Belchertown Massachusetts, 1890
Belchertown lies in the easterly part of Hampshire County, about 75 miles west of Boston. Pelham bounds it on the north, Enfield, Ware and Palmer on the east, the latter and Ludlow on the south, and the last, with Granby and Amherst, on the west. It extends north and south about 12 miles, by 8 miles from east to west; having a taxable area of 31,680 acres, excluding highways and water surfaces. About 8,000 acres are woodland, consisting chiefly of butternut and oak; but the numerous trees along the highways are principally maple and elm.
Swift River (named from the rapidity of its current) washes two thirds of the eastern border of the town; Jabish River flows from the centre southward; Broad Brook occupies the southwestern part; and Bacheler's Brook the western, and Hoop Brook the northwestern sections. The largest of the several ponds are Lower:Pond, containing about 96 acres, and Middle Pond, about 40. The surface in most parts is hilly, having some commanding eminences. The geological structure is ferruginous gneiss, and middle shales and sandstones. Specimens of allanite and other minerals occur. The soil, though rocky, is productive, and the 320 (or thereabout) farms are usually well managed and remunerative. The town had, in 1885, 2,291 neat cattle, young and old, and 32,667 fruit trees. The dairy yielded the largest product — $79,978. The manufactures were chiefly lumber and carriages, the aggregate value of goods made being $63,546. The valuation of the town, in 1888, was $825,127; rate of taxation, $18.40 on $1,000. The population in 1885 was 2,307; and the number of dwellings, 501. The New London and Northern and the Central Massachusetts railroads intersect at nearly right angles near the centre of the town. The post-offices are Belchertown, Dwight and Barrett. The other villages are Federal Street Village and Tylertown.
The villages have graded schools; the rural districts, mixed schools. The school buildings number eighteen,— valued at about $9,500. The three Sunday-school libraries have together about 1,000 volumes. There is a very handsome public library, provided for by a gift of $45,000 by Francis Clapp, late of Brooklyn, N. Y. The central village is situated on an elevated plateau, from which charming prospects in every direction may be enjoyed. The main street is broad and well ornamented with maple, elm and ash trees. On the Common stands a monument in memory of the men who fell of those who went into the late war. The patriotism of the town during the Revolutionary war is also still borne in remembrance. Around this park are placed the library, high school, two churches, and some handsome residences. The Congregationalists, Baptists and Methodists each have church edifices.
The place originally bore the name of "Cold Spring," from a noted fountain in the eastern part of the town, but was incorporated, June 30, 1761, as Belcher's Town, in honor of Governor Jonathan Belcher, who was a principal proprietor. On June 22, 1771, a part of its territory was annexed to Greenwich; on June 16, 1788, part of the town was annexed to Pelham; February 15, 1816, parts of Belchertown and Greenwich were established as Enfield; and there still remains enough territory to make two good towns. Samuel Bascom, Benjamin Stebbins, Aaron Lyman and others, commenced the settlement at Cold Spring in July, 1731; and in 1840 [sic] about twenty families were residing here. A church was organized in 1837 [?], and a house of worship erected the ensuing year. The Rev. Edward Billings was ordained, probably, in 1739; and in 1741 it was voted that money should be raised to pay the expenses of his wedding. In 1752 there were fifty families; and Mr. Billings was that year dismissed for his views in regard to "the half-may covenant." Rev. Justus Forward was ordained his successor in 1756. The Baptist church was organized in 1795. This town was the birthplace of the following distinguished persons: Ethan Smith (1762-1849), Erastus Worthington (1779-1842), Samuel Stillman Greene (1810), Dr. Josiah Gilbert Holland (Timothy Titcomb), born 1819.
pp. 139-140 in Nason and Varney's Massachusetts Gazetteer, 1890