Continuing the story of Plainfield, a “small hill town” in the Berkshire Highlands

Courtesy of the Facebook page of The Old Brick Store in Plainfield. It is captioned on Facebook as: “This may be the oldest picture of the Brick Store. Note that the porch is not there and the windows are 12 over 12 and 15 over 15. The sign in the front referrs to the scales that were used to weigh wagon loads of goods. You can also see two openings: the basement window on the right and the entrance to the cellar on the left. Through the door in the barn you would have found the outhouse for the place. I’m guessing this picture was taken c.1870.”

After writing my last post, I looked a little more about Plainfield. What I found further amazed me. For one, the Shaw Memorial Library, within Plainfield I found that while it serves a small number of residents, its collection size is over 13,000 volumes and has an annual circulation of more than 7,000! That’s not all. I found the websites of a ” well-maintained horse boarding facility” in the Plainfield area, called Back Acres Farm, a volunteer church group called Concerts at 7 which “sponsors a summer series of classical music concerts” and a farm which raises “rare heritage breed pigs and cattle on rotating pastures” and a mention of “Ed Stockman’s Summit Farm in Plainfield, MA.” This is no surprise based on the geographic location of Plainfield in Western Massachusetts, part of the “Hidden Hills”:

Plainfield is where the Hidden Hills touch the Berkshires proper. The village sits at the base of West Mountain, with Mt. Greylock towering beyond it to the west. The meeting of the Deerfield and Westfield Rivers serve to give the place a cool and refreshing feel, particularly in the autumn and spring seasons. The 1953 National Book Award winner Ralph Ellison made Plainfield his home, until the novelist’s house tragically burned down in 1967. The author claimed that the fire destroyed 300 pages from his follow-up novel to the successful Invisible Man, which was never published in his lifetime.

Interestingly, I know that Ellison wrote Tom Packard, a son of Cyrus Winfield Packard and Clementina Cheney, since Tom was one of the founders of the Plainfield Historical Society and a well-known local personality!

One website writing about  Plainfield proves the assertions by Bob Mills in The Packard/Mills Family History about maple sugar trees:

The town of Plainfield, Massachusetts was first settled in 1770. Plainfield is a small hill town in the scenic Berkshire Highlands with 589 residents. This may sound small, but keep in mind that over the past 20 years this little town’s population has doubled. Began as an agricultural community, it now is home to a wider range of people than in the early years, including farmers and trades people, writers and artists, singers and musicians, loggers and welders, teachers and students, builders and homemakers. The landscape in Plainfield is a mix of high sweeping fields and mixed hardwood forests. In abundance are moose, bear, deer and the usual New England wildlife. It’s safe to say that the maple trees in Plainfield far outnumber the residents, and the Fournier Sugarhouse operation has set about 1,500 taps in the trees on and around our location on South Central. There are about two miles of tubing running the sap to the holding tanks along with 300 buckets. We are a little concerned that the moose that seem to frequent our land may end up wandering into our tap lines, but we are hopeful that Wally, our Beagle, will dissuade the moose from coming too close. Many of the trees we tap are more than 200 years old. All in all, they provide us with the best quality sap available.

This brings us to the Packard legacy, if you want to call it that, in that part of Massachusetts. In Northampton there is a “Packard’s bar” although it is not owned by a Packard, but a man named Robert “Bob” McGovern. [1] There’s also a man named Michael Rice Packard who served as the Highland Ambulance Town Representative for Plainfield from 2015 to 2016 and was on the Plainfield Energy Committee, trying to bring green energy to the town. There was also a representative named Sherman Packard, a bunch of Packards in Franklin County,  Massachusetts (Matthew H. Packard, John Packard, and Ellynn Packard), and an Esther Packard mentioned on a rug in Deerfield. Other articles noted a Debra L. Packard in Florence, MA, a Brandi Packard from Massachusetts, a Larry Packard in the Hilltown region, and an Elizabeth  Packard who works at the Long Pasture Wildlife Sanctuary in Massachusetts. Recently, the Old Brick Store commented that Mary Bowker Connell stopped by, who was “the granddaughter of Harold Packard, the last person who ran the brick store as a general store. Mary is celebrating her 92nd birthday today!!! She used to come up here in the summer time to stay with her grandparents when she was young. We had a wonderful visit on the porch!” Additionally, there’s the Packard-Chilson House in Goshen, photo of a house once owned by Col John Packard, along with mentions of the name Packard on ancestry.com forums, GEDCOM, along with mentions in varied books (here, here, and here). But, most interesting of all was the auction of the former “Old Packard store” as mentioned in an article last year:

Town officials will hold a third auction for a home at 345-347 Main St., Plainfield, in the hopes of finding a successful bidder for the property that was taken by the town in 2015 due to non-payment of taxes…Located across from the Town Hall and the Plainfield Congregational Church, the property was once an important part of everyday life, serving as the town’s general store…in the early 1900s the building was known as “Gurney’s Store” and in the 1950s it was called the “Packard Store.” Many in town still refer to the home as “the old Packard Store.” According to Bronstein, the property has been used as housing for many. [2]

There may be more on the webpages of the Old Brick Store (which notes the passing of Cummington historian Bill Streeter), Hilltown Families, and Plainfield Historical Society, but I believe this is a good start for now.

Until next time!


Notes

[1] Chad Dunn and Bob Dunn, “Tuesday hearing in Northampton to discuss possible happy hour revival,” Daily Hampshire Gazette, Sept 24, 2012; Dan Crowley, “Gazebo bra shop owner sells to 2 employees,” Daily Hampshire Gazette, Mar 22, 2016; Michael Majchrowicz, “Northampton police, bar owner stand by practices in light of ‘place of last drink’ report,” Daily Hampshire Gazette, Jan 6, 2017; Fred Contrada, “Walter Colby of Northampton sues Packard’s restaurant, assailants, bouncer, World War II Club following fight outside bar,” masslive, Oct 26, 2010; “AREA PROPERTY DEED TRANSFERS,” Daily Hampshire Gazette, Feb 12, 2017; Scott  Merzbach, “Report: Vacancies down, sales up in downtown Northampton,” Daily Hampshire Gazette, Feb 4, 2017; Lisa Spear, “A church is home for Bob and Kimi McGovern of Hatfield,” Daily Hampshire Gazette, Oct 20, 2016; Amanda Drane, “Liquor license goes to Mulino’s as bar owners debate need for more,” Daily Hampshire Gazette, Jun 8, 2017. The Feb 12, 2017 article in the Daily Hampshire Gazette says “Tracey McNeill to Michael Rice Packard, Greene St., 8 East Greene St., Easthampton, $228,000.” Also see a source talking about newspapers in Massachusetts .

[2] Fran Ryan, “Hilltown Voices: Plainfield hopes the third time is a charm for successful home auction,” Daily Hampshire Gazette, Apr 22, 2017.

One thought on “Continuing the story of Plainfield, a “small hill town” in the Berkshire Highlands

  1. Pingback: Packed with Packards and existing social hierarchies | Packed with Packards!

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