Lanesborough Massachusetts, 1890
Lanesborough is one of the most delightful towns in Berkshire County. Berkshire village, in the southeast part of the town — its railroad station, — is about 156 miles west of Boston by the Boston and Albany and the Housatonic railroads. The other village, Lanesborough (centre), is about two miles northwest, in the valley of the Housatonic River. Both villages are post-offices. The town itself lies near the centre of the northern half of the county. New Ashford is on the north; Cheshire lies on the northeast — the divisional line following a spur of the Hoosac Mountains in a very zigzag course; on the east is Dalton, on the south Pittsfield, and on the west Hancock. A spur of the Taconic range also marks the boundary on this side. The town-ship is six miles long and from three to six wide. The assessed area is 17,274 acres. This includes 5,571 acres of forest, consisting of beech, maple, ash and chestnut.
The Housatonic, flowing from the north through the midst of the town, spreads out in the southerly part into Pontoosuc Lake, a broad and beautiful sheet of water, well stocked with fish. Savage Mountain, Farnum Hill and Constitution Hill are prominent features of the scenery. From the latter eminence, near the geographical centre of the town, may be seen a large section of the Housatonic Valley and the chains of mountains which enclose it. This town has extensive quarries of beautiful white marble, which is sawn into blocks and slabs, then sent to various markets. In the northern section are valuable beds of limestone, from which builders' lime is made. In both the eastern and western parts are beds of iron ore, which, reduced in the furnaces, yields a superior quality of iron. At Berkshire village is an extensive deposit of pure white sand, from which are made, in the factories here, plate and cylinder glass of the best quality. Among the curiosities of the town are a cave, some 10 or 15 rods in length, and the Rolling Rock, some 30 feet long, 15 feet wide and about the same in height, and so pivoted on another rock about three feet from the ground that it can be easily moved and still not overturned.
The soil, a mixture of clay and loam, is well adapted to grazing; and large stocks of neat cattle and sheep are kept. Maple sugar is made in large quantities, and tobacco has been found a profitable crop. The value of the aggregate product of the 111 farms in the last census year was $148,011. Besides those already mentioned, there are several small manufactures common in towns; the aggregate value of all in the same year being $254,634. The valuation of the town in 1888 was $562,472, with a tax-rate of $13.33 on $1,000. There are 252 dwelling-houses taxed; and the population is 1,212, including 268 legal voters.
Six school-houses, worth about $1,000, accommodate the schools. There is a public library of some 1,200 volumes, and three Sunday-school libraries. Two of the four church edifices are of brick, one of stone and one of wood. The societies are Episcopal, Congregational, Methodist and Baptist.
This place was at first called "New Framingham," because a grant was made here in 1741 to Samuel Jackson and 75 other persons of Framingham. Its settlement was commenced in 1754 by Capt. Samuel Martin and family. Nathaniel Williams, Samuel Tyrrell, and others, afterwards joined him; and a fort was built to protect them from the Indians. On seeing them approach one day, the English fled to Pittsfield. It was voted March 31, 1762, that "Samuel Martin draw six pence on Each Lott, for the yeuse of his hows for public worship.'' St. Luke's (Episcopal) church was organized in October, 1767. The first rector was the Rev. Gideon Bostwick. The society possesses a valuable glebe and other funded property. The first church was formed here March 28, 1764; and the Rev. Daniel Collins, ordained over it April 17th of the same year, was the first minister. The town was incorporated June 21, 1765, and received its name, it is said, from James Lane, Viscount Lanesborough, in the peerage of Ireland,
Henry W. Shaw ("Josh Billings"), a humorist and popular lecturer, was born here in 1818. His "Allminax" obtained a wide circulation. His father, Henry Shaw, was a member of Congress.
pp. 401-402 in Nason and Varney's Massachusetts Gazetteer, 1890