Northfield is a town in Franklin County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 3,032 at the 2010 census. It is part of the Springfield, Massachusetts Metropolitan Statistical Area. The Connecticut River runs through the town, dividing West Northfield from East Northfield and the village of Northfield, where the town hall is located.
Originally settled and inhabited by the Pocomtuc tribe, the area was the site of the village of Squawkeag. Northfield was first colonized in 1673 by the English and was officially incorporated in 1723.
The territory was successfully defended a number of times by Native Americans. As a result, the English colonists were occasionally taken north to Quebec, held as hostages by the French, causing the town to revert to American Indian control a few times. Eventually, conflicts with the Native American population ceased after most of the native population was displaced and/or sold into slavery as a result of King Philip's War and after a series of massacres of local Indian villages.
During Dummer's War, on August 13, 1723, Gray Lock raided Northfield, and four warriors killed two citizens near the town. The next day they attacked Joseph Stevens and his four sons in Rutland. Stevens escaped, two boys were killed, and the other two sons were captured.
Much of Northfield's development in the late nineteenth century was spurred by the work of evangelist Dwight Lyman Moody, a native of Northfield who established the Northfield Seminary for Girls in 1879 on a sweeping hillside in East Northfield. The school was the site of Moody's religious conferences, which attracted thousands of visitors to Northfield each summer. The influx of visitors led to the development of the town as a summer resort, especially after the opening of the Northfield Hotel in 1887. Francis Schell, a New York capitalist attracted by his interest in Moody's work at the Northfield Seminary, commissioned architect Bruce Price to design a summer home, which became known as the Northfield Chateau. Patterned after a French château but fanciful in style with prominent turrets and 99 rooms, the house fell into a state of disrepair following Schell's death, and it was demolished in 1967.
The Vermont and Massachusetts Railroad had established rail service to Northfield by 1850, along a line running from Millers Falls, Massachusetts to Brattleboro, Vermont. Even though the railway crossed the Connecticut River in Northfield, East Northfield Station was actually located in West Northfield, making it necessary for disembarking passengers to travel back across the Connecticut River on the lower deck of the rail bridge. To provide for safer and more convenient access across the river, Francis Schell gave $60,000 for the construction of a new steel bridge. The Schell Bridge is a Pennsylvania truss structure of impressive design, which crosses the river in one span of .
In 1971 the Northfield Mount Hermon School was formed by the merger of the Northfield Seminary and the Mount Hermon School for boys, which Moody had founded in 1881 in nearby Gill. The school continued to operate as one school with two campuses some apart on opposite banks of the Connecticut River until 2005 when the school consolidated its operations on the Mount Hermon campus in Gill. The school's former campus in Northfield was purchased by Hobby Lobby, an Oklahoma-based chain of arts and crafts stores, as of December 2009 to be used as the campus for the new C.S. Lewis College, run by the California-based C.S. Lewis Foundation. Renovation began on the disused buildings in summer 2010, and the college expected to open for instruction in fall 2012, pending accreditation. Moody's birthplace and grave site, located on the Northfield campus, remain as a historic site. The auditorium, used for Moody's religious conventions, and the school's original Romanesque Revival buildings will remain extant on the Northfield campus as part of C.S. Lewis College.
(Abstracted from Source:Temple, Josiah Howard. History of the Town of Northfield, Massachusetts, for 150 Years.) The territory purchased from Indians was about 8 mi N/S and 12 mi E/W straddling the Connecticut River. Town boundaries were a portion of this near the river, mostly on the east side. It's name derives from being the northernmost settlement on the Connecticut River.
At the date of these grants, Massachusetts claimed territory forty miles north of the present border. In 1740 a new boundary was established by order of the king, and Northfield lost about 4 miles of extent at its northern end, which includes parts of the present towns of Place:Winchester, Cheshire, New Hampshire, United States, Place:Hinsdale, Cheshire, New Hampshire, United States, and Place:Vernon, Windham, Vermont, United States. Thus, for example, a historical phrase like "the northern part of Northfield" refers to an area that is now Vernon, VT.
Northfield is currently in Franklin county, which was created from Hampshire County in 1811. Records may be found in both places.