270th anniversary of Fort Massachusetts siege commemorated


Photo Gallery | 270th anniversary of the siege of Fort Massachusetts

NORTH ADAMS — The 270th anniversary of the siege of Fort Massachusetts, one of the most historically significant events in Northern Berkshire history, was observed in an hour-long ceremony in front of about 200 on Saturday afternoon.

The culmination of the ceremony was the unveiling of a life-sized wooden statue of a St. Francis Indian. The statue was located on the so-called St. Francis Indian ledge on Massachusetts Avenue to the north of the actual site of Fort Massachusetts.

The statue was carved by famous sculptor Mark Bosworth of Athol and depicts the Indian looking southward on the ledge.

In addition, the family of teacher/author Wendy Champney, who owns the land on which the statue sits, also donated a half-dozen musket balls found during digs on the site.

The 18th century musket balls will be on display at the North Adams Museum of History and Science, according to Champney.

Fort Massachusetts was constructed in 1745 as a defensive outpost from the French and Native Americans from the west and Dutch settlers moving up from the south, according to Robert Campanile, of the Massachusetts Dept. of Conservation and Recreation and an amateur historian.

The fort was constructed of horizontal logs arrayed around a compound, said Campanile. It was 80 feet by 100 feet, or three-fourths of an acre, he said.

Inside were 22 militia soldiers, as well as three women and five children, said Campanile.

The fort itself was located in a swampy area, which may explain why many of the soldiers were ill with a stomach ailment at the time. The water, said Campanile, may have been contaminated.

On Aug. 19, 1746, about 900 French-trained soldiers and Native Americans stormed the fort, according to Champney.

The inhabitants of the fort held out for about a day before surrendering, she said. The prisoners were force-marched to Quebec, a journey some did not survive.

Champney is the author of "The Forgotten Ledge of Fort Massachusetts," which details the part the St. Francis Indian Ledge played in the siege. Champney said she believes that the French and Indian soldiers watching the battle from the ledge were impressed by the bravery of the defenders and opted to negotiate an end to the siege.

Following the expulsion of the defenders on Aug. 20, 1745, the fort was burned to the ground, said Champney.

Presently, a replica stone fireplace and commemorative plaque stands on the original site of the fort, according to Craig Chicoine, President of the non-profit friends of Fort Massachusetts .

Saturday's ceremony featured historians and speakers in 18th century dress. The Drury High School Band played selections throughout the event and at the end, the Williamstown American Legion Post 152 fired a 21-gun salute.

Copies of "The Forgotten Ledge of Fort Massachusetts" may be obtained at the North Adams Museum of History and Science and by ordering on Amazon.com.

Contact Derek Gentile at 413-496-6251.


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