Chester Massachusetts, 1890


Chester
, noted for its wild and picturesque scenery, occupies the northwest extremity of Hampden County, and has for its bounds, Worthington on the north, Huntington on the east, Blandford on the south, Becket on the west, and Middlefield on the northwest.

The inhabitants number 1,318, with 324 dwelling-houses, situated almost entirely in the villages of Chester, Chester Centre, North Chester, Littleton, Dayville and Micaville. The first four are post-offices. The west and middle branches of the Westfield River, with their tributaries dashing down the wild ravines, furnish abundant motive power, which will perhaps sometime be further improved. The Boston and Albany Railroad winds along the margin of the west branch, through the southwest section of the town, having its "Westfield" station near the western border, 126 miles from Boston.

The area of the town is variously stated. The actual measurement of the farms is 21,783 acres, including 5,816 acres devoted to wood. The land is mountainous and rocky. Beautiful specimens of many kinds of minerals, as scapolite, spodumene, magnetic iron, hornblende, chromic iron, and indicolite will reward the "prospector," the sparkling springs and rivulets will furnish trout, and the mountain air invigorate his system. The Pontoosuc Club, of New York gentlemen, have a club-house and a fine property here, and the town is growing in favor as a summer resort. There are three emery mines in the township. The mineral appears like brown granite, and is dug from quarries extending far into the mountain side. It is broken into fragments, then undergoes several further comminutions by machinery before it is marketable. There are here two mills for manufacturing from it emery cloth and paper, and emery wheels. Sand-paper is also made here. Other manufactures are furniture, carriages and wagons, clothing, leather, whips, boots and shoes, food preparations, etc. The aggregate value of these goods made in 1885 was $247,146. The burning of a textile mill a few years since, and the abandonment of the manufacture, caused a considerable loss of population. The number of farms is 132; and the town has 803 sheep, which exceeds the flocks of any other town but one in the county. The fruit trees number 9,850. The aggregate farm product was $105,304. The valuation in 1888 was $518,312, with a tax-rate of $18 on $1,000.

The school system is graded, with some mixed schools. There are twelve school-houses, valued at about $8,500. There are three Sunday-school libraries, with about 1,500 volumes. The town divides the honor of the weekly paper, "The Valley Echo," with Huntington. There are two Congregational churches, a Methodist and a Roman Catholic.

This town was incorporated under the name of Murrayfield, in honor of William Murray, Lord Mansfield, October 31, 1765; but in 1783 the name was changed to Chester, perhaps from the town of that name in England. This township was one of ten sold by order of the General Court, June 2, 1762. For it the purchaser, William Williams, paid £15,000. The settlers began to take up land soon after. They were mostly Scotch-Irish, bearing the family names of Bell, Gordon, Henry, Holland, Moore, Hamilton, et als. Rev. Aaron Bascom, ordained December 20, 1769, was the first minister.

pp. 235-236 in Nason and Varney's Massachusetts Gazetteer, 1890

Gazetteer