By Raffaele B. and Jacob F.
Did you know that hidden in the pack parking lot of the Price Chopper Supermarket, on Route 2 in North Adams, better known as the Mohawk Trail, is the remains of one of the earliest forts in all of western Massachusetts? Built in 1745 the Fort Massachusetts was made to protect the white settlers in the region from both Native American Indians and the French. In 1750 Captain Ephraim Williams, one of the first and most famous of the early settlers secured a grant of two hundred acres of land in the town, on condition that he would reserve ten acres for a fort, and build and keep in repair for twenty years a grist and saw mill. According to W.F Spear, in his book, History of North Adams, Mass. 1749 – 1885,
“The fort was located in a then very exposed position, pushed far out into the wilderness, twenty or thirty miles from any abode of civilized man. Williams and his hardy companions erected their fort of logs, surrounded with pickets of squared timbers driven into the ground so as to form a continuous fence, mounted with a few iron guns on swivels, and defensible against musketry alone. The garrison at this time numbered about fifty men. After being rebuilt, in 1747, the fort was garrisoned by one hundred men. Feebly can the present generation conceive of the hardships endured by these brave men nearly a century and a half ago. Besides the regular garrison duty, small scouting parties were continually ranging the woods from one fort on the line of defense to another, penetrating far into the northern wilderness, to discover the Indian trail, intercept and defeat their war parties. Armed with his gun, hatchet and scalping-knife, with provisions and blanket on his back, the hardy soldier scoured the woods in quest of the savage, to meet him with his own weapons and on his own ground. Every tangled thicket was the place of ambush, and the tomahawk and scalping-knife ever gleamed before his eyes. The garrison of Fort Massachusetts had its full share of this adventurous service.”
Over the years there were several different forts built at this site to protect the ever growing amount of settlers but the French and the Indians continued to attack settlements throughout western Massachusetts.After the Mohawk Trail was built in 1912 a restaurant was built on this site but when we visited there was only the chimney remaining and a plaque remembering the fort. The North Adams History and Science Museum has a wonderful room dedicated to the history of fort Massachusetts. You should check it out.