Stockbridge is a town in Berkshire County in Western Massachusetts. It is part of the Pittsfield, Massachusetts, Metropolitan Statistical Area. The population was 1,947 at the 2010 census. A year-round resort area, Stockbridge is home to the Norman Rockwell Museum, the Austen Riggs Center (a noted psychiatric treatment center), and Chesterwood, home and studio of sculptor Daniel Chester French.
Stockbridge was first settled by English missionaries in 1734, who established it as a mission for the Mahican Indian tribe known as the Stockbridge Indians. The township was set aside for the tribe by English colonists as a reward for their assistance against the French in the French and Indian Wars. The Reverend John Sergeant from Newark, New Jersey was their missionary. Sergeant was succeeded in this post by Jonathan Edwards, a notable Christian theologian associated with the First Great Awakening.
Although the Massachusetts General Court had assured the Stockbridge Indians that their land would never be sold, the agreement was rescinded. Despite the aid by the tribe during the Revolutionary War, the state forced their relocation to the west, first to New York State, then to Wisconsin. The village was taken over by British-merican settlers.
With the arrival of the railroad in 1850, Stockbridge developed as a summer resort for the wealthy of Boston and other major cities. Many large houses, called Berkshire Cottages, were built in the area before World War I and the advent of income tax. One estate on the Lenox border, Tanglewood, was adapted for use for the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
Since 1853, Stockbridge has benefited from the presence of the Laurel Hill Association, a village beautification society. The Stockbridge Bowl Association maintains and preserves the natural beauty of Stockbridge Bowl and the surrounding Bullard Woods.
Stockbridge was the home of Elizabeth Freeman, a freed slave, late in her life. The former slave engaged the attorney Theodore Sedgwick to file a freedom suit on her behalf, based on the statements in the new state constitution in 1780. In the case with a slave named Brom, the county court ruled that they were both free under the constitution. Their case served as precedent to a later case before the State Supreme Court, effectively ending slavery in Massachusetts. Freeman transferred as a free woman to work in the household of Sedgwick, who became a state judge. Also working in the household was Agrippa Hull, a free black veteran of the war, who became the largest black landowner in Stockbridge. Freeman was buried in the Sedgwick family plot at the Stockbridge Cemetery.
Catharine Maria Sedgwick, a daughter of Theodore and his wife, became a renowned 19th-century literary figure. She was born in Stockbridge in 1789. She is the author of six novels, including her most famous, Hope Leslie (1827).
Nearby Curtisville, now considered part of Stockbridge, Albrecht Pagenstecher, an immigrant from Saxony, established the first wood-based newsprint paper mill in the United States, in March 1867. Pagenstecher later went on to found "numerous pulp and paper mills throughout the Northeast and Canada" and serve on the Board of Directors of the International Paper Company.
The town has a tradition as an art colony. The sculptor Daniel Chester French lived and worked at his home and studio called Chesterwood. Norman Rockwell painted many of his works in Stockbridge, home to the Norman Rockwell Museum.