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STEPHEN WILLIAMS    


Settlement of Longmeadow and Application to Become its Own Precinct

In 1636, Puritan settlers left Roxbury, Massachusetts to settle along the “Quinneckiot” (Connecticut) River.  The peaceable Agawam tribe who lived in the Springfield area understood the benefits that they would reap by trading beaver with the Europeans and a cooperative network was established between the peoples. 

William Pynchon, the leader of the English settlement in Springfield, negotiated with the Indians to purchase 3 parcels of land:  the west side of the Connecticut River, the east side from Pecousic Brook north to Chikuppe River and the long meddowe (Masacksic) from Pecousic brook south to Raspberry Brook.  The purchase priced for the Longmeadow portion was 4 fathoms of wampum, 4 coats, 4 hatchets, 4 hoes, and 4 knives.

In 1645, 25 allotments of land were made along the river in the long meadow.  In 1647, a road was completed as far as the original Longmeadow Brook.  Ensign Benjamin Cooley, Quartermaster George Colton, and John Keep built the first houses in the long meadow.  These men were active and respected members of the Springfield community. 

Information about life on the meadow is scant, but it is known that in 1695 the Connecticut River overflowed its banks and flooded the meadow, forcing the settlers to flee their homes.  Because of the flooding, problems controlling their livestock, and the distance from church and school, in January 1703 the residents of the long meadow petitioned the town of Springfield that they be allowed to move out of the meadow onto higher ground to the east.  The petition was granted.

By midsummer of the same year, the Longmeadow town plat had been laid out.  A “Country Road,” later Longmeadow Street, was constructed 20 rods wide and 4 miles long and the lands bordering the street were divided into building lots.  Before the snow came that winter, the first homes stood in the little settlement.  By 1709, the move to the hill was complete.

The settlement in Longmeadow was part of the town of Springfield.  It did not have its own church and in order to attend church services, residents needed to travel to First Church in Springfield and back on a Sabbath.  This distance was challenging for many residents.

In the Spring of 1714, the townspeople of Longmeadow, petitioned the General Court for the establishment of a separate gospel ministry in the community.  The petition was granted, and at the Longmeadow precinct meeting in April, 1714 the townspeople voted that before the first of the ensuing year they would build a meeting house.  A five-man committee was chosen to select the site and supervise the construction of the meetinghouse.  By late summer, the meetinghouse was ready.

At the same April meeting, it was also voted “to call a Learned and Orthodox Minister to Dispense the Word of God to us this Winter in Order to a Settlement among us…as Speedy as may be…”  The town residents sought a candidate for the position and Stephen Williams applied in November, 1714.  The residents approved of him and in March 1715, the Longmeadow settlers “Voated that the Revd. Stephen Williams should be our Minister to Dispense the ordainances of Christ to us.”

Reverend Williams negotiated with the town for his compensation.  Eventually, in May 1715 an agreement was made to give him £ 200 for the construction of a parsonage, an adequate supply of firewood and £ 55 as an annual salary.  Stephen Williams was ordained in Longmeadow on October 17, 1716 and he was to remain as its pastor until his death in 1782. 

Sources

  • Reflections of Longmeadow by Linda Mr. Rodger and Mary S. Rogeness

  • Proceedings at the Centennial Celebration of the Incorporation of the Town of Longmeadow

  • The Journals of the Rev. Stephen Williams by Andrew Medlicott

  • Not to Fear the Face of Man: A Biography of the Rev. Dr. Stephen Williams First Minister to the Longmeadow Congregational Church 1716 to 1782 by Margaret Stoler 1974

by Elizabeth Hoff


Longmeadow Historical Society

697 Longmeadow Street
Longmeadow, MA 01106
(413) 567-3600
LongmeadowHS@gmail.com
 
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