Western Mass HistoryJun 08, 2023
Episode 9: Damnable Outrage: Teddy Roosevelt's Near Death Experience in Pittsfield
On September 3, 1902, Theodore Roosevelt was riding in a carriage in Pittsfield when it was struck by a trolley. His Secret Service bodyguard was killed, and Roosevelt himself narrowly escaped serious injury. This episode explores the causes of the accident, the subsequent investigations and criminal charges, and also looks at the possible long-term effects of this accident.
If you are interested in learning more, the sources for this episode included Edmund Morris's biography Theodore Rex, along with a number of contemporary newspaper articles. Among the most helpful of these were the September 4, 5, and 6 issue of the Springfield Republican, and the September 4 issue of the Boston Globe. For photographs of the accident scene, including the one used as the cover image for this episode, see the Theodore Roosevelt Collection, which is available online through the Harvard Library.
Episode 8: The Pine Tree Riot of 1765
On October 25, 1765, an angry mob attacked two royal officials in Northampton. They beat them, held them captive for hours, and eventually forced at least one of them to resign his commission. The cause of this riot was their enforcement of the Pine Tree Acts, which restricted the ability of colonists to cut down valuable white pine trees. This episode explores the motivations behind these laws, the ways that colonists in Western Massachusetts resisted these laws, and the consequences of the 1765 riot.
Episode photo: Looking up the trunk of the Jake Swamp Tree, the tallest known tree in New England.
- Forests and Sea Power by Robert G. Albion
- History of Hadley: including the early history of Hatfield, South Hadley, Amherst and Granby, Massachusetts by Sylvester Judd
- April 24, 1764 letter to Governor Francis Bernard from Eleazer Burt and Elijah Lyman
- Pines, Profits, and Popular Politics: Responses to the White Pine Acts in the Colonial Connecticut River Valley by Strother E. Roberts
- The Acts and Resolves, Public and Private, of the Province of the Massachusetts Bay
- Hampshire County Court Records, Volume 8 (1764-1766)
- A report on the trees and shrubs growing naturally in the forests of Massachusetts by George B. Emerson
- The Exceptional White Pines of Mohawk Trail State Forest
Episode 7: The Dorrellite Cult
In the 1790s, an illiterate former British redcoat named William Dorrell started a bizarre cult in the small town of Leyden, Massachusetts. He declared himself to be the messiah, and taught his followers to practice vegetarianism, nonviolence, and free love. His cult only lasted for a few years, but its brief heyday was in many ways a prelude to the many different unorthodox religious groups that would appear in the United States during the early 19th century.
For more information about the Dorrellites:
The History of Leyden, Massachusetts, 1676-1959 by William Tyler Arms
History of the Town of Bernardston, Franklin County, Massachusetts, 1736-1900 by Lucy Jane Kellogg
An 1831 map of Leyden, made by Hezekiah Newcomb, one of Dorrell's followers.
Episode 6: The Southwick Jog
Ever wonder about that strange dip in the Massachusetts-Connecticut border in Southwick? It is the result of a long and often contentious border dispute between the two states, dating back to the early colonial period. This episode explores the nearly 400-year history of this dispute, and the various controversies and border changes that occurred along the way.
For more reading, check out these resources:
And also take a look at this 1785 map of New England, which places the towns of Suffield and Enfield within the state of Massachusetts:
Episode 5: The Springfield Convention of 1777
In July 1777, in the midst of great uncertainty during the American Revolution, eleven of the most prominent Founding Fathers in the northeast traveled to Springfield, to participate in an interstate convention that sought to address wartime economic problems and the nation's finances. This episode explores the history of this largely-forgotten convention, including the challenges that the new country faced, the conclusions that the delegates reached, and the long-term effect of this and other wartime regional conventions.
Episode 4: The Great Northampton Bank Robbery
In the early morning hours of January 26, 1876, seven masked men entered the home of John Whittelsey, cashier of the Northampton National Bank. They tied up the family and tortured Whittelsey for several hours, until he finally gave them the combinations to the bank vault. The men then cleaned out the vault, taking around $1.6 million in cash and securities, making it one of the largest bank robberies in 19th century America. This episode explores the identities of these men, how they pulled off the heist, and their eventual downfall after being betrayed by one of their own.
Episode 3: The Siege of Fort Massachusetts
During the mid-1700s, the Massachusetts colonial government built a series of forts along the northwestern border, to defend against hostile French and Native American incursions. Of these, by far the most important was Fort Massachusetts, in modern-day North Adams. This fort defended the westernmost flank of the line of forts, and it was the site of several battles during King George's War. Among these was the 1746 Siege of Fort Massachusetts, when 30 colonists faced an army of nearly a thousand French and Native American soldiers. This episode tells the story of the siege and the men, women, and children who endured not only the battle itself, but also the subsequent year in captivity in Canada, where more than half of them died.
Episode 2: Mount Tom Railroad and Summit House
Mount Tom is one of the most distinctive landscape features in the Connecticut River Valley, and during the early 20th century it was the site of a popular summit house, which included a railroad to the top of the mountain. This episode explores the history of both the railroad and the summit house, including their eventual demise during the Great Depression.
Episode 1: Steamboats on the Connecticut River
This episode will explore the brief heyday of steamboats on the Connecticut River during the 1830s and 1840s, when steamboat operators attempted to overcome the many obstacles to navigation upstream of Hartford, in the hopes of turning towns like Springfield into major steamboat ports.
Episode 0: Introduction
Welcome to the Western Mass History podcast!