Franklin County

Named for Benjamin Franklin, Franklin County was created on June 24, 1811, from 725 square miles located in the northern third of Hampshire County. Its population of nearly 72,000 makes it the least-populous county on the Massachusetts mainland, and the third-least populous county in the state. Like several other Massachusetts counties, Franklin County exists today only as a geographic region and has no county government. It is comprised of 26 towns:


Ashfield was incorporated in 1765 with four Proprietors serving as Selectmen and is still today a Proprietor Town. Once the leading wool and butter producer, Ashfield continues to have a strong agricultural industry today, in fiber, fruits, vegetables, eggs, honey, maple syrup, Christmas trees, and meat.

Ashfield is part of the hilltowns of West Franklin County and is bordered by Buckland to the north, Conway to the east, Goshen to the south, Cummington to the southwest, Plainfield to the west, and Hawley to the northwest.

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Originally part of Colrain, Bernardston was incorporated in 1762. The town has a rich agricultural history in rye, corn, and cider. Its residents were also amongst the first to make maple products extensively.

Bernardston lies in the northern part of Franklin County, on the edge of the Pocumtuck range. Both Interstate 91 and Route 5 run through Bernardston, which can be taken south to Greenfield or north to Vermont.

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Buckland was originally a part of Ashfield and Charlemont. However by 1779, its residents were tired of crossing the Deerfield River and traveling in inclement weather to get to church, school, and town functions. So they petitioned the General Court to have their own town instead of being “No Town,” the name previously used for the area that today is Buckland.

Buckland is located in West Franklin County and lies in a valley with beautiful hills surrounding it: Walnut Hill, Drank Hill, Snow Mountain to the west and Mary Lyon Hill and Moonshine Hill to the east. The town is South of Route 2 and Route 112 is the major through road.

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Charlemont was one of three townships granted to Boston by the General Court in 1735. The town, being vulnerable to attacks, was the site of a Native American raid in 1755, which resulted in several deaths and two people’s capture.

The principal business in Charlemont used to be agriculture, but today is outdoor recreation with three outdoor outfitters in town.

Charlemont is located in the western part of Franklin County, along the Mohawk Trail (MA Route 2), 18 miles west of Greenfield.

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Colrain was once described as the place for a “lover of natural scenery in its varied forms” because it “possesses uncommon attractions.” The North River, a tributary to the Deerfield River, has 2 branches that pass through Colrain. There are some roads that elevate from the bed of the river, giving passengers incredible views.

Besides the North River’s natural beauty, it also benefited the townspeople in that they were able to create waterpower for Colrain’s factories. These factories produced cotton and iron castings. Those industries, combined with sheep raising, were the causes of the sudden increase in town population in the early 1800s, since there were ample job opportunities.

Colrain is bordered to the north by Vermont and to the east by the Green River. The main road through town is MA Route 112.

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The Town of Conway was originally part of the Southwest District of Deerfield. It is located South of the Deerfield River and is connected to Shelburne by the Historic Bardwell’s Ferry Bridge. MA Route 116 runs through the center of town and runs west towards Ashfield and east towards Deerfield.

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The town of Deerfield was once the northwesternmost outpost of New England settlement. It was the site of several Native American attacks, including the Deerfield Massacre, also known was Raid on Deerfield in 1704. Deerfield includes two villages: South Deerfield and Old Deerfield. The history of the town is well preserved through Historic Deerfield, the original village and museum, and through the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, a membership-based historical and cultural organization.

Deerfield contains the section of the Deerfield River where it bends north before flowing into the Connecticut River, a natural phenomenom. Therefore Deerfield has rich soil, great for farming. 

Deerfield is located along Interstate-91, 30 miles north of Springfield, and bordering Greenfield to the south. U.S. Route 5 and MA Route 10 both run through town, parallel to Interstate-91. 

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Erving, the last town in Franklin County to be incorporated, is comprised of three villages: Erving Center, Farley, and Ervingside. It is situated along MA Route 2/The Mohawk Trail. The Millers River, a tributary to the Connecticut River, flows through town.

The French King Bridge connects Erving to the town of Gill, across the Connecticut River.  Built in 1932, the bridge was named “The Most Beautiful Steel Bridge” by the American Institute of Steel Construction. The bridge is a popular tourist spot because besides its own beauty, it offers scenic views of the river and the foliage in autumn.

In the Industrial Era, Erving’s large supply of timber and waterpower led to the production of many wood and wood-based products. Today, the Erving Paper Mill still exists, and employs over 100 people.

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In the bend of the Connecticut River where it unusually turns northwestward lies the town of Gill. North of Montague, Gill is connected to Erving by the French King Bridge, which was once deemed the “Most Beautiful Steel Bridge” by the American Institute of Steel Construction.

The “Grass Hill” section of town used to part of Northfield until 1795. It is now the location of Northfield Mount Hermon School, a coed boarding school for grades 9-12.

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To many residents of Franklin County, Greenfield is considered the “big city.” When Franklin County was formed in 1811, Greenfield was designated as the county seat. It is the center of life and the commercial and cultural hub of the northern Pioneer Valley. Conveniently located at the intersection of Interstate 91 and Route 2/The Mohawk Trail, residents of the town love Greenfield because it has a variety of restaurants, shops, markets, professional businesses, and yet still offers ways to get outside and enjoy nature.

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Hawley is a beautiful, remote town in the western part of Franklin County. The town has very little industry and most residents commute, work from home, or work for municipalities. The town is mostly run by volunteers.

Hawley is composed of 40% state forest- the Kenneth Dubuque Memorial State Forest and parts of the Mohawk Trail and Savoy State Forests. Between the three state forests, there is plenty of opportunity to get outside and hike, swim, fish, and enjoy the natural scenery.

Hawley is located in the southwest corner of Franklin County and is bordered by Charlemont to the north, Buckland to the east, and Plainfield to the south.

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Originally part of Charlemont, Heath was incorporated in 1785. The Heath Historical Society, located in the center of town, has displays representing Heath’s past, including palm-leaf hats. From the 1830s to the Civil War, women and children in Heath braided these palm-leaf hats and sold them for extra income in the winter months.

Heath is located in the northwestern part of Franklin County, south of the Vermont border. The major through road is MA Route 8A, which connects to VT Route 8A at the state border and intersects MA Route 2 in Charlemont.

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Leverett was once part of Sunderland and was granted separation in 1774. Four villages comprise the town: Leverett Center, East Leverett, North Leverett and Moores Corner. The major road through town is Route 63, which connects Leverett to Amherst to the south and Montague to the north.

Local community members completed the New England Peace Pagoda, the first of its kind in America, in 1985. It stands as a symbol of aspiration and hope for peace. The caretakers live on the property, however the public is welcome to visit the grounds and view the beautiful Pagoda, the new temple, and the gardens and lily pond.‚Äč

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Leyden lies in central northern Franklin County, right below the Vermont line. Originally part of “Fall Town” which was also composed of Bernardston and eastern Colrain, Leyden is named after Leiden, Holland, a sanctuary for Pilgrims before coming to America. Leyden used to have several small industries including blacksmith shops, a cheese shop, gun shop, box shop, grist mills, sawmills, and wood product mills, but its largest industry today is maple sugar production.

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The smallest town in Franklin County, Monroe, lies in the farthest northwestern corner of the county. It is sometimes called Monroe Bridge because once the Hoosac Tunnel and Wilmington Railroad were completed, crewmen were told to leave the town’s mailbags at the Monroe bridge. In 1888, the post office was established and was known as the Monroe Bridge Post Office.

The town's eastern border with Rowe is along the Deerfield River. It is bordered by Vermont to the north and the town of Florida to the south and west.

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Montague is another cultural hub of Franklin County. North of Leverett, it is composed of five villages: Montague Center, Montague City, Turners Falls, Millers Falls, and Lake Pleasant. To the west of Montague is the Connecticut River, where a dam and canal were built to provide cheap power for mills in the 1800s. Today, the dam in Turners Falls has a fish ladder, which allows fish to swim upstream to spawn. A viewing facility allows visitors to watch the fish climb a series of ladders to overcome the dam.

Montague is bordered by Greenfield to the northwest, Deerfield to the west, Leverett to the south, and Wendell to the east. MA Route 2 runs just north of Montague and MA Routes 47 and 63 run north to south through the town.

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New Salem

The town of New Salem was affected greatly by the construction of the Quabbin Reservoir, one of the largest man-made water supplies in the country, which supplies the drinking water for nearly half of Massachusetts. Much of the town is off-limits wilderness controlled by the Department of Conservation and Recreation. On the bright side, the people of New Salem are next door to 39 square miles of reservoir on 81,000 acres of reservation land for fishing, hiking, birdwatching, hunting, biking, and other outdoor activities.

New Salem lies at the southeastern corner of Franklin County and is the largest town in the county. It is bordered by Orange to the north, Petersham to the east, Ware to the south, Pelham, Shutesbury and Wendell to the west. The town is south of MA Route 2 and the major through road is U.S. Route 202.

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Located in the northern part of Franklin County, Northfield is divided into West Northfield from East Northfield and the village of Northfield by the Connecticut River. The Schell Bridge, a Pennsylvania truss 515 feet long, connects the two parts.

New Hampshire, Vermont, and Masschusetts meet in Northfield, at the Connecticut River and is bordered by Erving to the south.

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Orange is the easternmost town in Franklin County. It lies along State Route 2, which runs east towards Worcester County and west towards Berkshire County. Orange has its own municipal airport, open to the public.

The Millers River runs through the town and was dammed in 1790, bringing in lots of industry. Orange became the site of the New Home Sewing Machine Company in the late 19th century and Grout in 1900, the first automobile factory built in the United States.

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Rowe is a small, remote town along the northern border of Franklin County, just south of the Vermont line. Originally the site of fishing and foraging for local Native American tribes, Rowe was later settled and finally incorporated in 1785. The mills on the Deerfield River led to industry growth in the town, in sulfur, talc, and soapstone mining. In the 20th century, Rowe became the site of the first nuclear power plant in New England, Yankee Rowe Nuclear Power Station. Today, the plant is decommissioned but the Bear Swamp pumped storage generating station, built in 1974, is still in operation.

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When you head west on the Mohawk Trail out of Greenfield, you immediately notice a change as you enter Shelburne. The trail winds as you pass Hager’s Farm Market, a small farm store with local products, on your right and Shelburne Falls Coffee Roasters on your left. You won’t find corporate stores here, only small locally-owned businesses, some of which have been in the family for generations. Many of these long-time family-owned businesses are agricultural: sugar bushes, pick-your-own orchards, and dairy farms.

Shelburne is located west of Greenfield and is bordered by Colrain to the north, Conway to the south, and Buckland to the west. The major through road is MA Route 2/The Mohawk Trail. The Village of Shelburne Falls, a small business and residential area, and deemed a Cultural District, includes parts of the towns of Buckland and Shelburne.

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Shutesbury is located in southeastern Franklin County and is bordered to the west by Leverett and the south by Pelham. The Swift River flows through town, feeding into the Quabbin Reservoir, which borders Shutesbury’s southeast edge.

Early industry included lumbering and cottages/inns for travelers. The many mineral springs also brought in several bottling businesses. Today the town of Shutesbury is very rural with lots of natural scenery and a population under 2,000 people.

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Warwick lies in the northeastern corner of Franklin County, along the border of Worcester County, Massachusetts and Cheshire County, New Hampshire. Warwick is a fairly isolated and rural town. The only state highway that runs through is Route 78 and about one third of the land is protected as part of Warwick State Forest.

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Wendell was incorporated in 1781. During that time, residents were very dependent on farming for their livelihoods. They grew grain and flax and raised cattle, sheep, and swine. In the winter, they made shingles, broom handles, and staves. Logging was also a large industry and is still today due to the extensive forest in Wendell.

Wendell is one of the hilltowns of eastern Franklin County. It is located south of Erving and east of Montague and State Route 2 runs along its northern border. The town has two post offices and therefore two zip codes.


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Whately, incorporated in 1771, was originally part of Hatfield, a town in Hampshire County, but separated because the people who lived in what is now Whately were too farm from the town center. It is the site of the first gin distillery in Massachusetts, as well as other mills including grist, cider, woolen, chair and coffin factories. Above all, Whately has been and continues to be an agricultural area with commercial crops including apples, cider, hay, maple products, tobacco, and vegetables.

Whately lies on the southern border of Franklin County, north of Hampshire County. Whately is bisected by Interstate 91 and is 26 miles north of Springfield and 11 miles south of Greenfield.

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