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As antagonism between the French and English flared in the early 1740s, Col. John Stoddard of Northampton, the military commander of western Massachusetts and Ephraim Jr.'s kinsman, advocated the construction and garrisoning of a line of forts and fortified houses to be protectively situated along the northern border of the Province. Fort Massachusetts, completed in 1745 under the supervision of the newly commissioned Captain Ephraim Jr., was one of these defensive outposts, located strategically on one of the most direct routes by which French and Indian forces could raid Massachusetts settlements to the east and south. (The Fort was also located in what is now the parking lot of the Price Chopper supermarket situated between Williamstown and North Adams).
In 1746, Ephraim Jr. moved his headquarters from Fort Shirley, in the present day town of Heath, to the newly constructed Fort Massachusetts. As officer in command of the fort, Ephraim Jr. was responsible for overseeing the building and maintenance of defenses, the equipping and provisioning of his garrison, and the mobilizing of support in the case of attack.
Ephraim Jr. was well thought of by his men and by senior officers. Col. John Stoddard, in a March 1748 letter to Gov. Shirley, remarked, "Capt. Ephraim Williams . . . is accounted a man of courage, has lived at Fort Massachusetts, and is well knowing in that country. It is generally talked that he maintains good government and I know no man amongst us (except Col. Williams) that men would more cheerfully list under than he . . ." Drawing in part on interviews with aging Fort Massachusetts soldiers, Ebenezer Fitch noted, "[Ephraim's] kind and obliging deportment, his generosity and condescension, greatly endeared him to his soldiers. . . When at Fort-Massachusetts, he frequently entered into the pastimes of his soldiers, upon an equal footing with them, and permitted every decent freedom; and again, when the diversions were over, he, with ease and dignity, resumed the Captain."
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Bloody Morning Scout