Welcome to Bidwell Lore number 103! This week we continue our new series on Captain William Goodrich and talk about his relationship with the Mohicans in Stockbridge and his “not so honest” land dealings.
The May 1766 Indian Proprietor Records, page 56, contains the following entry:
“Granted to William Goodrich in consideration of the loss he sustained in having his ox killed fifty acres of land to be taken up on the east side of Elihu Parsons’ farm that he lives upon and to run from said farm Eastward to the nock or hallow of the mountain Eastward as to include fifty acres and when a plan is returned, with proper survey Benjamin & Johonnis Mohtocksin to make a deed of the same to Goodrich.” What is implied, but not stated, is that the loss of the oxen was somehow the Mohican’s fault.
Between 1763 and 1786 Goodrich acquired thirteen tracts of land from the Stockbridge Mohicans totaling in excess of 1,000 acres.  He purchased six tracts from other English settlers. Between 1765 and 1790 he sold 29 tracts of land, one of which was in Sheffield. Those Mohicans tracts of land were ones that had been acquired “legally.” In his agreement with the Indian Proprietors, Goodrich could have acquired additional land illegally that might show up in his grantor deeds, or maybe not at all.
During the 18th century in Massachusetts, proprietorships were a common method for creating townships in the Berkshires. Those townships were created when members of the Stockbridge Mohican Tribe would sell a tract of land in Western Massachusetts to English colonists, who were frequently land speculators. Those English colonizers in turn, after becoming proprietors of that plantation (unimproved land), would sell smaller tracts of land to individuals who wanted to live on the land. In some cases, on a smaller scale, buyers became speculators as well. Indian Town (now Stockbridge) was unique in that the Tribe was granted their plantation by Royal Charter and, as such, a proprietorship was not needed, or so they thought.
However, not long after Indian Town was incorporated into the Town of Stockbridge, English colonists began to obtain land through questionably legal transactions, or even outright theft, causing the Sachems of the tribe to petition the Great and General Court of the Province for help. By June of 1750, the Provincial government created an Indian Proprietorship with the professed hope of protecting the Stockbridge Mohicans from further dispossession of their land. Although proprietorships were subject to Provincial and later Massachusetts State law, they were distinct entities and not a part of Town government.
From shortly after the Indian Proprietorship was formed in 1750 until just weeks before his death on May 10th, 1774, Timothy Woodbridge, the schoolmaster to the Indian Town Mission, acted as the clerk of the Indian Proprietorship at the request of the Stockbridge Mohicans.
On April 25th, 1774, just weeks prior to his death, Timothy Woodbridge presided over his last Mohican Proprietorship meeting at William Goodrich’s inn. By a vote of the Tribal Sachems, Timothy Woodbridge’s son, Enoch Woodbridge, was chosen as clerk of the Indian Proprietorship. William Goodrich and Samuel Brown, Jr., were chosen to take care of the Tribal “out lands,” or land not yet distributed by the Proprietorship. That turned out to be only the first step in a move to control the land transfers from Mohican to English ownership. The meeting was adjourned to Wednesday, May 4 at 2 p.m. at the Dwelling house of Capt. Solomon Uhhaunnauwaunmut. (Lot 210 on the above map)
The Stockbridge Mohicans trusted Timothy Woodbridge enough that they referred to him by the honorific Father in one of their petitions to the colonial government. The Sachems’ relationship with Timothy Woodbridge may have caused them to believe that his son Enoch would be cut from the same cloth. Unfortunately, that was not the case, as by May 30th Enoch Woodbridge and Samuel Brown, Jr., were able to convince the proprietors to cede control of the daily business of the proprietorship and accept by vote the following language taken from the Indian Proprietor’s Records: “The Proprietors met according to adjournment and voted, chose, Constituted and appointed Samuel Brown Junr. Esq. Mr. Enoch Woodbridge Agents & Attorneys for said Proprietors.” The next two pages were filled with legalese, but the essence of the language enabled Enoch and Samuel to gain complete control of the distribution of land.
It is likely that the Sachems quickly learned that Enoch Woodbridge and Samuel Brown, Jr., were only concerned about acquiring land for themselves and other English colonists, yet it took six long years to undo their agreement. Following the legal requirements of the newly minted Commonwealth of Massachusetts, they posted the following notice: A “Proprietors Meeting was called on Monday the 20th Day of March 1780 at the house of Hendrick Aupaumut for the following Purposes (viz.) First To Chuse a Moderator for said Meeting 2ly To see if the Proprietors will chuse a New Clerk and Proceeded to pass the following Votes (viz.) First Voted and chose Jahleel Woodbridge Moderator. 6ly Voted and Chose Jahleel Woodbridge Esq. Clerk and he was sworn according to law.”
That six years passed before the Indian Proprietors were able to untangle themselves from their arrangement with Enoch Woodbridge and Samuel Brown probably speaks to their inability to find someone they could trust and who would be willing to help undo that agreement. Enoch’s cousin Jahleel Woodbridge agreed to become clerk of the Proprietorship. Probably not long after the Tribal Sachems chose Jahleel as clerk in 1780, following legal protocol, they requested a meeting of the proprietors, by writing a letter to the clerk. That short letter, which follows, is one of the three documents that Stockbridge residents voted on at the Annual Town Meeting allowing it to be repatriated. Click on the text to see an image of the original letter:
“To Jahleel Woodbridge Esqr.
Sir. We the subscribers request you call a meeting of the Indian Proprietors to examine into the power given here to fore to certain persons as agents for said proprietors, to see how they exercise said power and whether it is expedient to continue or revoke the same, and to do any other business that may thus come under our consideration. Joseph Shauquethquat, Hendrick Aupaumut, Jehoiakim Naunuptonk, John Concopott (Konkapot), Jacob Concopott (Konkapot), Peter Pohqunnoppeet, Andrew Waumauhewhy, Joseph Quennukaut, Billy Notuaqssin, David Naunauneeknuk.”
Click HERE to see an image of the original letter.
By 1818, the last parcel of Mohican land in Stockbridge had been sold. A tally of the land by local historian Lion Miles found that there were no documents or deeds for 8,000 acres from the original 23,040 acres making up Indian Town. Certainly, William Goodrich would be one of the suspects when he and Samuel Brown, Jr., as we mentioned above, were chosen to take care of the Tribal “out lands,” the land not yet distributed by grants by the Indian Proprietorship.
Next week we look at the time Goodrich spent leading a company of Stockbridge Mohicans during the Revolutionary War.
1. Elijah Williams purchased 15 tracts, Timothy Edwards 12 tracts, Willard family 12 tracts, Van Schaack family 15 tracts. This only represents legally purchased land, i.e. deeded land.