Sunderland — Noteworthy Incidents

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

      Although Sunderland was not called upon to suffer seriously from Indian depredations during the wars that raged between the years 1722 and 1760, yet the proximity of the town to the scenes of warfare excited within the breasts of the inhabitants dire apprehensions, and called for the exercise of strict precautionary and defensive measures.
      In July, 1722, it was resolved to divide the town into three parts, each of which was to make a fort for defense against the enemy. The people were also called upon to take turns in watching and warding, and many were also detailed to do scout duty. Besides these forts ordered by the town, many houses were "forted" by the individual owners thereof. Alarms were frequent, and, as may be imagined, the constant dread and expectation of Indian attacks interrupted and sorely disorganized the home pursuits of the settlement.
      In 1724 an effort was made to obtain a garrison to protect the town, but without success. A good many of Sunderland's citizens were engaged in the campaigns against the Indians, among them being Stephen Ashley, Stephen Scott, Matthew Scott, William Scott, Jonathan Field, Jonathan Warner, Jonathan Bridgman, Humphrey Hobbs, Samuel Graves, Eli Scott, Samuel Gunn, and Nathaniel Montague, the latter being killed in battle at Lake George, Aug. 7, 1757.
      Swampfield's first blacksmith was Samuel Billings, who settled in 1718, in response to an offer of a lot fourteen rods wide as an inducement. The first child born in Swampfield was Ebenezer, son of Jonathan Graves, who was born Sept. 10, 1717, and died in 1813, aged ninety-six. The first death is supposed to have been that of Philip Pauton, who was killed by the fall of a tree in 1715.
      There was probably a mill of some kind at Swampfield during the first settlement, for, under date of 1690, Maj. Pynchon referred, in a letter, to the fact that Indian tracks had been discovered about "old Swampfield Mill." Where this mill stood cannot be stated. In 1715, Daniel Beaman and others, of Deerfield, put up a saw-mill on Saw-Mill Brook (probably In what is now Montague). In 1721, Philip Smith, of Hadley, built a grist-mill at the upper end of Little Meadow. Several mills were authorized in 1722 and 1725. Manoah Badman and others built a saw-mill on Slatestone Brook.
      There was a dog law in 1736, which provided that "if any man can find a dog forty rods from his master and kills him, the town will pay the damages and bear the man out in said act, if it can be recovered by law."
      The first physician in the town was Dr. Joseph Lord, who settled in 1728, and after him, previous to 1780, came Drs. Samuel Blodgett, Samuel Ware, and Benjamin Dickinson.
      The first tavern was kept in 1732, by Simon Cooley. Capt. Fellows Billings kept tavern from 1737 to 1776, on the south side of Middle Lane. Richard Montague, Capt. Israel Hubbard, David Hubbard, Samuel. Blodgett, John Clary, and Moses Billings were innholders during the eighteenth century. "Capt." Billings must have fallen into disfavor in 1776, for in that year the inhabitants voted that he should not hold the employment of innholder in the town any longer.
      In 1761, Benjamin Farrand was paid 16s. for going to "ye committee of war at Rhode Island to get money to pay the charges of a sick soldier who died here." In 1762, 4s., lawful money, was the price of "a middling load of wood." In 1763 it was voted to give fathers and sons liberty "to put their heads and estates together and draw lots together on the plain east of the south field." A meeting in 1772 was adjourned "to meet Munday next, at Son one our high." In 1775 a committee was chosen to collect whatever specie the inhabitants might wish to give for the poor people of Boston. In 1777 it was voted that "no person shall take the infection of the small-pox by inoculation unless leave be obtained from the selectmen."
      A ferry across the Connecticut at Sunderland was established as early as 1719, but who managed it is not known. Simon Cooley and Noadiah Leonard were authorized to keep a ferry in 1777, and directly thereafter Sergt. Farrand, setting up an unauthorized opposition ferry, was warned by the town "to take his bote out of the river and to desist from ferring, and if he refused to do so, that he must abide the consequences."
      The first vote taken by the town for Governor—so the records seem to show—was in 1780. In 1784, upon the close of the Revolution, money must have been scarce, since the town voted to receive grain in payment for taxes. Jonathan Gardner was a pauper in 1795, and, although his son took care of him, the town had to pay him for doing it. A vote taken in a town-meeting in 1797 notes the fact that it was resolved "to build a cage to keep Caleb Billings in," but of what Caleb had been guilty no mention is made. In 1800 it was an established town ordinance that "if any geese inflict any damage upon any man's property a committee shall be appointed to appraise the damage, and if the owner of said geese shall refuse to pay for said damage, the person suffering the damage shall take as many geese as shall satisfy him."
      An important event in the history of the town was the meeting in Sunderland village, Aug. 25, 1873, of the Pacomptuck Valley Memorial Association, on the occasion of the two hundredth anniversary of the first settlement of the territory now occupied by the town of Sunderland. The ceremonies of the day consisted of addresses, singing, social entertainments, and, at the end, a grand picnic and banquet.
      The oldest structure in the town is supposed to be the rear portion of the dwelling occupied at present (1879) by Mr. A. C. Delano, in Sunderland Street. This was a part of the dwelling erected in Sunderland, in 1717, for the first minister, Rev. Joseph Willard, and upon the site it now occupies, the lot being known from the earliest settlement as the Minister's Lot.
      A mail was established through Sunderland in 1815, and William Delano appointed the first postmaster. John Montague and Horace W. Taft were noted men in Sunderland in their time. The former represented the town in the General Court frequently, and served also as town clerk for thirty-three consecutive years, from 1782 to 1815. Mr. Taft was often chosen representative, and was also town clerk for fifty years, from 1815 to 1852, and from 1853 to 1866.

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05 Aug 2005