Examining the colonial history of western Massachusetts, this book provides fresh insights into important colonial social issues including African slavery, relations with Native Americans, the experiences of women, provisions for mental illness, old age and higher education, in addition to more traditional topics such as the nature of colonial governance, literacy and the book trade, Jonathan Edwards’ ministries in Northampton and Stockbridge, and Governor Thomas Hutchinson’s efforts to prevent a break with Britain. For related reading on this topic, check out Carl I. Hammer’s Pugnacious Puritans.
Carl I. Hammer is research associate at the University of Pittsburgh.
Chapter 1: “The Worshipful Peter Tilton” of Hadley: A Backwoods Puritan Populist Politician and His Books
Chapter 2: “Being Old and Dayly Finding the Symptoms of Mortality”: The Troubled Last Years
of Hannah Beamon of Deerfield and the Law of 1726
Chapter 3: “He Would Have the Honour of It”: William Huxley’s Madness and Slave
Manumission in Eighteenth-Century Suffield, Massachusetts
Chapter 4: “Her Natural Temper Disposes Her Much More to Dominion than Subjection”: Abigail Williams, Jonathan Edwards and the Indian Mission at Stockbridge
Chapter 5: “To Promote Religion and Learning and Piety”: The Failure of Queens College, Hampshire County, Massachusetts, Revisited
Chapter 6: “To be More of a Willow and Less of an Oak”: Charles Phelps, Thomas Hutchinson and the Failure of Israel Williams
Chapter 7: “Laggard Revolutionists”?: The Coming of the Revolution to Hampshire County
Conclusion: A “Surprisingly Modern” Hampshire County?
The settlements on either side of the Connecticut River have long been the neglected step-children of colonial Massachusetts history. Those seeking information on the important events that transpired there (bitter religious controversy, intermittent warfare, growing revolutionary sentiment, and the trend toward manumission) needed to search out clues in dusty antiquarian local histories and reverential family genealogies. Now the valley has received the historical attention it long deserved in a series of well-written scholarly essays by Carl I. Hammer.
Carl I. Hammer has made a welcome and richly-textured contribution to the growing literature on the history of early western Massachusetts. By focusing on particular characters and groups—African slavery, relations with the Natives, the experiences of women settlers as well as the political and religious leadership—he highlights the surprisingly diverse history of this long-neglected region. This area, still very much a frontier through the eighteenth century, emerges in the pages of this study as unique and as a time and place that still has much to teach and to reveal.
Carl I. Hammer’s deeply-researched study of Hampshire County traces in extraordinary detail the first century of a colonial settlement. Through multiple biographies and institutional investigations, he uncovers the complicated religious, political, and economic developments that shaped early western Massachusetts, up to the American Revolution. With probing attention to the histories of indigenous and African American peoples in the region, Hammer presents a compelling interpretation of how ‘modern’ forces shaped the colonial-American backcountry.
This excellent book on the colonial history of Western Massachusetts gives valuable insights into frontier life there, including provisions for old age and mental illness, relations with Native Americans, the treatment (and manumission) of slaves, religious life, and colonial government in Western Massachusetts. One chapter treats the failure to establish a college in Hampshire County. Another chapter treats the Williams family at Stockbridge, the relationships among family members, and the problems with the will of Ephraim Williams, who died in 1754. The author has skillfully combined general themes with many examples of inhabitants of colonial Western Massachusetts. The result is both informative and interesting. Highly recommended, especially to those researching families in colonial western Massachusetts.