History Of North Adams, Massachusetts

Reminiscences Of Early Settlers.
-Extracts From Old Town Records.-
Its Public Institutions, Industries And Prominent Citizens,
Together With A Roster Of Commissioned Officers In The War Of The Rebellion.
By W. P. Spear.
North Adams, Mass.: Hoosac Valley News Printing House. 1885.


[Transcribed by Dave Swerdfeger]


THOMAS ROBINSON, 1812. He was the first lawyer who settled in this place, staying about six months and then settling at Adams, where he enjoyed an extensive practice for twenty-four Years, returning to this village in 1836. He was Master in chancery several years. When the act providing for commissioners of insolvency was passed in 1848, he received from Gov. Briggs the first appointment of commissioner of this county and held the office for five successive years. He was also attorney for the Adams bank.
  • Nathan Putnam, 1815. He was grandson of Gen. Isreal Putnam, the revolutionary hero. He had an extensive practice for several years, there being no other attorney in the village. He married a daughter of Richard Knight and died here in the 52d year of his age.
  • Daniel Robinson, 1824.
  • Charles P. Hantington about 1828. He removed to Northampton after a few months.
  • Daniel Parish about 1830.
  • Edward Penniman, 1835. He enjoyed a very large and lucrative practice, and died here in 1844.
  • Nehemiah Hodge, 1831. He afterwards mostly relinquished the practice of law for the management of his patent railroad brake. He was more fortunate than many inventors, in understanding how to enforce his rights.
  • Henry L. Dawes, 1842. He came here a stranger, with dubious prospects and in debt. He was thrice elected as Representative to the General Court, also a delegate to the constitutional convention in 1853. For several years district attorney for the commonwealth, he was afterwards elected as a representative and then as congressman of the United States, which office he now holds.
  • James T. Robinson, 1844. He was twice elected State Senator from this district: was chosen secretary of the constitutional convention in 1853: Register of Insolvency in 1856. Upon the decease of Daniel N. Dewey in 1859 he received from Governor Banks the appointment of Judge of Probate and Insolvency for this county, under the new organization, which did away with the work of Commissioners of Insolvency.
  • Lyman C. Thayer, 1847.
  • O. C. B. Duncan, about 1848.
  • Andrew A. Richmond, 1848. He was twice elected Representative to the General Court, once Senator for Berkshire county, was appointed trial justice of the Police Court of Adams, and one of the three commissioners to revise the statutes of the commonwealth.
  • Shepard Thayer, 1852. He was appointed Commissioner of Insolvency by Gov. Washburn in 1853, holding the office for three years. Was re-elected by the people in 1859. Now holds the office of associate justice of the District Court.
  • Wm. P. Porter, 1856. Entered into partnership with H. L. Dawes Jan. 1, 1857.
  • A. W. Preston, 1858. At present there are twelve lawyers in town.


    Only those who acted officially are named. Isreal Jones. He must have been appointed as early as 1800 and transacted the principal business for many years. Others were James Cummings, Jeremiah Colegrove, Ezra D. Whitaker and Abel Wetherbee. A few lawyers who settled here tried some cases, and so did other justices besides those named, occasionally. A special act was passed by the Legislature April 12, 1854, establishing a Police Court in this town.

    Andrew A. Richmond was appointed standing justice and Charles J. Marsh of South Adams special justice. Upon the election of Mr. Richmond to the Senate and his taking a seat therein, June 1, 1855, the office of standing justice became vacant, and Joel Bacon was appointed.

    Judge Bacon held the office until the District Court was formed, in 1870, with jurisdiction over Adams, North Adams, Clarksburg, Savoy, Florida and Cheshire, when Jarvis Rockwell was put at its head, where he presided until his death, on the 14th of May, 1885. On the 28th of May, 1885, the vacancy caused by Judge Rockwell's death was filled by the appointment of George P. Lawrence to the justiceship of the district.


    Below is given a list of the early physicians and the dates of their settling here, as nearly as can be ascertained. Previous to 1800 the physicians from Williamstown and Adams were summoned to attend patients here:
    • Dr. ---- Waters, about 1803.
    • Dr. James Cummings, 1805.
    • Dr. Anson Holloway, 1810.
    • Dr. Robert C. Robinson, 1812. He left and returned twice, dying here in 1846.
    • Dr. George Hill, 1822.
    • Dr. Thomas A. Brayton, 1824. He gave up practice in 1831 and became engaged in manufacturing.
    • Dr. Isaac Hodges, 1824. Left and returned twice.
    • Dr. Charles Knowlton, 1826.
    • Dr. Ambrose Brown, 1828. Died here in 1831.
    • Dr. Elihu S. Hawkes, 1829. Succeeded Dr. Brayton's practice. Died May 17, 1879.
    • Dr. Martin Bryant, 1830.
    • Dr. Lawson Lang, 1832.
    • Dr. L. J. Aylsworth, 1835.
    • Dr. Henry P. Phillips, 1836. Practiced for some time previous in Adams. Died here November 24, 1881.
    • Dr. William H. Tyler, 1837.
    • Dr. Thomas Taylor, 1837. Died here in 1854.
    • Dr. S. N. Briggs, 1840. Still in practice in 1885, and is now senior resident in the profession here.
    • Dr. N. S. Babbitt, 1845. Practiced ten years previously at Adams.
    • Dr. Alvah Harvey, 1845.
    • Dr. George H. Wilson, 1852.
    • Dr. George C. Lawrence, 1859. Practiced twelve years previously at Adams. Died January 6, 1884.
    • At the present time, 1885, there are fourteen resident physicians in town.

    It will be seen by the following list that the doctrine of "rotation in office" was not very strictly observed in early times, and probably not appreciated, or else the citizens were not very ambitious for office:
    • 1779, Samuel Todd.
    • 1780, Reuben Hinman, at a town meeting on May 25. Enos Parker, at a meeting of the town October 11. The state constitution was not then in fairly working order, and it required two representatives a season.
    • 1781-2, Enos Parker.
    • 1783-4 there was no record of a Representative having been chosen. Probably the town did not feel able to afford the expense, as this was a period of excruciating money pressure.
    • 1785-6, Isreal Jones: the last year with written instructions given by a committee of seven, chosen in town meeting September 30. December 18, it was voted that the town had no further business for him, a polite hint that he was not a Shays man.
    • 1787-8, Reuben Hinman the first year with instructions from a committee of five.
    • 1789, Jonathan Remington.
    • 1790, Reuben Hinman.
    • 1791, Reuben Hinman. Appointed
    • 1792, Israel Jones. He was re-elected for five years.
    • 179S, Abraham Howland. He received 114 votes to 94 for Israel Jones. In this year the Democratic — then called Republican— party first gained that supremacy in the town which they maintained for over forty years.
    • 1799, Abraham Howland received 94 votes to 4 scattering, and in 1800 he received 70 votes, all that are recorded as having been cast.
    Until 1831 the town meeting for the choice of Representatives was held on the first Tuesday in May, and the General Court met on the fourth Wednesday of the same month. As the state and county officers were voted for on different days, and the town was so overwhelmingly Democratic for many years, that a contest was futile. The average vote for Representative was very light, often less than one-quarter as large as for the Governor and Senators.
    • 1801, Abraham Howland, by 52 votes, all that appear to have been cast.
    • 1802, Abraham Howland, by 79 votes to 24 for Shubael Wilmarth.
    • 1803, Abraham Howland, by 71 votes, all that are recorded.
    • 1804, Abraham Howland, by 58 votes to 26 for Stephen Jenckes.
    • 1805, Stephen Jenckes, by 88 votes to 63 for Abraham Howland.
    • 1806, Stephen Jenckes, by 89 votes to 64 for Elisha Wells.
    • 1807, Elisha Wells, by 99 votes to 64 for Josiah Q. Robinson, 3 scattering.
    • 1808, Elisha Wells, by 57 votes to 25 for Daniel Read, 3 scattering.
    • 1809, Elisha Wells and Thomas Farnum, by 83 votes each. The town was now sufficiently large to entitle it to two Representatives.
    • 1810, Thomas Farnum by 62, John Waterman by 52 and James Mason by 55. Another Representative was added this year.
    • 1811, Thomas Farnum by 40, James Mason by 44.
    • 1812, Thomas Farnum by 44, James Mason by 52. 2 scattering.
    • 1813, John Waterman and Daniel Read.
    • 1814, Daniel Read.
    • 1815, John Bucklin, Henry Wilmarth, Nehemiah Field was first elected, but afterward excused.
    • 1816, Henry Wilmarth and William P. Briggs.
    • 1817, Henry Wilmarth by 31, 2 scattering.
    • 1818, Isaac Brown, by 31 to 19 for Elisha Kingsley.
    • 1819, Isaac Brown by 38, 1 scattering.
    • 1820-21, Richmond Brown.
    • 1822, William E. Brayton.
    • 1823, William E. Brayton and Richmond Brown.
    • 1824, Peter Briggs and William Waterman.
    • 1825, Peter Briggs.
    • 1826, James Mason.
    • 1827, Nathan Putnam and James Mason.
    • 1828, Edward Richmond, Richmond Brown and Henry Wilmarth.
    • 1829, William E. Brayton and Thomas Farnum.
    • 1830, William E. Brayton and Thomas Farnum.
    • 1831, William E. Brayton, James Wilbur and Isaac U. Hoxie.
    • 1831, Thomas Farnum, James Wilbur and Elisha Kingsley, at a November meeting.
    • 1832, Alpheus Smith, Sanford Blackinton, David Anthony and James Mason.
    • 1833, E. Kingsley, 206 votes: George A. Lapham, 209; Evenel Estes, 158; Daniel Jenks, 162.
    • 1834, Stephen B. Brown, 245 votes; George A. Lapham, 213; Evenel Estes, 250; Daniel Jenks, 253.
    The ballots were taken for one Representative at a time, and therefore some of the defeated candidates had more votes than some who were elected, as follows:
    • Ebenezer Cole, 241; Zolotes Richmond, 246; Joseph L. White, 233.
    • 1835, Henry Wilmarth, 312; Ebenezer Cole, 306; Stephen B. Brown, 311 on the ballot for first Representative and 294 for second Representative.
    This was the famous three days' town meeting, held at the Town House, about midway between the two villages. It was hotly contested, and there were charges of double voting and illegality on both sides, the particulars of which would occupy too much space.

    Messrs. Wilmarth and Cole took their seats in the House, but a petition adverse to them was presented, and after a full consideration by the Committee on Elections they were declared to be illegally chosen, inasmuch as the Selectmen adjourned the meeting without authority from the voters.

    A precept for a new election was issued, and on the 10th of March, 1836, Messrs. Wilmarth and Cole. were again elected, with very few opposing votes. An effort to unseat them again was made, on the grounds that the chairman refused to put a motion to adjourn which had been properly made and seconded.

    The effort failed, however, though Mr. Cole did not appear to take his seat.
    • 1836, Henry Wilmarth, 273: Daniel A. Wells, 140; Alanson Cady, 144: Isaac Dean, 159. Ebenezer Cole was re-elected and excused.
    • 1837, Joseph L. White, 130; Shubel Wilmarth, 130 John Hall, 130.
    • 1838, Joseph L. White, 313; Shubel Wilmarth, 312; John Hall, 311. John Brown had 248, Daniel A. Wells 244, and Reuben Whitman 246.
    • 1839, Lorenzo Rice, 262; Snell Babbitt, 259; Ezra D. Whitaker had 234, Evenel Estes 244, Hezekiah Kingsley 247, Reuben Whitman 243, Samuel Gaylord 74. On balloting for a second Representative, Ezra D. Whitaker had 112 votes, and was elected. The Democracy was routed this year.
    • 1840, Lorenzo Rice, 323; Snell Babbitt, 330. Orson Wells had 274, Joshua Anthony 275, and there were 8 scattering.
    • 1841, Edward Badger by 264, William Jenks by 267. Salmon Burlingame had 242, Thomas A. Brown 241, and there were 13 - scattering.
    • 1842, William Jenks, Edmund Badger.
    • 1843, The town records, contained no mention of any vote cast for Representatives. It is said there was a tie between Rodman H. Wells and Jenks Kimbell, each having about 345 votes, and there were 12 "Liberty" party votes.
    • 1844, No choice for Representatives. The Liberty party numbered about 58 votes, and held the balance of power between the Whigs and Democrats.
    • 1845, No choice again. Amasa W. Richardson had 241 votes; Sylvander Johnson, 241; Joel P. Cady, 172; Dallas J. Dean, 181; John F. Arnold, 62; Simeon M. Dean, 61; scattering, 8. A second trial on the fourth Monday in November resulted in no choice, the four principal candidates being nearly tied.
    • 1846, Syivander Johnson by 367, George Millard by 357. Dallas J. Dean had 211: Isaac Holman, 142; A. W. Richardson, 70; Nehemiah Hodge, 63; T. P. Goodrich, 65; scattering, 3.
    • 1847, Henry L. Dawes by 282, Dallas J. Dean by 300. This year the town meeting was held at the south village, next year at the north village, and since that time until the town was divided the meetings were held alternately at each village. From 1778 to 1826 the meetings were held at the Wilmarth place; from 1826 to 1S47 at the Town House. There was a long controversy over the erection of this Town House, which was located on what is known as the Howland farm, between the two villages On the west road.
    • 1848, Charles Marsh by 467, Henry L. Dawes by 459.
    • 1849, Charles Marsh, Salmon Burlingame.
    • 1850, Stephen L. Arnold by 454, John H. Orr by 448.
    • 1851, Stephen L. Arnold by 446, H. L. Dawes by 446.
    • 1852, Andrew A. Richmond by 467, Henry Tyler by 464.
    • 1853, Andrew A. Richmond by 458, and was the only person elected.
    • 1854, Lansing Allen by 623, Edwin F. Jenks by 624. This was the year of the grand "Know-Nothing sweep," and all parties were nearly wiped out.
    • 1855, E. S. Hawkes by 323, Daniel Upton by 317. This year the plurality rule was adopted in the election of all officers.
    • 1856, S. Burlingame by 457, Henry Tyler by 447.
    • 1857, Sylvander Johnson, under the new district system, which apportioned to this town every year one Representative, and more when she can get them.
    • 1858, S. Johnson, William H. Tyler, 2nd.
    • 1859, George W. Nottingham.

    Following is a list of Postmasters, with the date of their appointment:
    • Nathan Putnam, 1814.
    • William Waterman, 1815.
    • William E. Brayton, 1826.
    • Edward R. Tinker, 1849.
    • Henry Wilmarth, 1852.
    • Abel Wetherbee, 1853.
    • Edwin Rogers, 1861.
    • John B. Tyler, 1879.
    The first Postoffice in this town was established at the south village, which still retains the name of Adams. The communications to people residing here were brought up by private hands. In 1814 the North Adams Postoffice was established, and the first Postmaster appointed was Nathan Putnam, grandson of Gen. Israel Putnam, who was then a practising lawyer here.

    The office was kept in Mr. Putnam's office, in the upper part of Giles Tinker's "yellow building" on Main street, on the site of the Davenport block. The gross receipts for postoge the first quarter was $1.50.

    In 1815 William Waterman was appointed Postmaster, and the office was removed to the hotel (now Berkshire House) owned and kept by him. He afterward removed it to his dwelling, near the corner of Pearl street.

    In 1826 William E. Brayton received the appointment. The gross receipts for the first quarter under the new Postmaster were about $50. Mr. Brayton kept the office in the store now occupied by Dr. H. J. Millard as a drug store, at 76 Main street.

    From 1826 till 1849, a period of twenty-three years, the appointment was held by Mr. Brayton, and he at last resigned.

    Edward R. Tinker succeeded Mr. Brayton in 1849, continuing the office as then located. He resigned a short time previous to the incoming administration of Frankin Pierce, and Col. Henry Wilmarth received the appointment. He was suspended in five or six months by the change in the national administration.

    During the summer of 1853 Abel Wetherbee received the appointment, and removed the office to the building now occupied by L. L. Scott, at 55 Main street, which building was built purposely for the accommodation of the office. Mr. Wetherbee kept the office until his death, which occurred on the 6th of April, 1861, his wife holding the office until the expiration of his term.

    In July of 1861 Edwin Rogers received the appointment, continuing the office in the building now occupied by Mr. Scott for a short time when he removed the office to the store now occupied by Robert Tobin, at TO Main street. Here it was continued for a few years with 500 boxes to rent, which was more than enough to supply the wants of the people. From this store it was removed to No. 4 Holden street, the office occupying the whole room, which has since been partitioned into several rooms. Here the number of boxes was increased to 1000. From here it was moved directly across the street into the Blackinton block, where it has since been located.

    In February of 1878, Mr. Rogers resigned and the present Postmaster, John B. Tyler, was appointed. He has made repeated additions to the office, the number of boxes at present being nearly 1500.


    In 1818 the first telegraph line went through this town, connecting it with Boston and New York. The company was called the Vermont and Connecticut Telegraph Company. Local capitalists subscribed for the stock, which was made out in shares of one hundred dollars each. The office was located in a room now used by H. D. Ward, the photographer, at 78 Main street, with Hamilton Morris as operator.

    The business only continued for a few years, the line going rapidly to decay. It was ten years after the first introduction, or in 1858, before the Western Union Company connected this town by wire with the trade centres. Their first office was located in the building then used as a postoffice, at 55 Main street, Judge Joel Bacon being the operator. During the removals of the Postoffice to 70 Main street, then to 3 Holden, and afterward to No. 1 Blackinton block. the telegraph office followed, and was considered a part of the Postoffice.

    In 1878 it was removed to its old quarters at No. 3 Holden street, remaining there until 1881, when it was removed to its present quarters at 75 Main street. In 1879, Mr. Bacon resigned the management of the business here and William F. Orr was appointed in his stead.

    In 1885 Mr. Orr resigned the management and was succeeded by Miss A. F. Bates, who still continues in charge. It is said of W. H. Phillips, formerly proprietor and editor of the Transcript and Hoosac Valley News, that while learning the printer's trade in Bennington, Vt., the telegraph office was located in the same room he was in the habit of occupying.

    He had acquired a very good knowledge of the art as practiced in those days, that is, reading from marks made on paper. One day there came flashing over the wire, "Taylor is dead." Mr. Phillips caught the message by sound as it passed through, and told his fellow-workmen, who ridiculed the idea of his taking a message by sound. He was firm in his belief, however, and proved to be right.

    This was the first intimation he had of his gift, and set about perfecting himself in the art of reading by sound, and became very proficient. He is supposed to be the first man in the United States who acquired and cultivated the gift

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