Much of the area north of the village of Lenox was part of the Quincy Grant. Well before Lenox became a town (1767) the royal governor granted land in return for favors or service. One such grant, the Quincy Grant, occupied much of the area between what is now Lenox from Route 7 and 20 past East Street.
In 1737 Edmund Quincy was appointed to a commission to resolve the Massachusetts border with New Hampshire. As part of that commission he traveled to London where he contract smallpox and died. In return for his service his family was, in 1739, awarded 1,000 acres in what would become Lenox.
Other smaller grants in the northern part of Lenox:
• The Stevens Grant – 250 acres in 1756 for the support of the widow and children of Capt. Phineas Stevens. Capt. Stevens had, with 30 militia men, held off put to 700 French and Indians during King George’s War, at Fort Number 4 – the northernmost British outpost on the Connecticut River in modern day Charleston, NH, on the border with modern day Vermont.
• The Lawrence Grant – 353 acres granted in 1758 to compensate for land given to New Hampshire when the new border was drawn.
The fourth grant shown on the map below, the Hooker Grant, was a different situation. It wasn’t made until 1801 and seems to have been an adjustment of boundaries from Washington township.
As with the rest of Lenox proprietors (think of them as investors) picked up the remainder of the land. The map below shows the initial distribution to proprietors and grant holders in the northern part of Lenox. Many of these proprietors and grant holders would fairly quickly sell land to people who would actually do the hard work of cutting down trees, building homes and cultivating the land.
Some of the proprietors shown above would settle on the land they invested in and become major Lenox families including Dewey’s, Roots and Millers. There are dozens of Dewey’s buried in the Church on the Hill Cemetery and the family remained a major presence in New Lenox well into the 20th century.
Western Massachusetts was ground zero for Shays’ Rebellion (1786-1788). Lenox people and institutions were part of the action.
Not Just Shays; Not Revolution
The way most of us heard it, the revolution after the Revolution accelerated the creation of a new Constitution and the tilt toward a strong central government. This “revolution” had something for all future historians to look back on: rural vs. city, wealthy conservatives vs. debt ridden farmers, hard vs. soft currency, and distant government high-handedly ignoring the demands of its citizens.
However, the history of this “revolution” has fostered several long lived misconceptions.
Daniel Shays was one of several leaders of a largely spontaneous revolt; it is not clear why his name is attached to the uprising. The participants frequently called themselves Regulators after a pre-Revolutionary revolt in the Carolinas.
“Revolution” is a misnomer in two ways: (a)the protagonists were not shirtless rabble (most owned their own farms) nor did they abandon rule of law (until it seemed they had no choice), (b)there was a great deal of fear and military preparedness on the part of government conservatives but really only one encounter that could be called a battle.
There is even a case to be made that the triumph of the conservative Boston merchants in this interchange- and the soon to be Federalist central government – was almost a counter revolution. Not surprisingly, the symbol for the Shaysites was a sprig of evergreen — the traditional symbol of liberty and independence for Massachusetts flags and coins.
Reasons for Shays’ Rebellion
A review of some of the literature on the topic* indicates the reasons include the following.
-We, as a new and only loosely organized nation hadn’t learned how to respond to citizens’ concerns through legislation – and had only limited infrastructure to do so. Official courts were just beginning to be re-convened.
-To make things even worse, as trade picked up, the need for cash increased. The subsistence farmers of western Massachusetts were still a long way from operating on a cash basis and what cash there was was largely worthless paper currency issued by the Continental Congress or state government during the Revolution War. Collection of hard currency debt by (mostly Boston) merchants (who had to supply hard currency to trade abroad) accelerated and rippled through a country side severely short on cash and long on debt.
-Objections were raised not only to the fact of debt collection but to the manner of collection. Typically, in what was still largely a barter economy of farmers producing most of their goods for consumption or local exchange, collection was highly negotiable as to what was collected (e.g. not always hard currency) and how quickly.
-Well, there had been a Revolution, so the notion of protesting what seemed unfair, had become plausible. The infallibility of distant (whether London or Boston) “betters” was less accepted than it had been before the Revolution.
Protests Started with Actions Against Debt Collection
As early as 1782 (prior to the official end of the war), citizens were raising issues via town meetings and protests to local officials about the uncustomary abruptness in debt collection. Increasingly town meetings, state government representatives and county conventions were petitioned to ask for the use of paper current, suspension of debt collection or at least return to practices more consistent with past agrarian custom.
In February 1782, a mob of three hundred tried to obstruct the proceedings of the Court of Common Pleas in Pittsfield (Berkshire County court met in Pittsfield and Great Barrington until Lenox was selected as the county seat.). Later that year, Berkshire County farmers stopped the repossession of a team of oxen for debt. It was just the beginning.
Action and Reaction
By 1786 farmers were at the end of their rope and the protests started becoming more militant. Almost 1500 stopped the Court of Common Pleas on August 29, 1786 in Northampton. Similar actions took place elsewhere in Massachusetts including 800 Berkshire Regulators who closed down the court in Great Barrington in September (Lenox had been named the new location for court in 1782 but court sessions were still in Great Barrington). The cause directly cited was retailers seeking immediate payment in specie.
The protestors locked up the judges until three (Whiting, Barker and Goodrich meeting at Whiting’s house) signed an agreement that they would not meet until revisions had been made to the state constitution.
The Great Barrington protest was a case of history repeating itself, since these Great Barrington courts had been closed in 1774 in protest of judges appointed by the royal government in Boston…effectively starting the Revolution in the Berkshires.
Soon to be Federalist and Revolutionary War hero, Major General John Paterson, spoke up for patience and non-violence in a Lenox convention in August and led the state militia to protect the courts in September. Paterson decidedly represented the conservative faction and it is (Szatmary, p. 81) reported that when he marched into Great Barrington many of those in his militia forces refused to fight their protesting comrades.
Other leaders of the pro government faction included names that continued to appear in the early Federalist history of Lenox and Berkshire County:
Protests continued and in early October over 200 Regulators again closed the court in Berkshire County.
The rebellion had no formal organization but that was of limited importance since most of the actions were taken by close-knit neighbors and kin. In Berkshire County, the Looses, Nobles and Dodges of Egremont helped stop the court in Great Barrington joined by Issac Van Burgh and his son Issac, Jr., brothers Enoch and Stephen Meachum, and Moses Hubbard an his three sons of Sheffield. The Loveland and Morse families of Tyringham also sided with the Shaysites (Shay’s Rebellion, David Szatmary, p. 62).
The Life of John Paterson: Major General In The Revolutionary Army, by Thomas Egleston, G.P Putnam’s Sons, New York, NY, 1894
Shays’ Rebellion and the Constitution in American History, by Mary E. Hull, Onslow Publishers, Inc., Berkley Heights, NJ, 2000
Shay’s Rebellion The American Revolution’s Final Battle, by Leonard L. Richards, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, PA, 2002
Shays’ Rebellion The Making of an Agrarian Insurrection, by David P. Szatmary, The University of Massachusetts Press, Amherst, MA, 1980
The current beautiful Church on the Hill building was dedicated in 1806, replacing an earlier meeting house. In 1906 a centennial celebration was held and the Hon. Francis W. Rockwell described the men who had been members of the congregation up to 1806.
Early Members Recognized in Dedication Centennial
At the time of the dedication of the new building in 1806 there had been 205 members, 89 men. Many of them were active in early town business and records suggest 61 of the early members were living in 1806. Nineteen or more were in Lenox in 1774 and signed the Non-Importation Agreement. At least 15 served in the militia active in the defense of Boston and the Battle of Saratoga. The initial members and the information available on them(from Centennial Anniversary of the Dedication of the Old Church on the Hill) in the Church Centennial history follow. The tidbits of information paint a picture of a patriotic, peripatetic and ambitious town founders.
Gordon Hollister* lived in the northwest part of town.
Deacon Gordon Hollister, Jr. lived on Stock Street and married a daughter of Enos Stone.
Enoch Hoskins (Haskins) was also a soldier.
Zadock Hubbard owned part of Bartlett Farm (East St.) and built the rear of the house about 1800.
Deacon Nathan Isbell lived in the East St. house built in 1798 by his father as of Noah’s death in 1801. He furnished a room in the second story called “the lecture room,” which was used for neighborhood prayer meetings.
Noah Isbell, came from Salisbury CT in 1770 and was an ancestor of Deacon Isbell. He lived on the corner of what is now East and Housatonic Streets on land owned in 1906 by F. Augustus Schmerhorn. Noah first built a log house and in 1798 built the house where Samuel Howes lived at one time. At the time of its construction, it was one of the largest and best houses on East. St.
John Ives lived on the road from the meeting house to Rev. Samuel Munson’s (modern day Main St.? modern day Cliffwood?)
Uriah Judd came from Pittsfield and was the grandfather of George U. Judd.
Daniel Keeler* came from Ridgefield, CT in 1773, lived on East Street and moved to Manlius, NY in about 1790.
Lot Keeler and his wife are noted as dismissed in 1795; not record of their admission.
Olin Landers was admitted in 1786.
Thomas Landers* was one of the first settlers coming from Kent, CT to Stockbridge. He was a short time in the army and lived near Lenox Dale. (described in 1906 as south of the Sedgwick School House?)
Josiah Lee, whose daughter married Major General John Patterson*, came from New Britain, CT and later moved to New York state.
Dr. Eldad Lewis, a surgeon in the army, was in Lenox by 1776. He published the first Lenox newspaper (“The Lenox Watch Light,”), drew the earliest map we have of Lenox (1792), gave a eulogy on Washington in 1800 (he was a strong federalist), and wrote a hymn for the new church building dedication. He lived on Cliffwood St.
Andrew Loomis lived on the Shattuck property on the old road which ran westerly.
William Lusk came from Wethersfield in 1767 to Richmond and Stockbridge.
Edward Martindale lived in the northwest part of town.
Deacon Charles Mattoon* came from Waterbury, CT in 1768 and served in the Revolutionary war.
Joseph Merwin, in 1775, sold 25 acres in lot 18 in the 2nd division to Stephen Merwin.
Peter B. Messenger was admitted to the church in 1786.
Allen Metcalf lived on Bartlett Farm (East St.) and built the front part of the Bartlett House. He had “The Coffee House” for a time
Josiah Newell lived on the Bourne Farm.
Abraham Northrup* died in 1798.
Job Northrup lived near Scott’s Pond.
David Osborn was a clockmaker and lived in the village.
Rev. Jeremiah Osborn was pastor in the states of New York and Ohio from 1806 to 1839.
Josiah Osborn was, in 1807, associated with the James Porter & Co. saw mill on the Housatonic River in Lee.
Elisha Perkins sold land in Stockbridge in 1779.
Eldad Post came to Lenox in 1803. A prominent man, he was the father of the Hon. Thomas Post.
James Richards* was in Lenox as early as 1764 (and is noted as living in the village), was buried in his farm (smallpox) in 1777. He is also described as living on the road west of Cliffwood St.
John Robinson was first at Stockbridge, then in Lenox living near the Furnace.
Thomas Rockwell, son-in-law of John Whitlock, bought John Whitlock’s coffee house in 1790 and sold it in 1793. He first settled on what, in 1906, was known as the Bartlett Farm on East St.
Joseph Rogers had two acres on East Street next to Philip Sears and Titus Parker* above Yokun Brook.
Issac Sears, born about 1765 lived on East Street and bought the hotel property from Enos Blossom in 1799 and sold it in 1802. His wife died in Lenox in 1799.
Issac Smith lived in a northeast part of Stockbridge that came over the Lenox line.
Jonathan Smith and his wife Rebecca were admitted by letter from Ashfield in 1799. They are marked as dismissed in 1811 to join certain members of the church at Lee who were about to remove to Ohio. (Another Jonathan Smith is shown as admitted in 1803; both are recorded as dismissed in 1811.)
Amos Stanley* came from West Hartford, CT about 1765, was an ancestor of John and Orrilla Stanley, was one of the first selectmen, was a deacon in the church as of 1785 and died in 1811.
Thomas Steel* came to Lenox about 1767 and settled near Jacob Bacon.
Enos Stone was born in Litchfield, CT and is thought to have come to Lenox as early as 1770. He was a captain in the 12th Mass. Regiment in the Revolutionary War and was captured and imprisoned in Hubbardton, VT in January 1777. He had land in Brighton (now Rochester) NY, his son Enos Stone being one of the pioneers there. He kept his residence in Lenox (on Stockbridge Street) until the spring of 1815 when he moved to Rochester and died there that year. His daughter Mary married Deacon Gordon Hollister, Jr.
Deacon John Stoughton, Jr. (known as “Deacon” before coming to Lenox) came to Lenox about 1779 and moved to Troy, NY where he died. He owned a farm on Bourne Road and was magistrate in Lenox.
Jonathan Taylor lived, in 1802, on the north line of Stockbridge (described in 1906 as south of Depot Road)..
Abidjah Tomlin lived in Lee near the Lenox line near what is described in 1906 as below the Porter corner as well as Moses Way.
Thomas Tracey* was first a member of the church at Pittsfield. A soldier of the Revolution, he died of small pox contracted in the service and was buried at his farm in 1776.
Timothy Treat lived in the northwest part of the town.
Deacon James Wadsworth lived, at one time, in the village where Henry Sedgwick lived at the time of the Centennial celebration.
William Walker was a Revolutionary war veteran, Judge of Probate in Berkshire County until he resigned in 1840 and his son William P. Walker assumed the post. He was an investor in Lenox Furnace and other important commercial ventures.
Moses Way (with Abner Way) sold 40 acres in the Hopkins Grant to Timothy Way* in 1786.
Stephen Wells lived in the village.
Deacon Stephen Wells, Jr. was a partner of Rudolphos Colton, a cabinet maker and lived in the village.
Daniel West was a tanner who lived near the Congregational parsonage.
Rev. Elisha Yale, D.D. was born in Lee in 1780 and joined the church October 20, 1799 He died in 1853 and was the pastor an Kingsborough, NY for more than 48 years.
By 1818 the Lenox Anglican community had finally amassed the funds to complete its first church. It was in the center of the village at 33 Church Street.
It was consecrated Sept. 7, 1818 by Bishop Alexander Viets Griswold. The bishop was a nephew of the first Anglican priest to visit Lenox, Roger Viets (probably 1763).
The white wooden church was described as Gothic Revival or Carpenter Gothic. The stylistic indicators include the window shape and the steeple parapets. This may have been an early example of the style common in New England in the 1830-1850 period.
In 1873 a new chancel and transepts were added.
When the new Trinity Church was built at Walker and Kemble, the old church building was purchased by parishioner L.C. Peters and stands (without its spire) on Church St. today.
Trinity became the legal name of the congregation in 1918 but there is reference to “Trinity Church” in the 1819 vestry records.
The Episcopalian Church in Lenox Struggled in Mid 19th Century
The consecration must have had some interesting interpersonal chemistry since the rector at the time, Samuel Griswold was the brother of Bishop Griswold and was dismissed ten days later!
After Rev. Griswold’s departure, only one dedicated Lenox rector for (1840-1844-Rev. George Waters) is listed in John Allen Gable’s history. For the rest of the time, services were shared with other parishes and revenue was supplemented by the missionary society.
In 1832 only 18 adult members were listed. and by 1850 services were only held occasionally. The absence of a regular rector certainly contributed to the fall off in membership but undoubtedly was not the only factor. During the first half of the 19th century, new Episcopal parishes proliferated. Ironically, they included (Pittsfield, Stockbridge, Otis and others) towns that had spun off from early worship in Lenox. At that time the pulpit at Church on the Hill was manned by the very popular Rev. Shephard. Also, it was the era of revivals and new sects to the area — including the addition of a Methodist church that was established down the street on the now aptly named Church St.
As with many churches then and now, the flame was kept burning by a few dedicated volunteers. One, Debby Hewes Quincy, is singled out with a plaque in the current Trinity Church.
Several other factors contributed to turning things around for the little Trinity congregation. Bishop Manton Eastburn wanted a strong priest in Lenox to turn back the tide of Unitarianism. Also, train service was now available and the early generation of wealthy summer visitors (frequently Episcopalians from New York) had started to arrive. Finally, a popular priest, Thomas Pynchon led the congregation from 1850-1854. A quote from Charles Palmer’s early history of Trinity paints a picture of his interaction with a particularly demanding visitor:
“As he went out of the church he (Mr. Pynchon)saw a figure seated on the steps. It arose as he approached, and shaking a forefinger at him said in a very deep and impressive voice: ‘Your music is execrable, execrable! If you will have the organ sent to Pittsfield for repairs and tuning, I will pay for it.’ The seated figure was Miss Fanny Kemble. She became a regular attendant at the services, a liberal contributor, and a warm personal friend of Mr. Pynchon.”
Despite the popularity of Mr. Pynchon and several other well thought of but short term priests (Rev. William Henry Brooks, Rev. Henry Albert Yardley), the Lenox continued to struggle and Lenox again required missionary aid.
Leadership of Rev. Justin Field
The full potential of the resident and visiting Anglican congregation was achieved under the leadership of the long-serving Rev. Justin Field who was rector 1862-1890.
Construction of New Trinity Church, Rectory and Chapel
The first official mention of a new church building is found in 1882. The building effort was led by architect, philanthropist and church warden Colonel Richard Tylden Auchmuty.
The church purchased the triangle formed by Kemble and Walker (known as Lyman’s corner – for – according to maps of the time – the location of the Lyman’s residence/ store).
The building committee hired McKim, Mead and White and, like any other self respecting church committee proceeded to dabble. Five designs later the very handsome result reflect some McKim, some Auchmuty and some Renwick (a friend and associate of Auchmuty’s).
The cornerstone was laid September 8, 1885 by former President Chester A. Arthur. Arthur’s Secretary of State, Theodore Frelinghuysen from New Jersey had built the lovely Georgian “cottage” across the street in 1881. A plaque honoring the 21st President stands in Trinity today.
The new church was consecrated June 19, 1888 and was filled with Tiffany windows and other elaborate furnishings donated by a who’s who of wealthy summer visitors.
The church interior as of 2016 reflects substantial additional decoration and re-staining in the 1920’s
Undeterred by having spent three times their budget on the church, the parishioners proceeded to construct a handsome rectory in 1892 and a chapel in 1896.
At last the wealthy visitors had a place of worship consistent with their gilded age “cottages.”
Originally called the Union Chapel, the New Lenox Episcopal Church was completed in 1893. Later called St. Helena’s, it was donated by John E. Parsons in honor of his daughter, Helen Reed Parsons.
Mr. Rathbun is referenced as the architect in a Pittsfield Sun article. Mr. Rathbun was also thought to be the architect of the Church on the Hill Chapel on Main St.
In the then thinly settled New Lenox, the chapel’s use was highly ecumenical with Rev. Grosvenor conducting services two Sundays a month, the Methodists on another and the Baptists on a fourth.
St. Helena’s remained a part of Trinity Church until 1980 when it was established as a separate parish. The two churches have just completed an agreement (2016) to share services.
Trinity Rectors 1801-1895
Samuel Griswold (1801-1818)
(1819-1820 – Rev. George Thomas Chapman served Lenox, Lanesborough and Great Barrington)
Aaron Humphrey (1820-1825)-one Sunday a month, the rest of the time in Lanesborough
Benjamin C.C. Parker (1826-1832) – also Otis
Samuel P. Parker (1834-1836) – also Stockbridge
(1836 Rev. Mr. Walcott of Stockbridge conducted services in Lenox)
George Waters (1840-1844)
(1845 Rev. George Thomas Chapman – again conducted some services in Lenox)
Samuel T. Carpenter (1846-1847)-of Van Deusenville – one Sunday a month in Lenox
F.A. Foxcraft (1848-1849) – of Van Deusenville – conducted some services in Lenox
Thomas Ruggles Pynchon (1850-1854)
William Henry Brooks (1855-1856)
Samuel P. Parker (1857-1859) – also Stockbridge
Jesse A. Penman (1859-1861) Samuel Parker’s assistant
Henry A. Yardley (1861-1862)
Justin Field (1862-1890)
William Mercer Grosvenor (1890-1895)
Sources of Information
History of Trinity Church, Lenox, Massachusetts, 1763-1895 by Rev. Charles J. Palmer, John Wilson and Sons University Press, Cambridge, 1895
The Goodness That Doth Crown Our Days, A History of Trinity Parish by John Allen Gable, Lamb Printing, North Adams, MA, 1993
Today (2016), St. Ann’s is the largest church in Lenox. But Catholic settlers were few and far between in the early days. John Grace who bought land in north Lenox in 1783 is noted as a Catholic. It’s not clear how we know that but perhaps it is because he applied for exemption from the requirement to pay tax (required in those days) toward support of the Congregational church.
An early Catholic of some notoriety, Patrick Plunkett, worked as gardener for the important town founder and county judge, William Walker. He came to Lenox in 1794 when it was experiencing one of its early building booms. As many immigrants who came later would do, he rapidly moved from personal service to the wealthy to being a contractor. He and his wife Mary Robinson Plunkett provided a launch point for other Irish immigrants who started coming to Lenox and his descendants became major manufacturers in Pittsfield, Adams and Lee. There were no nearby Catholic churches and the Plunkers and other loyal Catholics went to Albany or Hudson for religious services. He bought Levi Glezen’s home in 1830 and died in 1839.
Irish Emigrants and the Catholic Church in Lenox
The pace of Irish immigration picked up through the 1840’s – both because of conditions in Ireland and because of work opportunities in Lenox. The Housatonic River drove sawmills and iron furnaces and ore had been discovered under Lenox and Richmond. Servants were needed to take care of the visitors to Lenox courts (now the county seat) as well as laborers to staff the mills and mines.
By 1846 there were 12 or more Catholic families in town and they convinced Father Brady of Cabotsville (Chicopee) to come to Lenox to say Mass. Services were held in the home of William Gorman who lived on what is now Housatonic Street (near Orbed Road). Father Brady or Father O’Cavannagh (from Pittsfield) continued to visit and hold Mass in Gorman’s home or in the home of his daughter Bridget Gorman Mahanna.
On the Sundays when no priest came to Lenox, the Catholic flock went to Lee, Great Barrington or other towns where Mass was being said.
Father Cuddihy organized Lenox as a mission for Pittsfield in 1852 and said Mass as frequently as he could in Mrs. Mahanna’s home, the Academy building, or the town hall (old courthouse).
By 1856, services got closer with Lee being made a parish with Lenox now a mission for Lee. From that time, Lenox Catholics worshiped once a month in Lenox at the town hall. In 1864, Father Brennan, the Lee priest, started holding Sunday School in the town hall. Wealthy convert Grace Sedgwick had already started conducting catechism classes in her home.
First Catholic Church on Main Street – 1870
The first step toward having a Lenox domicile – even if still a mission of Lee rather than its own parish – was to purchase property. With the assistance of Miss Sedgwick, Father Brennan purchased property on Walker that was later exchanged for the current Main St. property.
Through the generosity of the town’s Catholics and others, Lenox finally had its own Catholic church in 1870.
In 1885, the northern part of town was annexed to the parish of Lenox so St. Ann’s now covered the entire town.
In 1891 St. Ann’s became a parish with Father William J. Dower as the first resident pastor. Father Dower was active in town activities and fund raising for the parish.
Lenox Catholic Cemetery
Near the Gorman cottage where early services had been held, a large tract was purchased from the Washburn estate in 1888. William Mahanna, Bridget’s grandson, assisted in obtaining the property and having it set up as a cemetery.
New Building in Lenox Dale to Accommodate Growing Parish
By 1903 the congregation had grown to 1100 (1500 in summer). The next priest, Father William F. Grace went to work on a church at Lenox Dale. St. Vincent de Paul was dedicated in 1904 and became an independent parish in 1912.
In 1907 the frontage of the St. Ann Main St. location was expanded by purchasing the Willows, a summer rental property.
In 1912 Father Grace started using the Willows as a rectory. (Later the property at 134 Main became the rectory).
On August 26 that same year, the new St. Ann’s, standing today, was completed.
The Sedgwicks of Lenox set a flavor for 19th century Lenox that lingers to this day, so it is worth reviewing who they were and why they had the influence they had.
Thought of as a Stockbridge Family
One of the earliest Berkshire Sedgwicks and one of the most famous was Theodore Sedgwick (1746 – 1813). Theodore was born in West Hartford, a descendant of Major General Robert Sedgwick who arrived in Massachusetts in 1636 — part of the Great Migration.
He graduated from Yale in 1766 and began practicing law in Sheffield. His career paralleled that of Major General John Paterson and other local Revolutionary War greats in that he participated in the Stockbridge Congress (1774), participated in the expedition to Canada, fought in the Battle of White Plains and was brought back into the fray during Shays Rebellion. As a matter of fact he was famous enough and wealthy enough by that time for his home to be the scene of a raid.
Theodore went on to a distinguished political and judicial career, but he his most remembered for his defense of Mumbet (Elizabeth Freeman). She was being mistreated by her mistress and was hearing all this talk of freedom so she came to Theodore Sedgwick to see if she could get her freedom. He won the case and it was determined that slavery was inconsistent with the just passed (1780) Massachusetts Constitution (which would be somewhat of a model for the national constitution).
Additional Sources of Fame for the Sedgwick Family
In addition to being a brave soldier and an outstanding jurist, Theodore Sedgwick had the wit to produce nine children — six of whom lived to adulthood. And yes, Kyra Sedgwick is a descendant.
With a large and distinguished family you get to have your own section of the Stockbridge cemetery – and get buried as close to the founder as your distinction and bloodlines allow. The children were all the issue of his second marriage to Pamela Dwight. Pamela was the product of a distinguished lineage also — the daughter of Brigadier General Joseph Dwight and the widow – Abigail Williams Sargent.
The seven children that lived to adulthood were:
Elizabeth Mason Sedgwick (1775-1827)
Frances Pamela Sedgwick (1778-1827)
Theodore Sedgwick II (1780-1839)
Henry Dwight Sedgwick (1785-1831)
Robert Sedgwick (1787-1804) who was a lawyer in New York. He married Elizabeth Dana Ellery, grand-daughter of William Ellery, a signer of the Declaration of Independence.
Catherine Maria Sedgwick (1789-1876)
Charles Sedgwick (1791-1856)
The last two – Charles in particular – became the Lenox Sedgwicks. Lenox had become the county seat in 1784 and Charles got a job as Clerk of the County Court in 1821. By this time his sister, Catherine, was a famous author. Although she described Lenox as a “bare and ugly little village,” apparently it grew on her as she spent more and more time at her brother’s home in Lenox.
The antebellum Lenox she experienced is beautifully described in Cornelia Brooke Gilder’s book, Hawthorne’s Lenox. Lenox would have indeed been quite bare since the iron industry was up and
running and using every available tree for charcoal. Charles’ wife, Elizabeth, started a tree planting initiative and Lenox did have some very handsome structures.
Charles’ wife, Elizabeth was apparently no slouch herself in that she ran a school out of her home that was the female counterpoint to The Academy for young men. Her school, founded about 1828, was very well thought of and included distinguished students such as Jenny Jerome – the mother of future Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Ralph Waldo Emerson’s daughter. By 1841, a separate building for the school appears on town maps.
Authoress Catherine never married but Charles and Elizabeth had five children:
Kate – 1820
Charles – 1822
Bessie – 1826 (who was to marry the German pianist Frederich Rackemann and become the mother of Charles Rackemann whose diary has been transcribed by the Lenox Historical Society)
Willie – 1831
Grace – 1833
Atmosphere of the Hive
In 1824 the Charles Sedgwicks purchased a home that was to become known as “The Hive”. It was located where Spring Lawn is today.
The combination of a charming couple of famous lineage, the presence of a distinguished female author and famous guests including actress Fanny Kemble, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Sophia Hawthorne (the author himself was not particularly sociable) and Henry Ward Beecher, “The Hive” became a magical cultural melting pot.
Between this cultural melange, educated individuals attracted to the courts and the two schools and the clean air and stunning scenery, “The Hive” and Sedgwicks of Lenox played a major role in putting Lenox on the early summer resort map.
For more information on the life and times of these early Lenox intellectuals, see:
The Tanglewood Circle, Hawthorne’s Lenox, by Cornelia Brooke Gilder with Julia Conklin Peters, The History Press, 2008
Several authors count Samuel Gray Ward’s (1817-1907) purchase in 1844 of the original Highwood as the beginning of Lenox as a resort community. Ward certainly set the mold for others who would follow shortly. He was the son of Thomas Ward who sought out investment opportunities in the burgeoning American economy for London based Barings Bank.
Young Samuel was a member of Emerson’s circle (a Transcendentalist Groupie?) and he longed to pursue the life of a country scholar.
Time Was Right for an Early Summer Resort
But to understand how this act set off a bit of a ripple of grand summer homes, we should probably consider how the stage was set as New England rolled into the new century.
The economy was shifting from agricultural subsistence to a cash based economy with the emergence of wage labor, professional services and trade as increasingly important — particularly in the Northeast. A mobil wealthy class was emerging.
Other areas – particularly the Northwest Territories and Upstate New York offered better agricultural opportunities than New England. Starting as early as 1790 with Major General John Paterson moving to upstate New York, the phenomenon of investing in land for its economic potential was shifting away from New England. The quality was better and there wasn’t much open land left in Massachusetts
Population density (in the 1830-1850 censes Massachusetts had one of the highest densities per square mile) motivated those who were able to seek the health and beauty of the countryside.
Transportation improvements were accelerating allowing more people to go where they wanted to go and allowing economic specialization (i.e., wheat from the midwest, dairy and fresh food from New England moved to cities). Roads had improved steadily since the Revolution and even before rail service was established, there was regular coach service stopping at what would become the Curtis Hotel. Then several major developments occurred 1820-1850. The completion of the Erie Canal in 1825 eased east west transport through the Great Lakes. The railroad came to Berkshire County by 1841 providing relatively easy access to the countryside for movers and shakers from Boston and New York.
America was just beginning to define its own art and culture and patronage and discussion were eagerly sought by the elite. Between the courts, the Sedgwicks, and the schools there apparently was enough critical mass to attract a steady flow of artists and literati such as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville and Thomas Cole.
Samuel Ward purchased land from farmer Daniel Barnes’ farm – selected for its beautiful view of the Stockbridge Bowl. Although their home was famously chilly, the Wards lived year round at Highwood from 1845 to 1849 and quickly merged with the Sedgwick cultural circle for teas, talks, recitations and concerts. The original Highwood (the one shown above had been considerably altered) was designed by Richard Upjohn who was, at the time, also working on Trinity Church in New York. Although the country intellectualism of the Wards and the Sedgwicks was much less pretentious than other what would follow later in the century, the trend of out of town architects and conscious design had begun.
The couple attracted other Boston visitors and, when Sam was forced to return to Boston to take over his father’s business he rented Highwood to the Tappans who would eventually take up residency on what is now part of the grounds of Tanglewood. In 1850 they rented the little red house at the end of the drive to Nathaniel Hawthorne and his family.
Eventually, Highwood was sold to another successful Boston businessman, William S. Bullard. When the property was turned over to the Boston Symphony Orchestra mid twentieth century,
The Wards had never cut their ties to Lenox and when Sam Ward retired in the 1870’s he purchased a property near Highwood and had Charles McKim build shingle style Oakwood in 1876. In 1891, the property was sold to Anson and Helen Stokes who would build Shadow Brook up the hill and convert Oakwoods to a stable. It burned in 1903.
So here was another pattern of tearing down charming existing homes to put up bigger, grander “cottages.”
For much more information on the early days of Lenox as a summer resort see, The Tanglewood Circle, Hawthorne’s Lenox, by Cornelia Brooke Gilder with Julia Conklin Peters
Frederick T. Frelinghuysen, who served as Secretary of State under Chester A. Arthur, and his wife Martha Griswold Frelinghuysen built this house in 1888 (some sources say 1881) The house, designed by Roth & Tilden, was handsomely furnished, and the
Frelinghuysen’s entertained lavishly, with former President Arthur among their many guests. Frederick Olmsted was consulted on the landscape.
Both the Griswold and Frelinghuysen families had distinguished histories with many past and present ties to Lenox.
The house was subsequently owned by Thatcher Adams, who renamed it “Sundrum House” R.J. Flick purchased the property in the early 1930’s and lived in it while his estate “Uplands”, was under construction. It was then sold to Mrs. Charles F. Bassett who gave the school to the Lenox School for Boys for use as a dormitory. It is (2016) currently Kemble Inn.
The Hive/ Spring Lawn
Lenox is a great place to play the “what used to be here?” game on a grand scale. Charles and Elizabeth Sedgwick purchased property on what is now Kemble Street and moved a house there. They quickly expanded to “The Hive” to accommodate their growing family and many guest.
It was replaced in 1903 when J.E. Alexander built Spring Lawn – still standing today; shown here from the same angle as “The Hive.” – not as usually seen from Kemble Street.
John Ernest Alexandre (1840-1910) was a wealthy shipping executive. He, his wife, Helen Lispenard Webb (1857-1929) and their daughters had been coming to Lenox for a decade and were renting the Frelinghuysen house next door when Spring Lawn was being built by Boston architect Guy Lowell.
The house was used by Lenox School for Boys and Shakespeare and Company. When used by the Lenox School for Boys, it was known as Schermerhorn Hall. It is currently (2016) slated to be part of a time share development.
Sunnycroft (Gone But Not Forgotten)
George Griswold Haven (1866-1925) built Sunnycroft in 1888 using John D. Johnson as architect and John Huss for landscaping. In 1926 it became the first building used by the Lenox School for Boys and was known as Griswold Hall. It was demolished in 1940 after St. Martin’s Hall was built.
George G. Haven seemingly had all the gilded age trappings: two wives (Elizabeth Shaw Ingersoll, then Dorothy James), distinguished family ties, business in all the turn of the century favorite — coal, railroads and banking. However, he had a nervous breakdown in 1924 and took his own life.
The paneled core of Clipston Grange is an old village house, which originally stood at the junction of Main and Cliffwood Street. George G. Haven, New York stockbroker, Lenox real estate
speculator and future next door neighbor to Clipston Grange moved the old house to Kemble Street in 1893. Frank and Florence Sturgis enlarged the house in 1894 in the colonial revival style adorning the roofline with a parapet, installing elegant bow windows in the dining room and study, and adding a new reception room at the south end. The architect is unknown.
A childless couple, the Sturgises were devoted to animals. Florence Sturgis’ family property is now the Bronx Zoo, and Sturgis was a founder of the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. He served a term as president of the New York Stock Exchange, and on the building committee of Madison Square Garden, on the boards of the Jockey Club and the New York Coaching Club. Florence Sturgis died in 1922, four years later Sturgis left Clipston Grange to the Lenox School for Boys, which was at the time based in Sunnycroft next door to Clipston Grange.
Currently (2016) the property is a private home.
The Perch/ Winter Palace
Fannie Kemble (Butler), actress and all round character, is mentioned by just about everyone who swarmed to mid 19th century Lenox.
She spent some time at The Curtis and various rentals but eventually carved out a place for herself across from what is now Canyon Ranch on Kemble Street.
It was razed and replaced in 1900 by “The Winter Palace.”
The owner, Courtlandt Field Bishop owned property from here through Old Stockbridge Road to Winden Hill–overlapping the current Bishop’s Estate Development.
His home, Ananda Hall was built in 1924 on Old Stockbridge Road and razed in 1940.
Bellefontaine was built in 1896-1898 for Giraud and Jean Foster. Giraud Foster (born in 1851) lived at Bellefontaine until his death in 1945 and could be considered to have watched over the sunset of Lenox’s Gilded Age.
Somewhat reconstituted after a fire, it is now Canyon Ranch (165 Kemble)
The lovely Federalist Academy building (still standing on Main Street) attracted well educated Lenox residents and visitors who would set a tone for future centuries. Although one of the most notable educational institutions, it was not the first.
Early Educational Efforts
Eighteenth century New England towns with 50 or more families (the minimum for a town) were required (in addition to building a meeting house and hiring a minister) to provide a schoolmaster to teach reading and writing. Larger towns were required to provide a grammar school.
There was no requirement for a building and schooling might have taken place in people’s home or in the meeting house. Part of whatever meager pay the school master’s received was in the form of room and board – obtained by moving from house to house.
No matter how well intentioned, it apparently took the town a while to move on this mandate as the first record relevant to this issue was a meeting March 16, 1770 in which it was voted to raise 20 pounds to hire schooling.
In the original proprietor’s agreement a lot (north of the current church) had been set aside for a school house. By the early 19th century, the town had been divided into districts. By 1860 there were nine districts. It’s not clear what happened to the “school lot- #6” — perhaps it was sold to fund other school buildings.
As described by Tucker* these early school houses would have been crude and small with benches rather than seats or desks and heat from a large box stove. Students would have to take turns bringing the kindling to start the fire.
A Private School in the Village
The village, referred to in records as District #2, included a private school supported by Major Azariah Egleston. There is a record of Amasa Glezen being paid for teaching and for finding a house for the school in 1792.
The Lenox Library (it’s not clear how it was funded) was established in 1797 and would have provided an important source for reading material — books still being scarce and expensive.
Advancing to “Higher Education”
It’s difficult to make equivalencies to modern educational grades, but the petition to the state for incorporation of an academy , Jan. 5, 1803 would have been significant in that most locations at the time would have had nothing like a high school. This academy (of course for males only!) would have taught Latin, math and other subjects that would have prepared these young men for a college education.
It is not clear whether it was the state, the town, or certain individuals, but someone owned a township in Maine (still part of Massachusetts at the time). Half of said township was sold off make a payment on the Academy. When combined with other private donations (led by the ubiquitous Revolutionary War veterans and town leaders Azariah Egleston and William Walker), it was enough to buy the land and build the handsome building still with us today. The contributors read like a “who’s who,” of early 19th century Berkshire County: the Rev. Thomas Allen of Pittsfield, Joseph Whiten of Lee, Ephraim of Sheffield, Rev. Jacob Catlen of New Marlboro, Barnabas Bidwell of Stockbridge, Thomas Ives of Great Barrington, Nathaniel Bishop of Richmond, and five additional Lenox citizens: Rev. Samuel Shepard, Joseph Goodwin, Eldad Lewis, Captain Enos Stone and Dr. Caleb Hyde.
The Academy records giving Azirah Egleston $2200 May 21, 1807, for “38 3/4 rods of land together with the Academy now standing on the premises.”
There has been some debate about when the building was completed, but 1803 is generally accepted as the start date and clearly it was completed by 1807. In fact, the building may have been standing before 1803. The exchange above (between Amasa Glezen and Azirah Egleston) may have been for basic education or for an existing “academy” facility in 1792.
Teachers and Students
Levi Glezen was the first principal. He had been a student at Williams and then gone on to establish himself as an educator in Kinderhook and Sheffield. Another well known name in the list of educators who led the Academy was John Hotchkin. A teacher of Latin and Greek, he was principal from 1823 to 1847 and began the practice of “annual exhibitions.” For these student recitals, stores closed, farmers came to town and the normal business of the village ceased for this August holiday.
The charge for students was $7 per 14 week term. They usually boarded in local homes for an additional $1.25 to $1.50 a week.
The excellent reputation of the Academy was indicated by the geographic reach of some of its well-known graduates:
Alexander Hamilton Stephens (went on to become vice president of the Confederate States of America)
Mark Hopkins who would go on to become an educational leader at Williams College and elsewhere
Henry Wheeler Shaw of Lanesboro (generally known as Josh Billings)
Charles Sedgwick who would become clerk of the Lenox-based courts and the husband of Elizabeth who would start a similar school at their home, “The Hive,” for females
Julius Rockwell – distinguished lawyer and citizen of Lenox
William Lowndes Yancey – secessionist from Alabama
Dr. Henry M. Field, editor of the Evangelist.
The Academy closed in 1866 for about 13 years. In 1879 the town used it as a high school. The building was moved a bit south (to its current location) and was repaired.
The town constructed a new high school in 1908 (now Cameron House) which was used for that purpose until the Lenox Memorial High School was completed in 1966.
The Academy was used as a school sporadically until 1911 when Charles Lanier and Newbold Morris opened it as the Trinity School.
By the middle of the 20th century, the building was being used for commercial purposes and had substantially deteriorated. On October 24, 1946, the town voted to take over the building and restore it.
Today it is the home of the Lenox Historical Society and is used by the VFW and the Historical Commission.
*Unpublished manuscript – George Tucker
Lenox: Massachusetts Shire Town, by David H. Wood, Published by the Town of Lenox 1969
By the turn of the 20th century, the episcopal church in Lenox had added four grand looking gilded age buildings to Lenox: church, chapel, and rectory in Lenox village and St. Helena’s in New Lenox.
Episcopalians Had Uphill Battle in a Congregational State
But the Anglican Church, throughout Massachusetts, had an uphill battle establishing itself.
The puritan (Congregational) church was, in the early days of Massachusetts, as close to a state church as any would ever be in America. Puritans had come to Massachusetts in 1620 primarily because they objected to the Church of England (the parent religious body of the Episcopal Church in the United States). In the early days, church and state were totally intermingled as to law, voting and community activities. By 1700, the puritan theocracy had been largely superseded by secular royal government in Massachusetts. The royal government, in fact, forced the creation of and tolerance of an Anglican church in Boston. But the “tilt” to Congregationalism remained in Massachusetts. By the time the first settlers arrived in Lenox, there were 13 Anglican parishes — all east of Worcester.
As late as 1767, when Lenox was formed, towns were still required to have a church and citizens were taxed to support that church. It went without saying that the “official” church was the Congregational Church. To be exempt from paying this tax, a citizen had to be certified to be a member of another “official” church and that was not possible for Anglicans in Lenox until 1793. The tax for support of the church continued until the new state constitution in 1834.
Although many of Lenox’s early settlers were Anglican, including soon to Revolutionary War heroes, Azariah Egleston and John Paterson, many tories were also Anglican and growth of the Episcopal church was somewhat retarded during the Revolutionary years due to its ties to England.
At the end of the Revolution the American Anglican Church declared its independence from the Church of England and took on the official title Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America. In due course, American bishops were appointed and the Book of Common Prayer was re-writen to be acceptable in the new United States (among other things, dropping blessings to the king).
Early Services for Anglicans
The wilds of early Berkshire County were territory for missionaries. There religious needs were met by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts(SPG). The first Anglican priest to visit Lenox, the Rev. Roger Viets, was SPG from Simsbury, CT. It was trying work. He wrote that the people were so poor they could not provide enough to cover the expenses of his long and difficult journey to Lenox and beyond. In 1764 the beleaguered Rev. Viets was arrested in Great Barrington for conducting a wedding.
Rev. Gideon Bostwick, also under SPG auspices, became the first resident rector in the Berkshires (stationed in Great Barrington) and conducted regular services in Lenox from 1770 to 1793. In 1774 he mentions key names in the organizing of Lenox services: David Perrey, John Whitlock, John Whitlock, Jr., Royce Hall and Eliphalel Fowler. A Day Book entry from May 19, 1794 lists Samuel Quincy as Clerk, Josh Whitlock and Jesse Bradley as Wardens, Amasa Glezen, Jeremiah Dewey, Issac Goodrich as Choristers.
With the appropriate infrastructure now in place, Lenox area Anglicans organized an official parish in 1793. It initially included Lenox, Lee, Stockbridge and Pittsfield. In that same year Deacon Daniel Burbans was hired as rector for Lenox. He was rector for Lenox and Lanesborough as well as taking up the missionary work of the now deceased Rev. Bostwick throughout the Berkshires.
It is not completely clear where these early Lenox services were conducted in the newly built county court house. (Then on Walker St.; still standing today on Housatonic).
Rev. Burhans took a position in Newton, Connecticut in 1799 and Lenox engaged the Rev. Gamaliel Thatcher to be shared with Lanesborough. He was followed in 1800 by Rev. Ezra Bradley – also shared with Lanesborough. In 1801 Lenox reached an agreement to share the services of Rev. Samuel Griswold with Great Barrington. Rev. Griswold was a nephew of the intrepid Rev. Roger Viets who had conducted the first Anglican services in Lenox. He led the congregation through the completion of their first church in 1818. That same year he was dismissed over an unspecified quarrel.
Early Members of Trinity
The Act of Incorporation of 1805 lists the following from Lenox:
Henry Hunford, Jr.
Lenox residents added to the incorporation in 1807:
Jethro Butler, Jr.
Samuel Palley, Jr.
Rectors of Trinity Parish (1793-1801)
Daniel Burhans (1793-1799), shared with Lanesborough
Gamaliel Thatcher (1799-1801), one fourth – 3/4 Lanesborough
(Rev. Ezra Bradley also mentioned as sharing with Lanesborough in 1800)
Sources of Information
History of Trinity Church, Lenox, Massachusetts, 1763-1895 by Rev. Charles J. Palmer, John Wilson and Sons University Press, Cambridge, 1895
The Goodness That Doth Crown Our Days, A History of Trinity Parish by John Allen Gable, Lamb Printing, North Adams, MA, 1993