Bernardston Massachusetts, 1890

Bernardston lies midway of the northern border of Franklin County, 96 miles northwest of Boston. It has Vernon and Guilford, in Vermont, on the north; on the east is Northfield; on the south, Gill and Greenfield; and on the west, Leyden. The town is quite near six miles long by four wide, containing 13,994 acres, beside water surfaces and highways. Of this, about 5,000 acres is forest, consisting chiefly of chestnut and oak. In the village portions there are many maples and elms along the streets. The town is finely watered by Fall River, which. runs through the midst of it from north to south; Dry Brook on the east, and Mill Brook on its west, flow in the same direction. Couches and Shattuck brooks, coming in from the west and northwest, are the largest tributaries of the main stream.

The surface of the town is elevated and hilly, the principal settlements being in the beautiful valley of Fall River, which is flanked by mountains on east and west. Of these eminences, Bald Mountain, 630 feet above the Connecticut River, and West Mountain, are the most conspicuous. The principal rocks are clay slate, calcareous gneiss, lower and Devonian sandstones. Specimens of magnetic oxide of iron are found. Limestone has been profitably quarried; and there arc springs containing sulphur and magnesia.

Handsome crops of grain, hay, apples, potatoes, hops, and tobacco are produced. The number of farms is 139; and their aggregate product, in 1885, was $132,981. The largest item was the dairy product, while the value of cereals was large in proportion, at this period being $9,455. The largest item of manufacture is farm implements. The cutlery factory employs about fifteen persons. The aggregate value of manufactured goods, in 1885, was $47,890. The valuation of the town in 1888 was $400,210, with $13 on $1,000 as the rate of taxation. The population is 930. There are two villages, Bernardston and North Bernardston. The Connecticut River Railroad passes through the southeastern section of the town, having a station at Bernardston village. The town has graded schools, with seven school-houses, valued at $6,500. There is also here a free academy named "Power's Institute," established in 1855. The public library now contains 5,000 volumes, and has a fund of $2,500 for additions. The Congregationalists, Methodists, Unitarians, Baptists and Universalists each have a church edifice. The town sent 76 men into the late war, of whom 15 were lost.

The territory was granted in 1735 to the heirs of the men engaged in the "Fall Fight," which occurred at Turner's Falls in May, 1676; and hence for many years it bore the name of Falltown; whence also is the name of its principal stream. Major John Burke, Samuel Connable, Lieut. Ebenezer Sheldon and Deacon Sheldon, built the first four houses here, in 1738. They were of hewn logs, with port-holes in the walls for defence against the Indians, During the French and Indian War of 1755, the people suffered greatly from the incursions of the savages. Even the women bore arms for the defence of their homes and children.

The Rev. John Norton, ordained in 1741, was the first minister. The society is now Unitarian. The second Congregational was organized in 1824, and the Baptist in 1808. The first money raised for schools was six English pounds, in December, 1770; and the first school-house was built in 1783. The town was incorporated March 6, 1762, under its present name, which was given in honor of Governor Francis Bernard. Samuel Clesson Allen (1772-1842) was a native of this town, and Henry Wyles Cushman, lieutenant-governor of the Commonwealth 1851-2, was born here in 1805, and died here in 1863.

pp. 145-146 in Nason and Varney's Massachusetts Gazetteer, 1890