Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Greenwich, Massachusetts (1754 - 1938)

The town of Greenwich was incorporated per Chapter 37 of the Massachusetts laws on April 20, 1754.

Greenwich was originally part of an area known as Narragansett Township Number Four and was settled by land grantees in the 1730s who had served England in the Indian Wars against the Narragansetts. Many of the settlers were of Scottish or Irish heritage.

Of the four flooded Quabbin towns, Greenwich was the oldest.

When Greenwich was incorporated it was known as the 'Plantation of Quabbin,' named after an Indian Sachem from the local Nipmuc tribe, who was known as "Nini-Quaben." It was renamed Greenwich in honor of the Scottish 1st Duke of Greenwich, John Campbell.

"Quabbin (or Quaben)" means "well-watered place," a fitting name for the Greenwich area, which was dotted with ponds, lakes and streams and watered by two branches of the Swift River, the Middle and the East. The largest of the lakes was Quabbin Lake, also known as East Pond.

Greenwich was surrounded by rocky hillside, with Mt. Lizzie a distinctive geographic feature to the south, rising nearly 900 feet high from the middle of the valley floor and Mount Pomeroy slightly surpassing her height a couple of miles to the north. Mt. Lizzie is the first island you can see looking north from Goodnough Dike in Quabbin Park in Belchertown. Mt. Pomeroy is the island behind her. Greenwich Center, also known as Greenwich Plains, was located in the valley between the two, a bit east of the islands. Greenwich Village, in the northern section of town, lay just to the east of Mt. Pomeroy.

The lower plains of Greenwich provided fertile soil for farming, and there is evidence that the Nipmucs themselves had planted corn in the valley. By 1890, there were 77 farms in Greenwich.

The Nipmuc tribe also maintained a permanent fishing camp near the confluence of the two branches of the Swift River, not far from Davis Pond, also known as Greenwich Lake.

Today, when Quabbin Reservoir is at capacity, Davis Pond is under more than 100 feet of water.

Greenwich was the location of the first church constructed in the Swift River Valley, built in 1749, five years before the town was officially incorporated. The first four pastors served for a combined total of one hundred thirty-four years. The congregation was known as the Standing Order of Christians. The Rev. Peletiah Webster was the first Pastor and served eleven years.

Parts of Greenwich were carved off in the early 19th century. The section of town known as the southern parish of Greenwich was formed in June of 1787, and was formally seperated from Greenwich on February 15, 1816, when it was incorporated as the town of Enfield. The northeastern area of Greenwich became part of the town of Dana on February 18, 1801.

The first Post Office in town was established in Greenwich Center, in The Plains section, in 1810, with Josiah White appointed first Postmaster on New Year's Day of that year. Greenwich Village received their own Post Office branch in 1824, on May 28th. Warren P. Wing was the village's first Postmaster.

Not quite as numerous, but just as important to the local economy as the many farms in Greenwich, were the industries that thrived in the town. Mills and factories began springing up along the rivers and ponds as early as 1745.

In the fiscal year ending June 1, 1855, Greenwich's scythe factory reported the manufacture of 6,000 scythes with a value of twenty-five hundred dollars. Another factory employing six and involved in the manufacturing of "silver-plated trimmings for harnesses" was the high earner in the town that year, recording six thousand dollars worth of product sold.

Like its neighbor to the northeast, Dana, Greenwich also had businesses employing people in the making of palm-leaf hats, with a reported three thousand dollars worth of product hitting the market in 1855. According to the 1855 Secretary of State's report "Industry in Massachusetts," the palm-leaf hat industry was a major employer of the town's women, with the interesting note in the report: "f. emp., almost all in the town, when occupied with nothing else of more importance."

In the winter, ice-harvesting was an important industry in town, with ice being shipped to Springfield, Worcester and even New York City.

The Athol & Enfield Railroad was completed on December 3, 1873 and ran north to south through Greenwich, paralleled by old Route 21. Both travelled slightly southwest through the area and intersected Mt. Lizzie and Mt. Pomeroy. There were train stations in both Greenwich Center and Greenwich Village and the railroad served as a link between Springfield and Athol.

By 1890, Greenwich boasted seven schools and a 400 volume library located in the Sunday school of the Congregational Church. The town's population was 532, with 152 registered voters.

When the town was taken over by the Metropolitan District Water Supply Commission, the 3,000 volumes of Greenwich's Free Public Library were donated to the Public Library in New Salem.

Early in the 20th century, the Greenwich area became popular for its fishing and summer camps, attracting many tourists from the Springfield and Worcester areas.

Even X. Henry Goodnough, head of the Metropolitan Water & Sewer Board and an avid angler, couldn't resist, bringing his fishing pole with him on scouting missions to the Swift River Valley during the early planning stages of the construction of Quabbin Reservoir. Ironically, enjoying the splendor of the valley while plotting its demise.

The Post Office in Greenwich Center closed its doors for the last time on April 10, 1930, with mail being forwarded to the Post Office in Greenwich Village, which would hang on another six years, closing on July 31, 1936.

Today, the Quabbin Baffle Dam is located where Greenwich Village once stood.

The dam serves as a filtration system by re-routing water entering the reservoir from the Swift-Wachusett Tunnel and the East Branch of the Swift River, deflecting the flow in a northerly direction around Mt. Zion and ultimately back toward Shaft Twelve, which is located south of the Baffle Dam. Shaft Twelve is where the water of Quabbin begins its journey to Boston, travelling through the Swift-Wachusett Tunnel to the Wachusett Reservoir and onward to the thirsty inhabitants of Eastern Massachusetts.

There are differing accounts of the date of the last town meeting of Greenwich. Some place the date as February 14, 1938, others as April 21, 1938.

No matter what the date was, one date is certain, the town of Greenwich was disincorporated on April 28, 1938 at 12:01 a.m., per order of Chapter 240 of the Acts and Resolves of April 26, 1938, passed by the Massachusetts General Court and signed into law by Gov. Charles Hurley.

Greenwich ceased to exist eight days after its 184th birthday.

As always, thanks for stopping by and take care.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

very informative and helpful.