Genealogy in Franklin County, Massachusetts
Town of Bernardston


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The town of Bernardston lies in the north-central part of Franklin County and is roughly bounded by Guilford and Vernon on the north (both towns in Windham County, Vermont), Northfield on the east, Gill and Greenfield on the south, and Leyden on the west. Bernardston was organized March 6, 1762 from the plantation called Falltown. On December 2, 1779, part of Bernardston was annexed to Colrain. On March 12, 1784, the western part of Bernardston was established as the district of Leyden. On April 14, 1838, part of Greenfield was annexed to Bernardston, and on May 7, 1886, a part of Leyden was annexed to Bernardston.

In 1874, Elias Nason described the town of Bernardston as follows:
Bernardston
lies in the northerly part of Franklin County, between Fall and Connecticut Rivers, about 96 miles north-west of Boston; and has Vernon, Vt., on the north, Northfield on the east, Gill and Greenfield on the south, and Leyden on the west. It is finely watered by Fall River, which runs southerly through the centre of the town. Dry Brook also, in the east, and Mill Brook in the west, flow in the same direction. The principal settlement is in the beautiful valley of Fall River, which is flanked by mountains on the east and west. Of these eminences, Bald Mountain, 630 feet above the Connecticut River, and West Mountain, are the most conspicuous. The principal rock is clay-slate, calcareous gneiss, lower sandstone, and Devonian; specimens of magnetic oxide of iron are also found. Limestone has been profitably quarried; and there are springs containing sulphur and magnesia. The number of dwelling-houses is 205; of people, 961; of farms, 121; and on them handsome crops of grain, hay, apples, potatoes, hops, and tobacco, are produced. The valuation is $422,274; the tax-rate, $1.46 per $100.

The Connecticut-river Railroad passes through the southern section of the town, opens a market for the wood and lumber of the forests, and improves the social aspect of the place. The town has one post-office; one hoe and one shoe manufactory; one hotel,--the New-England House; a good public library of about 3,000 volumes; an excellent free academy, called Power's Institute,--A. J. Sanborn, principal; six school-districts; and five churches. The pastors are, the Revs. T. A. Merrill of the Congregational, B. F. Tuck of the Baptist, S. B. Flagg of the Unitarian, N. C. Hodgdon of the Universalist, and J. Cadwell of the Methodist church. It appropriated $1,500 for the support of its public schools for the year 1871-72. This town sent 76 men into the late war, of whom 15 were lost.

The territory was granted, in 1735, to the heirs of the men engaged in the FALL FIGHT, which occurred at Turner's Falls in May, 1676; and hence, for many years, it bore the name of Falltown. Major John Burke, Samuel Connable, Lieut. Ebenezer Sheldon, and Deacon Sheldon, built the first four houses here, in 1738. They were of hewn logs, with port-holes in the walls for defence against the Indians. During the French and Indian War of 1755, the people suffered greatly from the incursions of the savages. Even the women bore arms for the defence of their homes and children. The Rev. John Norton, ordained in 1741, was the first minister. The first money raised for schools was £6, in December, 1770; and the first schoolhouse was built in 1783. The town was incorporated under its present name, in honor of Gov. Francis Bernard, on the 6th of March, 1762. The epitaph on Major John Burke, the leading man amongst the founders of the town, is this:--

"In memory of the Hon. Major John Burke, who died Oct. 27, 1784, in ye 67th year of his age.

'Were I so tall to reach the pole,
Or grasp the ocean with my span,
I must be measured by my soul;
The mind's the standard of the man.'"

SAMUEL CLESSON ALLEN, an able politician and member of Congress, was born here Jan. 5, 1772; and died at Northfield, Feb. 8, 1842.

HENRY WYLES CUSHMAN, Lieutenant-Governor of Massachusetts 1851-52, and author of the "Cushman Genealogy," was born here Aug. 9, 1805; and died here Nov 21, 1863.
(Source: Nason, Elias, 1811-1887. A gazetteer of the state of Massachusetts : with numerous illustrations on wood and steel / by Elias Nason. -- Boston : B.B. Russell, 1874. -- p. 82-83)

Online Genealogical Resources

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Bibliography

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General Information

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