Welcome to the South Hadley Historical Society website
The South Hadley Historical Society exists to preserve and illuminate the history of this wonderful New England town, founded in 1753. The Society operates the Old Firehouse Museum in the area of South Hadley known as the Falls. The Society has also undertaken efforts to restore and preserve two of the oldest homes in the community: The Sycamores and the Rawson Home, which are located within the Woodbridge Street District, a Federally-designated historic district.
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about South Hadley history and the Society.
South Hadley Beginnings
South Hadley began as a parish of Hadley and was incorporated as a town in 1753 by action of the General Court (legislature) of Massachusetts.
"This town was settled as early as 1721 by a few families from Hadley. It was then called the South Precinct in Hadley. The first settlers for some time continued to attend public worship on the Sabbath in Hadley, a distance of about 7 or 8 miles. In 1733 the first town meeting as a separate district was held, and it was resolved that a meeting-house, the frame of which was put up the year before, should be in part finished. The building, however, was not completed until the close of the year 1737." - History And Antiquities of Every Town In Massachusetts, by John Warner Barber, 1848
South Hadley Firsts
The Nation's first commercially successful navigable canal began operation in South Hadley in 1795. The South Hadley Canal provided the route for much of the commerce along the Connecticut River for many decades until 1862, when development of the railroads made the canal less profitable. Remains and remnants of the canal are still visible and efforts are underway to enhance their historic character.
The first confirmed evidence of a dinosaur to be found in North America was unearthed in South Hadley by Pliny Moody while plowing in 1802. The sandstone slab bearing large, mysterious footprints was later purchased by Elihu Dwight, who gave the prints the name of "Noah's Raven." Professor Edward Hitchcock then obtained the slab, which is now on prominent display in the Amherst College Museum of Natural History.
The nation's oldest continuing institution of higher education for women, Mount Holyoke College, opened its doors in 1837 as Mount Holyoke Seminary under the stewardship of Mary Lyon. One of the "Seven Sisters" all women's colleges in New England, Mount Holyoke College continues to operate as an all-women's institution.