Civil Organization

Page 2

      On behalf of Greenfield it was claimed: First, to be the territorial centre. Second, the traveling centre of the county. Third, that there were few inhabitants at Cheapside, being only seven houses, and five of those very small, and the other two unsuitable for the accommodation of boarders. Fourth, very desirable accommodations at Greenfield,—twenty well-built, commodious dwellings, and the most considerable place of trade in the county. Fifth, that the town had expended large sums in the construction of roads, bridges, and turn-pikes for the accommodation of the public; that Greenfield had built most of the Deerfield River bridge at Cheapside, one-half of the Connecticut River bridge at Montague, and one-eighth of the great turnpike to Leominster, which was projected in Greenfield, and cost sixty thousand dollars.
      But after all the excitement and the great pressure brought to bear upon the Legislature, the petitions for the removal from Greenfield were rejected, and the place became firmly fixed as the county-seat; though the battle between Greenfield and Deerfield was continued in one form or another for sixty years or more. Repeated attempts have been made to procure the annexation of that portion of Deerfield lying north of the Deerfield and east of Green River to the town of Greenfield; but, notwithstanding the many and cogent reasons given for the necessity of such a step, Cheapside still remains a territorial part of the old town of Deerfield, though really a suburb of the county-seat.
      But the growth of business and population has been wholly with Greenfield, and it now constitutes one of the busiest, as it is one of the most beautiful and wealthy, interior villages of New England, and the grand centre of an assemblage of the finest variety of scenery—rock, hill, mountain, vale, and waterfall—to be found on the continent. A ride of fifteen minutes from the court-house places the tourist in the "Poet's Seat," on the summit of the curious trap ridge which here skirts the "broad Connecticut," and four hundred feet above its sparkling waters, where he may enjoy a scene nowhere surpassed for beauty and variety.
      At his feet, hidden away under its great elms, nestles the picturesque and wealthy village of Greenfield; over his left shoulder lies the growing village of Turner's Falls, the coming great city of the valley, enfolded in the grand curves of the Connecticut, with its thundering waterfall and its Indian traditions; on the east and west rise the majestic mountains; to the southwest and southeast spread the broad valleys of the Pocomtuck and the Connecticut, with the quaint old village of Deerfield, of historic memories, beneath its wide, umbrageous trees; the lofty sand rock ridge of Deerfield, and the over-topping heights of Mettawampe in the centre of the picture, and the dim, undulating line of hills and mountains bounding the far horizon. It is a culmination of scenic beauties rarely equaled, and perhaps nowhere surpassed, in America.
      Between the date of the incorporation of Franklin County and the building of the court-house, courts were accommodated in the hall of the old Willard tavern, which stood on the northwest corner of Main and Federal Streets, on ground now occupied by Hovey's block and the Franklin County National Bank. This tavern was erected by Beriah Willard, and was long a rival of the old Munn tavern, which stood on the opposite corner, on ground now occupied by the Mansion House.
      The first session of the old Common Pleas Court was held on the 9th day of March, 1812, with Jonathan Leavitt, associate justice, presiding. Edward Bangs was the chief-justice. Andrew Adams, of Greenfield, father of Peleg Adams, was foreman of the traverse jury, and Elisha Alexander, of Northfield, was foreman of the grand jury. The first action entered in this court and placed on the record was that of Jerome Ripley, of Greenfield, against Ransom Hinman, of Lee; an action on the case. Richard English Newcomb, Esq., appeared for the plaintiff. Defendant was defaulted, and judgment rendered for $29.11 damages and $7.71 costs.
      At the date of the erection of Franklin County all county business was transacted by the old Court of Sessions. The first meeting of this court was held at Greenfield, March 3, 1812, with Job Goodale, Esq., chief-justice, and Medad Alexander, Ebenezer Arms, Joshua Green, and Caleb Hubbard, Esquires, associate justices.
      The first record of business transacted shows that the court ordered that, in consideration of the payment of five hundred dollars, the inhabitants of Greenfield should forever have the privilege of holding town-meetings in the court-house about to be built.*
      The next business was to divide the county into jury districts, which was done as follows:
      First District.—Deerfield, Whately, Conway, Shelburne, Sunderland, and Leverett.
      Second District.—Northfield, Gill, Greenfield, Bernardston, Coleraine, and Leyden.
      Third District.—Montague, Wendell, Shutesbury, New Salem, Orange, and Warwick.
      Fourth District.—Ashfield, Hawley, Charlemont, Buckland, Heath, and Rowe.
      A committee, consisting of Eliel Gilbert, of Greenfield; John Arms, of Conway; Ezekiel Webster, of Northfield; Charles E. Robertson, of New Salem; John White, of Whately; Hezekiah Newcomb, of Leyden; and Roger Leavitt, of Heath, was appointed to procure plans for the public buildings.
      At the April meeting, in 1812, Eliel Gilbert, Esq., Capt. Ambrose Ames, and Mr. David Ripley were appointed a committee to superintend the erection of the public buildings. The first licenses to innholders and retailers of liquors were granted at this session, the number of applicants amounting, in the county, to about one hundred and twelve. The jail limits were also established at this term.
      At the March term of 1813, Elijah Alvord (2d) was appointed commissioner to meet the commissioners of Hampshire and Hampden Counties for the purpose of adjusting unsettled matters between them.

* In 1814 the Protestant Episcopal Society of Greenfield was permitted by the court to occupy the court-room for a few months pending the erection of a house of worship.

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06 Aug 2005