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Sheffield Town


Sheffield Town Hall is located at 21 Depot Square, Sheffield, MA 01257; phone: 413-229-7000.

Beginnings [1]

Sheffield, in the heart of the Housatonic River Valley of the southern Berkshires, was incorporated in 1733. It is the oldest town in Berkshire County, with Ashley Falls being the original village settlement in the township.

The intervale between the Taconic range on the west and the Berkshire barrier on the east was originally occupied by a group of Indians belonging to the Mahican tribe. In 1724, for three barrels of cider, thirty quarts of rum and 460 pounds, the Indians conveyed a tract of their land to a group of Hampshire County residents, who divided this tract into two townships, each seven miles square.

The present town of Sheffield was a large part of the Lower Housatonic Township. The first white settler was Matthew Noble of Westfield, who arrived along in the fall in 1725 to begin the first settlement in the Berkshires. In January 1733 the second town meeting voted to hire a preacher and to build a meetinghouse. On June 22 of that year the town was incorporated.

— Lillian E. Preiss, quoted in the 1987 Sheffield Open Space and Recreation Plan

Thus began Sheffield's rich rural history, which included drafting of the Sheffield Declaration at Colonel John Ashley's house and Shay's Rebellion, a farmer's revolt against heavy taxes fought near the Egremont line four years after the Revolutionary War. The history of Sheffield in many ways epitomizes the small New England town experience that has remained so powerful in the nation's imagination. The town saw decades of rich agricultural production and participated in early water-powered industrialization, with paper, saw, marble, grist mills, built throughout the town, particularly on Mill Pond and at the falls in Ashley Falls. Marble and limestone were quarried, trees harvested for charcoal and processed into lime in kilns like those on Lime Kiln Road. Two covered bridges were built to span the Housatonic and provide access to town for farms in the eastern portion of Sheffield. Sheffield became a commercial center for these early industries.

In the years leading up to the Civil War, Sheffield was a station on the Underground Railway. After the war, new railroads made the countryside accessible to city dwellers and Sheffield, with other towns in western Massachusetts and northwestern Connecticut, became a fashionable summer resort area. Large inns/hotels in town catered to travelers and spas built near springs on the east side of town offered health cures, including the so-called Soda Spring Farm on Home Road. A lecture hall (Dewey Hall) was built in the town center to provide improving amusement for the populace.

  1. Town Master Plan, Town of Sheffield, MA, section 5, Cultural and Historic Resources, www.sheffieldma.gov, accessed June, 2011.
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