Great Barrington (UPPER HOUSATONNUCK)
1733-1761

The Housatonic "This tract of country, wild, forbidding, and destitute of roads other than the Indian trail. . . . lay in the direct route,-via Springfield, Westfield, and Kinderhook, between Boston and Albany. . . . Occasionally traversed by bodies of soldiery in the early wars, and by other parties on public business, it was better known to the neighboring New York border, whose traders were accustomed to visit it for the purpose of traffic with the Indians, than to the more remote inhabitants of Massachusetts."
                    History of Great Barrington
by TAYLOR.

THE Valley of the great river of Berkshire was named by the Mohicans, who, leaving their ancestral holdings in the hands of the Patroons of Rensselaerwyck, Kinderhook,, and Livingston, drifted over from the Hudson into the new wilderness of the Housatonic Valley; they called the valley Ou-thot-ton-nook or Housatonnuck, and the river took its name from the valley. Not many years since came a Stockbridge Indian to visit the land of his fathers, and illustrated the word by pointing to the full moon just rising over East Mountain in Great Barrington, Ou-thot-ton- nook-" over the mountain."

The settlement at Housatonnuck or Great Barrington sprang up at the principal fordway on the main trail from Fort Orange near Albany, N.Y., to Springfield and Massachusetts Bay. It was known to the Dutch as "the New England Path." Great Barrington was the " Great Wigwam" or-as the Stockbridge Indians called it-Mahaiwe (Nei-hai-we), the"place down-stream." (The Indian burial ground in Great Barrington is known as Mahaiwe). Here, near the old fordway, in all probability occurred that celebrated scrimmage between King Philip's warriors flying to refuge in the West, and the gallant Major Talcott, son of the Worshipful John Talcott of Hartford, who pursued them from Westfield over the wilderness trail to the banks of the Housatonic. As early as 1694, a party of gentlemen from Boston camped here- the Rev. Benjamin Wadsworth and other Commissioners on their way to Albany to hold a great council-fire with the " Five Nations." Mr. Wadsworth kept a Journal of events:

    "'With Captain Sewal and Major Townsend, being commissioned to treat with ye Mockways [Mohawks], set out from Boston about half past 12 Monday Aug. 6, 1694. . . . At Watertown, we met with Lieut. Hammond and thirty troopers, who were appointed for a guard to Springfield. . . . Mr. Dwite of Hartford did accidently fall into our company, and after the same manner, accidently he and his horse both together fell into a brook, but both rose again without damage. This day we dined in ye woods. Pleasant descants were made upon ye dining room; it was said yt it was large, high, curiously hung with green; our dining place was also accomodated with ye pleasancy of a murmuring rivulet. This day some of our company saw a bear. . . . This night we went over to Westfield. . . . thence toward Albany; the nearest way thro' ye woods, being accompanied with Collonel Pinchon, in commission with Capt. Sewal and Maj. Townsend, by ye Council of ye Province of ye Mass. Bay, and Collonel Allen and Captain Stanley, Commissioners for Connecticutt Colony. For a guard we had with us Cap. Wadsworth of Hartford, and with him 6o Dragoons. . . . took up our lodgings, about sundown in ye woods, at a place called Ousetonnuck [Great Barrington] formerly inhabited by Indians. Thro this place runs a very curious river, the same (which some say) runs thro' Stratford." (The Housatonic River at its mouth was known for a time as Stratford River.) On arriving in Albany, Mr. Wadsworth says, "The treaty [1] was held in ye street a little above the meeting house; Ye Sachims were attended with many other Indians . . . Ye Sachim of ye Maquas being ye leader, . . . when we were sat down, they sang two or three songs of peace, before they began ye treaty."

NEXT ...






Return to the BerkshireWeb