Blandford, Massachusetts

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Blandford is a town in Hampden County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 1,214 at the 2000 census. It is part of the Springfield, Massachusetts Metropolitan Statistical Area. It is the home of the Blandford Ski Area.

Contents

History

Blandford was first settled in 1735 by Scots-Irish settlers and was officially incorporated in 1741. Settlement came to Blandford and other "hilltowns" some 75 years after more fertile alluvial lowlands along the Connecticut River where tobacco and other commodity crops were cultivated. In contrast farming in the hilltowns was of a hardscrabble subsistence nature due to thin, rocky soil following Pleistocene glaciation and a slightly cooler climate, although upland fields were sometimes less subject to unseasonal frosts. Initial settlement in the nearby Pioneer Valley was by English Puritans whereas Blandford's Scots-Irish settlers were Presbyterian and their English was still somewhat influenced by Gaelic. Thus there were significant ethnic, religious, economic, and linguistic differences between these adjacent regions of settlement.

Population density in Blandford and other hilltowns was limited by outmigration by about 1800 as more productive land in Western New York and the Northwest Territories became available, however emigrants were typically young men and women, while the older generation and usually one or two children usually remained in place and farms were not yet abandoned. Then the Industrial Revolution drew additional manpower away from hilltown farms, especially after 1850 when steam engines fueled by local wood or by coal began to replace water power. Hilltown farms began to be abandoned about this time and slowly reverted to forest, leaving stone walls and cellar holes behind as farm buildings rotted away. In other cases farming became a part-time way of life and industrial wages enabled buying manufactured goods, whereas previously virtually everything used on subsistence farms was homemade or bartered for.

Geography

According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 53.5 square miles (138.7 km²), of which, 51.7 square miles (134.0 km²) of it is land and 1.8 square miles (4.7 km²) of it (3.38%) is water.

The town is located near the eastern edge of the Berkshire Hills, above an ancient rift zone where the Connecticut River Valley is downfaulted about one thousand feet (300 m). The town's elevations range from about 400 feet (120 m) along streams approaching the Westfield River (a major tributary of the Connecticut) to hilltops as high as 1700 feet (500 m). Elevations increase to the west with expansive views eastward across the Connecticut River Valley as far as Mount Monadnock in southern New Hampshire. Local relief is as high as 500 feet (150 m) near streams flowing into the Westfield River, but away from these streams the town is characterised by rolling uplands.

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