Hancock Massachusetts, 1890

is a long, narrow, and mountainous township in the northern half of the western side of Berkshire County, and 158 miles west of Boston. Pittsfield, on the Boston and Albany Railroad, and Lebanon Springs, and Montreal (in Stephentown), on Harlem Extension Division of the Vermont Railroad, are the nearest stations. This town is bounded north by Williamstown, east by New Ashford, Lanesborough and Pittsfield, south by Richmond, and west by New Lebanon and Stephentown in New York. Its length is 16 miles north and south. and from two to three miles east and west. The assessed area is 20,696 acres. Of this, 9,683 acres are devoted to forest, which here consists chiefly of beech, birch and maple.

Much of the land is too rough for cultivation, but the sides of the mountains afford excellent pasturage. On Kinderhook Creek (which, flowing southward, leaves the town at the middle of its western side) there is a long, narrow valley of singular fertility, where may be seen some of the best farms of the county. On this stream, at its westward turn, is Hancock village, principally on one street shaded by maple trees. Here and at other points are two tanneries, saw mills and a carding mill. At the southwest angle is the " Shaker Settlement." Between these two little villages, embracing about one-half the township, the land is so mountainous and broken that it is almost uninhabited and roadless. The principal elevation is Old Tower Hill, near the centre of the tract. There are 69 farms in the town, whose product in the last census year was valued at $74,407; and the manufactures at $71,586. The valuation in 1888 was $364,686, with a tax-rate of $10.50 on $1,000. The population was 613, and there were 120 houses. The five school-houses are valued at $2,500. There is a Baptist church here; and the Sunday school has a library containing about 300 volumes.

This plantation was called "Jericho," on account of its mountain walls. It was incorporated a town July 2, 1676 [1776?], and named for the patriot, John Hancock. The early settlers here were mostly Baptists from Connecticut and Rhode Island. Among them were Timothy Hurlburt, Col. John Ashley, Josiah Dean, Martin Townsend and Asa Douglas. The latter was a grantee in 1760, but lived just over the line in Stephentown, N. V., and was the great grandfather of Stephen A. Douglass. The settlers built their first meeting-house in 1791, having worshipped in a log-house previously. Elder Clark Rogers, settled over them about 1770, was the first minister. The Shakers settled here as early as 1780, and built a meeting-house in 1784. Their circular stone barn, 270 feet in diameter, is a unique structure that attracts the attention of the traveller.

This town furnished 70 men to the Union armies in the late war, and lost ten.

pp. 354-355 in Nason and Varney's Massachusetts Gazetteer, 1890