Bidwell Lore – Adonijah Bidwell, Jr.

Welcome to the thirteenth week of Bidwell Lore! In the previous three installments, we discussed the wives of the Reverend Adonijah Bidwell. Now we move on to his children, beginning with his oldest, Adonijah, Jr.

Adonijah Bidwell was married three times and it was with his second wife, Jemima, that he had his four children:

Adonijah, Jr (1761-1837)
Barbabas (1763-1833)
Jemima (1765-1842)
Theodosia (1766-1841)

Today we will be introducing you to Adonijah, Jr.  While he did not gain the notoriety of his brother Barnabas, nor did his descendants travel far and wide as missionaries like Jemima’s (more on those two in later installments), we do know a little about him and his life.

He inherited the Bidwell House from the Reverend Adonijah Bidwell and he was a real estate “baron,” owning numerous properties throughout Tyringham (Monterey). He married Meliscent Dench of Hopkinton in 1789, and they had 12 children between 1789 and 1806, only six of whom lived to adulthood. During his ownership of the property, he expanded the house by adding an “ell” on the northwest end, enclosing an old well in the process.

Above you can see the ell on the left side, built by Adonijah, Jr., coming off the back of the Bidwell House. Notice the roof line indicating the saltbox shape of the original house.

Adonijah, Jr.’s farm participated in the “sheep fever” in the 1820s, when Merino sheep were imported and huge areas of New England woodland were cleared for sheep pasture. The town’s population began to decline in the 1820s as the Erie Canal opened the “West;” New England farmers left these cold rocky hills for the better land of New York and Ohio. Adonijah offered to sell the Bidwell farm in 1834, but deeded the 250 acres to his second-oldest son, John Devotion Bidwell (1792-1867), for “$1 plus love and affection.”

Lawson Dench Bidwell (1791-1863), his oldest surviving son, studied law, opening a practice in Stockbridge and living in South Lee at what is now The Federal House Inn. Lawson married Emeline Maria Bennett (1798-1878) on April 21, 1818. The Lawson Bidwell family later moved to the Bennett family property, Valley Gate, now the Stockbridge Industrial Park, which the Bennett family purchased from the Stockbridge Mohicans.

Son Barnabas Bidwell (1796-1882), named after his uncle, lived in a brick house at the corner of Fairview and Beartown Mountain Roads in Monterey. “The son Adonijah S. (1794-1830) did not marry, he was a thoroughly educated and highly accomplished and was a physician.” [1] The tragic story of Adonijah S. Bidwell is one we will come back to at a later date.

Today we have shared the biographical information about Adonijah, Jr., and next week we will share two stories about him that will tell you a bit more about his personality.

[1] Bidwell Family History 1587-1982 Volume I, 1983, Joan J. Bidwell, Gateway Press, page 43