A Rochester native’s path to Hardwick

Sep 12, 2022

In a week when the attention of many Americans has been focused on the loss of Queen Elizabeth II and the subsequent future of the United Kingdom, Connie Esbach of the Rochester Historical Society introduces readers to a Rochester native whose devotion to England caused him to move out of Rochester and into Hardwick, where his influence is still felt. 

Timothy Ruggles, whose grave site we visited on our June cemetery tour, was minister of the Rochester Congregational Church beginning in 1710 and continuing for 58 years. 

His father, Samuel, of Roxbury, had for quite a while owned proprietary rights in the land of Hardwick in Worcester County. Hardwick, also called the "Elbows’’ was mostly unsettled when Rev. Ruggles visited the area in 1732. At that time, he began to promote the area for settlement. 

Just as Rochester had been settled in part by men from Scituate, Sandwich and other area towns, quite a few Rochester families decided to move west, beginning in 1732 and up until the start of the Revolutionary War.

Of Rev. Ruggles' 12 children, six sons emigrated to Hardwick. The most well-known of those six was Timothy Ruggles Jr., a lawyer in Rochester, who moved to Hardwick in 1753. Having been an officer in the Indian Wars and having served as a Massachusetts delegate to the Stamp Act Congress in New York, his political loyalties to the English king began to put him out of step with many of his neighbors and countrymen.

He, perhaps, felt more comfortable in Hardwick, knowing the town was named for an English nobleman. In 1762, he introduced the Hardwick Country Fair. However, independence fever was spreading across the colonies and his neighbors turned against him. 

His home was mobbed and eventually burned. He, along with most of New England's Tories, moved to Nova Scotia in 1776, when Washington's troops forced the British evacuation of Boston.

We know that at least some of his children remained in Hardwick. His 19-year-old daughter, Bathsheba, was married off by her father to an older man, Joshua Spooner.

The story of that marriage and the subsequent events that have secured a place in history for Bathsheba Ruggles Spooner will be told by Andrew Noone at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept, 21 at the Rochester Historical Museum. 

Today, Hardwick, incorporated in 1739, is home to about 2,600 residents. There is a large Congregational Church and areas that provide beautiful views of the Quabbin Reservoir. 

The country fair that Timothy Ruggles, Jr. began is now the oldest continuous country fair in the United States.