FORT MASSACHUSETTS

Have any of you ever been down the harbor? Of course I mean, Boston Harbor. If you have, perhaps you have noticed the forts that guard it: Forts Independence, and Winthrop, and Warren.

If you could go over them you would get a very good idea of what a modern fort is like, and perhaps you would think Massachusetts always built her forts just that way.

But in the old Colonial days, when men, and women and children, too, had much to fear from both the French and the Indians,, forts were built on quite a different plan, and proved fully as useful as those we have been speaking of.

Now, it would seem as if the English and the French might have been glad to join in friendly efforts to settle this new country, and make for themselves peaceful homes and prosperous villages in what had been an unknown wilder- ness. But the French were not contented with the land they held in Canada and elsewhere, and so made way upon the English colonists, hoping to drive them from America and establish in their place their own colonial empire. And although there is a saying that all is fair in war, it certainly was not fair and right for the French, in order to accomplish this, to furnish the Indians with guns and ammunition and urge them to go on the war-path and attack the English settlers. At the same time, they promised them bounties for the scalps of defenseless women and children as well as men, and in France the records are still kept of how this blood-money was really paid.

Ever since 1703, the colonists in the northern part of Massachusetts had suffered more or less from this warfare, and when in 1743 rumors of a new war reached them, they well understood all the horrors that were in store for them. In the northwestern part, of the State the were especially exposed, for the Indians, who liked so well to travel by water in their canoes, could come down that great water highway formed by the- River St.' Lawrence and Lake Champlain, and continue south until nearly opposite the valley of the Hoosac. Leaving their canoes at this point, and following the well-known trails through the forests, they could speedily reach the unprotected villages widely scattered through the fertile valleys. So, early in 1744, the General Court ordered several forts to be built, and among them Fort Massachusetts.

Forts in those days were of two kinds,-those built by the settlers with very little help from the authorities and kept largely under their own control, and those elected and garrisoned by the province. It is said that Fort Massachusetts was the 'Only province fort in Berkshire during the way of 1744,- called the Third Intercolonial, to distinguish it from, other wars. With the exception of one or two forts on the sea-board, it was the most noted ,and important of any in the province. It stood on. a spot which is now a beautiful meadow, on the south side of the road from North Adams to Williamstown, and about four miles east of the latter village,

We can imagine how like beavers the men worked, driving firmly into the ground the hewn logs which formed the stockade surrounding the barracks, for they well knew to what an extent their own lives and those of the women and children depended on the character of the defences. In the north-west corner at least, if not in the others, was piled a mound of earth upon which sharp-shooters and sentinels could be posted; for constant watchfulness was necessary to prevent surprises.

When the fort was finished, Captain Ephraim Williams was placed in command; and not only of that fort, but also of eleven other posts forming, a most important line of defence, through scattered over. a wide extent. of territory very imperfectly supplied with roads. We shall want to know something about Captain Williams, not only because he was a Massachusetts boy and a brave soldier, but because he gave his name to Williams town, and by his will left money to establish a free school, the beginning of what is now Williams College. It is just a century since the old West College was first opened to those who could " read English well," and though one must know a great deal more than that to enter Williams now, I doubt if any of the present two hundred students are more anxious to learn and improve themselves, than the boys who first went there a hundred years ago.

Of course Captain Williams could not know what a great success his plan was going to be, and indeed he was so busy going from one fort to another, and sending scouts in every direction that he did not even write it down in the form of a will until a brief interval of peace gave him an opportunity to attend to his own affairs.

But before peace came there were many skirmishes with the Indians, and many lives lost on both sides. In 1746, a party of French and Indians attacked Fort Massachusetts and, overcoming the small garrison stationed there, completely destroyed the fort and carried off all the stores they could find and the prisoners they had taken. But the colonists were not easily discouraged so when the General Court ordered the fort to be rebuilt in the winter of 1746-7, they took hold of the work with right good will, and built an even better fort, which stood for many years after the war was ended, and which Captain Williams defended with so much skill and bravery that he was raised to the rank of major, and then to that of colonel.

In 1755, it became necessary to send an expedition against the French at Crown Point, and our friend the Captain, now Colonel Williams, with % regiment of picked men, joined the Army under General Johnson. A good commander can generally tell which of his officers are most surely to be relied upon. It is said that our greatest soldier, General Grant, was wonderfully keen in his selection of men who could successfully execute his orders. General Johnson must I have thought Colonel Williams one of his best officers, for he put him in charge of a large detachment and sent him ahead in search of the enemy. Unfortunately they were surprised by an ambuscade, and at the first volley Colonel Williams fell, shot through the head. Before starting on this, for him, fatal expedition, he had by will secured to the future village of Williamstown the college I have told you about; and it seems as if he must have found that section of the country where Fort Massachusetts stood especially beautiful, or he would not have wished it to bear his name.

Near the rock where he fell, three miles front Caldwell, a marble monument stands, placed there by the graduates of Williams College, so that no one may forget the founder; but on the now "Peaceful meadow, under the 'shadow of' the hills and not far from that highest peak of all, where the snows of Winter first appear and imger longest,-" Greylock, cloud-girdled on his mountain throne," only a single elm tree marks the spot where the early colonists built and defended Fort Massachusetts.


* The supermarket Price Chopper today occupies the space where Fort Massachusetts once stood.



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