Pittsfield Massachusetts, 1890
PITTSFIELD, the seat of justice in Berkshire County, is a large flourishing town, distinguished for the beauty of its scenery, its noble farms and elegant residences. It lies in the middle section of the county, 15l miles from Boston on the Boston and Albany Railroad, which sends a branch from this town to North Adams. Pittsfield is also the northern terminus of the Housatonic Railroad, running southward to Bridgeport in Connecticut. The regular stations are Pittsfield, for both roads; while the first has also Shaker Village, at the southwest corner of the town, and the Junction and Coltsville in the east and northeast. The post-offices are Pittsfield (centre) West Pittsfield and Pontoosuc. The other village are Allendale, Arrow Head, Barkersville, Bel Air, Bobtown, Holmesdale, Packardsville, Stearnsville and Tillotson's. Some of these are connected with the centre by a street railroad.
This town is bounded on the north by Lanesborough, east by Dalton and Washington, south by the last, Lenox and Richmond, and west by Hancock. The assessed area is 24,441 acres, of which but 3,916 acres are forest. Although lying in a valley amid lofty mountains, the town is more than 1,200 feet above sea-level, and consequently has a cool and bracing atmosphere. South Mountain, in the southern part, affords a fine view of the wide-spreading valley, with its lakes, streams and villages, and the divergent and picturesque ranges of Taconic and Hoosac mountains which rise as bulwarks on every side. Onota Lake, northwest of the central village, is a beautiful sheet of water covering about 550 acres. On its western side are marble quarries. Pontoosuc Lake, on the northern border, of equal size, has an outlet southward called Pontoosuc River; which, uniting just south of the centre with Stearn's Brook from the west, and the Branch from the northeast, forms the beautiful Housatonic River. Pittsfield Village is a quaint old place, with broad streets generously shaded by lofty elms. Through it runs the principal avenue of the town in nearly a straight line from Pontoosuc Lake to Lenox-on-the-Heights, six miles southward. The Potsdam rock and Levis limestone constitute the geological structure; and beds of iron ore, marl and brick-clay are found in several localities. The rich alluvial lands along the numerous streams are very fertile. Fruit and nut trees abound.
The value of the aggregate product of the 215 farms in 1885 was $351,957. The manufactures are numerous. There is a cotton mill employing, in 1885, 94 persons; 7 woollen mills employing 1,180; 2 silk mills employing 40 persons; a knitting mill employing 48; 2 paper mills employing 59 persons; a clock factory employing 66. Ninety-six persons were engaged in making machinery, and iron and other metallic goods; and 62 in making carriages and harnesses. Other manufactures were house lumber, boxes, furniture, leather, wrought stone, toilet articles, beverages, meats and other food preparations. The value of the textiles made was $1,725,280; of iron and other metallic goods, $378,137; of wooden goods, $50,246; of clothing, $431,965; and of food preparations, $283,482. The value of the aggregated manufactures was $4,488,271. The capital stock of the three national banks amounted to $825,000; and the savings bank, at the close of last year, held $2,325,847 in deposits. The population was 14,666,—which included 3,283 legal voters. The valuation in 1888 was $9,893,959; with a tax-rate of $16.80 on $1,000. The number of dwelling-houses taxed was 2,480. The newspapers of Pittsfield are the "Daily Evening Journal," and the weekly "Journal," and the "Berkshire County Eagle," which have a large circulation .
Several of the public school-houses are fine structures. The schools are excellent; and the high school is supplemented by a normal and training school. The commercial college and the family and day school for young ladies are important institutions. The Congregationalists have here three churches; the Roman Catholics two; the Protestant Episcopalians, the Methodists and the Baptists, one each. Two or more of the edifices are of stone, some of brick; and several are unusually attractive. There is also the Shaker house of worship in their village. The House of Mercy is a cottage hospital, —the admirable work of an association of ladies. The Berkshire Life Insurance Company has here a very handsome building of Nova Scotia freestone. The Old Maplewood Institute, occupying an embowered eminence south of the centre, has long been an object of pleasant regard. There are fine old mansions and interesting places in every quarter of the town. The Academy of Music and the Berkshire Athenæum are large and beautiful buildings. The latter contains cabinets of ethnology and history and of natural history, and a public library of upwards of 16,000 volumes. The public buildings of a civil nature are the town-hall, the court-house and the county jail.
The Indian name of this place was Pontoosuc, signifying "a run for deer." The territory was originally granted to Boston in 1735, and was called "Boston Plantation" until it was purchased by Col. Jacob Wendell in 1737, when it became "Wendell's Town." The actual settlement was commenced in 1752; and in 1758 there were about 20 log-cabins in the place. On the 21st of April, 1761, it was incorporated as a town, named in honor of the illustrious William Pitt, Lord Chatham. In 1764 the first church was organized, and the Rev. Thomas Allen ordained as pastor. He was succeeded in 1814 by his son, the Rev. William Allen, D.D.; who was subsequently president of Bowdoin College, in Maine, and author of the first american dictionary of biography. It is said that the first broadcloths ever made in America were woven in this town in 1804. The mill was established by Mr. Arthur Schofield, who came here from England in 1800.
Among other distinguished citizens of Pittsfield were Ezekiel Bacon (1776-1870), a graduate of Yale, a lawyer and M.C.; John W. Hurlburt (d. 1831), an able lawyer and M.C., a leader of the Federal, as Mr. Bacon was of the Democratic party; Rev. Heman Humphrey, D.D. (1769-1861), a graduate of Yale, author and president of the collegiate institute which afterward became Amherst College; George Nixon Briggs (1796-1861), Congressman, judge, and governor of Massachusetts; and William Miller (1781-1849), the noted leader of the Millerites.
pp. 539-541 in Nason and Varney's Massachusetts Gazetteer, 1890