Learn about two very different people who fought for freedom and liberty—and changed our region’s history.
The Ashley House—part of the Berkshire 18th Century Trail and listed on the National Register of Historic Places—tells the intertwined stories of the Ashleys and the enslaved people who lived here in the 18th century. Col. John Ashley built the house in 1735, and spent the following decades accumulating wealth and land. Ashley eventually owned more than 3,000 acres, including the land comprising Bartholomew’s Cobble. Ashley supported the American Revolution, heading a committee that wrote the fiery Sheffield Resolves—a petition against British tyranny and manifesto for individual rights—in 1773. His financial success was based in part on the labor of five enslaved people.
Inspired by Revolution-era rhetoric and her own desire for freedom, Elizabeth Freeman, known as Mum Bett and enslaved in the Ashley House, helped end slavery in Massachusetts. In 1781, she sued and won her freedom from Col. Ashley, becoming the first enslaved person in Massachusetts to win a freedom suit.
Re-experience these important historical events on a tour of the Ashley House. Along with a selection of 18th- and 19th-century furniture, tools, and redware, you’ll learn about the American Revolution, the region’s history of slavery, and the lives and legacies of Col. Ashley and Mum Bett.
Mum Bett: The Story of Elizabeth Freeman, If They Close the Door on You, Go in the Window, and African American Heritage in the Housatonic Valley are available for sale during house tour hours.
More information about Elizabeth Freeman can be found at:
Grounds: Free to all.
This property is open during normal hours. The Trustees asks that visitors follow social distancing guidelines for the health and safety of all. Please note: all buildings and inside areas remain closed on all properties. For more information about our response to COVID-19, please click here.
When to Visit
Grounds: Year-round, daily, sunrise to sunset.
House: There are no house tours scheduled for the remainder of the season. Check back later in the year for updates.
Allow a minimum of 1/2 hour for the Ashley House grounds, 2-3 hours if also visiting Bartholomew’s Cobble.
117 Cooper Hill Road, Ashley Falls
Sheffield, MA 01257
Telephone: 413.298.3239 x3016
From Mass Turnpike (I-90), Exit 10 for Rt. 20 East. Follow 4.6 mi., then take first right onto Rt. 102 West/Pleasant St. Go 6.6 mi. Turn left onto Rt. 7 South. After 8.5 mi., turn right onto Rt. 7A and follow for 0.5 mi. Turn right onto Rannapo Rd. and follow for 1.5 mi. Turn right onto Cooper Hill Rd. to entrance and parking (10 cars) on left. Please do not park along Cooper Hill Rd.
Public restrooms are located nearby in the visitors center at The Trustees’ Bartholomew’s Cobble.
Please note that the visitors center is closed at this time.
Private functions may be arranged for groups of up to 40 people. Call 413.298.3239 x3013 for more information.
From the Colonial Era to the Modern Movement, our historic homes represent architecture, design, and history that spans more than 300 years.
In Massachusetts, people and the land are of each other, inextricably woven together to form the tapestry of our long history together.
In 1735, at the age of 25, Colonel John Ashley built this house – the oldest house still standing in Berkshire County – for his Dutch bride, Hannah Hogeboom. The cause for abolishing slavery in America was strengthened in the celebrated 1781 Massachusetts state court battle that freed the Ashleys’ slave, Elizabeth Freeman (formerly known as Mum Bett). The famous Sheffield Resolves, a petition against British tyranny and a manifesto for individual rights, was drafted in the upstairs study of the house and published in 1773.
Since we were in the area and are members of The Trustees of Reservations, we discovered this wonderful house and the fascinating story of Elizabeth "Mumbet" Freeman, a black slave who sued for her freedom in 1780 and won (with a jury of 12 white men).
– Bcnett, Trip Advisor Review
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