Explore Historic Williamstown Week 1!

Posted by on May 3, 2020 in Talks | Comments Off on Explore Historic Williamstown Week 1!

Explore Historic Williamstown Week 1!

Explore Historic Williamstown!

We hope you are holding up well and remaining healthy.  While we are still encouraged to maintain our “social distancing” status, we encourage you to explore historic Williamstown! Throughout town, nine historic sites are marked with plaques, describing their significance.  Eight of the plaques were installed by the Williamstown Bicentennial Committee in commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the town’s settlement, in 1953, and one was installed by a town resident.

We are currently running a series on our FaceBook page about the town’s historic sites, but we understand that not all of our members and friends use FaceBook, and we want everyone to take part in a “scavenger hunt” for our historic site markers.  Each week we will post information about the marker at one of the town’s historic sites. If you wish to drive to find the markers, there is parking near each one, but getting out on foot, if possible, may be a great way to enjoy the spring and capture history at the same time.  We encourage you to photograph the historic sites and email us the photo so that we may add it to our collection of current images of the historic sites in town.  Please take care and have fun!

Benedict Arnold slept where?!?

Right here in Williamstown at the Nehemiah Smedley House, but where is that?

On May 6, 1775 West Hoosuck (the town was not yet Williamstown) tavern owner Nehemiah Smedley contracted with Benedict Arnold (then a revolutionary war hero, not a traitor) to produce or procure enough biscuits, salted pork, and rum to supply a contingent of men for a few weeks. According to the contract, which still exists, Arnold paid Smedley five pounds for the goods.

Can you locate the former home of Nehemiah Smedley’s tavern and its historical marker?

Captain Nehemiah Smedley was one of the seven sons of Captain Samuel Smedley III and Esther Kilbourne. He was born in Litchfield, CT, in 1732 and died in Williamstown in 1789. One of the notable early residents of our town, he served as a military and civic leader, built a handsome house, owned a fine farm, and ran a tavern.

In 1754 Nehemiah Smedley planted the first orchard in Williamstown, but not at the site of the Smedley house that is still standing. His first property was at intersection of South Street and Field Park, where the Williams College Center for Development Economics (former Delta Psi fraternity, also known as St. Anthony Hall) now sits.

A few facts about Nehemiah Smedley:
1. At 35 years old he was the youngest member of the Building and Seating Committee for the first meetinghouse (First Congregational Church) in 1768, but he never joined the church
2. No portrait or other likeness of this “founding father” of Williamstown is known to exist
3. No headstone was erected over his grave and even the place of his burial within the limits of the graveyard is unknown.

Are you interested in learning more about Nehemiah Smedley?  You can watch a WilliNet video of a WHM sponsored lecture, presented in April 2014, by Louise Dudley and Judith Wilson, descendants of Smedley.  Here is a link to the video: Smedley Family Video.   In 2015, Bruce McDonald, the owner of the home, carried out extensive work on the house and presented a program on the history of the house and its restoration.  You can watch the video here: Smedley House Video Enjoy!

How many of you found the historical marker by his home/tavern on Main Street? The privately owned house has recently been beautifully restored and is a real gem of Williamstown architecture. Take a peek next time you are driving or walking past.  If you do, we hope you will photograph it and, and send the image to [email protected].