History of the Connecticut Valley in Massachusetts, 1879.


Looking back thirty years we find no traces of a city where now exits the flourishing city of Holyoke, with its various manufactories, the products of which find a sale in almost every important mart of the civilized world. Then this place was occupied by less than a score of families, quietly engaged in agricultural pursuits, and was known as Ireland, or Third Parish of West Springfield. It derived its name from an Irish family named Riley, who came prior to 1745, and located in the south part of the present town, near "Riley Brook."

One of the earliest settlers was Benjamin Ball, great-grandfather of Col. E.H. Ball, who located in 1745 on the farm now occupied by Col. Ball. The locality was sparsely populated at that time as shown by the following extract from a letter written by Benjamin Ball: "There were but six families in this parish, and they 'forted' together nights for fear of the Indians."

Ireland Parish was not rapidly settled, and, says Col. Ball, "in 1825 the following were the leading citizens of this thinly settled district,—Elisha Ashley, Adam Ives, Noah Wolcott, Austin Goodyear, Caleb Hummerston, Miles Dickerman, Heman and Michael Fuller. The two latter were colored men, and carried on quite an extensive trade in purchasing produce and bringing merchandise from Springfield. Among other leading citizens of this period were Ichabod Howe, Jno. Lundington, the Danks, the Elys, the Days, and the Morgans.

The first merchant who offered his ares for sale in this parish was Chester Day, and his stock in trade usually consisted of a hogshead of rum, a tierce of salt, and a lot of tobacco. This pioneer store was located near the present Hampden Mills. The first grist- and saw-mill was located near the finishing mill of he Parsons Paper Company. There was one other mill here in 1825, a "fulling-" or "clothing-mill," operated by Warren Chapin. At this time the site of the present city was called "the fields," and was occupied by twelve one-story dwelling houses.

Ireland Parish was an uninviting region, and "the fields" were certainly not an attractive place. In about the year 1815 a gang of counterfeiters from Chicopee had their rendezvous in the locality now known as "Money-Hole Hill." They were subsequently captured, and one received the somewhat novel punishment of ear-cropping.

The first move that was made to utilize the waters of the Connecticut, which sweep in a graceful curve over the rapids at this point, was in 1831, when the Hadley Falls Company was formed, and erected what is now known as the "Hampden Mill, Jr." It was supplied with power by means of a wingdam which extended from the bank obliquely up the river, guiding the water into a canal above the mill. This was a cotton mill of 4000 spindles. Alfred Smith, of Hartford, was president, David and Alvin Smith and Warren Chapin comprised the board of directors. This establishment and a small grist-mill were the only manufacturing interests here as late as 1847.

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