Go Forth Under The Open Sky : The Historic Sites of the Berkshires

Colonel John Ashley House
Off Route 7A
Ashley Falls, MA
Open Memorial Day - Columbus Day for guided tours, Weekends and Holidays, 1 pm - 5 pm, from the last Wednesday in June through Labor Day, open Wednesday - Sunday. Admission fee for non members.

uilt in 1735 by French and Indian War veteran Colonel John Ashley, a founder of the old quarry town of Sheffield, this house is said to be the oldest complete house in the Berkshires. It is exquisitely decorated in Colonial period paneling, broad fireplace and staircase, hand carvings, ornaments and decorations and includes many items of pottery and tools, including some of Ashley’s primitive "rod and chain" surveying equipment. In addition to being a lawyer and a gentleman of some refinement, Ashley was a patriotic revolutionary. On this site in 1773 he helped draft the famous Sheffield Declaration, boldly vituperating the British Parliament, three years before Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence.

Elizabeth Freeman, known as Mum Bet, was a slave in the Ashley household. The Massachusetts legislature had passed a bill under which slaves could sue their owners for their freedom. After an altercation with Mrs. Ashley, Mum Bet went to Theodore Sedgwick, an attorney in Stockbridge who succesfully sued the Ashley family for her freedom. This was the first legal freeing of a slave in the nation.

While visiting Colonel Ashley’s home, travelers should make a point of roving to another Trustees of Reservation site, nearby Bartholomew's Cobble, Weatogue Road, Sheffield - Ashley Falls, MA 413-229-8600, open daily, year round. Admission charge. More than 800 species of rare and endangered plants and over 250 species of birds can be found on over 270 acres of lush forest, winding trails and fields and meadows on a foundation of hard quartzite rock. In summer, 45 species of ferns appear. A National Natural Landmark Museum and picnicking spot.

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(This interactive feature was penned by SE O'Callaghan for the BerkshireWeb. All rights reserved (c) 1998)

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