A vivid picture of Berkshire, industrially and otherwise, is afforded in an old county map, dated in 1855, which has been offered to the county commissioners should they care to purchase it. The commissioners will consider the matter of acquiring it at their meeting Tuesday.

Fred Searing, landlord of the New Boston Inn, turned it over to County Engineer Harry W. Heaphy of Lee who had it on exhibition at the county commissioners' office at the Courthouse yesterday afternoon. It came from the attic of an old Sandisfield residence. It was rolled in brown paper. Although it shows the wear and tear of nearly a century, most of the important details of it are intact. It is five feet square and printed in colors.

An interesting feature of the map is that in each of the municipalities of the county, the names of the then property owners are clearly printed and the various town industries, with the names of owners, in some instances, are given their approximate locations. They show that old-time Berkshire was replete with small neighborhood textile mills, tanneries, woodturning plants, iron foundries, blacksmith shops, cereal grinding plants, etc., making the various communities virtually self-sufficient in the essential commodities needed in the quiet life of those times.

Steel engravings of four famous educational institutions of that period — Maplewood Young Women's Institute and Berkshire Medical Institute in this city; Sedgwick Institute in Lenox, of which James Sedgwick was then principal, and Collins Institute in Great Barrington, of which Clarkson T. Collins of New York and Great Barrington was director, grace the four corners of the old map.

The map contains, as indicated, a business directory of the county. Under Pittsfield are listed three hotels, the Berkshire House, William B. Cooley, proprietor; the United States, operated by H. Heaton, and the American house by Dutton & Dunning. The town had three newspapers: Pittsfield Sun, Berkshire Eagle, Culturist and Gazette. One of the town's business enterprises was a melodion factory. The present Lakewood district is listed as "swampy."

According to the state census of 1855, Berkshire had a population of 57,791. The principal towns were: Pittsfield 6501, Adams 6980, Lee 4226. North Adams was set apart from Adams in 1878. Sandisfield's count was 1615. 

This Story in History is selected from the archives by Jeannie Maschino, The Berkshire Eagle.

Community News Editor / Librarian

Jeannie Maschino is community news editor and librarian for The Berkshire Eagle. She has worked for the newspaper in various capacities since 1982 and joined the newsroom in 1989.