Sunday, March 30, 2008

Quabbin History: Enfield's Last Town Meeting, April 8, 1938

The last town meeting was held in Enfield, Massachusetts, in the Enfield Town Hall, on April 8, 1938, 20 days before the end of the town's official existence. Chapter 240 of the Acts and Resolves of April 26, 1938, passed earlier by the Massachusetts General Court, and signed by Governor Charles F. Hurley, annexed the towns of Dana, Prescott, Greenwich and Enfield to surrounding towns in preparation for the flooding of the Swift River Valley and the filling of Quabbin Reservoir, effectively ending their existence on April 28, 1938 at 12:01 A.M.

Less than thirty Enfield residents attended the meeting, none of whom any longer owned land. Some attendees had already moved from town.

In comparison, the population of Enfield in 1925 was 749, with 278 registered voters.

Moderator of the meeting was Edwin C. Howe, Postmaster of Enfield for eleven years, beginning as temporary Postmaster on December 15, 1927, and appointed to the position permanently on March 27, 1928. Howe's father, Edwin H. Howe, had also served as Enfield's Postmaster, appointed on December 19, 1889, and holding the position for many years.

The elder Howe is also credited for introducing Enfield to the telephone in 1887, acting as agent and manager of the first telephone exchange in town.

The town's final hurrah was on the night of April 27, 1938, with the Enfield Fire Department hosting a Farewell Ball at the Town Hall. Enfield was reported to have been inundated with a crowd of three thousand people that evening, although one thousand was the maximum that could fit in the Hall. McEnelly's Orchestra performed, playing "Auld Lang Syne" at the stroke of midnight for the emotional, yet subdued residents of the four now-defunct towns. The cost to attend the affair was one dollar.

The Enfield Post Office would remain open for several months after the dis-incorporation of the town, stamping its last postmark on January 14, 1939.

Enfield began its existence in June, 1787, and was originally known as the South Parish of Greenwich. It officially became Enfield about three decades later, on February 18, 1816, ultimately being cobbled out of parts of Greenwich, Belchertown and Ware.

In an interesting aside, the results of the meeting of April 8, 1938, can be seen at the Quabbin Park Cemetery off Rte. 9 in Ware in the form of the Enfield Soldiers' Memorial, the funds with which to erect it ($1800) having been appropriated by approval of Article Five at that last meeting.

Quabbin Park Cemetery is where many of the 7,561 bodies disinterred from the Swift River Valley to make way for Quabbin were reburied and where most of the monuments, war memorials, etc. from the four lost towns were relocated. It's an interesting walk through history and now is a good time to visit, before the black flies and skeeters come out to play. Unfortunately, when the cemetery was created, the grave sites weren't set up according to original place of burial, or even town, for that matter, undoubtedly a genealogist's nightmare.

Today, the best view of where the town of Enfield used to be is from the Enfield Overlook in Quabbin Park off of Rte. 9 in Belchertown. Check out the Department of Conservation and Recreation's web site for more information on Quabbin and other State parks.

For more Swift River Valley history see EWM's The Quabbin Chronology.

As always, thanks for stopping by and take care.

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Sarah said...

Always a pleasure to read Quabbin history tidbits! Thanks!

Beeps and Chirps said...

Cool blog! I am also a Massachusetts photoblogger. Keep up the great work!