Granted in 1737 and incorporated in 1754, Greenwich, Mass., was the first town in the Swift River Valley settled by Europeans. Sitting astride the East and Middle branches of the Swift River and forming the eastern boundary of Hampshire County, Greenwich was primarily an agricultural town with light manufacturing and, beginning in the later nineteenth century, an active tourist trade. The town’s population peaked at over 1,100 early in the nineteenth century, declining slowly thereafter.
The records of Greenwich, Mass., offer a long perspective on the history of the region inundated to create the Quabbin Reservoir. The core of this collection consists of the records of town meetings and the Selectmen of Greenwich from the Proprietary period in the 1730s through disincorporation in 1938, but there is some documentation of the town’s Congregational Church, a local school, the library, and the Greenwich Improvement Society. This finding aid reflects both materials held by SCUA and materials digitized in partnership with the Swift River Valley Historical Society in New Salem, Mass.
Background on Greenwich, Mass.
First granted in 1737 to descendants of the veterans of King Philip’s (Metacomet’s) War, and incorporated as Quabbin Parish in 1754, the town of Greenwich sat astride the East and Middle branches of the Swift River and formed the eastern boundary of Hampshire County. The first town to occupy the valley, its unforgiving and rocky soils were devoted largely to agricultural use and pasturage, with light industry developing during the nineteenth century. A woolen mill; scythe, rake, fork, and broom manufactories; at least two saw mills; a match factory; and a plating operation employed a handful of workers each. Ice harvesting and a small cottage industry centered on the manufacture of palm-leaf hats providing additional employment. Before the turn of the twentieth century, the rise of a tourist industry exploiting the town’s numerous ponds and lakes became an important element of the local economy, with the Quabbin Inn, Greenwich Hotel, and Dugmar Golf Course becoming popular summer destinations.
Well connected to neighboring towns by two turnpikes and the “Rabbit Run” Railroad, the two principal villages (Greenwich Plains and Greenwich Village) supported a population of nearly 1,100 before declining slowly after about 1850. Like the other towns in the Swift River Valley (Dana, Enfield, and Prescott), Greenwich’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 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 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. Greenwich was officially disincorporated by the state on April 28, 1938, with the above-water portions annexed to nearby Hardwick, New Salem, Petersham, and Ware. On Aug. 14, 1939, the reservoir began to fill.
As the first town settled in the Swift River Valley, Greenwich, Mass., offers a long perspective on the history of the region inundated to create the Quabbin Reservoir. The core of this collection consists of the records of town meetings and the Selectmen of Greenwich from the Proprietary period in the 1730s through disincorporation in 1938, but there is some documentation of the town’s Congregational Church, a local school, the library, and the Greenwich Improvement Society. This finding aid includes both materials held by SCUA and those held at 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.
This finding aid includes materials digitized in partnership with the Swift River Valley Historical Society in 2014, where the originals remain.
Gift of Donald W. Howe, 1960; digital content made possible through a collaboration with the Swift River Valley Historical Society.
Processed by I. Eliot Wentworth, Ken Fones-Wolf, Linda Seidman, and others, 1984-2014.
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:
- Benjamin Dunham Papers
- Howe Family Collection
- Dana Collection
- Enfield Collection
- Prescott Collection
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.
Cite as: Greenwich (Mass.) Collections (MS 011). Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries.
- Congregational churches--Massachusetts--Greenwich--History
- Greenwich (Mass.)--History
- Greenwich (Mass.)--Politics and government
- Greenwich (Mass.)--Religious life and customs
- Greenwich (Mass.)--Social life and customs
- Quabbin Reservoir Region (Mass.)--History
- Quabbin Reservoir Region (Mass.)--Social life and customs
- Greenwich (Mass. : Town)
- Greenwich (Mass. : Town). School Committee
- Greenwich (Mass. : Town). Treasurer
- Greenwich Improvement Society
Types of material
- Account books
- Church records