Learn about two very different people who fought for freedom and liberty—and changed our region’s history.
Once the center of white political and social life in colonial Sheffield, today the Ashley House is remembered for its connection to Elizabeth Freeman, who was enslaved there before winning her freedom and dealing a deathblow to the institution of slavery in Massachusetts.
The Colonel John Ashley House – an anchor site of the Upper Housatonic Valley African American Heritage Trail – was one of the first European-style dwellings built in what is now the Berkshires. Col. Ashley became a wealthy and powerful man, owning 3,000 acres of land and a variety of business, in addition to holding many town offices. His success relied largely on slavery. In addition to enslaving at least five people himself, Ashley profited handsomely from the international slave trade. As the American Revolution dawned, Ashley hypocritically joined calls declaring mankind “equal, free, and independent of each other.”
In 1781, Elizabeth put the Revolutionary rhetoric to the test, leaving the Ashley House and suing for emancipation. Elizabeth not only won her own freedom, her case set a judicial precedent that ended slavery in Massachusetts. She never returned to the Ashley House, but today you can visit an outdoor exhibit (open seasonally) to learn more about her incredible life and legacy.
Learn about the life and legacy of the remarkable woman who helped end slavery in Massachusetts in the Elizabeth Freeman Interpretive Center, open daily, sunrise to sunset.
Follow the trail across Ashley Field to our adjoining property, Bartholomew’s Cobble, and hike this National Natural Landmark.
Guided tours of the historic house are offered regularly. Preregistration is required. Learn more and register here.
Grounds (including the Elizabeth Freeman Interpretive Center) open daily, dawn to dusk, FREE for all.
For information on school visits and group tours, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
117 Cooper Hill Road, Ashley Falls
Sheffield, MA 01257
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.
Weekend trip featuring Massachusetts history, scenic vistas, and a cozy inn.
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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