Cheshire Past & Present


Cheshire joins three other Berkshire towns as Appalachian Trail Communities: Great Barrington, North Adams, and Dalton.

"There are over 40 communities along the Appalachian Trail's corridor that have been recognized in The Appalachian Trail Community™ program. These towns and cities are considered assets by all that use the A.T., and many of these towns act as good friends and neighbors to the Trail. As a visitor on the Trail, you can enjoy special events and promotions in these designated areas."

                                                                                                  - Appalachian Trail Conservancy

Recent articles:

July 3, 2018
Cheshire Celebrates Appalachian Trail Community Designation


May 14, 2018
Cheshire Designated As Appalachian Trail Community



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.


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]



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.

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:

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


As of the census of 2000, there were 3,401 people, 1,367 households, and 985 families residing in the town. The population density was 126.3 people per square mile (48.7/km²). There were 1,470 housing units at an average density of 54.6/sq mi (21.1/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 98.21% White, 0.38% African American, 0.09% Native American, 0.62% Asian, 0.06% from other races, and 0.65% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.44% of the population. information on Cheshire, MA

There were 1,367 households out of which 30.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 59.8% were married couples living together, 8.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 27.9% were non-families. 23.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.49 and the average family size was 2.92.

In the town the population was spread out with 23.4% under the age of 18, 6.6% from 18 to 24, 27.6% from 25 to 44, 28.1% from 45 to 64, and 14.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 41 years. For every 100 females there were 100.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 98.5 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $41,981, and the median income for a family was $53,885. Males had a median income of $40,205 versus $26,042 for females. The per capita income for the town was $19,156. About 4.6% of families and 6.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 9.3% of those under age 18 and 6.3% of those age 65 or over. [cc]

Cheshire is located within the valley of the Hoosic River, and is the site of a dammed reservoir on the river. To the west, parts of Mount Greylock State Reservation take up sections of town, and includes a section of the auto road. To the southeast, North Mountain peaks just outside town limits before descending to the valley. The Appalachian Trail crosses through the center of town, heading from North Mountain to Mount Greylock. The southern foothills of the Hoosac Range make up much of the eastern side of town, and much of the land is dotted with sections of the Chalet and Stafford Hill Wildlife Management Areas. Several other brooks feed into the river along the way.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 27.5 square miles (71.4 km²), of which, 26.9 square miles (69.8 km²) of it is land and 0.6 square miles (1.6 km²) of it (2.21%) is water.

Cheshire is bound by New Ashford to the northwest, Adams to the north, Savoy to the northeast, Windsor to the east, Dalton to the southeast, and Lanesborough to the south and west. Cheshire's town center is located 10.5 miles northeast of Pittsfield, 53 miles northwest of Springfield, and 135 miles west-northwest of Boston (although the town is closer to Hartford and Albany than its own state capital).

Massachusetts Route 8 is the main route through town, crossing from south to north. It was once part of New England Interstate Route 8, which led from North Adams to Bridgeport, Connecticut. Route 116 also cuts through the northeast corner of town, and several sections provide panoramic views of Mount Greylock to the west.

The town lies along one of the routes of the Berkshire Regional Transit Authority bus line. Regional service can be found in both North Adams and Pittsfield, as can regional air service. The nearest airport with national service is Albany International Airport.

The town is the site of an abandoned rail line. The Ashuwillticook Rail Trail /ˌæʃuːˈwɪltɨkʊk/ is a scenic, paved, 11 mile (18 km) path connecting the Berkshire towns of Lanesboro, Cheshire, and Adams. The trail runs parallel to Route 8 and passes through woods and marshlands, and alongside a lake and a river, with wooded hills and Mt. Greylock, as a backdrop. The Trail is a former railroad corridor converted into a 10 foot (3 m) wide paved universally accessible path and has become a popular resource for biking, walking, roller-blading, jogging, etc. The southern end of the Trail begins at the entrance to the Berkshire Mall off Route 8 in Lanesborough and travels 11 miles north to the center of Adams. The Trial passes through the Hoosac River Valley, between Mount Greylock and the Hoosac Range. Cheshire Reservoir, the Hoosac River and associated wetland communities flank much of the trail offering outstanding views and abundant wildlife. The word Ashuwillticook is from the Native American name for the south branch of the Hoosic River and literally means “at the in-between pleasant river,” or in common tongue, “the pleasant river in between the hills.” The name was adopted for the trail as a way to reconnect people to local history and the natural environment. [cc]