Indian Trail North Egremont


Note: Although this story is Eurocentric, it does involve the Stockbridge Mohicans, and references a significant Indian trail.

On the morning of August 17th, 1766, British Captain John Clarke and his troops stood at attention atop a Taconic mountain ridge on the Massachusetts border. The Captain barked his marching orders and his men commenced crossing into Massachusetts. They boldly proceeded down the mountain along a road that was also a frequently‐used Indian trail (now Shun Toll Road in North Egremont). The trail was an important path for Native Americans traveling from the Hudson River to the Connecticut River and beyond. It is also likely the trail taken by General Jeffery Amherst immediately after his visit with Sachem Ben Kokhkewaunaunt (King Ben) referenced by Bernard Drew in his writing.

Captain Clarke’s goal, he later reported, was to apprehend “some more of the mob.” (The mob being a rag‐tag gaggle of tenant settlers and squatters who laid claim to Patroon John Rensselaer’s land in New York state.) At the foot of the hill, the army commandeered the tavern of Isaac Spoor, turning it into their temporary headquarters. The troop deployment into Massachusetts was a risky venture, probably encouraged by John Van Rensselaer who realized British troops were not particularly interested in helping him with his property battles. Perhaps he hoped to provoke violence, and encourage the army to wipe out the insurgents.

Shortly after the troops encamped, they were visited by Sheriff Elijah Williams and Justice of the peace Elijah Dwight. They demanded that Captain Clarke move his troops west of the mountain (back to Nobletown/Hillsdale). The “invaders” dredged up the old argument that they were on Van Rensselaer’s long‐held New York land. An Egremont selectman then offered a document from Boston authorizing the support of refugees from Nobletown. Negotiations continued well into the night. About forty Stockbridge Indians gathered to show their support. Numerous Nobletown settlers also voiced their opinion in strong language. At one point the crowd got rowdy, and the tense British soldiers, bayonets fixed, readied for battle.

Clarke must have realized he was in violation of General Thomas Gage’s order not to pursue the Nobletown squatters into Massachusetts without proper authorization from the Bay Colony. Now that his bluff had been called, the Captain needed a way to recall his troops without appearing to be weak. The Berkshire officials cleverly suggested that Clarke’s troops return west of the mountain simply to lessen “the fears of the people” and assured the Brit that “their people” would not “Interfear upon the Troops.” In order to ease the minds of the locals, Clarke moved back over the mountain early the next morning. Locals were grateful for the brave support of their friends, the Stockbridge Indians. According to one newspaper account, the army “returned some of the Cattle they had taken, and promised to make Restitution for all Damages they had done in Egremont.”


—Gary Leveille


  •   Clarke, John, to General Gage, 17 and 19 August 1766, Also, John Clarke to Lieutenant Colonel Maitland, Gage Papers, Clements Library. Also, General Gage to Duke of Richmond, Correspondence of Gage, Volume 1.

  •   Egremont Proprietors Records, Southern Berkshire Registry of Deed.

  •   Berkshire Middle District Registry of Deeds, Berkshire County General Sessions of the Peace, No. 1.

  •   Knurow, Edward, Road survey drawings made in 1966, Edward Knurow Collection, Berkshire Athenaeum, Pittsfield MA.

  •   Boston News‐Letter and New England Chronicle, 04 September 1766.

  •   New York Mercury, 15 September 1766.

  •   Kim, Sung Bok, Landlord and Tenant in Colonial New York, University of North Carolina Press, 1978.