Great Barrington Massachusetts, 1890
Great Barrington is an ancient and beautiful town lying in the southwesterly part of Berkshire County, 174 miles west of Boston. It is bounded on the north by West Stockbridge, Stockbridge and Lee; on the east by Tyringham, Monterey and New Marlborough; on the south by Sheffield; on the west by Egremont and Alford. The assessed area is 26,733 acres, which includes 8,061 acres of woodland. The Housatonic Railway runs north and south through the midst.
The surface is charmingly diversified by mountain, lake, river, upland and intervale; and, to whatever point the eyes are turned, they rest upon a beautiful and often highly picturesque landscape. Bear Mountain, a long wooded eminence, extends north and south across the projecting eastern angle of the town; and Monument Mountain, in the north, rises abruptly from the left bank of the Housatonic River, and forms a striking picture in the landscape. The principal streams are the Housatonic River, noted for its romantic beauty, which flows deviously and centrally through the town; Williams River, which enters the Housatonic at Van Deusenville; and the Green River (celebrated by William Cullen Bryant in one of his most popular poems), which joins the Housatonic near the line of Sheffield. Long Lake, of 96 acres, is a fine sheet of water west of Van Deusenville, in the northerly part of the town. Mansfield Lake, near the central village, and about half the size of the first, is a charming element in the landscape; while Hart Pond at the north and Root Pond at the southwest are delightful features in those localities. The geological structure of the town is Lauzon schists, Potsdam and Levis limestones. In it occur very valuable quarries of variegated marble, also iron ore; and fine specimens of tremolite are sometimes found.
The soil is fertile, especially on the borders of the streams, and produces abundantly the usual crops of the country. Hops and tobacco are sometimes cultivated extensively. The crop of cereals is proportionately large. The aggregate product of the 220 farms, in the last census year, was $289,070. The principal manufactures are woollen goods, paper, iron in various forms, chairs, clothing, bricks, charcoal, and house lumber, rough and wrought marble, carriages, meats, leather, flour and meal. The aggregate product of manufacture in this town in 1885 was $757,871. The national bank has a capital of $200,000; the savings bank at the close of last year held deposits to the amount of $383,556. The valuation in 1888 was $3,129,210, with a tax-rate of $11.20 on $1,000. There are 862 dwelling-houses in the town, and the population is 4,471; of whom 1,131 are voters.
The central and principal village is the chief market-town for southern Berkshire, and is the seat of the district court for seven neighboring towns. It extends along the right bank of the Housatonic for about a mile, its broad irregular street, in which quaint old houses mingle with elegant modern buildings, gives it an aspect different from most other Berkshire villages. Numerous elms and maples shade its borders, some of the landmarks for a generation gone. Here are a large woollen mill, various smaller factories and shops, a fine town-hall, and, in the square in front the soldiers' monument,—a base and pediment of stone, surmounted by the figure of a soldier in bronze. Van Deusenville is a thriving settlement above on the same side of the stream, where are the cotton factory and the Richmond Iron Works. At the west side of the town is Seekonk, having, also, some manufacturing. Housatonic, on the Stockbridge line, is the seat of the Owen Paper Company, whose mill, 320 feet long, is capable of making $250,000 worth of paper annually. Half a mile below, just opposite Monument Mountain, is the Monument Mill, 500 feet long and four stories high, with a lean-to 400 feet long, and wing 200 feet in length, and is capable of making eight tons of fine paper daily. The builder of this mill is Mr. Henry D. Cone.
A valuable institution of this town, having private support, is the Cone Library and Reading-room, containing about 6,000 volumes. There is also a free town library nearly as large, The public schools are graded, and occupy sixteen buildings, whose value is about $25,000. There are, besides, two private schools, — the Sedgewick Institute and the Housatonic Hall School, occupying four buildings.
The newspaper of the town is that old and standard journal, the "Berkshire Courier." There are two churches each of the Congregationalists, American Episcopal, the Methodist Episcopal and the Roman Catholic; while the colored Methodist Episcopal Zion has one.
The first meeting-house in this place was finished in 1745; and, on December 28 of that year the Rev. Samuel Hopkins, celebrated as the author of a system of divinity known as " Hopkinsian," was settled over the parish. He was dismissed January 18, 1769, and removed to Newport, R.I., where he died December 20, 1803. He is the hero of Mrs. H.B. Stowe's "Minister's Wooing."
There were Indian settlements in this town in former times; one of which was at a place called the "Great Wigwam," or "Castle," half a mile below the Great Bridge.
Monument Mountain derives its name from a pile of stone, or "cairn," which was raised over the grave of one of the aborigines. As in Scotland, every person passing by was expected to throw a stone upon the pyramid. The legend is, that the unfortunate one buried here was an Indian girl, "who had thrown herself from the cliffs of the mountain through the influence of a passion-love for a cousin whom the religion of her tribe would not allow her to marry." William Cullen Bryant, once a resident of the town, has commemorated this circumstance in a beautiful poem.
This town was formerly the North Parish of Sheffield. It was incorporated June 30, 1761; its naming, perhaps, being in honor of William, Viscount Barrington, who was of the British Privy Council, and a nephew of Governor Samuel Shute.
pp. 340-342 in Nason and Varney's Massachusetts Gazetteer, 1890