Russell MA



Russell is a town in Hampden County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 1,657 at the 2000 census. It is part of the Springfield, Massachusetts Metropolitan Statistical Area.

 Geography

According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 17.9 square miles (46.3 km²), of which, 17.6 square miles (45.5 km²) is land and 0.3 square miles (0.8 km²) (1.79%) is water.

The town has two very different parts. South Quarter is mainly uplands at elevations from 1,000 ft. (300 meters) to 1,400 ft. (425 meters) along the rim of a plateau west of the Connecticut River Valley.

Most of the escarpment is inside the town. This is the edge of a rift valley originating in the Mesozoic when Europe and North America separated. The Connecticut River still follows this rift valley, known as Pioneer Valley for its early settlement by English Puritans. The escarpment between South Quarter uplands and the valley is forested—too steep to farm—and dissected by streams that have eroded ravines back into the uplands.

The rest of the town is a deep valley along the swift Westfield River. During the Pleistocene Epoch continental glaciers scraped away soil and steepened cliffs on hills around this valley, particularly on Mounts Tekoa and Shatterack east of the river, and on Turtle Mountain standing in the middle of the valley. Although none of these peaks actually rises much above the surrounding plateau, their precipitous slopes make them appear impressively high from the valley.

As continental glaciers receded northward a glacial moraine dammed the Connecticut River below Hartford, producing 200 mile (320 km)-long Lake Hitchcock with an arm extending northwest along the Westfield River. Gravel banks large enough to be commercially valuable were deposited in Russell where the river entered the ephemeral lake.

The river has three widely separated cascades, dropping about 50 feet (15 meters) each that figured in the township’s industrial development, below.

 History

Railroad station, circa 1901-1907

Russell was originally part of the Pocumtuc (also called Deerfield) nation, who spoke an Algonquian language. Like most native peoples, they were decimated by smallpox, then their participation in King Philip’s War 1675-76 proved their undoing as victory by colonial forces led to dispersal of remnants of this tribe west into New York and north into Canada.

Although the way was open for settlement beyond the Pioneer Valley lowlands, the thin, rocky soil and hilly topography of uplands to the west delayed settlement until about 1725 when there was no more promising land left to settle in the valley. Because river valleys in the hilly areas were subject to cold air pockets and late frosts—especially during the Little Ice Age that persisted until the late 19th century—most early settlement was in uplands in and near South Quarter. Relatively unproductive soils and small fields were not conducive to growing cash crops, so farming was more of a subsistence nature. Most of what was consumed on these farms was homemade or bartered for.

The upland farm population peaked around the year 1800, when more productive farmland opened up beyond the Appalachian Mountains in Western New York and the Northwest Territories. Employment opportunities became significant by about 1825 as the first (water power-dependent) Industrial Revolution unfolded in New England. The cash income gave farmsteads access to manufactured goods and imported food such as cane sugar from the West Indies in lieu of local maple products. Farming became more of a part time occupation and a growing number of farms were abandoned, gradually reverted to forest until only stonewalls and cellarholes remain.

The Industrial Revolution led to development in the Westfield River valley as the water power potential of the three cascades was developed for industrial use. Three villages developed around mills at the cascades and the easy grades along the valley were utilized for a railroad route across the Berkshires’ 2000 feet (600 meters) of relief.

A small upstream village near the Huntington border was called Crescent Mills. Texxon still operates a mill there that makes special fabrics for shoes. The middle settlement and the town’s administrative center is called Russell Village. Westfield River Paper Company manufactured glassine and other specialty papers there until it was decommissioned and then bought for a proposed biomass electric plant utilizing local cordwood. Russell Village was a virtually self-sufficient community as late as the 1950s with several stores, a barbershop, and several restaurants; then increasing automobile ownership brought the greater commercial offerings in Westfield and other Pioneer Valley cities within reach.

The lower industrial village was named Woronoco after a local tribe, and the local cascades were once called Salmon Falls, presumably because Atlantic Salmon were observed and captured there. Strathmore Paper Company manufactured high-quality bond papers at this location until it was taken over by International Paper and then decommissioned. Strathmore was originally purchased by Horace Moses in 1904. Moses was a visionary social engineer as well as an industrialist who developed Woronoco as a model company town with housing of a notably high standard and buildings accommodating a wide variety of community activities. Moses also developed 85 acre Russell Pond in South Quarter into a Boy Scout reservation, which is still in operation using many of the original buildings, and cofounded the Junior Achievement organization.

In 1965 Russell joined with neighboring towns to form Gateway Regional School District that now educates some 1300 students at an annual cost to taxpayers of about $15,000 per student. [1] With very little industrial and commercial property to share this tax burden, Russell has one of the highest tax rates per unit assessed value in the state.

Westfield River Paper Company shut down operations in 1994 while Strathmore Paper was purchased by International Paper Co. and ceased operations in 1999. This left the town with no industrial tax base other than the small Texxon plant in Crescent Mills. Retail operations are also very limited with residents mostly commuting to Westfield and West Springfield to shop.

In 2004 a biomass generating plant [2] was proposed to take advantage of the former Westfield River Paper Co. site along the Westfield River with access to water, the former Boston and Albany Railroad line, and abundant supplies of waste wood in rejuvenating forests as a byproduct of real estate development, logging and forestry work to remove defective trees and less valuable species. The biomass proposal proved highly controversial. Although it would have created a number of jobs and lightened the tax burden [3], opponents have raised concerns of truck traffic through town, air pollution, water withdrawals and thermal pollution of water returned to the river after use for cooling purposes. [4]

As of 2010, political issues in Russell largely revolve around the tax base and economy.

 Demographics

As of the census[1] of 2000, there were 1,657 people, 611 households, and 482 families residing in the town. The population density was 94.4 people per square mile (36.4/km²). There were 641 housing units at an average density of 36.5/sq mi (14.1/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 97.47% White, 0.42% African American, 0.30% Native American, 0.30% Asian, 0.60% from other races, and 0.91% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.51% of the population.

There were 611 households out of which 37.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 63.3% were married couples living together, 11.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 21.1% were non-families. 17.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 5.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.71 and the average family size was 3.02.

In the town the population was spread out with 26.1% under the age of 18, 7.8% from 18 to 24, 31.1% from 25 to 44, 24.8% from 45 to 64, and 10.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females there were 99.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 98.7 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $46,600, and the median income for a family was $48,641. Males had a median income of $37,206 versus $28,182 for females. The per capita income for the town was $21,318. About 7.1% of families and 9.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 14.7% of those under age 18 and 5.7% of those age 65 or over.

 Education

Russell Elementary School is located in Russell.

 References

 

 
from wikipedia

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