Russell, Massachusetts

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Russell is a town in Hampden County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 1,657 at the 2000 census. It is part of the Springfield, Massachusetts Metropolitan Statistical Area.

Contents

Geography

According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 17.9 square miles (46.3 km²), of which, 17.6 square miles (45.5 km²) is land and 0.3 square miles (0.8 km²) (1.79%) is water. Russell borders Granville to the south, Blandford to the west, Huntington to the north, Montgomery to the northeast, and Westfield to the southeast.

The town has two very different parts. South Quarter is mainly uplands at elevations from 1,000 ft (300 m). (300 m) to 1,400 ft (430 m). (425 m) along the rim of a plateau west of the Connecticut River Valley.

Most of the escarpment is inside the town. This is the edge of a rift valley originating in the Mesozoic when Europe and North America separated. The Connecticut River still follows this rift valley, known as Pioneer Valley for its early settlement by English Puritans. The escarpment between South Quarter uplands and the valley is forested—too steep to farm—and dissected by streams that have eroded ravines back into the uplands.

The rest of the town is a deep valley along the swift Westfield River. During the Pleistocene Epoch continental glaciers scraped away soil and steepened cliffs on hills around this valley, particularly on Mounts Tekoa and Shatterack east of the river, and on Turtle Mountain standing in the middle of the valley. Although none of these peaks actually rises much above the surrounding plateau, their precipitous slopes make them appear impressively high from the valley.

As continental glaciers receded northward a glacial moraine dammed the Connecticut River below Hartford, producing 200 mile (320 km)-long Lake Hitchcock with an arm extending northwest along the Westfield River. Gravel banks large enough to be commercially valuable were deposited in Russell where the river entered the ephemeral lake.

The river has three widely separated cascades, dropping about 50 feet (15 m) each that figured in the township's industrial development, below.

History

Russell was originally part of the Pocumtuc (also called Deerfield) nation, who spoke an Algonquian language. Like most native peoples, they were decimated by smallpox, then their participation in King Philip's War 1675-76 proved their undoing as victory by colonial forces led to dispersal of remnants of this tribe west into New York and north into Canada.

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