Franklin County Massachusetts, 1890

Franklin County lies on the northern side of the state, entirely west of its middle longitude, having both Vermont and New Hampshire on the north, Worcester County on the east, Hampshire County on the south, and Berkshire County on the west. Its greatest measurement east and west is about 40 miles; and north and south some 25 miles. Its area is near 680 square miles, the assessed area being 405,383 acres. The aggregate of forest lands is 142,806 acres.

It is divided at nearly right angles through each axis by the Connecticut River, running from north to south, Deerfield River from the west, and Miller's River from the east, discharging into the first. Along the two latter rivers, entirely across the county, runs the Fitchburg Railroad; while parallel to the larger river, on its eastern side, runs the New London and Northern Railroad, and on the west, the Connecticut River Railroad. Though very hilly, this country contains few lofty peaks, Pocumtuck Mountain in Charlemont (1888 feet), Mount Grace, in Warwick (1628 feet), Bear Mountain in Wendell (1281 feet), Packard's Mountain in New Salem (1278 feet), and Mount Esther in Whately (995 feet), being the highest. The elevations are generally covered with a heavy growth of timber to the very summit. The geological formations are calcareous gneiss, sienite, calciferous mica-schist, lower sandstones, middle shales and sandstone, Quebec group, clay-slate and the Devonian. The soil is various. The meadows along the larger streams are remarkably fertile; and the hill regions afford excellent pasture and often good tillage land. The principal agricultural productions are Indian corn, grass, oats, rye, barley, potatoes, broom-corn and tobacco. Whortleberries are very numerous in the uplands in some parts.

This county was taken from Hampshire County and incorporated June 24, 1811. It was named in honor of Dr. Franklin. It embraces 26 towns, namely : Ashfield, Bernardston, Buckland, Charlemont, Colrain, 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. These are all in the 11th Congressional District, and in the 8th Council District. The county has five representatives in the General Court; and, with three towns of Worcester County, has one State senator. Its population is 37,449. It has 9,518 voters, 8,807 families, 7,757 dwellings, 3,775 farms and 489 manufactories. The number of neat cattle in 1885 was 21,602; of horses, 6,830; and there were 270,295 fruit trees. The valuation in 1888 was $19,330,992. There are 228 public school buildings, valued, with appurtenances, at $261,560; and 25 private school buildings valued at $321,700. There are 90 public libraries containing 81,422 bound volumes; the town public libraries numbering 16, and having 34,257 volumes. There are 89 religious societies having church edifices.

A writer of wide observation has well said of Franklin County: "Its hills are beautiful, its valleys are beautiful; and within my knowledge it would be difficult to find a county of no larger extent, combining more of what is attractive in the natural world, and presenting more objects to please the sight and imagination. The man of refined sentiment and cultivated mind, with a taste for rural scenery, might pass a month in this county with continually new and rich gratification in exploring its many agreeable rides and varied objects of curiosity."

pp. 72-73 in Nason and Varney's Massachusetts Gazetteer, 1890