Fort Massachusetts was located in what was once called East Hoosac; now the city of North Adams, Massachusetts. The site is in the area bounded by Route 2/State Road, Demond Avenue, Massachusetts Avenue, and Roberts Drive––in the back portion of the former Price Chopper Supermarket parking lot.
The Westernmost Bastion in the Line of Forts
The fort was built during King George's War (1744–1748), in 1745, against the French and their Indian allies. It was also built to prevent Dutch settlers in New York from encroaching upon Massachusetts territory from the west. Fort Massachusetts was the westernmost in a northern line of colonial forts extending from the Connecticut River, over the Hoosac Mountain, to this western frontier. And it remained active throughout much of the French and Indian War (1754–1763), until 1759, when it was decommissioned following the Battle of Quebec.
The outcome of the French and Indian War established British control of North America and gave birth to the British Empire. And it also triggered the movement towards independence for the British colonists in America.
Fort Massachusetts Helped to Clear the Way for Further European Settlement in This Region.
Among the first British Settlers in this area were the soldiers and their families from Fort Massachusetts. In fact, in the spring of 1746, one of the soldiers, John Perry––a carpenter by trade from Falltown (now Bernardston), and who helped construct this and other nearby forts––picked himself out a plot of land west of the fort, further along the Indian trail, and built a house on it for he and his wife.
The soldiers at Fort Massachusetts had all been brought up on farms and were all looking forward to their discharge from military service to farm life on lands of their own. As an inducement to buyers and settlers, the committee of the General Court of Massachusetts granted 200 acres of land to Captain Ephraim Williams, Junior, in East Hoosac––now North Adams––on condition that he reserve ten acres of the meadow around Fort Massachusetts for the use of that fort, and also build a grist-mill and a sawmill on one of the branches of the Hoosac River near their junction for the use of the settlers in the two townships of East Hoosac and West Hoosac. Some of the original proprietors of the entire township of West Hoosac––now Williamstown––were soldiers of the fort, with the land there being more conducive to farming.
River Gods, Indian Ledge, Captivity, Cannibalism, Griping and Flux, Bloody Skirmishes, Fleeing from the Tomahawk and Scalping-knife, Hideous War-whoops, and the Perpetual Dread of a Midnight Surprise and Massacre.
Every historical site has an important story to tell. The story of Fort Massachusetts is a compelling, suspenseful, and inspiring story. It speaks of hope, and courage, and maintaining one's integrity in the face of adversity. It's a story of life and death and the human spirit. And it was a safe haven for the early settlers of East and West Hoosac. Despite the sickness, skirmishes, and the siege, capture and, ultimately, destruction of the first fort, they did not give up. They rebuilt. And they settled the land.
Saving This Historic Site
With the closing of the former Price Chopper in February of 2016, there had been some concern as to the fate of the site. A few members of the community formed a group to advocate for the preservation of this historic site, called the Friends of Fort Massachusetts. Their vision was to preserve the site as a public park––Fort Massachusetts Memorial Park. The group would later evolve, under new direction, into Save Fort Massachusetts Memorial, Inc., under the umbrella of the North Adams Historical Society.
Then, in 2017, with the joint efforts of all parties, the Golub Corporation donated the site to the City of North Adams. And now that this historic site is back in public hands, it can be revitalized and a renewed interest developed. However, it will take the community, working along with the City, to give the site the attention and care that it deserves.
Origin of Our Community
European settlement in the northern Berkshires––the western frontier––was inevitable. Where Fort Massachusetts was built is where it all began for us. The communities of Williamstown, North Adams, and Adams owe their origin to the erection of this fort. We must strive to preserve our historic sites, for they are some of our most tangible, authentic links to our past. And there is no other historic site in this region more worthy of preservation than that of the site of Fort Massachusetts––the origin of our community.
The Friends of Fort Massachusetts Blog
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