Lee Massachusetts, 1890

Lee is a beautiful town between the Taconic and Green Mountain ranges, in the central part of Berkshire County, 162 miles from Boston. It is quite irregular in form, and has Lenox on the northwest, Washington on the northeast, Becket on the east, Tyringham and Great Barrington on the south, and Stockbridge on the west.

The assessed area is 15,749 acres, 4,242 of which are forest, consisting of maple, oak, beech, chestnut and elm. Lakes Laurel and May add variety and charm to the landscape. The Housatonic River, a rapid and beautiful stream, separates for two or more miles the northern angle of this town from Lenox, then pursues a serpentine course through the midst of the town to a range of hills along the southern border, where it turns westward and enters Stockbridge. With its affluents, Basin-pond Brook, Goose-pond Brook and Hop Brook, it furnishes valuable hydraulic power. The central village is built on the rich intervale of this river; along whose margin winds the Housatonic Railroad. From the intervale on the river, the land has for some distance an undulating aspect, then gradually rises towards forest-crowned mountains; one of which, partly on the eastern border, is Becket Mountain, 2,194 feet in height. Toward the west the land is finely diversified with hills and valleys easy of cultivation. The soil is chiefly a sandy loam.

[the Congregational Church, Lee.]

The 102 farms, in 1885, reported an annual product amounting to $166,872. The cereal crop was large, and the flocks and herds numerous. The town is rich in minerals. The marble quarry near the centre furnished material for the extension of the Capitol at Washington; and a quarry in the southwest part supplied the stone for the Roman Catholic cathedral in New York. In addition to building stone, there are found granulated quartz, iron ore, sphene, tremolite and other minerals. Lee has long been celebrated for the manufacture of paper. The first mill was established at South Lee, in 1806, by Samuel Church. Other leading manufacturers here in this line have been Harrison Garfield, Prentice C. Baird, Platner & Smith, and Elizur Smith. There have been as many as 25 different mills running here at once. The number of persons employed in this industry in 1885 was 542; and the value of the product reported was $1,346,291. Other manufactures are iron and metallic goods, machinery, carriages, furniture, carpetings, clothing, boots and shoes, leather, food preparations, and bricks and tile. The value of the total manufactures was $1,605,509. There is a national bank with a capital of $200,000, and a savings bank having deposits, at the beginning of 1889, amounting to $656,354. The number of dwelling-houses was 763; the population 4,274; and the legal voters 1,105. The valuation in 1888 was $2,215,010; with a tax-rate of $16 on $1,000.

The villages and post-offices are Lee (centre), South Lee and East Lee, the first two being also railway stations. The schools are graded from primary to high, and provided for in fourteen buildings valued at about $15,000. The Lee Public Library and the Lee Town Library have about 5,000 volumes. The "Valley Gleaner" is a long-established weekly journal of good circulation. The American Episcopal Church here has a beautiful stone edifice. The other churches are the Congregationalist, Methodist Episcopal, Baptist, African, and the Roman Catholic.

On October 21, 1777, the legislature established parts of Great Barrington, Washington, the Glass Works Grant, and part of Williams' Grant, as the town of Lee. The first white man who settled in its limits was Isaac Davis, who built a house on Hop Brook in 1760. The town was named in honor of Gen. Charles Lee, a Revolutionary officer. The first church, consisting of thirty members, was organized May 25, 1780; and on July 3, 1783, the Rev. Elisha Parmelee was ordained as pastor. The first religious meeting was held in the barn of Deacon Oliver West, his hay-mow accommodating the orchestra. The children of Samuel Foote were the principal singers.

pp. 406-408 in Nason and Varney's Massachusetts Gazetteer, 1890