Heath, Massachusetts

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Heath is a town in Franklin County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 805 at the 2000 census. It is part of the Springfield, Massachusetts Metropolitan Statistical Area.



Heath was first settled in 1765 as a part of Charlemont. The town, as well as neighboring Rowe separated, and Heath was officially incorporated in 1785, just a few days after its new neighbor. The town is named after William Heath, Major General of Massachusetts and Brigadier General in the national army during the American Revolution.

General Heath had been the commanding officer and friend of Col. Hugh Maxwell, a local citizen who suggested the town be named in his honor.[1] In 1784 Maxwell, who was severely wounded at the Battle of Bunker Hill by a bullet through his shoulder, was chosen to represent Heath at the General Court in Boston and obtain a division of the town from Charlemont. Accordingly, the new town was incorporated on Feb. 14, 1785.[2]

Chloe Maxwell, daughter of Col. Maxwell, was married to prominent local landowner and state legislator abolitionist Roger Leavitt.[3] Their son was the Congregational minister, lawyer, social reformer, editor and fervent abolitionist Rev. Joshua Leavitt, who after his graduation from Yale College was the first lawyer to practice in Heath. (Rev. Leavitt soon gave up law for the ministry, training at Yale Theological Seminary, settling in Stratford, Connecticut, before decamping for New York City and a career that included the editorship of The Emancipator.[4]) Members of the Leavitt family of Heath and Charlemont provided stops on the Underground Railroad, and in some cases sheltered slaves like Basil Dorsey who were fleeing the South.[5]

The town had some farming and other small industry in the nineteenth century, but much of it is gone now, leaving the town as a rural area. One of its more unique industries was a straw hat business, where palm fronds were imported from the Carolinas to be woven by women and children during their free time. The town is also the site of the annual Heath Agricultural Society Fair, a small country fair held two weekends before Labor Day annually.[6]


According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 24.9 square miles (64.5 km²), of which, 24.9 square miles (64.5 km²) of it is land and 0.04 square miles (0.1 km²) of it (0.08%) is water. Heath lies along the Vermont border between Franklin and Windham counties. Heath is bordered by Whitingham and Halifax, Vermont to the north, Colrain to the east, Charlemont to the south and southwest, and Rowe to the west. Heath is located 17 miles northwest of Greenfield, 49 miles north-northwest of Springfield, and 106 miles west-northwest of Boston.

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