The Beginnings of Township No. 1
In the early 18th century, the English Crown and the merchants in England who were getting rich from the colonies – and therefore the Governor and Great and General Court of the Colony of Massachusetts in the Province of New England – felt the need to consolidate their claims against the Dutch patroons to the south and the west, and the French to the north. They ordered the building of a new road – The Great Road – from Westfield via the new town of Blandford and then through the primal forest over the great barrier of mountains to the new settlement at Sheffield.
The General Court, on January 15, 1735, authorized the establishment of four new Townships at Housatonnuck as part of the “Greenwoods” grant. The Proprietors would receive the land within the Townships as compensation for the expense of opening the Great Road and establishing the settlements. Each township was to be 6 miles square, and the Court’s charter required the Proprietors to lay out 60 house lots, plus lots for the first and second settled ministers, a school and a mill. It also required that they erect a meeting house and obtain a gospel-teaching minister. Township Number 1 became Tyringham (and part of it later became Monterey), Number 2, New Marlborough, Number 3, Sandisfield, and Number 4, Becket. The charter also required that the settlers of the lots each give his bond to the General Court, and agree to “build and furnish a dwelling house upon his lot 18 foot square X 7 foot stud at least”, and “to improve five acres either by plowing or mowing or planting same with English grass.” They had to complete these improvements within five years, and they were supposed to actually live on the lot to validate their title. Most of the Proprietors were wealthy landowners from the eastern part of Massachusetts.
On March 10, 1736/37 and July 25, 1737, the “Proprietors” of Township Number 1 met to select a committee of five persons (with a surveyor) to “make a pitch of sixty house lotts & three publick lotts in the most regular and defensible manner the land will admit…”. The first recorded Proprietors’ Meeting was held on October 6, 1737, in Watertown, to act on the report of the committee, whose members were Samuel Livermore, Jonas Smith, John Jackson, Andrew White and Ebenezer Cutler. They had surveyed out about forty lots and prepared a plan of the lots which was “agreeable to the Proprietors [to] be laid before the Honorable General Courts Committee for their approbation…” The General Courts Committee approved the plan with the proviso that the remaining 20 or so lots be laid out within two months, and the three “publick lotts” and the mill lot(s) be designated. On November 15, 1737, the Proprietors voted that “ye lott No. 25 be set apart for the first settled minister.” (This is the lot on which Reverend Adonijah Bidwell later built the Bidwell House.) Lot 20 was reserved for the second settled minister and Lot 21 was for the school. Lot 2 was “sequestered … for the building of a saw mill and grist mill…” along what is now called Loom Brook.