Genealogy in Franklin County, Massachusetts
Town of Ashfield


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Ashfield lies in the southwestern part of Franklin County and is roughly bounded by Hawley on the northwest, Buckland on the north, Conway on the east, Goshen on the south, Cummington on the southwest, and Plainfield on the west (the latter three towns in Hampshire County). Ashfield was organized June 21, 1765 from the plantation called Huntstown.

In 1874, Elias Nason described the town of Ashfield as follows:
Ashfield
is an uneven and hilly grazing-town, of 242 dwelling-houses and 1,180 inhabitants, in the south-western part of Franklin County, having Hawley and Buckland on the north, Conway on the east, Goshen on the south, and Plainfield on the west. It lies at an elevation of about 1,200 feet, on the highlands midway between Deerfield and Westfield Rivers, to the former of which it sends as tributaries Clesson's Brook, Bear and South Rivers; and to the latter, Stone's Brook and Swift River. Peter's Hill, Ridge Hill, Mill Hill, and Mount Owen, are prominent elevations; and Great Pond, covering 60 acres, near the centre of the town, is enclosed as a beautiful gem between them. Calcareous mica schist forms the geological structure. There are 225 farms, and 2,844 acres of woodland, from which large quantities of firewood, bark, and timber, are prepared for market. The town has 1,556 sheep, the largest number owned by any town in the county. Most of these are merinos.

Tobacco is raised extensively and with profit. The principal manufacture is wooden-ware, for which the ash, birch, and maple of the forests furnish ample material. The valuation of the town is $535,272; rate of taxation, $2.33 per $100. Ashfield, as a town, insures the property of its own citizens. The town has ten saw-mills, two postal centres (Ashford [i.e., Ashfield] and South Ashford [i.e., South Ashfield]), and three churches,--one Congregational, of which the Rev. James Dingwell is pastor; one Baptist, the Rev. David Pease, pastor; and one Episcopal, at the Centre, the Rev. S. Green, rector. The number of district schools is 14; for the support of which the town appropriated $1,500 in 1871.

The place was granted to a company, or the heirs of a company, commanded by Capt. Ephraim Hunt of Weymouth, for services in an expedition to Canada in 1690; and, in honor to him, was called Huntstown. The first settler was an Irishman, named Richard Ellis, who came here about 1745. Thomas Phillips, his brother-in-law, soon followed him. The Baptist church was formed in July, 1761; the Congregational church, Feb. 22, 1763; and St. John's (Episcopal) church, in 1820.

The town was incorporated under its present name June 21, 1765; and was probably so called from Lord Thurlow of Ashfield and of the king's council. It took an active part in the war of the Revolution; one vote being to give twenty calves, by way of encouragement, to any one that should enlist for three years, and to keep them at the town's expense until the time should expire.

ALVAN CLARK, a portrait-painter and telescope-maker, was born here March 8, 1804. With a reflecting telescope made by himself he discovered the new star near Sirius, for which he received, in 1863, the La Lande prize from the French Academy of Sciences.
(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. 63-64)

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