Index to

A Gazetteer of the State of Massachusetts, with Numerous Illustrations

Rev. Elias Nason, M.A.; revised and enlarged by George J. Varney. Boston: B.B. Russell. 1890, 724 pages

Feb 2003

cock-eyed county map from the US Census

Massachusetts overview (326 KB)
title page, prefaces, contents, alphabetic list of towns, cities, villages and geographic features

The counties:
Barnstable, Berkshire, Bristol, Dukes, Essex, Franklin, Hampden, Hampshire, Middlesex, Nantucket, Norfolk, Plymouth, Suffolk, Worcester.
& geography

Barnstable County (Cape Cod) overview

There are 15 towns — Barnstable, Bourne, Brewster, Chatham, Dennis, Eastham, Falmouth, Harwich, Mashpee, Orleans, Provincetown, Sandwich, Truro, Wellfleet, and Yarmouth.
The first of the list is the shire town.

Berkshire County overview

The county embraces 32 towns, which are Adams, Alford, Becket, Cheshire, Clarksburg, Dalton, Egremont, Florida, Great Barrington, Hancock, Hinsdale, Lanesborough, Lee, Lenox, Monterey, Mount Washington, New Ashford, New Marlborough, North Adams, Otis, Peru, Pittsfield, Richmond, Sandisfield, Savoy, Sheffield, Stockbridge, Tyringham, Washington, West Stockbridge, Williamstown and Windsor.
Pittsfield is the seat of justice for the county.

Bristol County overview

Bristol County contains three cities, — New Bedford, Fall River, and Taunton, — and seventeen towns; these being Acushnet, Attleborough, Berkley, Dartmouth, Dighton, Easton, Fairhaven, Freetown, Mansfield, North Attleborough, Norton, Raynham, Rehoboth, Seekonk, Somerset, Swansea (Swansey) and Westport.
The courts are held at New Bedford and Taunton.

Dukes County (Martha's Vineyard and Elizabeth Islands) overview

The towns embraced in this county — six in number — are Chilmark, Cottage City, Edgartown, Gay Head, and Tisbury, on Martha's Vineyard, and Gosnold, comprising the Elizabeth Islands.
Edgartown is the county seat.

West Tisbury was divided from Tisbury in 1892. Cottage City became Oak Bluffs in 1907. Gay Head became Aquinnah in 1998.

Haywood's 1847 gazetteer info for Dukes.

Essex County overview

The county has six cities and twenty-nine towns; the first being Gloucester, Haverhill, Lawrence, Lynn, Newburyport and Salem; and the towns, Amesbury, Andover, Beverly, Boxford, Bradford, Danvers, Essex, Georgetown, Groveland, Hamilton, Ipswich, Lynnfield, Manchester, Marblehead, Merrimac (Merrimack), Methuen, Middleton, Nahant, Newbury, North Andover, Peabody, Rockport, Rowley, Salisbury, Saugus, Swampscott, Topsfield, Wenham and West Newbury.
Salem, Lawrence and Newburyport are the shire towns.

Manchester is now known as Manchester-by-the-Sea, though this seems to be unofficial.

Franklin County overview

It embraces 26 towns, namely: Ashfield, Bernardston, Buckland, Charlemont, Colrain (Coleraine), Conway, Deerfield, Erving, Gill, Greenfield, Hawley, Heath, Leverett, Leyden, Monroe, Montague, New Salem, Northfield, Orange, Rowe, Shelburne, Shutesbury, Sunderland, Warwick, Wendell and Whately.
Greenfield is the capital town.

Hampden County overview

It contains two cities and twenty towns. The first are Springfield and Holyoke; and the latter Agawam, Blandford, Brimfield, Chester, Chicopee, Granville, Hampden, Holland, Longmeadow, Ludlow, Monson, Montgomery, Palmer, Russell, Southwick, Tolland, Wales, Westfield, West Springfield and Wilbraham.
Springfield is the county seat.

East Longmeadow split from Longmeadow in 1894.

Hampshire County overview

It now embraces one city (Northampton — also the county seat) and 22 towns. The latter are as follows: Amherst, Belchertown, Chesterfield, Cummington, Easthampton, Enfield, Goshen, Granby, Greenwich, Hadley, Hatfield, Huntington, Middlefield, Pelham, Plainfield, Prescott, Southampton, South Hadley, Ware, Westhampton, Williamsburg, Worthington.

Dana (in Worcester County), Enfield, Greenwich and Prescott are extinct towns. They were drowned to make the Quabbin reservoir.

Middlesex County overview

The county contains seven cities — Cambridge, Lowell, Malden, Newton, Somerville, Waltham and Woburn. There are forty-seven towns, viz.: Acton, Arlington, Ashby, Ashland, Ayer, Bedford, Belmont, Billerica, Boxborough, Burlington, Carlisle, Chelmsford, Concord, Dracut, Dunstable, Everett, Framingham, Groton, Holliston, Hopkinton, Hudson, Lexington, Lincoln, Littleton, Marlborough, Maynard, Medford, Melrose, Natick, North Reading, Pepperell, Reading, Sherborn, Shirley, Stoneham, Stowe (Stow), Sudbury, Tewksbury, Townsend, Tyngsborough, Wakefield, Watertown, Wayland, Westford, Weston, Wilmington, and Winchester.
The shire towns are Cambridge and Lowell.

Nantucket County overview

One town: Nantucket.

Norfolk County overview

The county contains one city — Quincy, and twenty-six towns — whose names are as follows: Avon, Bellingham, Braintree, Brookline, Canton, Cohasset, Dedham, Dover, Foxborough, Franklin, Holbrook, Hyde Park, Medfield, Medway, Millis, Milton, Needham, Norfolk, Norwood, Randolph, Sharon, Stoughton, Walpole, Wellesley, Weymouth and Wrentham.
Dedham is the shire town.

Hyde Park was annexed to Boston on January 1, 1912.

Plymouth County overview

There are now 26 towns and one city, — Brockton. The towns are Abington, Bridgewater, Carver, Duxbury, East Bridgewater, Halifax, Hanover, Hanson, Hingham, Hull, Kingston, Lakeville, Marion, Marshfield, Mattapoisett, Middleborough, Norwell, Pembroke, Plymouth, Plympton, Rochester, Rockland, Scituate, Wareham, West Bridgewater and Whitman.
The shire town is Plymouth.

Suffolk County overview

The county consists of the cities of Boston and Chelsea, and the towns of Revere and Winthrop — the first mentioned city being the capital of the county and of the State.

Worcester County overview

Division after division has been made in the original towns, until there are now 57, and two cities, — Worcester and Fitchburg; the first being the capital. The towns are Ashburnham, Athol, Auburn, Barre, Berlin, Blackstone, Bolton, Boylston, Brookfield, Charlton, Clinton, Dana, Douglas, Dudley, Gardner, Grafton, Hardwick, Harvard, Holden, Hopedale, Hubbardston, Lancaster, Leicester, Leominster, Lunenburg, Mendon, Milford, Millbury, New Braintree, Northborough, Northbridge, North Brookfield, Oakham, Oxford, Paxton, Petersham, Phillipston, Princeton, Royalston, Rutland, Shrewsbury, Southborough, Southbridge, Spencer, Sterling, Sturbridge, Sutton, Templeton, Upton, Uxbridge, Warren, Webster, Westborough, West Boylston, West Brookfield, Westminster and Winchendon.

Millville was incorporated in 1916, splitting from Blackstone. East Brookfield is the State's newest town, splitting from Brookfield in 1920. Dana was flooded over to make the Quabbin Reservoir in the 1930s.

I started by scanning the towns of special interest to me, and kept going from there.
I find it interesting to see what a 19th century writer included: statistics on farm, fishing, and industrial production; population, number of (male) voters, number of "taxed dwelling-houses", and total property valuation with tax-rate; railroad lines and stations, and post-offices; location with respect to Boston, topography, soil types and minerals; school grades and buildings; newspapers, libraries and their number of books; church buildings and sects; scenic interest, historical anecdotes and prominent citizens; Civil War manpower contributions, losses and memorials.

I was surprised to find the book so neutral about religious sects, being written by a 19th century minister, although there is usually a sentence or two about the date of the first church and its ministers to show pride of place; and also surprised to find that several towns had Mormon churches. It is amusing to find that typical school buildings were worth less than $1,000. The total valuation of many towns was less than some individual homes in them today, but the tax-rates were similar to current rates (no income, payroll or sales taxes, however). Most towns had multiple newspapers, mostly weeklies but some dailies. Shoe-making was an enormous industry, cloth-making and metal-working were important, farming was common but not huge, fishing seems to be fairly minor. Cranberries were grown in many towns, not just in the southeast; many towns had tens of thousands of fruit trees. Forest products were important in the western towns. Most towns had local banks — their capitalization was microscopic.

CapeCodHistory, 19th century Massachusetts, genealogy