Over the years, Egremont’s natural and architectural beauty has captured the eye of photographers, whose works provide us with a snapshot in time as a way to remind us that as much as things change, our historic resources must remain.
Egremont During the Revolutionary War
“During the Revolutionary War, the citizens of this town exhibited an active patriotism; and not a single Tory was permitted to remain amongst them.”
General Henry Knox passed through Egremont in the winter of 1775-1776 to deliver to General George Washington at Cambridge the train of artillery from Fort Ticonderoga used to force the British Army to evacuate Boston. This route is known as Knox Trail. An historical marker was erected by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in North Egremont in 1927 to commemorate Egremont’s logistic role in the Revolutionary War.
Proceedings from town meetings & other documents during the Revolution were destroyed by the burning of the store of Sawyer & Race in N. Egremont in 1838.
Interesting Facts about 19th Century Egremont
1824 – N.K. Bills Store (today the Hawthorne Apartments) was the earliest post office in the South Village (Hollenbeck). The first Postmaster was Joseph Benjamin
With an increase in the Town’s population came the need for the residents to take care of “Tramps” and the poor. As early as the 1878 Town of Egremont Annual Report, there is a line item in the Town budget for “Support of Poor.” This support included reimbursement to Town residents who helped the poor by covering funeral expenses and medical relief, renting them homes, and generally “keeping” them. In 1878, the Town spent $769.21 on its poor. Ten years later, in 1889, the allocation of funds for the “Support of Poor and Contingent Expenses” increased as a line item on the budget to $1,200. In that year’s Annual Report, the Selectmen reported that the town’s deficit that year of $585.00 was in part “owing to the extra expense of our poor.”
1878 – Town consisted of 239 voters and 179 dwelling houses
In 1891, the Town was hit with scarlet fever, particularly in the South Village, and took measures to contain the spread of disease. In the 1892 Town Annual Report, the Selectman mention, “the extra burden and expense necessitated in resisting the spread of what was, we believe, admitted by most to have been scarlet fever, though not until an hour when the situation became quite serious.” Under the services of a Dr. W.P. Small, a number of health measures were put in place to “check the disease,” “stamping from our midst the intruder.” It was recorded that by May, no new cases had been recorded in the Village.
1892 was known as the “gravel” year for the Town, as more gravel was carted into downtown South Egremont for the repair of roads “than in any three years previous, tour recollection.” That year, the Town spent $846.18 on repairs to the Towns roads and bridges.
About the Reenactment of Henry Knox’s Historic Trek
December 10, 1975 – January 27, 1976
January 10, 1976 – Opening ceremonies on Route 71, at the state line in Alford. Men proceeded through Alford, Egremont, to Great Barrington
In November, 1775, George Washington’s troops were gathered outside British-occupied Boston. Though they possessed the determination to take the city, they lacked the arms and munitions to carry put their resolve. The Revolution was at a stalemate.
That fall, Henry Knox bookseller and artillery expert, who already had distinguished himself in the early days of the war, proposed a plan. He would travel across Massachusetts to New York State and fetch the 60 tons of heavy artillery which Ethan Allen’s boys had captured from the British at Fort Ticonderoga. The task seemed impossible – yet if the Colonists’ cause was to be successful it would have to be done.
Knox and his brother William left for New York mid-November. On a cold January day in 1776, they crossed into Massachusetts, leading a band of citizens and militiamen, dragging oxen, horses, sleds and over 50 cannons. The trip was arduous; the route was slow. But men and animals pushed on, through snow and mud and icy trails.
Responding to all challenges, Knox’s ‘noble train’ of artillery finally was presented to Washington in Cambridge by late January, 1776. In less than two months, the supplies were used to overpower the British. The enemy evacuated Boston on March 17, a day still commemorated as Evacuation Day.
Shay’s Rebellion Divides Egremont
Shay’s Rebellion, whose last major battle took place on February 27, 1787 just over the town line between Egremont and Sheffield, split Egremont deeply. The Justice of the Peace, Ephariam Fitch, supported the Shay site rebels so strongly that Chief Justice Cushing of the Supreme Judicial Court thought he should have been tried for treason. Meanwhile, the Town’s Minister, the Rev. Eliphalet Steele of the First Church of Christ in Egremont, preached so vigorously against the rebels that some of them broke into his house “and, after treating him with many indignities, stole his watch and several articles of clothing.” While the Rev. Steele left his congregation and Egremont shortly thereafter, Fitch was chosen by his neighbors as a delegate to the state Constitutional Convention in 1788.