Bidwell Lore – The Dispossession of Stockbridge Mohican Land by the Ball Family, Part III

Welcome to Bidwell Lore number 117! This week we continue the series titled “Dispossession of Stockbridge Mohican Land by the Ball Family, 1772-1781,” written by Rick Wilcox. He shares the story of Isaac Ball and his role in the Mohicans losing their land in and around Stockbridge.

Dispossession of Stockbridge Mohican Land by the Ball Family 1772-1781, Part III
Isaac Ball (1744-1784)
Rick Wilcox 2022

As I mentioned in the previous Bidwell Lore, Indian Town was originally created on May 7, 1737, as a Charter by the colonial legislature. It was 36 square miles or 23,040 acres. Its stated purpose was to create a home for all of the Mohican people in Berkshire County in one location, where they would have the benefit of a missionary, the Rev. John Sergeant, and the schoolmaster, Timothy Woodbridge. In addition, the legislature included the introduction of English families to provide a Christian example for the Mohican people. The Rev. Sergeant, Schoolmaster Timothy Woodbridge, and the four families were each granted 384 acres of land, or as mentioned above, 1/60 of the 23,040 acres. By practice, the grantees tended to round that up to 400 acres.

I have included below a transcription of the original language of the charter, which hopefully all readers will find of interest. I have placed a small section in bold where the language indicates the land would be their land: “To their use and behove forever.”

At the bottom, you will find an image of the actual charter.

WHEREAS the Great and General Court or Assembly of His Majestys Province of the Massachusetts Bay aforesaid, at their session held in Boston the seventeenth day of March one thousand seven hundred and thirty five DID give and grant to the Housatannuck Tribe of Indians a Township not exceeding the quantity of six miles Square of Land, and Authorized and Impowered John Stoddard, Ebenezer Pomroy and Thomas Ingersole, Esquires, a Committee to lay the said Township unto said Indians in upper Housatannuck lying and being above the mountain and upon the Housatannuck river, the said Indians to be Subject to the Law of this Province made and passed in the thirteenth year of King William the third Chapter twenty first, with respect to said lands; and impowered the said Committee to lay out to the Reverend Mr. John Sergeant their minister, and Mr. Timothy Woodbridge their school-master one sixtieth part of said land for each of them their heirs and assigns; and also to lay out a sufficient quantity of land within said Township to accommodate four English Families that shall settle the same, to be under the Direction and Disposition of the Committee, and the said Committee were further Impowered to dispose of the lands that were reserved to the said Indians in the Town of Sheffield in order to make Satisfaction so far as the same will go to the Proprietors and owners of the land as aforesaid; and were also Impowered to give the Proprietors of the upper Housatannuck that live below the mountain an Equivalent in some of the ungranted lands of the Province next adjacent to upper Housatannuck, Sheffield and the said granted Town; and the Committee were then further Impowered to make the Proprietors of upper Housatannuck above the mountains an Equivalent in some of the unappropriated land of the Province the same to be a full Satisfaction for such of their lands as were granted to the Housatannuck Tribe as aforesaid; and whereas the Committee Impowered as aforesaid in April seventeen hundred thirty six by a Seuveyor and Chainmen on an oath Surveyed and laid out the said Township on both sides of Housatannuck river, and reported their Doings In the premises to the Great and General Court at their Session held the twenty sixth day of May one thousand seven hundred thirty six, the bounds of which are as follow vizt, Beginning at a monument of Stones laid up, East three Degrees fifteen minutes north four hundred and fifty perch from Joakim Vanvalcumburgs house, thence north nine Degrees east fifteen hundred and six perch to a large white ash marked with Stones about it, thence west nine Degrees north, nineteen hundred and twenty perch to three little hemlocks and a maple marked, on which the letters N. A. S. D. K. are set, thence South nineteen hundred and twenty perch to a great white oak and black oak marked N. A. thence east nine Degrees south nineteen hundred and twenty perch, thence north nine Degrees east four hundred and fourteen perch to the monument first mentioned.
       And whereas the Council and House of Representatives of said Province at their Session held the twenty fourth day of November last by their vote desired me to issue a Patent under the Publick Seal of the Province to the Housatannuck Tribe of Indians of the Township lately Granted to them by this court agreeable to the form of the Grant; all of which in and by the records of the said General Assembly, reference thereto being had, doth fully appear.
      KNOW YE THEREFORE, That I said JONATHAN BELCHER, Esquire Governour agreeable to the above recited Grant and vote pass’d by the Council and assembly respectfully, and pursuant to the Power and authority contained and Granted in and by HIS MAJESTYS Royal CHARTER to the Governour and General assembly of the Province of the Massachusetts Bay aforesaid HAVE granted ratified and Confirmed, and by these presents DO fully freely and absolutely Grant Ratify and Confirm unto the Housatannuck Tribe of Indians their heirs and assigns The aforesaid Tract of land or Township situate and Described as aforesaid, with and under the Savings and Reservations made to the Reverend Mr. John Sergeant minister, Mr. Timothy Woodbridge Schoolmaster, and the lands set off to the four English Families as foresaid, with all the Estate right Title use Property and interest of the Province aforesaid therein and thereunto TOGETHER with all and Singular the soils, swamps, meadows, rivers, rivulets, ponds, pools, woods, underwoods, Trees, Timber, Herbage, Feeding, Fishing, Fowling and Hunting, Rights members Hereditaments, Emoluments, profits, privileges and appurtenances thereto belonging or in any ways apportianing TO HAVE AND TO HOLD, the said Tract of land or Township with all other the aforesaid premises Emoluments profits privileges and appur’ces thereto belonging with and under the Savings and Reservations aforesaid, unto the said Housatannuck Tribe of Indians and to their heirs and assigns TO their use and behoof forever, YEILDING rendering and paying therefor unto our Sovereign Lord KING GEORGE the Second His Heirs and Successors one fifth part of all Gold and Silver oar, and precious Stones, which from time to time and at all times hereafter shall happen to be found gotten or obtained in any of the said lands and premises, or within any part or parcel thereof in lieu and stead of all rents, Services, Dues, Duties, and Demands whatsoever for the said lands and premises and for every part and parcel thereof. IN TESTIMONY whereof I the said JONATHAN BELCHER Esquire Governour have Signed these Presents, and caused the Publick Seal of the Province of the Massachusetts Bay aforesaid to be hereunto affixed Dated at Boston aforesaid the Seventh day of May 1737; In the Tenth year of HIS MAJESTYS Reign. J. Belcher
By his Excellencys Command J. Willard Secty.

An image of the original Indian Town charter, hand written in 1737 and singed by J. Willard, J. Belcher, Ephraim Williams and John Sargeant.
The 1737 Charter for Indian Town. A true copy attest Ephm Williams, John Sergeant.
From the Massachusetts Archives, Stockbridge Library Museum & Archives collection.
Next week we look at some of the documents connected to land sales in Indian Town.