Ashfield Massachusetts, 1890

is an uneven and hilly grazing town in the southwestern part of Franklin County, having Hawley and Buckland on the north, Conway on the east, Goshen on the south, and Plainfield and Hawley on the west. It lies at an elevation of about 1,200 feet, on the highlands midway between Deerfield and Westfield rivers, sending to the former, as tributaries, Clesson's Brook, Bear and South rivers; and to the latter, Stone's Brook and Swift River. Peter's Hill, Ridge Hill, Mill Hill, and Mount Owen are prominent elevations. Great Pond, near the centre of the town, covering sixty acres, is enclosed as a beautiful gem between them. From it runs romantic South River, flowing through the central village on the plain, then winding southward about the base of the hills, to South Village on the eastern side of the town; whence it turns northward again to meet Deerfield River. Ground laurel and bay are common here. Calcareous mica-schist forms the geological structure.

The town has 24,097 acres of assessed land, of which 6,517 acres are woodland. The population in 1885 was 1,097, with 259 dwellings. The 245 farms yielded in that year $231,894; the dairies contributing $93,122; wood products $19,885, meats and game $13,857, vegetables $7,856, and hay, straw and fodder $55,621. The town had 1,728 neat cattle (all kinds and ages), 1,135 sheep and lambs, 786 hogs, 254 horses, 4,290 hens and chickens and 61 swarms of bees. Tobacco, also, has been cultivated with profit.

The principal manufacture is wooden ware; for which the ash, birch, and maple of the forests furnish ample material. There were by the last census 18 manufactories, consisting of lumber, carriage, clothing, straw, and others. Building materials and stone yielded $1,197; food preparations, $32,666; metals and metallic goods, $2,424; and wooden ware, 11,396. The aggregate of manufactured goods was $51,592. The valuation of the town in 1888 was $472,034, with a tax of $20 on $1,000. The post-offices are Ashfield and South Ashfield. Bardwell's Ferry, about three miles eastward of the town, and Shelburne Falls, about the same distance north, and both on the Fitchburg Railroad, are the nearest railway stations.

Ashfield has thirteen school buildings, valued with appurtenances at $3,500. The Sanderson Academy, established in 1820, is located here. There are four libraries having upwards of 3,500 volumes; of which the Ashfield Library Association, established in 1866, has nearly 1,000 volumes; and the balance is possessed by the Sunday-schools. The Congregational church here was organized in 1763 and a Baptist church in 1761; but the present Baptist society was established in 1867. The Protestant Episcopal church at the centre (St. John's) was formed in 1820.

This place was granted to a company, or the heirs of a company, commanded by Captain Ephraim Hunt of Weymouth, for services in an expedition to Canada in 1690; and, to honor him, was called Hunt's-town. The first settler was an Irishman named Richard Ellis, who came here about 1745. Thomas Phillips, his brother-in-law, soon followed. The town was incorporated under its present name in 1765, and was probably so named in reference to Lord Thurlow, of Ashfield, in England, of the king's council. It took an active part in the war of the Revolution; one vote being to give twenty calves, by way of encouragement, to any one that should enlist for three years, and to keep them at the town's expense until the time should expire.

In 1885 there were thirty residents of this town over 80 years of age. W. B. Curtis and Professor Norton have residences here.

Alvan Clark, who, as a maker of telescope glasses, has a worldwide fame, was born in Ashfield, March 8, 1804.

Pp. 120-121  in Nason and Varney's Massachusetts Gazetteer, 1890