The first settlers arrived in what is now Blandford in 1735. They were Scots-Irish coming from Hopkinton, Massachusetts (30 miles from Boston). They came seeking a place to practice their Presbyterian faith freely. In keeping with their Scottish heritage, they chose Glasgow as the name for the new settlement.
The tract of land that was to be Glasgow was supposed to be a six mile square tract of land. Ultimately, it was a seven mile square tract, surveyed into a traditional New England village pattern, with uniform rectangular housing lots clustered in the center with larger agricultural lots surrounding them.
By 1740, the primary settlement was in the location of today’s town center. It contained the first meeting house (c. 1740), several taverns, and a schoolhouse (c. 1740). Blandford’s location on the “Road to Tunnock,” later known as the General Knox Trail, helped the many taverns of the town prosper as weary travelers made their way on this Boston-to-Albany trek.
The first meeting-house in Blandford was established as a Scots-Irish Presbyterian Church. This primitive structure was begun in 1740 and completed in 1805.
When the settlers applied for incorporation in 1741, the governor noticed that they had added an extra square mile to the township, so he made them change the name of the town from Glasgow to “Blandford,” named for the ship that had brought him to America.
Raising livestock, dairy products and subsistence farming were how the people of Blandford survived. A gristmill was built by Captain Kelso and a tannery was run by John Watson near the center of town on Tannery Brook. A second gristmill/sawmill combination was found on Stage Road prior to 1775.
From 1776 to 1790, the population of Blandford nearly doubled, going from 772 to 1,416. By 1800, there were 1,778 residents – the largest population ever recorded for the town.
A Massachusetts law required there to be a schoolhouse within 1 mile of every home, so that students could walk to school. Consequently, in 1802, there were 13 schools in Blandford.
Amos Collins, a Connecticut merchant came to Blandford in 1807 and convinced farmers to raise dairy cows for butter and cheese production. He purchased the cows in New York and sold them to Blandford farmers, who were then instructed in the art of making cheese. This led to a very successful venture, with Blandford producing the highest cheese value in the county ($7,681) in 1845. Collins stayed, but 9 years and was followed by Orrin Sage who bought and marketed cheese from local farmers for thirty years. By 1865, Diamond Cheese (factory) was producing 30% of Hampden County’s cheese at a value of $ 17, 161. Two hundred dairy farms in Blandford employed over 256 people.
In addition to the Presbyterian denomination an Episcopal, a Methodist and a Baptist community were established in the early 1800’s. The Episcopalians built a church in 1830. A Methodist-Episcopal church was built in 1845. The original meeting-house in Blandford’s center was replaced by the existing First Congregational Church on the hill, in 1823. The Second Congregational Church in North Blandford was built in 1895.
In 1830, the first hotel was built in Blandford center. It was a three-story structure that boasted a two-story veranda. Stores were also built in North Blandford and Blandford Center, and quite an industrial center was emerging in North Blandford. There were three tanneries producing a quarter of the county’s valuable leather. Lyman, Norton & Co. ran a small woolen factory, manufacturing satinets there as well.
The coming of the Boston & Albany Railroad in 1840, established an important commerce route for Blandford with both goods and tourists going to and coming from Chester Village (Huntington) to Blandford.
Other important industries in North Blandford that developed in the 1840’s, were a basket shop, carding mill, liniment factory, a wood turning factory, a small paper mill, making wrapping paper and a fabric mill that produced fabric and then cut and tailored it into clothing.
The two-story Agricultural Union Hall at the Blandford Fairgrounds was built in 1869. The Blandford Fair, held at the Fairgrounds, will celebrate its 150th anniversary in 2017.
By the 1870’s, Blandford like several other hill towns, became a summer vacation destination for people from Springfield and Westfield.
In approximately 1880, a kaolin clay bed was found near the village center. This clay was hauled to a kiln in Russell, established as the Blandford Brick and Tile Co., where it was made into fire resistant brick. It was used to build the Porter Library in Blandford and the State House extension in Boston.
This article uses material from Gateway Hilltown History.