Genealogy in Franklin County, Massachusetts - Town of Sunderland

Genealogy in Franklin County, Massachusetts
Town of Sunderland

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Sunderland lies in the south-central part of Franklin County and is roughly bounded by Montague on the north, Leverett on the east, Amherst on the southeast, Hadley on the south, Hatfield on the southwest (the latter three towns in Hampshire County), and Whately and Deerfield on the west. Sunderland was organized November 12, 1718 from part of Hadley. On January 2, 1740, the boundary between Hadley and Sunderland was established. On January 25, 1754, part of Sunderland was organized as Montague. On March 5, 1774, part of Sunderland was organized as Leverett.

In 1874, Elias Nason described the town of Sunderland as follows:
is a pleasant rural town of two villages (North Sunderland and Sunderland Centre, the latter of which has a post-office), containing 164 dwelling-houses, two churches (Baptist and Congregational), one high school, five school-districts, a grist-mill, a saw-mill, and 832 inhabitants. It lies on the left bank of the Connecticut River, in the southerly part of Franklin County, about 107 miles west of Boston; and is bounded north by Montague, east by Leverett, south by Amherst, and east by Whately and Deerfield. The Amherst and Belchertown Railroad passes through its north-eastern corner; and a bridge over the Connecticut River, 850 feet long, connects it with Deerfield on the west. The formative rock is lower sandstone and dolerite. From the rich interval along the margin of the river, the land rises grandly towards the east to an elevation of about 1,000 feet, which is called "Mount Toby," and which is covered with timber to the summit. It has several beautiful cascades, glens, and ledges; and the locality is named "Sunderland Park." On the northerly side of the mountain there is a remarkable cavern, about 56 feet deep, and 148 long. It is formed of conglomerate rock, consisting of rounded stones of every color, embedded in a matrix, and resting upon a basis of micaceous sandstone, which seems to have been worn away by the action of water; so that the strata of conglomerate, left without support, have fallen down, and formed the cave. The general direction of the cavern is nearly east and west; and the bottom is covered with huge fragments of rock. The whole chamber presents a scene of solemn grandeur, and carries the mind of the visitor back to those primeval ages when the telluric forces wrought such mighty changes in the geological structure of the State.

There is a deep fissure near this cavern, made, undoubtedly, by the same agencies. The view of Mount Toby and Sugar-loaf Mountain (a conical peak on the opposite side of the river), from the village of Sunderland, is magnificent. Although the beautiful Connecticut River washes its western border, and furnishes many splendid water-views, this town has very little water-power. Some little streams, as Longplain Brook, Mohawk Brook, Dug Brook, and Great-drain Brook, flow through the south-western section, and Cranberry Brook through the north-eastern section; but they afford no very valuable mill-sites.

The town has 144 farms; and hay, Indian corn, rye, wheat, broom-corn, and tobacco are among the principal productions.

The village extends for a mile or so along the margin of the river, and has an air of rural quiet and simplicity. The people are obliging, orderly, and philathropic. They sustain a lyceum and a farmers' club, and have a good town-hall and a public library. As many as 52 of them went into the service during the late war. The Rev. David Peck is the Congregational, the Rev. L. W. Wheeler the Baptist minister.

This town originally belonged to Hadley, and was known by the name of "Swampfield." It was incorporated Nov. 12, 1714; and was named in honor of Charles Spencer, Earl of Sunderland and prime-minister of England.

The church was organized in 1718; and the Rev. Josiah Willard, ordained the same year, was the first minister. The valuation is $463,017; and the rate of taxation, $1.87 per $100. The railroad stations are at South Deerfield and at Leverett. The railroad projected from Amherst to the Hoosac Tunnel will pass directly through Sunderland. The present town-clerk is John M. Smith.
(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. 492-493)

Online Genealogical Resources

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



The following bibliography lists sources that may be useful in researching the genealogy and history of families that have lived in the Sunderland area. The bibliography is arranged by subject category and alphabetically by author and title within each category. Information on library holdings is recorded in the box following each citation. For published items, only holdings of libraries profiled on the Archives and Libraries page are given when known. For unpublished and other rare sources, any library known to hold the item is listed. Many of the items listed here are also available at other libraries and research centers in New England, New York, and elsewhere.

Original records and other items microfilmed by the LDS Family History Library (also known as the Genealogical Society of Utah) are also listed below. These microfiches and microfilms are available via interlibrary loan through the LDS family history centers. Make a note of the microfiche or microfilm reel number(s) needed in order to place a request at one of the LDS family history centers.

Census Records

Church History

Church Records



Military Records

Town Records

Vital Records

General Information

The following resources may provide useful information on the Sunderland town area.

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