Whately — Thoroughfares
Extracted from "History of the Connecticut Valley in Massachusetts, Volume II," by Louis H. Everts, 1879.
The early roads of the town appear to have been located with the idea of giving every lot-owner easy access to his land, and were designed to run with the cardinal points of the compass as nearly as the nature of the country admitted. As the plan was projected by the town of Hatfield before the commons were allotted, this could be done without trouble; yet subsequent circumstances have much modified the courses of these roads, but our space will not allow us to note the changes which have taken place.
Among the first north-and-south roads were the "Straits" and "Chestnut Plains" Streets, each projected ten rods wide. The latter is on the plains, along the base of the hills, near the centre of the town, and retains its original width a short distance. The former is on the old Indian trail, on the land which divides the meadows from the uplands, and was the most direct route noun Hadley to Deerfield. Between these two another road was opened about 1779, which was named the "Claverack" by the soldiers returning home from that place.* The Poplar Hill road, in the western part of the town, was opened to the public about 1773, and the river road was opened at various times from 1756 to 1806. The earliest east-and-west roads are the one by Mount Esther and the "Christian Lane," laid out in 1716, and designed to be ten rods wide. Other roads were located as the interests of the town demanded.
The first appropriation for the highway was made in 1771, when £16 were voted, sufficient to furnish 128 days' labor; but the future allowances were more liberal, and included the construction of bridges, the streams at first having been forded. In 1878 the town voted $1600 for the support of roads and bridges, and placed them in charge of twelve surveyors.
The Connecticut River Railroad was opened through Whately in 1846. It runs parallel with the river, about two miles from it, and has a station at East Whately, where good shipping facilities are provided. The passengers arriving and departing per year aggregate about 4500. Before the railroad was built the river afforded communication with the markets on the south. After the South Hadley Canal was built, in 1795, freighting was carried on in flat-bottomed boats, about 16 feet wide and 40 feet long, and rigged with two short masts and sails. They had a stopping-place at Belden's Landing and at David Stockbridge's wharf, just east of his tavern. The opening and closing of navigation occasioned many a merry-making and carousal at the taverns near the wharves.
In 1785, Joshua Belden established a ferry across the river, near his house, the boat being propelled by poles. Afterward it was worked by means of a wire; and in 1820 the business was so great that it gave constant employment for a ferry-man. About this time Samuel Bartlett had it in charge. The ferry was discontinued before 1880.
* Now the city of Hudson, N. Y.