Williamsburg Massachusetts, 1890

Williamsburg is a hilly town, devoted to farming and manufactures, in the northern border of the west section of Hampshire County, 103 miles west of Boston. The New Haven and Northampton Railroad extends into the town, and has stations at Haydenville, in the southeast, and at Williamsburg (centre),—which are the post-offices. The other villages are Searsville and Skinnerville.

The boundaries are Conway and Whately on the north; the latter and Hatfield on the east; Northampton and Westhampton on the south; and Chesterfield and Goshen on the west. The assessed area is 15,168 acres; and of this, 3,413 acres are forest land. The rock-bed of this town is calciferous mica-schist and granite. The land is generally-elevated and quite mountainous. High Ridge, in the northeastern corner, has an altitude of 1,480 feet, and was a station in the Trigonometrical Survey of the State. Other noted elevations are Walnut Hill, Day's Hill and Shingle Hill in the eastern, and Miller's Hill in the southern section. Mill Brook, running in a diagonal course southeasterly through the town, receives Wright and Beaver brooks from the eastern part and another stream from the west, and at the southern part of the town becomes Mill River; whence it pursues its course through Northampton to the Connecticut, furnishing much useful power all. along its way. This is the stream of the thrilling occurrence known as the "Mill River Disaster," which inflicted great damage and loss of life, both in this town and Northampton.

"Early on the morning of May 16, 1874, the ill-fated reservoir, located about three miles north of Williamsburg village, covering an area of 111 acres, with an average depth of 24 feet, broke from its insecure fastenings, and rushed like an avalanche upon the beautiful villages in the valley below. . . . The wasted and death-stricken villages were Williamsburg, Skinnerville and Haydenville in the town of Williamsburg, and Leeds in Northampton. It has been estimated that the losses in these four places alone amounted to fully $1,000,000, without including damages to land and highways. The whole number of lives lost was 138.

"The State legislature, then in session, promptly voted an appropriation for rebuilding the roads, the sum expended not to exceed $150,000. Only $92,000 were used."

There are now in the rebuilt villages and other parts 13 manufactories; of which the largest are the brass-works, employing in 1885 210 persons; the woollen mill, employing 52; and the wood-turning mill, employing 8 men. Metallic goods were made to the value of $267,047. Other manufactures were carpenters' planes, buttons, carriages, leather, and food preparations. The value of all goods made was $474,827. The 131 farms yielded their products to the value of $130,280. Tobacco, apples, maple sugar and molasses were considerable items. The Haydenville Savings Bank, at the close of last year, held $264,404 in deposits. The population was 2,044; of whom 498 were legal voters. The valuation in 1888 was $874,482. There were 404 assessed dwelling-houses. The public school-houses are 11 in number, and valued at $10,500. The library associations at the two principal villages possess about 2,000 volumes. At each of these villages is a church edifice of the Congregationalists; and the Methodists and Roman Catholics in the town have one each.

This township formed the west part of Hatfield until its incorporation, April 24, 1771, as Williamsburg.

pp. 701-702 in Nason and Varney's Massachusetts Gazetteer, 1890