Northfield Massachusetts, 1890


Northfield
is a delightful farming town lying on both sides of the Connecticut River in the north side of Franklin County. The Connecticut River Railroad crosses its northwestern corner; and the New London and Northern Railroad follows the river through the town, having stations at Northfield. Farms, Mount Hermon, Northfield Village and West Northfield. It connects with the Fitchburg Railroad some two miles south of the town line at Miller's Falls, 97 miles northwest of Boston. Northfield is bounded on the east by Warwick, on the south by Erving, on the west by Gill and Bernardston, and on the north by Vernon in Vermont and Winchester in New Hampshire.

The assessed area is 19,616 acres, of which 6,783 are forest, containing most of the New England varieties of trees. The land along the Connecticut is alluvial, and very productive. The eminences are ridge-like; the highest being Cragg Mountain and Beer's Hill, in the southwestern section. Mill and Four-mile brooks drain the central and southwestern sections, flowing into the Connecticut; while Bennett's Brook, on the west of the river, drains, the northwest section. All have mill-sites, not so much used as formerly.

The manufactories consist of two saw mills, a tannery, a broom factory, shoe and blacksmith shops, and one or two places for packing tobacco, this being a considerable crop in the town. Apple orchards are numerous, and wood and dairy products are large. The aggregate value of the manufactures in 1885 was $37,048. The value of the product of the 248 farms was $217,967. Only 202 persons reported themselves as farmers. The population was 1,705, including 454 legal voters; and there were 376 taxed dwelling-houses. The valuation in 1888 was $742,603, with a tax-rate of $13 on $1,000.

[birthplace of Dwight Lyman Moody.]

There are ten public school-houses, valued at about $12,000. The public library contains some 3,000 volumes. There is another library, somewhat larger, contained in an edifice valued at $25,000, — one of the seven buildings belonging to the Young Ladies' Seminary. Three or four of these are elegant modern structures of stone or brick. This institution was founded by Mr. D. L. Moody, the evangelist, and the buildings occupy a fair eminence near his birthplace and homestead. The churches are Congregational and Unitarian. During the summer there meet here large numbers of Christian workers, both ministers and laymen, to compare notes and deliberate on future operations. From this gathering has sprung up a summer school of instruction in preparation for evangelistic work; and the place is becoming a summer resort of pronounced religious character. A fine new hotel gratifies citizen and visitor alike.

The marked feature of Northfield is "The Street," which runs through the town on the margin of the uplands about one mile from the river; the space between being occupied by beautiful, smooth, fertile meadows. For two miles, near the centre of the town, the street is ten rods wide, and divided by four rows of elms and maples, which shade and beautify the place. This is the location of Northfield (village), which is one of the post-offices; the others being Northfield Farms at the southwest, West Northfield at the northwest, on the west side of the river, and Mount Hermon, between the first two and near the seminary and opposite the Mount Hermon School for Boys, on the west side of the river in the town of Gill.

This township was granted to John Pynchon and others in 1662. The Indians relinquished their title in 1687, for "two hundred fathom of wampum and fifty-seven pounds worth of trading goods." Being long a border settlement, it suffered greatly during the wars with the Indians. Nine or ten persons were killed in the woods in September, 1675; and the next day Capt. Richard Beers, of Watertown, with a company of 36 men, had a sanguinary conflict with the enemy, only 16 of his men escaping. Following this the savages were guilty of an unusual display of barbarity. The settlement was again broken up in 1690, but was reoccupied in 1713. In the autumn of 1723 the Indians again attacked the place, killing several; and one— Aaron Belding — was killed by them as late as 1748. In the war of 1812, the town sent a company of artillery to Boston, under the command of its lieutenant, Charles Bowen. During the late war, Northfield furnished to the Union forces 139 men, of whom 9 were lost.

Near the close of a hot day, Sunday, September 9, 1821, a tornado swept down upon this town, prostrating trees, tearing bowlders from their beds in the hills, destroying utterly five dwelling-houses and nine barns, and killing two persons and injuring many others.

Northfield was incorporated as a town February 22, 1713. The plantation had borne the name of "Squakead" from the Indian words Squakeag, or, as in the earlier documents, Suckquakege, and Wissquawquegue,—each intended to signify "a spearing place for salmon." The river was called by the Indians Quinnehtuck ("the river with long waves"), and the land adjoining the stream. Quinneh-tuk-et. When the line was run between Massachusetts and New Hampshire, in 1740, Northfield lost thereby more than one third of her territory. In 1860 the part of Northfield called "Hack's Grant," being bounded on all sides by Erving, was annexed to that town. The first church was organized here in 1716; and the Rev. Benjamin Doolittle, the first settled minister, was ordained in 1718, and was both pastor and physician to his people.

The first preaching in Northfield, however, was by William Janes, from Northampton, in 1673, who was accustomed to hold services under an oak. His descendants still occupy the original homestead; and among other preachers of his posterity Bishop Janes is conspicuous, Other eminent natives of this town were Caleb Alexander, D.D. (1755-1828; Yale College 1777), author of " Grammar Elements " and other works; Joel Munsell (1808), antiquary, author and publisher.

pp. 515-518 in Nason and Varney's Massachusetts Gazetteer, 1890

Gazetteer