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Berkshire Town

Berkshire Town Hall is located at 18 Railroad Avenue, Berkshire NY 13736; phone: 607-657-8678.

Beginnings [1]

The early settlement of Berkshire is related closely to the so-called "Boston Purchase," a tract of 230,400 acres which was awarded to the government of Massachusetts after the Revolutionary War and sold in 1787 to a syndicate of eleven men (later, sixty) from Berkshire County, Massachusetts. After the transfer of title became final in 1789, the land was surveyed, partitioned, and distributed among the proprietors. The present town of Berkshire includes 67 lots averaging about 260 acres each. Various parties of explorers and surveyors visited the land prior to the purchase and allotment, but it was not until spring of 1791 that the first settlers came to Berkshire. Because of the large lot size, settlement was quite dispersed, but community activity logically concentrated on the Owego Creek and the trail that paralleled it (now Route 38). A community known as Brown's Settlement formed in the southern part of the town and the northern part of Newark Valley township, along what is now Browns Road. Here the county's first church was erected in 1803. The present hamlet of Berkshire formed on the lots owned by the Leonard, Williams, and Ball families, names which recur in town history. The early settlers initially practiced a subsistence agriculture, raising grain, sheep and swine. Their first buildings were built of logs and primitive in construction. No buildings survive which represent this initial period of settlement.

In 1800, a tannery was built on the East Branch of the Owego Creek, near the present day intersection of Glen Road and Main Street. A saw mill is thought to have developed at about this time or a few years later, which thereafter supplied the township with milled lumber for construction. Berkshire developed additional self-sufficiency with the establishment of a carding facility in 1806 and a blacksmith shop in 1808. A tavern was opened in 1814 and a harness shop was built in 1817. One or more grist mills were probably established in this period as well. Buildings built during this second period of development were permanent structures reflecting the prosperity of the maturing community.

  1. Mark L. Peckham, New York State Division for Historic Preservation, Berkshire Multiple Resource Area, nomination document, 1984, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
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