An excellent example of the immigrants who came to work on the estates – and whose descendants populate modern Lenox.
L.C. Peters, one of 10 children, left Kent, England in 1870, when he was 20, to look for work in the United States. His first stop was Troy, NY where he had family and became part of the work crew that came to Lenox to build Ethelwynd. A skilled carpenter, he saved, and had, after four years, enough to bring over his fiancée, Martha Barnes and they raised three children to adulthood in Lenox.
Born in 1850, Edward R. (Teddy ) Wharton was destined to live the stereotypical version of the Gilded Age life so elegantly portrayed by his wife Edith Jones Wharton.
Son of Nancy Spring Wharton and William Craig Wharton, Teddy grew up in a beautiful Brookline home and graduated from Harvard. Upon graduating and coming into his trust fund, Teddy successfully pursued the life of a rich 19th century American – travelling, being a good sportsman and being all round charming.
He was a friend of Edith’s older brothers, Frederic and Henry Jones. In 1883 he met Edith in Bar Harbor, Maine, and they were married in New York in 1885. Shortly after their marriage they moved across the street from the Wharton family summer estate in Newport. In 1893 Edith purchased her own Newport estate called Land’s End. She eventually tired of Newport and purchased 113 acres in Lenox, which would become, in 1901, The Mount, which you can still visit today.
The marriage had been strained for a long time and Teddy stole from Edith to maintain a mistress in Boston. Edith moved to France in 1911 and divorced Teddy in 1913. (Edith died in 1937 in France and is buried in the American Cemetery at Versailles, France.)
Born to a wealthy New York family in 1835, Annie Haggerty Shaw represents both the Berkshire Civil War widows and the “first generation” of Lenox summer homeowners.
Her parents, Elizabeth Kneeland Haggerty and Ogden Haggerty (also buried at Church on the Hill) summered at Vent Fort. Pictured here, the building, no longer standing, was moved and replaced by the far grander Ventfort Hall built by Sarah Morgan in 1893 and still standing today.
This transformation was illustrative of the 19th century evolution of Lenox from a charming, intellectual watering hole for the Sedgewicks, Melvilles and Hawthornes to the “can you top this,” opulence of the Gilded Age.
In 1861 she met Robert Gould Shaw, the son of a wealthy Boston family active in the Abolitionist movement. The Shaw family used their influence to get Robert appointed as leader of the Union’s first all Black regiment, the Massachusetts 54th.
Annie and Robert married in 1863 and honeymooned briefly at Vent Fort before Shaw shipped out at the head of his regiment. As portrayed in the movie, “Glory,” Robert Gould Shaw and many of his troops were mowed down in the assault on Fort Wagner.
Annie Haggerty Shaw never re-married and died in Boston in 1907.
Although born in Great Barrington in 1798 (not Lenox), Anson Jones is a colorful example of the many Lenox residents who moved on in the early 19th century to New York, Ohio, – or in his case Texas – in search of land, opportunity or a clean slate.
Jones was licensed as a doctor in Oneida, NY in 1826 and opened a practice but was not successful. After being pursued by creditors, including a side trip to Venezuela, Dr. Jones was arrested in Philadelphia. After failing in business in New Orleans, he moved to Texas in 1833 and finally established a successful medical practice.
He became a supporter of independence for Texas, fought in the revolution against Mexico, and served in various capacities in the new government of the Republic of Texas, until eventually being elected the second and last President of the Republic in 1844. He had married Mary Smith in Houston in 1840. She went on to be the first head of the Daughters of the Republic.
William Walker was born in Rehoboth in 1751. This location is not far from one of the early Puritan settlements, and he is undoubtedly one of the many Lenox settlers who was three-four generations removed from the Puritans of the Great Migration of the 1630’s.
William Walker came to Berkshire County at 20 years of age in 1770, Lenox in 1773. He, like Egleston and Paterson, signed the non-importation agreement, was in Boston during the battle at Bunker Hill, the failed invasion of Canada, the crossing of the Delaware, the battle of Princeton and at the battle of Bennington (part of the defeat of Burgoyne at Saratoga) and marched as captain with a company of Lenox men to Sheffield to put down Shay’s rebellion .
A lawyer by training he attended the Berkshire Convention in Stockbridge in 1774 and was a member of the convention that framed the Massachusetts Constitution in 1780. He was instrumental in important business enterprises including the iron industry in Lenox Dale and land development. He was a stockholder in the Phelps and Gorham purchase in central New York.
As the list of offices he held indicates, William Walker was a true pillar of the community:
President Berkshire Agricultural Society in 1820
President of the Berkshire County Bible Society from 1817-1831
Member of the Congress of Deputies of Berkshire held at Stockbridge July 6, 1774`
Member of the convention which framed the Massachusetts Constitution in 1780
General Court in 1778, 1780, 1784, 1787, 1791, 1794 and 1795
Appointed by Gov. John Hancock February 16, 1781 as Register of Wills for Berkshire County (until 1785)
Selected by the two branches of the General Court on October 16, 1783 as State Senator for the District of Berkshire
Samuel Adams appointed him Judge of Probate for Berkshire County (resigned 1824 when his son succeeded him)
Appointed February 25, 1794 by Gove. Samuel Adams as one of the justics of the Court of Common Pleas for the County of Berkshire
James Sullivan appointed him a Judge of the Court of Common Pleas for Berkshire County in 1807
Associate justice of the Berkshire Court of Sessions in 1809 and from 1811-1814 (commission from Gov. Elbridge Gerry)
Presidential Elector in 1824 for Berkshire.
His most important role was as a judge for Berkshire County with court being administered from 1789 to 1868 in Lenox. He was described as “tall with white locks and of great personal dignity.”
He was born in Sheffield in 1757, son of Seth Eggleston and Rachel Church Eggleston. Like many of his generation, his father was born in Westfield and emigrated west – as his father may have done before him. Many Revolutionary War veterans were 3rd or 4th generation descendants of the Puritans who had landed in Boston in the 1630’s.
About 200 Lenox residents are listed on the Revolutionary War rosters. Not all would have served as long as Major General Paterson or Major Egleston, but it was clearly a town with strong patriot sympathies.
Azirah must have been very committed to the Revolution since he enlisted as a Private in April 1775 at age 18 and participated in many crucial battles and left the service as a Major.
Jonathan Hinsdale was the first known European inhabitant of Lenox. He was born March 17, 1724 in Hartford, CT. Many early Berkshire residents came from Connecticut. It may have been easier to move up the Housatonic River Valley then to cross directly from eastern Massachusetts.
As has been discussed elsewhere, the main reason to come to frontier territory (which Lenox would have been at the time) was to get land which was increasingly in short supply to the East and the South.
From Surveys Completed 2011-2012 by Lenox Historical Commission
This Federal style building has two stories, an asphalt shingle roof and has been minimally altered. It is a 5-bay, center entrance construction. It has wood frame; clapboard siding with a hipped roof with molded cornice with dentiled band below. There are 2 brick end-wall chimneys, painted white. It has a symmetrically organized front façade and an intact entrance porch with pediment, pillars and pilasters. The front door surround has a 4-light transom. There is a large 2-story rear ell with hipped roof, an exposed foundation, and entry at the basement level. It has a left side wall chimney and a 1-story rear extension on its right side. The building has a stone foundation.
A five-bay, hipped-roof Federal house with a center entrance and end wall chimneys. It is one of the few houses of this period to survive in Lenox Village (others are 74 Walker St., 83 Main St., and 9 Cliffwood St.) This is the largest and most impressive of them, although it is restrained in ornament, and reflects the position held by the Paterson family.
This house was built for Major General John Paterson, a friend, counselor and comrade of General George Washington, and led the Berkshire troops. John Paterson was the Berkshires’ most distinguished soldier in the Revolutionary War, and led troops in most of the major battles of the war. He was an advisor to George Washington crossed the Delaware with him. Through most of the war he held the rank of Colonel, but before leaving the service of the United States Army he was appointed full Major General.
Major General Paterson did not occupy this house for long, for in 1790 he retired to Lisle, New York, where he died in 1808. The house passed to his daughter, Hannah Paterson, and her husband Major Azariah Egleston. Egleston, who had served under Paterson and also participated in most of the major battles of the revolution. Egleston later served as Justice of the Peace and state senator. The house remained in the Egleston family through the 19th century, although later generations used it as a summer residence. The building was purchased by the Lenox National Bank in 1968 and has operated as a bank since 1971.
BIBLIOGRAPHY and/or REFERENCES:
Lenox: Massachusetts Shire Town, David Wood, 1969
Lenox and the Berkshire Highlands, R. DeWitt Mallary, 1902
Dictionary of American Biography
Inscription on Paterson-Egleston Monument
Lenox Assessor’s database – 2011
Lenox Library Reference Section (Invoice from William Walker Esq to Simeon Smith)
More than 225 men from Lenox participated in the Revolutionary War and those they left at home sacrificed as well. So there was no shortage of heroes from Lenox. However several stand out — particularly Major General John Paterson.
John Paterson was born in 1744 in New Britain, CT (then called Farmington) of another John Paterson who died of yellow fever while fighting for England in the Carribean. His ancestors are said to have fled from Scotland to escape the tyranny of James II.
Son John graduated at age 18 from Yale in 1762 – the same year his father died in Havana. He came home to settle his father’s estate, look after his mother and sisters and study law. He became a justice of the peace shortly after he started practicing law and supplemented his income by teaching school. He married Elizabeth Lee, also of Farmington, in 1766.
It is not clear why John Paterson moved his family (including his father in law) to Lenox in 1774 but here’s what his biographer and grandson has to say (page 7 The Life of John Paterson):
“It may have been that among the people living there was a General Joseph Paterson, whose name appears on the town records of Lenox as early as January, 1765, or it may have been his desire to be on the frontier. He became at once identified with the interests of that town, and his abilities as a leader of men were soon recognized. Almost as soon as he arrived he was chosen Clerk of the Propriety.”
This would be the first of a lifetime of civic responsibilities assumed by John Paterson in Lenox and in his future home in New York. In July 1774 he represented Lenox at the Berkshire convention to discuss the non-importation agreement and to the state government meeting in Salem under the auspices of the Committees of Correspondence — and in protest of the royal government.
By April 20th, 1775, news of the Battles of Lexington and Concord had come to Lenox via express couriers who had ridden all night. Paterson and the recruits he had assembled from Lenox and the rest of the county were ready — by the next morning they were armed, equipped and on their way to Boston. They may have been responding to an earlier alarm – but they had certainly been prepared to carry out their role as Minute Men led by John Patterson.