Category Archives: The Big Picture

National and international trends impacting Lenox.

Causes of the Revolution – Political

Almost up to the time of the American Revolution, Lenox residents probably would have been satisfied that they could have the rights  of self government to which they were accustomed and be loyal subjects of King George III.

However, from the end of the French and Indian Wars to the Revolution decision making at the local and colony level was -step by step – taken away.   Eventually, the cumulative sense of loss of control over their own destinies moved even ordinary citizens to be willing to fight for a change in government.

Background – Colonial Government Structure

The governmental structure of Massachusetts had changed considerably since the early Puritan self-government compacts. By the 18th century Massachusetts, like many of the other colonies, had an appointed royal governor.  That governor  had the right to veto acts of the colony’s General Court, as did the king. The governor was the commander-in-chief of the militia and appointed all military officials; he had the right to summon and adjourn the General Court.

The  rest of the government consisted of a 28 member Council selected by the House of Representatives and a House of Representatives consisting of Freemen (e.g. property owners) elected from towns across the colony.

The General Court appointed officers, passed laws and orders, organized all courts, established fines and punishments, and levied taxes, all with the consent of the governor. The House alone controlled the salaries of the governor and judicial officers.

The elected arms of the government had more power than this description of the charter suggests since they controlled appointments, land distribution, the salaries of the governor and judicial officers and could veto orders of the governor (although they rarely did).

In addition, as Englishmen, the colonists believed they had the right to pay only the taxes they had agreed to.

The Old State House - Boston
The Old State House – Boston

John Paterson was a representative from Lenox to the House of Representatives at the time of the Revolution.

Background – Local Government

The Puritans brought a history of local government with them from England.  For 150 years Lenox and other towns carried on the tradition in at least three ways:

  • Towns were initially organized like corporations and run by the proprietors (original purchasers – owners of major tracts of land)
  • As the original proprietors sold off land,  towns – such as Lenox – moved on to the town meeting form of government which we still use today
  • Congregational management – the Congregational Church (the descendent of the original Puritan Church) was still supported by local taxes;  the members of the local Church worked together to organize construction of a meeting house and calling a minister.
Towns Used to Meeting to Manage Roads, Local Laws and Taxes
Towns Used to Meeting to Manage Roads, Local Laws and Taxes

What Changed

As we have discussed, the end of the French and Indian War and the ascendency of King George III, touched off a flurry of attempts to bring North America more firmly into the imperial fold.

The economic impact of actions is discussed in the entry on Economic Causes of the Revolutionary War.  However, the various actions taken by Parliament from the end of the French and Indian War to the Revolution, also had the effect of political clamp down.

First, there was the issue of enforcement.  Prior to the 1760’s there had been duties on molasses and restrictions on who the colonists could trade with.  However, with the help of a little bribery of customs officials, these duties and restrictions had not been strictly enforced.  Beginning with a new Sugar Act in 1764 that changed and enforcement became confrontational with colonial merchant ships being stopped and searched.  This became an even more visible interference with colonial prerogatives with the imposition of additional duties in the Townshend Acts of 1767.

Second, and more threatening, was the issue of taxation without representation.  As far as the colonists were concerned the Stamp act of 1765 (which required payment for stamps for all nature of legal documents and other items) was a tax they had not agreed to. As a matter of fact the Virginia colonists, in March 1765, declared it illegal for “anybody outside of Virginia to assess taxes on Virginia.”

Finally, the “Intolerable Acts,” of 1774 (called the Coercive Acts in Parliament) directly stripped Massachusetts of its charter rights.   Although the Stamp Act and most of the Townsend Act duties had been repealed, new King and the Parliament felt they had reached the end of their Royal patience when the colonists revolted against the Tea duties that remained.  These “Intolerable Acts”

  • Closed the Port of Boston until the East India Company was reimbursed for its tea
  • Disallowed election of the upper house and made it a body appointed by the governor
  • Eliminated the lower house’s veto power
  • Made the governor or the King responsible for judicial and other appointments
  • Gave the governor the authority to order trials involving royal officials to be held in England
  • Prohibited any Massachusetts town meetings other than one annual town meeting.

And just for good measure, Parliament threw in

  • the Quartering Act, requiring, as the name suggests, quartering of British soldiers in all colonies
  • the Quebec Act enlarging the boundaries of what had been French Quebec and providing for more favorable treatment of French Catholics (particularly annoying to the formerly Puritan New Englanders who felt these were the people they had been fighting for almost 100 years.)

The “Intolerable Acts” were intended as a punishment for the Boston Tea Party in 1773.  But instead of creating the desired obedience, these Acts touched off colonial unity in the form of the first Continental Congress, Committees of Correspondence, Non-importation agreements and general preparation for revolt.


The Glorious Cause, The American Revolution 1763-1789, Robert Middlekauf, Oxford University Press, 1982

A People’s History of the American Revolution, How Common People Shaped the Fight for Independence, Ray Raphael, The New Press, 2001

The Marketplace of Revolution, How Consumer Politics Shaped American Independence, T.H. Breen, Oxford University Press 2004

The American People, Creating a Nation and a Society, Volume One: to 1877, Third Edition, Nash, Jeffrey, Howe, Frederick, Davis, and Winkler, Harper Collins College Publishers 1994

“The Intolerable Acts”, Wikipedia as of April 2014

Note:  add info on 1766 Declaratory Act — no law that does not conform to laws passed by Parliament??


Causes of the Revolutionary War – Economic

Because records are limited for early Lenox, we probably will not be able to draw conclusions about why Lenox in particular took up the cause of independence from Great Britain.  However, we can look at the issues that energized the colonies as a whole and guess which would have been most relevant to Lenox residents in the period leading up to 1775.

Getting Harder and Harder to Meet Basic Household Needs

It’s doubtful that the few hundred Lenox residents would have articulated economic policy as a rationale for war, but it is very likely they were feeling the effects of Great Britain’s increasingly heavy-handed attempts to make the colonies profitable for the mother country.

They struggled to acquire enough cash to pay taxes, pay debts, and buy English goods. They probably were acutely aware of growing pocketbook pain, and they knew it somehow was connected with the control distant lords of commerce seemed to be exerting over their daily economic lives.

Particularly after the French and Indian Wars, it was getting harder to satisfy household needs  in the Berkshires.  it is estimated it took 50 acres to support a family and the land available was increasingly marginal (particularly in Lenox!).  It has also been etimated that it took an acre of trees a year to heat a household.  In early days, that probably would have been hard work but doable in Lenox, but families would have had to go further and further to find wood and eventually would have to resort to the purchase of wood or coal.  To the degree Lenox farmers could raise livestock or cut wood to sell for the hard currency needed they would have to face the additional challenge of getting to their goods to relatively inaccessible cash markets (Springfield? Albany?).

Why the English Did What They Did

In these early days of international trade the English came to excel at the practice of mercantilism. This meant protecting domestic industry and agriculture by charging duties on goods manufactured by any other country – making everyone else’s goods more expensive. If, like Great Britain, you have colonies even better – you can pay them a low price for raw materials and force them to buy your higher priced goods.

This was accomplished by requiring  that all goods from the colonies be shipped to or through England – effectively eliminating the opportunity to shop internationally for the highest bidder. Also, if you’re England, you can choose to require the use of money backed by gold and silver to pay for land, repay debts and buy manufactured goods. If you’re the colony, you have to get that “hard” English currency by trading with other English colonies (including the West Indies) or hoarding what little hard currency you have by making as many exchanges as possible by using commodities.  The clever colonists figured out how to acquire much needed hard currency by transporting slaves to the West Indies and the North American colonies, converting West Indian sugar to run and selling the rum and  other raw materials to Great Britain or the English Carribean colonies.  (More on this when we discuss the growth of slavery in the northern colonies.) They also started building their own ships.

2008 December WFA
Turning Raw Materials and Slaves into Hard Currency for Import Commodities and Manufactured Goods

The earliest attempt at colonial economic management was with the Navigation Acts of 1651 which required all goods that entered England be carried on English or Colonial ships.  In 1660 further acts specified certain goods that colonies could only ship to England.  In 1675 The Lords of Trade were established in an early attempt to enforce these laws.  In the 17th century the royal succession was still pre-occupying Great Britain and the colonists were able to largely ignore any trade limitations that didn’t serve their purposes.

The Colonists’ Needs

However, over the course of the 18th century, colonial demand for goods imported from England or the southern colonies such as tea and sugar as well as manufactured items — particularly books, cloth, china, and fine metal goods picked up.   Increased enforcement of trade laws and increased colonial demand doomed the colonies to constantly racing to keep up. And it left the colonies with few alternatives when demand for their trade goods and services cycled up and then down. The French and Indian wars – particularly the last – interrupted trade and inflated prices as demand spiked to feed, cloth, and house the military; and when the war ended the colonists suddenly had less demand for their goods.

Boston Harbor at Sunset
Boston Harbor at Sunset

And to add insult to injury, everything the English did after the French and Indian War worsened the economic bite.  The peace settlement included outlawing settlement west of the Appalachians – cutting off expansion to the fertile Ohio River Valley.   They (Currency Acts) cut out the colonies’ attempt to make up for the lack of currency by minting their own. And the English raised taxes on their North American colonies to try to cover the cost of the war and the continued policing of western boundaries; hence the Sugar Acts, the Stamp Act, and the Townshend Acts (see Non Importation Agreement.)

For further information see:

Revolutionary War Timeline,

The American People, Creating a Nation and a Society Volume One, Third Edition, Nash, Jeffrey, Howe, Frederick, Davis, Winkler, Harper Collins

The Marketplace of Revolution, How Consumer Politics Shaped the American Independence, T.H. Breen, Oxford University Press, 2004

The New England Merchants in the Seventeenth Century, Bernard Bailyn

The Glorious Cause, The American Revolution 1763-1789, Robert Middlekauff, Oxford University Press, 1982

An Economic History of the United States from 1607 to the Present, Ronald E. Seavoy, Taylor and Francis Group 2006


Seavoy, Ronald (2013-10-18). An Economic History of the United States: From 1607 to the Present (p. 65). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.



Newport and Lenox

Newport talk
Paul F. Miller, head of Preservation Society of Newport and author of “Lost Newport”

Newport and Lenox had shared families, architects and roles in the Gilded Age.  They also differed in several important ways that had impact on their future.   We were fortunate to have had the two Gilded Age resorts compared in a June 2, 2015,   lecture by Paul Miller at Ventfort Hall.

Newport and Lenox Families

Some families had homes in both places.  For instance, Samuel Gray Ward (1817-1907) first built a home in Lenox (Highwood – considered one of the first cottages) in 1844 then a home in Newport in 1850.  His Newport property was later sold to Edith Wharton.*  One of the demolished Newport houses Mr. Miller described, Pen Craig, had been built by Mr. and Mrs. George Jones, Edith Jones Wharton’s parents.

Front Entrance
Bellefontaine, Foster Residence in Lenox

Mrs. Giraud Foster’s (Lenox’s Bellefontaine) sister had a home in Newport and the two families often spent summers in Newport and fall in Lenox.

And there were, of course, the ubiquitous Gilded Age Vanderbilt and Astor relatives in both places as well as other resort towns..Bar Harbor, Adirondacks, etc.

Shared Architects and Designers

Vernon Court, Newport
Vernon Court, Newport; Constructed 1900

Here are just a few examples of the shared Lenox-Newport talent pool.

Anna Van Nest Gambrel (1865-1927) used Carrere and Hastings, as did did her sister Mrs. Foster for Bellefontaine in Lenox.

The Library - One of the Few Rooms that Survived the Bellafontaine Fire
The Library – One of the Few Rooms that Survived the Bellafontaine Fire

The sisters also used the same interior decorator, Jules Allard (died 1907), the most celebrated interior “decorateur” of America’s Gilded Age.

Homestead, Cliffwood Street Lenox, Burned 1905
Homestead, Cliffwood Street Lenox, Burned 1905






Frequent Newport architect Charles McKim (later partnered with Sanford White) courted and married his client, Julia Amory Appleton (1859-1887) for whom he designed Homestead in Lenox, a leading example of the Colonial Revival style of architecture.

Taylor House Newport (1901) Shows Similarity to Lenox Mckim Houses
Taylor House Newport (1901) Shows Similarity to Lenox Mckim Houses







villa-rosa-entrance-facadeEdith Wharton’s friend and initial collaborator on The Mount, Ogden Codman, designed (now demolished) Villa Rosa in Newport.



Lenox and Newport Differences and Similarities

Unlike Lenox, which remained a frontier town until 1767 and never became a major commercial center, Newport was settled as early as 1636 and becme a thriving port city.  It’s path from Colonial port to wealthy watering hole was quite different from Lenox’s path from county seat to Gilded Age resort.

Newport suffered decline after the Revolution because it had been occupied by the British from 1776 to 1779, and over half of the town’s population fled. This occupation had done irreparable damage to Newport’s economy.  In the early 19th century the city was forced to re-invent itself. Newport had been bypassed by industrialization and its landscape became frozen in time. Ironically, this became an asset for the town as it transformed itself into a summer resort.

The large tracts of farmland in Lenox,  which also had been largely bypassed by major development, were very attractive to the  wealthy cottagers.  In contrast, Newport was already somewhat “suburbanized” and many of its luxurious mansions were built on smaller lots than their Lenox counterparts.

Like Lenox and the General Electric employees who enjoyed living here, Newport had a major employer who left in the 1970’s — forcing the town to re-think itself once again.  The US Navy had had major facilities in Newport beginning after the Civil War.  By World War I, estates and resorts on Aquidneck Island were being replaced by Navy facilities and mansions were torn down to make way for housing developments.

Like Lenox, many of the mansions that survived to the mid 20th century were converted for use by schools or other institutions.

While Lenox’s re-invention as a tourist destination seems to have been  built on cultural events (Tanglewood) and open land, Newport’s is primarily based on history and ocean recreation.

After World War II, one of the most successful historic preservation movements in the country saved hundreds of structures throughout Newport County. That effort began in the 1840s when George Champlin Mason fought to save Trinity Church. He helped found the Newport Historical Society, which preserved the Seventh Day Baptist Meeting House in 1884, and later acquired and restored the Wanton-Lyman-Hazard House, and the Great Friends Meeting House. Other groups who have taken the preservation movement to heroic levels include the Preservation Society of Newport County, the Newport Restoration Foundation, and several grassroots organizations such as Operation Clapboard.

With the success of the preservation movement, Newport began to recover from the economic downturn that came when the destroyer fleet was pulled out of Newport.  A new kind of tourism – now referred to as “Heritage Tourism”- began to develop slowly. Visitors to Newport now come to learn about the area’s remarkable history as well as to enjoy the beauty of the ocean.

*“The Houses of the Berkshires, 1870-1930,” by Richard S. Jackson Jr., and Cornelia Brooke Gilder,  Acanthus Press


“Lost Newport, Vanished Cottages of the Resort Era,” by Paul F. Miller, Applewood Books

History of Newport, Newport Historical Society





Gender Difference in Early America

Professor of History Emeritus John Demos is also a Bidwell House Board Member. He is Winner of the Bancroft Prize and the Francis Parkman Prize.

Yale Emeritus Professor of History John Demos explored gender relations in colonial America at a Bidwell House lecture June 20, 2015.  He discussed how male-female difference was understood at the time and what that meant for everyday life.

A video of the talk is available on You Tube — Lenox History.

Throughout the talk John emphasized.  that the Colonial period covered more than 150 years and that roles evolved over time.

In the Colonial era women were largely defined by what they lacked – powers of reason and moral discipline (fear of witches in its most primitive form).  Only about 30% of women were literate vs. 60-70% of men and it was women’s role to receive guidance from men — even as to child rearing.

Tyringham Union Church - Location of Bidwell House Lecture June 20, 2015
Tyringham Union Church – Location of Bidwell House Lecture June 20, 2015

However, somewhat in contradiction, women were also though of as “help mate.”  Their role was to be self sacrificing and to help others – but not necessarily passive.  Women would have been quite active in household management and for many of the home industries on which the local Colonial economy depended.  These responsibilities included production of textiles, candle making, basket making, care of domestic animals tending the family garden, care of young children and for home medical care.  When the husband was absent, the wife would be expected to act in his stead as a “deputy husband.”

The male-female dependency of Colonial household in early New England is demonstrated by the high marriage rate – there were almost no single person households in that era.  There were fewer females than males but the imbalance was less than it had been in the south.  As a frontier society, there would have been more need for everyone to pitch in to survive and it is likely New England females enjoyed more status than their counterparts in the mother country.

By the 19th century women had become more the rearers of children and had become more instrumental in administration of the church.  Literacy among women probably had improved by this time and many women were involved in home education.  Increasingly men were out of the home for work and women ran the household.  Men and women started to have more distinct and separate spheres of influence.


Transportation and Settlement for Early Lenox Settlers

Life for Early Lenox Settlers

We have not yet found first person accounts of what greeted the early settlers (say 1750’s) but we can make some educated guesses based on accounts from similar settlements.  The Berkshires, particularly in the Lenox area, had been used  more for hunting than cultivation by the Indians, so there would not, as there had been in the eastern part of the state, have been any prior clearing. Most land would have been heavily wooded with original growth forest and probably thick with underbrush.  Without clearing, food was limited to hunting and gathering.

Clearing Trees

americanagriculturist1864Initial clearing was generally done by girdling the trees, felling them and letting the stumps die off.  While the land was still full of stumps, it would have been difficult to grow wheat or other European crops.  Probably, therefore, initial agriculture would have been to grow native plants such as corn, beans and pumpkins and raise livestock that could live by foraging – such as pigs and goats.  This would have been so much work that the settler probably would have cleared a couple of acres one year, then a few more the next. Obviously meadowland or previously cleared land was at a premium.  Reportedly, by 1800, the land was bare of trees!

Timber was potentially a cash crop.  It could be sold for planing into planks, for ship masts, for pitch or for fuel.  However, it’s not clear that there was, in the earliest days, a way to get raw logs to market.  Felled trees may have just been used to build rudimentary log shelters and for fuel.  One source* reports it took an acre of timber to heat a family for a year!

Travel and Transportation of Goods

Would Have Come to Pontoosuck on Narrow Trails Through the Woods
Early Would Have Come to Berkshire County on Narrow Trails Through the Woods

Accounts of initial settlement of Sheffield and Pittsfield report individuals coming to clear their lots on paths that could barely accommodate one person or horse single file.  In that condition any goods (from farm tools, to nails, to blankets and clothing) would have to have been carried in on the back of  a horse or a man.  Enough improvement in roads to accommodate an ox cart would have allowed settlers to bring in goods made nearby such as nails, planed planks, tools and ground corn.  Goods manufactured outside of the rural Berkshires – such as bricks, cloth, guns, glass, books and paper – would have to have been moved from a port city; perhaps up the Hudson and then over and up from the road through Great Barrington?

It is not yet clear what roads might have been available.  Early plot plans for Mt. Epraim/Yokuntown show some county roads (presumably these could have accommodated carts or other means of hauling goods), but we have not yet found a date for when these roads would have been cleared.  The county roads (whenever they were put in) appear to have connected Sheffield, Great Barrington, Stockbridge and Poontusuck (Pittsfield) – much as Route 7 does today.

Early Farming and Industry

The settlers might or might not have had oxen or other work animals.  Horses were generally a luxury for the wealthy and many farmers would have had to borrow (in return for some other bartered favor or crops) the use of farm animals to haul goods and break the soil.   Cattle and sheep would become important sources for both sustenance and sale.  But in the early days, foraging animals such as goats or pigs would have been most common.  They probably would have been driven in from of the walking or riding settlers and allowed to wander freely (with notched ears or other markers of ownership).

Setting up mills for planing logs, forging iron,  and grinding corn and other grains would have been a priority.  Maps from the 1790’s show several mills in Lenox.  Until mills became available, settlers would have had to transport raw materials to Stockbridge or other towns settled earlier to have them worked.

House Meeting Settlement Guidelines Re-creation in Williamstown, MA
House Meeting Settlement Guidelines Re-creation in Williamstown, MA

Initial houses would have been windowless and rudimentary, perhaps with only one room initially with a fire place that would have to double for light, heat and cooking. There may have been a loft for sleeping and generally a dirt floor.

Settlers would have upgraded to frame houses with stone foundations as soon as they could, but often the original log house would stand into the 19th century.

As the children and grandchildren of early settlers of Westfield, Sheffield and western Connecticut, the Lenox settlers would have known what they had to do to make corn meal, hunt for game, find wild berries and herbs, and slaughter and smoke their meat.  Their parents or grandparents would have created similar shelters for the first phase of their housing.  They probably would have had a treasured metal pot and metal crane for cooking, melting ice, etc.

Settlers would upgrade housing, crops and livestock as quickly as money or more readily available resources permitted.


Daily Life in Colonial New England, Claudia Durst Johnson, Greenwood Press, Daily Life History Series

Daily Life in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, George Francis Dow, Arno Press, A New York Times Company, New York, 1977

Early Life in Sheffield Berkshire County, Massachusetts, A Portrait of Its Ordinary People from Settlement to 1860, James R. Miller, Sheffield Historical Society 2002

The History of Pittsfield 1734-1800, J.E.A. Smith, Lee and Shepherd, 1869

The 7 Year’s War (1756-1763) and the Berkshires

Frequently known as the French and Indian War, this was actually the fourth in a series of conflicts, stretching over 85 years*.  Unlike the three earlier conflicts between the English and French in North America

-this conflict was a true world war involving Europe, India, the Caribbean and North America (earlier wars had been more focused on Europe)

A World War for Empire
A World War for Empire

-Great Britain committed major resources to defend her North American colonies (in contrast to the earlier wars in which the English colonists were left largely to fend for themselves.)

-Major territories in North America would change hands leaving most of North America East of the Mississippi in English hands.


This war would have direct consequences for the Berkshires:

-the fear level was high enough that what few settlers were in Lenox fled to Stockbridge when there was an attack by a couple of Indians

-the peace resulted in settlement (finally) being encouraged in the westernmost part of the state

-many of the male settlers (historians estimate as many as 30% of adult males would have served at least one tour of duty) would have had the experience of serving under a British military commander (and would take out their resentments 12 years later!)

By the 1750’s many Colonial families would have been away from Great Britain and used to managing their own affairs for 120 years and had developed their own distinct code of conduct.  Troops, navy, and other overt manifestations of kingly authority had been absent in prior fighting.

-these men would have traveled widely (through New York to Quebec, in Nova Scotia) and would have formed bonds with fellow Massachusetts and Connecticut settlers

-Great Britain tried to recoup the considerable cost of the war in North America  with a series of initiatives that would be among the causes of the Revolution (Stamp Act, Townsend Act., etc).

This war actually started in North America when a brash 22 year old colonial named George Washington attacked the French at Fort Duquense  (later Pittsburgh)

George Washington in his Virginia Regimental Uniform
George Washington in his Virginia Regimental Uniform (Portrait by Charles Wilson Peale)

By this time English colonists numbered about 1.5MM, French only 75,000 heavily concentrated along the St Lawrence,  Nonetheless, the war went badly for the British at first (see James Fenimore Cooper’s Last of the Mohicans for a famous fictional account of the ravaging of Fort William Henry on Lake George) due to the effectiveness of France’s Indian allies and poor leadership on the part of Great Britain.

With renewed commitment to the colonies from Prime Minister Pitt and an able commander in Jeffrey Amherst, the situation turned around and the British conquered Quebec.  In final treaties, the British won Canada and most of what would become the United States East of the Mississippi (which was, given the value of the sugar trade at the time, considered of equal value with Guadalupe and Martinique).  Many of the colonies felt entitled to land with an indeterminate western border and were miffed that the Ohio valley was forbidden to them and was to be held as a reserve for the Indians.

See great article by Carole Owens on the Seven Years War in Stockbridge

Google “French and Indian War,” 2014


Mass Moments

The French and Indian War, Deciding the Fate of North America, by Walter R. Borneman, Harper Collins e-books

King George’s War (1744-1748)

Colonial Claims
Colonial Claims

In King George’s War, New France (Canada) Continued to Use Indian Allies to Terrorize New England and Upstate New York

In Europe this was known as The War of the Austrian Succession (1740-1748). It was the third of four wars between English and French colonists along with their Indian allies.  As with earlier French and Indian wars,

-Europe was the focus of the conflict

-There was no major change in who held what in North America

-It was not a modern war in the sense of impacting the majority of the population; however, it effected New England and continued to retard settlement.

Upstate New York and the borders of Northern New England were again fighting locations.  Massachusetts colonists led an effort to successfully capture Louisburg (which guarded entrance to the St. Lawrence).  However, in the treaty negotiations that ended the war, Great Britain returned Louisburg to the French in return for Madras in India.

Fort Massachusetts (Now North Adams) Attacked

Replica of Fort Massachusetts (now North Adams)
Replica of Fort Massachusetts (now North Adams)

Massachusetts colonists were also largely on their own in their attempts to defend Fort Massachusetts (modern day North Adams.)

The Berkshire towns that were beginning to be settled (i.e. Sheffield and Stockbridge) would have called for their citizens to both defend their towns and come to the aid of nearby towns that were attacked.

The war had cost the lives of 8% of the Massachusetts adult male population and the victories they achieved (with little help from the mother country) added to their sense of identity and interests independent of Great Britain.

The French and their Indian allies raided and destroyed Saratoga and attacked other New York settlements playing into the English colonists’ stereotypical fear of Indians despite the fact that the Mohawks remained steadfastly loyal.

Google 2014 “King George’s War”,  A Few Acres of Snow, A Saga of the French and Indian Wars by Robert Leckie

Queen Anne’s War (1702-1713) Brings European Conflict Closer to Home;

Queen Anne’s War (1702-1713)

In Europe, this conflict was known as the “War of the Spanish Succession,” and was, as the name suggests a balance of power struggle between England (and others) vs. France and Spain.  The North American theatre of operations had expanded with both French and Spanish territories involved vs. the English.  In the northeast, it took the form of continued raids and counterattacks.

Areas of Potential Dispute at the Time of Queen Anne’s War








Northeastern United States in the Early 18th Century

The borders between New France and the northeastern English colonies were not well defined, were thinly settled and formed the main location of conflict.

The English and French had very different approaches to colonization. New France was initially populated by single men under the direct control of the King and was focused on the fur trade and converting the Indians.  Soldiers and roving fur traders still formed a high % of the population.  The smaller French population was very thinly spread – mostly along the St. Lawrence.

Although less organized than the more militarized French, the English colonial population had grown remarkably and was about 250,000 by the beginning of the 18th century.  They lived towns in New England and larger plantations in New York and the South. One consequence was that the New England colonies presented more “soft targets.”

The French and the English each had Indian alliances and used the Indians as mercenaries.  Although the raids were fairly isolated they spread the kind of fear terrorists do today.  Between the fierceness of these mercenaries, the competition for the northeastern fur trade, and the  growing population imbalance, the French and English colonies were beginning, with Queen Anne’s War, to seek opportunities to permanently control the continent.

Deerfield Destroyed

Settlers Huddled Here During the 1704 Raid on Deerfield
Settlers Huddled Here During the 1704 Raid on Deerfield

The most famous New England event in this war was the February 29, 1704 raid on Deerfield.

Called the Deerfield Massacre, the raid was typical of all of the 18th century raids on New England in that it was led by a French officer, Jean Baptiste Hertel de Rouville, but primarily carried out by up to 300 Indians from a variety of nearby tribes. (some of whom had formerly occupied the land purchased -at a very low price- by the English.  These enemies would raid and then disperse.

Nonetheless, the fear was warranted.  Despite a timely warning that allowed many of the town’s residents to gather in a fortified home, 40% of the village houses were destroyed, 56 villagers were killed and 109 were taken captive.  The captives were forced to trek (in February) to an Indian camp outside of modern-day Montreal.

This was the second time Deerfield had been raided – see “King Phillip’s War.”As you might imagine, word of this the horror of this horrendous experience spread far and wide and mightily discouraged settlement in areas that would be difficult to defend.

From Florida to Hudson’s Bay

Since the Spanish were also involved in this war and English colonists from Carolina attacked Florida.  They did not succeed in capturing the Spanish territory, but did manage to destroy most of the Indian population and wipe out the Spanish mission system in Florida.

The English colonies of New England fought with French and Indian forces based in Acadia and Canada. Quebec City was repeatedly targeted (but never successfully reached) by British expeditions, and the Acadian capital Port Royal was taken in 1710.

The French and Wabanaki Confederacy sought to thwart New England expansion into Acadia, whose border New France defined as the Kennebec River in southern Maine.

On Newfoundland, English colonists based at St. John’s disputed control of the island with the French based at Plaisance. Most of the conflict consisted of economically destructive raids against the other side’s settlements. The French successfully captured St. John’s in 1709, but the British quickly reoccupied it after the French abandoned it.

Following a preliminary peace in 1712, the Treaty of Utrecht ended the war in 1713. It resulted in the French cession of claims to the territories of Hudson Bay, Acadia, and Newfoundland to Britain, while retaining Cape Breton and other islands in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Some of its terms were ambiguous, and concerns of various Indian tribes were not included in the treaty, setting the stage for future conflicts

What Did This Mean for Those Who Would Eventually Settle Lenox?

The burden of this war fell primarily on New England so it is possible some of our town founders’ grandfathers would have been involved in the numerous attempts to take Quebec or in capturing Acadia.

Massachusetts broke the bank on the costs of this war (and it wasn’t the last time).  Soldiers and suppliers were paid in paper money that had little value.  This may have hampered the families trying to finance expansion to new towns in Massachusetts.  Nonetheless between the British troops that eventually participated and the outfitting of war vessels, the overall impact on the merchant economy was probably positive.

The most important impact was the fear of raids that continued to shape the pattern of settlement.  Although our town founders’ grandparents probably would have moved on from the coast by this time, they would have been inclined to stay close to existing towns and avoid northern or western Massachusetts.  Hence, most of our town founders came from settlements along the southern Connecticut River.

See Wikipedia, A Few Acres of Snow by Robert Leckie and The First Frontier by Scott Weidensaul

King William’s War (1688-1697)-Background for Future Conflicts That Would Effect the Berkshires

First of Four Wars Impacting Western New England

King William’s War was the first of four wars in which the French colonials (in Canada and elsewhere) and the British colonials (in New England and elsewhere) had several elements that would repeat in later years with substantial impact on western Massachusetts:

-The colonies were incidental to a European conflict having to do with royal succession and balance of power (but by the 1750’s the colonies would be a much more important part of the conflict)

-Native Americans (by now largely dependent on trade for European goods) would be sought as allies

-Each conflict served to escalate resentments on both sides and provide tinder for future conflagration.

King William’s War in New England, New York and Canada

Continue reading King William’s War (1688-1697)-Background for Future Conflicts That Would Effect the Berkshires

What Were the French and Indian Wars and Why Do We Care

Four Almost Continuous Wars in the 18th Century

The Four Wars Fought in 17th and 18th Century North America Concerned, Among Other Things, Who Would Control the Northern United States
The Four Wars Fought in 17th and 18th Century North America Concerned, Among Other Things, Who Would Control the Northern United States

All four of the French and Indian Wars were fought before the settlement of Lenox.

However they are part of the Lenox story since the wars:

-continued the fear of Indian/ Canadian raids that delayed settlement of remote areas such as the Berkshires

-by the end of the four wars the practice of using Indians as allies to be played against each other and the enemy largely ceased

-demonstrated the importance of the colonies in international trade and prestige

-involved substantial resources and manpower in New England (the families of early Lenox settlers and the Stockbridge Indians may have participated in fighting in northern New York, Nova Scotia, and the Great Lakes)

-cost Great Britain a great deal which resulted in new taxes and duties that contributed to the 1775 Revolution of the British Colonies

-although key territories (in treaties) and fortified holdings (Fort Duquense – modern day Pittsburgh, Detroit, Fort Ticonderoga), changed hands (several times), the 85 year period ended with a major power shift to the British in North America now including most of the territory south of the Great Lakes and East of the Mississippi

All four involved a European dynastic/balance of power war.  The fourth (the one people may be thinking of when they say “French and Indian War”) was the one that was the most driven by Colonial issues and received the most support from the respective mother countries.  In the earlier wars, the Colonials were largely on their own and an after thought to the European theatre (hence the reference below to “Intercolonial” wars. and the size of the color bars below.

Years of War

North American War

European War



King William’s War1st Intercolonial War (in Quebec) War of the Grand AllianceWar of the League of AugsburgNine Years’ War Treaty of Ryswick (1697)


Queen Anne’s War
 2nd Intercolonial War War of the Spanish Succession Treaty of Utrecht (1713)


King George’s War
 3rd Intercolonial War
 War of Jenkins’ Ear War of the Austrian Succession Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle (1748)


The French and Indian War4th Intercolonial War
 4th Indian War[1] Seven Years’ War Treaty of Paris (1763)



The First Frontier, The Forgotten History of Struggle, Savagery and Endurance in Early America,  by Scott Weidensaul, Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt, 2012

American History, 1690 – 1740, Provincial America, Evarts, Boatel, Greene, 1905

The French and Indian War, by Walter Bornean, Harper Collins eBooks, 2006

The French and Indian Wars, Wikipedia