History of Wales


Wales is a small upland town located at the headwaters of the Quinnebaug drainage system. It was settled by colonists from Brimfield and Springfield during the mid-18th century. Settlement of the town was late despite grants having been made to Springfield entrepreneurs as early as 1701 because the threat of Indian attack and a legal dispute over land ownership discouraged colonists.

The first settlers were Anthony Needham and John Bullan, who built houses in 1726 near Lake George. Their arrival was swiftly followed by the establishment of the first burial ground in 1732, the first grist mill in 1750 by Shubael Dimmick, the first tannery in 1752 by Phineas Durkee and the first meetinghouse in 1760. Unlike many other of the colonies which were primarily Congregationalist, the earliest religious society in Wales was formed by Baptists. Townspeople in Wales farmed and made shoes and boots and in the 19th century the Wales and the Shaw companies made the town an important woolen producing town. The jobs in the mills drew immigrants from Ireland and French Canada.

The peak population in 1880 was 1033 people, reflecting this immigration. Residents who didn't work in the mills worked in market gardens, dairy farms and woodlands as some of them continue to do in the 21st century. The town center of Wales retains a remarkable early 19th century character as a street village with several stylish brick houses and a Greek revival meeting house. Growth of the town in modern times has been in the recreational land around the Brimfield Forest and Lake George.

Wales Today

Wales is a town in Hampden County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 1,838 at the 2010 census. It is part of the Springfield, Massachusetts Metropolitan Statistical Area. Wales was officially incorporated in 1762 as South Brimfield, a name it kept until February 20, 1828. The town was named after James Lawrence Wales, a local benefactor.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 16.0 square miles (41.3 km²), of which, 15.8 square miles (40.8 km²) of it is land and 0.2 square miles (0.5 km²) of it (1.32%) is water. Wales is bounded on the west by Monson; on the south by Stafford, Connecticut and Union, Connecticut; on the east by Holland; and on the north by Brimfield.

Wales in 1890 (as described by Elias Nason in 1890)

Wales is a small mountainous town of 853 inhabitants, 166 dwelling-houses, and a valuation of $ 282,754, in the southeast section of Hampden County, and 93 miles southeast of Boston. The nearest railroad station is that of the New London and Northern Railroad, in Monson. Brimfield (from which it was taken) lies on the north, Holland on the east, Stafford and Union, Conn., on the south, and Monson on the west. Mount Hitchcock, in the northwest corner of the town, rises to the height of 1,190 feet, and commands a prospect of remarkable extent and beauty. A fine expanse of water, called "Wale's Pond," sends a tributary northward to the Quinebaug River; and other streams flow from the highlands into Chicopee River. Though small, these rivulets are rapid, and furnish motive power for several mills. There were in the town at one time five woollen and several saw mills and one silk manufactory; there are now two woollen mills, employing, in June, 1885, 194 persons. There were several other small manufactures.

The hillsides afford good pasturage, and the valleys excellent land for tillage. The number of farms is 74; whose aggregate product in 1885 was valued at $39,810. A specialty here is the preparation of aromatic and medicinal roots and herbs; which in 1885 yielded $905.

The town has one post-office, a good public hall, a public library, six school-houses, a Baptist church and a Methodist church.

This town was incorporated as "South Brimfield District," Sept. 18, 1762; and as the town of "Wales" (so named from James Lawrence Wales, Esq.), Feb. 20, 1828. The first dwelling-house in the town was erected by John Moulton as early as 1730. It was for some time used as a fort. A Baptist church was formed here as early as 1736. The Rev. Ebenezer Moulton was the first pastor.

p. 654 in Nason and Varney's Massachusetts Gazetteer, 1890 Gazetteer

Wales in 1862 Centennial Pamphlet

Click here to read the full pamphlet.

Town of Wales Centennial pamphlet photos courtesy of Wales resident, Ed Morrow.