Alford Massachusetts, 1890
Alford is a small, mountainous farming town in the southwestern part of Berkshire County, 150 miles west of Boston, on the extreme western border of the State. It is bounded on the northeast by West Stockbridge, on the east by the same and Great Barrington, on the south by Egremont, and on the west by Hillsdale and Austerlitz, in New York. It lies on the easterly declivity of the Taconic range of mountains, and has a range of hills along its eastern and northern line, and through its western side. The geological formation is Lauzon schist and Levis limestone. Galena and iron pyrites occur ; slate is found in several parts, and in the northeast corner of the town there are quarries from which variegated marble to the value of $2,600 has been taken in a year. The New York city hall was for the most part constructed of the marble from this quarry. The scenery of the western part of the town is wild and romantic. A noted feature in the northeast section is an eminence named " Tom Ball," from which a vast expanse of broken land is visible.
Seekonk River flows medially and southerly through the town and furnishes power at several points. Burnham Brook enters it from the west. Green River, a very beautiful stream, rises in the highlands in the southwest section of the town, flows through a charming valley, and then, winding through Egremont and Great Barrington, enters the Housatonic. Across this stream the town has placed an iron bridge, 75 feet in length. Bryant wrote a fine descriptive poem on Green River, of which the following are the first lines : —
" When breezes are soft, and skies are fair,
I steal an hour from study and care,
And hie me away to the woodland scene,
Where wanders the stream with waters of green,
As if the bright fringe of herbs on its brink
Had given their stain to the wave they drink.
And they whose meadows it murmurs through
Have named the stream from its own fair hue."
The valley of Seekonk Brook is fertile ; and the principal village of Alford is built upon the margin of the stream in the southwest part of the town. The highlands afford good grazing for cattle and sheep,— of which the town had in 1865, of all grades, 1,062. In 1872 the number had fallen to 275, but in 1885 it had increased to 700. The area of the town is 7,752½ acres, of which 1,746 are woodland, consisting of maple, oak, chestnut, walnut, and gray birch. The population at the date mentioned was 341. There were then 63 farms and 92 dwellings, the total number of buildings being 293. The dairy product is the largest item in value, being, in 1885, $20,521. The value of the various manufactures was $13,074 ; of the entire product of the town, $68,907. The total value of property was $326,192. The rate of taxation in 1888 was $12 on $1,000. The nearest railway stations are Williamsville, Van Deusenville, and Great Barrington on the Housatonic Railroad, running parallel to the town some two miles distant on the east side.
Alford has three school-houses, valued at $3,700 ; there is a Sunday-school library having some 300 volumes. The Congregationalists, Methodists and Baptists each have a church edifice, and there is a small Union Church. The number of men furnished to the Union forces in the late war was 26,— of whom five were lost.
Among the early settlers of the place were Eleazer Barrett, Robert Johnson and Simeon Hurlburt. They came about the middle of the 18th century. The southwestern part of the town was purchased of the Stockbridge Indians in 1756. It was incorporated February 16, 1773; being named, it is supposed, in honor of John Alford, founder of the Alford professorship in Harvard University. The Rev. Joseph Avery was settled as minister about 1780, but was dismissed in 1787, on account of difficulties growing out of Shays' Rebellion. The most eminent names of the town are Dr. John Hulbert, Hon. John W. Hurlbert, Captain Sylvanus Wilcox of the Continental army ; and Judge Justin Dawes, who was a native.
pp. 106-107 in Nason and Varney's Massachusetts Gazetteer, 1890