Shutesbury — Noteworthy Incidents
Extracted from "History of the Connecticut Valley in Massachusetts, Volume II," by Louis H. Everts, 1879.
The town never suffered from Indian depredations, but as a precautionary measure a fort was built in 1748, near the residence of Rev. Abraham Hill, and his house picketed. The fort occupied a site close to where Mr. J. Hayden now lives, about a half-mile north of Shutesbury Centre.
The first pound was built in 1761, 30 feet "squair," and located near the meeting-house. About that time it was resolved to provide constables and wardens with staves, and 3s. were appropriated for the purpose. In 1765 the town built "stocks," and in the same year empowered Joseph Lock to apply to the court of General Sessions to secure the town from any charge to which it might become exposed on account of a child of Elizabeth Wilder, born out of wedlock.
In 1767 the General Court was petitioned for relief from province taxes. In 1768 but £6 5s. 8d. were raised to defray necessary town charges; and in 1709 the sum raised was £5 6s. 8d.
The question of clearing and inclosing the burying-ground was agitated in 1763, and continued to be discussed until 1771, when it was resolved not to do the work. In 1781 the tract known as the North End was set off from Shutesbury and apportioned to the town of Wendell.
The records of 1778 refer to a Dr. Robert Cutler as a resident, and it is likely that he was the first settled physician. In that year, the supply of grain threatening to give out, a committee was appointed "to search and examine every man's store of grain and corn, and to make a computation of what grain is necessary to support the town until the next English harvest, and supply each family." The committee reporting that they had found 984 bushels, and that 1182 bushels would be required to support the town until the next English harvest, a committee was forthwith appointed to confer with other towns and come to some plan for supplying the need.
In 1779, Rev. Abraham Hill, refusing to pay his taxes, was forced to do so under threat of seizure, and he subsequently brought, in the court of Common Pleas, at Northampton, an action against the town to compel the restitution of the moneys thus obtained. In response to a citation to appear, the town transmitted to the court, through a committee, art answer setting forth that the town did not recognize the British laws under which the court was framed, and would not submit the case to it. That was the last heard of the matter.
In 1782 the town voted not to accept the Excise Act passed by the Legislature, and in that year, too, financial pressure compelled the sale of the ministerial and school lands.
Besides the tract set off to Wendell, Shutesbury was also shorn of a tract on the east for addition to New Salem.
The first justice of the peace in the town was, probably, John Powers, Jr., who was appointed in 1783. The first birth in what is Shutesbury appears (from the records) to have been Lucy, daughter of Jonathan Dickinson, born Nov. 9, 1746, the first death, Sarah Harris, in 1762; and the first marriage, Silent Wilde, of Shutesbury, and Eunice Strong, of Union, Conn., in 1763. It is probable that there were births, marriages, and deaths previous to these dates, but the records do not mention them.
William Ward is supposed to have been the first lawyer, one Marks the first blacksmith, and among the physicians Drs. Day and Carter flourished at an early period. The first tavern is said to have been kept by a Capt. Allen, a short distance north of what is now Shutesbury Centre. It is related that a body of Shays men, passing through Shutesbury, rested at Capt. Allen's tavern, and the leader of the band, espying Rev. Mr. Smallidge standing near, cried out to him, "Whose side are you on?" "Sir," returned the reverend gentleman, I am on the side of the Lord Jesus Christ."
Capt. Samson, of Shutesbury, was one of the first to join Shays' cause, and was one of its staunchest supporters, as was also Capt. Powers, of Shutesbury. The Rev. John Taylor, Congregational minister, was also postmaster in 1816. An ancient structure, now standing in Shutesbury Centre next the school-house, was built by Thomas Kibbey about 1790, and there for many years he kept tavern.
The oldest person now living in the town is "Aunt" Lydia Pratt, aged ninety-six, and the widow of Jonas Pratt, who served in the war of 1812 from Shutesbury. The Hon. Paul Dillingham, Governor of Vermont in 1865, was a native of Shutesbury, and there were doubtless other natives of the town who achieved distinction, but their names are not at hand. Apropos of the war of 1812, Shutesbury protested against it, and sent William Ward as a delegate to the Northampton anti-war convention.