Hatfield Massachusetts, 1890
Hatfield is an ancient and handsome town at the middle of the northern side of Hampshire County, about 120 miles west of Boston. It is situated on the right bank of the Connecticut River, which forms its entire eastern line; then, bending westward, forms about half its southern line. The Connecticut River Railroad passes through the midst of the town north and south, having stations at the north, south and centre. Whately lies on the north, Hadley on the east, the latter and Northampton on the south, and the last and Williamsburgh on the west. The villages are at the centre, north, south and west. The assessed area is 9,212 acres, which includes 2,304 acres of forest.
The land is level and alluvial on the river, undulating in the centre and mountainous in the west. There are extensive marshes in the southern section; while on the western border the Horse Mountain rises as a mighty barrier to the height of about 1,000 feet. There is a gentle inclination of the land toward the south; and in that direction are the currents of Broad Brook, Mill River and other streams that drain the town. The southern terminus of the base line of the Trigonometrical Survey of the State is within an irregular semicircle formed by a bend in Mill River, in the southern section of the town.
The geological formation is sienite, middle shales, and sandstone; and in these are found galena, blende, heavy spar, copper pyrites, crystals of yellow quartz and other minerals. The soil is fertile, and remunerative crops of maize, wheat, rye, hay and tobacco are produced, Hatfield, for more than a century and a half, enjoyed a reputation for fat cattle; but the tobacco crop, according to the census, is now far the most valuable item; being, in 1S85, 929,993 pounds, worth $99,938. The aggregate farm product was valued at $273,568. The manufactures are guns, building stone, brooms, food preparations, tobacco, etc., valued, in the aggregate, at $73,428. The valuation in 1888 was $886,900, with a tax-rate of $9,50 on $1,000.
The dwelling-houses numbered 274; the inhabitants, 1,367; legal voters, 319.
The public library has upwards of 3,000 volumes. There were five school buildings, valued at about $10,000. Smith Academy, founded in 1871, has a building and appurtenances valued at $24,000. This was founded by Miss Sophia Smith,— a native and long a resident of the town; and who was also the founder of Smith College, in Northampton. She was the daughter of Oliver Smith, who established the Smith Charity Fund, which several years since amounted to over a million dollars. The church is Congregational.
This place was once a part of Hadley, and was incorporated as a town on the 11th of May, 1670. It was probably called Hatfield from a parish of this name in England. The church was organized in 1670; and the Rev. Hope Atherton was that year ordained as pastor.
Hatfield suffered seriously during Philip's War. "On the 30th of May, 1675," says an early historian, "from six to seven hundred Indians invaded Hatfield; their first work being to set on fire 12 buildings without the fortification. At this time, almost every man belonging to the plantation was at work in the meadow; and while the palisaded dwellings were attacked at every point, and bravely defended by the few who remained, and while a large number of the savages were busy in killing cattle or driving them off, 150 Indians
entered the meadow to engage the planters. The flames of the burning buildings were seen at Hadley; and 25 young men left that town immediately and arrived in the meadow just in season to save the planters from entire destruction. Five of their number fell in the conflict; and 25 Indians were killed,— being one to each man who went over from Hadley.
On the 19th of October, 1675, a body of more than 700 Indians, elated by successes in Deerfield, approached the outposts of this town, having cut off the scouts that had been sent out to watch for their approach. Poole and his men entered into a spirited defence of one extremity; while the veteran Moseley dealt death to the enemy in the centre. Captain Appleton, with the Hadley forces, was soon on the ground, and engaged the foe at the other extremity. The enemy were repulsed at every point. The engagement took place just at the close of the day; and the enemy had been entertained so hotly, that they retired in great haste and confusion, only having had time to burn a few barns and other outbuildings, and. drive off a number of cattle. Ten of the settlers were killed, and the loss of the Indians must have been considerable.
Again, on the 19th day of September, 1677, "a party of about 50 Indians from Canada, who had descended the Connecticut to Hatfield, fell upon that town, shot down three men outside of the fortifications, and, breaking through, killed 11 men, women, and children, and captured and took away a large number. The attack occurred at 11 o'clock in the morning, and while the principal part of the men were at work in the meadows. Benjamin Waite and Stephen Jennings, whose wives were taken, afterwards went to Quebec, and, for £200, redeemed the captives.
The first open and decided measures to oppose the State government, in what is known as Shays' Insurrection, were taken in this town, whose people were in strong sympathy with that movement. On the 22nd of August, 1786, a convention of delegates from 50 towns assembled here, and, in a session of three days, set forth in. detail what they considered the grievances of the people; among which were "the existence of the senate," "the existence of the courts of common pleas, and general sessions of the peace," and "the general court sitting in the town of Boston;" and they voted that a revision of the constitution ought to be made. Four days subsequent to the rising of this convention, the court-house at Northampton was surrounded by armed insurgents, and the doors closed.
But, though many of the citizens of Hatfield were in sympathy with the insurgents, some of them were loyal; and one at least, as we learn from the following inscription, sealed his loyalty with his blood: —
"To the memory of Mr. Jacob Walker, who, respected by the brave, beloved by his country's friends, dear to his relations, while manfully defending the laws and liberties of the Commonwealth, nobly fell by the impious hand of treason and rebellion on the 17th of February, 1787, in the 32nd year of his age. Citizen passing, drop a tear, and learn to imitate the brave."
Eminent persons: Jonathan Dickinson (1688-174:7), first president of Princeton College; Ephraim Williams, founder of Williams College; Elisha Williams (1694-1755), president of Yale College from 1726 to 1739; Oliver Partridge (1712-1792), member of the first Colonial Congress; Oliver Smith (1766-1845), a wealthy and. benevolent farmer, who left an estate of about $370,000, the most of which he devised to educational and charitable purposes; and Miss Sophia Smith (1796-1870), a woman of tender sensibilities and noble Christian endeavor, and the founder of Smith Academy in Hatfield, and Smith College in Northampton.
pp. 361-364 in Nason and Varney's Massachusetts Gazetteer, 1890