Bicycling the Pioneer Valley and Beyond

Encyclopedia of New England


Extracted and edited from “History And Antiquities of Every Town In Massachusetts” by John Warner Barber, 1848.

Hatfield is one of the oldest settlements in the county, and was originally included within the bounds of Hadley. It was incorporated in. 1670. The Rev. Hope Atherton appears to have been the first minister. Mr. Atherton died in 1679, aged 33. He was succeeded by Rev. Nathaniel Chauncy. Mr. Chauncy died in 1685, and was succeeded by Rev. William Williams, who died in 1741. Rev. Timothy Woodbridge was installed here in 1740, and was succeeded by Rev. Joseph Lyman, D. D., in 1772. Dr. Lyman died in 1828, and was succeeded by Rev. Jared B. Waterbury, in 1827, who was succeeded by Rev. Levi Pratt, in 1830. This is a fine agricultural town, and noted for its raising fine beef cattle. A part of the township is a pine plain, a part intervals of the first quality, and the remaining part valuable upland. The principal village lies on an interval opposite the north end of Hadley, at the distance of one mile and a half. There is one Congregational church. Population, 937. Distance, 5 miles north of Northampton, and 95 west of Boston. The value of brooms manufactured in this town in 1837 was $28,600.

Hatfield, like other ancient towns in this vicinity, has passed through many scenes of distress and danger. On October 19, 1675, in Philip’s war, between seven and eight hundred Indians approached the outposts of Hatfield, flushed with their recent successes in Deerfield and other places. Having cut off several parties who were scouring the woods in the vicinity, they made a rapid attack on the town in various directions. Fortunately, two companies, under the command of Captains Mosely and Poole, were at this time in the village. While Poole bravely defended one extremity, Mosely with no less resolution defended the center, while Captain Appleton, arriving with his company from Hadley, protected the other extremity. After a severe contest, the Indians were repulsed at every point; many were driven across Mill river in confusion, and in their hurry, attempting to carry off their dead and wounded, lost many of their guns in the river. They however found time to fire several buildings, which were consumed, and to drive off a number of cattle and sheep. Their retreat being made at the dusk of the evening, their loss could not be ascertained; the loss of the English is not given. Captain Appleton had a narrow escape, a ball passing through the hair of his head; his sergeant at his side was mortally wounded. On the 30th of May, 1670, a body of 6 or 700 Indians fell upon Hatfield again, and burnt about a dozen houses and barns in the skirts of the town. One party attacked the fortified houses to which the inhabitants had fled, the other drove away the cattle belonging to the inhabitants. In the mean time twenty-five young men from Hadley crossed [he river, and with invincible resolution broke their way through the enemy, and assisted in repelling the savages.

In the expedition of Captain Turner and others, in 1676, against the Indians at the falls in the vicinity of Greenfield, Rev. Mr. Atherton of Hatfield accompanied him as chaplain. In the confusion of the retreat from Greenfield, he was separated from the troops, and became lost in the woods. After wandering at random and despairing of finding his way home, he came to the resolution of delivering up himself to the Indians. Approaching a party of the savages, he by signs offered to surrender himself a prisoner; but, as unaccountable as it may appear, they refused to receive him. When he approached and called to them, they fled from his presence, and appeared fearful of his approach, and Mr. Atherton was left to his fate. Upon this he determined if possible to find the river and follow it to Hatfield. This he effected, after a wandering march of several days of excessive fatigue and hunger, and arrived in safety among his people. The Indians, probably, knowing Mr. Atherton’s profession by his dress, and having some knowledge of the sacredness of his office, considered him as a sacred person, whom they dare not injure.

On the 19th of September, 1677, about fifty Indians, who had descended Connecticut river, fell upon Hatfield, as the people were raising a house, killed and captured about twenty, including among the latter several women and children. Among the prisoners were the wives of Benjamin Wait and Stephen Jennings. Having received authority from the government to ransom the captives, they commenced their hazardous journey on the 24th of October, and followed the enemy through New York by the lakes into Canada. They returned, after an absence of eight months, with nineteen of the prisoners.

On the 22d of August, 1786, a convention of delegates from fifty towns in Hampshire county assembled in Hatfield, and passed certain seditious resolutions. “This was the first important blow struck against the government, in Shays’ insurrection; it was soon followed up by attempts, some of which were successful, to stop the proceedings of courts in various counties.” The convention continued for three days. This body voted that the essential branches of the three legislative departments of the state were grievous; “material proceedings upon national concerns erroneous; obvious measures for paying the debt blindly overlooked; public moneys misappropriated, and the constitution itself intolerably defective. The directions for transmitting these proceedings to the convention of Worcester, and to the county of Berkshire, displayed a design in this assembly of doing more than passively representing their own grievances.” — Minot’s Hist. Insurrection.

The following inscriptions are from monuments in this town:

In memory of the Hon. Israel Williams, Esquire, who departed this life 10 January; 1788, in the 79 year of his age. High and low, rich and poor, are death’s equal prey, and no valuable distinction survives his resistless attack, but that, which ennobles an angel, the love of God.

All on earth is shadow, all beyond
Is substance; the reverse is folly’s creed.
How solid all, where change shall be no more

To the memory of Mr. Jacob Walker, who, respected by the brave, beloved by his country’s friends, dear to his relations, while manfully defending the laws and liberties of the commonwealth, nobly fell by the impious hand of treason and rebellion, on the 17 of February, 1787, in the 32 year of his age. Citizen passing, drop a tear, and learn to imitate the brave.

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