Roundabout history at the Red Lion Inn intersection
“There is no history in the Red Lion Inn intersection, so there is no reason not to place a roundabout there,” was a recent comment by a Stockbridge resident of perhaps 30 years. Certainly, safety should be the first consideration in whatever decision townspeople make with regard to the intersection. Digging into its past reveals a rich history and, although the intersection itself remains largely unchanged, properties around its edges have seen many changes over the years. Stockbridge, not unlike other towns, is much shaped by its long history and the preservation of that past, which, in turn, has had a significant impact on the town’s current appearance and the passion to keep it that way. So it seemed like a worthwhile journey to travel, by pen, roundabout the edges of the intersection and disperse a little history from each corner, and possibly even a second time around the intersection–once to reveal what no longer exists and a second time to talk about what is there now.
In the middle of the intersection, on what started out as a quiet Sunday morning 241 years ago, there was a call to arms. Williams Academy Principal W.E.B. Canning recalled: “When I became a citizen of the town in 1850, there were a few persons still living who remembered the memorable occasion of the alarm that pervaded Berkshire at the time of the descent of the British on Bennington; and I desire more particularly to refer to it here in order to correct a version of the story by some who have wrongly connected it with the battle of Lexington.
“Early one Sunday morning In August, ’77, our village was startled by the sound of three musket shots fired in succession. On looking out, there were seen Esq. Woodbridge, then living in the present residence of Mr. Samuel Lawrence-Deacon Nash, his next neighbor, and Deacon Edwards, on the street corner near the latter’s house — now Mrs. Owens’s — each with a musket in his hand. So strictly was the day kept at that time, that the sight of these men so situated provoked as much astonishment as would now the discovery of a quartette of our reverend clergy prefacing divine service by a game of euchre over the pulpit cushion. Something unusual and very important must be in the wind, or these fathers of the town and church had gone daft. Matters were soon explained to the fast gathering citizens, for a courier had just brought news that the British were marching on Bennington, and that every able-bodied man was needed to repel the invasion. Anon, forth came the yeoman soldiery equipped as well as haste and alarm permitted, and took their way northward to the scene of danger. With this body went Dr. Oliver Partridge, whom many of us remember, and who told me he dressed the mortal wound of Col. Baum, who commanded the enemy in that battle.”
And who were these fathers of the town and church? Esq. Woodbridge was Jahleel Woodbridge, son of Joseph Woodbridge and nephew of the town’s first schoolmaster, Timothy Woodbridge. Joseph Woodbridge was the head of one of four families who were settled in Stockbridge to provide an example of Christian living for the Stockbridge Mohicans, a task they seemed not to have accomplished. Jahleel graduated Princeton in 1761, was married to Lucy Edwards in 1764, daughter of the Rev. Jonathan Edwards, and was judge of Probate Court, state senator and a member of the County Convention, which met in Stockbridge in 1774.
Deacon Stephen Nash was the son of Stephen Nash who came to Stockbridge at the request of the Stockbridge Indians. The Indian proprietors gave Nash 50 acres of land based on the promise that he would set up and operate a blacksmith shop, staying in town for at least two years. His son Stephen was the town tax collector and a deacon of the town’s Congregational Society.
Deacon Timothy Edwards, often referred to as Squire Edwards, constructed, in 1772, “the Elms,” a house at the northwest corner of Main and Pine streets, where he operated a large store. Timothy Edwards, eldest son of Jonathan and Sarah (Pierpont) Edwards, was born in Northampton, Massachusetts, 25 July 1738; died in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, 27 October 1813. He graduated from Princeton in 1757 and began business as a merchant in Elizabeth, New Jersey. He removed to Stockbridge about 1770, where he was a leading citizen for 43 years, and sat as judge of probate for Berkshire County. Starting in 1763, Edwards purchased 43 parcels of land, mostly in Stockbridge, nine of which were bought from the Stockbridge Indians.
Recalling his 1844 trip to Stockbridge, historian Francis Parkman wrote in his journal: “The Stockbridge Indians had a burying ground, the care to which they consigned, on leaving the place, to old Mr. Partridge, who keeps it carefully for them. It is in the village, and seems to contain a large number of bodies.” Partridge was 93 at the time of Parkman’s visit.
Partridge, the second doctor to serve the town of Stockbridge, lived in the Rev. John Sergeant’s second home, the so-called Mission House on Prospect Hill Road, with his sister, Elizabeth Partridge Sergeant, and his brother-in-law, Dr. Erastus Sergeant, the first doctor in Stockbridge and the son of the missionary the Rev. John Sergeant. Partridge moved to Stockbridge in 1771 at the age of 20, having just finished his medical training. He lived in Mission House for 77 years, acquiring the property upon the death of his brother-in-law and, while both in and from that house, he practiced medicine beyond his 95th year. He was a member of the Dudley-Winthrop Family, known for its involvement in colonial politics. He was a great-great grandson of Massachusetts Gov. Simon Bradstreet and a great-great-great-grandson of Massachusetts governor and Harvard founder Thomas Dudley.
“A company Stockbridge Mohicans fought with the Americans at the Battle of Bennington, and in 1782 the Stockbridge Indians were granted lands in Vermont in recognition of their services. Requesting a tract of land near the Great River and the ponds of Dunmore, Joseph Shauquethquot, sachem of the Moheakunnocks, or Mohicans, of Stockbridge, reminded his Brothers of the Great Green Mountains that Vermont was once Indian country:
‘We and our fathers were once the rightful possessor of all your country, it was a gift of the Great God to us & them; but when the belt of friendship was interchanged with our American brethren, we became one people with them, and possessed and enjoyed freely our Lands, since which we have grown smaller & smaller until we are become very small, but we would have you call to mind, brothers, how big we were once, and not hear us altogether as though we were Small.’
Instead of the Lands that Shauquethquot requested, the Stockbridges received land several miles east of Montpelier. They later sold these lands to Capt. Isaac Marsh, who founded the town of Marshfield, Vermont.”
Isaac Marsh, a Stockbridge resident, was the owner of a number of parcels of Stockbridge land including one at the southwest corner of the Red Lion Inn intersection, where he operated a store and tavern. His ledgers – now at the Stockbridge Library, Museum & Archives – have a number of entries reflecting purchases by the Stockbridge Indians, including Joe Pye, a k a Joseph Shauquethquot, sachem of the Stockbridge Indians.