The following is a guest article written by UMass Amherst graduate, Matthew Kushi, about the Stockbridge family farm in North Hadley, MA.
In the early 1800’s, Horace Smith and his wife, Mary Belding, bought farm land that was to become the Levi Stockbridge farm in North Hadley, MA. Horace accumulated close to 13 acres of continuous land that was once part of the Forty Acres Meadows in North Hadley. This land was bounded easterly by the highway through North Hadley, northerly by another lot and the Mill River that flows from the North Hadley Pond (aka Lake Warner) and bounded westerly by the Connecticut River. The bottom agricultural lands were – and still are to this day – considered prime agricultural land. This junction of water bodies was also once known as a fishing spot for the Native Americans from QuontQuont’s village in the North Hadley Village who once inhabited the lands.
Horace Smith and his family lived on the northern part of the lot in the upper area by the highway. Among the children whom Horace and Mary Smith raised on this farm were two daughters named Joanna Smith and Martha Smith, who became part of this story.
In the 1850’s, the eldest daughter, Joanna, married a widowed North Hadley farmer who was still quite young in years and who was highly regarded for his knowledge of agriculture – Levi Stockbridge. They lived and raised a family on the Stockbridge Farm – which is the present day Mokrzecki Farm in North Hadley – on the street that bears the Stockbridge name. Levi Stockbridge became a leading proponent for a new kind of college that would teach the art and the science of agriculture.
While several towns wanted the new agricultural college, Levi Stockbridge was one of the strongest voices arguing that the new Massachusetts school should be located in rural Amherst, MA. Stockbridge would go on to become the first employee and Professor of Agriculture at the new Massachusetts Agricultural College (now the University of Massachusetts Amherst) and later President of the College. This seems fitting, as Levi Stockbridge was, above all else, a farmer with agricultural ties to his home in North Hadley. Stockbridge’s success in agricultural education would not have been possible without the fundamental understanding farming, how it functions, and how to raise crops and livestock, that he learned on his North Hadley farm.
While researching the deeds from the 19th century on this piece of land, it was found that Stockbridge had an interest in this farm until his time as President of Massachusetts Agricultural College. This is where Martha Smith, the youngest daughter of Horace Smith, comes into the picture. Martha Smith married a man from Colrain, MA, a young farmer living in North Hadley named William A. Wilson. From records and maps, it appears that once Martha Smith and William A. Wilson were married, they took over management of the farm. It also appears that Levi Stockbridge may have held the mortgage to the farm, which he deeded outright to William A. Wilson in 1882 around the time of Joanna’s, death. The farm stayed in the Wilson family until 1925. William A. Wilson died in 1913 and the farm was deeded to his sons, Jesse Stockbridge Wilson and William H. Wilson. In April 1917, a fire occurred on the property and – according to newspaper accounts of the event – the house, tobacco shed and barn of Jesse S. Wilson burned to the ground.
In March of 1925, Jesse Wilson sold the 13 acres to a farmer who had come to Hadley from Poland with his wife in 1903. At the time of the sale, Josef Kuszai (aka Joseph Kushi) owned a farm just east of the property on Mt. Warner Rd. From 1925-1961 – the time of Joseph’s death, the bottomland of the farm was used for asparagus and tobacco before being sold in 1957. The upper land of the farm was used for vegetable gardens and crops, a sawmill, a pasture and family homes. Most of the upper land of the original Smith farm remains in the Kushi family to this day. Joseph’s son, Joseph, and his wife built a home on part of the old house foundation from the Wilson and Smith families. The stone wall remains of the barns still remain in the backyard of that property.
Here is where I come in. My name is Matt Kushi and I am familiar with this story as Joseph and Mary Kushi are my grandparents. I live on some of the old Stockbridge farm as well. I am well-versed in the story of Levi Stockbridge as I am both a North Hadley farmer and an employee and former student at UMass Amherst. Knowing that I live on land that was part of the Levi Stockbridge family legacy is something that I cherish. I was pleased to be invited to add my own recollections to this blog page celebrating professor and farmer, Levi Stockbridge.
*Research done through Hampshire Registry of Deeds, www.ancestry.com (Wilson and Smith families), Kushi Family History, Levi Stockbridge papers.