Genealogy in Franklin County, Massachusetts - Town of Northfield

Genealogy in Franklin County, Massachusetts
Town of Northfield

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Northfield lies in the northeastern part of Franklin County and is roughly bounded by Vernon (in Windham County, Vermont), Hinsdale, and Winchester (both towns in Cheshire County, New Hampshire) on the north, Warwick on the east, Erving on the south, and Gill and Bernardston on the west. Northfield was organized February 22, 1713 from the plantation called Squakeag. On February 28, 1795, part of Northfield was annexed to Gill. On February 10, 1860, part of Northfield called Hack's Grant, entirely detached from Northfield and surrounded by Erving on all sides, was annexed to Erving.

In 1874, Elias Nason described the town of Northfield as follows:
is a delightful farming-town in the northern part of Franklin County, having 369 dwelling-houses and 1,720 inhabitants. It is bounded on the north by New Hampshire, on the east by Warwick, on the south by Erving, and on the west by Gill (from which it is separated by the Connecticut River) and by Bernardston. It was called by the Indians Squakeag; and was incorporated Feb. 22, 1713. The land on the Connecticut River is a rich alluvial, in other parts undulating and productive. Cragg Mountain and Beers's Mountain, in the southerly section, are fine eminences, affording extensive views of the adjacent country. Mill Brook and Four-mile Brook, running into the Connecticut River, furnish some water-power. Bennett's Brook is an affluent of the river on the west.

The number of farms is 229; and among them are some of the best in the county. Much attention is given to the growing of broom-corn and tobacco, and the preparation of firewood and bark for market. The town has ten saw-mills, and a bonnet, a pail, and a sash manufactory. The principal street, like that of Longmeadow, runs along an elevated plain about a mile from and in the direction of the river, and presents, in its neat buildings and in its ornamental trees, a scene of rural beauty and repose which a Goldsmith or a Bloomfield might admire. This town has three postal centres,--Northfield, Northfield Farms, and West Northfield,--a town-hall and a social library, a Masonic Lodge, a good railroad-dépôt near Main Street, and ten school-districts. The valuation is $735,120; tax-rate, $1.37 per $100.

There is one Unitarian church, established in 1718, of which the Rev. J. T. Sunderland, settled in 1872, is pastor; and one Congregational church, organized Nov. 30, 1825, of which the Rev. T. J. Clark, installed Aug. 17, 1870, is pastor.

This town was granted to John Pynchon and others in 1662; and settlements were made the ensuing year by people from Northampton, Hatfield, and Hadley. The Indians relinquished their title, Aug. 13, 1687, for "two hundred fathom of wampum, and fifty-seven pounds' worth of trading-goods."

Being long a frontier settlement, it suffered greatly during the wars with the Indians. Nine or ten persons were killed in the woods in September, 1675; and, on the day following this massacre, Capt. Richard Beers of Watertown, with a company of thirty-six men, fell into an ambuscade, and several of them were slain. Retreating to the eminence since called Beers's Mountain, and fighting bravely, he himself received a mortal wound, and only sixteen of his men escaped. The scene after the conflict was appalling; some of the heads of the slain were elevated on poles, and one body was suspended by a chain from the limb of a tree. The fort and houses were soon after destroyed. The settlement was again broken up in 1690, but again commenced in 1713. It went on prosperously until Aug. 13, 1723, when two men were killed by the Indians; and in October of the same year, in their attack on the block-house, several more were slain. Aaron Belding was killed in the village by the Indians as late as 1748. There is an Indian burial-place in the town. Northfield furnished 139 soldiers to the late war, and 9 of them lost their lives in the service. The Rev. Benjamin Doolittle was the first settled minister. He was ordained in 1718; and his successors were the Rev. John Hubbard (1750), the Rev. Samuel C. Allen (1795), and the Rev. Thomas Mason (1799). The first child born in the town was Lydia, daughter of Remembrance Wright. Her birth occurred Aug. 26, 1713. When the line was run between this State and New Hampshire in 1740, Northfield lost more than a third of its territory. Like many of the earlier ministers, the Rev. Mr. Doolittle, who died greatly revered Jan. 9, 1748, was both a pastor and a physician.

This double office is thus referred to in the epitaph on his gravestone:--

"Blessed with good intellectual parts,
Well skilled in two important arts,
Nobly he filled the double station
Both of a preacher and physician.
To cure man's sicknesses and sins
He took unwearied care and pains;
And strove to make his patient whole
Throughout in body and in soul.
He loved his God; loved to go good;
To all his friends vast kindness showed;
Nor could his enemies exclaim,
And say he was not kind to them.
His labors met a sudden close;
Now he enjoys a sweet repose;
And, when the just to life shall rise,
Among the first he'll mount the skies."

CALEB ALEXANDER, D.D. (Yale College, 1777), author of "Grammar Elements" and other works was born here July 22, 1755; and died at Onondaga, N.Y., April 12, 1828. JOEL MUNSELL,, an eminent antiquary, author, and publisher, was born here April 14, 1808. He now resides in Albany, N.Y., and is well known in the literary world, not only as an accurate historical writer, but also for the number and excellence of the antiquarian works which have emanated from his press.

A History of the town, written by the Rev. J. H. Temple, is soon to be published. S. W. Dutton is the present town-clerk.
(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. 388-391)

Online Genealogical Resources

The following resources may provide information useful in researching Northfield families.



The following resources may provide information useful in researching Northfield families.


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