Montague — Noteworthy Incidents

Extracted from "History of the Connecticut Valley in Massachusetts, Volume II," by Louis H. Everts, 1879.

      Joseph Root was probably the first innkeeper known in the early settlement of Montague, for the records of 1770 allude to a sale of lands to be held "at the house of Joseph Root, inn-holder." It may also be noted that the first meeting of the inhabitants of the second parish of Sunderland, in 1751, was held at his house. Martin Root, his son, kept the inn after him. The old tavern building yet stands on the eastern edge of the village of Montague Centre, and is still used as a dwelling.
      Dec. 1, 1755, the district voted to allow pay for the building of a bridge across Saw-mill River, on the road crossing the Mill Swamp, from Ensign King's to Moses Taylor's. The pay allowed was "15 cents per summer day, and 12 cents for Micklemas day, old tenor."
      Brief allusion is made in a record of date 1755 to certain persons "enlisted in the services of the war," meaning, doubt-ess, the French war.
      March 8, 1756, it was resolved to discontinue and alter the road "lying on the west side of the low swamp, in the Hunting Hills field, beginning at Jonathan Root's lot, and bearing more to the east than the old road was laid, and then crossing the low swamp in Judah Wright's land, and coming into the path on the line between Judah Wright's land and Enos Marsh's, on the east side of the low swamp."
      One of the earliest roads laid out in the district is supposed to have been the one beginning at the west side of Mount Toby, thence extending east, and then north to Northfield, passing about half a mile east of what is now Montague village.
      In March, 1757, it was determined to build a bridge across Saw-mill River, east branch, between Ensign King's and Moses Taylor's. In December, 1757, a highway was ordered to be laid out, to begin at the common road at the west end of Isaac Barret's home-lot, to road bounds north on Benjamin Barret's land, and then east to the little hill.
      The first turnpike in the town was the one known as the road of the Fifth Massachusetts Turnpike Corporation, passing from Greenfield to Athol, by way of Montague. This turnpike was built in 1799.
      The first pound was probably the one ordered December, 1766, to be built on Asahel Gunn's lot, "at the west end of the horse-house, and near the meeting-house." In 1771 it was voted to lay out a road up the river-bank, near Brooks' Ferry, south of the old road. In 1773 a petition was presented to the General Court, praying that Eliphalet Allis should be licensed to retail spirituous liquors "without-doors" in the district of Montague.
      In 1775 the presence of a band of counterfeiters was suspected, and a committee was appointed to inquire into the conduct of certain persons suspected of making money, and to summon said persons to appear before them and deal with them "as prudence shall direct." In 1777 it was voted that Joseph Root should continue to keep the tavern, and it was further voted that the Governor should not allow town-dwellers to remain drinking in their houses after nine o'clock without some special business.
      At a meeting in 1759, Daniel Baker was chosen a "pit-man," to dig graves. In March, 1761, a highway was laid out through Zebediah Allis' home-lot, running thence toward the Saw-mill River, to a maple-bush splashed, on the east side of the Proprietors' road, crossing the river, and then on the cast side of the same to a pine-tree, thence on the old road crossing the brook, and through Samuel Brooks' and Zebediah Smith's land. In 1762 a road was laid out around Harvey's Hill to Gunn's Brook. Twenty-five pounds were raised in 1764 for repairs to highways in that year.
      In 1765 it was voted to provide wands for the wardens and staves for the tithingmen. Mention is made, in a record dated March 2, 1766, of the appointment of a committee to look out for a convenient passage down the bank near "David Ballard's ferry place." When David Ballard established his ferry is not stated.
      During the prevalence in Montague of small-pox in 1777, inoculation was much opposed, and by a vote the selectmen were instructed to write to the selectmen of neighboring towns, showing the mind of the town of Montague, and advising them to use their influence to put a stop to the practice of inoculation.
      In 1790 thirty-three persons who attempted to take up residence in the town without having obtained the town's consent were warned to depart. This warning of people to leave the town was a frequent occurrence in those days.*
      Elisha Root, born in 1739, in what is now Montague, was probably the first child born in the early settlement.
      Moses Root was probably the first blacksmith of the town. Mention is made in the town records, under date 1765, of his bill "for smith-work."
      In 1812 the right to vote at a general election was limited to such persons as could show the possession of estate valued at $200, or an income of $10 annually.
      There were tax delinquents even in those days, for it is learned that lands of Richard Montague, Moses Harvey, Daniel Baker, Ezra Smead, John Clapp, Jr., Daniel Clapp, Daniel Baker, and Benjamin Alvord were sold to pay taxes for 1777 and 1778.
      It appears from the records that Israel Gunn and Solomon Clapp, selectmen, issued, Oct. 1, 1794, an order to either of the constables of the town of Montague, directing him to warn and give notice to David Arms and Sarah, his wife, that, "having lately come into the town for the purpose of abiding there without the town's consent, they must, within fifteen days, depart the limits of the town, with their children and all others under their care."
      By a vote taken in town-meeting, December, 1813, all persons were allowed to wear their hats during the meeting, owing, perhaps, to the severity of the weather.
      The first storekeeper in the town was a Mr. Easterbrook, the first physician, William Wells, and the first lawyer, Jonathan Hartwell. The first postmaster was Martin Gunn; the second, Jonathan Hartwell; Elisha Wright, Jr., the third; Washington Keyes, the fourth; and Isaac Chenery, the present incumbent, the fifth. Jonathan Hartwell, who held the office thirty-six years, from 1818, and resigned at last, served also, meanwhile, for nearly the entire period, either as town clerk or treasurer, representative at the General Court, or member of the executive council.
      Montague was somewhat prominent on behalf of the insurgents during the Shays rebellion. Thomas Grover, one of Montague's citizens, who was one of the insurgent leaders in that conflict, issued an address from Worcester, in which he set forth that "it had fallen to his lot to be employed in a more conspicuous manner than some of his fellow-citizens in stepping forth in the defense of the rights and privileges of the people, more especially of the county of Hampshire." He referred to a list of grievances already made public, and added a list of proposed reforms, "which," he said, "the people are determined to contend for." These reforms to which he pointed were such as the revision of the constitution, the total abolition of the courts of Common Pleas and General Sessions of the Peace, the removal of the General Court from Boston, and the abolition of the office of deputy sheriff, as well as that of certain offices connected with the financial management of the State. Among those of the rebels sentenced to punishment upon the termination of the rebellion was Moses Harvey, of Montague, who was fined £50 and condemned "to sit upon the gallows one hour with a rope about his neck." Harvey was the only one of the convicted rebels who actually suffered the execution of his sentence.

* This was a formal notice in cases where persons were in danger of becoming town charges. The warning relieved the town of expense in case of pauperism, but the families were not driven out.

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09 Jul 2005