more. Yesterday we buried on the road 136 dead corpses of ours; to-day 4. I believe about 15 or 20 more buried at the camp. Several of our Indians are killed. King Hendrick is killed. The day after the battle, every captain carried in an account of dead, wounded and missing. The whole of the dead and missing was 191, and about 224 wounded in our regiment. Since this account several are come in that were missing. Col. Titcom is killed ; Capt. Regas is dead-killed. I mention those because some may know them. The account carried in was as followeth Col. Williams' regiment. 50. Col. Ruggles' regiment and others I must omit; I cannot find the account. The French general is a very great man, has been an old warrior in Flanders. He says his army consisted of some of the chief men in Canada, a great many of which are killed. The chief man that headed the army at Ohio against Braddock, is killed here. This general had an exact account of all our proceedings, our numbers, and chief officers, and also a list of all his own troops and forces. Perhaps this may be of service to us. This is the best account I can send; it is not altogether perfect.

Your loving husband, JOHN BURK.

The following is extracted from the daily journal kept by Major Burk at this period, and will serve to show a soldier's life during the French wars.

Thursday, 31st, (1755.) I was ordered up the river with about 30 men to see what I could discover, but saw nothing. Tarried still at Saratoga. Our men went out to Saratoga fort and dug out of the earth 1114 cannon ball. The men, about 300, went up the river to thake the road. I tarried in the camp. Friday, Aug. 1st. The army all moved to the second falls above Saratoga, 4 miles. We drew the batteaux up the first falls, load and all; it was fatiguing, but the men worked like lions, some, to the neck in water. We had about 180 batteaux. This day the men had half a pmt of rum given more than allowance. Saturday, 2d. We tarried at the falls and got our batteaux by in the river. The Dutch came up with 32 wagons, carried all our provisions by, and some tents. Our guard that went up the river to make ready, saw 4 or 5 Indians Sunday, 3d. We moved to carrying place, Col. Lydies' house, about 45 miles from Albany. It rained very hard this night; some provisions got wet. Monday, 4th. I was ordered to attend the court, which adjourned to this day. It was adjourned again to Friday next in the afternoon. I was ordered with 5 men to scout round the camps, but made no discovery. Tuesday, 5th. I was ordered to take 9 men and go to the Lake Sacrament. Lieut. May, Ensign Stratton and Ensign Stevens went to make the number. As we marched we saw 3 deer, 1 bear, and an old mare and a wolf, which was at the lake. We came a little back from the lake and camped. Wednesday, 6th. We returned to our camps, brought in an old mare, picked some huckleberries, brought some to Gen. Lyman. Made no discovery; got back by 3 o'clock. This day the man confined for sodomy was whipped 100 stripes and drummed out of the company. Thursday, 7th. I tarried in the camps. The men got timber for a store-house and bark to cover it, &c. A scout was sent to the drowned land, at the place called by the Dutch Ziaborter. Friday, 8th. Tarried at the camp; help about the fort. Capt. Patterson set out for Wood Creek with 30 men. He was ordered to go to the mouth of the creek. Saturday, 9th. I tarried at the camps; worked at drawing timber, &c. The scout that went for the drowned land returned, but did not find it. Sunday, 10th. We work at forting our company; set up 15 foot of stockades. Mr. Williams preached 2 sermons. The scout returned from Wood Creek; they saw signs of Indians, viz, a piece of bread stuck up in the path. Maj. Hoar and Lieut. Nixson set out for Albany. Monday, 11th. I help get some timber. I tarried at the camps. A scout set out for Crown Point, another for the So. Bay, and another for Lake Saerameiit. The two last returned. They reported that they saw Indians, but upon examination it was their own men. Some men went to Saratoga, to kill some Dutch cattle. Tuesday, 12th. I tarried at the camp, and help get timber. Some went to clear roads. The men that went to Saratoga returned, brought some beef, and brought news that the rest of the army was coming near by. Wednesday, 13th. I tarried at the camps; went over on the island afternoon to get gate timber. Gen. Lyman had an express from Gov. Fitch, and some newspapers, which gave an account of the death of Gen. Braddock, and that the army was defeated.

Thursday, 14th. Gen. Johnson, Col. Titcom, and Col. Williams. with a great number of forces, came to the carrying place, with some Indians and 20 cannon, 2 of which were thirty-two pounders, and a great many wagons. The general was waited upon with a number of men, and on his arrival saluted by the officers and the distharge of field pieces. Connecticut boys and Rhode Island all come. Friday, 15th. A council was held; it was determined to send for more men to join us at our head-quarters. Little or no work done this day. A scout from Crown Point returned; no news. Saturday. 16th. 1 tarried, at the camps; did little or nothing. A scout came from Fort Massachusetts. I heard from home. Sunday, 17th. I was ordered by Gen. Johnson to scout, with 11 men and 7 Indians, to the Lake Sacrament. Capt. Passore, bound for the So. Bay, with 30 or 40 white men and 6 Indians, marched 4 miles with us, and turned off. I marched 10 miles. Connecticut and New York forces arrived with women; a man was drowned. Monday, 18th. We marched to the lake; made no discovery of an enemy. Six of the Indians went farther westward. We sat out from the lake at one o'clock, and got home before dark. Tuesday, 19th. Tarried in the camps; did nothing. A general court-martial was held. Gen. Lyman, Cols. Ruggels, Williams, Goodrich, were ordered to be ready to meet at all hours. Wednesday, 20th. Tarried at the camps. A general court martial was held in trial of Lieut. Noble and others. Capt. Ayres began to dig a trench. A great number was employed at digging. Thursday, 21st. Tarried in camp. Saw Nelly and Polly. in great taking for the women, were all ordered away. Five Indians of the Six Nations came from Canada. General court martial sat. About 120 men employed digging in the trenches. The Indians brought news from Canada, that 17 ships were at Quebec, 600 regulars; that 8000 were expected at Crown Point, 300 out.

Friday, 22d. I tarried at the camp. A council sit; determined to go by Lake Sacrament. I sent a letter to my wife. Trenching yet, sawing boards. Saturday, 23d. Four hundred men were ordered to go upon the road; I went pilot. Cleared 6 miled. The women were sent to Albany. When they went off there was a great huzza. Trenching and sawing with whip-saw yet. Sunday, 24th. I was not well - I had a bad cold. Kept in the tent all day. Mr. Williams preached 2 sermons. A number of men went upon the road. Some Indians came to us; informed of more coming. Lieut. Noble read his acknowledgment before the assembly. Monday, 25th. I tarried at home in the camps. A scout sent to Fort Massachusetts, Serg. Avery, who was one ordered to Deerfield. I wrote to my wife. Trenching and sawing, and making powder house. All going forward briskly. Tuesday, 26th. Gen. Johnson, Cols. Ruggels, Williams, Goodrich's regiments, and some of Rhode Island. and York forces, about 1500 men and 200 wagons, marched forward for Lake Sacrament. March 6 miles and camped. Wednesday, 27th. We all marched 4 miles and camped. We had some clearing and large causeways to make this day. Thursday, 28th. We cleared the road 10 miles; got to the lake. The men worked very hard this day. One of the men found a gun and Indian pack. Friday, 29th. Went to clearing by the lake, making a causeway, &c. The wagons returned for more stores. About 20 Indians came to us. Saturday, 30th. I was made captain of the guard. Hendrick, with about 170 Indians, came to us; they were saluted with a round of guns, and the men all drew up to receive them. The clearing went off briskly, One man killed, 1 taken, 3 escaped. They were keeping cattle at the great carrying place. Sunday, 31st. A number of wagons and cannon came up, guarded by the Rhode Islanders and yorkers. Clearing carried on still. At night the Indians had a great dance. Monday, Sept. 1st. Capt. Porter, with some Indians, marched to the So. Bay to intercept the enemy that did the mischief. Some canoes were seen by our Indians up the lake. I tarried by the camp and cleared for tenting. Alarm at night; a sentry shot at a horse.

Tuesday, 2d. Capt. Porter and men returned. The Indians marched forward. Five Indians that went out 5 days ago, that went to the carrying place at the north end of the lake, saw 15 of the enemy. Could not come to speech. Our scout returned from Fort Massachusetts. I tarried at the camps. Moved our tents. Wednesday, 3d. Gen. Lyman, Col. Titcomb, Col. Gilbert came to us at Lake George. Some Indians came and joined us. It is said they came 1100 miles. I carried the camps. 3 Indians went a scalping to Crown Point. Thursday, 4th. I was ordered to go up the lake with Capt. Stoddard and Capt. Ingersoll, and 3 other white men, to carry 3 Indians, who were going to Lake West. and we sailed 15 miles. Landed the Indians; returned by 11 at night. Began to build a fort. Friday, 5th. I was very bad with a cold; tarried at the camps. No news this day. Saturday, 6th. I went to get a cask out of the store-house, &c. Heard that S or 9 of the sick were dead at the other forts. Batteaux, stores, daily coming up. Fort building, scows making. Sunday 7th. A scout of Indians came in who have been to Crown Point, and inform that they saw as they returned the signs of a large army marching south in 3 flies; designed, as they suppose, for our fort at great carrying place. A man who was thought to have deserted was found dead at the other fort; killed by the fall of a tree, as is supposed. Monday, 8th. Col. Williams was sent out with 1000 men in search of the enemy; determined to march toward the south bay. They marched so in the road 3 miles, when they were waylaid by the enemy and fired upon. The enemy, having the advaiitage of the ground, obliged our men ro retriet to the camps; killed and wounded a great number by the way. The enemy made a very smart attack upon the camps, but we stood ground and drove them back. Took the general and aid de camp, and about 25 prisoners. New Hampshire and York men at the other fort, at the carrying place, heard the great guns, came up and met the enemy stripping our dead; drove them from the ground and took 2 prisoners. They fought them 3 hours, and we fought them from between 10 and 11 till between 6 and 7 after. noon. No such battle before in North America. Tuesday, 9th. About 300 we sent out to bury the dead. I went with them. The men forward took a start, ran back; were stopped by the officers. Found it too late to do the business. Returned to the camps, brought one wounded man of ours, a great deal of plunder, &c. Wednesday, 10th. We went out again, buried 136 dead of ours, and some French. Brought in a great deal of plunder and French provisions, and one of our wounded, a scout from the other fort, and from Hoosuck, Capt. Wyman. I sent a letter to my wife. All a.fortifying at the camps. Col. Willard; Capt. Symers, came up with a number of wagons with provisions, &c. Thursday, 11th. I wrote a large letter to my wife; sent it by Capt. Wyman. The wagoners went back, the Indians went off home. A great number of men went plundering; found a great deal. Buried 4 more of our men.

The following inscriptions are from monuments in the old burying ground in this place, about one mile from the center.

In memory of the Hon. Majr. John Burke, who died Octr. 27th, 1784, in ye 67th year of his age.

Were I so tall to reach the pole,
Or grasp the ocean with my span,
I must be measur'd by my soul,-
The Mind's the standard of the man.

To the memory of Doctor Polycarpus Cushman, who died 15th December, A. D. 1797, AEtate 47.

Vain censorious beings little know,
What they must soon experience below.
Your lives are short, eternity is long,
o think of death, prepare, & then begone.
Thus art and natures powers & charms
And drugs & receipts and forms
Yield all last to greedy worms
A despicable prey.

Mors absque morbo vorax mortalium rapuit methcum.

Historical Collections Relating to the
History and Antiquities of
Every town in Massachusetts with
Geographical Descriptions.
By John Warner Barber.
Published by Warren Lazell.


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