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Black History and Archaeology in Massachusetts - The Fitch-Hoose House

The National Register of Historic Places recognizes the Fitch-Hoose House, an 1846 structure that was almost seized by the Town of Dalton for taxes in 2004. Standing as the last of an historic free African-American enclave known as The Gulf, the place also known as the Charles Hoose house is an important embodiment of Black History in Western Massachusetts. The Gulf refers to a local term for a low area between hills elsewhere often called a hollow, or ‘holler.’ The Crane family had earlier purchased the land that Hoos in turn purchased. In 2015, Dalton Historical Commission began renovation of the Hoose house.

Notably, as in other cases, this free African-American community was situated at the north margins of town, at some distance from the main population. Present address is 6 Gulf Road, where the site was home to generations of the Fitch and Hoose families. Dozens of African-American families lived here before and after the Civil War. Up to the 1940s, local residents say there were many African-American families living at the Gulf.


The home was humble for its time at about 158 square feet of floor space and an 8’ x 8’ bedroom, with two low-ceiling rooms upstairs, a total of five spaces, no insulation and one wood stove. The Hoose home appears as a variation on the African-American style recognized as the 12-foot house, at bit extended with added features. What might that express in the thoughts of the Hoose parents?


Available documents give only partial information on Hoose descendants. In general, the voices of Gulf community descendants is lacking in avialable narratives and reports. It appears from our search that a number of descendants could be identified and their narratives sought.


Black enclaves historically received little infrastructure support or other support from the towns to which they ostensibly belong. Structured poverty and social segregation, as well as physical, are common features of such communities. The lack of census and other records, but the collection of taxes, both speak to the dilemma facing African-American communities. Recent records do show that two grandchildren of Charles A. Hoose, Charlyne and Jean, lived in the house in 1988. Ellen Hamilton raised at least a dozen children with Charles in that house, such as Charles, junior (1896 - 1970). There are, however, few records of the other children or their descendants. Information about women in the family is also thin.


Charles Hoose was the grandson of Philip Hoos, and Charles was farming in Hancock when he bought the new lot at the age of 20. 1830 census records show Charles as a farmer. Hoos and Philip are both names that connect to early Dutch Colonial presence in the Taconic and Berkshires region, which predates English presence, suggesting perhaps this family has longstanding status as freepersons.


Read more about Black History in Western Masssachusetts at:


https://www.ethicarch.org/today-in-ma/black-history-and-archaeology-in-the-berkshires%3A-the-fitch-hoose-house-and-the-gulf-freepersons-


Read more about Black History and Archaeology Across MA and Nearby at:


https://www.ethicarch.org/today-in-ma


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