Becket is a town in Berkshire County, Massachusetts, United States. It is part of the Pittsfield, Massachusetts Metropolitan Statistical Area. The population was 1,779 at the 2010 census.
Becket was first settled in 1740, and was officially incorporated in 1765.
The original “Beckett” for which the town of Becket was named is an estate or “tithing” that once belonged to the Admiral Lord Barrington (the namesake of “Great Barrington, Massachusetts”). It is located in Shrivenham, formerly in Berkshire, England, about five miles east of the important railroad town of Swindon.
Sir Francis Bernard, the Royal Governor of Massachusetts in 1765, was a close friend of Lord Barrington and was himself a native of Berkshire, England. It is said[by whom?] that he often went on holiday in the beautiful surroundings of Beckett, and that these pleasant memories influenced him in 1765 to give the name Becket to Township Number Four when he approved its incorporation.
In 1811, 16 men from Becket traveled to the Western Reserve and founded the village of Windham, Ohio.
The early town was the site of an experiment in the late eighteenth century involving the local church. Seeing the problems involved with communities who supported congregational churches, the town established its own church society, where local citizens supported the church without any tax monies. It was one of the first frontier communities to employ this model of supporting churches.
From its earliest days, Becket was involved in the woodland industries of lumber and quarries. As time went on, dairy production, basketry and silk also were products of the town. After a flood in the early twentieth century, most of the industries died out, and today Becket is mostly known as a resort town with an artists’ community surrounding the Jacob’s Pillow Company.
Becket is one of the seven towns in the Central Berkshire Regional School District, the largest district (by land area) in the Commonwealth. Students in Becket attend the Becket-Washington Elementary School in town for elementary school. Students in the district travel to Dalton to attend Nessacus Regional Middle School for sixth through eighth grades and Wahconah Regional High School for the high grades. A great number of Becket students travel to Lee for education and attend Lee Elementary School for grades K–6 and Lee Middle and High School. There are no private schools in Becket, the nearest being in Lee and the Pittsfield area.
The nearest community college is Berkshire Community College in Pittsfield. The nearest state college is Westfield State University in Westfield, and the nearest state university is the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The nearest private college is Bard College at Simon’s Rock in Great Barrington, with other private colleges in Springfield.
As of the census of 2000, there were 1,755 people, 692 households, and 505 families residing in the town. In terms of population, Becket ranks fourteenth out of the 32 cities and towns in Berkshire County, and 297th out of the 351 cities and towns in Massachusetts. The population density was 37.9 people per square mile (14.6/km2), ranking it 19th in the county and 322nd in the Commonwealth. There were 1,451 housing units at an average density of 31.4 per square mile (12.1/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 97.44% White, 0.68% African American, 0.17% Native American, 0.51% Asian, 0.11% from other races, and 1.08% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.08% of the population.
There were 692 households, out of which 30.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 61.7% were married couples living together, 6.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 27.0% were non-families. Of all households, 22.0% were made up of individuals, and 7.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.50 and the average family size was 2.92.
In the town, the population was spread out, with 23.6% under the age of 18, 5.6% from 18 to 24, 29.2% from 25 to 44, 28.6% from 45 to 64, and 13.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 41 years. For every 100 females, there were 101.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 101.4 males.
The median income for a household in the town was $46,806, and the median income for a family was $53,417. Males had a median income of $40,774 versus $30,300 for females. The per capita income for the town was $21,861. About 3.2% of families and 4.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 5.0% of those under age 18 and 3.7% of those age 65 or over.