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It was just a matter of time before the territory that now comprises Great Barrington became incorporated. That's because Great Barrington -- once referred to by the Natives as the "Great Wigwam" -- sits on the old Indian trail that connects Albany, New York with Boston, Massachusetts.
The Dutch referred to this roughly hewn trail as the "New England Path," and the Stockbridge Indians described the original territory of Great Barrington as "Mahaiwe," which translates to "the place downstream."
Great Barrington does indeed sit on the Housatonic River, just downstream from the village of Housatonic. The Mohican Indians named the valley "Housatonnuck," which means "over the mountain." The river took its name from the valley.
A traveling party from Boston camped in the "place downstream" as early as 1694. According to a journal kept by the Rev. Benjamin Wadsworth, he and his fellow "commissioners" stopped there on their way to Albany and a Great Council Fire with the Five Nations, the name given to the region's five major Indian tribes.
Over the years, many others would hold fort at the "place downstream." Although the original territory of Great Barrington has been described as "wild and forbidding," those on a mission of trade became increasingly brave in their usage of it. They followed in the footsteps of nearby New York traders who frequently crossed the border to do business with the Mohicans.
Until 1761, when the town was incorporated and named the Shire town of the new county of Berkshire, Great Barrington was known as the Upper or North Parish of Sheffield. The main business in the 18th century was farming, but the mid-1800's saw the town become a manufacturing center. After the Civil War, Great Barrington became a well known summer resort.
This town has several claims to fame. Twice before 1800, the county court house was the scene of rebellious action. In 1774, it was the site of the first open resistance to military rule imposed on Massachusetts in retaliation for the Boston Tea Party, and Shay's Rebellion occurred here in 1786. The boyhood farm home of W.E.B. DuBois is also located in Great Barrington, and this illustrious native son began his academic pursuits in the Pope House, another historic site.
The Southern Berkshire Chamber
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