Sheep raising in Hinsdale  began to develop in the
early settlement days of the 1770's   when the town was still a part of Partridgefield ,  probably after the first settlers had cleared enough land to make grazing possible.   Though there were no mills,  wool was needed for clothing and covering.  Spinning and weaving were home occupations.   Cotton and silk certainly were not available,  and probably not much flax for linen, either.  No agricultural censuses were kept to record the size of flocks or the output of wool until much later. In The first History of Berkshire County by David Fields in 1829, a section describing agriculture by Chester Dewey of Williams College reported that   "Flocks of sheep from three to four hundred are not very frequent;  but we occasionally find one of eight hundred or a thousand.  The number of sheep is unknown;  but there were said to be about  8000 in the town of Lanesborough alone in  1826."
   The Berkshire Agricultural Society based in Pittsfield,  the oldest in the nation,  had been incorporated in 1811 under the leadership of Elkanah Watson who was credited with introducing merino sheep from Europe, a variety with longer-fibered wool,  that rapidly became the major variety.  Dewey reported that  "The Hon. Elkanah Watson, then a resident in the county was particularly active and influential in [the Sociey's] formation...... It has called the attention of famers more particularly to the better management of their the improvent of all kinds of the best mode of managing sheep and particulary those imported from Europe."
     Record keeping,  both agricultural and industrial,  
improved noticeably by the 1830's.  An 1837 gazeteer in its section on Hinsdale recorded the following:
    "Saxony Sheep,  2000;  merino sheep 8920;  other kinds
of sheep, 100.
Saxony wool produced, 5000 lbs;  merino wool, 26,760 lbs;  other 
kinds of wool, 350 lbs;  average weight of fleece, 2  14/16 lbs; 
value of wool  $  19,266;  capital invested, 
        That total of over eleven thousand sheep in
Hinsdale suggests the appearance  of the hillside landscapes in the 1830's. Nearly ten years later an 1845 gazeteer Hinsdale section  reported:
     "Merino sheep,  10,967;  V[alue] $ 11,163;  merino
wool produced,  35,545 lbs;
V[alue]  $14,218"
        After another ten years,  an 1855 gazeteer with
many details of Hinsdale's economy reported:  "Saxony sheep, of different grades, 655;  Merino sheep, of different grades, 5, 370;  all other kinds of sheep, 708;  value of all sheep, $ 20,199;  wool produced from Saxony sheep, 2,285 lbs;  Merino Wool produced, 17,599 lbs;  all other Wool produced, 2,354 lbs.
     In 1865, the year the Civil War ended,  sheep raising and wool production had continued to decline, though only Merino sheep were
recorded:  "Merino sheep, of different grades, 4,016;  gross value, $ 24,000;  lbs of Merino Wool,  16,006;  value $14,337.
        By the 1880's, the center of sheep raising  was
moving from New England to the Rocky Mountain high pastures, where huge flocks and Basque shepherds produced wool more cheaply.  Hinsdale farming shifted toward cattle and milk production for the region's growing population.        
        L. F. Swift   7/12/03