Sheffield Massachusetts, 1890
Sheffield is a large and beautiful town in the southwest part of Berkshire County, 182 miles from Boston. It contains 453 dwelling-houses and 2,033 inhabitants. Great Barrington bounds it on the north, New Marlborough on the east, Mount Washington and Egremont on the west, and Salisbury and North Canaan, in Conn., on the south. The assessed area is 27,000 acres, which is 2,000 or more short of the actual extent. About 10,000 acres are in forest.
The scenery in the easterly and westerly parts of the town is grand and picturesque; in the middle, through which the Housatonic River pursues a slow and serpentine course southward, it is very beautiful. The view of Mount Everett, rising to the height of 2,624 feet on the western border of the town, flanked by others nearly as large, is truly magnificent; while Alum Hill, and others northward, form a broken wall on the east. The geological formation is the Lower Potsdam and Levis limestone; and specimens of asbestos, pyrites, native alum, and pyrolusite are found. There are soda-springs of some celebrity in the northeast part of the town; and Bears' Den is an object of weird curiosity. In addition to the Housatonic River (here some seven rods wide) the town is irrigated by Schenob, Hubbard, Ironwork, and other brooks, which furnish valuable motive power. Three-mile Lake covers an area of about 104 acres. The Housatonic Railroad runs north and south along the right bank of the Housatonic River, dividing the town into nearly equal parts. The intervale land through which the river passes is a rich alluvium, and exceedingly exuberant.
Tobacco is largely cultivated. The value of the aggregate product of the 200 farms in 1885, was $235,927. There are three or four saw mills and grist mills, two tanneries, five carriage factories, several smitheries, and one or more cooper-shops. Other manufactures are tin-ware, wrought stone, and liquors, tobacco and food preparations. The value of all goods made was $19,110. The legal voters numbered 494. The valuation in 1888 was $945,250, with a tax-rate of $16.20 on $1,000. The 14 school-houses were valued at upwards of $9,000. The school grades are primary, grammar and high. Sheffield Friendly Union Library has about 1,000 volumes. Ashley Falls and Sheffield (centre) have each a Methodist church; and near the last are a Congregationalist, an Episcopal and a Roman Catholic church. The other village is Sheffield Plain, north of the centre; or the two may be considered one village, extending for several miles along the Housatonic, and presenting a neat, quiet and handsome appearance.
The Indian name of this place was Housatonnuc; meaning "over the mountains." It was incorporated June 22, 1733, six years earlier than any other town in the county. The land was bought of Konkepot and other Indians, April 25, 1724, for "'£460, three barrels of cider, and thirty quarts of rum." Remains of the aborigines are occasionally exhumed. Mr. Obadiah Noble, of Westfield, was the first white settler. A church was formed as early as October 22, 1735, when the Rev. Jonathan Hubbard was ordained as pastor. Sheffield sent 200 men into the Union armies during the last war.
Eminent men produced by this town were Col. John Fellows (1760-1844), Daniel Dewey (1766-1815), Theodore Sedgewick (1780-1839), Chester Dewey (1781-1867), Henry D. Sedgwick (1785-1831), Orville Dewey, D.D. (1794), F. A. P. Barnard (1809), and George F. Root (1820). [sic, Sedgewick and Sedgwick]
pp. 590-591 in Nason and Varney's Massachusetts Gazetteer, 1890