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 lies in the eastern foothills of The Berkshires, with several high hills, including Ridge Hill, in the northern portion of town. The town is at the junction of the north-south Route 112 and the east-west Route 116, which are combined for 1.4 miles south of Ashfield Lake. It is located approximately twelve miles west of I-91, the nearest interstate. Ashfield is 40.27 square miles in area, with a population of approximately 1,700.
Bernardston is a small rural town, located in north central Franklin County, on the border between Massachusetts and Vermont. The town is 23.4 square miles in area, with a population of approximately 2100. The major roads through town are US Route 5, MA Route 10 and Interstate 91. Bernardston's many hills are eastward extensions of both the Green Mountains and the Appalachians. East and west of the town's center where the Falls River runs, the hills rise steeply.
Buckland is a small, rural, predominately agricultural community with a population of approximately 2,000 people in 20.06 square miles. Buckland shares a downtown business district, known as Shelburne Falls, with the Town of Shelburne. The Route 112 corridor bisects the town. Located in northwestern Massachusetts, Buckland is 10 miles west of Greenfield and is bordered on the north by Charlemont, the south by Ashfield and Conway, the west by Hawley and the east by Shelburne.
Charlemont is a hilltown community of about 1,300 residents located along the Deerfield River and the scenic Mohawk Trail in northwestern Massachusetts. Settled in 1744, Charlemont covers 26 square miles and is still home to working farms and cottage industries as well as many recreational opportunities from whitewater rafting to downhill skiing. The town is bordered by Rowe to the northwest, Heath to the northeast, Colrain and Shelburne to the east, Buckland to the southeast, Hawley to the southwest, and Savoy and Florida to the west.
Colrain is situated on 43.37 square miles with a population of approximately 1600. The eastern border follows the Green River, bordering Leyden with Greenfield to the southeast. To the west lies Heath, with Charlemont to the southwest; to the north are the towns of Halifax and Guilford Vermont; and to the south is Shelburne Falls. Colrain is home to two state forests, Catamount State Forest to the Southwest, and half of the H.O. Cook State Forest to the northeast.
Conway comprises 37.8 square miles and lies in the foothills of the Berkshires just west of the Connecticut River Valley, a region rich in agriculture. It is the 4th largest in area of all towns in Franklin County and is the 11th most populous (1990 census). Conway shares boundaries with seven other towns: Buckland and Shelburne Falls to the north, Deerfield to the east and north, Whately and Williamsburg to the south, and Ashfield and Goshen to the west.
Deerfield is located along the Connecticut River and Deerfield River Valleys. It is 33.57 square miles with a population of approximately 5,000. It is contiguous to the towns of Conway, Montague, Shelburne, Sunderland, Whately, and by the city of Greenfield. I-91 passes from south to north through the central part of town. North Sugarloaf Mountain rises above the Connecticut in the southeast corner, providing a panoramic view of the valley and the town center.
Erving has the distinction of being the last Franklin County town to be incorporated, which occurred in 1838. Physical boundaries are the Millers and Connecticut Rivers and the Towns of Northfield, Warwick and Orange. We are bisected by two major routes - Route 2, which is located on our southern boundary and Route 63, which is located on our western boundary. The town is 14.39 square miles in area with a population of approximately 1,800.
Gill offers education, recreation and quiet, peaceful living opportunities within its 15 square miles. Gill is 7 miles east of Greenfield, 36 miles north of Springfield and 95 miles northwest of Boston. The river forms most of the town's boundary with Northfield, to the east, and separates the town from Erving to the southeast, and Montague to the south. The 1,500 residents live mostly in single-family homes, although there is one development of condominiums. Gill is the home of the co-ed Northfield Mount Hermon School, known in the last century as the Mount Hermon School for Boys.
Greenfield is a hub of commerce and culture located at the intersection of Interstate 91 and the famous Mohawk Trail. Its 17,000+ residents live between the Connecticut River and the Berkshire foothills in 21.9 square miles. Greenfield is located at the center of the county and is bordered by Colrain, Leyden, and Bernardston to the north; Gill to the east; Montague to the southeast; Deerfield to the south; and Shelburne to the west. The city is is known for its picturesque and vibrant downtown. The rest of the city is a mix of farms, modern industry, and quiet residential neighborhoods. Home to Greenfield Community College.
Nestled among the rolling foothills of the Berkshires in the northwest corner of Franklin County lies the beautiful, rural, historic town of Hawley, Massachusetts. The town has a total area of 30.9 square miles, and had a population of 337 at the 2010 census. Hawley is bordered by Charlemont to the north, Buckland to the east, Ashfield to the southeast, Plainfield to the south, and Savoy to the west.
Heath comprises a total area of 24.9 square miles with a population of approximately 706. It is a “Right To Farm Community” with rolling hills, stone walls, forests and streams, bordered by Whitingham and Halifax, Vermont, to the north, Colrain to the east, Charlemont to the south and southwest, and Rowe to the west. The Heath Agricultural Society Fair, held each year in August, features a chicken barbeque, animal events, live music and lots of fun for young and old alike.”
Leverett - Situated on 22.7 square miles in western Massachusetts, Leverett is bordered by Montague to the north, Wendell to the northeast, Shutesbury to the east, Amherst to the south, and Sunderland to the west. Its diverse population of 2,000 is a rich mixture of teachers, students, farmers, lumbermen, gardeners, artists, professionals in the areas of medicine, law, and telecommunications.
Leyden lies along the eastern edge of the Berkshires, bordered by Guilford, Vermont, to the north, Bernardston to the east, Greenfield to the south, and Colrain to the west. The majority of the town is forested, and the town has a small state forest and a wildlife management area within its borders. It has a total area of 18.0 square miles with a population of approximately 711.
Located on the Hoosac Range, at the northern end of The Berkshires, Monroe comprises a total area of 10.8 square miles and is bordered on the north by the towns of Stamford and Readsboro, Vermont, on the east by Rowe, and on the south and west by Florida. The town has a population of slightly more than 100.
Montague - The Town of Montague, comprised of five villages, is nestled along the Connecticut River in the upper Pioneer Valley. Montague is a diverse area that is rich in history and culture. The town’s landscape, 31.5 square miles, is a rare combination of rolling hills, fertile farmlands, historic mills and residential villages. It is a thriving town of 8,500 people that offers a unique mixture of business and industrial opportunities, easily accessible to Route 2 and Interstate 91.
New Salem lies at the southeastern corner of Franklin Valley, with its lands extending southward between Hampshire County and Worcester County. The town is bordered by Orange to the north, Athol to the northeast, Petersham to the east, Ware to the south, Belchertown to the southeast, and Pelham, Shutesbury and Wendell to the west. Because of the Quabbin Reservoir, there is no land link between New Salem and Pelham, Belchertown or Ware. The town has a total area of 58.6 square miles and has a population of approximately 990.
Northfield is a rural community bordered by Vernon, Windham County, Vermont, and Hinsdale and Winchester, Cheshire County, New Hampshire, to the north, Warwick to the east, Erving to the south, Gill to the southwest and Bernardston to the northwest. It is a town of farmland, forested hills, streams, wetlands and wildlife. Northfield is the only town in Massachusetts situated on both sides of the Connecticut River. The town has a total area of 35.4 square miles with a population of approximately 3,000.
Orange is the easternmost town within Franklin County along its border with Worcester County. It lies on 36 square miles and is bordered by Royalston to the northeast, Athol to the southeast, New Salem to the south, Wendell to the southwest, a small portion of Erving to the west, and Warwick to the northwest. The Town of Orange owns and operates Orange Municipal Airport, a small air service airstrip which also serves as a flight training center and parachuting center. The population is approximately 7,839.
Rowe is a small hilltown in northwestern Massachusetts, bordered by Whitingham, Vermont, to the north, Heath to the east, Charlemont to the south, and Florida and Monroe to the west. Situated on 24.0 square miles it is nestled in an area of scenic beauty, with wooded mountains, clear brooks and the Deerfield River on its western border. Rowe is close to ski areas and enjoys great hiking, fishing, hunting, canoeing and kayaking. It has a population of just under 400.
Shelburne lies along the eastern banks of the Deerfield River, which flows along the town's southern and western border. Several brooks feed into the river through the town, flowing down from several low peaks of the foothills of The Berkshires. The town is situation on 23.4 sure miles and is bordered by Colrain on the north, Greenfield on the east, Deerfield and Conway on the southeast and south, and Buckland on the west. It has a population of approximately 1,780. The village of Shelburne Falls is located partly in Shelburne and partly in neighboring Buckland.
Shutesbury lies on 27.11 square miles along the southern border of Franklin County and the border of Hampshire County. It is a rural town bordered by Wendell to the north, New Salem to the east, Pelham to the south, Amherst to the southwest, and Leverett to the west. The town lies at the northern end of the western branch of the Quabbin Reservoir. The West Branch of the Swift River still flows through town to the reservoir, and the eastern half of town is defined by the hills leading to the river. The brooks in the eastern part of town lead to this river, while the brooks in the western part of town flow towards the Towanucksett/Fort River.
Sunderland lies on the southern edge of Franklin County, north of Hampshire County. The town has a total area of 14.7 square miles and is bordered by Montague to the north, Leverett to the east, Amherst and Hadley to the south, and Whately and Deerfield to the west. It has a population of appoximately 3600. Mount Toby, a prominent conglomerate mountain with a firetower lookout, stands at the east border of the town and is traversed by the 47-mile (76 km) Robert Frost Trail. The mountain, surrounded by Mount Toby State Forest, is known for its waterfalls, scenic vista, and biologically diverse ecosystem.
Warwick is situated on 37.6 square miles and is bordered by Winchester and Richmond, New Hampshire, to the north, Royalston (in Worcester County) to the east, Orange to the south and southeast, Erving to the southwest, and Northfield to the west. The town is dominated by Mount Grace, which is located in the center of town and has a network of hiking and cross-country ski trails. It has a population of approximately 780.
Wendell has an area of 32.22 square miles, with a population of approximately 850 adults. The Millers River runs along the entire northern boundary, separating Wendell from Erving. Other abutting towns are Montague, New Salem, Orange, Shutesbury, and Warwick. Located south of the Millers River, Wendell State Forest covers 7,566 acres of rolling forested hills, streams, ponds, and trails.
Whately has a total area of 20.7 square miles and lies along the southern border of Franklin County, north of Hampshire County, bordered by Conway to the northwest, Deerfield to the northeast, Sunderland to the east, Hatfield to the south, and Williamsburg to the west. Whately is located 11 miles south of Greenfield, 26 miles north of Springfield, and 95 miles west of Boston. The population is approximately 1470.