Russell, Massachusetts is a town of nearly 1,800 people in Hampden County. It is surrounded by towns including Granville, Blandford, Huntington, Montgomery, and Westfield, and covers nearly 18 square miles. It is about 115 miles west of Boston, and has a portion of the Boston and Albany Railroad running through town, along with the Westfield River.
The town has two distinct areas: the low valley around the Westfield River, with many hills, and the upland area with an elevation of 1,000-1,400 feet. The town in many places is too steep for farming and these areas remain heavily wooded. Russell enjoys the unique geographic feature of 3 distinct cascades in the river. Each has about a 90 foot drop, and they are widely separated, useful for supporting industry in the town.
Like other towns in this region of Massachusetts, our land was first inhabited by the Pocumtuc tribe, who were decimated by small pox and later driven out of the area. Because the land here was not as fertile as other nearby areas, settlement took place later than the surrounding towns, and began in 1725. It was the incorporated as a town in 1792, separating from Westfield.With the coming of the railroad to Massachusetts and the Industrial Revolution, we grew into a thriving mill town. Three villages grew up around the mills:
These mills operated for many years, finally declining in the 1990s. However, Texon still runs a small plant in Crescent Mills. The town has little other industry, and has evolved to be a suburb of Westfield, but retains its hill town culture and history.
Though more commonly associated with Pennsylvania, New England has 14 Mennonite congregations, one of which is in our fantastic town. The town Mennonite church was founded in 1999, and has approximately 14 families in membership.
Living up to the Mennonite belief in mission work, members of a Pennsylvania church arrived in MA to build a Ukrainian church and school in Westfield. Once this was complete, some decided to stay and form their own community in Massachusetts. Several friends banded together and now there are two thriving Mennonite businesses in the town: Countryside Woodcraft, specializing in handmade furniture and kitchens, and The Breadbasket, a popular bakery. By sticking true to their roots while embracing the needs of the community, these businesses have brought much needed industry to the area.
Russell, MA is a small town that has become a suburb of Westfield. Once a productive mill town, the people here cling to their hill town roots while embracing various cultural and religious groups to bring our town into the future.