Bernardston — Early Settlement

Extracted from "History of the Connecticut Valley in Massachusetts, Volume II," by Louis H. Everts, 1879.

      In November, 1734, the following was presented to the General Court:

      "A petition of Samuel Hunt, of Billerica, for himself and other survivors of the officers and soldiers that belonged to the company of Capt. Turner, and the representatives of them that are dead, shewing that the said company in 1676 engaged the Indian enemy at a place above Deerfield, and destroyed above three hundred of them, and, therefore, praying that this court would grant them a tract of land above Deerfield suitable to make a township."

      The petition was answered and granted by the General Court as follows:

      "Voted that the prayer thereof be so far granted as that the petitioners have leave by a surveyor and chainman upon oath to lay out a township of the contents of six miles square, to the northward of the town of Deerfield, in the unappropriated lands of the Province, and return a plat thereof to this Court for confirmation within twelve months, and that the said township is hereby granted to the petitioners and such other officers and soldiers that were in said fight above Deerfield, commonly called the Falls Fight, and to the descendants of any of the officers and soldiers that were in said fight and are deceased, that shall be admitted by the committee hereafter named:
      "Provided the grantees do within four years settle sixty families in said township, and have each of them a house eighteen feet square, and five acres brought to English grass, or broken up by plowing, and also build a convenient meeting-house, and settle a learned orthodox minister among them, laying out a home-lot for the first settled minister, and another for the ministry, each of which to draw a seventieth part of said township; also a lot for the school, of one hundred acres, the remainder to be divided into equal parts among those that are admitted, and that John Stoddard, Joseph Dwight, Charles Church, and Samuel Danforth, Esqrs., with such as shall be appointed by the Honorable Board, be a committee to receive the claims of all such as shall challenge by this grant, and are empowered and required to admit all such officers and soldiers as shall within twelve months from this time put in their claims and give a satisfactory account of their being in the fight, and shall also admit one, and only one, of the descendants of each of the officers and soldiers that were killed in said fight, or since deceased, provided they put in their claims and make their challenge within twelve months as aforesaid. And the committee are further directed always to give preference to the oldest of the sons of each officer and soldier, deceased, that shall put in their claims, and in case no son does put in his claim within twelve months, then to give preference to the oldest male descendant from any such officer or soldier, deceased, that shall put in their claims as afore-said, and all others shall be excluded."

      Thursday, Nov. 28, 1734.--The committee appointed by the General Court to ascertain the names of the claimants under the grant reported the following:

      "Joseph Atherton, of Deerfield, only son of Hope Atherton; Nathaniel Alexander, of Northampton, son of Nathaniel Alexander; Thomas Alvard, Middleton, eldest son of Thomas Alvard; John Arms, Deerfield, son of William Arms; John Baker, Northampton, son of Timothy Baker; Samuel Bedortha, Springfield, son of Samuel Bedortha; John Field, Deerfield, descendant of James Bennet; John Barber, Springfield, son of John Barber; John Bradshaw, Medford, son of John Bradshaw; Isaac Burnap, Windham, son of John Burnap; Samuel Clesson, Northampton, descendant of Peter Bushrod; Samuel Boltwood, Hadley, son of Samuel Boltwood; Samuel Bardwell, Deerfield, son of Robert Bardwell; John Hitchcock, Springfield, descendant of Samuel Ball; Stephen Belden, Hatfield, son of Stephen Belden; Richard Beers, Watertown, son of Elnathan Beers; Samuel Beldin, Hatfield, son of Samuel Beldin; Preserved Clapp, Northampton, son of Preserved Clapp; Thomas Chapin, Springfield, son of Japhet Chapin; Samuel Crow, Hadley, son of Samuel Crow; Joseph Crowfoot, Wethersfield, descendant of Joseph Crowfoot; Wm. Clark, Lebanon, son of Wm. Clark; Noah Cook, Hadley, descendant of Noah Colman; Benjamin Chamberlain, Colchester, son of Benjamin Chamberlain; Nathaniel Camberlain [sic], descendant of Joseph Chamberlain; Samuel Cuniball, Boston, son of John Cuniball; John Chase, Newbury, son of John Chase; William Dickeson, Hadley, son of Nehemiah Dickeson; Samuel Jellet, Hatfield, descendant of John Dickeson; Benjamin Edwards, Northampton, son of Benjamin Edwards; Joseph Fuller, Newtown, son of Joseph Fuller; Samuel Field, Deerfield, son of Samuel Field; Nathaniel Foot, Colchester, son of Nathaniel Foot; John Flanders, Kingston, son of John Flanders; Isaac Gleason, Enfield, son of Isaac Gleason; Richard Church, Hadley, descendant of Isaac Harrison; Simon Grover, Malden, son of Simon Grover; Samuel Griffin, Roxbury, son of Joseph Griffin; John Hitchcock, Springfield, son of John Hitchcock; Luke Hitchcock, Springfield, son of Luke Hitchcock; Jonathan Holt, Deerfield, son of David Holt; Jonathan Scott, Waterbury, descendant of John Hawks; Eleazer Hawks, Deerfield, son of Eleazer Hawks; James Harwood, Concord, son of James Harwood; John Doud, Middleton, descendant of Experience Hindal; Samuel Hunt, Tewksbury, son of Samuel Hunt; Wm. James, Lebanon, son of Abell James; John Ingram, Hadley, son of John Ingram; Samuel Jellet, Hatfield, son of Samuel Jellet; Wm. Jones, Almsbury, son of Robert Jones; Medad King, Northampton, son of John King; Francis Keet, Northampton, son of Francis Keet; Martin Kellogg, Suffield, son of Joseph Kellogg; John Lee, Westfield, son of John Lee; John Lyman, Northampton, son of John Lyman; Joseph Leeds, Dorchester, son of Joseph Leeds; Josiah Leonard, Springfield, son of Josiah Leonard; John Merry, Long Island, son of Cornelius Merry; Stephen Noble, formerly of Enfield, descendant of Isaac Morgan; Jonathan Morgan, Springfield, son of Jonathan Morgan; Thomas Miller, Springfield, son of Thomas Miller; James Mun, Colchester, son of James Mun; Benjamin Mun, Deerfield, son of John Mun; John Mattoon, Wallingford, son of Philip Mattoon; John Nims, Deerfield, son of Godfrey Nims; Ebenezer Pumroy, Northampton, son of Medad Pumroy; Samuel Pumroy, N. H., son of Caleb Pumroy; Samuel Price, Glastenbury, son of Robert Price; Samuel Preston, Hadley, descendant of John Preston; Thomas Pratt, Malden, son of John Pratt; John Pressey, Almsbury, son of John Pressey; Henry Rogers, Springfield, son of Henry Rogers; John Read, Westford, son of Thomas Reed; Nathaniel Sikes, Springfield, son of Nathaniel Sikes; Nathaniel Sutliff, Durham, son of Nathaniel Sutliff; Samuel Stebbins, Springfield, son of Samuel Stebbins; Luke Noble, Westfield, descendant of Thos. Stebbins; Ebenezer Smead, Deerfield, son of William Smead; Joseph Smith, Hatfield, son of John Smith; James Stephenson, Springfield, son of James Stephenson; Thomas Seldon, Haddam, son of Joseph Seldon; Josiah Scott, Hatfield, son of Wm. Scott; John Salter, Charlestown, son of John Salter; Wm. Turner, Swanzey, grandson of Capt. Turner; Benjamin Thomas, Strafford, son of Benjamin Thomas; Joseph Winchell, Jr., Suffield, descendant of Jonathan Tailer; Samuel Tyley, Boston, son of Samuel Tyley; Preserved Wright, N. H., son of James Wright; Cornelius Webb, Springfield, son of John Webb; Jonathan Webb, Stamford, son of Richard Webb; John Wait, Hatfield, son of Benjamin Wait; Eleazer Weller, Westfield, son of Eleazer Weller; Thomas Wells, Deerfield, son of Thomas Wells; Ebenezer Warriner, Enfield, son of Joseph Warriner; Jonathan Wells, Deerfield, son of Jonathan Wells; Wm. Worthington, Colchester, son of Nicholas Worthington; John Scott, Elbows, grandson of John Scott; Samuel Colby, Almsbury; Irgal Newberry, Malden."

      The report was made in June, 1735, and, being accepted by the court, the grant was finally confirmed, Jan. 21, 1736. January 27th, of the same year, the proprietors held their first meeting at the house of Benjamin Stebbins, in Northampton, and chose Ebenezer Pomeroy moderator, and proprietors' clerk as well. A committee was appointed to survey the tract, and at the next meeting, in October, 1736, it was agreed to lay it out in fifty-acre home-lots, save the meadowlands on Fall River, which were to be laid out in five-acre lots. The tract included the present towns of Bernardston and Leyden, and a portion of the town of Coleraine, and, according to the grant, was of the contents of about six miles square. The place was at first called Falls Fight township, and this name it retained until Oct. 22, 1741, when the name of Falltown was substituted, and as such it was known until the incorporation of Bernardston, in 1762.
      In October, 1736, the proprietors petitioned the General Court for an additional grant of land, on the plea that the grantees of Falls Fight township were more numerous than the grantees of other tracts granted on account of similar meritorious services, but the petition seems to have been rejected.
      In May, 1737, the proprietors, numbering 97, determined to make the number of lots 100, so that the ministry should have two and the school one. The proprietors accordingly drew for their lots, and it was agreed about this time that 60 of the proprietors should settle upon the land, and that the remaining 37 should be relieved of the obligation to settle upon the payment of £18 each toward the building of a meeting-house and settlement of a minister.
      At a meeting of the proprietors, held in Deerfield in October, 1737, it was decided to raise £40 for the building of a saw-mill on Fall River near the meadow-lands, and a committee appointed for the purpose was instructed to have the mill set up by the following summer, and to agree with Joseph Mitchell or some other person to do the work. The committee was further directed to see about the erection of a grist-mill, to be devoted to the use of the proprietors, near the saw-mill; and it was conditioned further that the person who set up the saw-mill should be entitled to the exclusive mill-privileges of that part of Fall River only in the event of his setting up the grist-mill for the benefit of the proprietors. For the purpose of erecting the grist-mill each proprietor was' taxed 10s.
      At a meeting in February, 1738, it being reported that 60 settlers could not be obtained for the fund created by the assessment of £18 apiece against the 37 proprietors relieved from the obligation of settling, it was voted to increase that assessment to £22 each. These 37 non-settlers were to give bonds for the above amount, each payable May 1, 1739, and the 60 settlers were to give bonds of £100 each for the faithful performance of the injunctions laid upon the proprietors by act of General Court in issuing the grant.
      The following persons thereupon agreed to settle in the township, and gave the required bonds: Thos. Miller, Reuben Lockwood, Samuel Bardwell, Judah Wright, Elijah Williams, Thomas French, Benjamin Munn, Elizer Hawks, Joseph Bascom, John Nims, Jr., Joshua Wells, John Catlin (3d), Nathaniel Foot, Thomas Wells, Chas. Coats, Adonijah Atherton, Ebenezer Smead, Jr., Josiah Scott, David Field, Hezekiah Newcomb, Aaron Smith, John Hitchcock, Jr., John Hitchcock, Aaron Stebbins, Nathan Tuttle, Jonathan Clary, John Wait, Shem Chapin, John Burk, Nathaniel Sikes, Ebenezer Sheldon, Hezekiah Wright, Eleazer Weller, Hezekiah Lanphear, Samuel Smith, Simeon Wait, Noah Cook, Wm. Janes, Thos. Alvard, John Ely, Jonathan White, Stephen Belden, Ichabod Allies, Samuel Connable, William Jones, John Lyman, Josiah Leonard, Samuel Bennett, Henry Rogers, John Reed, Nathaniel Sutliff, Joseph Winchell, Jos. Mitchell, Wm. Scott, Benjamin Rugg. These settlers took up the 60 lots required to be occupied, and in the autumn of 1738 the township received its first settlers in the persons of Maj. John Burk, Lieut. Ebenezer Sheldon, Deacon (probably Elisha) Sheldon, and Samuel Connable, who built the first houses of the settlement.
      At this time the saw-mill was doubtless completed; but the grist-mill was not begun, and, nothing being done toward it as late as October, 1740, a new committee was appointed to push the project. A bridge was ordered to be built over Fall River near the saw-mill, in October, 1740, and highways were ordered to be laid out in the township as the committee should think proper. Settlements not being made to any extent by October, 1740, the proprietors decided to assess each right ("except ye publick rights") £22 for the purpose of encouraging settlers building the bridge over Fall River, finishing the meeting-house, and paying other charges.
      A proprietors' meeting was held Oct. 16, 1740, in the house of Ebenezer Sheldon, in Falls Fight township, and at the next meeting, October 19th, in Deerfield. Thomas Wells was employed to petition the General Court for an additional grant of land lying between Falls Fight township and Boston township No. 2 (Coleraine), and for his services in securing the grant he was to have 150 acres in said grant. At this meeting a committee was appointed to lay out a burying-ground of about 3 acres. The additional grant (known as The Gore) above petitioned for was obtained by Thomas Wells for the proprietors, but, for some reason unexplained, they refused to give him the 150 acres as the price of his services in the premises. Subsequently, they paid him £50 for his trouble.
      The grist-mill project was still in embryo in September, 1742, when a new committee was chosen, and instructed to have the mill set up by "some meet person" within eighteen months.
      The settlement was seriously disturbed during the exciting period of Indian warfare between 1745 and 1750, and, many of the settlers retiring temporarily to towns of greater security, those who remained busied themselves chiefly in effecting measures for protection against apprehended Indian attacks. The settlement was, however, not much of a sufferer at the hands of the savages, and in 1750 the wanderers there from had returned, and the business of pushing the settlement forward was briskly resumed.
      Among the earliest roads laid out were: one from Lieut. Sheldon's to the saw-mill; one from the country-road by the saw-mill to Simeon Hall's; one from the saw-mill to Sergt. Allen's; one from Moses Scott's to Deacon Sheldon's; one from Samuel Hastings' to Dry Brook; one from the country-road to Amasa Sheldon's; one from Benjamin Green's southward; and the road from Deerfield to Coleraine, which passed through Falltown.

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