Vol. IV No. 14 7/15/2023
Editorial: Bookend — Famous People of Stockbridge
For a remote village whose population never rose above 2500 — even as the population of the country rose exponentially from 3 million to 300 million — Stockbridge sure attracted many exceptional people.
Standing on Main Street in the eighteenth century, there was the house of Timothy Edwards. After smallpox wiped out his family, Timothy raised his nephew, Aaron Burr. Timothy's house (and store) was just down the street from the house of his father — the great theologian Jonathan Edwards. Across the street was the outstanding lawyer and friend of George Washington, Theodore Sedgwick. Both men had exceptional daughters — Esther Edwards married Aaron Burr Sr., and Catherine Sedgwick was an internationally known author.
Timothy's house was sold to Barnabus Bidwell, Attorney General of Massachusetts and Thomas Jefferson's righthand man. Just turn your head and there was the home of the Fabulous Fields — David Dudley, codifier of the NY Criminal Code, brother Cyrus W, the man who laid the transatlantic cable, and Stephen, named to the Supreme Court by Abraham Lincoln. Stephen was one of three Supreme Court Justices raised and educated in Stockbridge.
There's more. Step into the next century and find members of FDR's Brain Trust and members of America's richest families — old money, new money, and the New Deal rubbed shoulders on Stockbridge Main Street. Up on the Hill and down along Main Street are the homes of those who transformed America — changed it from agricultural America into manufacturing America and ushered in the twentieth century.
In that century, Erik Erikson and Norman Rockwell, the definer of psychosocial development and the illustrator of a kind of psychosocial perfection, lived across the street from one another. Just down the street, Katherine Hepburn launched her career. In town, lived Marge Champion from the silver screen and Maureen Stapleton from the Great White Way.
They were talking about the famous, interesting people who once lived in Stockbridge when they realized ... they still do. Right now, our population includes people significant in industry — credit, cosmetics, and food — people significant in medicine, government, and the press. And actors? Next door is "Mr. Big" — what tops that?
If Stockbridge was and is exceptional, it is her people who made it so. This issue has bookends — it starts and ends with the people of Stockbridge — the prominent and the salt of the earth.
Photo: Jay Rhind