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Bernardston is a rural commercial center abutting the Vermont border and located on the primary corridor between Greenfield and Vermont. The town is known for its mountain peaks and its black slate quarries which supplied local gravestone carvers in the early 19th century. The town was settled during the mid-18th century with a series of forts designed to protect the corridor during the French and Indian wars. Despite its fertile land in the Fall River Valley, the vulnerability of the town to the danger of Indian attack were so great as to delay its development between 1744 and 1760, when the danger ended. Despite these delays, Bernardston is reported to be one of the first towns in the state to begin commercial production of maple syrup and sugar. The town had an early agricultural economy, raising corn and rye for its numerous distilleries, and along with abutting Northfield, raising 86% of the hops produced in the county. The industrial sector of the community operated six saw mills, two grist mills and produced 15,000 scythes annually. Bernardston has focussed on dairy farming in modern times and along with its rural character, has retained its especially spacious village center. The center contains a mix of domestic architecture from the 18th to the 20th century, interspersed with churches and public and commercial buildings. Residents pride themselves on the fact that most original architecture is intact and that significant groups of buildings still exist in their original settings throughout the village area. The most significant historic buildings, however, may well be Fort Connable (1739), one of the few remaining fortified houses left from the early 18th century, and the turbine powered sawmill which has possibly the last remaining cable driven mill in New England. (Seal supplied by community. Narrative based on information provided by the Massachusetts Historical Commission)
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