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.