Colrain — Early Settlement
Extracted from "History of the Connecticut Valley in Massachusetts, Volume II," by Louis H. Everts, 1879.
The first settlement upon the tract now occupied by Coleraine is said to have been made by two brothers, Andrew and John Smith, residents of Deerfield, who, displeased with the management of affairs in that town, removed beyond it, north-ward, and located in 1732 on what is now the William Coombs farm, in Coleraine, near the Shelburne line, about a mile east of Shattuckville. They pursued their way in the wilderness for nearly two years, when incursions by the Indians made their new home undesirable, and they abandoned it in 1734 for a safer locality.
The brothers Smith returned to Coleraine upon its permanent settlement in the year 1736. A birch log, sunk by these brothers in 1732 in a well on their farm, occupies still about the same position, and is in a state of good preservation, its location being near William Coombs. barn. The spring which spouted its waters through this log still bubbles as merrily as ever. It is said that during the days of their first settlement the brothers never mustered a more formidable weapon than a pitchfork, never felt very much afraid of Indians, and never took to the forts in hours of danger. Andrew became afterward a prominent man in the settlement. John was afflicted with palsy, and was known as "Shaking John."
Andrew's wife was a woman of great courage and nerve. One day, while riding home from a visit to a neighbor's, Indians attacked her, and, although she was shot through the thigh, and must have suffered great agony, she stuck to her horse bravely, urged him wildly forward, and safely escaped her savage pursuers. When she reached the fort she fainted, and, upon examination, it was found that the bullet had gone through her thigh and the saddle, and buried itself in the horse's side. The hardy woman got well and lived to a good old age.
June 17, 1735, the General Court granted to the town of Boston three townships, in response to the petition of the inhabitants of that town asking for land grants by reason of their paying about one-fifth of the colony tax, their burden-some expenditures for schooling, and the support of paupers. The larger portion of the present territory of Coleraine was set apart as the second of these townships, and was therefore known at first as "Boston Township, No. 2." Charlemont was No. 1, and Pittsfield No. 3.
The east line of Coleraine (or Boston Township, No. 2) began at a point on the line of the State of Vermont, a short distance east of Green River, and, thence passing south, touched a point just east of Albert B. Nelson's place, and farther along a point just west of the house of Edgar F: Copeland, and intersected the Deerfield on land now owned by Stephen M. Long.
That part of Coleraine now lying east of this line was originally a portion of Bernardston, and was called "the Gore." This tract and a gore on the north side of the original grant, with the land first granted for Boston Township, No. 2, are now comprised within the limits of Coleraine.
The earliest permanent settlers other than the brothers Smith were from the Scotch-Irish colony brought over from Ireland by Gov. Shupe to settle Londonderry, N. H. They located upon a tract near the present Shelburne line, and just south of what is called Meeting-house Hill.
They came over from Ireland (County Ulster) as early as 1719, settling mainly in New Hampshire. From Londonderry and Peterboro' to Coleraine moved the McKowens, McCollisters, McGrews, McClellans, McCrillisons, McCulloughs, McDonegals, McDonalds, McLanthams, Morrisons, Clarks, Wilsons, Wallaces, Lukes, Workmans, and Stewarts. The Thompsons came from Pelham, the Millers from Stowe, the Bells and Williams from Roxbury, Mass., the Miners from Stonington, Conn., the Smiths from Woodstock, Conn., the Browns from Rhode Island, and the Boltons from Lancashire, England.
Hugh Bolton, who resided in the latter county, was a physician, and a dissenter as well Refusing one day to pay tithes, his house was invaded by a constable, who sought to levy upon the doctor's property. The latter resisted the officer with physical force, and put him to flight. His victory was, however, short-lived in its fruits, for the outraged majesty of the law clamored for vengeance in such an emphatic manner that the doctor abandoned his home, and at the very earliest opportunity sailed for America. He landed in Boston, and, going directly to Coleraine, settled there, and entered at once upon the practice of his profession, which he pursued until his death.
Among other early settlers were James Barry, Alexander Harroun, John Pennell, Hugh Henry, John Henderson, Thomas Cochran, Robert Hunter, and John Newman. As a rule, the first settlers were tall and robust men with iron constitutions, but a notable exception was John Newman, who was a very small man in stature. He was, however, a man of wonderful courage, and many stories are still extant telling of his remarkable exploits as a successful fighter against wild beasts. His favorite game was catamounts, and with these fierce animals he had many encounters, one in particular being worthy of mention. He was passing through a woods one day unarmed, when, espying a catamount in a high tree, he provided himself with a cudgel, climbed the tree, fought the brute desperately, and, finally winning the battle, carried his prize off in triumph to the house of Lieut. John Pennell.
Nathaniel Smith and John Thompson were two remarkably strong men; and once upon a time, representing Coleraine at Deerfield in trials of strength, they forced the men of the latter town to acknowledge that Coleraine was entitled to the palm.
It is said that the settlers in Coleraine who came from Londonderry were the first to introduce the foot spinning-wheel and the manufacture of linen-cloth, and the first to cultivate the potato in that part of the country.
The first choice of land in the township appears, from the original plan of the township on file in the office of the Secretary of State, to have been given to five persons, named Wild, Miller, Fairservice, Clark, and Morrison:
A petition for a meeting of the settlers was prepared in 1738, and signed by Andrew Smith, John Clark, James Barry, Alexander Harroun, Alexander Clark, John Pennell, Samuel Clark, Matthew Clark, Hugh Henry, John Henderson, James Clark, Wm. Clark, Thomas Cochran, ann. Robert Hunter. Thomas Wells issued the warrant for the meeting, which was held in 1738, at the house of Hugh Henry. At this meeting a committee was chosen to manage the affairs of the settlement, and prompt attention was likewise bestowed upon church matters by setting apart a ministry lot. Hugh Henry was the moderator, and Andrew Smith the settlers' clerk.
In 1742, £8 6s. 11d. were assessed on each lot to defray public charges for the year "past and present." In that year it was agreed to make an apppropriation to any person who would build a grist-mill, and, soon after, James Fairlove put up one on the site now occupied by F. Purington's mill, near Lyonsville. It was burned by the Indians in 1757.
Among the public roads first opened was one to North River, one from the meeting-house to "the furder side" of John Henry's lot, one between No. 7 and No. 8, to the east line of the town, and a road to Deerfield.
The first child born in the settlement was Martha, daughter of Hugh and Martha Morrison, June 29, 1740. Abraham, son of John and Sarah Pennell, the first male child, was born March 21, 1741.
The name of the settlement was changed in February, 1743, from Boston Township, No 2, to "Colrain," in honor of Baron Coleraine, who promised to donate a bell for the meeting-house. The records up to the time of the incorporation of the town designated the locality as "Colrain, alias Boston Township, No. 2, adjoining the north side of Deerfield."
In November, 1751, Samuel Clark was chosen, to draw the lots in the second division, which he did to the following: Matthew Bolton, David Field, Samuel Stewart, Edward East, John Morehead, Robert Fulton, Jennat Clark, John Anderson, Hugh Morrison, Edward Goodward, Andrew Luckes, John Morrison, George Clark, Thomas Bell, John Henry, Sr., Ebenezer Barnard, Thomas McGee, John Henry, Jr., James Stewart, Hugh Paul, John Kately, Robert Hays, Samuel Clark, James Breckenridge, Timothy Childs, Archibald Pennell, Alexander Harroun, James Clark, Joseph Heath, David Wells, John Mills, Charles Stewart, John Pennell, Alexander Clark, Robert Mills, William McCreles, Andrew Smith, Asa Bowker.
The lots were each of the area of 50 acres, and laid in four ranges from the east to the west sides of the town; "the roads between the ranges four rods wide, and the roads between the lots two rods wide, and at the side of every fourth lot there was a road, the land for the roads being taken from the whole one hundred acres to a right of every man."
The committee appointed to lay out the lots were to have three shillings two pence half-penny per day, or one day and a half's work at the same time to be wrought at home for said committee."