Hampden County Massachusetts, 1890

Hampden County is the southern county of the State, on Connecticut River, which divides it into about equal eastern and western sections. Through it to this river from the northwest comes Westfield River; and a few miles northward on the opposite side of the Connecticut comes in Chicopee River from a westerly course through the eastern section of the county. It is bounded on the north by Hampshire County, east by Worcester, west by Berkshire and south by the entire northern range of Connecticut counties. With the exception of a southern projection of Southwick and a slighter one of a corner of Longmeadow, the southern boundary is a straight line, but the other sides are very irregular. Its length east and west is near 45 miles; north and south, 15 miles. Its area is stated as 670 square miles. The assessed land is 345,888, including 104,224 acres of woodland and excepting highways and water surfaces.

The extreme eastern and western portions are quite hilly, as well as some smaller sections in other parts. The greatest elevations are Jackson Hill in Blandford (1717 feet high), Peaked Mountain in Monson (1,239 feet), Hitchcock's Mountain in Wales (1,190 feet), Rattlesnake Hill in Hampden (1,077 feet), and Proven's Mountain in Agawam (665 feet). The geological formation is principally mesozoic, with the Quebec group, calciferous mica-schists, and sienite. The soil is generally rich, strong and deep. The intervals bordering upon the rivers are of superior richness; and here may be seen some of the finest farms in the State. The severe droughts which so often visit the more easterly part seldom affect the crops here, and farmers plant with greater confidence of full crops.

The principal domestic animals according to the census of 1885, consisted of 21,016 neat cattle, 4,503 sheep, 9,226 swine, 4,908 horses and 1,108 dogs. The value of the product of the 3,423 farms reported was $3,510,429. The manufacturing interests of the county are extensive; a large amount of capital is invested, and a great variety of goods are made. The number of manufacturing establishments in 1885, was 1,311; and the value of their product, $42,609,234. The population was 116,754 persons, forming 25,005 families, and sheltered by 18,322 dwellings. There were 231 public school buildings worth $1,197,738; and 24 private schools, owning buildings and appurtenances valued at $397,615. The libraries accessible to the public numbered 125 (28 secular, 97 religious), containing 175,465 books. There were 124 church edifices, distributed among most of the older denominations.

This county was taken from Hampshire County and incorporated February 20, 1812, being named in honor of the distinguished English patriot John Hampden. It contains two cities and twenty towns. The first are Springfield and Holyoke; and the latter Agawam, Blandford, Brimfield, Chester, [Chicopee], Granville, Hampden, Holland, Longmeadow, Ludlow, Monson, Montgomery, Palmer, Russell, Southwick, Tolland, Wales, Westfield, West Springfield and Wilbraham. Springfield is the county seat; and this and Holyoke, Chicopee and Westfield are the largest towns.

Most of the towns are on some railroad line. The Boston and Albany passes through the county east and west; the New Haven and Northampton, the Connecticut River, also the New London and Northern, pass through north and south; and the Ware River Railroad, commencing in the eastern section, runs northeast. The junctions of the north and south roads and the Ware River Railroad with the Boston and Albany arc at Palmer, Springfield and Westfield.

The first English settlement was in 1635, at Springfield at first included in the town of Agawam. The principal disturbances here have been the several Indian wars and Shays' Rebellion, the operation of whose forces were chiefly within the county.

The first railroad was the Western, a continuation of the Boston and Worcester line to Springfield, opened to Springfield in 1839, and to the Hudson River in 1842; the Hartford and Springfield was opened in 1844; the Connecticut River Railroad, completed to Northampton in 1845, and to Greenfield in 1846; the New London and Northern Railroad, opened to Palmer in 1850, and to Amherst in 1853; and the Ware River Railroad, opened in 1870. A canal was constructed from New Haven to Westfield in 1830, and to Northampton in 1834; but it proved unprofitable, and the owners built a railroad to take its place, which was opened in 1856.

pp. 73-74 in Nason and Varney's Massachusetts Gazetteer, 1890