Heath — Land Titles And Pioneer Settlers
Extracted from "History of the Connecticut Valley in Massachusetts, Volume II," by Louis H. Everts, 1879.
The lower part of the town was embraced in Charlemont, and was therefore subject to the proprietorship of that town and the names of some of the first landholders are given in that connection. The "Green and Walker" tract was originally owned by men bearing these names, but was parceled out in smaller lots, most of which were owned by people residing outside the province, and general settlement was not made until after 1790. In the Charlemont part improvements were made as early as 1754, but no permanent settlement was established much before 1760, or about that period. Jonathan Taylor, who lived with his brother, Othniel, in the fort, in Charlemont, after 1754, located on a tract of land east of the center, on what is now known as the Elmer place. It is said that the level nature of the land here led him to believe that it was a meadow; but he found the soil cold and unproductive. At first Mr. Taylor lived in a rude house of split logs, roofed with hemlock bark, and having a stone chimney laid tip without mortar. His wife possessed great conversational powers. and, fearing that they would decay by disuse, not haying any neighbors to converse with, exercised them by talking to trees and other objects, and thus preserved the gift of which the sex is so jealous. Mr. Taylor lived to be an
aged man. Of his sons are remembered Jonathan, who moved to Michigan, and Thomas and Samuel, who became physicians and settled in other localities. His daughter, Sally, married John Temple, and Huldah, Joseph White.
Some years before this period of settlement Col. Jonathan White, of Leominster, became one of the proprietors of Charlemont, and soon after Taylor's settlement his sons came here to live, locating in what is now the southwestern part of Heath. At the house of the oldest of these, David White, who lived on the present O. Maxwell place, was held the first Charlemont town-meeting, in 1766. Two years later Mr. White was drowned in the Deerfield River, leaving an only daughter. In the neighborhood also lived the other sons, James and Asaph. The former was better known by the title of "Deacon," and died in Heath, May 1, 1824. His children were Jonathan, Ruth, Esther, Rebecca, Polly, Clarissa, Nabby, Sally, James, and Gardner.
Asaph White became a colonel of the militia, and was best known by that title. He died in Heath, Sept. 18, 1828. His children by his first wife (Lucretia Bingham) were David, Joseph, Asaph, Jonathan, James, and Lucretia. Esther and Abigail, daughters of Col. Jonathan White, married Samuel and Leonard Taylor, of Buckland.
Col. White was born at Lancaster in 1709, and married Esther Wilder of that place in 1732, and in their old age they lived with their sons in Heath, both dying in the fall of 1788. Col. White held a commission in Gen. Ruggles' regiment, which marched against Crown Point in 1755, and was engaged at the battle of Lake George. He was an active man, and his enterprise greatly promoted the early prosperity of the town.
In the western part of the town Wm. Buck was the first settler, and a little later the Thayer family located on what is now the "poor-farm." Its descendants became very numerous, but most of them removed years ago.
In 1767 the Rev. Jonathan Leavitt, a native of Suffield, Conn., settled on the present William Bassett place as the orthodox minister of the town of Charlemont, and resided here until his death, Sept. 9, 1802. He had a family of one daughter and eleven sons, named Clarissa, Jonathan, Hart, Joshua, David, Roger, Erastus, Roswell, Thomas, Samuel, Horatio, and Hooker, all of whom attained mature years and became useful citizens.
On the 16th of November, 1772, Hugh Maxwell, who was born in Ireland, April 27, 1733, came from Bedford and purchased a tract of land, which is now in part occupied by his descendants, and on the 16th of the June following he brought his family, consisting of his wife and six children, the journey from Bedford occupying six days. Hugh Maxwell first lived in a small house, having one room and a closet, but his intelligence and enterprise made him a prominent man among his neighbors, who frequented his little home to discuss the startling condition of the country which so soon followed his settlement. Soon after the battle of Lexington a company of Minute-Men marched from this part of the county under command of Capt. Oliver Avery and Lieut. Hugh Maxwell, and when the regular army was organized many of these enrolled themselves to form the second company in Col. Prescott's regiment. Of this Hugh Maxwell was captain and Joseph Stebbins lieutenant. At Bunker Hill, Capt. Maxwell was dangerously wounded, but served through the war, and was at Saratoga, Trenton, Princeton, and endured the horrors of Valley Forge. He had the friendship of Washington, and was promoted to the rank of lieutenant-colonel. After the war he returned to Heath, and lived there until the fall of 1799, when he embarked with a cargo of horses for the West Indies, and died while at sea.
The children of Col. Maxwell were Hannah who married Calvin Rice, of Charlemont; Lilly, who married Alfred Jones, of Buckland; Dorcas, who married Samuel Kirkland; Priscilla, died Feb. 7, 1852; Hugh, married Olive Newhall, of
Conway, and lived on the homestead at Heath, which is now occupied by his son, William Monroe, and has never been out of the Maxwell family; Chloe, who married Roger Leavitt, the father of Joshua, Roger H., and Hart, all well-known citizens: and Sylvester, who was born in Heath in 1775, graduated at Yale in 1797, studied law, and followed his profession in Charlemont until his death, in 1858. Two of his daughters, Tizah and Abigail, yet live in that town.
Benjamin Maxwell, a brother of the colonel, also did service in the French-and-Indian wars, and was a lieutenant in the company of Minute-Men. He lived in Heath, near his brother, on the place now owned by his granddaughter, Mary. His sons were Winslow, Benjamin, and Park. The latter removed to Cherlemont, on the place now owned by A. P. Maxwell.
William Temple was an early settler in Heath, living on the Aaron Dickinson place, where he reared sons named Salmon, Seth, and Solomon. The former settled in the northern part of the town, and had a son named Tillotson. Seth lived near the homestead, and his sons were Seth, John, David, and Rufus. all of whom remained in the town. The third son, Solomon, settled in the southern part of the town, on the place afterward owned by his son, Solomon. Other soils were Nathaniel, Richard, Benjamin, and Asa. David Temple, a son of Nathaniel, now resides in the western part of Heath, on the farm first occupied by Deacon John Chapin, also an early settler. The Temples became, and are yet, one of the most numerous families in the town.
Another large family, the Goulds, settled early in "Gould Hollow," in Charlemont, among the sons being Samuel, Isaac, and Eli. The latter settled on Burnt Hill, in Heath, and two of his sons, Henry D. and George G., now live in the southern part of the town. Other early prominent settlers were Reuben Rugg, Joshua Warfield, Daniel Spooner, Thomas Harrington, Willis Wilder, William Hunt, Peter Hunt, Parley Hunt, David Baldwin, Joseph Butler, John Brown, Solomon Gleason, Silas Allen, and, at a later day, Luther, Daniel, and Jesse Gale. The names of others appear in the church history. In 1790 the town had 379 inhabitants; in 1830, 1199. In 1837 the population had decreased to 953, of which 16 were town paupers. The largest family was that of Abijah Gleason, which had 14 members. The families of Rufus Barker, Solomon Temple, John Temple, David Snow, Horace Lawrence, David Rugg, Asahel Thayer, Ezra Lamb, Phineas Baldwin, Edward Tucker, William Thompson, David Gould, Squire Benson, Luther Thompson, Oliver Kendrick, Elijah Allen, and Job Warfield each had 10 or more members.