Captain Moses Rice (1694-1755) was a soldier on the Massachusetts frontier at Rutland garrison. In 1742 he purchased 2,200 acres from the City of Boston and became the first colonial settler in the area. According to family tradition, it was under this tree, the Rice Buttonwood, where Moses slept when he first arrived on his land. He built a farmstead along the main east-west travel route, the Mohawk Trail and named it Charlemont. During King George’s War (1744-1748) Charlemont was one of a line of farms used as forts and garrisons. From his outpost, Rice extended hospitality to fur traders, scouting parties, and soldiers. Burned to the ground in a 1744 attack, Rice rebuilt the farm during a lull in hostilities and returned with his family in 1749. As military action between the French and English escalated again in 1754, Charlemont was fortified and garrisoned by local citizens, and Moses petitioned for permanent troops. While plowing his fields in 1755, Rice was attacked by a Native American raiding party, taken to the woods, and tomahawked and scalped. He died shortly upon being found. His young son Asa was carried off to Canada and held for six years, after which he was ransomed and returned in 1761. In 1871 the great-great grandson of Moses Rice erected a monument at his gravesite on the hill behind the home. The tree was still standing on the farm when photographed by Henry Brooks in 1890, Rice’s Buttonwood, with a girth measuring a massive 16 feet.
The 19th c. farm depicted in the folk art painting shows a land long-settled, with a verdant landscape of rolling hills dotted with grazing cows and horses. The rich farmhouse, barn, and outbuildings are neat in their coats of white paint and stacked firewood. Under the ancient tree Rice’s Buttonwood , travelers on the Mohawk Trail water their horse, while another elegant carriage passes by. The scene evokes an aspect of American culture that appears often in 19th c. art, the taming of the frontier. Order has been imposed. The 1871 memorial has not yet been erected, and although there is no trace of past bloodshed or the savage wilderness, the land is shown to bloom with European civilization.
Lot 212 The Sycamore Tree at the Moses Rice Farm, Charlemont
By: Cynthia Beech Lawrence