The Montagues at Sycamores



The Montague family lived in Sycamores from 1848 to 1900.


                                                            Martha Montague, Mount Holyoke class of 1942,   

                                                            lived in Sycamores during her freshman year.

                                                            This is her desk chair.  She became a lieutenant

                                                            in the United States Navy.

Tony Montague came to visit Sycamores at Graduation/Reunion weekend, May, 2014.  He lives in Hadley, MA.  He told me he has two sisters, one of whom, Robin, graduated from Mount Holyoke in 1992.  They are direct descendents of Moses Montague, born in 1797.  So the Montague family continues to have close associations with Sycamores.                                                                                                                                                                           

Moses Montague was one of South Hadley’s most respected residents.  Moses Montague’s family had been among the first settlers in the town, and his grandfather and namesake had gone with Ruggles Woodbridge to answer the call after Lexington, and had served with him through the Revolutionary War.

Moses Montague was born in 1797 and became a deacon at the age of twenty-five, and was connected with the Sabbath school as teacher and superintendent for over fifty years. He was particularly active in the temperance movement. A giant of a man, six feet four inches in height, weighing two hundred and fifty pounds, he lived to be eighty-eight years old.

         Moses Montague purchased Sycamores along with 20 acres of land from Ezra Allen in 1848.  He paid $3200 for the house and land.

One of the “true stories” of Sophie Eastman who lived up the street (now 40 Woodbridge St) from Sycamores (28 Woodbridge St) is that “the family discovered hidden away in the big old barn behind the house a wire cage, cleverly covered with hay, where they were sure the underground railway fugitives had been hidden. Apparently there was a door in the back where they could get out”. Miss Eastman also knew that her father and Moses Montague had some kind of signal, so that if the Federal agents came to Sycamores, the fugitives would come to the Eastman place and be taken to Amherst.  If the federal agents came to the Eastman home, the fugitives were to be brought to Sycamores and thence to Northampton via the ferry.  She said there was a tunnel from Sycamores to the Eastman barn, and also a tunnel south from Sycamores which connected with the old tunnel that formerly connected the first school to the second parsonage, this latter tunnel being found at the time the trolley line to Amherst was constructed.  Sophie states the South Hadley became one of the earliest stations of the underground railroad, but no other evidence of this has been found.  And the many tunnels rumored to have been connected to Sycamores have not been found. 

         Moses Montague began to divide his property in 1857, conveying “10 acres on the north end of the lot and half the buildings “ to his eldest son Eliot Montague of South Hadley.  Moses had two other sons and two other daughters, while Eliot and his wife had three sons and a daughter of their own.  “The shared house must have been very busy.” 

Moses Montague’s oldest son, Eliot, predeceased him in 1882.  When Moses died in 1885, he was survived by a son Calvin Newton Montague (b 1827) of South Hadley (who was married to Lucy E. Montague by 1893) and a daughter Harriet (Mrs Edward Hooker Judd) of South Hadley who inherited Sycamores.

Moses’ estate included $75 worth of stock in the Agawam Company (woolen manufacturers), a gold watch ($40), all his household furnishings ($10) and a carriage ($1).  His half of the homestead (land and buildings) was valued at $10,085, a fairly substantial sum for the times.  The Judds lived there until 1900 when Harriet Judd and her daughter Annie sold the place to Mrs. Rose Hollingsworth of Boston in 1900.

From: The Sycamores Restoration Project, South Hadley, MA, Feasibility Study, Gregory Farmer, William Gillen,, Thomas Paske, 1997 and Old Homes of South Hadley, 1976; History of the Connecticut Valley in Massachusetts, Vol I, p 357, Everts; In Old South Hadley, Sophie Eastman, 1907.

In May, 2014, the Sycamores Committee received a very generous contribution through the good offices of Richard W. Montague.  We have contacted him; he is a consummate genealogist of the Montague family who lives in Munich, Germany.  Here is a long excerpt from a letter to us regarding the Montague family, which has lived in this area since the 17th C:                        

I was not aware that the Sycamores House had been owned by members of the Montague family from 1848 to 1900.  The information is an interesting new sidelight in my understanding of the lives and times of the generations of the "Hadley Montague" family, who lived in/near Hadley from 1659 onwards and contributed much to the development of South Hadley and Granby.


You mention Sylvester Judd's History of Hadley, published in 1905.  This work also includes Lucius M. Boltwood's Family Genealogies.  I have a hard-cover copy of this volume and have used it extensively for genealogical research on the American Montague Family.   Judd and Boltwood draw heavily on the 1886 edition of the classic “Montague Family” reference work, History and Genealogy of the Montague Family of America, compiled by George William Montague and revised and edited by William L. Montague (a Professor of French, Italian and Spanish at Amherst College).  HGMFA has been digitalized and is available on line.  The work is also available as a hard-cover reprint from the Higginson Book Company of Salem, Massachusetts.


The American “Hadley Montague” family traces its origins to a Richard Montague (1614-1681), one of the original English colonists of the Hadley religious settlement.  Recent historical research in England has established that Richard I was not born in Boveney, (as has been traditionally assumed), but on the south side of the Thames River, in Warfield, County Berks (Berkshire).  Richard I’s date of birth (old style) is May 29, 1614.  The hamlet of Warwick is only a short distance from Boveney, but on the south side of the Thames river.  Boveney lies on the north side of the river.


The source for Richard’s having been born in Berks is newly discovered baptism records (“Bishop’s Transcripts for Warfield Parish”) in the “Wiltshire Records Office, Throwbridge” which provide data for the children of Peter and Ellen Mountague.  The reference to the “Wiltshire Records Office, Throwbridge” means, today, the Wiltshire and Swindon History Center, Cocklebury Road, Chippenham, Wiltsire SN153QN, in the United Kingdom.  Credit for this discovery goes to Roger Blackman, an English genealogist, who first published this information in the spring 1986  issue of Magazine of the Berkshire Family History Society.


Richard landed in New England sometime before 1646.  The place of his arrival in the Massachusetts Bay Colony is not known.  It may have been, however, Salem, since the oldest surviving written record regarding Richard I’s wife, Abigail Montague, is a notation in the records of the Salem Church that Abigail Montague “removed” (meaning that she had moved out of the Salem community, the date of her “removal” is not listed in the church record, but the record itself dates from 1647).


There is a second record, one from the First Church in Boston, dated 1646, which reflects that Richard and his wife Abigail had moved to Boston from the Wells Settlement (on the coast of Maine).  At least one of their children, Mary, was probably born in Wells, Maine around 1642.  Two additional children, both daughters, Sarah and Martha, appear to have been born in Boston, respectfully in 1646 and 1647.  Sarah, the second born child, died an infant (4 days old).


Richard and Abigail lived in/near Boston until moving with their children in 1651 to Wethersfield, a settlement on the Connecticut River (then in the Province of Connecticut, which had established in 1634 by pilgrims from Watertown, Massachusetts).  A letter of demission for Abigail Montague from the First Church of Boston to the Wethersfield Church has survived and is dated May 25, 1651.  The couple continued to live in Wethersfield for another eight years.  At least three of their children, Peter (1651), Abigail (1653) and John (1655 or 1656), are believed to have been born in/near Wethersfield.


After Richard signed the “Engagement” at Hartford in April 1659 (he was then a colonist in the Wethersfield Settlement), 60 “withdrawers” (including Richard)  moved from Wethersfield together with their families and worldly possessions up the Connecticut River to found the new religious settlement on lands controlled by the Massachusetts Bay Colony.   The reason why these “withdrawers” chose to separate from the Wethersfield Church was apparently a theological dispute in church doctrine.  The minister of the “withdrawers” Mr. John Russell, Jr.


The withdrawers named their  new religious settlement “Hadley” after Hadley, County Suffolk, England.  Hadley (aka Hadleigh) is an ancient market town in the South Suffolk region of England’s East Anglia and East Anglia is the region in the United Kingdom from which a great many of the early Puritan settlers came.  The withdrawers most likely chose Hadley’s ox bow bend on the Connecticut River because it afforded extremely rich soil deposits (several feet of fertile earth, caused by periodic flooding of the Connecticut River) and hence was excellent farming land.  They were farmers and agriculturists.


Hadley was not the first English “plantation” on the Upper Connecticut River.  This honor goes to Northampton, originally settled in 1654, i.e., some six years prior the founding of Hadley.


Richard died December 14, 1681 in Hadley.  Abigail died November 8, 1694 in Hadley.  She was a widow for almost 13 years.  Richard’s burial site lies on Old Burial Grounds of Hadley’s Grand Meadow.  No headstone for Richard or for his wife Abigail survives.  A number of early Montague Family graves are located in the extreme north-western edge of the cemetery, as is the Memorial Stone to Richard I, erected by George William Montague and Charles C. Montague, in August 1881, two hundred years after the death of the pioneer Montague settler. 


The inscription on this memorial stone reads:



To the Memory of

Richard Montague

A Pioneer of England


One of the First Settlers of Hadley.


Born about 1614, he married Abigail Downing of Norwich,

Eng., and emigrated to Wells, Me., from Bourney, in parish

Of Burnham, Eng.  In 1646 he removed to Boston, and thence,

In 1651 to Wethersfield, Conn.  In 1659 or 1660 he removed to

Hadley, where he died Dec. 14, 1681.


To perpetuate the memory of this founder of our name in New

England, this stone is erected by two of his descendants in

August 1881.


Geo.Wm. Montague

Chas. C. Montague


The GPS coordinates of the middle of the Old Burial Grounds (located to the north of Cemetery Road) are:  North 42° 20’ 3940” and  West 72° 36’ 0752”. 


Where or when the marriage of Richard and Abigail Downing took place, whether in England or in New England, is not known. Their marriage produced six children: four girls (Mary, Sarah, Martha, Abigail) and two boys (Peter and John), founding thereby the “base” generation of all subsequent Hadley-origin Montagues.  Today, all “Hadley” Montagues trace their line-of-descent from John Montague, the youngest child of the marriage of Richard and Abigail, since John’s older brother Peter (1651) died sine prole (without heirs).


The John Montague cited above married Hannah Smith in 1681 in Hadley.  She was the daughter of Chileab  and Hannah Smith of Hadley.  The Smith family had been one of the original settlers of Hadley.  Their marriage produced ten children, viz:


John (1681)

Richard (1684)

Hannah (1687)

Hannah (1689)

Peter (1690)

William (1692)

Samuel (1695)

Hannah (1697)

Luke (1699)

Nathaniel (1704)


I am a descendant of the “Peter” line of the Hadley Montague family.  From this Peter, the grandson of Richard I, my line of descent is Josiah Montague (1727-1810), Giles Montague (1774-1817), Giles Franklin Montague (1803-1875), Giles Rollin Montague (1830-1914), Wallace Rollin Montague (1866-1919), Theodore Giles Montague (1899-1967).  I was born in Madison, Wisconsin in March 1934.  Giles Rollin Montague was the first Montague in the “John” line to move from western Massachusetts to Wisconsin.  He settled in La Crosse, Wisconsin, where my grandfather and father were both born.


Thank you for your kind invitation to visit when I am next in South Hadley.  I will try to make a point of doing so.


Genealogically Yours,


Richard Wallace Montague



Weekend, May, 2014

A Brief History

Montagues at Sycamores


Joseph Brodsky

Brodsky Exhibit

The Sycamores Committee

Outline History of Sycamores and Rawson House

Mount Holyoke Alumnae of


Sycamores Restoration

Parlor Wallpaper

Wallpaper and Paint

Concealed Shoes

Rawson House

Water Tower


HABS, Historic American

Buildings Survey

Reflections from the House

Letter from Sycamores, 1832

Bark of the Tree