Dana (Mass.) Collection, 1800-1939

MS 011

2 boxes (0.75 linear ft.)

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Incorporated from parts of Greenwich, Hardwick, and Petersham in 1801, the town of Dana, Massachusetts, was situated in the northeastern reaches of the Swift River Valley. A fairly sparsely populated town (695 residents in 1890), Dana benefited from a relative abundance of flat and arable land that resulted in an economy centered on farming and pasturage, but the availability of water from the Swift River promoted the development of manufactures as well. In addition to the cottage industry of weaving palm-leaf hats, particularly in North Dana, the town supported factories that produced pianos, wood products (the Swift River Box Company), sawmills, gristmills, and textiles. Quarrying of granite and especially soapstone added to the employment.

Like its neighbors in the Swift River Valley (Dana, Enfield, and Prescott), Dana's fortunes dimmed considerably after the 1890s. Confronted with a critical demand for water in the Boston metropolitan region in 1895, the Commonwealth authorized the new Metropolitan Water District to seek new supplies in the western parts of the state. Construction of the Wachusett Reservoir along the Nashua River (1897-1908) bought time, but ultimately failed to meet projected demand, and by 1922, the MWD officially signaled its intention of damming the Swift River Valley, signifying an end to habitation there. All residents were ordered removed from the valley, with homes, farms, and places of business systematically destroyed, the land cleared, and even the graves removed.

Work on the Quabbin Reservoir began four years later with construction of the Ware River Diversion, a tunnel connecting the Wachusett Reservoir with the Ware River, followed in 1936 by construction of the Goodnough Dike and Windsor Dam. Dana was officially disincorporated by the state in 1938, with the above-water portions annexed to nearby Hardwick, New Salem, Petersham, and Ware. On Aug. 14, 1939, the reservoir began to fill.

The Dana Collections include a comprehensive records of town meetings from incorporation through disincorporation (1801-1938), plus rich records for the Congregational Church and its affiliate organizations, the Ladies Aid Society, the Orthodox Congregational Society, and the Young People's Society of Christian Endeavor. This finding aid includes both materials held by SCUA and those held at the Swift River Valley Historical Society in New Salem, Mass., that were part of a cooperative digitization project centered on the records of the Quabbin towns.

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Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries

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The collection is open for research.