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Bridge of Flowers, Shelburne Falls - photo by Peter MacDonaldBridge of Flowers, Shelburne Falls (photo by Peter MacDonald)

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.

 
Attractions

  • Ashfield Historical Society, on Main Street, featuring 10 rooms of Ashfield memorabilia in 1830 building. The main exhibition hall is a recreation of a general store, circa 1850. Exhibits include some of the 23,000 glass plate negatives taken between 1882 and 1907 by the Howes brothers. A barn houses many relics of early rural life. Open Saturdays June through August, 10 am to 12:30 p.m., during special events such as Ashfield Fall Festival and by appointment. For more information contact the curator, Grace Lesure, (413) 628-3900.

  • Ashfield Lake & Belding Memorial Park, is located on Main St. (Route 116), just east of the intersection with Route 112, and has a public boat launch on Ashfield Lake and picnic facilities. The beach is for town residents only. Belding Memmorial Park, off Main Street, offers lake views, a picnic area, boat access and is open to the public. Canoeing, fishing, swimming and diving from the dock are all popular activities.

  • Ashfield Farmers' Market, 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on the town common, Saturdays May through October. Featuring local farms and musicians. Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Ashfield Fall Festival, is held Columbus Day weekend in the center of town. It offers arts shows, craft fari, demonstrations, food, games and entertainment.

  • Bear Swamp Reservation, Hawley Road, about 1/2 mile west of the town center. Hike three miles of trails, some steep in places, to a nearby beaver pond and terrific views of hillside orchards spreading below and the distant Green Mountains.

  • Chapel Brook, Williamsburg Road, about 2 miles from the intersection of Route 116, Creamery Road and Williamsburg Road. Hike to the top of Pony Mountain, then cool off with a summertime dip in the chilly waters of the brook’s picture-perfect pools and falls.


History

More than 20 years before its incorporation on June 21, 1765, this hilly area known as Hunttown - named for a man who probably never saw the place. Captain Ephraim Hunt of Weymouth, like many others, was a company commander during King William's War and he was paid for his services by a grant of land. His heirs, some 46 years after the war, offered five pounds each to the first 10 settlers who would build a house and cultivate six acres.

Richard Ellis, a native of Dublin, Ireland, became the first settler, coming from Easton with his wife. Cutting trees himself, he built the first house about 1741 in the northeastern part of Ashfield. Soon after, his sister and her husband, Thomas Phillips, joined them, building a log house about a half-mile north. Then came Chileab Smith of South Hadley.

Other settlers came from time to time, several from southern Connecticut. By 1754, up to 15 families and 100 people were Ashfield residents.

It is not certain why the town is named Ashfield. One theory is that the town had many ash trees. Another is that Gov. Francis Bernard, for whom Bernardston is named, had a friend in Ashfield, England, Lord Thurslow. Gov. Bernard named 28 towns during his tenure, a period when Massachusetts had only 39 incorporated communities.

A thriving peppermint and essence business started by Samuel Ranney and marketed by Joseph and Jasper Bemet created a population boom during the early 1800's but it subsided when the business moved to New York. Agricultural endeavors such as dairy farms, saw-mills, apple orchards and maple sugar houses have long been staples of the economy. Ashfield Lake has been a popular recreational attraction for more that 100 years.

Cecil B. DeMille, the famous movie director, was born in Ashfield in 1881. Alvan Clark, called the world's most famous telescope maker, was born in the Chapel Falls section of the town in 1804.

Website

For more information, visit the Ashfield Town Website.

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