The town of Russell is nestled at the foothills of
the Berkshire Mountains in Hampden County, bordered by the towns of
Westfield to the east, Granville to the south, Blandford to the west,
Montgomery to the north, and Huntington to the northwest. Covering
approximately 17.9 square miles, Russell’s bucolic landscape of rolling
hills is mostly forested, with some open fields used for agriculture.
Though only 20 miles from Springfield and 8 miles from Westfield, two
of western Massachusetts’ major commercial centers, Russell has
maintained its quiet, rural character. Russell’s current population is
The Town of Russell was incorporated in 1792 in response to a petition
by residents of “New Addition”, a piece of land belonging to Westfield
and valued because of its marble quarry and excellent building stone.
The earliest settlers were located on Glasgow Mountain, now known as
Russell Mountain--farmers and loggers who utilized the heavy growth of
timber on Glasgow Mountain to supply building operations in
The railroad came to Russell in the late 1830’s, and the center of town
moved to the river valley at the foot of the mountains (Russell’s
downtown has recently been designated a National Historic District).
Streams flowing into the Westfield River, and the Westfield itself,
were harnessed to power sawmills and grist mills. The Town continued to
grow, with brick and tile works, a tannery, charcoal kilns, stores, and
A major paper industry also developed along the Westfield River,
beginning with Chapin and Gould in 1858, followed by Salmon Falls and
Fairfield in 1872, and the Westfield River Paper Company in 1902.
Russell became a bustling hub of paper manufacturing, known as “The
Paper Town”. The three distinct villages within Russell developed
around the three paper mills, which were built on the sites of former
gristmills, charcoal kilns, and brick and tile companies.
Traditionally, most citizens of the town were employed by the mills,
and the paper companies constructed the villages of Woronoco, Crescent
Mills, and The Grove in Russell as housing for their workers. Today,
the only remaining paper manufacturer in Russell is USM Texon
Materials, Inc., on the former Chapin and Gould site in Crescent Mills.
Although Russell was originally a self-sufficient entity, state
requirements have led to collaboration in several areas. In 1965,
Russell voted to join the Gateway Regional School District, which
comprises seven Hilltowns. Russell also partners with other towns in
sharing and supporting the Huntington Ambulance, as well as
regional finance and select board sub-committees. In the area of
recreation, the Town of Blandford shares the recreation facilities of
Russell Pond, and all sports teams are now under the auspices of the
Gateway Youth Athletic Association.
Although some parts of Russell might be considered “bedroom”
communities, with workers commuting to larger commercial centers such
as Springfield, the majority of residents work either in town or in
neighboring Westfield. New business has been brought to the area,
notably by the Mennonites, who have opened a large furniture factory
and a bakery. There is also the possibility that a large
biomass-generating plant may be built on the former Westfield River
Paper Company site.
Adapted from a history
written by Ann Lucy Strickland Merritt