Prescott (Mass.) Collection
1822-1952
2 boxes (0.75 linear ft.)
Call no.: MS 021

Abstract

Rural and sparsely populated, Prescott, Massachusetts, was founded in 1822 along the ridge separating the West and Middle branches of the Swift River. Its three villages (North Prescott, Atkinson Hollow, and Prescott Hill) never amounted to more than a few houses each, and the town's total population never exceeded 500. Prescott became the first of four towns to vacate after the Swift River Valley was ordered cleared and dammed to create the Quabbin Reservoir, ceding its administration to the state in 1928 before formally disincorporating in 1938.

The records of Prescott, Mass., document the history of the smallest of the four towns inundated to create the Quabbin Reservoir. Held by the Swift River Valley Historical Society, the materials in this collection consist of records of town meetings and of the activities of the town Selectmen, 1822-1938, as well as sparser records of the School Committee, the Treasurer, and Overseers of the Poor.

Access

The collection is open for research.

Language:

English
Prescott (Mass.) Collection
1822-1952
2 boxes (0.75 linear ft.)
Call no.: MS 021

Background on Prescott, Mass.

Rural and sparsely populated, Prescott, Massachusetts, was founded in 1822 along the ridge separating the West and Middle branches of the Swift River. Its three villages (North Prescott, Atkinson Hollow, and Prescott Hill) never amounted to more than a few houses each, and the town's total population never exceeded 500. In his Gazetteer of Massachusetts (1847), the optimistic John Hayward described the town's character: "The surface of this town is rough and uneven, and in some parts quite hilly; but it has a strong soil, with considerable arable land; the greater part of it, however, is better suited to grazing than tillage." Although there were sawmills and relatively small-scale lumbering and quarrying, most of the inhabitants made their living through farming and dairying, with the elevated landscape and glacial soils being particularly favorable for apple culture. The town was site of a home of Daniel Shays, who led an armed rebellion in 1786-1787 to protest the debt and financial exigency grinding small farmers in the Commonwealth. Prescott was named in honor of Oliver Prescott, a surgeon who accompanied the forces called out to suppress Shays' Rebellion.

Like the other towns in the Swift River Valley (Dana, Enfield, and Greenwich), Prescott's fortunes dimmed considerably after the 1890s. Confronted with a critical demand for water in the Boston metropolitan region in 1895, the Commonwealth authorized the new Metropolitan Water District to seek new water supplies in the western parts of the state. Construction of the Wachusett Reservoir along the Nashua River (1897-1908) bought time, but ultimately failed to meet the projected demand, and by 1922, the MWD officially signaled its intention of damming the Swift River Valley, signifying an end to habitation there. All residents were ordered removed from the valley, with homes, farms, and places of business systematically destroyed, the land cleared, and graves removed.

Work on the Quabbin Reservoir began four years later with construction of the Ware River Diversion, a tunnel connecting the Wachusett Reservoir with the Ware River, followed in 1936 by construction of the Goodnough Dike and Windsor Dam. Prescott's small population led it to become the first of the four towns to be vacated. The town was nearly empty by 1928, when the remaining residents voted at town meeting to cede administration to the state. The town was officially disincorporated on April 28, 1938, and on Aug. 14, 1939, the reservoir began to fill. The above-water portions of Prescott were annexed to adjacent New Salem and Petersham, with the spine of the town along Prescott ridge now forming a peninsula into the Quabbin Reservoir.

Contents of Collection

The records of Prescott, Mass., document the history of the smallest of the four towns inundated to create the Quabbin Reservoir. Held by the Swift River Valley Historical Society, the materials in this collection consist of records of town meetings and of the activities of the town Selectmen, 1822-1938, as well as sparser records of the School Committee, the Treasurer, and Overseers of the Poor. This finding aid includes materials from the Swift River Valley Historical Society in New Salem, Mass., that were part of a cooperative digitization project centered on the records of the Quabbin towns.

Collection inventory
Printed material
1898-1952
2 vols.
Prescott (Mass. : Town) town records
1822-1938
3 vols.

Primarily a record of town meetings, with miscellaneous town records including perambulations.

Includes financial records concerning persons who required financial support.

A list of residents from Prescott, Mass., who were supported by the town. Included are name, date of first aid, sex, color, marital status, date of birth, birth place, birth place of parents, place of settlement, where supported, date of discharge, how discharged, age at death, cause of death and remarks. Highway account for 1937 at end of volume.

Handwritten with name, age, place of birth, residence May 1, residence at time of registration, occupation, place of occupation, when ceased to be a voter, why ceased to be a voter, and, occasionally, remarks.

Includes financial accounts of school districts no. 1-6 and district in Pelham

Includes receipts and expenditures of town.

Administrative information
Location of Originals

This finding aid includes materials digitized in partnership with the Swift River Valley Historical Society in 2014, where the originals remain.

Provenance

Digital content made possible through a collaboration with the Swift River Valley Historical Society.

Processing Information

Processed by I. Eliot Wentworth, Ken Fones-Wolf, Linda Seidman, and others, 1984-2014.

Related Material

Additional material relating to the history of the four Quabbin towns is indexed in SCUA's online catalog, UMarmot, and includes the following of note:

The Swift River Valley Historical Society contains other records for the Quabbin towns that have not been digitized. These include photographs of residents of the town and materials relating to town finances and taxation.

Digitized content

Prescott's records were digitized by SCUA in collaboration with the Swift River Valley Historical Society and have been made available both through the Internet Archive and Credo.

Copyright and Use (More informationConnect to publication information)

Cite as: Prescott (Mass.) Collections (MS 021). Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries.

Search terms
Subjects
  • Education--Massachusetts--Prescott--History
  • Poor--Massachusetts--Prescott
  • Prescott (Mass. : Town)
  • Prescott (Mass.). Overseers of the Poor
  • Prescott (Mass.)--Appropriations and expenditures
  • Prescott (Mass.)--History
  • Prescott (Mass.)--History--19th century
  • Prescott (Mass.)--Politics and government--19th century
  • Prescott (Mass.)--Social conditions--19th century
  • Public schools--Massachusetts--Prescott--History
  • Quabbin Reservoir Region (Mass.)--History
  • Quabbin Reservoir Region (Mass.)--Social life and customs
Genre terms
  • Account books
  • School records.