Saturday: April 16, 2011: Becket Athenaeum and more!

The Becket Athenaeum is open from 10 am to 4:00 pm on Saturday, otherwise the hours are every other day.  They do not have an online catalog to access that I can find? So I am going in a little blind. 

Becket was called No. 4 and Philip and Mary Goss of Brookfield (IV) came there to live for awhile until he was was again enticed by the lands offered in Pennsylvania near the Susquehanna River.  To get to Becket you can go through Pittsfield but I decided to try Holmes Road up to Williams St. and over to the Washington Mountain Road and down into Becket.  The road is paved but rough and me and my Aveo bounced around a lot.  We did some serious climbing up roads but basically had the road to ourselves.  There was one guy in a car who I tried to get to pass me but when he had the chance he just stayed on my bumper.  There was a truck in the road and I pulled out and in and then over and he finally went flying by me.  Go figure??? I have done well in Massachusetts regarding driving and have not had any problems so far.

I came to this crossroads and there was this little sign “Becket Village” pointing that away – left.  Soon there was another sign “Becket Village” and it had arrows pointing both ways. Hmmm…?? I am assuming it meant either North Becket or Becket Center. I jumped in and followed it out on Brooker Hill Road and that took me into Becket or rather North Becket. 

Becket Art Center, North Becket, MA

Becket Athenaeum, North Becket – park and enter in the back!

Becket is a combination of little communities.  The Becket Athenaeum is in North Becket on the southwest corner in a building that used to be a church.  It is in front of the Becket Art Center.  The sign is on Hwy 8.  You open the backdoor and there is a room filled with books and interesting things like a stuffed alligator. Like all small establishments the search for room is a problem. 

They had water damage so they moved the important documents upstairs.  I was greeted by Nancy the librarian.  She told me that you could not go upstairs without the director of the library to obtain documents.  What is there is your guess for it is not on the computer and cataloged.

Can you see the alligator?

You cannot access the catalog from beyond the library. You have to be there to look at what they have.  Nancy puts in the code and lets you search.  I took some time to do that to see what would come up and she is right the historical collection is not online. 

The Becket Athenaeum is a wonderful library with all kinds of books, a section for kids and more.  I did find some histories of Berkshire, topo maps, an atlas of Massachusetts.  While I was there two people brought in more books for the library.  I found a DVD reader verion of Brisinger the trilogy by Christopher Paolini. That was amazing to see a 5 set DVD talking book.  The trilogy will actually become 4 books which for fans like me is great news.  I was in an airport and was drawn to the picture of a dragon on the cover and the book was Eragon.  Funny what you might find in a out of the way place in a library!  I digress, HA!

Becket Athenaeum website:  I would suggest you read the History of the library and their About page. 

I mentioned to Nancy that Paul H. Goss had visited years ago and he was my cousin.  He knew about Cathaline Archer the author of several Becket histories and knew she was preparing them for publications.  He also knew Cecilia Snow who had done an unofficial list of Becket births, deaths and other vitals records.  Nancy knew what I was talking about and said they had photocopied this vital record compilation because the original was really fragile.  She pulled the copy for me to look at.  It was very large and she laid it on a table. She found the entry for Ebenezer Goss’ birth. 

Mrs. Snow’s compilation of Becket Vital Records

Nancy informed me that the director would be there in an hour and I tried to fill it up with seeing what I could find in this library while I waited.  I had not made an appointment. 

1.  I purchased two books.  The “Walking Tour of Becket,” ($3.00) and the “Biecentennial History of Becket 1768-1965.” by Cathaline Alford and Mitchell J. Mulholland Archer  ($15.00)  I have already seen this book but decided it was worth it.  This book has some good information on Philip and Mary Goss. 

2.  I found a copy of the book:  Pioneer Valley a Pictorial History, by Guy A. McLain.  It has a map of Springfield showing the land records for 1840.  The pioneer valley is the Connecticut River Valley and as I was driving along I was going in and out of it once I came from Winchester, NH. 

3.  Historical Atlas of Massachusetts, Edited by Richard W. Wilkie and Jack Tager, Univ. of Mass, did not get a date of publication.  It has of course maps showing the development of Massachusetts by townships and counties.  A map of the sites in King Philip’s War of 1675 and of course Lancaster and Brookfield were involved.  The spread of settlement and town incorporation from 1620-1691.  A 1635 map of Boston “existing ways and owners.”  This kind of book helps to get perspective on our ancestors lives.

4.  See above photographs.  The Genealogical Records of the Inhabitants Town of Becket.  According to Nancy this compilation was done by Ms. Snow herself.

I soon became restless and came to the conclusion that I needed to move on.  I had what I wanted the birth record of Ebenezer Goss as seen above.  So, I left my information and gave a brochure of my trip to Nancy.  My advise is to call in advance and make an appointment with the director if you want to look at anything in their collection.  Hopefully they will compile a finding aid to it and that would be wonderful.  I don’t know if she will find anything on our family but it is worth a try. 

I decided to go down to Becket Center because the “Walking Tour Booklet of Becket” I purchased had the different historical sites in Becket really carefully identified.  It is a great booklet and helped me to figure out that Philip Goss probably lived in the Becket Center area which is south of North Becket on Hwy 5.  This booklet describes as the main area of settlement in Becket.  North Becket was not established till into the 1800’s.  The whole history of the area of Becket and the other townships is part of a larger movement as people who needed more land. 

The area around Becket is rugged.  It takes a lot to prepare the land to grow anything for it is rocky and not fertile without some work.  I tried to put my head around why Philip Goss went there?  He had lot #56. It could be a real interesting exchange of what motivated g-great grandfather to move there? 

Here is an article about Becket:,_Massachusetts

I left the library and it was cold but it wasn’t raining.  Brrrrr…..Hwy 8 was just out front and I headed south. Along the way I found the North Becket Cemetery which is situated on a hill.

North Becket Cemetery

Small road that goes up a little incline, look for the wood bear on the side of the road!

The sign for a town is usually well in advance of the town.  The concept that a town goes on for a long while in New England takes a little getting use to.  In the west we lean toward counties being the boundary. I was beginning to think I had not turned right but the sign came up as entering Becket Center a National Historic District. 
I spotted the church and went over to investigate and there was a cemetery right next to it called the Becket Center Cemetery.   
Becket Center Church

I continued down Hwy 8 and found the town hall.  Becket is spread out and still a very small town.  The land around the town hall is flat.

Becket Town Hall – What Treasures are there??

I did more exploring and returned north up Hwy 8 and turned left at North Becket heading back the way I came over the rough road to Pittsfield through Dalton.  My goal had been to get a feel for what the land was like in the Becket area. 

It was not that hard to find the Berkshire Athenaeum for it is on the corner of East Street and Wendell Ave.  It is a rather modern building looking like something modern in brick with cement trim.  Not what I had expected although there is a painting at the website?  Parking on Wendell Street was 4 hours.  So I had plenty of time to investigate the library.  It was cold and the wind was blowing…brrr…!

As I entered the Berkshire Athenaeum there was a notice on the door that they would be closed on Monday, April 18th for Patriot’s Day.  WHAT?  Oh dear!!  I approached the Reference librarian and asked what Patriot’s Day is all about:’_Day  Sigh!!  I really try so hard to plan my trips around holidays but this one caught me by surprise.  Sigh!!!

Meanwhile, I walked into the Berkshire Athenaeum History Room and was very pleased to see a well designed, organized room.  They had the rolling electric stacks.  They do need resetting on occasion. File cabinets with genealogies, maps and more.  I signed in and set to work, tons of microfilm, finding aids and more.  I only had 4 hours now that I lost the coming Monday. Berkshire Athenaeum’s Redesigned Local History Department flyer explained the layout and use of the area and information about their collection.  Study the website as well:

Berkshire Athenaeum History Room only a portion..much bigger!

1.  National Archvies Northeast Region (Pittsfield) brochure was in a rack.  It is now a historical document with the closing of this archive in Septemeber.

2.  Print out – Colonial Plan of A Portion of Hampshire County now Berkshire County.  This map shows the Key to Small Grants and there is Township #4.  They have this map in a stand and let you copy them. 

3.  Another handout in a stand – Berkshire County and its Neighbors.  When I was touring Pennsylvania a few years ago it was suggested that I check out New York for that is where a lot of people went to.  So this handout features surrounding counties, Berkshire County, neighboring New York, Connecticut and Vermont.
These two maps are just simple drawings but they help to get a reference.

4.  The library catalog has a lot of information and you can pull printouts to review when you arrive.  I had about 24 things planned and began evaluating them.  Some were books, some were microfilm and some were parts of collections like the Berkshire Collection (the one with green tape over by the computers). They have a Master Index – Bibliography for this collection alphabetized Vols. 1-65++. I started with the stacks.  It was fun to push the button for the electronic stack.  I pulled histories of Becket, Otis, Peru and more.  I pulled cemetery records for Otis, Peru, and Becket.  I found a really great book that was a compilation of the cemeteries. I stumbled on it in the Berkshire Collection. 

Source:  A Guide to Berkshire County Massachusetts Cemeteries, compiled by the Berkshire Family History Association, 1988. This guide was very helpful.  It had maps of the townships and located where the cemeteries were and then a description and location of each cemetery identified.  I have not had time to find out if this type of compilation is also for other counties in Massachusetts and maybe Connecticut? 

5.  Family histories like the Davidson Family, and Descendants of Robert Rose of Wethersfield etc.

6.  Becket, Mass, records of the Congregation Church (township #4), transcribed by Rollin H. Cooke.  It mentions that on p. 518-532 there is a listing of the Becket Center Cemetery.  Of course I took pictures and our family of Philip Goss is mentioned frequently.  I need to review my findings.

7.  They had on the walls maps.  One was of Berkshire County showing mountains and the rivers.  The lecture I attended at the NERGC in Springfield a few weeks ago mentioned that people would travel on the rivers or near them and go way out of their way around mountains in order to migrate.  I had been noticing the rivers and they all had rapids in the Berkshires and were really not for traveling by boat?  So they much have traveled along side them?  I am very interested in the migration of settlers to the Wyoming Valley and where they would go when conflict occurred there.  So far I have not see anything describing this movement back and forth?

8.  They also had detailed topographical maps of Berkshire that were relief types.  Deeds describe things using the local mountains and streams and so far I have not found anything detailed enough to satisfy me.  These were great so I took some photos.  Now how to get copies?

They also had a copy of a book:  The Legend of Mt. Greylock, A History of a Mountain by Kirsten Demeo.  Greylock is the tallest mountain in the Massachusetts.  It comes in at 3489 feet…?  I wonder if my brother would like it?  He is such a snob when it comes to mountains and their elevation! However, if it is a mountain of note he knows about it.  I cannot fool him with a photo at a different angle.  He knows right away. He used to climb them but now he just Googles them. 

I was struggling a little with finding things and the librarian was engaged from the moment I had entered.  I managed to get a lot done and get a feel for where things were.  I explored their finding aids and filing cabinets.  The librarian had been helping other patrons and it looked like he was not going to be done soon.  After awhile I had to interrupt him and once he pointed me in the right direction I was off and running. 

It was time to leave and the librarian asked if I found what I needed and I told him I was confused about two cemeteries and that it was either Hinsdale or the one in Peru.  We took out the information and reviewed it and he discovered a notation in the information that indicated it was the Hill Top Cemetery in Peru, Massachusetts and he suggested that I tried that.  Hinsdale and Peru are very close to each other and northeast of Pittsfield an easy drive.  It would save time to only have to visit one cemetery.  I was on the hunt for Haskell’s? 

I did enjoy my short time there at the Berkshire Athenaeum and highly recommend this archive as a source.  They will be inheriting some of the microfilm from the NARA that will be closing.  I have no idea where they will house it and it is possible you will have to order it and they will pull it. 

This was a very good day.  I had long wanted to visit the Becket and Berkshire Athenaeums.  Paul probably visited the more ornate building version when he traveled in Massachusetts.  See this article and picture.

Dakota Restaurant, Pittsfield right next to Lenox, MA

Notice the bear….!

Since the restaurant Dakota was right next door to the Comfort Inn, I decided it would be the choice for dinner and it was not too bad.  You are greeted by a giant Kodiak Bear when you enter that is on its hind legs and paws outstretched.  The walls are wood paneling (yeah I know knotty pine, I like it) and the decor is like a log cabin in the woods.  There are two fireplaces at each end. I had been cold a lot on this trip because I had left my windbreaker at the Dragonfly in West Brookfield and only had my velour jacket and sweaters.  So a fireplace looked comforting and inviting.  Very rustic and I liked it the restaurant felt comfortable. 

I noticed a flyer about brunch on Sunday and thought that sounded like a good idea.  The ending time was 2 pm for Sunday and that would work well.

Getting back to the Comfort Inn turned out to be easy.  I just slipped through the green chain linked box and curb and turned south into the driveway of the motel.  Yeah, it was that close.  Going out on the highway and then taking a quick sharp turn was not something I was eager to do. 

A good day and now it was time to get organized for the next.  Oh don’t ask me to pronounce “Athenaeum” when I did the person didn’t understand me so it is not as you expect.  It is an old term for library.  I have seen it spelled “Atheneum.”


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