Bidwell Lore – The Founding of Monterey

Welcome to week 96 of Bidwell Lore! This week we are sharing an article by Rob Hoogs that was recently published in the March issue of the Monterey news. In it, he introduces readers to the history of Monterey, which celebrates its 175th anniversary this year. 

The Founding of Monterey
by Rob Hoogs

Before April of 1847, all of the current land comprising Monterey and Tyringham was one town, originally known as Township #1 and later called Tyringham. On April 12, 1847, the Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts signed Chapter 172 of the Acts of 1847 incorporating Monterey as a separate town. On May 1, 1847, Monterey’s First Town Meeting was convened. Last week, the town kicked off its 175th anniversary year with a community potluck dinner and has a number of other events planned throughout 2022. For this week’s Bidwell Lore we thought it would be fun to include an article that was originally printed in the March 2022 Monterey News about the founding of Monterey. We’ll offer some “snapshots” of the town’s history using extracts from previous histories, newspaper articles, and historical documents.

During the month of July, the Knox Gallery at the Monterey Library will host an historical exhibit entitled “Monterey’s Attic” featuring historical artifacts from the collections of the Monterey Historical Society and the Bidwell House Museum. We invite townspeople to hunt through your attics for some hidden treasures—photos, letters, memorabilia, artifacts, artwork—that might be exhibited. Please send an email with ideas or suggestions to

Although we’re celebrating Monterey’s incorporation in 1847, the town’s history goes back much further, including thousands of years of habitation and stewardship by Native Americans. Monterey is on the route of one of the main “Indian Paths” between the Connecticut River valley and the Hudson River valley.  There are mentions in old written records about this area. It was sometimes known as the “Greenwoods” – other times as a “hideous howling wilderness.” William Pynchon, founder of Springfield, used the Indian path in the early 1600s for travel between his fur trading posts in Springfield and Albany. It is “… the probable route of Maj. Talcott, in his pursuit and capture of a body of Indians in Southern Berkshire, in 1676, the first whites known to have invaded the territory of Berkshire county.  Later on [the road] afforded a mode of entry to the founders of most of the towns of Southern Berkshire, and over it passed the commerce between them and their neighbors east and west.  Later still, it witnessed the marshaled array of Gen. Amherst and his army, in 1759, the soldiers of the Revolution, Burgoyne and his captured army en-route to Boston, the soldiers of the war of 1812-15, while many a weary pilgrim, long since passed away, enjoyed the hospitality of its numerous taverns of by-gone days. [1]

Image of a portion of the 1737 Deed for Four Townships from Chief Konkapot. Hand written in cursive on paper.
Portion of 1737 Deed for Four Townships from Chief Konkapot and others, courtesy of Williams College

In 1735, four “Housatonic Townships” were chartered by the General Court and the area for the four future towns was “purchased” from the Native Americans in 1737 for 300 pounds. (See portion of the deed above.) During the 1740s, Township Number One was slowly populated by English Colonists; Reverend Adonijah Bidwell was ordained as a “Gospel Preaching Minister” and the church was formed in October 1750. The Meeting House was sufficiently completed to be used and the first Proprietors’ Meeting was held in Township No. 1 in 1753. (Prior meetings were held in Watertown where many of the original proprietors lived.) In 1762, Township Number One was incorporated as Tyringham.

Henry Knox passed through the town on January 10, 1776, with “42 exceeding strong sleds” and “80 yoke of oxen,” to carry 59 cannon and mortars captured at Ticonderoga to Boston. He noted in his diary: “[January] 10th reach’d No. 1 after have Climb’d mountains from which we might almost have seen all the Kingdoms of the Earth. 11th went 12 miles thro’ the Green Woods to Blandford. It appears to me almost a miracle that people with heavy loads should be able to get up & down such Hills as are here …” (See diary page below.) The cannons were emplaced on Dorchester Heights in March 1776 and convinced the British troops to evacuate Boston, giving General Washington his first victory.

An image of a portion of Henry Knox's diary. Handwritten on paper.
Portion of Henry Knox’s diary, courtesy Mass. Historical Society

Berkshire residents fought in many of the battles of the Revolutionary War, including Lexington, Bunker Hill, Ticonderoga, Bennington, Monmouth, and elsewhere.  Colonel Giles Jackson of Tyringham (Monterey) was a decorated soldier; he also sired 20 children in town who attended—and filled—the “Rock Schoolhouse” along Beartown Mountain Road. 

By the year 1800, there were about 1700 residents in Tyringham.  This was the peak of the combined towns’ population.  During the 1820s, the population declined as many people moved from this cold, rocky land to the newly opened “west”—New York, Indiana, Ohio—that were opened up for settlement after the War of 1812 ended in 1815, making these lands part of the United States, and facilitated by the completion of the Erie Canal. 

Despite population decline, industries flourished in the 1800s along the many rivers and streams in the South Berkshires, including the Konkapot River, Hop Brook, Umpachenee River, as well as the Housatonic River and Farmington River.  It’s amazing how many cellar holes, roadways, stone walls, and mill sites are found in what are today deep woods! 

Next week we’ll share more of the story of the initial settlement of Monterey.

[1] The Gazetteer of Berkshire County, 1885