Pelham, Massachusetts

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Pelham is a town in Hampshire County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 1,403 at the 2000 census. It shares the same zip code as Amherst.

Pelham is part of the Springfield, Massachusetts Metropolitan Statistical Area.



Pelham (pronounced "PEL-am;" the "h" is silent) was first settled in 1738 by mostly Presbyterian Scotch-Irish immigrants and was officially incorporated in 1743. The town is named for the Pelham family; Henry Pelham was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom at the time of the town's incorporation, and his father, Thomas Pelham, 1st Baron Pelham had been prime minister prior to his term. The town is most well known as being home to Daniel Shays, leader of Shays' Rebellion, an uprising to stop declining economic conditions in Massachusetts from 1786 to 1787. The rebellion, planned in Conkey's Tavern in town, spread across central Massachusetts, and met its practical end when most of the rebels were caught in nearby Petersham. Pelham also holds the distinction of having the oldest town hall in continuous use in the United States.[1] A town meeting is held there for that primary purpose each year.

Pelham's geography has changed twice throughout its history. Originally a much larger town, rectangular in shape (except for a small extension southward taking up part of the modern area of Knight's Corner) and extending eastward to the top of Prescott Hill (where Daniel Shays once lived), the land east of the West Branch of the Swift River was annexed by the town of Prescott in the latter half of the nineteenth centuries (maps made in 1855 and 1862 both show this land still belonging to Pelham). The landscape would change once again, however, when the Quabbin Reservoir was formed along the branches of the Swift River. The reservoir filled along the river, and protected lands along its edge became part of the Quabbin Reservation. It was at this time as well that the towns of the valley were disincorporated, and a portion of Enfield which now constitutes the town's southeast corner (roughly east of Caldwell Brook and Knight's Corner) was given to the town. Because the reservoir divided the town from its old lands in Prescott, however, that portion of land was not returned to the town, but given to New Salem instead.

Geography and Transportation

According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 26.5 square miles (68.6 km²), of which, 25.1 square miles (64.9 km²) of it is land and 1.4 square miles (3.7 km²) of it (5.40%) is water.The town lies along the western edge of the Quabbin Reservoir, its town line following the former path of the West Branch of the Swift River, which once flowed through the town. The town lies along the hills which divide the Pioneer Valley along the Connecticut River to the west from the Quabbin Valley to the east. The brooks in town also flow in both these directions; those in the eastern third of town drain towards the Quabbin, with the western brooks draining towards the Connecticut. Though the town is fairly forested, none of the town except Quabbin lands is protected.

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