Conway — Early Settlement
Extracted from "History of the Connecticut Valley in Massachusetts, Volume II," by Louis H. Everts, 1879.
The territory now occupied by Conway was originally a portion of Deerfield, and received, early in 1762, its first settler, Cyrus Rice, of Barre, who built his house in the east, upon the slope of a hill near the site of the old tavern-stand long afterward known as the "Hawley place." This territory was included in a grant made to Deerfield in 1712, when its domain—in answer to the petition of Rev. John Williams—was enlarged so as to extend "nine miles westward into the western woods." The southern portion of this grant came to be known as the "Southwest district," or "Southwest," and is now the town of Conway.
There was some agitation in Deerfield in 1753 in favor of laying off the place called "Southwest" into lots, preparatory to its settlement, and late in that year the lots were laid out, containing 150 acres each, extending two hundred and forty rods in length from east to west, and one hundred rods in width. About that time the proprietors of "Southwest" made a grant to John Blackmore of 10 acres of land for a mill-spot, "at a place just before the crotch of South River," but there is no evidence to show that Blackmore entered upon occupation. There was a road through the tract in 1754, from Deerfield to Huntstown (now Ashfield), and in 1763 Deerfield appropriated £4 toward building a bridge over South River, and "making a county road adjacent to the same."
The second settler was Josiah Boyden, of Grafton. Israel Gates, of Barre, followed, and after him John Wing, Elijah May, David Parker, James Dickinson, John Bond, Jonas Rice, John Boyden, and Joseph Catlin (who were settlers upon the "Eastern district"), Robert Hamilton, Henry Arms, George Stearns, Caleb Rice, Silas Rawson, Joel Baker, and Adoniram Bartlett (settling north of the "Eastern district"), Jonathan Root, Daniel Stow, John Thwing, Benjamin Pulsifer, Timothy Thwing, Israel Rice, Timothy Rice, Theophilus Page, Wm. Warren, John Batchelder, Nathaniel Goddard, John Broderick, Michael Turpey, John Sherman, Samuel Newhall, David Harrington, Jason Harrington, Jonathan Smith, Caleb Allen, James Warren, Daniel Newhall, Prince Tobey, Jabez Newhall, David Whitney, Benjamin Wells, Abner Forbes, Thomas French, Tertius French, Nathaniel Field, Asa Merrit, Jonathan Whitney, Caleb Sharp, Aaron Howe, Jas. Davis, Joel and Elias Dickinson, Elijah Wells, H. B. Childs, Gershom Farnsworth, Alexander Oliver, Robert and James Oliver, James Look, Elisha Clark, Ebenezer Allis, Lucius Allis, Matthew and Simeon Graves, James Gilmore, Samuel Wells, Amos Allen, Abel Dinsmore, Wm. Gates, Gideon Cooley, Nathaniel Marble, John Avery, Malachi Maynard, Solomon Goodale, Samuel Crittenden, Isaac Nelson, Richard Collins, Solomon Hartwell, Moses and Calvin Maynard, Ebenezer Tolman, Consider Arms, Isaac and Elisha Amsden, Solomon Field, and Sylvanus Cobb.
The eastern half of the tract was first settled, and in 1767, when Conway was incorporated, embraced nearly all of the 200 people then inhabiting the district.
The first tavern-keeper was Thomas French, at whose inn—which stood where the Baptist Church, in Conway Centre, now stands—the first district meeting was held, in 1767, and it is probable that he kept tavern there some time previous to that date. Landlord French was a great man in those days, and his house a great place of resort. It was at one time his boast that he owned so much land that he could make the journey to Deerfield without stepping off his own broad acres. Reverses overtook him later in life, and he died a pauper.
The first blacksmith was Aaron Howe; the first shoemaker, Maj. James Davis; and the first frame house in the district was erected by. Deacon Joel Baker, about a mile north of the centre. Beulah, daughter of Cyrus Rice, the first settler, was the first child; and David, son of Josiah Boyden, was the first male child born here. Josiah Boyden's daughter, Mary, was born in 1767, and died in 1869, the widow of Medad Crittenden, aged one hundred and one years and six months.
The first county road, laid out in 1754, has already been referred to; the second county road, laid out in 1765, extended from the meeting-house in Pumpkin Hollow, over the hill, through what is now Burkeville, up the river, and so on to Ashfield Roads, to Broomshire, and south, was built in 1767; and to West Street, Cricket Hill, and Poland in 1769.
Traces of the old stage-road which once passed from Northampton to Ash field are still to be seen on the farms of Nathaniel Smith, Zelotus Bates, Charles Wrisley, and the old Crittenden place.
The first chaise seen in the town was owned by Parson Emerson, and was of the kind known as a two-wheeled chair. Robert Hamilton built the first one-horse wagon about 1800, and thought it was the only one in America.
The first grist-mill was built as early as 1767, and probably before, by Caleb Sharp, a half negro and half Indian, as he was called, but a wide-awake and industrious citizen. This mill occupied a site on South River, where John Sprague now has a grist-mill, just below Burkeville. The second grist-mill was built in 1770, on the South River, near the Thwing mill, now in the north part of the town.
There are in the town twelve farms now occupied by descendants of the first occupants, the names of the first owners being Josiah Boyden, John Wing, Consider Arms, Israel Rice, Theophilus Page, Timothy Thwing, Samuel Newhall, Jabez Newhall, Solomon Field, Richard Collins, Malachi Maynard, Lucius Allis. The names of the present occupants in the same order are Josiah Boyden, Lucius B. Wing, Elijah Arms, Austin Rice, Elijah Page, Amariah Thwing, Joseph Newhall, Rodolphus Newhall, Consider Field, Hiram Collins, Lucy Maynard, and John Allis.
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This page was last updated on
14 Jul 2005