William Cullen Brayant Concert

Under Open Sky


Extracted and edited from “History And Antiquities of Every Town In Massachusetts” by John Warner Barber, 1848.

This town was sold by the general court to Col. John Cummings, of Concord, in 1762. The first meeting of the proprietors was held at Concord, in December, of the same year, and the first meeting held at Cummington was in June, 1771. The first person who resided within the present limits of the town was a Scotchman, by the name of McIntire, who, with his family, began a settlement here in 1770. Many of the early settlers came from Bridgewater and Abington. The town was incorporated by the legislature in 1779.

The precise time when the church was gathered here was not known, though previously to the settlement of their first pastor, Rev. James Briggs, which was in 1779. He was a graduate of Yale college, in 1755, and he began to preach in Cummington in 1771. The town voted to give him 200 acres of good land, and £60 for settlement, to be estimated by rye, at 3s. 4d. per bushel, beef, 2d. a lb., and flax, 8d. a lb. Mr. Briggs was a very useful and respectable minister. He died in 1825; and the same year Rev. Roswell Hawkes was installed.

Cummington is situated on a range of the Green mountains. A branch of the Westfield passes through the town, and affords good water power for mills and manufactories. There are two villages, the East and the West. The east village contains two churches, 1 Baptist and 1 Congregational, and about 30 dwelling-houses; about 18 miles from Northampton. In 1837, there were in this town 2 cotton mills; cotton spindles, 1,168; cotton consumed, 23,000 lbs.; 124,000 yards of cotton goods were manufactured, valued at $8,060. There were 4 woolen-mills; wool consumed, 18,000 lbs.; 74,000 yards of satinet were manufactured, valued at $31,000; eleven males and twenty females were employed; capital invested, $14,000. Twenty thousand scythe-snaiths were manufactured, valued at $12,000. Palm-leaf hats manufactured, 7,200, valued at $1,500; value of leather tanned and curried, $45,445.93. There were 4,162 merino sheep, which produced 12,486 lbs. of wool, valued at $7,491.60.

It is stated that at the first settlement of the town deer were very plenty, and that a large number of them made their headquarters on Deer hill, in this town; but that they were extirpated by the hunters of those times. “It is stated that a large one was taken by some hunters, at a time when the snow in the woods would not bear him up, and one of the party, taking a fancy to ride him, he was tied on by the feet, and a bridle being put into the animal’s mouth, he galloped off with his rider in full speed. On coming, however, to a cleared spot, the crust was so hard as to bear up both the deer and his rider; so that, owing to the intractable disposition of the beast, and the rapidity and eccentricity of his movements, his ride was any thing but agreeable. It is said that he was dismounted without any serious hurt.”

William Cullen Bryant, one of our best American poets, is a native of this town. He is the son of Dr. Peter Bryant, and was born Nov. 3d, 1794. The following notice of Mr. Bryant is from Kettell’s Specimens of American Poetry, vol. 3d.

At ten years, he felt an inclination for poetry, and wrote various pieces in verse, one of which was published in the Hampshire Gazette, at Northampton. In 1810, he entered Williams college, where he studied a year or two, and obtained a dismissal on his own application: he turned his attention to the law. After completing the usual studies, he was admitted to the bar at Plymouth, in 1815. He removed to New York in 1820, and was one of the editors of the United States Review and Literary Gazette. In 1828, he became associate editor of the New York Evening Post.

Mr. Bryant published, in 1808, at Boston, a volume of poems, with the title of “The Embargo, or Sketches of the Times.” Although the author was but fourteen years of age, the book was so well received, that it was reprinted the next year. In 1821, appeared the volume containing The Ages, Thanatopsis, and other pieces. He also furnished many of the poetical articles in the United States Literary Gazette.

As a poet, he is entitled to rank with the most eminent among us for originality, and finished, chaste execution. He does not offend us by abruptness and inequality. He presents us with here and there a bold image, but the tenor of his poetry is even and sustained. He shows good judgment, and a careful study of the materials of his verse. He does not aim with an over-daring attempt at those lofty and bewildering flights, which too often fill the poet’s pages with cloudy and confused representations. His delineations are clear and distinct, and without any indications of an endeavor to be startling and. brilliant by strange metaphors, or unlicensed boldness of phraseology. His writings are marked by correct sentiment and propriety of diction.

Mr. Bryant stands high in the general estimation, and his works have been the subject of frequent notice. The pages of our periodical criticism show the manner in which he is appreciated by the highest literary authorities.

Note: For more on Bryant’s time in western MA, see
Literary Associations of Berkshire County

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28 Apr 2006