Chicopee Massachusetts, 1890

is an important manufacturing town situated on the eastern side of Connecticut River, in Hampden County, and about 100 miles west of Boston, from whence it is reached by the Boston and Albany Railroad and the Connecticut River Railroad; the latter passing through its villages on the river, and sending a branch to Chicopee Falls. On the north are South Hadley and Granby; on the east, Ludlow; on the south, Springfield; on the west, West Springfield and Holyoke. The area, excepting highways and water-surfaces, is 12,800 acres; in which is included 1,850 acres of woodland. The geological formation is middle shales and sandstone, with iron ore in several localities. The bottom land (about 25 feet above the Connecticut) and that immediately adjoining it, is of the highest and best natural quality for agricultural purposes. The land remote from the rivers is, to a large extent, pine plains averaging about 80 feet above the river, and with a soil lighter and less productive. The farms are smaller and more numerous than twenty years ago, numbering 178 in 1885. Their largest item of value was from the dairies, amounting to $53,559. Cereals were raised to the value of $16,145; vegetables, 30,553; and fruits, berries and nuts to the value of $7,464. The number of fruit trees in the town was 10,965. The farm product was valued at $193,323.

The Connecticut River forms the entire western line of the town. From its bluffs may be had a fine view of the Chicopee village, in the valley at the mouth of the Chicopee River, which here comes in from the east. About a mile and a half above is Chicopee Falls, where the river furnishes a very superior motive power, which is the chief basis of the town's prosperity. In the eastern part of the town this river forms the line with Springfield, receiving on its north side Higher, Field and Crow's-foot brooks. In the north several small ponds Slipe Pond of 114 acres, Slabbery Pond of 69, and Smooth Pond of 10 lend variety to the scenery.

The Dwight Manufacturing Company and the Chicopee Manufacturing Company have here a large number of mills for the manufacture of cotton cloths, employing in them, in 1885, 2,310 persons. There are also print and dye works, iron and brass founderies, agricultural works manufacturing farmers' implements in great variety, factories for making loom-harnesses, fire-arms, swords, and other military equipments, locks, tin-ware, boots and shoes, brooms, hair-pins, cutlery, needles, paper, soap and other articles. The Ames Manufacturing Company makes very handsome bronze castings, including bas-reliefs, busts and statues of all sizes. The aggregate of manufactures in this town as given in the last census was $3,586,213. The First National Bank here has a capital of $150,000. The Chicopee Savings Bank had, at the close of last year, deposits amounting to $660,847; and the Chicopee Falls Savings Bank, $205,300.

The valuation of the town in 1888 was $5,920,470; with a tax-rate of $14.30 on $1,000. The population was 11,516, of whom but 1,871 were voters. There is in this, as in all cotton and iron manufacturing places, a large foreign element. The number of dwellings in 1888 was 1,680.

The town has graded schools, with ten school buildings valued in 1885 at about $40,000. There are fourteen libraries more or less accessible to the public. The Chicopee Town Library contains nearly 10,000 volumes; there is a school library of 600 volumes, a private circulating library, and ten Sunday schools having libraries. The Baptists have two churches in the town; the Congregationalists, three; the Methodists, two; the Unitarians and Universalists, one each; the Episcopalians have one (Grace Church); and the Roman Catholics have three, one of which is for a French Congregation.

The last census shows that there were then resident in the town 80 persons over 80 years, seven over 90, two over 100, one over 108 years of age.

Chicopee was originally the north part of Springfield; and among its earliest settlers were Henry Chapin and his brother Japhet, who came here about the year 1640. Twenty years later, a settlement was commenced at Shipmuck, about a mile east of Skenungonuck, or Chicopee Falls. In 1750, the people in the north part of Springfield, on both sides of the river, were incorporated as "the Fifth or Chicopee Parish." The casting of iron hollow-ware was commenced at the Falls near the close of the last century, the iron being dug from lands in the vicinity. Benjamin Belcher, of Easton, with his family, came here in 1810, and carried on the business until his death, Dec. 17, 1833 ; after which it was continued by his sons until November, 1846. The manufacture of paper was begun here in 1807, and of cotton cloth in 1825. Abijah and William Witherell aided in the development of the place at this period. William Bowman and Benjamin and Lawrence Cox built the first paper mill. The village at the confluence of the Chicopee with the Connecticut River was called Cabotville, in honor of the Hon. John Cabot, until the incorporation of the town on the 29th of April, 1848.

The first minister of the place was the Rev. John McKinstry, who was ordained in September, 1752, and died November 9, 1813, having sustained the relation of a pastor 61 years. Hon. George D. Robinson, ex-governor of the Commonwealth, was for many years a resident of this town.

pp. 237-238 in Nason and Varney's Massachusetts Gazetteer, 1890