It is well known that the province of New York originally
claimed all that part of Massachusetts which lies west of the Connecticut river, including the whole of Berkshire
and a large part of Franklin, Hampshire and Hampden counties, and that the divisional line between the two provinces
was long a subject of controversy between their respective governments. But, whilst New York - not without apparent
good reason insisted upon the Connecticut river as her eastern boundary, she neglected to extend her settlements
east of the Taghkanick mountains, and Massachusetts by occupancy obtained possession, and eventually established
her right to the disputed territory. This divisional line, after long and vexatious quarrels, Sometimes resulting
in bloodshed, was finally agreed upon, in 1773, and temporarily established at a general distance of about twenty
miles east of the Hudson river, but was not permanently settled until 1787.
What Little is preserved of the history of Berkshire, previous to its Occupancy by Massachusetts settlers, is of
New York origin and of an earlier date than the boundary disputes. In early records and documents, as well as in
later historical works, we find occasional mention of the name of "Westenhook," applied to a tract of
country lying west of Sheffield and Great Barrington, now a part of Mount Washington and Egremont, and we sometimes
meet with vague intimations that this tract extended eastward as far as the Housartonic river. But the fact seems
to have been generally overlooked, that Westenhook, or the Patent of Westenhook, embraced a much larger area and
included a very large portion of the Housatonic valley in Berkshire county. The original history of Westenhook
is briefly this: Forty years before the commencement of settlements in Southern Berkshire, Peter Scbuyler and Derrick
Wessells were engaged in the Indian trade at Albany. Both were members of his "Majesties Council," were
familiar with the natives who resorted to Albany to barter their furs, and were interested in obtaining lands from
the Indians, at small cost. To these men, with others, the Patent of Westenhook was granted, in 1705. This patent
is based upon deeds given by the Indians the record of some of which we have seen - the earliest in 1685. others
in 1703 and 1704.
The petition for the patent, dated July 11th, 1705, and signed by Peter Schuyler, in behalf of himself Derrick
Wessells and Company, is preserved in the office of the Secretary of State at Albany - (Land Papers, Volume 4,
page 54.) It recites that the petitioners bad, several years before, advanced money and goods to the Indian proprietors
of land on a creek called Westenbook, describes the boundries of the two upper tracts, nearly as they are written
in the patent, and states that the Indians mortgaged the premises to the petitioners; that they had made further
advancements of money and goods to the Indians and bad purchased the lands of them on the first and second of October
1703; that, the Indians being unable to pay the sums previously advanced, or to obtain the money and goods which
they wanted from any other party, the petitioners bad "cort descended" to make these further advancements
and. take deeds of the lands. A. warrant for the patent was granted and signed by Cornbury, the governor, September
29th, 1705, - (Land Papers, Volume 4, page 151.) On the 6th March, 1705, the Governor, Edward Viscount Cornbury,
granted and issued a patent for these lands, to Peter Schuyler Derrick Wessells, Jno. Abeel, John Janse Bleecker,
Ebenezer Willson, Peter Fauco
nier, Doctor Daniel Cox, Thomas Wenham and Henry Smith. The grant, under this patent covers four large tracts of
land extending northerly, along the Housatonic river from a point below Canaan Falls.
The boundaries and descriptions, - probably the same as given in the original Indian deeds, - are very obscure,
but sufficiently definite to show that the patent included a large part of Berkshire and extended southerly into
Connecticut. We recite from the original patent, on record in the office of the Secretary of State at Albany.
The first or most southerly tract, on both sides of the river, bounded south on the land of Mach-ah-tehank, below
Canaan Falls, and is described as lying on both sides of a creek "called Westenhook, beginning southerly below
a great fall of water called by the natives Pow-eck-tuck, (1) and so running up northerly, on both sides of the
said creek, (to wit) on ye west side as far as ye flatt land belonging to an. Indian called Tan-as-ks-neck ;"
and on the east side it extended "northerly to a Creek or Kill that comes out of the woods called Watar-pick-aak."
Within this tract on the west side of the river, were four "fiatts or plaines" the most southerly of
which - " next to the falls" - was called He-nach-ke-kan-tick, the second Ac-kac-kanick, the third Awaan-banis,
the fourth and most northerly Taa-sbamonick. On the east side of the river were also four flats; that next the
falls is described as a "Great Flatt or Plaine and the southermost side thereof called Pac-ack-cock, and the
north end So-quar-wen ;" the other flats are respectively desgnated Nan-an-ack-quack, Tasham, and Mach-em-ned-a-kake.
The whole of this tract extended "into the woods, from both sides of the creek, eastward and westward to the
high hills as far as the said owners' property reaches." This tract appears to be mostly within the towns
of Salisbury and Canaan.
The second tract, which contained two flats or plains, lay entirely on the west side of the river, having the river
for its eastern boundary and extending westward on to the Tagbkanick mountain; it is thus described - "Situate
lying and being on the west side of ye said creek called Westenhook, butting on the south side of ye flatt or plain
called Tas-ham-ick, formerly belonging to Nisbotowa, Anaanpacke & Ottonowa, consisting of 2 flatts or plains,
the first or southermost plaine called Machaakquichkake, and the second or northernmost called Kaphack, arid so
to an Indian burying place hard by the said latter plaine, which is the northermost bounds, and. soe, keeping the
same breadth, into ye woods westerly as far as the land belonging to an Indian called Testamashatt, bearing near
the land called Tacbancke."
The third tract is described as "beginning at ye aforesaid Indian burying place hard by Kaphack, and so running
up northerly on both sides the said creek, to a fall or rift in the said creek, called by the Indians Sasigtonack,
into the woods, westerly to the bounds of Kinderhook and Pathook, and eastward into the woods four English miles."
The fourth tract began at "the said fall or rift in the said creek, called by the Indians Sasigtonack, and
so running up northerly on both sides of the said. creek, to another rift, called by the Indians Packwake, into
the woods westerly to ye bounds of the Mannor of RanslaerWick and Kinderhook, and eastward into the woods four
This, then was the patent of Westenhook, reaching from a point below Canaan Falls many miles northward; in its
southern part extending to the mountains on both sides of the river; in Sheffield bounding east on the river and
running west on to Mount Washington; to the north of Sheffield including four miles east of the river arid stretching
westward to Rensselaerwyck and Kinderhook. Its northern boundary, as described, the rift called Pack-wack-e (Pack-a-wack..ne
- .where a stream runs between high rocks) is evidently the fall at Glendale, or the limestone gorge just above,
and the intermediate fall "Sasigtonack" (Sah-seeg-ton-ock, - water splashing over rocks,) we have no
doubt is the fall at the north end of Great Barrington village. But the fall at Glendale was not, in fact, the
northern limit of Westenhook, nor was it so understood by the proprietors.
In one of the deeds on which the patent was founded, Sank-hank, Cag-kan-is-seek, and Walleeg-na-week - for the
value of sixty beaver skins -conveyed -september 3d, 1704 - to Peter Schuyler, John Johnson Bleeker, and John Abeel,
land on "a certain creek called Westenhook, beginning from a fall or rift in the said creek, by the Indians
called Sasig-tan-ock, and so runs up northerly on both sides of the said creek to another rift on the said creek,
called by the Indians Pack-was-che, (Pack-wack-e) from thence up along said creek on both sides until you come
to ye places by the Indians called Squog-kan-e-kan-eek and Kapakagh, into ye woods eastward ye whole length of
ye land bounds, four English miles deep, and westward by ye bounds of Kinderhook, and ye Colony of Renselaerwyck,
containing ye same breadth to the said places called Squogkan-e-kan-eek and Kap-a-kagh." Westenhook, as we
believe, extended a very considerable distance north of Glendale.
In 1774, a plan of subdivisions of part of the Westeniiook patent was recorded in the office of the Secretary of
State at Albany -.(Land Papers, Vol. 34, page 75) from which it appears that the patent was then claimed to extend
as far north as the North Mountain, - west of Lanesboro. As further evidence of the extent of this patent we cite
the letter of Lieut. Gov. DeLancey to Gov. Shirley, February 17, 1755, relative to the disputed boundary between
New York and Massachusetts, in which the writer states that the proposed temporary line "the west side of
Housatanik River to 100 yards west of Fort Massachusetts "leaves to Massachusetts one-third of Westenhook
Patent." Whatever its northern boundary; it is evident that this patent covered a very large part of the towns
of Sheffield, Great Barrington, Stockbridge, West Stockbridge, Mount Washington, Egremont, and Alford, and that
the purchase made from the Indians, in 1724, by the Committee for settling the Housatonic townships, was - with
the exception of that part of Sheffield lying east of the river_almost entirely within the bounds of WestenhoOk
Patent. By the terms of the grant, the patentees were required - if the same had not already been done - to clear
and make improvements upon some part of the lands granted, within the space of six years, and also to pay an annual
rent of seven. pounds ten shillings, New York cmTency, to the collector of customs in New York.
We have no evidence that the Westenhook proprietors had made any improvements in the Housatonic - valley previous
to its occupancy by Massachusetts settiers; but an explanation of the troubles which arose between the earliest
settlers of the Housatonic townships and the Dutch claimants from the State of New York, is found in the clashing
of titles of those holding lands under Massachusetts grants on the one part and under the State of New York or
the Westonhook patentees on the other.
These troubles, which were rife in 1726-7, and which were of serious importance at the time, are only briefly mentioned,
but not explained, in the records of the committee which bad charge of the settlements in Sheffield and Great Barrington.
We know that the proprietors of Westen.hook made graveious complaint, in 1726, of the occupancy of their lands
by Massachusetts men, and that in one instance at least, one of the early settlers was arrested, and incarcerated
at Albany as a trespasser upon Westenhook lands. The Letters Patent of this tract called Westenhook, granted under
the seal of the Province of New York by "our Right Trusty and well beloved Cousin Edward Viscount Cornbury,
Captain Gen'll and Governour in Chief in and over our said Province of New York and Territoryes Depending thereon
in America and Vice Admirall of the same, are recorded in the office of the Secretary of State, at Albany, in Book
No. 7 of patents, page 290. For the discovery of the record of this Patent we are indebted to the Rev. George Mure
Smith, formerly pastor of the Congregational church at Lenox, now of Edinburgh, Scotland.
This tract of country, wild, forbidding, and destitute of roads other than the Indian trail, though it lay in the
direct route, - via Springfield, Westfield and Kinderhook, - between Boston and Albany, and was occasionally traversed
by bodies of soldiery in the early wars and by other parties on public business, was better known to the neighboring
New York border, whose traders were accustomed to visit it for the purpose of traffic with the Indians, than to
the more remote inhabitants of Massachusetts. That such traffic was carried on with the Indians by Dutch traders
seems to be well authenticated,; and it is asserted that some Dutchmen were domiciled amongst the Indians when
the settlers from Westfield established themselves here; but we have found no evidence confirming this. statement.
Talcot's fight with the Indians is, we believe, the
earliest occurrence connecting this section of country with history. In August 1676 in the closing events of King
Philip's war, Maj. JoIm Talcot, with a body of Connecticut soldiers, and Indians pursued a party of fugitive Indians
into this region, and overtaking them on the banks of the Housatonic infected severe chastisement upon them.
The following narrative of this affair is transcribrd from Hoyt's Antiquarian Researches. Major Talcot had taken
post at Westfield: "Not long after his arrival at that place, the trail of about two hundred Indians, was
discovered in the vicinity, shaping towards the Hudson. Talcot immediately took the trail, and pressed on to overtake
the Indians, and on the third day discovered them encamped on the west bank of Housatonic river, in the most perfect
security. Being late in the day, lie resolved to postpone an attack, until next morning, and drawing back, lay
upon his arms in the most profound silence. Towards the dawn of day, forming his troops into two divisions, one
to pass the river below the Indians, make a detour, and attack them in their rear, while the other was to approach
by a direct route opposite to their camp, and open a fire across' the river the moment the attack commenced on
the opposite side. The plan was partially frustrated. One of the Indians left the camp in the night, and proceeded
down the river for the purpose of taking fish, and as the troops who had crossed the river, as had been ordered,
were advancing to the attack, lie discovered them and gave the usual cry, Awanux, Awanux! on which he was instantly
shot. Talcot, now opposite to the Indian camp, hearing the report, instantly poured in a volley, as the Indians
were rising from their slumbers. A complete panic ensued, and they fled in confusion into the woods, followed by
Talcot, and most who escaped the first fire made good their retreat. The division below was too far distant to
share in the victory. Twenty-five Indians were left on the ground, and twenty were made prisoners, and among the
former was the Sachem of Quaboag. Talcot lost but one, and he a Mohegan." This account was published in 1824,
and a foot note to the foregoing says "this affair took place in the upper part of Sheffield, in Massachusetts,
and the spot is still Known to the inhabitants."
Hubbard in his narrative of Indian wars - written after the occurrence, - locates this fight on the "Ausotunnoog
river in the middle way betwixt Westfield and the Dutch river and Fort Albany." Mr. Hubbard says a great party
of Indians, judged to be about two hundred, were observed to pass by Westfield, "News thereof being brought
to Major Talcot, he with the Soldiers of Connecticut Colony under his command, both English and Indians, pursued
after them as far as Ausotuunoog River, (in the middle way betwixt Westfield and the Dutch River and Fort Albany,)
where he overtook them, and fought with them; killing and taking prisoners forty five, whereof twenty-five were
fighting men, without the loss of any one of his company, besides a Mohegin Indian. Many of the rest were sorely
wounded, as appeared by the dabling of the bushes with blood, as was observed by them that followed them a little
further." "It is written since from Albany that there were sundry lost besides the forty-five forementioned,
to the number of three-score in all; and also that a hundred and twenty of them are now dead of sickness."
Mr. Field, in Berkshire History, mentions an opinion that it occurred in Stockbridge, and cites the fact that Indian
bones were found there, in preparing ground for the foundation of a meeting house in 1784, but this cannot be considered
good evidence, as similar Indian remains are quite common. Rev. Joseph W. Crossman, in a New Year's discourse at
Salisbury, Conn., in 1803, mentions a similar - probably the some -- occurrence as having taken placein the north-east
part of Salisbury, at the locality now called Dutcher's Bridge, and states - perhaps erroneously - that one Col.
Whiting was the commanding officer in that affair. But it seems not improbable that the place of conflict was at
the fordway, "by the Great Wigwam," in the village of Great Barrington, where the Indian trail from Westfield
crossed the river. This was the natural and direct route for a body of Indians fleeing toward the Hudson river
- and it is well known that a large number of Indians, supposed to have been fugitives from this battle, soon afterwards,
passed the Hudson a short distance below Albany ; - and. this lo cality corresponds with the foot note quoted,
as this fordway was afterwards in quite the "upper part of' Sheffield," as that town was, originally,
incorporated We are strongly inclined to the belief that Talcot's encounter occurred at the spot we have indicated
- though it matters little whether it took place here or ten miles below, in the edge of Connecticut -- and we
have only introduced it here as the first well authenticated historical event of this part of the Housatonic Valley.
In the Patent of Westenhook, as in other New York documents of a little earlier date, the river is called "Westenhook"
-- the Dutch name -- which, (as is also our Housatonic) is an apparent corruption of the commonly' accepted Indian
name of the river, -- " Hooestennuc" -"the river beyond the mountains." By both Indians and
whites, the river was designated by different names in the different sections through which it passed. -names which
applied appropriately to adjacent territoryThus it was called by the Dutch Westenhook (sometimes written Westenhook
- Westenook - and Westennuc) the name which they gave to the tract of country afterwards the Westenhook Patent;
in Massachusetts,by the Indians HooestennuC, the title by which their settlement in Great Barrington was known;
in Connecticut, Wyantenock, the name of a large tract of country in the vicinity of New Milford; and near its mouth
it was known as the "Stratford" river, from the first established town upon its borders.
The earliest particular mention of this river, which we have met with amongst Massachusetts authorities is found
in the journal of Rev. Benjamin Wadsworth, a minister of Boston, afterwards President of Harvard College, who,
in 1694, accompanied the Commissioners of Massachusetts and Connecticut to attend a treaty held at Albany between
Commissioners of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York and New Jersey and the Five Nations of Indians.
(1) The party travelled from Boston to Albany, on horseback, with a guard of sixty dragoons commanded by Capt.
Wadsworth of Hartford. They left Boston August 6th, and arrived at Westfield August 9th.
Mr. Wadsworth says "We set out from thence (Westfieid) towards Albany the nearest way thro' ye woods ;"
they travelled about 24 or 25 miles and encamped. "Ye road which we travelled this day, was very woody, rocky,
mountainous, swampy; extreamly ù bad riding it was. I never yet saw so bad travelling as this was. We took
up our quarters, this night, by ye side of a river, about a quarter past 5," (probably the Farmington River
in Otis.) August 10th, travelled about 25 miles "and took up our lodgings, about sundown, in ye woods, at
a place called Ousetonuck formerly inhabited by Indians.. Thro' this place runs a very curious river, the same
(which some say) runs thro' Stradford; and it has on each side some parcels of pleasant, fertile intervale land."
"Ye greatest part of our road this day was a hideous, howling wilderness; some part of ye road was not so
extream bad." "August 11, we set forward about sunrise, and came, ye foremost of us, to Kinderhook about
3 of ye clock." They continued to Albany, and, returning, took their route towards Hartford, by Kinderhook,
Clavarack, Taghkanick, Kent and Woodbury, Ct. Leaving `Turconnick,' they rode twelve or fourteen miles, "on
our left a hideous high mountain." About noon they came to Ten Mile river, `called so from its distance from
Wyantenuck, runs into Wyantenuck, by ye side of which we rode, I believe, six or seven miles and passed ye same
a little after sundown.' "Wyantenuck river is ye same yt passeth thro' Ousetonnuck; it is Stratford river
It is probable that Mr. Wadsworth and his party, following the Indian trail from Westfield to Kinderhook, crossed
the Housatonic at the fordway by the "Great Wigwam" in the village of Great Barrington, and in that view,
this abstract from his journal is valuable as furnishing corroborative evidence of the truth of the tradition that
an Indian settlement had once existed near that ford-way. This settlement had, then, in 1694, been abandoned, and
it probably had not, to much extent, been inhabited since the time of King Phillip's war, eighteen years earlier.
The river, then, was called by the Dutch of New York, Westenhook; in Massachusetts, Ousetonnuc, or Housatumnuk
in various styles of orthography; in the northern part of Connecticut Wyantenock, and below tide water the Stratford
The derivation of Housatonic - which, as we have said, is a corruption of the Indian name of the valley has been
frequently discussed and we have but little to add to what is known relative to it. Dr. Timothy Dwight is the authority
for "Hoo-es-ten-nuc" and for its signification - "the river beyond the mountains" - and this
is peculiarly appropriate, as relates to the tribe of Indians which dwelt along the Hudson, (from which the Housatonic
Indians were an offshoot) who were accustomed to resort to the Housatonic valley for hunting and fishing; to them
both the country and river were, in fact, "beyond the mountains." Still we believe the true meaning of
Hoo-es-ten-nuc, to be "over the mountain." Such is the definition given in Morse's geography published
nearly eighty years since, and such is the definition given by Isaac Huntting, Esq., of Pine Plains, N. Y., who
has given much attention to Indian history and language. Mr. Huntting says " Hoo-est" means over, "ten-nuc"
the mountain - and to give the Indian idea, it must be a mountain of trees. The tree part of it, is the pith and
beauty of the word; the mountain of trees, or covered with trees."
The Rev. Jeremiah Slingerland of Keshena Wisconsin - himself a Stockbridge Indian of pure blood, abd the minister
of the Stockbridges residing there -
informed the writer that the name, applied by the Indians to this part of the valley was Ou-thot-ton-nook, the
first syllable having the sound of ou in out - definition "over the mountain;" but this was the name
of their settlement, not of the river.
In illustration of his meaning he pointed at the full moon, then just rising above East mountain, and said "that
is Ou-thot-.ton-nook - over the mountain." But, as we have, before said, the river, here and further south,
derived its name from the country through which it flowed, rather than from any adaptedness of the names to the
stream itself. The different names referred naturally to the land rather than to the stream.
1722 - 1733 with Proceedings Relative to the Lower
The preliminary proceedings towards the settlements of the Upper and Lower Housatonic Townships, have been often
written, and are familiar to every reader of Berkshire history. At a session of the Great and General Court, of
the Province of Massachusetts Bay, begun at Boston, on the last Wednesday of May, 1722, the petitions of Joseph
Parsons and one hundred and fifteen others, and of Thomas Nash and sixty others, inhabitants of Hampshire County,
were presented, asking for grants of two tracts of land on the Housartonic river. The report of the Committee,
to which these petitions were referred, was accepted by the General Court, and received the approval of the Governor
on the 30th of June, granting to such of the petitioners, or others, as might be admitted by a committee for laying
out and settling the lands, two tracts of land each to contain seven miles square, to be laid out on the Housatonic
river, the first tract to adjoin southerly on the divisional line between Massachusetts Bay and Connecticut, the
second to be laid northerly of and adjoining to the first tract.
John Stoddard and Henry Dwight of Northampton, Luke Hitchcock of Springfield, John Ashley of Westfield, and Samuel
Porter of Hadley, were appointed a committee to admit settlers or inhabitants, to grant lots, and manage all the
prudential affairs of the settlers. The committee were directed to settle the lands in a compact, regular and defensible
manner; to admit one hundred and twenty inhabitants or settlers into the two townships, giving preference to such
of thE petitioners as they judge most likely to bring forward a settlement, allowing none of the settlers more
than three years, from the time of the allotment of their lands, in which to bring forward a settlement, by building
a suitable house and dwelling therein by themselves - or a tenant to the committees acceptance and tilling such
quantity of land as the committee might direct, in in order to be entitled to their grants. The committee were
also directed to reserve a sufficient quantity of land for the first settled minister, Ministry, and School, and
to demand and receive from each grantee the sum of thirty shillings for each one hundred acres granted; the money
so received to be expended in paying the Indians a reasonable sum for their rights to the lands, paying the expenses
of the settling committee and of laying out the lands, and the residue, in building meeting-houses in the townships.
At Westfield on the 25th April, 1724, Konkapot and twenty other Indians - "all of Housatonack allias Westonook"
- in consideration of the payment secured to them of "Four Hundred and Sixty Pounds, Three Barrels of Sider
and thirty quarts of Rum," executed a deed conveying to the committee - Col. John Stoddard, Capt. John Ashley,
Capt. Henry Dwight and Capt. Luke Hitchcock - "A certain tract of land lying upon Housatonack river alias
Westonook," bounding " Southardly upon ye divisional line between the Province of Massachusetts Bay and
the Colony of Connecticut in New England, westwardly on ye patten or colony of New York, northwardly upon ye Great
Mountain known by ye name of Mau-ska-fee-haunk, and eastardly to run four miles from ye aforesaid River, and in
a general way so to extend."
The Indians reserved within this tract all the laud, on the west side of the river, lying between the mouth of
a brook called "Mau-nau-pen-fe-con" and of a small brook lying between the aforesaid brook and the river
called "Waumpa-nick-se-poot" or "White River" - now the Green River - extending due west from
the mouths of said brooks to the Colony of New York, and also a "Clear Meadow" lying between the before-mentioned
small brooks and White River. The tract conveyed by this deed included the whole of the towns of Sheffield,. Great
Barrington, Mount Washington, and Egremont, the greater part of Alford, and large portions of West Stockbridge,
Stockbridge, and Lee; a much larger territory than was comprehended in the legislative grant.
As the boundary line between New York and Massachusetts had not then been established, the western limit of this
tract was indefinite. The Great Mountain - "Mau-ska-fee-haunk" - the northern boundary in this conveyance,
is believed to be the Rattlesnake Mountain in Stockbridge near the southern slope of which thee north line of the
upper township ran as afterwards surveyed. The grant of the two townships, as they were finally surveyed, included
the present towns of Sheffield and Great Barrington, a large part of West Stockbridge, Stockbridge, and Lee, and
a small part of Alford. The tract reserved by the Indians, with thee exception of the clear meadow, lies immediately
south of the south line of Great Barrington and extends from the Housatonic River westerly to the line of New York;
the clear meadow is included within the recognized limits of Great Barrington. This reservation will be more particularly
Proceedings of the Settling Committee Relative to the Lower Township.
As an initiatory step toward the settlement of the Lower Township, the committee called a meeting of the petitioners
or proposed settlers, to be held at tb& house of John Day, in Springfield, on the 13th of March, 1723, but,
as a public fast had been appointed to be observed on that day, the time of the meeting" was postponed to
the 19th. At this meeting fifty-five persons, each having paid the sum of thirty shillings to the committee, were
accepted by them and were te have lands granted to them, on condition that each should build a suitable house and
till twelve acres of land within three years' time. At a little later date John Stoddard declined serving on the
committee and Samuel Porter died, and Capt. Ebenezer Pomroy was added to the the committee by a vote of the General
Court, on the 14th of November, 1724. The records of the committee do not show what, if any, progress was made
in the settlement of the township in the three years which had elapsed from March 1723 to March 1726, nor do they
furnish any means of accounting for the apparent delay.
On the 9th of March, 1726, at a meeting of the committee, it was determined "that two of the committee, at
least, should go to Housatonic to make something of a survey of the same, in order to a divisjon of the two towns
and some projection, if they could, in order to ye laying out of ye lots in ye Lower Township at least; and Capt.
Ashley and Capt. Pomroy went to Housatonic on the aforesaid message." Messrs. Ashley and Pomroy evidently
visited Housatonic in March, and on the 8th of April the committee again assembled at Springfield, and determined
"that ye Lower Township shall extend up the Main River from ye Path yt goeth over ye River by ye Great Wigwam,
something above ye middle falls, which is something above half a mile from said path; and if there shall be a mill
or mills sett up there in ye Great River, that each town shall have ye privilege of ye stream for yt purpose."
This decree located the divisional line, between the two townships, at the north side of the present Iron Bridge
the Great Bridge - where it was afterwards surveyed by Timothy Dwight in 1736. The "Great Wigwam," or
rather the locality known by that name, was near the site of the present Congregational Church in the village of
Great Barrington, probably a little to the south and east of that building; the "Path" crossed the river
at a fordway directly east of the foot of Church street. The "Middle Falls" are the same now occupied
by the Berkshire Woolen Company. The committee at this meeting - April 8th, 1726, - proceeded to divide the Lower
Township into five divisions, along the river, following the course of the stream from the Connecticut line, northerly,
to the present Iron Bridge. These divisions were roughly made, and included the meadow land and the upland immediately
adjoining; to each division a specified number of proprietors was allotted.
The first division extended up the river, from the Connecticut line, four hundred rods; in this division were nine
proprietors. The second division extended up the river "about two miles" to a certain large brook; in
this division were nine proprietors. The third division extended up to the "Indian Land," "being
most two miles;" to this division twenty-one proprietors were assigned, including the Minister's right and
the School land. The fourth division began at the north side of the Indian Land, "near the mouth of Green
River," and extended "about a mile" to a little cove which emptied into the river at the lower end
of a meadow which "Joshua White improves ;" in this division were fourteen proprietors. The fifth division
extended from the mouth of the cove mentioned, up the river "to the end of the town bounds ;" to this
division eight proprietors were allotted; but it was provided by the committee that the proprietors should not
lay out the land above the path which crossed the river at the Great Wigwam. This provision was intended as a protection
to, or reservation of the water power which fell within the limits of the fifth division, and which the committee
had decreed should be kept for the use of both townships.
Having made the foregoing divisions, the committee, at the same meeting - April 8th, 1726 - reported their proceedings,
reading them over several times to the proprietors, which were "well accepted by them," and the proprietors,
fifty-nine in number, drew lots to determine in which divisions the lands to be laid out to each should be located,
with the exception of a few, whose locations were determined by the committee. The few whose locations were fixed
by the committee - aside from the Minister's Right, the right sequestered to the Ministry, and the School Right
- may have been absent from the meeting, or, as appears more probable, were those who had already commenced improvements
in the Lower Township, as Matthew Noble and perhaps some others, had done. The breadths of the several divisions
along the river, north and south, were estimated rather than accurately measured; that these estimates were made
with extreme liberality is apparent to the casual observei of the present day; their extent, east and west of the
river, is indefinite, but was such as to accommodate each proprietor with a suitable quantity of both meadow and
It is to be presumed that the committee proceeded immediately, after making these divisions, in April 1726, to
lay out home lots and other lands to the proprietors in the respective divisions to which they had been by lot
assigned, and that some of the proprietors entered upon and occupied their lands in the spring of that year; but
the records of the committee furnish little light on this point, although they do inform us that "many people
were upon the land" previous to May 1727. Soon after the commencement of settlements, difficulties arose between
the settlers and certain Dutchmen from the Province of New York, who claimed the lands as within the limits and
jurisdiction of that Province. Of how serious a nature these troubles were does not distinctly appear, but they
were of such moment as to become the subject of correspondence between the governments of the two provinces as
early as the spring of 1727.
The records of the committee sum up the matter `very briefly, as follows :- " After ye lot was drawn, or after
many people was upon the land at Housatunnuck,
the Dutch People molested them and caused great charge and trouble to ye Committee as well as ye People."
On the 12th of May, 1727, the Lient. Governor of Massachusetts Bay addressed a letter to the settling committee
informing them that he had received from the Governor of New York, a copy of an order of Council "forbidding
the inhabitants of that Province prosecuting suits respecting those lands, or making further settlements until
ye line be fixed," and he therefore directed the committee to take " effectual care that the same be
observed on ye part of ye inhabitants of this Province."
This "Order of Council" was a response to the petition of Evert Wendell in behalf of the proprietors
of Westenhook. The petition, dated April 29th, 1726, narrates that the proprietors purchased the land of the Indians,
and obtained a patent in 1705, and had ever since paid the Annual Quit Rent of œ7 10s, that they had "lately
met with great trouble and disturbance from the people of Conecticut and Massatuchets, they both pretending that
Westenhook will fall into their boundaries whenever the partition lines between this Province and those Colonys
shall be perfected, and doe begin already to settle the same." The petitioners ask the Governor and Council
to interpose, and when the partition line may be completed "that the said proprietors may be continued in
the quiet and peaceable possession of such part of Westenhook as may happen to fall within the bounds and limits
of Conecticut or MassatuebetS, and that the property thereof may remaine as the same now stands vested." (Land
Papers, Vol. 10 page 4.)
In consequence of the above instructions, the committee, on the 8th of May, issued an order to the settlers forbidding
them from making further settlements, or commencing suits against the inhabitants of New York respecting the titles
of their lands. By this order the progTeSS of the settlement was stayed, and matters came to a stand still, much
to the discomfiture of the settlers; they however maintained their ground, trusting that they would be, eventually,
sustained by the provincial governments and it is probable that they were, tacitly, if not openly, encouraged,
though we find no evidence that anything further was done for their relief until 1733. In the interim, the time
allotted the committee, in which to perfect the work of laying out the lands and settling both townships, had expired,
and their task was not yet completed.
On the 22d of June 1733, the General Court passed an order appointing John Ashley, Ebenezer Pomroy and Thomas Ingersoll
a Committee to bring forward a settlement of the Upper Township at Housatonic, their "power to extend also
to the LOwer Township, so as to confirm the settlers in their property ;" the committee were instructed to
report their proceedings as to the Lower Township within twelve months from the date of the order. This committee
visited the Lower Township in October 1733, and again in 1734, and completed their work by making' a full record
of the lands laid to each proprietor's right, and confirming the settlers in the possession of their lands. During
the eight years which had elapsed from the commencement of settlements in 1726, to the closing of the labors of
the committee in 1734, many of the proprietary rights had changed hands, by sale or otherwise, and several of the
original proprietors had died; amongst the latter were John Huggins, Joshua Root, Lawrence Suydam, Noah Phelps,
Daniel Ashley and David King. The proprietors whose titles were confirmed by the committee in 1733-4, most of whom
were then settled in the township were as follows:
IN THE FIRST DIVISION.
John Ashley, Aaron Ashley, Ezekiol Ashley, Matthew Noble, Nathaniel Leonard, Joseph Taylor, John Pell, Joseph Corbin,
Jonathan Westover, Benjamin Sackett and Chileab Smith.
Zachariah Walker, James Smith, Jr., Thomas Lee, and Joshua Boardmau, Lieut James Smith, Samuel Goodrich andJohn
Westover, John Smith. Joseph Seger and Lieut. Thomas Ingersoll, John Huggins deceased, Joshua Boardman.
Japhet Bush, John Ashley, Capt. John Day, Philip Callender, John Huggins deceased, David Clark, Anthony Austin,
Nathaniel Austin, Eleazar Stockwell, Noah Phelps, Lieut. Thomas Ingersoll, Obadiah and Solomon Noble, Matthew Noble,
Senr., William Goodrich, Jonathan Root, Daniel Kellogg, Stephen Vanhall Samuel Ferry, Capt. John Ashley, Minister's
Lot, School Lot.
Samuel Ferry, John Phelps, Thomas Dewey, Thomas Pier, (two rights,) Samuel Harmon, Joseph Noble, Joshua Root deceased,
(two rights,) William Phelps, Samuel Surdam, and the heirs of Lawrence Surdam, Samuel Dewey, Sen'r. and Samuel
Dewey, Jr., Joseph Sheldon, Lot sequestered to the Ministery.
Samuel Younglove, Coonrod Burghardt, Joshua White, Moses King. Israel Lawton. Moses Ingersoll, and Stephen King.
The proprietors held their first meeting on the 12th of May, 1733, and organized the propriety by choosing Daniel
Kellogg clerk. This township was incorporated as a town with the name of Sheffield, in January 1733; but at that
time no regular survey of the town had been made, and as it was desirable that it should include a larger tract
than had been comprehended in the legislative grant of seven miles square, the inhabitants and proprietors were
desirous of obtaining a confirmation of the grant, which should cover the excess. A plan of the township was prepared
by Capt. William Chandler, compiled partly from surveys made by himself, and partly from those of adjoining lands,
made by Timothy Dwight; this plan, which is poorly executed and contains apparent inaccuracies, was presented to
the General Court in December, 1737, but was not then accepted.
In 1738 the proprietors, at their meeetings in April and November, discussed the matter, and "chose Nathaniel
Austin agent for the proprietors of Sheffield, to go to the General Assembly to get a confirmation of Sheffield
together with the overplus lands found therein." Mr. Austin was instructed to employ Col. John Stoddard, of
Northampton, to assist him in this business; but for unexplained reasons the matter was delayed in the legislature
until 1741, when on the 4th of August the plan of the township was accepted and received the approval of the Governor.
In 1735 the proprietors began laying out and distributing the undivided lands in the township, which they continued
to do at intervals until 1761.
At a meeting held January 31st, 1791, it was voted "to lay out all the common land not heretofore voted to
be laid out," and a committee was appointed to ascertain the quantity of land remaining undivided. This committee
made report that "after deducting all former layings, ponds, rivers, &c., there is to be laid out to each
proprietor one hundred and twenty acres, which will comprehend all the lands in said propriety." A general
scramble for lands ensued, and for many years, commonage, or the right to pitch lands under proprietary rights,
was for sale at low rates. The surveys of lands were roughly made and carelessly recorded; in many instances lands
were laid out infringing upon surveys already made; these inaccuracies, together with a general neglect of permanent
boundaries, have given rise to numerous misunderstandings and much litigation, particularly as regards the titles
of mountain lands. The propriety was finally deemed to be extinct, but was resuscitated and reorganized some thirty
years since; but this organization was shown to be illegal and was set aside. It was however again reorganized,
and still claims to have an existence.