FROM THE ARCHIVES

HISTORY OF THE

TOWN OF ASHFIELD, MASS.

VOLUME I

BY BARNABAS HOWES, ASHFIELD, 1887

WHAT NAMED OUR TOWN?

In 1824 my father bought about seventy-eight acres of wild land. A year or two after, I went up where the men were getting ready to make sugar. They had found a plenty of tall white ash trees, and had cut down several of them and were making sap troughs. This they did by cutting them into logs two or three feet in length and splitting them into halves and then chopping out a trough in each half. These small troughs were set on the side of the maple trees to catch the sap as it flowed. Then at the two boiling places they made large store troughs of large and nice white ash logs; I think they would hold from four to six barrels each. As these troughs were only turned over and left out in storms and sunshine the year round, they decayed, and in a few years more must be made. Therefore, for sugaring, all over our town there was a call for white ash trees from its first settlement in 1826. We may well imagine that when Richard Ellis, Thomas Phillips and Chileab Smith, Sr. came up from the pine and chestnut lands of the river towns, and saw the sugar maples and white ash trees thickly mingled together, they were filled with delightful anticipations of having the warm sugar to eat on their corn puddings. For corn puddings was a favorite article of food with them, especially if they could have maple sugar, but they then could not have the sugar without the ash troughs.

My description of two ash trees on this wild land, cut by my father, may seem incredible. One made four logs eleven or twelve feet long, and the smallest one at the top measured 3 feet and 8 inches in diameter. Yet large as these trees were the timber was of the best quality for carriage making. Then a large quantity of ash was used for fence rails and a variety of other purposes. Besides the white ash, there was in the swamps a great quantity of black ash, used for making baskets and bottoming chairs.

There was, therefore, a propriety in naming our town Ashfield, and we may suppose that it received that name before its incorporation from many who came from the pine, oak and chestnut forests of the valley. But the abundance of ash trees may not have been the only reason for petitioning to have it incorporated by the name it was. I have seen in some history that it was named Ashfield because Lord Thurlow was a native of the town of Ashfield in England. And it is not improbable that it might have suggested a motive to the Rev. Jacob Sherwin why he should use his influence to have it so named, to gain some favor from the British Minister. Hence we may safely come to the conclusion that there were two reasons for adopting the present name.