Article by Dave Read
The world famous Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival is located in Becket, an upland town that once supported a prosperous lumber industry and now is noted for its many summer camps and second homes. (Driving directions to Becket, Mass.) The West Branch of the Westfield River, which forms part of the northern boundary of Becket, is highly regarded by trout anglers. [retweet]
“In 1927, the Ballou Reservoir burst its earthen bank and poured a 25 foot wall of water down the narrow valley…and the settlement was nearly wiped out. The town’s principal industry, a silk mill, was swept away; houses and shops floated downstream with the flotsam and the debris. This disaster marked the end of Becket’s era of industrialism.” [The Berkshire Hills, by Federal Writers' Project, © 1939, Berkshire Hills Conference, Inc.]
Paul Revere and Johhny Appleseed – The bell in the Congregational Church (1780) was made by Paul Revere. Johnny Appleseed hiked to the top of Jacob’s Ladder around 1801.
In 1975, Bob Dylan & The Rolling Thunder Revue (including Joan Baez, Arlo Guthrie, Allen Ginsberg, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott) spent the day at Mama Frasca’s Dream Away Lodge in Becket. Bob Dylan and the Rolling Thunder Revue spent the day at the Mama Frasca’s Dream Away Lodge in Becket, MA.
How Becket got named
The original “Beckett” for which the town of Becket was named, is an estate or “tithing” which once belonged to the Admiral Lord Barrington (as in “Great Barrington, MA). It is located at the southern tip of Berkshire, England, about five miles east of the important railroad town of Swindon.
Sir Francis Bernard, the Royal Governor of Massachusetts in 1765, was a close friend of Lord Barrington and was himself a native of Berkshire. It is said that he enjoyed many a happy restful holiday in the beautiful surroundings of Beckett, and that these pleasant memories influenced him in 1765 to give the name Becket to Township Number Four when he approved its incorporation.
The origin of the name “Beckett” is still a puzzle. In early days it had been spelled “Becote” and is believed to be of Norman French derivation. There seems to be no known connection with the name or family of the famous Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas A’Becket. The name always went with the property, long before it was granted to Lord Barrington as part of his perquisites when he was raised to peerage.