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South Hadley, noted for the Mount Holyoke Female Seminary, is situated on the east bank of the Connecticut River, in the southern part of Hampshire County, about 112 miles west of Boston; and contains 610 dwelling-houses and 3,949 inhabitants. It is bounded on the north by Hadley (the line running over the summit of Mount Holyoke), east by Granby, south by Chicopee, and west by Holyoke and Northampton, — from which it is separated by the river. The assessed area is 9,132 acres; the forests comprising 2,883. The rock formation is middle shales, dolerite and lower sandstone, which rises on the north into the lofty ridge of Mount Holyoke, described in the article on Hadley. The soil is fertile and is drained by Elmer's Brook and Bachellor's Brook in the north. Stony Brook (which runs deviously through the central village), and Battery Brook, which enters the Connecticut River at South Hadley. Four small ponds, containing from 12 to 16 acres each, add somewhat to the beauty of the scenery. The falls in the Connecticut River opposite this town are forty feet in height and furnish an immense hydraulic power, which has served to build up the new and flourishing city of Holyoke opposite. A canal extends from a point some two miles above the falls, to the village of South Hadley Falls, by which water is conveyed for manufacturing purposes. This channel at one place passes through a solid rock 300 feet in length and 10 feet in depth. It was constructed in 1792 to provide a passage for vessels; and is said to be the first in the country for the purpose of navigation. It is stated that as many as 24,000 shad have been taken from the river at this place in a year; and the fish is still a source of some profit in the vicinity. The principal factories are at South Hadley village; and consist of three paper mills, employing in June, 1885, 336 persons; a cotton mill employing 259 persons; a woollen mill employing 49 persons; and a silk mill employing 10 persons. Other manufactures of the town were bricks (employing 91 men), carriages, lumber, clothing, boots and shoes, blank books, leather, machinery and metallic; goods, tobacco, and food preparations. The value of all goods made was $756,812. The 174 farms yielded products to the amount of $215,256. The number of legal voters was 747. The valuation in 1888 was $1,726,625, with a tax-rate of $16.25 on $1,000. The public schools consist of the grades of primary, grammar and high, and occupy five buildings valued at upwards of $20,000. The churches are one each of the Methodists and Roman Catholics, and two of the Congregationalists. The postal centres are South Hadley and South Hadley Falls. The other village is Hockanum. Its railroad connections are at Holyoke at the southwest, and Easthampton at the north west.
[the Mount-Holyoke Seminary, South Hadley.]
The Mount Holyoke Seminary, in the central village, incorporated in 1836, is deservedly celebrated. The whole course of instruction occupies four years, and embraces a wide range of liberal studies, designed to impart a useful, ornamental and Christian education, on a very wise and economical plan. Miss Mary Lyon was long its leading teacher; and many ladies of eminence in the various walks of life have here been graduated. On the ground that it was organised and managed on the broad basis of a college for girls, the State made it an appropriation, in 1848, of $40,000. It is well supplied with apparatus, and has a valuable library, to which Mrs. H. F. Durant contributed $10,000, on condition that it should be kept in a fire-proof building. Such a building has been erected. There have also been added an observatory, a gymnasium, and other buildings. The seminary is approached by Smith's Ferry from Northampton. The grounds of the institution are well shaded; and the view from the upperstories of the principal building is remarkably beautiful and commanding. In 1888 "Mount Holyoke College" was established in connection with the seminary; and Miss Mary A. Brigham, who had previously been offered the presidency of Wellesley College, was elected first president, and also president of the seminary. She was born in Westborough, December 6, 1830, and was killed by a railroad disaster, June 29, 1889.
This place was settled about 1721 by families from Hadley, of which it became a parish. It was incorporated as a town, April 12, 1753. The first church was organized here about 1733; the meeting-house, containing only nine pews, was completed in 1737. The people were called together by the "blowing of a conch-shell." The Rev. Grindall Rawson, settled in 1733, was the first minister.
The remarkable bird-tracks, of which so many have been discovered in the sandstones of the valley of the Connecticut River, were first observed by a person of this town. pp. 608-610 in Nason and Varney's Massachusetts Gazetteer, 1890Gazetteer
Tuesday, May 11, 1999
HistorySouth Hadley was originally part of Hadley. As the population of Hadley grew, the young people requested that land south of Mount Holyoke range be made available for settlement. The first grant was made in February 1675 to Thomas Seldon. Other grants followed and, as the settlement grew, the settlers wanted to have their own place to worship and requested that the settlement be made a precinct of Hadley. After presenting three petitions, they were able to meet the requirement that a minister be settled and a meetinghouse built. Grindall Rawson, a Harvard graduate, was ordained as the minister on October 2, 1733, and the first meetinghouse was entered on "Sandy Hill," now the town common.
As the settlement continued to expand, the desire for more self-governing power increased, and a petition was made to make South Hadley a district. The General Court granted the request in 1753 giving South Hadley a district. The General Court granted the request in 1753 giving South Hadley all the powers of a town except the right to choose a representative to the General Court. It could join several other districts to choose only one representative. The first meeting of the South Hadley district was held in the meetinghouse on April 30, 1753. With the coming of the American Revolution, South Hadley obtained all the powers of a town.
The first navigable canal in the United States was opened to traffic in 1795, making Falls Village, then the South Hadley Canal. The canal served as a shipping center and a tourist attraction. The canal was later deepened and locks replaced the carriages that carried flatboats and rafts between lower and upper levels of the canal. Steamboats were introduced to the canal in 1826 and in 1862, a railroad was built, which replaced the river as a way of shipping goods.
In 1897, South Hadley established "the South Hadley Public Library", one location in the center of town and one on the Falls. The library employed nine trustees, which were voted $1000 a year. The Gaylord Memorial Library was established at the center of town in 1904. Three years later, the South Hadley Falls Free Public Library was opened in the Carnegie Hall Foundation Building when Miss Elizabeth Gaylord donated land and furnishings to the town.
In 1908, the combined High School and Town Hall were opened in the present Town Hall and the limited or representative town meeting was adopted by referendum in 1933. One year later, at the first town meeting , 54 members of the first town meeting were elected. The Senior High School was opened on Newton Street and then enlarged in 1964.
In 1997, the town acquired 244 acres of land for further development from the James River Corporation.