Montague Massachusetts, 1890

Montague is a prosperous manufacturing and farming town lying on the east side of the Connecticut River near the centre of Franklin County. It is 97 miles northwest of Boston by the Fitchburg Railroad, which has stations at Miller's Falls, Montague (centre), Montague City and Turner's Falls. The New London and Northern Railroad runs through the town north and south, having stations at South Montague, Montague Centre and Miller's Falls. The post-offices are Lake Pleasant and the villages mentioned, except South Montague. Other villages are Grant's Corner and Lock's Village.

[Lake Pleasant, Montague.]

The town is bounded on the north by Gill and Erving, east by Wendell, south by Leverett and Sunderland, and west by Deerfield and Greenfield. The Connecticut River separates it from the two latter towns, and, by a bend, from Gill on the north. Miller's River divides it from Erving on the northeast, entering the larger river at its turn northward at the northeastern angle of Montague. The assessed area is 16,500 acres, which includes 4,714 acres of woodland. The southeastern section is chiefly occupied by hills, and a broad elevation occupies the southwest part. Chestnut Hill in the southeast, and Willis Hill in the northern part, are the most notable eminences. The geological formation is calcareous gneiss in the eastern part, middle shales and sandstones, and upper conglomerate on the Connecticut River. Some specular iron occurs. Lake Pleasant, a beautiful sheet of water near the centre of the town and on the line of the railroads, attracts many visitors. There are a grove and several buildings for the use of pleasure parties.

The soil in the town is generally good. Cereals and tobacco have more than usual attention, and a great variety of fruits, berries and nuts are raised; of which apples, pears and strawberries are the largest items. The value of the aggregate product of the 141 farms in 1885 was $181,637. The Connecticut, at the northern side of the town, first divides among several islands, then passing "The Narrows," spreads out broad and beautiful as a lake; meeting at Turner's Falls a dam over which it falls more than thirty feet perpendicularly; and thence, for half a mile, it continues to dash and foam, then turns again southward. This dam was constructed at a cost of some $250,000, and forms one of the most important hydraulic powers in the State. The Turner's Falls Company, which has made the improvements, consisted originally of Alvah Crocker, Thomas Talbot, Benj. F. Butler and other capitalists. The company invested largely in land here, which has been laid out for a great manufacturing city. The leading manufactories, at this point are the paper mills, employing, in 1885, 388 persons, and producing goods to the value of $1,170,958; the John Russell Cutlery Company, employing 385 persons; their product and the metallic goods made in the town amounting to $681,508; and a cotton mill employing 141 persons. There is also a valuable motive power at Miller's Falls, where a promising village has sprung up. Montague centre is a fair example of a well-built New England village. All except one or two villages have some manufacturing. Besides the kinds, mentioned, there are made here, artisans' tools, farm and garden rakes, sporting and athletic goods, paper boxes, furniture, carriages, leather, bricks, and various food preparations. The value of the aggregate manufactured product is set down at $2,273,139. At Turner's Falls is a national bank having a capital of $300,000, and a savings bank, holding, at the beginning of the present year, deposits amounting to $588,557. The population in 1885 was 5,629, of whom 1,050 were legal voters. The valuation in 1888 was $3,169,295, with a tax-rate of $15.50 on $1,000. The number of dwelling-houses taxed was 910.

There are at Montague a substantial town-hall and a public library containing about 3,000 volumes. At Turner's Falls there is a local library association having some 2,000 volumes. At this village, also, is published a lively weekly newspaper the "Turner's Falls Reporter." There are primary, grammar and high schools, provided for in ten buildings, having the value of about $70,000. There is a Congregationalist church at Montague village, one at Miller's, and a third at Turner's Falls; the latter place having also a German Congregational, a Unitarian, a Baptist and a Roman Catholic church. At other points in the town are a German Methodist Episcopal, a second Unitarian, and a French Roman Catholic church.

This town, originally the north parish of Sunderland, was incorporated December 22, 1753. It was named in honor of Captain William Montague, commander of "The Mermaid" at the capture of Cape Breton, who was sent home with the news of the victory of Louisburg. The southern part of the town bore for a long time the name, "Huntinghill Fields," being much frequented by moose, deer, bears, wolves, foxes and lesser game. Indian implements, as stone axes and points of arrows, are still sometimes found here.

The first church was organized in 1752; the first ordained minister, the Rev. Judah Nash, being settled on the same date. Luther Severance, a noted politician, journalist and member of Congress, was born here in 1797, and died in Augusta, Me., in 1855. Hon. Jonathan Hartwell, who settled in Montague in 1817, is said to have originated the system of school-district libraries.

pp. 473-475 in Nason and Varney's Massachusetts Gazetteer, 1890