Rediscovering Hawley's Old Town Common

Hawley’s Town Common Comes into Existence

The Sons and Daughters of Hawley and the Hawley Historical Commission are working on "Rediscovering Hawley's Old Town Common".  We have cleared brush and trees from several of the old cellar holes that were prominent in the history of the town common.  We have added signage and created a walking trail system for visitors to explore the site and learn its history and the history of the land it stood on. We have added a kiosk in the grassy area near the entrance to the Hawley Bog trail.  We have received several grants and volunteers have helped with the physical site work starting in the summer of 2009. Contact Ray Gotta 413-339-4035/413-782-7248 or Lark Thwing 413-339-0124 if you want more information or have information to contribute.

See Channel 3 Springfield preview of dedication on August 8, 2010.


Take a virtual tour of the Hawley Old Town Common

Hawley was officially settled in 1771. Families came in from Buckland on County Road which is now Forget Road and settled in the area northeast of Parker Hill. About the same time, settlers came to the Forge Hill/Pudding Hollow Road area. By 1790 both areas were well populated. Also, by that time the County Road coming from Buckland was extended (under different names) all the way to Middle Road. This allowed families to come together for church and town meetings as well as social gatherings in the area that eventually became the town common.

    The town was incorporated in 1792.  By 1798 the townspeople wanted to form a town common at which a permanent church would be located. In that year, three settlers, A. Loomis, J. Grout, the new pastor, and Asa Blood sold, or gave land to the town that would become the town common. It totaled about 2 acres. It was located on the south side of the County Road and the road that went through the Hawley Bog to Plainfield.  

    Within four years, three taverns opened, along with stores in two of them. A new church and blacksmith shop were built, as well as other settlers’ homes. One tavern, the Longley Inn, became a stage coach stop and the first Hawley post office.

     In the early 1800’s the church congregation split, and in 1825 townspeople built a second church on Forge Hill Rd in the western part of Hawley The temperance movement of the 1830’s ended the social drinking at the taverns. The stage coach route changed so that it came in from Ashfield through the potato fields to the present firehouse and then turned south toward Plainfield. About the same time, the state passed laws separating church and state and required the town build a separate town house. By 1848, the new town house had been built in the geographic center of Hawley and the church/meetinghouse had been moved to its current location a mile and a half south of the common. The Longley Inn, along with the post office, moved to be near the church and stage route. This left essentially no activity at the town common. Within 30 years, the area became know as Poverty Square, the remaining buildings were in disrepair and all were eventually abandoned. Trees grew and finally the forest took over the town common as it does to all abandoned property.

Copyright 1992, The Estate of Judith Russell

The picture shows an artist's perception of what the town common might have looked like in 1818. The painting was done by Judith Russell and was commissioned by the Hawley Bicentennial Commission for its 200 bicentennial event in 1992.  It was paid for, in part,  with a grant from the Massachusetts Arts Lottery Council.


In the picture, the meetinghouse is situated center left, the Longley Tavern is lower right and the Sanford Tavern and barn are center right.

For more information, see the attachment below or check out the Valley Advocate article in the The Public Humanist, a blog project of www.MassHumanities.org.