Southwick is a town in Hampden County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 8,835 at the 2000 census. It is part of the Springfield, Massachusetts Metropolitan Statistical Area.
Southwick was originally inhabited by either the Matitacooke, Mayawaug and Woronoake tribes of Native Americans.
In the mid 1600s, Pioneering English explorers moving up the Connecticut River Valley, seeking fertile farmlands and game, discovered the area and settled Southwick. It became a farming community, defined as the Southern (South-) village (-wick) part the town of Westfield, Massachusetts. Early on, it was nicknamed Poverty Plains because the land was thought to be infertile and its first residential home was built by Samuel Fowler and his wife Naomi Noble on College Highway (US Rts. 10 and 202), about a quarter mile North of the current Town Center.
In colonial times, church attendance was not mandatory. The 800 Christian residents of Southwick in the 1760-70s were required to travel to Westfield to congregate. Only by establishing their own church society [community] could they establish their own parish, as they desired. On November 7, 1770, Southwick was incorporated as a separate district of Westfield. The area of Southwick became somewhat smaller in 1770. The southernmost portion of Southwick joined Suffield, Connecticut, as the result of a simultaneous secession of citizens in that part of the village.
Ultimately, Southwick became a fully independent town in 1775. The town remained divided until 1793, when Massachusetts claimed the area (known as the "jog"). A border dispute continued until 1804, when the current boundary was established through a compromise between Connecticut and Massachusetts. As a result of this border resolution, Southwick is the southernmost town in western Massachusetts.
Canals early 1800s
In the early 1800s, the Farmington Canal and Hampshire and Hampden Canal was built to link New Haven, Connecticut, to Northampton, Massachusetts, through Southwick. Irish immigrants came to the area to labor on this project. Developers spoke of Southwick’s potential, calling it the "Port of the World". Farmers conflicted with the prospect that the canal would drain the Lakes. It was reported that citizens would kick in the banks to damage the canal. Traces of the canal can still be found in the Great Brook and Congamond Lakes area. Due to winter freezings, summer drought and wildlife impact (beaver dams …etc.), the canal was phased out in favor of the railroad.
Railroad late 1840s
Completed in the late 1840s, the New York/New Haven Railroad (New Haven/Northampton) was built alongside the canal (more or less) as a revolutionary mode for travel to and through Southwick. With the railroad came the ice industry and the tourist resorts around the Congamond Lakes, (which were named ‘Wenekeiamaug’ by the previously existing Indian tribe). Several ornate hotels and dance halls were built as well as a small amusement park. During the Industrial era, summer vacationers and daytrippers would escape the hot and dirty cities connected by the Northeast Railroad Corridor from New York City, Albany, Boston, Worcester, Hartford and especially Springfield. There was a special stop near the Lakes where visitors would disembark to swim and/or pile into canopied pleasure boats.
The World Wars
During the 1st and 2nd World Wars, trains loaded with soldiers would also pass through town. It has been noted that local girls would gather letters thrown by the soldiers from the train – and forward them to the intended recipients at the Post Office. The last train to pass along these tracks was around 1976. As of 2008, the old rail way is in the process of being converted into a railtrail connecting to Granby, Connecticut.
All of Southwick’s grand hotels and ornate train stations have since been torn down. Babbs Roller Skating Rink (on the Suffield, CT side of Congamond Lakes) is all that remains of the amusement park.
The hot and fertile soils in the farmlands of Southwick grew tobacco, mainly, as a lucrative export until recent years. Other early industries were gunpowder mills, grist mills, and ice (blocks) for food storage from New York City to Boston before electric refrigerators were available for public purchase.
The original Town Center was located adjacent the Old Cemetery on College Highway at Klaus Anderson Road. With the town border being re-defined, the townspeople also once considered the current Gillette’s Corner (where the McDonalds and Big Y Market currently sits) as the center. Commerce and practicality led to the development of the current Town Center, as seen today, in a group of Colonial and Greek Revival buildings, including the landmark Congregational Church and Town Square (at the intersection of Granville Road, Depot Street, and College Highway).
There also existed in the old "Town Square", the Meeting Hall, a small hotel (the Southwick Inn), markets of trade and a cluster of homes and small farms. An A&P grocery market was once located in the building across from the Congregational Church. Over time, the best of these buildings were sold and relocated to such tourist attractions as Sturbridge Village and the Eastern States Exposition’s to be used for replicating our New England history. Southwick’s Center of Town is now relatively barren. The Victorian style Southwick Library located in the center of town was closed and moved to a modern building built in the 1990s within the campus of schools on Feeding Hills Road. The library has since been painted blue. The fabulously art deco designed Consolidated School built in 1928, also in the center of town, was closed, updated with a sloped roof and converted to town offices and a senior center.
Southwick has recently seen its population increase and faces many challenges due to this. Many upscale neighborhoods are being built, business is returning to the down town area and the community boasts a total of seven churches.
Nestled in the Pioneer Valley with the Congamond Lakes on the southside, the Sodom Mountain range in the west, and plenty of natural beauty in between for activities ranging from motocross and snowmobiling to hiking and horseback-riding and to golfing, fishing as well as boating and swimming, Southwick touted itself as a recreational community throughout the late 20th century. Today it is a bedroom community of expensive homes as it is located within a half hour of Hartford, CT and Springfield, MA where there are many jobs in business and industry.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 31.7 square miles (82.1 km²), of which, 31.0 square miles (80.2 km²) of it is land and 0.8 square miles (1.9 km²) of it (2.37%) is water.
As described above, Southwick is the southernmost town in Western Massachusetts, as a result of a "jog" in the Massachusetts-Connecticut border. (See History of Massachusetts.) Southwick is bordered on the north by Westfield, on the east by Agawam and Suffield, CT, on the south by Suffield, CT and Granby, CT, and on the west by Granby, CT and Granville.
The 110 mile Metacomet-Monadnock Trail (a hiking trail) passes over Provin Mountain, a traprock ridge and cliffline that forms the eastern border of Southwick. Provin Mountain is part of the Metacomet Ridge, a mountainous traprock ridgeline that stretches from Long Island Sound to nearly the Vermont border.
As of the census of 2000, there were 8,835 people, 3,318 households, and 2,418 families residing in the town. The population density was 285.4 people per square mile (110.2/km²). There were 3,533 housing units at an average density of 114.1/sq mi (44.1/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 97.41% White, 0.51% African American, 0.20% Native American, 0.37% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 0.34% from other races, and 1.15% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.72% of the population.
There were 3,318 households out of which 36.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 60.0% were married couples living together, 8.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 27.1% were non-families. 21.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.66 and the average family size was 3.13.
In the town the population was spread out with 26.5% under the age of 18, 6.3% from 18 to 24, 32.2% from 25 to 44, 23.2% from 45 to 64, and 11.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 100.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 98.2 males.
The median income for a household in the town was $52,296, and the median income for a family was $64,456. Males had a median income of $41,863 versus $30,889 for females. The per capita income for the town was $21,756. About 3.8% of families and 6.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 6.3% of those under age 18 and 9.8% of those age 65 or over.
Southwick has four schools that serve the towns of Southwick, Granville and Tolland, all headed by Superintendent John D. Barry, Ed.D. The Southwick-Tolland Early Childhood Center serves Southwick and Tolland’s preschoolers. The Woodland Elementary School serves Southwick and Tolland’s kindergarten through fourth grade students. The Powder Mill Middle School serves Southwick and Tolland’s fifth through eight graders. The Southwick-Tolland Regional High School serves Southwick, Tolland, and Granville’s ninth through twelfth graders.
Board of Selectmen
Library Board of Trustees
Notable residents, past and present