Lee is a town in Berkshire County, Massachusetts, United States. It is part of the Pittsfield, Massachusetts Metropolitan Statistical Area. The population was 5,943 which was determined in the 2010 census. Lee, which includes the villages of South and East Lee, is part of the Berkshires resort area.
This was once territory of the Mohegan Indians. It was first settled as Dodgetown in 1760, then incorporated in 1777 as Lee. Formed from parts of Great Barrington and Washington, it was named after General Charles Lee. In the autumn of 1786 during Shays' Rebellion, about 250 followers of Daniel Shays encountered state troops commanded by General John Paterson near the village of East Lee. The Shaysites paraded a fake cannon crafted from a yarn beam, and the troops fled.
Early industries included agriculture and lumbering, with lime made in kilns. Operated by water power from the Housatonic River, mills produced textiles and wire. But papermaking became the principal business, with the first paper mill, called the Willow Mill, built in 1806 at South Lee by Samuel Church. The Columbia Mill was established in 1827, and would be the first to supply 100% groundwood newsprint to The New York Times. By 1857, there were 25 paper mills in Lee. The Smith Paper Company discovered how to manufacture paper solely from wood pulp in 1867, and through the 1870s was the largest producer of paper in the country. Today, Lee has 1 small papermaking facility owned by Onyx Specialty Papers,Inc. The plant produces specialty paper. Schweitzer-Mauduit announced in 2007 that the prior Smith Paper Company mills would close in 2008, putting nearly 170 people out of work.