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Believed by some to be the oldest town in Berkshire County and until recently the least populated town in Massachusetts, Mount Washington is prized for its privacy and wild beauty. Incorporation came in 1779, but not before some bloodshed.
Violence erupted when one Englishman tried to stand up to land baron Robert Livingston, a Scottish immigrant who married into the wealthy Van Rennselear family. In 1682, Livingston located in the Hudson River Valley and established what was then referred to as Livingston Manor. Using authority from the 1705 Patent of Westenhook, Livingston boldly expanded his holdings to include 175,000 acres of Southern Berkshire east of the Hudson River. That's why the earliest of English settlers found Dutch families living west of Sheffield. In fact, one family had cultivated the land since 1692.
By the time the English arrived to settle the territory east of the Hudson, the Massachusetts Colonial Legislature already had declared the land to be available on a first-come, first-served basis. But Livingston had other ideas. He began charging the settlers rent for use of the land that he believed still belonged to him. When one settler, William Race, stood up to Livingston, the aristocrat had his agents murder Race. A group of Englishmen then coalesced to purchase a plantation on Taghonic Mountain (Mount Washington) in 1757. Livingston's agents retaliated by burning six of the investment group's farms. The government ultimately intervened, but it took officials 17 years to resettle the land and pave the way for Mount Washington's incorporation as a township subject to the law of a new land.
The Southern Berkshire Chamber
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