Sketch of Holyoke

by George H. Allyn

      Omar Khayyham wrote some 900 years ago: "In the four quarters of the earth are many who can write books, some who can rule empires, and some who can command armies, but few there be who can run a hotel."
      If Omar were writing today he could add: "Or write an adequate history of Holyoke."
      The writer serves not as a volunteer, but under merciless conscription and, therefore, proposes to shed inevitable criticism as an armored cruiser would musketry fire.
      He asserts that if events of which he writes didn't happen when stated they did at some time, or going even further, if they never occurred the ought to.
      Thus fortifying ourselves against the shafts of Michael Cleary, J.F. and J.A. Sullivan, D.H Ives, and several who are infinitely better qualified to deal with the situation, we'll attack the proposition.
      Holyoke has often lamented the death of colonial history, the city's civic life only dating from 1850, but as an outside edge of West Springfield we can pose as fairly antique.
      Back in 1684 some sixteen acres of land north of "Riley Brook" were conveyed by Henry Chapin to John Riley, comprising, it would seem, a part of what is now Holyoke.
      But it seems improbable that Riley actually lived and built on this land until about 1725. He was, in all probability, the first settler, though farther south West Springfield had been populated for about sixty years.
      A Holyoke citizen informs us that his great-grandfather, Deacon Joseph Ely, married Mary Riley, daughter of the original settler, so Cupid defied locksmiths and religious and racial prejudice then as now.
      In that part of what is now Holyoke, formerly Smiths Ferry, there was one sturdy settler named Benjamin Wright back in 1704, for it is recorded that at the Pascomuck massacre (an Indian attack on half a dozen families settled near Mt. Tom Junction on the road toward Easthampton) the savages sent a detachment to attack the Lower Farms (as it was then called) homestead, but were repulsed with the loss of one warrior. They set fire to the house, but a youth named Stebbins wrapped a feather bed around him, and got water to extinguish it.
      A rescue party from Northampton was ambushed and repulsed by the savages.
      Thus early did Smiths Ferry learn that Northampton was a broken reed, as regards substantial assistance, and over o hundred years later reached the same conclusion.
      Very little can be gleaned regarding the early colonial life of the Third Parish people. There were six families by 1745, who "forted together nights for fear of the Indians." who, doubtless, annoyed them (as the poet says) "with their lust for human hair."
      We may guess that they were the Days, Morgans, Elys, Chapins, Balls, and Millers. Soon after came the Streets, Ashleys, Wolcotts, Ives, Goodyears, Hitchcocks, Mungers, Humestons, Tuttles, Dickermans, Allens (not Allyns, who didn't show up till about 1849), and others, while over in what is now West Holyoke settled the Boyds, Ludingtons, Winchells, Thorpes, Danks, Bassets, etc.
      The Elys and Days seem to have been the "river gods" of the earlier times.
      The old cemetery at "Baptist Village" affords some interesting data.
      For instance, Nathan Parks was, while hunting in 1797, and "lying concealed in a ditch," potted as unerringly by Luther Frink with a flintlock as if the latter had carried a high-power Savage or Winchester, like the careless manslaughters of today.
      Lieutenant Joseph Morgan is set forth as of those included in the capture of Fort William henry by the French ad Indians in 1757, and how he retained his scalp in the massacre that followed deponent knoweth not.
      The earliest inscription that the writer could decipher seemed to record that Joseph Day departed this life in 1738.
      Benjamin Ball and Lieutenant John Miller (the latter probably ancestor of Abner Miller, who ran the old tavern now standing at the head of Dwight street) seem to have been early patriarchs, dying in 1773 and 1772, aged 84 and 83.

City Hall
City Hall.

      The earliest inscription the writer could find in the old Rock Valley cemetery is that in commemoration of Jared Barker, who died in 1797.
      The First Congregational Church of Holyoke (then West Springfield) was organized December 4, 1799, but no regular preacher is of record till 1816. The first services are said to have been held in a building one-half a mile south of the present church, and afterwards removed to ear the new Elmwood school.
      The First Baptist Church, organized in 1803, seems to have been more prosperous, or of sterner stuff, for the Rev. Thomas Rand started right off and for twenty-five years was not only the shepherd of the flock, but also expounded the gospel to the Congregational people during the last ten years or twelve years of his pastorate, they paying the money raised to the Baptist dominie, and he agreeing to exchange with Congregational ministers "sufficiently often to supply us with preaching our part of the time." Some Congregational leaven was needed to neutralize the Baptist doctrine. A "Seminary" was built in 1808 on what is now Homestead avenue, south of the Rand residence, and was conducted by Elder Rand for 24 years. About 1846 this building was moved to the property afterwards bought by Timothy Merrick near the corner of Northampton street and the Westfield road, and was for years considered a center of learning. It was sold at auction about 1872, torn down by the purchaser, George C. Ewing, and used in building a house at Ewingville.
      In 1825 it is stated that the six leading families were the Ashleys, Ives, Wolcotts, Goodyears, Humestons, Dickermans and Fullers. Colonel Ball, who made the statement, should have included his own family; but the Balls were proverbially modest.
      The two Fuller brothers, Heman and Michael, occupied the place known as the Moss farm, and were colored men, but nevertheless, influential and respected citizens.
      It's a remarkable fact that, nearly a century since, two Fuller brothers are prominent in our civic life, and though of lighter skin, there are old-timers still living who would maintain that the earlier Fullers were fully as white of soul!!
      A map of Ireland Parish, drawn in 1827, is most interesting. It shows the old Crafts Tavern (then the Abner Miller Inn), and about 250 south and across the street, a schoolhouse, in which Mrs. Olive Day Crafts, who is still living, once taught. Just south of the school was the Theodore Farnum place, which now stands on the rear of a St. James avenue lot. On the west side, a little farther down, is shown the Orrin Street house, which we assume is the as still standing owned by William Street.
      The Francis Ball house would seem to be the one occupied in the writer's youth by Leroy Ball, and still standing on Quincy avenue. The First Church building does not show on this map, as it was not built until 1834, the Rev. Hervey Smith being the first preacher to occupy the pulpit. The old Fairfield homestead, noted on this map as "Roswell Morgan," is clearly located, but the Cyrus Frink house (where Mrs. A.D. Street now lives) was replaced more than forty years ago by the present residence. The C.H. Heywood place is noted as "Hiram Atkins," whom the writer can just remember. This house (or its successor) now stands at the junction of Hampden and Lincoln street, where the Northampton car turns off from Hampden, having been removed by Daniel O'Connell.
      About 200 feet south of Cherry street is shown Amos Allen's Inn on about the present line between the J.R. Ball and Mackintosh (formerly Coit) properties. Farther south a house, marked "Enoch Ely," I should identify as the Horace Brown house of later years, torn down when the Moody-Warren Company cut up the tract for building lots.
      The old county road down to Jedediah Day's place at Hampden Landing—celebrated in song and story by D.A. Healy and Hugh McLean—is clearly defined, and we

| People & Organizations | Allyn's Sketch of Holyoke |
| Selected Advertisments | Churches | Surname Index |

© Laurel O'Donnell 1996 - 2005, all rights reserved
This document may be downloaded for personal non-commercial use only
and should not be reproduced or distributed without permission.