Where is the “Berkshire Divide”?
Old-timers in the tiny town of Peru say that rain falling on the west side of the Congregational Church roof will flow to the Housatonic River, while droplets on the east side are destined to trickle toward the Westfield and Connecticut rivers. Only inches apart, they follow vastly different routes to the sea. That is the Berkshire divide, on the highest inhabited land in Massachusetts, near the 2,300-foot mark. The Book of Berkshire declares that there is no other place in the state like it.
Life on the divide is challenging. Peru’s center on Route 143 has a library, a small church, town hall, town buildings, and a few scattered homes. They are all squat, low-slung buildings firmly anchored to the ground against incessant winds. The church steeple is cabled in bedrock. Less than a mile from the center, drivers encounter rough, gravel roads. The town loves its small road crew who battle the drifts of winter. Often when it’s raining in Dalton, there’s freezing precipitation on the divide. The growing season is short.
There are no stores in Peru, no restaurants, no gas stations, and no post office. Once home to about 1,300 residents, the population fell to about 100 by the early 1930s, then low real-estate prices brought it back to over 800 today. They are hardy souls. The difficulties they face may not compare with the Continental Divide in the Rockies, but Peru is where east meets west on the “Berkshire Divide.”