Bob Mills’s caption: This was Uncle Tom Packard’s home in Plainfield on Maple Street. It is a shingled shack on a deserted gravel road in the country. The barn has been converted to a modernistic solar home by a young couple. West Hill Cemetery is adjoining.
Editor’s note: This is an essay, titled “Addenum” at the end of Bob’s original version of his family history booklet, seemingly written in a tone that it was meant to be read by his siblings (Helen and Carol), along with other relatives perhaps, The Packard/Mills Family History, which was sent to relatives in December 1979 as a Christmas present. However, this essay was likely written in July or August 1980. This text, in this post was assembled by this editor almost 38 years after Bob went there, as an interest coincidence. The text is printed below, with only additions of the photos he mentions. My family history trip is recounted at the end of this post.
In July, 1980 I made a sentimental journey to Massachusetts to visit the grave-sites described in this book, and to learn more about the family. In the Berkshires, I visited West Cummington, Cummington, and Plainfield. I did not visit Shelburne Falls, or Heath. South of Boston, I visited Hingham, drove along Hingham Bay, and visited West Bridgewater and Bridgewater. I will report these adventures in the order in which they occurred. The Berkshires are extremely beautiful, and I had lunch in Pittsfield, a busy town which hosts the Tanglewood Musical Festival nearby. However, all the little towns in which the Packards have lived are nothing more than wide spots in the road. Everybody is friendly, and almost anyone I asked knew about the Packard family in astonishing detail. Considering the exotic nature of my purpose, I was quite dependent upon asking directions to the obscure little cemeteries scattered around on the hillsides, and got good information from passerby and general stores.
Having found a few recent Packard graves at a roadside cemetery in West Cummington, I drove a few miles further to a general store which marked the center of Cummington. Incidentally, West Cummington boasts the Berkshire Snow Basin, which is ski tow alongside the main highway. It looks about 1000′ feet through wooded slopes. Anyway, a pleasant lady gave me some rather complex instructions to the Dawes Cemetery, and to ask for a Rev. McEwen. Apparently, almost nothing in New England has proper signs, so that one proceeds carefully searching for local landmarks described by residents. I found Rev. McEwen cutting the grass, and he allowed as he didn’t know the cemetery well enough to point out Packard markers, but there was an old lady next door to the cemetery, etc. Again, I found this several times, there is usually an elderly woman living next to the cemetery who knows the place, and is a kind of guide and carekeeper. There was one row of Packards. Families are usually planned in rows, with plots running either East or West, or North and South. Often later residents are uniformly buried in a given direction, with the early gravesites running at 90 degrees contrary to the rest of the cemetery. It turned out that William Henry Packard and Rachel Bartlett Tilson, and some of their children, are buried here, a fact which had not been discovered by Tommy Adkins, who had compiled much of the family history. Since this couple’s third child was Cyrus Winfield Packard (our grandfather), much more information was added to the family history.
I then went over a gravel road which was quite hilly, strewn with rocks and ferns. This is Packard Road, the original connection between Cummington and Plainfield, about five miles apart. Plainfield is basically an intersection with a few old houses and a few rundown businesses. Everything else is widely scattered and one-family farms marked by stone walls and trees which are beginning to reclaim the whole place. So-called Maple Street, my own guidepost, is not a street at all, but an unpaved dirt road between rural mailboxes and farms. Without a lot of persistence and the extremely solicitous assistance of neighbors who seemed to know everything about Tom Packard and the West Hill Cemetery, I would have missed the place entirely. So far as I could tell, the local population is either retired gentleman farmers or young couples who work in the cities, with occasional vegetable gardens in the side yards. By Midwestern standards, the soil looks terrible for farming.
I finally found Tom Packard’s farm, which is now owned by a young couple whose Italian name escapes me. They weren’t home, so after snooping around I went next door to an ultra-modern solar-type house which it turns out had been constructed from Tom Packard’s former barn. There an extremely pleasant woman, whose name I never learned, told me of the subdivision of the farm by Atty. Doris Alden from Springfield, and directed me to the West Hill Cemetery next door. Incidentally, Tom Packard’s house is little more than a tar shingle shack without central heating, and was constructed in 1946 after the old home much further up the hill had burned to the ground. The main product of the farm appears to be maple syrup.
West Hill Cemetery must have originally been a family-owned cemetery, since it seems to contain virtually nothing but Packard names. It was tended throughout Tom Packard’s life by him personally, and a $30,000 bequest was used to maintain the cemetery, which appeared to be well-kept. Uncle Tom is buried here, and he was 73 at the time of his death in 1975. Bert’s father, Cyrus Winfield Packard, was buried here with Clementina Cheney, his 3rd wife. Also there is a marker for Joseph Winfield Packard, who was said to be killed while “working on the railroad” in 1910. The grave of Bert’s younger sister, Mabel Hattie Packard Whitley Landstrom, is also here, as shown in the photo.
While I was photographing these stones, a battered van drove up, disgorging a middle-aged woman, a somewhat larger man with a huge beer belly, and rather impassive son. I was never introduced to the men, but she turned out to be Mabel Landstrom‘s daughter, Frances M. Rae, who lives in Shelburne Falls nearby. She was rather surprised to discover who I was (Does that make her my cousin?), and regaled me with tales about Uncle Rob, who seems to be the reigning success figure in the family. She was bitter about not getting part of “Uncle Rob’s” estate, and also bitter about not getting a bigger share of “Tom’s” estate. She was bitter about Douglas Packard getting 20%, claiming he was adopted, and not entitled to such a large share. She also noted that she had been married twice, “but never again”. In the midst of this harangue, which was carried out in front of her beer-bellied boyfriend, who offered me a beer from a case in the van, a 4th figure suddenly emerged from the van, almost knocking me down in the process. He was introduced as her mentally retarded son, almost 30 years of age, and after shaking hands, he retired again to the van.
I excused myself from this scene, and sped on to Boston. The next day I went to Hingham, seeking information about Samuel and Elizabeth
Stream Packard, the original settlers. Hingham is a rather exclusive little town, with large houses set back from the street, and it proved impossible to locate anything easily there in the general rush through Hingham to get to the beaches beyond Hingham Bay. I drove to the beaches and Hull, and had a delightful lunch on top of an abandoned artillery form which had a splendid view of the whole bay. Afterward, I took the Interstate down to West Bridgewater, and searched through three graveyards in this busy little community without success, except that I found a clutch of Haywards in a very old pioneer cemetery. However, driving five miles into Bridgewater, which is a really charming old community, I found the old cemetery in the heart of town which contained most of the original Packards. The oldest was the gravestone of Judith Willis Packard, married to the son of Samuel and Elizabeth Packard, whose name was John Packard. She was born in 1681, and died in 1761 at the age of 90. Most fascinating was Deliverance Packard, whose second marriage was to Capt. Abiel Packard after her first husband, Capt. Joseph Washburn, died. However, she was buried with her first husband! I noted three marriages between the Washburns and the Packards in those early days, as well as a possible marriage between Abigail Hayward, as the second wife of Jonathan Packard. Abigail died in 1760. The Bridgewater Cemetery is well-tended, and is a fascinating treasure trove of the old families of Massachusetts.
Some of Bob’s other photos in July 1980:
Dividing town line between Cummington and Plainfield
Presumably Maple Street, or another wooded street.
Bob’s caption: Packard Road connects Cummington to Plainfield over steep hills. It is mostly a gravel road with lots of ferns, rocks, and trees, but nothing else but a few random farmhouses. Only Plainfield has a few restored old homes – the area is rather poverty-stricken.
West Cummington, Mass. A ski tow (Berkshire Snow Basin) is located here. The mountains and streams are beautiful, but the soil, rocks, and growing conditions seem very marginal for farming.
Gravestones of Barnabas I and Mary his wife in West Hill Cemetery. As Bob writes, the cemetery was tended by Tom Packard “until his death in 1975, and actually on his property, now sold and subdivided.”
Packard gravestones in West Hill Cemetery
Dawes Cemetery, Cummington. “A row of Packards” as Bob described it. It is not like Bridgewater’s First Cemetery where “most of the early Packards are buried” as Bob wrote in his book
Dawes Cemetery, Cummington. Wm. Henry Packard (father of Cyrus Winfield Packard) died on Aug 21, 1898, at the age of 74 years. His wife, Rachel, nee Tilson, died Jan. 30, 1881, at age 56. This marriage produced 10 children.
My August 2017 family history tour
This expands on what I wrote in my ““Introduction” to my Packard family history“, while also drawing from “Chapter IX: Barnabas, Mary, and Plainfield.”  These are my reflections almost a year after this trip occurred.
In August 2017, like Bob, me, my dad, and my mom went on a family history trip across Massachusetts. I will tell this story in the order in which it occurred. Unlike him, since he was driving from Cincinnati, we started in the eastern part of the state, after staying in Cape Cod for a few days, hitting Hingham first. While there, I talked to the archivist of the Hingham Historical Society Michael Achille, which Bob, according to his above story, did not get to do at the time. While he was not able to find anything about the Packards in their database, except for some tangential connections, he was very nice, friendly, and was about my age, going to graduate school which was a bit of an inspiration for me to pursue the same path. We also walked around one of the worst parks in the world, World’s End. The scenery was nice, but there were passenger jetliners flying above almost all the time. Despite this, I did take a few pictures which I used to represent Bear’s Cove, where the first settlers of Hingham landed. The town of Hingham was relatively well-off, with many small shops and was bustling, filled with history. It would be different from what was to come.
Mapping places visited in Hingham. 1.3 miles between the two locations.
From Hingham, we went to Bridgewater. The town itself was a little-run down and not as well-off as Hingham. While there, we didn’t visit the historical society but we went to the First Cemetery and took some photos. Looking around, we counted how many Packard graves there were in this cemetery, which sat behind a Unitarian church. Some gravestones were sinking into the ground more than others. Others were leaned up against a fence. No person who would tend the grave was there. The gravesite sits near the corner of two streets. However, it was, if I remember correctly, protected by a sort of stone wall around it. Oh, I almost forgot. Later on that day we ate in a restaurant and I told the waitress what I was doing in Bridgewater and she said she knew a friend whose last name was Packard! So the Packards are everywhere!
Hingham Historical Society to Bridgewater’s First Cemetery, 18.4 miles away from each other
Moving on from Bridgewater, we went to Western Massachusetts, where Cummington and Plainfield resided. Before going into Plainfield, I went into a local post office in Cummington, where I asked a postal worker to help us find the Dawes Cemetery. I don’t think I asked for the Dawes Cemetery exactly, but maybe for a local landmark, but regardless she gave directions to the cemetery. It is at the top of a hill, where people zoom along in their cars since its some type of thoroughfare. There’s only a few nearby houses. There’s a nearby creamery nearby called Grace Hill Dairy, which sits at, as I looked up later, on 47 Potash Hill Road. This may help those who read this find it in the future. While there, we took some pictures, and my mom drove the car through a path going through the cemetery, something Bob seems to have done as well. We did not meet any overseer of the cemetery or anything, but it seemed somewhat well-tended, much more than the cemetery in Bridgewater! There was a marker across the street where someone was buried, but I’m not exactly recalling who it was exactly.
Cummington locations visited are mapped above. The Kingman Tavern Museum will be talked about later in this story, for obvious reasons as you’ll see later
After visiting that cemetery, we went back down the road and stopped at the Old Creamery Grocery which has a big cow on top if my memory serves me right. They had some local music act playing a guitar. It seemed like a bit of a community meeting area. We ate our packed lunch there at some picnic tables they had set up and then moved on to another cemetery: West Hill Cemetery. Like Dawes, this cemetery has a sign, and even though it has less Packards than Dawes (20 in West Hill, 33 or 34 in Dawes). While there, we put some flowers in front of graves of Packards and looked at the Packards as a whole. There were a few houses around, but its generally wooded there, with not much activity around.
Locations in Plainfield visited. The Plainfield Historical Society does not have a fixed location, but this is about where I met Matthew Stowell
With that, Plainfield was the next stop. I was set for a meeting with the archivist Matthew Stowell of the Plainfield Historical Society. He was not a permanent resident of the area, working and living somewhere else during the year and was a teacher. I won’t go into his political affiliation here, but he was very friendly, as he met us on the street, walking his dog, before my appointment was set to occur. His house was a bit of a mess inside because of renovations. His dog kept trying to lick me, as dogs always go to those who dislike them the most! Anyway, he had some local history books such as Only One Cummington (vol 1 and 2), and Vital Records of Cummington. He also had a genealogy of someone related to the Packards which had been recently given to the Plainfield Historical Society. I looked through that and found many photographs, pictures, and other documents I hadn’t seen previously! After talking to him, we walked around a bit more of Plainfield. The town almost seemed deserted. There seemed to be no visible industry in Plainfield. There are historic houses, sure, but its basically a one street town, at a crossroads, literally. They were debating medical marijuana in the town hall from what I could see.
Mr. Stowell recommended that we visit Cummington to find out more. We went into Cummington and lo and behold, a place called the Kingman Tavern Museum was open, which is run by the Cummington Historical Society. People were dressed in period costumes of the 19th century, I believe. One local girl, whose ancestors were a wealthy family known as Tillsons (Rachel Bartlett Tillson, the wife of William Henry Packard, was part of this family) if I remember correctly, was a tour guide inside the museum, dressed in clothing that women would have worn at the time, showing visitors around. Everything inside could be photographed. My phone wasn’t working that well at the time, but I still got to take photographs. Most amazing of all was a room in the tavern called the “Packard room.” I was so overjoyed by this as I wasn’t expecting it whatsoever. Later on, an older man who seemed to know Tom Packard showed me to their family files,which were in a building across the street, one of which, of course, they had on the Packards. I took some photographs and notes, but felt a bit shortchanged. We had to go onto another destination and I had to say goodbye. Still, it was worth it.
It was then that the family history tour ended. After staying at a friend’s house for the night, we went into a bit of Western New York, visiting Olana and other sites along the Hudson River. We then took Interstate 90 back home, back into Maryland.
While this family history trip was great, after doing much research since then, I know so much more than I knew then. Sometime in the future I’d like to go back and visit Hingham, Plainfield, and Cummington once again. Until next time!
 In the first post I added a family story: “as the story goes, he [Bob] entered a store in Plainfield, and friendly town residents asked him why he was there. He said he was researching family genealogy of the Packard family. One person responded saying “I’m a Packard, he’s a Packard, she’s a Packard, we’re all Packards here.” Another one of his cousins had a similar experience but slightly different in Pittsfield, asking about the Packards at a local library and they had a whole section dedicated to the family.”