History

The Bassett Brook Bridge was built in 1830. It is one of the oldest unaltered bridges in the state if not the oldest!

 


In 1792 Elder John Leland, a Baptist preacher, had moved to Cheshire after spending over a decade living and preaching in Virginia.  While there he became very involved with a crusade to guarantee religious freedom and the separation of religion from government.  Leland knew and became  friends with several major political figures living near his Orange County home, including James Madison and Thomas Jefferson.  Those men were intimately involved in the formation of our country and the documents defining our nation.

When Jefferson was elected president in 1801, Leland wanted to mark the occasion in a spectacular way, considering Cheshire had voted unanimously for Jefferson.  An idea was devised for a spectacular gift that would allow everyone in town to participate in its creation - the making of a giant cheese.

On the appointed day in July (1801), town's folk brought their production of curds to Capt. Daniel Brown's cider mill where they were pressed into an enormous cheese weighing over half a ton.  When the huge cheese had cured it was taken to Washington, DC by Elder John Leland and Darius Brown.  Brown was the son of Cheshire's most prominent citizen, Captain Daniel Brown.

On New Year's Day of 1802, the Mammoth Cheese, weighing 1235 pounds, was presented to President Jefferson in a formal ceremony at the president's mansion (now called the Whitehouse).  Speeches were given by Leland and Jefferson and members of Jefferson's cabinet where on hand to witness the event.

 

History of the Cheshire Fire Department


The beginning of the present Hoosac Hose Company took place during the summer of 1892 when a public subscription was taken to buy certain fire fighting apparatus and hose. At a meeting of the subscribers held on October 7, 1892 a temporary business organization was affected. G.Z. Dean was chosen president, J.G. Northrup, treasuer and F.C. Brown, secretary. They together with three others were names to a commitee to purchase a hose cart and hose. At a meeting on October 25, 1892, they reported that a cart and 500 feet of hose had been purchased and paid for. Also at that meeting a permanent organization was set up and by-laws adopted. In apparent satisfaction of the purchase, Mr. Dean was elected president; Mr. Brown, secretary and Mr. Northrup, clerk. The name of the new organization was to be The Cheshire Fire Hose Co.

 In January of 1900, the company voted to hold an annual ball, the proceeds of which would go towards the purchase of a hook and ladder cart and a 60 gallon soda-acid extinguisher on wheels. Mr. George Haskins donated a Star auto chassis to the company on which the department mounted a 60 gallon chemical tank, 500 feet of hose, and three ladders. This truck lasted until 1935 when three disastrous fires in two weeks, one of them Mr. Haskin's own home, destroyed about $15,000 worth of real estate.

In the spring of 1935, representatives of the fire department, with the authorization of the town, purchased a Diamond T truck chassis from the Maxim company of Middleboro, Massachusetts. It was agreed that the Maxim Motor Company would mount a 500 gallon/minute geared pump, a 100 gallon booster tank, 200 feet of hose, 2 ladders and a hose body carrying 600 feet of 1 1/2" hose, certain tools and two 2 1/2 extinguishers. To save money, a windshield for the truck was ordered but not installed by the company. The cost of the entire piece was less than $4500.

The official website of the Cheshire Fire Department: www.cheshirefire.com

Cheshire was incorporated in 1793, and its residents were strongly partisan in the election battles of the country's early days. The election campaign which put Thomas Jefferson into the presidency was hard fought and Cheshire was the only Berkshire town which favored Jefferson. When their candidate won the election, the town searched for a way to show their support and pay a tribute to their new president. Because Cheshire, like their namesake, specialized in dairying and making cheese, they decided to send a gift to the president of a Cheshire cheese, but one using curds from every farmer in town. The resulting huge cheese was four feet in diameter, 18 inches thick and weighed 1,235 pounds (560 kg). It was moved on a sled drawn by six horses when it was shipped off to Washington, D.C. by water, where it drew a personal letter of thanks from President Jefferson. One of the two monuments in Cheshire commemorates the cheese; the other memorializes the founders of the town. The Pioneer Monument is on Stafford Hill and is a field stone replica of Benedict Arnold's Norse Mill in Newport, Rhode Island. The view from the monument is arguably one of the most beautiful views in the Berkshires.
 
 The town had early forges and saw mills, grist mills and tanneries, and in 1812, the Cheshire Crown Glass factory opened as did a triphammer operation. The town also boasted the first factory in western Massachusetts to manufacture cotton making machinery. Daniel Brown put 14 water looms into his cotton factory in 1827 and the making of shoes, cotton fabric and cheese were the mainstays of the town's 19th century economy.
 
 The town's reputation for religious diversity continued, and in 1885 there were only 1,537 people in Cheshire but there were four different churches.
 
 The rural town has been taking on recreational and residential overtones in modern times, with 225 acres (911,000 m²) of open slopes and wooded trails for skiers on Farnhams. There was in the 1940s a three-quarter of a mile (1.2 km) straight run at the Cheshire skiing area. In addition, there has been good fishing in the South Branch of the Hoosic, which originates in Hoosac Lake in the town. [cc]

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Former Masonic meeting place replete with an eight panel Christian door which forms the double cross as protection from witchcraft. Beneath the wallpaper in one of the rooms was discovered the beehive, the Royal Arch, the Bible - balance, the square and the compass.