By Larry Lowenthal
In spending as much time as I have in examining the 31st Mass. roster, it was inevitable that I would be struck by the fact that there were five men named Frink in Company F, all from the tiny hilltown of Mount Washington. The roster, however, lists data such as age and occupation, but says nothing about relationships. Following a web link, I found that Mount Washington, despite its small size, has quite an attractive historical website. Through that, I made contact with the person who had largely developed it, Michele (Patterson) Valenzano. Like many other genealogists, she began by exploring her own family and expanded into wider fields.
From her I learned that the five Frinks were brothers. Aged 18 to 28 at the time of enlistment, they were sons of Elias Smith Frink (1807-1873) and Harriet Brazee (1812-1871). The family originated in adjacent Litchfield County, CT, and lived in Mount Washington for only about ten years, c.1855-1865. Two of the sons listed their occupation as farmer and the other three as collier, engaged in the ancient and demanding craft of making charcoal for the furnaces in the Salisbury iron district. The five men who joined the 31st Mass. were not the end of the Frink story, as two other brothers enlisted in the 8th Conn., and the youngest brother was turned down when he tried to sign up. There were also three Frink daughters, but they died in childhood. Mount Washington, isolated in the extreme southwest corner of Massachusetts, recorded a population in the 1860 census of 321. In many of the decennial censuses it was noted for having the smallest population among Massachusetts municipalities, dropping to a low of 34 in 1950.
Thanks to this fortunate contact with Michele Valenzano, I was able to add another fascinating detail to the rich story of the 31st Mass.