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Great Barrington Historical Documents Collection, 1731-1904
7 boxes (5 linear ft.)
Collection number: MS 104

Abstract:
Collection of historical documents compiled by Charles Taylor, author of the 1882 town history of Great Barrington, Massachusetts. Includes Court of Common Pleas cases, deeds, estate papers, indentures, land surveys, sheriff's writs, town history reference documents, Samuel Rossiter's financial papers, and genealogical research papers for over 40 families.

Terms of Access and Use:

The collection is open for research.

Special Collections and University Archives, W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Great Barrington Historical Documents Collection was compiled by Charles Taylor, author of the 1882 town history. In large measure, it represents an incomplete but fascinating collection of documentation for facets of the town's social history. Great Barrington, Massachusetts developed out of the Upper and Lower Housatonic townships which were settled in 1722. The Proprietors of what was to become Great Barrington actually began to lay out and distribute land in 1733-1734, a process their successors completed in 1793.

The collection, totaling about 600 items, provides important insights into aspects of the town's development, particularly concerning land. Folder 135 in Series 7, for instance, contains copies of the Proprietor's land distribution activities. Series 2 (Deeds) and Series 5 (Land Surveys) document the sale of property and efforts to obtain accurate boundaries from the time of the initial settlement. Moreover, Series 4 (Indentures) is concerned principally with the leasing of land to individuals for farming.

Several series show the impact on townspeople of larger social and political events. The documents in Series 1 offer insight into the rural problems that led to Shays' Rebellion. The Court of Common Pleas cases (the majority occurring between 1784 and 1787) reveal the credit and cash difficulties facing Massachusetts farmers following the Revolution. Series 6 (Sheriff's Writs), on the other hand, documents the continuing problem of rural indebtedness (particularly in the first American recession of 1817-1820), but also reveals a transitional era in the local economy. An increasing number of cases involve artisans and laborers, marking a shift to a market economy. The high number of court cases involving debt (22 in 1817 alone) also evinces a change in the social and economic consciousness of rural New Englanders.

Other series open avenues to broader questions. For instance, the documents in Series 8 cover the years of Samuel Rossiter's indebtedness and eventual insolvency prior to 1800. However, Rossiter is also a major actor in acquiring land (Series 2), pursuing debtors (Series 1 and 6), and establishing himself as a landlord. Rossiter's progression from a farmer to a yeoman to a gentleman is perhaps an interesting example of the transforming power of the market in the rural economy. Series 6 (Town History Documents) likewise offers glimpses of controversies over roads, riparian rights, militia service, early court cases, school expenses, and temperance. This series also contains a notice from the town's Committee of Correspondence (July 9, 1776) demanding that certain citizens surrender their weapons.

Great Barrington is also important as the birthplace of W.E.B. Du Bois. Du Bois' maternal ancestors, the Burghardts, were long-time residents of the town. Although a number of Burghardts appear in these documents, it does not seem that any were close relatives of Du Bois. One of the sheriff's writs in 1821 (folder 108), however, does involve a James Freeman who was perhaps Du Bois' uncle.


Information on Use
Terms of Access and Use
Restrictions on access:

The collection is open for research.

Preferred Citation

Cite as: Great Barrington Historical Documents Collection (MS 104). Special Collections and University Archives, W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts Amherst.

History of the Collection

Acquired from: Robert Lucas

Processing Information

Processed by Ken Fones-Wolf, December 1985.


Additional Information
Contact Information
Special Collections and University Archives
W.E.B. Du Bois Library
University of Massachusetts Amherst
Amherst, MA 01003-9275

Phone: (413) 545-2780
Fax: (413) 577-1399
Link to SCUA
Language
English.
Sponsor
Encoding funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Contents List
Series 1. Court of Common Pleas Cases
1784-1815


This series contains the final award of 34 cases. Most involve the debt of farmers in Great Barrington and surrounding towns; thirteen occur in the years between 1784-1787 and provide some of the background for the events leading to Shays' Rebellion. Arranged chronologically.

Ives v. Curtis
1784

Box 1:1
Goodrich v. Harlbut
1784

Box 1:2
VanDeusen v. Sprague
1784

Box 1:3
Mansfield v. Burghardt
1784

Box 1:4
Hickock v. Bush
1784

Box 1:5
VanDeusen v. Herrick
1784

Box 1:6
Gilbert v. Fitch
1784

Box 1:7
Totten v. Younglove
1785

Box 1:8
Fitch v. Messenger
1785

Box 1:9
King v. Lard
1785

Box 1:10
Smith v. Fitch
1785

Box 1:11
Laverge v. Bryan
1786

Box 1:12
King v. Ingersoll
1787

Box 1:13
Brunson v. Hopkins
1789

Box 1:14
Brunson v. Palmer
1789

Box 1:15
Canfied v. Baker
1790

Box 1:16
Cooper v. Darby
1791

Box 1:17
Cooper v. Lombard
1791

Box 1:18
Lombard v. Gregory
1792

Box 1:19
Pepoon v. Sergeant, et al
1793

Box 1:20
Ensign v. Noble
1794

Box 1:21
Brimsmaid v. Van Deusen
1795

Box 1:22
Hogeboom v. Darby
1797

Box 1:23
Chadwick v. Gregory
1798

Box 1:24
Chapin v. Clark
1799

Box 1:25
Hogeboom v. Hubbard
1799

Box 1:26
Hill v. Daley, et al
1800

Box 1:27
Broom, et al v. Dewey
1801

Box 1:28
Rossiter v. Hopkins and Ransom
1802

Box 1:29
Rynders v. Pierce
1802

Box 1:30
Van Deusen v. Hogeboom
1803

Box 1:31
Pitkin v. Buber
1810

Box 1:32
Kilborn v. Morse
1815

Box 1:33
Commonwealth v. Pitkin
n.d.

Box 1:34
Series 2. Deeds
1741-1865


Containing about 80 property transactions, this series reflects sales principally from 1790 to 1840. In particular, the documents here reflect the prodigious land acquisition of Samuel Rossiter (36 transactions), Thomas Ives (20), and George Pynchon (11), and the declining property holdings of some of the early families, including the Whitneys, Roots, and Hopkins. Arranged chronologically.

Sales
1741

Box 2:35
Sales
1765-1767

Box 2:36
Sales
1773-1777

Box 2:37
Sales
1783-1786

Box 2:38
Sales
1790-1794

Box 2:39
Sales
1795-1797

Box 2:40
Sales
1798-1799

Box 2:41
Sales
1800

Box 2:42
Sales
1801-1803

Box 2:43
Sales
1806-1810

Box 2:44
Sales
1811

Box 2:45
Sales
1812

Box 2:46
Sales
1813

Box 2:47
Sales
1814

Box 2:48
Sales
1815-1816

Box 2:49
Sales
1817-1818

Box 2:50
Sales
1819

Box 2:51
Sales
1820-1821

Box 2:52
Sales
1822-1824

Box 2:53
Sales
1826

Box 2:54
Sales
1827-1829

Box 2:55
Sales
1831-1832

Box 2:56
Sales
1837-1840

Box 2:57
Sales
1843-1865

Box 2:58
Sales
n.d.

Box 2:59
Series 3. Estate Records
1755-1811


Shown here are scattered estate inventories, wills, and executor's expenses for seven estates. Of particular interest are the documents of 3 Ingersoll family estates, and the detailed will and inventory of Hewitt Root. Arranged alphabetically by name.

David Ingersoll
1755

Box 2:60
Israel Ingersoll
n.d.

Box 2:61
Peter Ingersoll
1789

Box 2:62
Hewitt Root
1788-1792

Box 2:63
Stephen Sibley
1809-1811

Box 2:64
Moses Stocking
n.d.

Box 2:65
Isaac Van Deusen
1809

Box 2:66
Series 4. Indentures
1798-1827


Most of the more than 50 indentures here reflect the farm leasing activities of Thomas Ives and are interesting for the detailed description of the terms of the lease. Several of the later indentures show the increased activity of Samuel Rossiter in this area. Of particular interest is the 1812 case of Kasson Freeman (folder 81), in which Thomas Ives had great difficulty in forcing Freeman to adhere to the terms of the indenture; and the beginnings, in 1808, of Ives' leasing of carding machines to Dudley Woodworth. Arranged chronologically.

Isaac Van Deusen
1798

Box 3:67
Parin Batchellor, John Eldridge, Isaac Preston
1799

Box 3:68
Melanston Foster, Levi Ormsby, Marson Whiting
1800

Box 3:69
Richard Francis, Ormsby, Andrew Hollenbeck
1803-1805

Box 3:70
Aaron Phelps, Benjamin Rogers, Ethel Jones
1806

Box 3:71
Martin Richmond, Joseph Buel
1807

Box 3:72
Jabez Jones, Palmer Utley, Jared Selley, Dudley Woodworth
1808

Box 3:73
Jones, Daniel Pixley, John Kennedy, Jonathan Turner, Samuel Barstow, Utley
1809

Box 3:74
Barstow, Kennedy, Aaron Otis, Nicholas Hearse
1810

Box 3:75
Hollenbeck, Otis, Woodworth, Samuel Billings, Barstow, David Boardsley, John Burghardt
1811

Box 3:76-77
Otis, Woodworth, Hollenbeck, Billings, Barstow, Lewis Goram, James Reese, Con Mooney, Dan Weed
1812

Box 3:78-80
Kasson Freeman
1812

Box 3:81
Seeley, Weed, Billings, Barstow
1813

Box 3:82
James Humphrey and S. Rossiter
1815

Box 3:83
Sylvester Burt
1827

Box 3
Series 5. Land Surveys
1792-1860


Many of the surveys in this series were commissioned by George (between 1813-51) and Walter Pynchon (between 1792-1839) for their extensive holdings in the town. Arranged alphabetically by name.

John Ashley
n.d.

Box 4:84
John Burghardt
1793

Box 4:85
P. Chapin
n.d.

Box 4:86
W. Deland
n.d.

Box 4:87
Greene and Walker
n.d.

Box 4:88
Hopkins family
1824

Box 4:89
Ives family
1833

Box 4:90
John Kellogg
1792

Box 4:91
Leavenworth family
1831

Box 4:92
Morris Loomis
n.d.

Box 4:93
George Pynchon
1813-1851

Box 4:94
Walter Pynchon
1792-1839

Box 4:95
Josiah Smith
1860

Box 4:96
R. Taylor
1845

Box 4:97
S. Trobridge
1845

Box 4:98
David Wainwright
n.d.

Box 4:99
Whiting family
1810-1831

Box 4:100
Unidentified
1791-1858

Box 4:101
Series 6. Sheriff's Writs
1743-1869 (bulk 1801-1827)


Included in this series are a large number of writs addressed to sheriff Ezra Kellogg for failure to pay creditors, coinciding with the first major American economic depression (1817-21). Evident in these documents is the increasing propensity of town residents to pursue their neighbors for even small amounts of money. Also evident are the increasing numbers of actions against artisans, reflecting the changing nature of the town's economy. A list of names mentioned in this series is included in folder 102. Arranged chronologically.

Writs & List
1743-1744
3 items
Box 4:102
Writs
1801-1816
3 items
Box 4:103
Writs
1817
22 items
Box 4:104
Writs
1818
2 items
Box 4:105
Writs
1819
6 items
Box 4:106
Writs
1820
3 items
Box 4:107
Writs
1821
9 items
Box 4:108
Writs
1822-1827
15 items
Box 4:109
Writ
1869
1 item
Box 4:110
Series 7. Town History Documents
1731-1904


Series 7 contains an array of documents covering events and institutions in the town's history, including correspondence (July 9, 1776) warning certain people to put down their arms and a 1754 court case involving a false alarm about an Indian raid. Among other subjects covered are the riparian rights of mill sites, roads, bridges, town buildings, militia duties, school expenses, Revolutionary War reimbursements, and some correspondence. Arranged alphabetically by subject.

Committee of Correspondence notice
1776

Box 5:111
Complaint vs. Militia Delinquents
1812

Box 5:112
Correspondence--Thomas Ives
1789-1795

Box 5:113
Correspondence--Thomas Ives
1804-1811

Box 5:114
Correspondence --G. Kindale
1770

Box 5:115
Correspondence --Mary Pynchon pension
1846

Box 5:116
Correspondence --Samuel Rossiter
1819

Box 5:117
Correspondence --Peter Van Ness
1769

Box 5:118
Court cases
1754-1755

Box 5:119
Duty on carriage
1799

Box 5:120
Fire at Isaac Pixley's
1787

Box 5:120a
Highway plan
1764

Box 5:121
Iron bridge
1867

Box 5:122
Militia appointment
1794

Box 5:123
Mill Claims vs. Proprietors
n.d.

Box 5:124
Minutes of Bear Town roads
1792-1797

Box 5:125
Miscellaneous receipts
1777-1821

Box 5:126
Muddy Brook Settlers
1770-1870

Box 5:127
Newspaper clippings
1883-1904

Box 5:128
Petition against assigned road from Stockbridge to Great Barrington
1810

Box 5:129
Petition against the Sheffield Turnpike
1805

Box 5:130
Petition Against Town Officers
n.d.

Box 5:131
Petition of Peter Nusted
1800

Box 5:132
Pluma Sumner Obituary
n.d.

Box 5:133
Power of Attorney--David Ingersoll
1731, 1741

Box 5:134
Proprietors Records--Land Distribution
1734-1793

Box 5:135
Protestant Episcopal Church
n.d.

Box 5:136
Revolutionary Soldier Tombstones
1895-1896

Box 5:137
Revolutionary War reimbursements
1782

Box 5:138
School Expenses
1814-1880

Box 5:139
School House Shares
1810-1819

Box 5:140
Sheriff's Auction
1807

Box 5:141
Simon's Rock
1898

Box 5:142
Stories and Anecdotes
n.d.

Box 5:143
Town Hall
1874-1876

Box 5:144
Town History notes
n.d.

Box 5:145
Town House
1837-1845

Box 5:146
Town Meetings
1761-1811

Box 5:147
Voters' Register
1818

Box 5:148
Washington Benevolent Society
1812

Box 5:149
Water Company
1865-1868

Box 5:150
Willard Family
1738-1819

Box 5:151
Series 8. Samuel Rossiter Financial Records
1790-1821

(oversize flat box)

Included here are a series of documents concerning the debt, assets, and eventual insolvency of Rossiter in 1799. Rossiter rebounded from this to amass considerable holdings in Great Barrington by 1815 (see, in particular, series 1, 2, 4, and 6). Arranged chronologically.

Documents relating to Indentures, Insolvency, and Estate
1790-1821

Box 6:152-154
Series 9. Charles Taylor Genealogical Material
1877-1901


This series consists of correspondence, documents, and notes, compiled by Great Barrington historian Charles Taylor concerning local families. Arranged alphabetically by family name.

Bacon
1899

Box 7:155
Barnaby
n.d.

Box 7:156
Bement
1894

Box 7:157
Bronson
1900

Box 7:158
Crittendin
1897-1898

Box 7:159
Daniel-Thompson
n.d.

Box 7:160
Danks
1891

Box 7:161
Day
1898

Box 7:162
Dersey
1897-1898

Box 7:163
Farmer
1893

Box 7:164
Foote
1894

Box 7:165
Gay
1896-1897

Box 7:166
Gilbert
1893

Box 7:167
Gregson
n.d.

Box 7:168
Gridley
1895

Box 7:169
Hyde
1877

Box 7:170
Ingersoll
1893

Box 7:171
Ives
1895-1900

Box 7:172
King
1894

Box 7:173
Kinne
1898-1899

Box 7:174
Leavenworth
1879-1880

Box 7:175
Peyer
1899

Box 7:176
Pier
1898-1899

Box 7:177
Pixley
1901

Box 7:178
Plummer
1897-1898

Box 7:179
Porter
1877-1900

Box 7:180
Posell
1893

Box 7:181
Pynchon
1896

Box 7:182
Ransom
1891

Box 7:183
Rossiter
1898

Box 7:184
Sutliffe
1897-1899

Box 7:185
Talcott
1897

Box 7:186
Taylor
1888-1901

Box 7:187
Turner
1879-1897

Box 7:188
Van Deusen
1898

Box 7:189

Search Terms
The following terms represent persons, organizations, and topics documented in this collection. Use these headings to search for additional materials on this web site, in the Five College Library Catalog, or in other library catalogs and databases.

Subjects
  • Debt--Massachusetts--Great Barrington (Town)--History--Sources.
  • Farm tenancy--Massachusetts--Great Barrington (Town)--History--Sources.
  • Great Barrington (Mass. : Town)--Economic conditions--Sources.
  • Great Barrington (Mass. : Town)--Genealogy.
  • Great Barrington (Mass. : Town)--History--Sources.
  • Great Barrington (Mass. : Town)--Politics and government--Sources.
  • Great Barrington (Mass. : Town)--Social conditions--Sources.
  • Ives, Thomas.
  • Kellogg, Ezra.
  • Land use--Massachusetts--Great Barrington (Town)--History--Sources.
  • Pynchon, George.
  • Pynchon, Walter.
  • Root, Hewitt.
  • Rossiter, Samuel--Finance, Personal.
  • Taylor, Charles J. (Charles James), 1824-1904.

Genre terms
  • Deeds.
  • Genealogies.
  • Indentures.
  • Land surveys.
  • Writs.


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