A New England Village.
and in every field and door-yard, and even in the nicely graveled foot-paths by the roadside, he sees the marks of care and culture -- he seems to have found the most admirable blending of nature with art and taste, and altering only a little the verse of Goldsmith, is disposed to exclaim,
"Sweet Stockbridge! loveliest village of the plain!"
But how few of those who from year to year are surprised by this scene of loveliness are aware that this most beautifully set jewel of Berkshire was only a little while ago the wild hunting-ground of the Indian, kept as such long after the surrounding region had come under the ownership of the whites! It is but a step from there are those alive to-day in Stockbridge who were living there when the Indian tribe who owned its whole territory had not yet parted with it nor removed to their new home nearer the setting sun. Such is the change wrought within a human lifetime. The later settlements of the West, aided by our modern appliances of railroads and telegraphs, may show greater changes in a briefer period of tune, but for New England the change here wrought is little less than a marvel. The growth of our country during the first century and a half, if we may not say two centuries, was comparatively slow. The day of railroads and steamships had not come. It was a hundred years after the settlement at Plymouth before Massachusetts had any white inhabitants west of the Connecticut River valley, or the region properly included in it. Westfield, as its name tells us, was then the westernmost settlement, the very outpost of civilization. All beyond to the Mississippi, and to the Canadian line on the north, was a wilderness. But in the year 1722 the wave of migration, which had rested for sixty years in the fertile meadows of the Connecticut, rolled forward to the valley of the Housatonic. Upon the petition of Joseph Parsons and nearly two hundred other inhabitants of Hampshire County--which then embraced almost all the western half of Massachusetts--for the grant of two townships of land upon the Housatonic River, a committee was appointed for the purpose of purchasing the Indian title to the designated tract, and dividing the same properly among the settlers. The committee was instructed also to reserve a suitable portion of the lands for the first minister, for the subsequent maintenance of the ordinance of the Gospel, and for the support of schools. Thus the new settlements were begun in the true Puritan style, with scrupulous regard to the rights of the aborigines, and with a zealous interest in behalf of education and religion.
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Transcribed by Laurel O'Donnell
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