The Town of Hancock, MA originated from a 1762 King’s grant that established a territory then known as the “Plantation of Jericho.” Asa Douglas of Canaan City, New York purchased the biggest piece of the territory – a huge 1,000 acre parcel. Other settlers that purchased property were Samuel Hand, Captain Caleb Gardner, Deacon Samuel Brown, and the Goodrich brothers, David and Charles. These ambitious farmers settled in the Jericho Valley with hopes of fertile land and prosperity. Most of these men also fought in key battles during the Revolutionary War in the late 18th Century, led by none other than Major Douglas. The garret of Asa Douglas’s home was actually used as a jail during the Revolutionary War. Shumway Farm as it is known can still be seen today, just a short walk from where we are right now. The Jericho Valley was quickly clear cut in the late 1760’s, from its lowest elevation along Post Road up to the 1200’ mark around the entire valley. A furniture factory was built to accommodate the thousands of trees, while sheep began to replace them, grazing on the grasses of Hancock’s rich soil.
In the early stages of Jericho Valley’s development, it was believed that a devastating disease was seeping through the entire valley floor, pushing the farmers higher into the hills to escape the potential for disaster. Homes were razed, and re-built in the surrounding mountains. Their livelihoods were at stake, and a move to the hills seemed much more plausible than relocation at the time. Many sheep were abandoned by their owners, left to try and survive the almost certain death that the valley floor held for them. As the farmers began the next chapter of their lives, the forgotten sheep flourished, and cast some doubt as to whether or not any disease existed at all on the bottom of Jericho Valley. Subsequently, some farmers began to creep back to the lower elevations while others held their ground in the surrounding hills. As years went on and debate sprouted amongst the town folk, something very strange began to happen… Each fall, on thirteen different nights, the sheep would disappear into the hills at dusk, leaving behind the land which gave them so much. They would always return the next morning, seemingly unscathed from the previous night’s journey. Even more debate started, but the biggest questions remained unanswered: Were they running away from something, or towards something else? Were they lured into the hills, or scared away by something from the depths of the Jericho Valley?
This very strange nocturnal behavior slowly vanished from the fabric of what is now Hancock, as farmers began new farming endeavors, and the population of sheep quickly diminished to almost nothing. But even as the numbers of sheep decreased, they still made the yearly migration into the hills each year…on those 13 Nights. Do you have what it takes to explore the innards of the Jericho Hills?