The Hunt/Henshaw House: A Memorial to Colonial Life

Megan Gardner

Smith College

Copyright 1997

 The house located on 109 Elm Street, known today as Sessions House, has a long and colorful history. The house was built by the Hunt family of Northampton and was occupied by family members f or almost a hundred years. The history of this one family and its dwelling touches on many facets of New England life between 1660 and 1842. The examination of the construction of the Hunt's Colonial house, the social history of the family and Northampton and the documented material goods of the family reveal much about not only the life of the family but their place among a growing settlement in the seventeenth century, a thriving town in the eighteenth century and its growth in the nineteenth century. < /P>

The houselot in question, was forestland before 1664 and the Hunt family had not yet arrived in the area now known as Northampton. Native Indians inhabited the area called Nonotuck, or "middle of the river". In September of 1653, for th e price of one hundred fathoms of wampum (approximately $125) and ten coats, 64,000 acres of land was sold by the Nonotuck Indians to European settlers. This area, now makes up the towns of Southampton, Westhampton, Easthampton, Northampton, Hadley and Mo ntgomery.

Settlement of the area began soon after and the first wave of European settlers arrived in Northampton in 1654. These were middle-class "gentleman farmers" who were looking for economic opportunity. Mo st of the early settlers came from Essex County in England, among them were puritans who had come to the Colonies to escape the Anglican Church which they saw as impure. The land around Northampton was rich and abundant and would reap a large profit. Sett lers were given a houselot, meadowland and farming land.

A second wave of early settlers arrived in 1660. Among these, was Deacon Jonathan Hunt (1631-1691), a cooper by trade, who had come from Hartford (See Appendix A, B, C-1).3 He was given sixteen acres of land by Deacon Mather, who trusted him because he was an involved and trusted church member, around the present day junction of Elm Street and Prospect Street, which included a houselot.4 He married Clemence Hosmer (unknown-1698) of Hartford on September 3, 1662 and had twelve children with her. He prospered economically during his lifetime. As other settlers left for "greener pastures," Deacon Jonathan Hunt profited from large land buys. Town records indicate that he bought land at least nine times between 1660 and 1700.5

In his will he left the homelot to his eldest son, Jonathan (1665-1738), usually known as Lt. Jonathan Hunt (See Appendix C-2). Lt. Jonathan Hunt married Martha Williams (1671-1751) who bore him eight children. They lived on the origina l homestead for fifty-eight years, until the marriage of their eldest son, Captain Jonathan Hunt to Thankful Strong in 1724, when he gave the original homelot and house to the newlyweds. They (Lt. Jonathan Hunt and Martha Williams) then relocated and set up their household, which still included four children, further up Elm Street at the present day site of Sessions House, at the junction of Henshaw Avenue and Elm Street at the foot of Round Hill.6

In 1738, Lt. Jonathan Hunt died, stating in his will that "To son Jonathan the house and lot where he lives, viz: the old place...To John, the house where I now live, etc.,"7 clearly leaving the original homelot to his eldest son, Captain Jonathan Hunt and the new homelot to his youngest son, Captain John Hunt (1712-1785), who was twenty-six at the time. Captain John Hunt married Esther Wells (1722-1787) and settled into his acquired home (See Appendix C-3 and D). In 17 51, he completed the present day house located at 109 Elm Street.

Although the house has been dated as early as 1700 and as late as 1742, careful investigation of the house records, genealogy charts and other houses of the period show that the house was indeed constructed in 1751, when Captain John Hu nt was almost forty-years old. He had married at least six years prior and was probably using some of his inheritance to build the grand Georgian house still intact today.

Captain John Hunt continued, like his father and grandfather, in obtaining more land and serving in the military. He served in the Northampton Militia which was to protect the city from attacks from Indians. Although, there were only th ree Indian attacks in the first one-hundred years of the town,8 the militia continued to be an important part of Northampton and the Hunt family well into the nineteenth century. Even though he owned a large amount of land, it appears that it w as not used for ranching or dairying. Town Records showing the owners' ear marks of their cattle do not mention any Hunts owning cattle. However, cousins and uncles in the Hunt family were involved in various mercantile activities, and it is very likely t hat Captain John Hunt was part of the mercantile trade in Northampton .

Captain John Hunt and Esther Wells had eight children. The next inhabitant of the house was his third daughter, Martha Hunt (1755-1842) who received the house around the time of her marriage. Martha grew up in the large Georgian House i n a very prestigious setting. She was even afforded the opportunity of an education and spent some years teaching school. "Mrs. Henshaw [married name] kept a school in her father's house before she was married, in the time of the War, about 1776 or 1777. Girls and small boys went to her. Mr. Solomon Stoddard went to her a year or two."9

In 1777, half of all able-bodied Northampton men were sent to the battle field.10 However, Samuel Henshaw, a popular preacher, did not have to fight in the Revolution. He had studied theology at Harvard and graduated in 1773. Because of voice problems, he gave up preaching and went into law.11 In 1782, he married Martha Hunt in her father's home (See Appendix C-4). They had eight children in a period of sixteen years. He became the judge of the Northampton Probate Court and a trustee of Williams College from 1802-9.12 Both Martha Hunt Henshaw and Samuel Henshaw were prominent citizens in Northampton. "Next to Caleb Strong, he was the most distinguished resident of Northampton for a considerable period, M adame Henshaw, his wife, was notable for her personal beauty and force of character."13

The Henshaws were prosperous and both brought considerable wealth to their union of marriage. In 1809, Judge Samuel Henshaw died, leaving Madame Henshaw (as she was always called) a wealthy woman. She never remarried, and "she continued to occupy the old homestead estate, for thirty-three years thereafter, seeing her large family grow up to mature years, and after all had removed from her, for many years alone she kept up her establishment."14 Her amount of land was large, to taling over $20,000 in assets and extending to the plains area, which is where the abandoned State Hospital is located.15

On September 21, 1807, Madame Henshaw's, eldest two daughters, Martha and Sarah Swift, married in the Elm Street House in a double wedding to Isaac Chapman Bates and Ebenezer Hunt, respectively. Madame Henshaw's reputation as being quit e the social queen was continued by both her daughters and granddaughters. "The Bates [Martha and Isaac Chapman Bates] family was noted for its social life and hospitality. The daughters were famous for their personal beauty and courtly manners and as ent ertainers, and were leaders in the social life of the town."16

The landscape of the second homelot of Lt. Jonathan Hunt is not the landscape one sees as he/she drives down Route 9 today. When the Hunt House was built, the area earned the name, "New Boston" because of its high style and obviou s wealth. In 1753, Captain John Hunt planted elm trees along the front of his house and coincidentally named the street, "Elm Street".17 These elms prospered and grew tremendously large creating a delightful canopy over the wide street. Reveren d Solomon Clark states that the elm trees were "adding not only to the attractiveness and comfort of his home, but to the improvements of the street and town."18 A report done by Miss Mary K. Brewster in the 1930's says that "not only John Hunt but other members of the Hunt family contributed to the beginning of Northampton's 'beautifying the town and for their love of elms.'"19

An article written in 1935 in the Hampshire Gazette states, "it was not so long ago, and it may happen occasionally even now, that elderly people living in the Center, would speak of something that happened 'out New Boston way' in their childhood. Evidently the old name persisted after the new street was named."20 The street to the left of the house is called Henshaw Avenue after the stately family of Judge Samuel Henshaw and Madame Henshaw who lived in the Hunt/Henshaw House . A former postmaster stated that this is the only street in the nation with that name. The house had a picket fence until Madame Henshaw's death and photographs reveal an interesting carriage stoop, which she apparently used frequently with her active so cial life. The photographs also show a lovely garden surrounding the house and branching out on both the north and south sides of the house. "Arfwedson, a Swedish traveler, passed through Northampton in the early 30's [1830's] and remarked on the pretty w hite houses with their green blinds and adjoining gardens."21 It seems that he must have walked right by the Henshaw House and taken in its' splendor.

The end of the 1720's was a period of increasing wealth for the colonies. The threat of Indian attack was minimized, illness was not as rampant, and mortality rates were somewhat lower. As people began to go about their lives uninterrup ted from other worries, they began to focus on material prosperity.22 The flowering of the colonies was further prompted by discoveries made in the mid-1700's of Pompeii23 and the rumblings of the beginning of the Industrial Revoluti on in Europe. Styles in Europe changed rapidly to reflect the times and the colonies were never far behind in the latest fads.

The beginnings of Georgian architecture brought an "introduction of the classical element in ornamental detail and the formal or balanced element in plan, an element that implies both external symmetry in the marshalling of mass and int ernal symmetry in determining arrangement."24 The dominance of this architecture was captured by the upper-middle class and the wealthy. The home was not only a place to live but an arena to show off one's wealth through both its interior and e xterior. It was necessary to create the intended image in the construction of the building but to also have the required material goods and decoration inside the house as well.

The Hunt/Henshaw House was indeed meant to do all of the above stated intentions. It is best categorized in the second phase of Georgian architecture which was prevalent from 1745 until 1775. The house, although it contains many classic al elements like columns and pilasters, these are fairly subdued compared to Pre-1745 Georgian architecture. This simpler Georgian style also might be due to the fact that this house, although grand, was built far from Boston and other ports. The styles o f a local builder/architect might not have been expert enough to duplicate the high styles of Boston architects.25

The Hunt/Henshaw House is made of wood and would have originally shingled in pine wood. The common of the use of wood for structures, even though there was available stone, dates back to England where there is a strong timber trad ition which European settlers brought to the colonies.26 The house was one of seven houses that was painted white in Northampton in 1786.27 The use of white paint became available in the 1700's but was very expensive. If a house was painted at all, it would most likely have been in mineral red or ochre. By 1800, white was the fashion everywhere and was no longer costly.28 The house contains a gambrel roof which was also very expensive at the time. The Tercentenary Comm ittee of Northampton wrote that "the well-to-do gambrel roof — that peculiar construction by which almost another full story was made of the attic — enjoyed favor, until after the Revolution. It became epidemic for homes of size and pretension."29

The style of "5-over-5" window pattern also became the fashion during the eighteenth century, especially in conjunction with the gambrel roof. "It has been observed that frequently the builders placed windows in pairs, or twins, and bet ween them arranged an isolated window of the same size."30 This is also true in the Hunt/Henshaw House but one can easily see the reason for such arrangement. The hallway runs between the two paired windows and in keeping with symmetrical plans of the interior as well as the exterior, the windows must be placed within the context of the interior space. Windows were usually 9-by-9 panned during the colonial period. After 1800, 6-by-6 window panes replaced the earlier colonial models.

The interior paint of the house was also important. After chipping away at multiple layers of paint colors on the hardwood in the Hunt/Henshaw House, a light green paint was found. This correlates with the popular and available paint co lors during the 1750's. Most interiors were painted in greens, reds and yellows.31

The house today, does not represent the clear Georgian styles from when the house was built. However, there are a few remaining elements which have colonial motifs or themes. The summer beam is exposed in both Front Rooms. Althoug h the paneling has been altered considerably, especially by colonial revivalists in the twentieth century, the lower paneling and paneling above the fireplace in the South Parlor appear original (See Appendix E). Also, the molding and pilasters reflect th e mid-point of the Georgian era.

The social history of a town reveals the true life and essence of a place. The Hunts and Henshaws lived through the beginnings of the settlement, the flourishing of the colonies, both before the revolution and after, and with the turn o f the century, the 1800's brought significant changes to the Hunt and Henshaw families, as well as Northampton. As the town grew from twenty-five families in 1656 to almost 2000 people at the eve of the revolution to 3750 people in 1840 around the time of the death of Madame Henshaw, Northampton saw many changes.32 Four main aspects of Northampton's social history that were critical from the beginning of the settlement were the authority of the church, the impact of education, the economic welf are of the town and the social activities of the townspeople.

The influence of the church and its role in Northampton is integral to studying the context of the people who lived in a town with the likes of Jonathan Edwards. Very soon after the first families settled in Northampton a meeting house was erected in April 1655 to provide a place for worship and local government.33 The combination of church and state was not broken in Northampton until 1833, when laws were passed separating them.34 However, Northampton continued to do its' worshipping and governance in the same building until the 1850's when a new meeting house was built. When early settlers were squabbling over land rights — the minister (Deacon Mather, See page 2) intervened and then took over the job of giving o ut the land parcels.

Northampton was founded with puritan ideals and the families of Northampton took this seriously. Until 1825 there was only one legal parish in town and that was the First Congregational. Throughout the eighteenth century and into the ni neteenth, the "oldest and best" families all belonged to the congregational denomination and looked down on all other sects.35

The rules and practices of the people of Northampton were centered around the Church. In wills of the colonial period, the bequest of the family bible is often mentioned among the grants of land and money. This marks the importance of n ot only the bible itself but also the families practices and the understanding that the importance of religion would continue through the symbolic gift of the bible. In Samuel Henshaw's will, dated July 5, 1809, he bequests to his eldest daughter, Martha Chapman Bates, Wright's new and completed Bible and wills the rest of his children bibles of equal value. He then states "As a Parent who acutely feels for the best happenings of his dear children, I do beseech them to search the Holy Scripture and to est eem the Glories before the blessed GOD as their supreme Treasure!"36

The social practices surrounding the church were also important. Sylvester Judd, editor of the Hampshire Gazette and walking historian of Northampton reported in his manuscripts in the first quarter of the nineteenth century that "all m ale members who are heads of families shall regularly and daily maintain family worship."37 This meant that from sundown on Saturday and all day Sunday was the "Lord's Day" and No reading, walking or riding for pleasure was allowed. It is inter esting to note that the one day of rest that the people had was not a allowed to be pleasurable but instead spent reading the Bible and going to church. The town even wanted to ban delivery of mail on Sundays in 1841 because of the work involved for the m ail carriers and the conflict of pleasure reading.38

The second aspect of social history in Northampton was the establishment of education. Education was extremely important to the colonies. Massachusetts passed a law in 1647 stating that any town with more than fifty families must establ ish a public school and hire a school teacher. It was said that "church and state cannot live, unless school and college flourish."39 Northampton hired a school teacher as the town began to grow in the 1660's. However, the education provided di d not refer to girls. The examination of the education of females in Northampton further explains the social customs of the wealthy during between 1660 and 1842. Captain Joseph Hawley, a Harvard graduate was the first man to teach girls in Northampton in 1674.40 He only taught them reading in private sessions. Two of his female students paid more for him to teach them to write. Northampton was a prosperous town and most children, including girls, were at least taught to read. The education of g irls often took place in private homes, where young women took children in during the day to teach them reading, writing and sewing. Madame Henshaw, as mentioned earlier did just this in the time before her marriage. This "dame school" tradition continued after the Revolution.

The first private co-ed school was started in 1784. Ebenezer Hunt, cousin of the Jonathan Hunt's was part of the inception of the school. Ebenezer Hunt had previously educated his daughters himself and was opposed to public schooling fo r girls because of the use of public funds. His viewpoint clarifies the purpose of educating females: not to allow them to learn and advance their minds but to learn how to live and act in a prestigious society. To be able to send your daughters to learn how to read and write, tasks that women did not need beyond simply household uses, was a sign of one's wealth. It is also indicated that the daughter was not needed to help with household duties.

In 1835, Miss Margaret Dwight, granddaughter of Jonathan Edwards, opened a private school for girls that went beyond the elementary education previously open to them. Reading, writing, languages, music, art and sewing were all courses o ffered at the Gothic Seminary. Even this advancement of education opportunity for women was not nearly as revolutionary as first thought. Reverend Dr. John Todd, first pastor of Edwards Church gave the inauguration speech at the Gothic Seminary on Novembe r 24, 1835. He stated "the female mind never really had its powers tested, never having been placed in circumstances suitable to develop its true character.41 He goes on to say that the opportunity of education further prepares young women to s tep into their expected roles as mothers and wives. Attending schools like the Gothic Seminary were expensive and therefore limited education to only young girls from wealthy families. These women did not plan to use their education beyond their future ho usehold. Therefore the purposes and ideals of this reform education was not much different that the private schools or dame schools of the late eighteenth century.

Public education for females got off the ground in March of 1796 when the town set up a committee to supervise the Lickinwater School by providing instruction, determining school hours and inspecting and regulating the school.42 Samuel Henshaw served on this committee. However, in 1809 when he died, his daughter, Frances, takes her share of the inheritance to go to a finishing dame school in Boston.43 Frances Henshaw, the daughter of Samuel who went to Boston for f urther schooling was described as "having uncommon personal attractiveness and marked for her purity and loveliness of character in every way worthy of that deep love bestowed upon her by her relatives and friends. As to her mental culture, one of her sis ters said to me it was superior to others of the family."44 Although, the Hunts supported public education, they still saw fit to have their daughters trained to be proper young society ladies.

The economy of Northampton was based on farming for the first 140 years of its' existence.45 The land was fertile and abundant and the area was prosperous. Most settlers and later immigrants until the late eighteenth century were English. The town did not readily accept other immigrants; in 1660, an Irish settler named James Cornish was not given any land and was forced out of the town. Most people were either involved with agrarian work or the mercantile industry. The early 1800's brought economic changes to Northampton as large amounts of people moved to the area to work in mills in Florence, Leeds and Easthampton. The first half of the nineteenth century was a period of change as the old aristocracies died out and new face s joined Northampton. There was little work for women to do besides domestic servantry or laundry where $ .50 to $ .75 cents a week was considered sufficient wages. Also, town records show that Northampton had fifty-five Negroes in 1840 although it does n ot reveal if they were slaves or freemen.46

The social activities of Northampton through the 1840's paint the picture of a prosperous town with arts, music, lectures and foremost culture. Earlier, when examining the Hunt/Henshaw house, the message that the family sent to society was that they were wealthy and could afford to participate Northampton society in the highest and latest fashion and showed it through their house. The famous Madame Henshaw was a social spotlight in Northampton. However, the time in which she lived lent to some of her cultural experiences. By 1840, the town boasted of four weekly newspapers which highlighted politics, travel articles, science, poems and other local flavor.47 Bookstores in town carried all types of books in various interests. L ectures were held by societies and concerts were held on Sundays.

Special holidays brought Northampton society out in full form. The Fourth of July tea parties were well known and hosted by the most prestigious families, including the Henshaws whose daughter Louisa helped organize the parties and thei r eldest daughter Martha Chapman Bates who hosted parties at her Bridge Street house.48 The parties involved gathering in a decorated garden for early tea and conversation and adjourning to the Warner's Tavern by way of Elm Street for late nigh t dancing. The social activities of Northampton, like the involvement of the church, the introduction of education and the economy of Northampton created a backdrop for the Hunt and Henshaw families, a backdrop that they helped create and promoted its' gr owth.

The study of material goods is sometimes difficult because often the goods are no longer available and early records are scarce. However, Wills and probate inventories can sometimes offer literally a walk through a person's life. The wi lls of all the above mentioned members of the Hunt and Henshaw families indicate two important facts — first, the wealth and land holdings of the families and second, the distribution of inheritance and how it shaped the next generation's life. The first two wills are from the eighteenth century and are brief and do not include much detail. Lt. Jonathan Hunt died in 1738 leaving his land to his sons, as earlier stated and to each of his daughters, 120 pounds. He left his wife, Martha Williams Hunt, 1/2 of his estate unless she married again, whereupon she would have the use of 1/3 of the estate.49 In 1785, when Captain John Hunt died, he left his wife Esther Wells, all household property and 1/2 of the estate, with the same stipulation as Marth a Williams if she remarried. He gave his sons the land and his daughters 50 pounds each. John and Esther's eldest son, Reverend John Hunt, had died just a few years earlier and his share of the estate was distributed among his siblings as he never married . Both of these wills follow the same pattern of leaving the sons land and property and their daughters receiving monetary funds. The stipulation that the widows would have their inheritance reduced upon remarriage was because of the possibility that her new husband would control all her assets and take them away from the children of her first marriage.

Samuel Henshaw's will was more specific than the earlier dated wills. Whether that had to do with the fact that he was the judge of the Probate Court or the changing times, the reader can decide. He states in his will:

I give and bequeath to my beloved wife, Martha her wearing apparel, gold watch, rings and personal ornaments of every kind—all my silver & household goods and furniture of every description—all my liquors and provisions of every kind—all my carriages both for farming and family life—all my horses with their various bridles, harnesses and saddles, and all my other livestock and valuable animals whatsoever—I also give to my said wife Onton's Exposition of the Old Testament and all the books of faith shall remain in my library that belonged to her father and her brother John Hunt— The above legacies and bequests are for her own use and disposal forever inherit of power. And I hereby also give unto my said wife the occupation of all the real estate in Northampton for as long as she remains my widow and no longer.50

When Madame Henshaw dies in December of 1842 she leaves her estate to her three surviving daughters and one son to divide equally.51 A probate inventory of her house on 109 Elm Street was taken a month later on Janu ary 26, 1843. This inventory puts the final touches on the life painting of the Hunt and Henshaw families. The inventory leads the reader from room-to-room and item-to-item capturing Madame Henshaw's life in a polaroid picture (See floor plan - page 16). Determining the functions of the rooms and the items creates questions that the inventory cannot always answer but a wealth of knowledge of the person can be detracted from its' study.

Following the probate inventory from the beginning, the first stop is the North Front Room which appears to have been the best parlor for entertaining guests. The amount of china and glass is abundant and the full equipment for tea serv ice is listed, even including a tea bell. Eight mahogany chairs and small tables are listed. This furniture would be appropriate for entertaining and various bottles of alcohol are listed in the inventory. An easy chair, a worktable and a work bag complet e the list. Jane Dewey, Madame Henshaw's granddaughter, describes her grandmother in this room.

Well, I do remember her, how I used to esteem as among my highest privileges to go and take my tea with her, at her solitary table, my mother have deceased when I was but an infant seemed always to bring my grandmother and myself nea r together...She was a lady of the old school, especially marked by her dignity of manner, always at home sitting erect in her large straight backed chair, no rocking chairs allowed in her house.52

 One can almost see Madame Henshaw sitting taking tea and working on some embroidery with her young granddaughter.

Moving to the South Front Parlor, the space becomes less lavish (See Appendix E) This appears to be the family parlor. More glass and china is listed indicating the wealth and also the means to purchase imported goods. An interesting fe ature of this room is the mention of color in two items — "green window blinds" and a "carpet with beige border". This is the only room in the entire inventory where the color of an item is given. The woodwork was probably white by this time as indicated earlier and there is a possibility of wallpaper or colored paint.

Next, the South Back Room contains a bookcase and a large table which could have served as a desk and a number of books. The books listed include a gardening dictionary, Onton's Exposition on the Old Testament (earlier mentioned in Samu el Henshaw's will), published letters of Franklin, Channing on Slavery and various religious books. Each book tells something more about the Hunt/Henshaw family; the importance of the garden and elm trees set out by her father, the book left to her by her husband thirty years before, her or her husband's interest in politics and the continued importance of religion. The book on slavery is interesting in that in 1831, William Lloyd Garrison published the first issue of the anti-slavery newspaper, The Liberator.53 If the book was hers, one must note her interest on a prevalent topic during her lifetime — she clearly was on top of things. There is no evidence that Madame Henshaw owned slaves, although she did have domestic help.

The Middle Dining Room again shows off the family wealth with ivory handles on the knife and fork sets and more china stored in a side cupboard. Interestingly, dry food items are mentioned here. Could there be a storage room or closet n ot mentioned in the inventory or was this just a good place to store dry goods during the winter months when Madame Henshaw might have entertained less? There is a room next to the Middle Dining Room that is not mentioned in the inventory which could expl ain the appearance of the dry goods. The Middle Dining Room was probably originally the kitchen and was turned into the dining room when additions were later constructed. This room would be necessary because of the stairs next to it and is common in other houses of the time period. The Back Dining Room seems to have been the family dining room or an extension of the kitchen. There are many kitchen items listed such as Pewter trays, an old table, foods and utensils which support this assertion. Interes ting items include a basket of lime and candlemolds indicating that someone was making candles. Madame Henshaw was eighty-seven when she died. It seems plausible that she had domestic help making candles for the household. There were also milk cans listed which assumes that she had cows and also had domestic help to milk and care for them. The Back Kitchen and the Room Next to the Back Kitchen contain various household utensils common during the period while the Pump Room includes gardening and workshop t ools like hoes, axes, pails and saws. Again, Madame Henshaw would have had hired help to care for the livestock, the garden and the house. The Bedroom off of the Back Kitchen was probably servant quarters.

Moving up the back stairs to the second floor, the two bedrooms in the back also seem to be servant quarters or extra bedrooms not in use. The Back Kitchen Chamber only includes a bedstead valued at $ .75. The First Kitchen Chamber cont ains $5.00 worth of bedding, bedstead and chairs. However, the North Back Chamber was probably for the family or a child. The room is listed as having curtains, a trunk and a bedstead and bedding valued at $13.00. Going across the hall, the South Back Cha mber also has curtains and a more expensive bedstead but includes some particular pieces — a morning pan, a globe and a compass, a bible and a straw carpet. This room appears to be either used by someone who visited frequently or maybe possibly as a summe r chamber because there is no sunlight from the east as in the front chambers. The South Front Chamber and the North Front Chamber both include bedsteads and bedding valued at over $20.00 and including items like mahogany chairs, carpets, pictures and mir rors all in symmetry with the expensive look of the two front rooms on the first floor (See Appendix E). The Third Story was used as storage with random items listed like cradles and old bedsteads.

Moving outside to the Chaise House, the carriages and farm equipment that her husband left her are listed. Because the railroad was not available until 1845, the mode of transportation was stagecoach or carriage. The style of Madame Hen shaw in her carriage was mentioned earlier and it seems that the chaise listed at $37.50 would have been her most stylish among the five she owned. A cow bell and a dung fork indicate the presence of animals on the estate. The inventory also lists "Corn i n Ear", valued at $79.20. Madame Henshaw either had her son farming for her or hired help. One of the last items on the list is "1 Pew in Church of 1st Congregational" valued at $137.00, the most expensive item in the inventory. Madame Henshaw obvious ly owned an expensive pew and kept the traditions and practices of her family and her husband close to her till her death. Sylvester Judd recorded on Monday, May 30, 1842: "A rainy day. Mrs. Henshaw was buried today. She was one of the last of the old ari stocracy of Northampton. Her age was 87, yet a few months since she was to attend meetings, and was one of the most straight back women in the house — her head was up, her black eyes were bright and there was much dignity in her appearance."54

Her total household estate was $754.83 a considerable sum during this time. Although, probate inventories cannot explain everything about the life of someone and how they used their material goods the study of Madame Henshaw's probate i nventory outlines her character, her interests, how she spent her time and what she carried with her from the past.

The study of the Hunt and Henshaw family and the house which they lived has provided an insight into life in the Colonial period up to the mid-1800's (See Appendix E). The study of history cannot be grasped through only the history of t he people. The place where they lived, the items they used, the social context of their surroundings all reveal a larger picture that cannot be inferred from only the history of an individual. While tracing through family genealogies, patterns of life and death and continued ownership can be found. The inspection of the house where a family lived and the construction of both the interior space and exterior space, including the landscape offer a setting and evidence of the family's interests and wealth. Th e context of the surrounding town places the family within a place and a time where other people, activities, economy , religion and education are incorporated into the family's life. Finally, the investigation of the material items of the family tell a s tory that only make sense combined with the stories found from other historical sources.


F. Probate Inventory of South and North Front Chambers

South Front (Bed) Chamber






$ Value




Bed, Bedding & Bedstead












Small Bureau






Mahogany Chair


















Looking Glass






Round Mirror












Black Tin Nutmeg Case













Stain & Entry Carpet & Rods




North Front (Bed) Chamber










Bed, Bedstead & Bedding






Easy Chair












Case Drawers


















Looking Glass






Pictures & Frames






Andirons & Tongs



















Deacon Jonathan Hunt (1631-1691) - First Hunt family member in Northampton. He is given a homelot of sixteen acres. He settles there, marries Clemence Hosmer and has twelve children.

 Lt. Jonathan Hunt (1665-1738) - Eldest son of Deacon Jonathan Hunt that stays in the Northampton area. He receives the original homelot when is father dies in 1691. He marries Martha Williams and has eight children.

 Captain Jonathan Hunt (1697-1768) - Eldest Son of Lt. Jonathan Hunt. He marries Thankful Strong in 1724 and his father gives him the original Hunt homelot and moves further up Elm Street to the site of the present day Sessi ons House.

 Captain John Hunt (1712-1785) - Youngest son of Lt. Jonathan Hunt. When his father dies in 1738, he receives the second homelot as his inheritance. He marries Esther Wells and has eight children.

 Martha Hunt (1755-1842) - The third daughter of Captain John Hunt who inherits the house when after her parents' deaths in 1785 and 1787. She marries Judge Samuel Henshaw and has eight children.



Arfwesdon, Carl David. The United States and Canada in 1832, 1833 and 1834. London: Volume I, 1834.

 Babbitt, Ellen Hancock. Early Schools in Early Northampton. Daughters of the American Revolution: Northampton, MA, 1914.

 Bushman, Richard. The Refinement of America: Persons, Houses, Cities. New York. Vintage Books, 1992.

Clark, Solomon. Antiquities, Historical and Graduates of Northampton. Northampton, MA: Steam Press of Gazette Printing Company, 1882.

Committee of Historical Localities. Historical Localities in Northampton. Northampton, MA: Gazette Printing Company, 1904.

 Eberlein, Harold Donaldson. The Architecture of Colonial America. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1921.

Gay, W. B. Gazetter of Hampshire County, MA 1654-1887. Syracuse.

 Gould, Mary Earle. The Early American House: Household Life in America 1620-1850. Rutland, Vermont: Charles Tuttle Co., Inc., 1949.

Isham, Norman Morrison. Early American Houses and A Glossary of Colonial Architectural

Terms. New York: Da Capo Press, 1967.

 Jackson, Joseph. American Colonial Architecture: It's Origin and Development. Philadelphia: David McKay Company, 1924.

 Kneeland and Bryant. Northampton the Meadow City. Northampton, MA: F. N. Kneeland and L. P. Bryant, 1894.

 League of Women Voters. This is Northampton. Northampton, MA: Gazette Printing Company, 1962.

 MacDonald, William. Northampton, MA Architecture and Buildings. Northampton, MA: City of Northampton, 1975.

 Nylander, Jane. Our Own Snug Fireside: Images of the New England Home 1760-1860. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1993.

 Northend, Mary. Colonial Homes and Their Furnishings. Boston, MA: Little, Brown, & Company, 1912.

 The Tercentenary Committee. The Northampton Book: Chapters from 300 years in the life of a New England Town 1654-1954. Northampton, MA: Alan S. Browne, Inc, 1954.

 Trumbell, James Russell. History of Northampton, MA from its Settlement in 1654. Volume II, Northampton, MA: Gazette Printing Company, 1902.

 Van Voris, Jacqueline. The Look of Paradise: A Pictorial History of Northampton, MA 1654-1984. Canaan, NH: Phoenix Publishing, 1984.

 Wyman, T. B. Genealogy of the Hunt Family. Boston: John Wilson & Son, 1862-3.


"Remarkable Line of Men," Springfield Gazette (1904): 13.

 "Sessions Blaze Recall Others at Northampton," Daily Hampshire Gazette (Feb. 10, 1935).

 Clippings from 109 Elm Street Folder, Historic Northampton.

Clippings from photo folder of 109 Elm Street, Forbes Library.

 Letters of Jane Dewey (granddaughter of Madame Henshaw), Historic Northampton, MA.

 Lincoln, Eleanor T. Fourth of July Celebrations at Round Hill. Prepared for the Round Hill Club, April 5, 1993.

Northampton Courier, December 2, 1835.

 Town Records:

Probate Records of Jonathan Hunt, Registry of Deeds, Northampton, MA (1738) Box 76, No. 19.

 Probate Records of John Hunt, Registry of Deeds, Northampton, MA (1785) Box 76, No. 13.

 Probate Records of Samuel Henshaw, Registry of Deeds, Northampton, MA (1809) Box 70, No. 46.

 Probate Records of Martha Henshaw, Registry of Deeds, Northampton, MA (1842) Box 70, No. 45. (including probate inventory)

 Town Records, City of Northampton 1654-1754, Forbes Library.



Judd, Sylvester. Reminisces of Northampton. Notebook #3, June 8 1841 - June 30, 1845, Northampton, MA, Forbes Library.

 Judd, Sylvester. Manuscripts. Notebook #3, 1799 - 1860, Northampton, MA, Forbes Library.

 Honor Thesis Projects:

Hotze, Ingeborg. The Gothic Seminary: The Meaning and Influence of a Female Seminary for the Community and for the Liberation of its' Students. Smith College History Thesis, 1986. Forbes Library.

 James, Virginia White. The Development of the Education of Girls in Northampton 1654-1850. Honors Project, Northampton, MA, Forbes Library.

 Cobb, Elizabeth. Intellectual History of Northampton in the 1840's. Special Honors Thesis in History, Smith College. Forbes Library.