Montague — Villages
Extracted from "History of the Connecticut Valley in Massachusetts, Volume II," by Louis H. Everts, 1879.
Montague has within its limits four villages, called Turner's Falls, Montague Centre, Miller's Falls, and Montague City.
Turner's Falls, the most important, most populous, and most prosperous village in the town, although of recent growth, having been founded in 1867, has made rapid strides toward commercial greatness, and promises to become, at no far-distant day, one of the most important manufacturing points in America. The magical rise and rapid progress of this village were results wrought by the sagacious energy and enterprise of Col. Alva Crocker, of Fitchburg, Mass., who died at Fitchburg, December, 1874, while a member of Congress. Col. Crocker was distinguished through the length and breadth of the commonwealth as a man whose great wealth served the useful and valuable purpose of promoting public enterprise, and it was while personally engaged in searching for a more direct railway route between Miller's Falls and Greenfield than the one pursued by the Vermont and Massachusetts Railroad that he was called to observe the magnificent water-power possessed by the Connecticut River at Turner's Falls, and, rightly concluding that Nature had thus furnished the means at hand for the foundation of a great manufacturing city, he entered at once, with his characteristic promptness and vigor, upon the prosecution of the scheme which, to the exclusion of almost every other interest, took possession of his mind. In company with other capitalists whom he invited to join him, he organized the Turner's Falls Company (the history of which will be narrated hereafter) for the purpose of controlling and utilizing the water-power at that point, expended largely of his wealth in creating manufactories, purchased large tracts of land for a village-site, and, in brief, from the date of the incorporation of the Turner's Falls Company, in 1866, to the date of his death, in 1874, he never relaxed his efforts to push the interests of the village briskly forward. It was the pet ambition of his life, the proud hope of his busy career, this plan for the promotion of the prosperity of Turner's Falls until it should not only rival Lowell, Holyoke, and other great mnanufacturing centres, but pass beyond and above them as the greatest of all. What he would have accomplished for the place had he been spared to test his energies to the full, no man can say; but, estimating the probable results of the future from the great achievements he had effected in the few years he was permitted to devote to the task, it cannot be denied that he would have left Turner's Falls as a splendid monument to his greatness. In the midst of his hopes and his ambitions, while he was still planning and devising with all his might for the advancement of his favored work, he was suddenly cut down, and the village of Turner's Falls suffered a severe public calamity. Only a few days previous to his death Col. Crocker determined to expend $10,000 upon the erection of a public library building at the village, and had, indeed, set on foot measures looking to an early beginning of the work, but the execution of the design was unfortunately prevented by death.
As before observed, Turner's Falls village was not founded until 1867. In that year the Turner's Falls Lumber Company located on the Gill side of the river, and initiated the manufacturing business at that point. The removal, in 1868, of the John Russell Cutlery Company from Greenfield to Turner's Falls marked a new and important era, and from that time forward the progress of the village was rapid.
The growth of Turner's Falls, though retarded by the death of its founder, must continue to be healthful and prosperous. Circumstances calculated to develop the manufacturing interests of the country beyond a common degree will naturally quicken its material prosperity, and rapidly advance it toward that elevated plane which its projectors hoped for it in the future.
The village contains now (1879) a population of 2000, two large paper-mills, employing together 500 persons, the John Russell Cutlery Company's works (the largest of the kind in this country), employing 600 people, but having a capacity for 1200, a manufactory for the production of water-wheels, saws, rotary-pumps, etc., a leatherette manufactory, a cotton-mill of the capacity of a thousand looms, a fine hotel, two banks, four church edifices, two handsome and costly school buildings, a steam fire-engine company of 18 members, a weekly newspaper publication, several handsome brick business blocks, numerous stores, a public library, and many elegant private residences.
The village is one of the termini of the Fitchburg Railroad Branch, connecting Greenfield and Turner's Falls, and at this point, too, the Connecticut is spanned by two fine suspension-bridges. One, placed below the falls, connects Montague with Greenfield, and was built in 1873, at a cost of $36,000. A second one, located above the falls, and connecting Montague with Gill, cost $42,000, and was completed in December, 1878.
Montague Centre, the oldest village in the town, and the site of the town's earliest settlement, is a station on the Fitchburg Railroad and on the New London Northern Railroad. It was at one time a thriving manufacturing village, but its interests in that direction are now limited to a pocket-book factory and a rake-factory. It is attractive in its surroundings, and appears to have been laid out and embellished with an eye to good taste as well as to picturesque effect. Its community is chiefly composed of agriculturists, many of whom are wealthy and reside in homes of substantial but not ostentatious elegance.
The village contains a fine brick town-hall, two churches, a public library, several stores, a saw-mill, grist-mill, and various minor industries.
Montague City, a station on the Greenfield and Turner's Falls Railroad, was settled in 1794 by a colony of Germans, who were attracted thither by the promise that the completion of the canal passing around Turner's Falls, and through the tract now occupied by Montague City, would build up and prosper that region amazingly. So sanguine were its projectors of a bright future for the place that they anticipated greatness in the bestowal of the high-sounding name it now bears. Greatness never greeted it, however, although it is now, and always has been, a bright and cheerful-looking rural village.
For upward of twenty years previous to 1875, Messrs. R. L. & D. W. Goss carried on important and extensive enterprises at Montague City in the manufacture of lumber, piano-cases, etc., in which they employed 75 men. The only manufacturing industry at that point now is the extensive brick-yard of Messrs. Adams & Son, who employ a force of 50 persons. The village contains a post-office, a graded school, store, and a small collection of substantial dwellings, of which a few possess fair pretensions to elegance. The inhabitants are equally divided between agriculturists and employes at the Turner's Falls mills and Adams & Sons' Yards.
Miller's Falls, the fourth village, on Miller's River, is a station at the junction of the Fitchburg and New London and Northern Railroads. Up to 1868 it was known as Grout's Corners; but in that year, when there was established in Erving, on the opposite shore of the river, the works of the Miller's Falls Company, the name of the village was changed to Miller's Falls. Its inhabitants are chiefly employes at the works of the Miller's Falls Company, and number about 200.
It contains a handsome school building, four stores, a public hall, hotel, and is withal a place possessing much energetic enterprise.
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