History of the Town of Worthington

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Early 20th-century postcard.

A “Brief” History of the Town of Worthington from 1762 to 2018

by Diane Brenner and Pat Kennedy

In the 1760s the wilderness that became Worthington was largely unpopulated. Although an indigenous community lived down the Westfield River valley in Norwich (now part of Huntington), the higher elevation of Worthington was likely only frequented seasonally by hunters passing through. The French and Indian Wars, which ended in 1763, probably discouraged settlement as well. On June 2, 1762, a bare two years after George III became King of Great Britain, Aaron Willard of Lunenburg, merchant and entrepreneur, attended an auction in Boston at which ten future towns in Western Massachusetts were sold by the colonial government on behalf of the King. Such sales were commonly held when the Crown needed cash. Before the sale, each approximately six-acre square plantation was casually surveyed. Willard won Plantation No. 3 (Worthington and a small part of Middlefield), paying 1,860 pounds sterling for 24,000 acres.

Willard was acting on behalf of a five-man syndicate that included himself, John Worthington and Josiah Dwight of Springfield, Timothy Dwight Jr. of Northampton, and Selah Barnard of Deerfield. They put down 20 pounds as security and promised the remaining £1,840 through a bond. Nathaniel Dwight Jr. surveyed the plantation into 100-acre sections, divided by lot among the five proprietors. By law, sections were set aside for the church, a minister, a school, and a grist mill. The proprietors hired Nahum Eager, an adventurous young man from Westborough, to serve as their agent. Eager (who snapped up several hundred acres around the present-day intersection of Old Post and Radiker Roads, including what is now Chucklebrook Farm) and Samuel Clapp (whose log cabin was purportedly where the Woodbridge House is located on Buffington Hill Road) were among the first settlers. The proprietors, none of whom ever chose to live here, paid the early settlers to build roads and bridges but retained responsibility for building a mill and hiring a clergyman. The records of these early transactions and the related accounting are preserved in the Edgerton Papers.

The first pioneers came as a group from Preston, Connecticut, in 1762. Like many, they left a town that felt overcrowded, seeking new opportunities and cheap land. Most of the new settlers were men. Marriage records show that many Worthington residents went back to Preston after a period of years to find spouses, while newcomers continued to migrate during the next decades. Among the pioneers responsible for molding the early Worthington (and giving their names to our roads, streams, and landmarks) were Reuben Adams, James Benjamin, Stephen and Davis Converse, Asa Cottrell, Beriah Curtis, Joseph and Sam Follet(t), Joseph Geer, James and John Kelly, Joseph Marsh, Daniel and Moses Morse (the latter the town’s first doctor), Jonathan and Joseph Prentice, Seth Porter, Samuel Whiting, Gersham Randall, Samuel Tower, and John Watts. Alexander Miller’s tavern was the first in town; his Tory sympathies and role as tax collector made him less than popular.

Although there were 35 families by 1765, efforts to incorporate failed. However, on June 30, 1768, the Massachusetts Bay Colony legislature passed a proclamation allowing for the creation of a town named Worthington in Hampshire County. Reverend Jonathan Huntington, the first minister and also a physician, braved the move to the Worthington wilds from Connecticut accompanied by his wife, Sarah. His church and parsonage were built on West Street.

The Huntington parsonage, 1885.

The first Annual Town Meeting was held on July 11, 1768. The first mill was built by Luke Bonney and David Bronson in the area that came to be known as Stevensville. Nathan Leonard was named first town Moderator, Nahum Eager was Town Clerk, and Leonard, along with Nathaniel Daniels and John Kinne, were elected Selectmen. During those early years, the focus was on building and sustaining roads and bridges, including a direct road through Worthington between Boston and Albany (Rte. 143 and Old Post Road). All goods came from the surrounding towns, primarily Northampton. In 1771, Jeremiah Kinne purchased property at what is now the corner of Cole and Old North Roads.

By 1770 there were 639 town residents, many of whom took a great interest in the political activities occurring in Boston and elsewhere in the years leading up to the Revolutionary War. A call to arms on June 28, 1774, led to the establishment of a “committee of correspondence” to support the colonists under siege in Boston. This committee was chaired by Ebenezer Leonard, with Nathan Leonard, Nahum Eager, Nathaniel Daniels, Thomas Kinne and Moses Morse as members. Several joined the Minutemen while others joined General Washington in New Jersey. The Town Meeting voted to financially support soldiers by providing clothing (£120) but refused to buy ammunition (£15). There was also some relief for the soldiers’ families. Many Worthington farms provided horses and other support for the soldiers, and were run primarily by the women and children left behind. In 1777 some prisoners from Burgoyne’s army were marched through town and billeted on Eager’s property; it is said, though documentation is scarce, that several escaped to settle and raise families in Worthington. At least 42 Worthington men served in the war, and Jeremiah Kinne and Samuel Cole died. Kinne’s house (on Cole and Old North Streets) passed to his brother Daniel and Daniel’s second wife, Patience. Parts of the home they built remain today. Major Samuel Buffington and Samuel Follett played major roles, Buffington at Saratoga and Follett at Bunker Hill. Jonathan Brewster arrived in 1777 from Preston, Connecticut, with his wife Zipporah, settling on the road to Huntington (now Rte. 112) at what became Worthington Center. They founded a dynasty of Brewsters, many lawyers and judges among them, who figured prominently in local and state politics. Kingman Brewster, whose name reflects the marriage of two early Worthington families, served as the president of Yale.

Buffington, along with Captain Elisha Brewster, saw service again on behalf of the government during Shays’ Rebellion in 1787. Buffington built a grand home in the Federal style at the top of the hill that now bears his name; it remains today one of the town’s most elegant homes. Jonathan Woodbridge, a local lawyer, also served in the war as a captain; his Federal home, a more lavish rival to Buffington’s, was completed in 1806. Both Buffington and Woodbridge suffered financial difficulties associated with their expensive lifestyles. Woodbridge died in 1808 and never lived to enjoy what he had built; his home became the residence of lawyer Samuel Howe, with whom William Cullen Bryant apprenticed.

Jonathan Woodbridge house, Worthington.

Life was difficult in the early years of the now-independent nation, especially when currencies were in flux and money for business investment scarce. Much business was done on credit. Nonetheless, the town grew substantially. In 1780, Samuel Buck built a fine Georgian house at the Corners, visible today as the “Worthington Inn at Four Corners Farm.” By contrast, Joseph Tower and his son Abner traveled by ox cart from Hingham, building a rude log cabin in the area that came to be called “Tower Hill” (northeast intersection of Rte. 143 and Rte. 112). Arriving around this time from Northampton was the family of Deacon Azariah Parsons, and, continuing the tradition of migrating from Preston, Connecticut, Dr. Ezra Starkweather and his wife Esther Brewster, who built a large, still-standing Georgian house at the intersection of Thatcher Hill, Harvey, and Old Post Roads. Starkweather was the town’s second doctor, town clerk, and for twelve years, a state representative. Sometime around 1787, James Blackmar and his wife Sarah arrived from Gloucester, Rhode Island. In 1791, near the southern part of West Street, he built a linseed oil mill, one of Worthington’s first successful businesses.

At the first federal census in 1790 Worthington had over 1,100 residents. In 1796, to serve the growing community’s needs, William Gove opened the first general store on land purchased from Nahum Eager at the intersection of Radiker and Old Post Roads. That same year, a 14-year old William Ward moved from Cummington and went to work for Gove, eventually marrying Gove’s daughter Betsey in 1805. That year, the now-experienced Ward opened a new general store on Buffington Hill Road near the Corners (at #11, also known as “The Heritage”). He and his wife ran a prosperous business. Ward also had a political career, representing the town on the State Constitutional Revision Committee. The first post office was built in 1796, and Asa Bigelow became the first postmaster. He was quickly succeeded by Ward, who located the office in his store.

Sometime before 1790, Luther Granger arrived from Suffield with his second wife, Ruth Goodwell, from Chester. Most of his eight children were born in Worthington. Grangers continued to live in Worthington through the next two centuries. Most of today’s Grangers descend from Luther’s son, Abraham, born in Worthington in 1799. Israel Burr’s name appears in the census of 1790. He migrated around 1788 from Bridgewater, MA, joined by his mother, several sons, and soon thereafter by two of his brothers. The Burrs bought land and developed into prosperous farmers serving the town in many different ways. William Rice moved from Conway in 1803, marrying Wealthy Cottrell in 1806 and building a house on the southeast corner of Old Post and Buffington Roads, an intersection known by then as the Four Corners. He became a wealthy merchant. Aaron Stevens arrived in 1811 from Brookfield, MA, and that year married Sarah Spelman in Worthington. Together with their sons, Nathan and Lafayette, they built a sawmill at the east end of the road to Chesterfield (now Rte. 143). The sawmill developed into a thriving business based on wooden hoops. The Stevens family not only contributed their name to the area where they lived (Stevensville) but participated actively in church and town activities for many decades.

Following the British surrender, town delegates to the contentious Constitutional Convention in Boston voted in favor of Massachusetts’ ratification of the 1789 Federal Constitution. In 1812, by contrast, Worthington officials voiced opposition to the idea of going to war against Great Britain. Nonetheless, 24 residents served in that war, with William Ward and William Rice receiving commissions. Thanks to stage coach lines and other advanced means of transportation, the town continued to grow. In 1810, the population of Worthington reached a high of 1,391. Eleven separate one-room schools provided a basic elementary education and in 1833 were arranged into districts, each with its own school board. The short-lived Mountain Seminary (1834-1849), located in Worthington Corners, attempted to add higher education to the town’s educational offerings.

On June 13, 1825, General Lafayette, on a triumphal return to America, spent the night at the Pierce Tavern, now the site of the Worthington Library. The occasion was festive, marked by parades and celebrations. A centennial reenactment in 1925 was described by Katharine McDowell Rice. Her father, William Rice, lived in a prime location across from the Inn and was one of the original celebrants.

Industrial growth continued during this period thanks to the next generation of Worthingtonians and the arrival of new families. By 1820 there were five blacksmith shops and three distilleries (distilling tree oils, not liquor), though there were several taverns as well. The general store at the Corners was run by Seth Porter’s son, Edward, the progenitor of many later Worthington Porters. Daniel Hewitt came to town after marrying Mathilda Parrish in 1822, and settled in Worthington Center across from the Brewsters. He opened the first general store in that area, in addition to farming and providing cloth finishing and leather-working services on his property along what is now Sam Hill Road. Sydney Brewster built the Greek Revival house on Huntington Road that became known as the “Doctor’s House,” next door to the Congregational parsonage. A succession of physicians and their families lived there until the mid-20th century, including William Lyman, William Parmalee, and Erastus C. Coy (who married Isora Burr, daughter of Franklin and Persis Knapp Burr). The leading farmers of the period were the Burr family in Worthington Center, the Thrasher family in South Worthington, and Nahum Eager’s son Jonathan. Ezra Starkweather’s house on Old Post Road was sold to chairmaker Elijah Drury. Taking advantage of the abundant woods, the Watson Tannery was built near West Worthington Falls. The tannery of Spencer Clark (formerly of Chester) and his brother-in-law Joseph Bardwell was nearby. To meet the needs of the burgeoning West Worthington community, Andrew Medbury built a general store that eventually became a Methodist meeting house that served as the model for the present-day building of the Worthington Historical Society. Medbury’s house on River Road endures, eventually becoming the property known as “Brookstone.” The West Worthington post office, the second in town, was created in 1839.

The Congregational Church, established by the founders of Massachusetts Bay Colony, dominated in most New England towns. Establishment meant that a portion of everyone’s taxes supported the Church and its minister. The first church was formally organized in 1771, and in 1780 a pulpit was added to the leaky edifice on West Street. By 1790 the building was no longer functional and a second meeting house was built on the north side of Harvey Road, immediately west of the Brewster house on the corner. It was abandoned in 1825, and a new building was constructed on the site of the present church.

The early decades of the 19th century were marked by religious turmoil and the evangelical fervor of the Great Awakening. The evangelical Rev. John Bisbee became head of the Congregational Church. An influential minister, his passion sparked a revival of devotion, especially among the town’s youth. The same fervor led to new religious groups prepared to splinter from the main church, notably the Baptists and Methodists. In South Worthington, the Methodist Episcopal Society was established in 1828, with services conducted by itinerant ministers on property that now hosts Sevenars. In 1848, a more formal Methodist meeting house was built across the street. The original meeting house was then purchased by a lay preacher, James Wright, who turned it into a general store, the first in that part of town. The parsonage was completed in 1850. Non-adherents of the Congregational Church began to voice objections to its establishment.

Methodist Church in South Worthington. Photo by Kate Ewald.

The 1840s and 1850s saw the arrival of a new form of transportation: railways. An effort to bring one of the lines through Worthington failed. Although a train station was built in Huntington, many Worthington families despaired about the future and began selling their farms and moving to western New York State, Ohio and further west in search of cheap land and new opportunities. And once again, times of loss were also times of gain. The sheep farmer-turned-entrepreneur, Horace Cole, settled here in 1845, buying the general store at Worthington Corners. Tired of the travel time needed to reach agricultural events in distant communities, local farmers formed the “Worthington Agricultural Society.” Beginning in 1852, they held fairs and sales events on the commons next to the Church. The new town hall, dedicated in 1855, was a Greek Revival building, reflecting the country’s pride in its democratic heritage. The benighted Woodbridge House changed hands yet again in 1852, when lawyer Chauncy Rising sold it to cotton merchant Dwight Stone, whose mother came from Worthington’s Benjamin family. Dwight’s brother Albert also moved to Worthington at that time. The Stones, who came from Columbus, Ohio, were traders on the New York Cotton Exchange and manufactured cotton goods from cotton produced on family-owned plantations in the South. They were among many Northern merchants who profited from slavery, even during the Civil War, when they received a contract to produce Union uniforms. Not long after, their widowed sister, Adelia Benjamin Stone, came to Worthington and married Cyprian Parish Hewitt, who had inherited the Daniel Hewitt property on Sam Hill Road.

Following a fire, Horace Cole and his son Samuel rebuilt the Corners Store in 1859, in the Greek Revival style it retains today. Cole was the postmaster as well as a real-estate developer. He and his son created a shoe and boot factory, a basket factory, and a cheese factory. Horace Cole’s brother, Consider Cole, purchased the general store in South Worthington. He operated it with his partner, Isaac Thrasher, until Thrasher opened his own store a decade later south of the bridge over the Little River, on what became Thrasher Hill Road.

Elkanah Ring and his brother Thomas were sons of Jonathan Ring, who settled in town after the Revolution. Their jointly owned factory in the area that became known as Ringville produced heavy wooden sledges, called Ringers, that helped carry goods for settlers moving to the West. Eventually, Ringers were superseded by the more popular Conestoga wagon. Ring factories in Worthington and Knightville burgeoned in the period before the Civil War. Their popular sleds for children were a smaller version of the earlier Ringers. They also created many tools combining wood and metal that remain cherished for their fine workmanship. The Ringville post office was first staffed in 1851 by Ethan Ring (a distant cousin, maybe).

By the 1860s, Worthington’s population had declined to 925. These were years marked by deep conflict and rapid technological change. Many Worthington residents were opposed to slavery; as pragmatic farmers they identified primarily as Unionists willing to serve in the war against the Secessionists for the short periods of time required by Lincoln’s draft. Not a few, though, pleaded disability and a need to run their farms, or, as was allowed by law, hired others to take their place. General James Clay Rice, son of William, was killed in action during the 1864 battle at Spotsylvania Courthouse, Virginia. Though no longer a resident of Worthington at the time, he is considered a valiant “native son.” Sixty-two Worthington men (mostly boys) served in that brutal war, and 23 died, primarily from disease. Their names, too many to list here, are memorialized in the Papers on the History of Worthington.

The Methodist congregation in South Worthington was staunchly abolitionist, supporting the anti-slavery work of John Brown and the Underground Railroad. Their commitment to this cause led to a break with the Methodist establishment and a new identity as a Wesleyan Meeting. Among the strongest proponents of this course were Martin and Maranda Conwell. Their son, Russell, became a Captain, heading a regiment he helped raise. Following an undistinguished military career that ended in a court martial, Conwell became a Baptist minister, settling eventually in Philadelphia. Honing his considerable oratorical skills, he gave his “Acres of Diamonds” speech more than 6,000 times. This speech is considered a cornerstone of the “Gospel of Wealth.” It provided funds that allowed him to found a hospital as well as The Temple, a place of worship that eventually developed into Temple University. Conwell summered at his home in South Worthington until his death in 1925, attracting many visitors and admirers to camp meetings on his properties. The Conwell Elementary School is named for him.

Russell H. Conwell at his home in South Worthington.

The Greek Revival-style Lyceum Hall, built in 1860 with funding from Horace Cole, would serve the town for the next hundred years as a grange hall, elementary and high school, location for Catholic services, and center for dances, weddings, musicales, speeches and other town events. It was also briefly the library, and, for over a decade, the health center. In 1865, after contentious debate, the Town formally separated from the Congregational Church – one of the last communities in Massachusetts to do so. This resulted in the creation of the First Congregational Parish. The house across the road was purchased by the church in 1867 to serve as the parsonage.

Reflecting great pride, Worthington’s centennial celebration on August 20, 1868, was a festive affair, including a dinner, many speeches (including one by William Cullen Bryant), a centennial sermon, the singing of a “Centennial Ode,” and return visits to the town by some of the early pioneers. That same year, Charles Powers tapped and sold the production from 1200 maple trees on his property on Old North Road, and while the past was celebrated, a new industry came into being. Also living in Worthington at this time were George and Lucy Osgood (West Worthington), Abner and Eunice Witt (Worthington Center), Clark and Lucy Bates (Worthington Corners), and Edwin and Nancy Dodge (Ringville). All these families had a baby born in 1860.

The population continued to decline – 818 in 1875, 763 in 1885, 569 in 1910 – yet in these same decades many town institutions we know today were established. Samuel Follett Hills, grandson of the Revolutionary War hero Samuel Follett, ran a highly successful farm west of West Street on the road that came to bear his slightly mangled name. He served several terms as a cantankerous but careful and informed selectman. Horace Cole’s failed tobacco enterprise at the Corners was turned into a cheese factory, which also failed and was taken over by Horace Bartlett, who produced baskets in partnership with John Kinne. Bartlett eventually turned the building into a private home known as “The Spruces,” and many generations of Bartletts have lived in it continuously since then. Arthur Capen was born on Dingle Road (now Capen Street) in 1881. He lived to the age of 99, serving the town first as a teacher, and later as the town librarian, organist at the Congregational Church, and loyal member of the Grange. Bessie Ames, who had trained as a nurse, discovered Worthington in 1883. She found she could live here independently and purchased one of the Brewster homes on Harvey Road, converting it to a boarding house. She also worked regularly in Springfield, providing nursing services to the homeless and to women considered of ill repute.

Worthington’s Congregational Church.

In 1887, the second Congregational Church burned. The third and current church, including a steeple, bells, organ, and new stained glass windows, was built on the same site and dedicated in 1888. The parsonage was handed over to the Church’s Women’s Benevolent Society, and to facilitate building ownership, the WBS incorporated in 1894. That same year, the Hewitts built a large white barn with cupola on their Sam Hill Road property, using columns from the burned-out church for its horse stalls. Such reuse of building materials was typical, and many a Worthington home addition used parts from earlier structures. The well-built barn still stands. At the south end of town, Russell Conwell founded and funded the Conwell Academy, a co-educational institution dedicated to providing high-quality education to all, regardless of ability to pay. It was located across Ireland Street from the Methodist Church. Although it closed in 1900, the Conwell family continued to use the building as an opera house and theater.

The first library was created from books donated by the much-beloved Reverend Frederick Sargent Huntington in 1884. Initially housed over the Corners Grocery, it was briefly moved to Lyceum Hall and then permanently housed in a building named in Huntington’s honor. Grange #90 (the Pomona Grange), an organization designed to provide farmers with community, education, and money-saving opportunities, was formed in 1904 and established at Lyceum Hall. Peter Radiker purchased land on Old North Road, planning to create a “Pleasure Park” for ball games, trotting races and other public recreation. Radiker’s 1892 dream resulted in financial ruin within six years. Also during this era, William A. Rice Jr. a descendant of the first William Rice, purchased the old Kinne property at the corner of Cold Street and Old North Road, near the intersection with Cummington Road. He named it “The Farm,” and, with his family, enjoyed it as a summer escape from Albany. A quarry on the property had provided foundation stones for the third Congregational Church. A special limited edition of John Greenleaf Whittier’s Snow-Bound (1866), commissioned by another Rice of that period, provides views of the property both inside and out.

Guy Thrasher, youngest son of George and Hattie (Lyman) Thrasher, was born in 1900, on what was known as Thrasher Hill Road in South Worthington. He was from a long line of South Worthington Thrashers and trapped his first beaver in 1908. Trapping became his special passion and he lived in accord with the seasons, supplementing his income through sugaring and running his family’s general store. Many members of the Higgins and Myrick families worked for and with him over the years. He remained a much-loved fixture, and is fondly remembered. In 1906 the Fairman dynasty was established when Fred Fairman of Brookfield married Eva Cudworth, a Worthington native. Franklin H. Burr served as longtime town clerk, and his wife, teacher Helen Gilmore Burr, was town treasurer. Their son Franklin G. Burr, born in 1912, was town selectman for a few terms, and along with his wife, Harriett, served the community in multiple ways.

While the permanent population of farmers and small manufacturers declined steadily, Worthington gradually gained a reputation as a summer resort. J. Ross Stevenson, a wealthy New Yorker, purchased the former Buck place near the Corners in 1901. He renovated the house and had locals Noyes and John Bartlett build a round barn and race track on the east side of the property. The Golf Club was established in 1904, and a telephone exchange was installed at the Corners Store the following year. A public water system serving the Corners and Center areas became operational in 1911. The Worthington Transportation Company, incorporated in 1909, provided transport from the Huntington Railway station to town, though their efforts to develop a trolley line failed. Ground was broken on August 18, 1914, for the new Frederick Huntington Sargent Library on the site of the former Pierce Tavern. The land was donated by the Rice family and the building was designed to face their house across the street. The library construction required extensive volunteer effort and local funding, as the town had refused a grant from Andrew Carnegie because of the many strings attached. The library was dedicated ceremoniously on September 2, 1915.

Dedication of Worthington Library in 1915.

The maple sugaring industry expanded into a commercial enterprise during this period. Arthur Johnson, who lived on West Street, became known as the ”Maple Sugar King,” and the Tower family (Henry, his wife Eurma, and their son Walter) developed a thriving business at their home along the Chesterfield Road. Isaac Thrasher’s son George, Guy’s brother, began a grocery delivery service from his father’s South Worthington store.

The Bartletts Hotel.

These amenities, as well as the casino on Buffington Hill, a hotel, several boarding houses, and summer homes brought many visitors as well as much-needed income to the town. The Worthington Inn at Worthington Corners was particularly prominent. After the Bartlett Hotel burned in 1898, the Inn was rebuilt on the same site and then expanded by Jacob Bartlett’s daughter Ida Bartlett Trow and her husband, Alfred. The Worthington Inn reopened formally in 1913 and was operated initially by the Trows and their three daughters. They sold the Inn after about six years, and the new owners expanded it further. The casino was moved and attached to the Inn as a dining hall and ballroom. Fifteen rooms were added. The Inn was renamed the Lafayette Lodge and heavily advertised under a variety of owners.

The Worthington Inn viewed from the south.

The heyday of the Worthington Inn/Lafayette Lodge coincided with the First World War and its complicated aftermath. Twenty-six Worthington men served during that war, though Russell Shaw is the only recorded casualty. The town also seems to have been spared the worst of the 1918-1920 Spanish flu pandemic that killed 20 million people globally. Worthington seems to have been quite lively around this time. Henry Snyder, born and educated in Cummington, moved to Worthington and in 1917 established the thriving “Snyder Express” trucking business in partnership with his wife, Eva Decelles, of Adams. Among Snyder’s long-time employees was Ernest Fairman, son of Fred and Eva, born in 1910. Playwright Katharine McDowell Rice, whose light comic plays were popular and often performed, was prolific in this period. Her plays did not reflect her more serious anti-war activism and involvement in numerous peace groups. Meanwhile Emerson Davis arrived in Worthington, fleeing the degradations associated with being a conscientious objector in his hometown, Adams. A man considerably ahead of the times, “Emmy” Davis promoted simplicity, environmentalism, and peace, and lived in accord with his principles. He created and ran the disposal area, and provided numerous services at the Town Hall, the church, and the school. He died in 1978 at the age of 90, his fame and influence enduring to this day.

Other arrivals included Nathaniel Glidden, a New York stockbroker who purchased the property at the corner of Kinne Brook Road and Rte. 112 once owned by Leonards and Eagers, and now known as “Denworth Farm.” Another newcomer, Harry Mollison of Goshen, along with his new wife Lucy, began a successful farming business in the Ringville area they named “Echo Valley.” In 1924, the golf course was expanded to its current nine holes. Merwin Packard of Cummington purchased the Corners Store in 1925 from E.J. Bligh, revitalizing a local asset in serious decline; Packard became postmaster at the same time. In 1926 he installed a gas pump, a forward-looking move as Worthington had only ten automobiles. Further modernization came with electrification in 1928. The Vaughn family purchased Rice’s “The Farm” in 1927, and eventually it became the property of Margaret Vaughn, a musician and patron of the Cummington School for the Arts. Vaughn was one of the independent women and men who found Worthington a good place to thrive.

Worthington’s population sagged during the 1930s and 40s, reaching its low point of 363 in 1945. This was a sad and difficult time, as was true for so many communities. With fewer people, Worthington’s one-room schools closed and post offices were consolidated. The Grange was forced to merge with its neighbors. The numerous small village country stores shuttered and became homes or were torn down. The Great Depression meant fewer people could travel, so many boarding houses closed as well. During the winter of 1931, the Lafayette Inn burned to the ground and was not rebuilt.

But Worthington has regularly proved itself to be a plucky little town, and undertakings of this period still impact us today. As part of a federally-funded WPA project, the Town Hall was expanded. In 1931, Alberie Albert moved here with his family and began his potato farming operation. Fred Liston settled here the same year, starting out as a seller of bottled gas, and then with his wife Joan, opening a bar and store along the road to Peru – the highest bar in Massachusetts! Liston operated it until his death in 1976. In 1933 the Historical Society was organized, and its members started to collect stories and artifacts related to Worthington’s past. The year before, Florence Berry had arrived to serve the town and surrounding region as a Red Cross nurse. She rented the WBS Parsonage on Huntington Road and set up a nursing home/rehabilitation facility that she managed for many years. In 1936 she married widower Harry Bates – a carpenter, stonemason, musician and Worthington native – moving into his home on Buffington Hill Road, next door to Lyceum Hall, where his dance band frequently performed. Harley Mason was born in 1936, the son of Stanley Smith and Ethel Mason, who ran the Mason Farm (now Sawyer Farm) on Cummington Road. Stanley’s parents, Howard and Edith Smith Mason, lived on the same farm, providing dairy products for the Lafayette Inn. The Mason women also worked at the Inn during the summer season. The hurricane of 1938 left devastation throughout the Connecticut River Valley, and Worthington was not spared.

Ice storm in Worthington c. 1940.

The Consolidated School (later named the Russell H. Conwell Elementary School) was built in 1940, and Florence Bates left the Red Cross to become the town’s first school nurse. The Conwell Parent Teachers Organization (PTO) came into being in October 1948, and so began decades of creative fundraising for PTO-sponsored activities from mini-classes to trips and picnics. Carl and Ida Joslyn, retirees from Maryland, purchased the former Adams house on the corner of Radiker Road in 1944. Ida became a teacher at the elementary school, and Carl was active in numerous town activities as well as the Health Center and Historical Society. Joe and Esther Sena’s auction house began operations in 1946. Around the same time, Ralph Moran purchased Henry Snyder’s trucking business, Emerson Davis opened the disposal area on his Dingle Road property, and the Rod and Gun Club and Volunteer Fire Department were incorporated. Despite our small population, 53 Worthington men and women served during World War II; William Coffey, Norman Eddy, and Donald Mollison lost their lives. During the War, Charles Eddy set up the Air Raid Warning Service. With fuel scarce, the Town Hall and School were closed for four weeks during the icy winter of 1943. Carl Cederholm, a mechanically inclined Swedish immigrant, manufactured small parts for the military in his South Worthington workshop, where Theron Higgins had previously operated a basket manufactory. Cederholm hired many locals, including Russell Conwell’s granddaughter, Jane Tuttle. Cederholm went on to invent and patent the Cederholm measuring wheel in the early 1950s. Shortly after the War, Henry Dassatti and his wife Bea settled in Worthington on Sam Hill Road. Dassatti worked for many years as a manager with Albert Farms. In 1948, Beverly (Bee) Fairman, a Cummington native, married Richard (Dick) Smith. They moved near the golf course and made major contributions to the town and Historical Society.

During the 1950s and 60s, the town began to grow again, a reflection of improved roads and a more optimistic and flexible economy. In August 1949, a special town meeting appropriated $6,800 to build a new fire house, which was completed the following year. The Worthington Health Association, spearheaded by Florence Bates with the generous assistance of Roy McCann, Carl Joslyn, Clarence Pease and others, was incorporated in 1950 and began to provide medical and dental services using facilities in Lyceum Hall. The goal was to provide an existing practice that would attract young doctors who were financially unable to set up practices of their own. Barbara Dunlevy joined the practice in 1951; she had arrived a few years earlier with her husband, Raymond, and their children. John Modestow arrived in 1957, becoming the first full-time dentist. He and his wife Nanette raised their children here and participated in numerous community activities. In 1950, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Lane purchased and restored the former Starkweather-Drury House on Old Post Road. This house became infamous in the late 1950s as the site for a counterfeiting ring. Kenneth (Ken) Pease Jr. and his wife, Barbara, moved into the Pease family homestead in 1958. The first Pease, Dan, had settled there in 1802. The potato business expanded exponentially under Ben Albert’s direction, as the potato chip business blossomed. Albert bought many properties throughout the area and hired both migrants and locals for harvesting and processing. The migrants’ living conditions caused a good deal of concern, resulting in the formation of an Ad Hoc Committee for Migrant Justice, headed by local pastor Jerome Wood.

The Palettes and Trowels Club met for the first time in 1950 and became a haven for several Worthington artists, some of whom gained wider fame. Included among them were Frederick Lyder Frederickson, Ann Rausch (who led the organization), Guy Bartlett, and Mary Burr. The group sponsored exhibits among other activities. Esther and Robert Mason purchased and operated a farm at intersection of Kinne Brook and Adams Roads. They opened a maple sugar house in the late 1950s, aided by their sons Jeff and Bob and daughter Linda. In 1953, the town garage came in over-budget ($1,500) and was completed with donations from Roy McCann and Nathaniel F. Gliddens. Lois Ashe Brown and her husband, Harold, brought much-needed new energy to the town; as a prolific writer, Lois served as a booster and organizer for many town activities. The 14 Worthington men who served during the Korean War all survived. Leroy Rida sold farming land on Cudworth Road to Alan and Shirley Rida. Their farming operation, begun in 1957, continues today, guided by their children. By the mid-1950s, sugar houses along routes 112 and 143 – including Guy Thrasher’s “Old Sugar House” in South Worthington, Echo Valley Farm run by Walter and Joyce Mollison in Ringville, and the Tower family sugar house in Worthington Corners – attracted spring visitors lured by the syrups and candies. In 1934, a gallon of maple syrup had sold for $0.85 retail; by 1955, maple sugar sold for $1/pound and a gallon of syrup cost $5.50.

“Sugar eat” at Town Hall. Maple sap was boiled down to soft balls, then served on snow with sour pickles and saltines.

Ted Porter, son of Daniel and Ethel (Parsons), married Shirley Smith in 1959. His brother, Dan Porter, authored many of the Worthington Historical Society’s books. The Gateway Regional School District was formalized and named in March 1960, uniting the Worthington school district with those of Huntington, Middlefield, Chester, Russell, Montgomery, and Blandford. The new regional high school in Huntington opened a few years later. Harley Mason married Althea Sanders in 1959, and they eventually set up their home on Huntington Road. Also in 1959, Shirley and Charles Sampson bought land and settled on West Street. And that same year, Pat and Bert Nugent arrived in town, and Bert’s brother Ernie followed shortly after. Ernie met Worthington native Eldeen (Deen) Brooks and they married in 1965. The Nugents built homes near each other on the road to Huntington (Rte. 112), near Witt Hill Road. In 1967, Bert and Ernie’s sister Jane Nugent married Clarence Witter; they moved into the Witter family home at the intersection of Dingle Road and Rte. 112, in the area known as Christian Hollow. There they opened a saw mill that they still operate today.

In 1960, Pete (officially Cullen) Packard assumed ownership and operation of the Corners Store from his father, taking over the postmaster duties as well. Also in 1960, the town decided to sell the deteriorating Lyceum Hall to the Worthington Health Center (as it was now called) for one dollar. Following some expensive renovations, it was decided that a new, stand-alone facility would be a better investment. Roy McCann donated the land and startup funds, and the Worthington Medical Center was built and dedicated in 1965. Floyd and Priscilla McAuslan celebrated the birth of a baby daughter on the day they moved to Worthington in 1965. Ted and Shirley Porter moved into their new Worthington Center home that same year. Also among the newcomers were George Powell and his wife Evelyn, who moved to the Goss Hill area. In 1961, Dr. Pierre de Beaumont and his wife Mary purchased the River Road home that was named “Brookstone” by its previous owners, Dr. and Mrs. Harold Stone. With an initial investment of $500, the de Beaumonts created a company named after their farm and began mailing catalogs of “hard-to-find” tools to thousands of hobbyists. Brookstone’s success followed in the wake of a single classified ad in a 1965 issue of Popular Mechanics magazine. Ralph Moran and his wife had purchased the former Cederholm property in South Worthington. In 1965 they sold it to Charles Emerson, who, after extensive renovations, reopened it as the Drummers Club. Also in 1965, Margaret Vaughn sold “The Farm” to Springfield residents Henry T. and Margaret Downey, who visited frequently with their five children. In 1966, Jerrilee Cain (then Bunce) purchased the former Jonathan Huntington parsonage on West Street from Esther and Joe Sena. Over the next decade she repaired and worked to restore it to the way it might have been when first built. The Swim Club was formed in 1967. In 1968, Franklyn Hitchcock and his wife, Mary Burr Hitchcock, purchased the Hewitt house on Sam Hill Road, converting it to a restaurant/tavern they named “The Golden Horse.”

Parade scene at Worthington bicentennial, 1968.

The town’s bicentennial celebration in 1968 was an eight-day extravaganza, held from June 29 to July 6. Events included a parade, an antique fair, an exhibit of photographs, a tour of Worthington homes, a play entitled “Bicentennial Quilting Party” by Eva Fairman, a beard-growing contest (won by Emmy Davis, Larry Mason, and Joe Sena), a ball, and the crowning of the bicentennial queen, Kristin Majkowski. Later that summer, new arrivals Robert and Rolande Schrade, along with their talented children, established the Sevenars Music Festival in the Methodist Episcopal Church in South Worthington. The home they purchased, “Hilltop Rest,” had served both as an inn and as a rehabilitation home for displaced persons following World War II. In 1969, Beverly and Grant Bowman purchased their home from the Senas, who had bought it a few years earlier. The property was part of what was called the “Edna Witt Farm.” During the same period, Kerry Zach (Corky) and Ginger Donovan set up their household near the Center and just down the street, Gary and Janice Sheldon brought their large family to settle in one of the Brewster homes along Huntington Road.

The late 1960s and early 1970s brought an infusion of industrious new pioneers, some considered hippies at the time, but all, as before, lured by cheap land, new opportunities, and Worthington’s “quality of life.” They settled to raise families, develop their artistry and skills, start new businesses or work in nearby communities. Among these were Cornelius and Julia Sharron, Judy and Doug Small, Steven and Elizabeth Whyte Schultze, Barbara and Thomas Quinn, Don and Connie Dorrington, Marilyn and Bob Payne, Roger and Lynda Gunn, Steve and Suzanne Kulik, Donald and Shirley Newton, Donald and Sara Ives, Peter and Helen McLean, Camille and Daryl Smith, and Sandy and Bob Epperly. New part-time residents included Muriel and Ted Claydon, and 1987 arrivals Sara and Joel Upton. Chris Powell, son of George and Evelyn Powell, and his wife Carol moved into their home near Worthington Corners.

The Water District was expanded to Ringville in 1969, and a second reservoir and well opened. Thirty Worthington residents, all men, went into military service during the Vietnam War. No casualties are reported in town histories. The Snowmobile Club was established in 1970. Races held on a special track on one of the Albert potato fields attracted several hundred participants and spectators over the next several years. Arriving in the early 1970s, Karin and Bob Cook undertook the challenge of living “off the grid” in their home on Bashan Hill. Another newcomer, Joan Mendelsohn, purchased a home on Rte. 143. At her death it passed to her son David, now a part-time resident. Her other son, Jim Mendelsohn, also recently bought property in town. Brad Fisk took over the Corners Grocery store at the beginning of 1971. That year, Frank Brown, owner of Frankie’s Café in West Worthington, was robbed of $5,600 at gunpoint. The perpetrators were arrested and tried. Several rooms were added to the Conwell Elementary school in 1972 to provide for a kindergarten, meetings, and administration. That year the Gateway District sued Worthington for the $4,000 the Town Meeting had cut from the school budget. Residents reported seeing a tornado funnel during a freak hailstorm in May 1973. At a special town meeting early in 1974, the town rejected an FAA proposal to build a radar tracking station on Bashan Hill. Later that summer, Steve Magargal, aged 16, competed in the USGA National Junior Golf Tournament.

Arlo Guthrie’s concert to raise funds for the Worthington Health Center, held on the Senas’ field on Ridge Road in October 1975, brought thousands to the town and remains a fond memory for the many who were there. Ron Kievett headed the organizing committee. The next year the Health Center became eligible to receive federal funding, allowing it to expand services to other communities in the region. In 1976, the Schrades expanded their festival and moved it across the road to the former Conwell Academy building. Their festival brought many visitors to the town, and many accomplished musicians enjoyed the opportunity for a working vacation in beautiful surroundings. Newlyweds Jeff and LeAnn Parsons Mason built the Red Bucket Sugar Shack at the south end of Kinne Brook Road. Darrell Shedd and Jim and Michele Dodge purchased their homes in West Worthington from Fred Liston’s estate. The disposal area and landfill on Dingle Road was closed in 1977 per state law, and a new compactor and recycling facility established next to the town garage. Susan and George Ulrich purchased the former Starkweather-Drury House that same year. Hickory Hill Ski Touring Center, operated by Tim and Catherine Rude Sena, opened in 1978, providing much-needed opportunities for winter activities. Rowena Humphrey competed in the Miss America Pageant as Miss Massachusetts. At the 1978 Annual Meeting, the town – having added a kindergarten room to the school six years earlier – voiced strong opposition to a plan by the Gateway Regional School District to bus kindergarteners to a school with more students. An ailing, 85-year-old Emerson Davis sold his land to the town to pay his medical expenses.

Church floral decoations by Emerson Davis, 1940s.

In 1980, the total town budget was $472,675, an 8% increase over the previous year. Jeff Fowler led a group protesting Ben Albert’s use of aerial spray on his potato farms, following a failed regionwide effort. Also in 1980, Antonia and her husband Anthony Lake purchased the Kinne Brook Farm from the Masons. Tony Lake eventually served as President Clinton’s National Security Advisor. David Dimock and his wife Janet set up housekeeping on Thayer Hill Road in 1981. Five years later, his mother, Georgette Dimock, sold her holdings at the end of Harvey Road to George Brimmer, who established a campground on the property. Construction of “The Maples” senior housing complex began in 1982, next to the Health Center on land donated by Kenneth Paul. Numerous Worthingtonians participated in its establishment, including Esther Sena, Harriett Burr, Connie Sharron, Judy Spiess, Elizabeth Payne, Chris Powell, Bob Cook, and Barbara Porter.

George Shultz, Secretary of State under Reagan and a Cummington summer resident, shopped at the Corners and played golf at the Golf Club. His golfing partner was Ralph Moran. Steve Magargal continued his distinguished golfing career; his parents, Ray and Helen Bartlett Magargal, ran their home, the Spruces, as a B&B. Helen Magargal was also a skilled golfer and a beloved teacher at the Conwell Elementary School. Master carpenter Greg Donovan, son of Zack and Crystal Donovan, was featured in a 1983 Springfield Republican article. Steve Kulik won his bid to become Selectboard member, serving with Bert Nugent and Julia Sharron, one of the few women elected to that position.

The highly toxic and carcinogenic pesticide Temik was banned, and testing of wells near farms throughout the Commonwealth began. A fire at the storage barn on the Albert farm potato facility along Huntington Road released large amounts of contaminated water into the soil along Radiker Road. Temik was found in several Worthington wells, and their owners were advised not to use the water. Tests for another pesticide, ethylene dibromide, began soon after. Findings of ongoing contamination led to a further expansion of the Water District to serve homes along Radiker Road.

During the 1980s, the Hilltown Artisans Guild was established, reflecting Worthington’s long tradition of fostering the arts. Semi-annual shows have brought residents and visitors alike to admire the artistry of its members. In 1983, Marie Burkhart and Scott Heyl purchased the former Pease property on Huntington Road from Archer Fitzgerald and others. The house was built around 1886 by New York City piano manufacturer Chauncy Pease. In 1987 they sold it to Wil and Joan Hastings, having purchased the former Woodbridge House at the Corners, where they applied their architectural and design skills to restore its former beauty. The Hastings were instrumental in establishing the Hilltown Land Trust in 1986, an organization devoted to preserving and protecting open and wild spaces in the region.

To promote international understanding, many Worthington residents, including students at the elementary school, sent letters, drawings, and photographs about Worthington to Sarmany, a similar small town in the Soviet Union. The people of Sarmany replied in kind. Materials related to this exchange are in the library archives. In another reflection of concerns about nuclear proliferation, following three hours of debate about wording (not untypical at Town Meetings) guided by moderator Connie Sharron, the 1984 Annual Town Meeting voted to express to the federal government the town’s “preference” to become a nuclear-free zone. They also passed a $540,00 budget. As the year ended, the Hilltown Community Development Corporation, headquartered in Chesterfield but serving Worthington and other communities, started its first marketing effort. Charles and Yoko Kendall purchased land from Winnie and Joan Donovan, producing natto (a femented soy product) and establishing Kendall Foods. A 1985 newcomer, Sue Lewis, was named chairman of the Berkshire Chapter of the Appalachian Mountain Club. She and her husband, Ed, settled near Cummington Road. Also in 1985, John Sullivan purchased property from Catherine Rude and Tim Sena on Witt Hill Road, setting up his woodworking business on the site. The Kaminsky family arrived then as well, buying the former Higgins farm near the intersection of Goss Hill Road and Rte. 112. The Corners Store changed hands once again in 1988, when Thomas Cizek took over from his sister and brother-in-law, Judy and Brad Fisk. Peter Eastman, one of the principles of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise, purchased a large home at the top of Cudworth Road that he and his wife, April, proceeded to make even larger. Other new arrivals during this period were Steffen and Hattie Plehn, Kathryn (Kate) Ewald and Evan Johnson, Pat Kennedy and John Novo, Mari Hall and Roan Katahdin, Ron and Elodi McBride, Joan Livingston and her husband Henry, and artist Bob Sweeney and his wife, Barbara. Potter Mark Shapiro settled in South Worthington, joined shortly after by Pam Thompson. Native Ben Brown, son of Lois and Harold Brown, set up a household on Scott Road and Helen and David Croke purchased the McAuslan home on Patterson Road. Helen later married Ed Pelletier. Ron Sampson married Robin Sheldon and began operating the Sampson farm.

The 1986 Town Meeting voted down the Gateway District budget, after the District once again took Worthington to court demanding a $10,000 payment to educate a student the town believed was not a resident. The Worthington Gardeners met for the first time in 1986. They turned out to be an enduring and active presence, beautifying the Town Hall among other areas. The death of Marvis (Peg) Rolland, Henry and Ethel Snyder’s daughter, led to the creation of the Rolland Fund in 1989, a munificent gift that continues to support many efforts and organizations, including the Library, the North Cemetery, the Historical Society, and the Council on Aging. Money was also provided to plant maple trees. Many of the recipients invested their bounty and continue to depend on it for operations. New to town that year were Frances and Bob Crossman. The Country Cricket Village Inn, a restaurant with a store selling specialty foods and crafts, began operations on Huntington Road in 1987.

Twenty-year summer residents Paul and Eleanor Grafstein were forced to demolish their River Road home (#485) because of a huge oil spill in their cellar – the 1990 delivery had gone into a disconnected stand pipe. They sold the land to Susan and Chester Kellogg, who rebuilt a home now owned by the Archambault family. That same year, Sue Tallon and Kent Hicks purchased Red Rose Cottage on Ridge Road. Joe and Jeanne Boudreau moved to their home in 1992, while Nancy and Stephen (Steve) Smith purchased the former “Doctor’s House” in Worthington Center. Jan Roby and Diane Brenner bought the nearby Newton house (originally the Hewitt house) two years later. In 1994, Jim Downey purchased his uncle Jim Sear’s property across from “The Farm” on Cummington Road. The next year Cynthia Magrath bought a property on the road to Chesterfield, where she was soon joined by Sara Jonsberg. A 1995 proposal by Ben Albert to convert the airstrip on his property into a development for small airplane owners (with hangars as well as garages) failed to receive town approval. In 1996, Carolyn Jacobson purchased the Berkshire Campground from the Brimmers. Also in 1996, members of the Arthen EarthSpirit Community established their communal home off Dingle Road and Jane Christensen purchased Harvey Lederman’s house. Lederman was a popular doctor at the Health Center for many years before leaving to practice elsewhere.

In 1999, the Hastings sold the Pease house to Helen Sharron Pollard and her husband, David; Mary and Richard Pulley retired to their home outside of the Corners; and Leslie Picard and Thomas Poudrier bought what had been the Country Cricket, renaming it the Ruddy Duck. On June 13, 1999, the new Worthington Historical Society building was dedicated on land donated by the Packards across from the Corners Grocery store. Scott Heyl designed the building, and construction was spearheaded by Ted Claydon and Bob Epperly with money from the Rolland Fund and private donations.

Worthington Millennial Quilt on display at the Worthington Historical Society.

Alison and Bruce Todd became Worthington residents in 2000, the same year John Dearie and Vati Strieberg arrived. In 2001, the town voted a large bond issue for extensive renovation and modernization of the R. H. Conwell Elementary School. April Eastman sold her property to musician Aaron Lewis and his wife, Vanessa. In 2004, Charley and Melinda Rose moved to the Center, and Jerry and Betty Mollison began operating the Windy Hill Sugar House on Sam Hill Road. In 2007, “The Farm” passed to Jim Downey and his siblings. Downey and his long-time partner, Kevin O’Connor, an architect, are now revitalizing the property. A freak December ice storm brought 2008 to a crashing and brutal close. Many homes remained stranded without heat, water, or electricity for over a week. In 2009 what remained of Albert Farm was sold at auction (parts had previously been sold in 1998 and 2007). But as the old generation of farmers left the land, there were new arrivals. In 2010, Eliza Lake and her husband Bart Niswonger purchased Kinne Brook Farm, sustainably raising Highland cattle for beef, among numerous other activities. The Sawyer Farm (earlier the Mason Farm) on Cummington Road was purchased that same year by Lincoln Fishman and Hilary Costa, who describe their operation as “a small, diverse, family farm…100% horse-powered and way beyond organic.” Other small agricultural businesses operate on sustainable principles, including the organic Bare Roots Farm run by Chris Reid and Anna Maunz; Tripp Shaw’s organic farm at the Four Corners Farm; sugaring operations at Justamere Farm, run by Marian and J.P. Welch; the Snowshoe Farm collective run by Paul Sena, Richard Gage, and Richard Mansfield; and Jackson Mansfield’s sustainable chicken-producing operation. Mariam Massaro began Wise Ways Herbals in 1988, raising and blending herbs organically raised on her Worthington Center land. All these entrepreneurs sell locally as well as regionally.

The Gateway Regional School Committee in 2009 announced plans to close the R. H. Conwell Elementary School, citing low enrollment and proposing to bus children to the Littleville Elementary school in Huntington. Conwell was one of three schools so targeted. After a series of hearings, the school was closed in 2010. The town reacted with outrage, and community members and town officials began what would turn out to be a long and expensive process to withdraw from Gateway, reestablish an independent school district, and reopen the elementary school. In the interim, the school became the R.H. Conwell Community Education Center, a private elementary school with major funding and support from singer Aaron Lewis and his wife, Vanessa. This act of generosity provided local children with a quality education throughout a period of uncertainty. Efforts to work with the Gateway District to effect an exit failed, and the town eventually turned to a home rule petition brought before the state legislature. In May 2014, Governor Deval Patrick signed special legislation allowing Worthington to withdraw from the Gateway district. It took another year to “dot the i’s and cross the t’s.” The R. H. Conwell Elementary School, now part of the Worthington School District with links to the Hampshire Regional School District, reopened as a public school in September 2015.

In 2008, Joseph Best and Raeph Laughinwell purchased the former Dorrington home. In 2009, Norm and Natalie Stafford purchased the former Modestow home near Worthington Corners. Not long after, with Mary Pulley and many others, Natalie helped establish Hilltown Arts Alive, now the Hilltown Arts Alliance. The group sponsored several successful summer fairs in Worthington as well as talks and shows by local artists, and is currently enlarging its regional scope. David and Adele (DeDe) Shiffer purchased the Ruddy Duck in 2011, renaming it the Blackburn Inn. Co-owners Tom Cizek and Brad Fisk sold the Corners Grocery in 2014 to Mike and Doris Frazier. The Quinns sold the former Drummers Club building, which they had used to run their Worthington Assembly business, to Gloria Conwell in 2016, marking the return of a Conwell to the family’s South Worthington roots. In 2018, after a period of struggle, the Worthington Golf Club was sold to David and Helen Pollard. And at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, Matt Whitcomb – the son of longtime Ringville residents David and Kath Whitcomb – coached the US women’s cross-country ski team to a gold medal. In their youth, Matt and his siblings Kate and Jake participated in the Western Mass Bill Koch League at the Hickory Hill Ski Touring area and the Junior Olympics. The fiscal 2018 town budget exceeded $2.5 million.

A new generation is arriving, many with young children, bringing new energy with new skills and interests. These are the people who will shape the Worthington of the future.

This “brief” history can only be frustratingly superficial, with many important names and events unmentioned, and the richness of Worthington’s distant and recent past merely skimmed. While Worthington’s population has never exceeded 1,400, tens of thousands have lived here during these 250-plus years, and their lives are not neatly describable in a few pages. They have married, divorced, had children and raised families, labored, worshipped, planted and harvested their fields, feasted and partied, hiked and skied, meditated, boiled gallons and gallons of sap, served in government, gone to war, held fundraisers, farmed, gotten drunk, participated in endless meetings, helped neighbors in need, shoveled snow, committed crimes, mowed lawns, played their instruments, gossiped, painted paintings, driven endless miles over roads that always seem to need mending…and there is so much more. So much detail gets lost, and while our Historical Society is lucky to have a substantial archive, the real history of a town – even a small one – is its people. There is much to celebrate.

Note: This history was extracted from previous histories, news articles, census data, the Worthington Assessor’s database, the Registry of Deeds, and the memories of numerous helpful residents. Please go to www.WorthingtonHistoricalSociety.org for more Worthington history, and to view our archives. Special thanks to Evan Spring for his excellent editing of this history.

Kip Porter logging, 2007. Photo by Kate Ewald.

26 thoughts on “History of the Town of Worthington

  1. Carole Voliotes

    Bill, Nikki, and I lived in Worthington in the mid 1980’s. I fell in love with the town. I will always love Worthington and miss it still to this day. We lived in the old Reardon House the 1840 side door Home on the main street I believed it was called Huntington Rd. It had a huge red barn. The maple trees in the front, and the wonderful neighbors – Janet, Bob, and Nancy across the street. Good luck to a wonderful town and the wonderful people who keep it that way.

  2. Norm Stafford

    When we moved to Worthington in 2009, we had no idea what we had to look forward to; we were just looking forward to a nice place where I could grow some wine grapes. The 2018 Annual Town Meeting made it clear to us that we had made the right decision. Worthington represents the epitome of Americana.
    We love it here!!

  3. Dale C Hitchcock

    Very nice history, I’m glad I found it and enjoyed reading it. I’d suggest adding a link to it on the Worthington Anniversary website if it is not already there.

    If the authors are continuing to update and edit, I found some inaccuracies around the mention of my grandparents, Franklin H Burr and Helen Gilmore Burr, and my uncle Franklin G Burr their son. It was Franklin H Burr who served as town clerk and wife Helen was the town treasurer. Franklin G Burr served as a town selectman for a few terms.

  4. Suzanne Kulik

    This history must have been a huge project to put together and is a real treasure!

    In the paragraph about people who arrived in the 1960’s and 70’s, it would be great to fix the spelling of my first name – Suzanne rather than Susannah.

    Thanks for all the work on this!

  5. Martin Wohl

    Love it!
    One item you may want to mention was how the town of Worthington, if I remember correctly, was the cover story
    of Yankee Magazine for 1982 when it had the largest number of births per capita of any town in New England.
    Thank you so much for the memories!

  6. Sara and Joel Upton

    Congratulations on a wonderful job. I have two corrections to suggest: first Beverly Fairman Smith what is known as Bee not Bea. I know she would very much appreciate this correction. Second Joel and Sara Upton did not arrive in 1971 but in 1987. Thank you for correcting these two items.

  7. Deen Nugent

    No doubt you have been notified that Bert Nugent (not Ernie Nugent) was selectman and that Jane (Nugent) Witter is not Bert and Pat’s daughter, she is Bert’s sister. Thanks in advance.

  8. Shirley Freitas

    A worthy citizen of Worthington was Moses Sash, a Revolutionary War veteran and participant in Shays’ Rebellion. He was a private in the Revolution and a Captain in Shays’ army. He was also black. He was still living in Worthington in 1790 according to the census.
    Any information you have on him would be appreciated, and it would be great to add him to your history. The town histories written in the early 20th century omitted working class people, and included only what was called the “better class of men.” No reason to continue that practice!

  9. Dan Whalen

    What an astounding job you’ve done here! I was wondering about the “Drummer’s Club” and what it was exactly … I know it is referenced during the 60’s – 70’s time frame. My father, now deceased, mentioned it whenever we drove that stretch of RT 112. Was it a bar of some sort? Thanks for all your efforts in chronicling the history of Worthington.
    Dan Whalen

    1. Pat Kennedy

      Hi Dan,
      I’m no expert on the Drummer’s Club (before my time), but my understanding is that it was a fairly wild and crazy bar with a reputation that went far beyond South Worthington? Maybe someone who experienced it firsthand could add to this?
      Pat Kennedy

    2. Carol Cederholm Reidy

      The Drummer’s Club was a restaurant that occupied the building that was my dad’s machine shop from the 1930’s until Dec. 1955 when we moved to TX. It was originally and Theron Higgins Basket Co. in the 1800’s I think. My dad’s business was Cederholm Mfg. CO. and this is where he invented the land measuring wheel. The building was white and the upstairs was larger and there used to be pictures of it from the 50’s or 60’s, with the river in the background. I have pictures, but probably lost the ones of the Drummer’s Club as we lost everything in the Central TX wildfires. I have my mom’s old pics from 1950s but later it was the Drummer’s club and another inn or restaurant with name I can’t think of. Now it is red and owned by Gloria Conwell, a descendant of Herman Russell Conwell. The Town has pictures as I had sent them some years ago.

  10. Chris Ishmael

    I’m from north Texas, near the Red River and the great State of Oklahoma. Google searches…often take me down a rabbit trail. I stumbled across a .pdf that covered the City of Worthington’s broadband efforts. It was a great over-view by the author on the “how-to” of bringing BB to the city. I then had to find out where this Worthington was. I now know – MASS. I’ve now read the history of Worthington and what a great city! As one reply said – a great example of Americana! Our best to the residents/patriots of the great city of Worthington, MA from the Ishmael family in Van Alstyne, TX.

  11. Brian Huggett

    Jorge and Damaris Fernandez-Sierra arrived sometime in the 60’s and lived on Old North Rd, in the red house, next to the Alberts–before the ‘new’ house was built in between them around 1985.

    Brian and Gretchen Huggett lived for a while in Christian Hollow (Dingle Rd) 1981 to 1985. Next door to the Pruners, Nita and Jim. Brian worked for a time at Newton Associates in Engineering in town.

    I remember Mr. Cudworth’s outdoor bath tub at his house on Old North Rd.

    An Albert son had a hydroponic greenhouse and grew tomatoes.

    Just about the whole town was mobilized when it came time to harvest potatoes.

    The Secret Service in town when George Shulz came to play golf.

    The ‘Commune’ south of Worthingon Center. Always a volleyball net up.

  12. Emily

    I have found your history very interesting. In doing some genealogy research I have discovered I am a descendant of the Thrasher and Cole families and now would love to visit Worthington!

    1. Carol Cederholm Reidy

      I used to have a picture of Guy Thrasher’s store with him outside helping a customer. We lived
      across the street. Lost everything in a wildfire 2011 so I don’t think I have it. So. Worthington is
      a beautiful place.

  13. Creolemom

    I am doing research I and came across the George Washington Kinne cousins in an obituary. They are according to Ancestry in my family tree.

    What intrigue me the most after search for the Kinne Brook Farm was your beautiful town and the history that you hold on to. It reminds us all yes in America your dreams can come true and you are able to carry on your ancestor’s dreams.
    Best wishes with all of your endeavours and the contended success of your town.
    From Cajun Country in South Louisiana.

  14. John Manning

    A big thank you, I moved from Worthington in 1963. I got a little caught up on where everyone is. My wife and I passed through in 1997.

  15. peter prejzner

    Didn’t see any history of ‘Little Branch’ the renovated(by the McCartys) first saw mill in South Worthington built in 1774.A landmark going up 112 as you enter S.Worthington. Another renovation(s) has Little Branch lovenly restored to a colonial charm! My parents purchased land from the clapps above Little Branch and built a small cape in the early 1970:s on Goss Hill.

  16. Meg

    Just a quick note to say thank you for this history. Now I know the historical reference to all the roads I bike on. I do wonder if Dingle Road is a reference to a town in Ireland, or if it’s the Western Mass concept of “dingle.”

    1. whs Post author

      Our best guess is that “Dingle” is a geographical reference, meaning “deep wooded valley or dell.” The road mostly follows a stream with inclines on both sides.


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