Extracted and edited from “History And Antiquities of Every Town In Massachusetts” by John Warner Barber, 1848.
This town was formerly included in Cummington, and with that town was sold by Col. John Cummings, of Concord, in 1762. The first meeting of the proprietors was held at Concord, in December of that year. Many of the first settlers came from Bridgewater and Abington. Plainfield was incorporated a district of Cummington in 1785, and in 1807 was incorporated a distinct town.
A church of 14 members was organized here in 1780; but they had no settled minister till 1792, when Rev. Moses Hallock, a native of Long Island, was settled with them. He continued in the pastoral office till 1831, in which year he was succeeded by Rev. David Kimball. Few men have been more useful than Mr. Hal-lock; none more humble, holy, consistent, and devoted to the proper work of man. He had no brilliancy, but was strongly characterized in his whole deportment by kindness, sincerity, meekness, and a deep and heartfelt interest in the welfare of all. He died in 1837. The meeting-house of this society was built in 1792. A Baptist society was formed in the eastern part of the town in 1833. The church was organized in June, by an ecclesiastical council, Elder David Wright, of Cummington, acting as moderator.
This township lies on the eastern side of the Green mountain range, and, as might be expected, the surface is undulating, and in many parts rough and broken, less so, however, than that of the adjoining towns. Indeed, the summit of East Hill, on which is the principal village, may be considered as level through nearly the whole breadth of the town. The soil is good and strong, and well adapted for grass. The township is exceedingly well supplied with springs and rivulets. There are no large streams in the town. Mill Brook is the largest. There are two ponds, both in the northwest part of the town: the North Pond, which is about a mile long and half a mile wide, and the Crooked Pond, so called from its figure. The scenery around these ponds is wild, and may perhaps be said to partake of the gloomy; for here, for the most part, the forests have never been. touched, and nature, in all her wildness,
Still on her bosom wears the enamel’d vest,
That bloomed and budded on her youthful breast.
The waters of the North Pond empty into the Deerfield river at Charlemont, while those of the Crooked Pond empty into the South Pond in Windsor, which is the head of one of the branches of Westfield river. The North Pond is dotted with islands, and is a favorite place of resort for anglers and parties of pleasure; and both have peculiar attractions to the botanist, as some very rare and interesting aquatic plants are found on the shores and in the water. In 1837, there were two woollen mills; 20,000 yards of cloth were manufactured, valued at $13,000; there were 238 Saxony, 1,775 merino, and 1,759 other kinds of sheep; the value of wool produced was $5,379 36; there were manufactured 48,000 palm-leaf hats, valued at $8,900. Population. 865. Distance, 20 miles N. W. of Northampton, and 110 W. by of Boston.
Rev. James Richards and Rev. William Richards, American missionaries, were of this town, and sons of Dea. James Richards. They were both graduates of Williams college. The first mentioned sailed, in 1815, for the East Indies, where he arrived after a prosperous voyage of 5 months. The period of his labors was short, for his constitution soon sunk by undue exposure to the influence of a tropical climate. He died at Tillipaly, in Ceylon, Aug. 3, 1822, aged 38 years. Rev. William Richards was ordained missionary at New Haven, Sept. 12, 1822, from which place he sailed, with his wife, for the Sandwich Islands, Nov. 19, of the same year, where he arrived in April, 1823. His labors appear to have been very acceptable and useful. He resides in the village of Lahaina, (in the island of Maui,) one of the most delightful spots in the Sandwich Islands.”
The following account of the Mountain Miller was taken from the History of Plainfield, by Dr. Jacob Porter, page 40.
“Deacon Joseph Beals, who will be known through the future ages of the church as the Mountain Miller, was a native of Bridgewater, in this state, and removed with his family to this place in 1779. Here, in 1789, a year of great scarcity, he met with a severe affliction, the loss of his house and nearly all his provisions by a fire. Previous to this, he had been depending on his external morality for salvation, considering a change as unnecessary. He now found that he could not truly submit to the will of God, and betook himself to the seeking of his salvation in earnest. After a season of distressing anxiety, the Savior was pleased to reveal himself to his soul as the chief among ten thousand and altogether lovely,’ and. he suddenly broke forth in new strains of devotion, penitence, and praise, for redeeming love. From this time he consecrated himself to the service of his Savior, and became distinguished for his meekness and humility, his life of prayer, his exemplary deportment at all times and in all places, particularly in the house of God, his abiding sense of the uncertainty of life and the retributions of eternity, his preciousness to the awakened sinner, his care for the spiritual welfare of his family and of all with whom the providence of God brought him in contact, his perseverance in doing good, and his uniform and consistent piety. ‘His conversation would never tire, and it seemed that he was never tired of religious conversation.’ He died after a short sickness, July 20, 1813. ‘His body,’ says the writer of the tract, was interred in the grave-yard, near his accustomed place of worship, where a plain, neat marble slab, bearing his name, age, and date of his death, is erected as the only memorial of the Mountain Miller.’ A notice of his death was inserted in the county newspaper, with this expressive and appropriate remark: His presence animated the Christian and awed the sinner;’ which would have been his whole recorded story, had not some special indications of Providence convinced the writer of this narrative of his duty to communicate it, for the benefit, he trusts, of thousands. The pious traveler will hereafter delight to visit the place, consecrated by the residence of the Mountain Miller, to drink at the spring by the road-side, bursting from the rock and shaded by the two beautiful sugar maples, where he so often drank in passing between his house and mill, and, above all, to linger at the grave of this most devoted servant of the Most High. From this spot flowers have already been culled, and sent to different parts of this country and of Europe.” The tract entitled the Mountain Miller, written by William A. Hallock, was first published by the American Tract Society, in 1831, and has since gone through numerous editions, and in various languages.
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