Genealogy in Franklin County, Massachusetts - Town of New Salem

Genealogy in Franklin County, Massachusetts
Town of New Salem

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New Salem lies in the southeastern part of Franklin County and is roughly bounded by Gill on the north, Orange on the north, Athol and Petersham (both towns in Worcester County) on the east, the former town of Prescott on the south, and Pelham (the latter two towns in Hampshire County), Shutesbury, and Wendell on the west. New Salem was organized as a district on June 15, 1753. It was organized as a town August 23, 1775. On January 28, 1822, parts of New Salem and Pelham were organized as Prescott. On February 20, 1824, part of Shutesbury was annexed to New Salem. On February 5, 1830, part of New Salem was annexed to Athol. On March 16, 1837, part of New Salem was annexed to Orange and Athol.

In 1874, Elias Nason described the town of New Salem as follows:
New Salem
is mountainous town, of 230 dwelling-houses and 987 inhabitants, occupying the south-eastern extremity of Franklin County, about 70 miles north-west of Boston, and bounded on the north by Orange, east by Athol and Petersham, south by Prescott, and west by Shutesbury and Wendell. It is reached by the Athol and Springfield Railroad. The underlying rock is calcareous gneiss. The land is generally high and broken; and at the south-west corner of the town it rises into an eminence called "Packard's Mountain," 1,273 feet above the level of the sea. The streams which drain the surface are a branch of Miller's River (flowing northerly from Spectacle Pond), the Middle Branch of Swift River (flowing southerly from North Pond in Orange), Hop Brook, Moosehorn Brook, and other tributaries of Swift River.

The town contains several beautiful ponds, among which are the Reservoir, of 320 acres, in the north-east corner; Thompson's Pond, of 235 acres, in the south-east corner; Spectacle Pond, of 90 acres, and Hacker's Pond, of 15 acres, in the eastern section. The climate is cold and healthful. "The fogs of Connecticut River seldom rise above this place, while they cover the surrounding country; and the towering Monadnock, on the north, appears like an island rising from a boundless ocean." There are 182 farms and 4,585 acres of woodland, which furnish large quantities of fire-wood, lumber, staves, and shingles, for market. The town has eight saw-mills and one grist-mill; and it is, to a limited extent, engaged in the manufacture of straw hats, shoes, and infant carriage-wheels.

The three principal villages, having each a post-office, are New Salem, North New Salem, and Millington, in the south-east corner. Cooleyville is in the south-west angle. The town has a hotel (called "The New-Salem House"), a town-hall, an incorporated academy, eight school-districts, and four churches, the pastors of which are the Rev. David Eastman, C.T.; Randall Mitchell and Asa Barnes, Methodist. The Rev. C. E. Seaver, Methodist, is the minister at North New Salem.

This town sent 100 men into the late war, of whom 10 were lost. The valuation is $324,416; rate of taxation, $2.34 per $100. Royal Whittaker is the present town-clerk.

New Salem was settled chiefly by families from Middleborough and Danvers. The first minister was the Rev. Samuel Kendall, who died in 1792. This is the inscription on his monument:--

"Sacred to the memory of Rev. SAMUEL KENDALL, who died Jan. 31, 1792, in the 85th year of his age, first minister of New Salem.

'Equal in dust we all must lie,
And no distinction we can make;
But faith forbids the rising sigh,
And sees my sleeping dust awake.'"

The place was named from Salem in Essex County, and incorporated June 15, 1753.
(Source: Nason, Elias, 1811-1887. A gazetteer of the state of Massachusetts : with numerous illustrations on wood and steel / by Elias Nason. -- Boston : B.B. Russell, 1874. -- p. 371)

Online Genealogical Resources

The following resources may provide information useful in researching New Salem families.


The following resources may provide information useful in researching New Salem families.


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