|• Type||Open town meeting|
|• Total||27.6 sq mi (71.4 km2)|
|• Land||26.9 sq mi (69.8 km2)|
|• Water||0.6 sq mi (1.6 km2)|
|Elevation||963 ft (294 m)|
|• Density||126.3/sq mi (48.8/km2)|
|Time zone||Eastern (UTC-5)|
|• Summer (DST)||Eastern (UTC-4)|
|GNIS feature ID||0618264|
The valley town was founded by Baptists from Rhode Island, the first settlers in the region who were not of the established Puritan Church. The early colonists were mostly descendants of those who had followed Roger Williams to Rhode Island in their quest for religious freedom. One of the prime movers of the emigration was Colonel Joab Stafford, who built his house on Stafford Hill and led the men of Cheshire into war during the Revolution. The troops from Cheshire distinguished themselves at the Battle of Bennington.
Cheshire was incorporated in 1793, and its residents were strongly partisan in the election battles of the country's early days. The election campaign which put Thomas Jefferson into the presidency was hard fought and Cheshire was the only Berkshire town which favored Jefferson. When their candidate won the election, the town searched for a way to show their support and pay a tribute to their new president. Because Cheshire, like their namesake, specialized in dairying and making cheese, they decided to send a gift to the president of a Cheshire cheese, but one using curds from every farmer in town. The resulting huge cheese was four feet in diameter, 18 inches thick and weighed 1,235 pounds (560 kg). It was moved on a sled drawn by six horses when it was shipped off to Washington, D.C. by water, where it drew a personal letter of thanks from President Jefferson. One of the two monuments in Cheshire commemorates the cheese; the other memorializes the founders of the town. The Pioneer Monument is on Stafford Hill and is a fieldstone replica of Benedict Arnold's Norse Mill in Newport, Rhode Island. The view from the monument is arguably one of the most beautiful views in the Berkshires.
The town had early forges and saw mills, grist mills and tanneries, and in 1812, the Cheshire Crown Glass factory opened as did a triphammer operation. The town also boasted the first factory in western Massachusetts to manufacture cotton making machinery.
The town's reputation for religious diversity continued, and in 1885 there were only 1,537 people in Cheshire but there were four different churches.
The rural town has been taking on recreational and residential overtones in modern times, with 225 acres (911,000 m²) of open slopes and wooded trails for skiers on Farnhams. There was in the 1940s a three-quarter of a mile (1.2 km) straight run at the Cheshire skiing area. In addition, there has been good fishing in the South Branch of the Hoosic, which originates in Hoosac Lake in the town. .
According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 27.5 square miles (71 km2), of which 26.9 square miles (70 km2) is land and 0.6 square miles (1.6 km2) (2.21%) is water.
Cheshire is located within the valley of the Hoosic River, and is the site of a dammed reservoir on the river. To the west, parts of Mount Greylock State Reservation take up sections of town, and includes a section of the auto road. To the southeast, North Mountain peaks just outside town limits before descending to the valley. The Appalachian Trail crosses through the center of town, heading from North Mountain to Mount Greylock. The southern foothills of the Hoosac Range make up much of the eastern side of town, and much of the land is dotted with sections of the Chalet and Stafford Hill Wildlife Management Areas. Several other brooks feed into the river along the way.
Cheshire is bounded by New Ashford to the northwest, Adams to the north, Savoy to the northeast, Windsor to the east, Dalton to the southeast, and Lanesborough to the south and west. Cheshire's town center is located 10.5 miles northeast of Pittsfield, 53 miles northwest of Springfield, and 135 miles west-northwest of Boston (although the town is closer to Hartford and Albany than its own state capital).
Massachusetts Route 8 is the main route through town, crossing from south to north. It was once part of New England Interstate Route 8, which led from North Adams to Bridgeport, Connecticut. Route 116 also cuts through the northeast corner of town, and several sections provide panoramic views of Mount Greylock to the west.
The town lies along one of the routes of the Berkshire Regional Transit Authority bus line. Regional service can be found in both North Adams and Pittsfield, as can regional air service. The nearest airport with national service is Albany International Airport.
The town is the site of an abandoned rail line. The Ashuwillticook Rail Trail // is a scenic, paved, 11 mile (18 km) path connecting the Berkshire towns of Lanesboro, Cheshire, and Adams. The trail runs parallel to Route 8 and passes through woods and marshlands, and alongside a lake and a river, with wooded hills and Mt. Greylock, as a backdrop. The Trail is a former railroad corridor converted into a 10 foot (3 m) wide paved universally accessible path and has become a popular resource for biking, walking, roller-blading, jogging, etc. The southern end of the Trail begins at the entrance to the Berkshire Mall off Route 8 in Lanesborough and travels 11 miles north to the center of Adams. The Trail passes through the Hoosac River Valley, between Mount Greylock and the Hoosac Range. Cheshire Reservoir, the Hoosac River and associated wetland communities flank much of the trail offering outstanding views and abundant wildlife. The word Ashuwillticook is from the Native American name for the south branch of the Hoosic River and literally means “at the in-between pleasant river,” or in common tongue, “the pleasant river in between the hills.” The name was adopted for the trail as a way to reconnect people to local history and the natural environment.
|* = population estimate.
Source: United States Census records and Population Estimates Program data.
As of the census of 2000, there were 3,401 people, 1,367 households, and 985 families residing in the town. The population density was 126.3 people per square mile (48.7/km²). There were 1,470 housing units at an average density of 54.6 per square mile (21.1/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 98.21% White, 0.38% African American, 0.09% Native American, 0.62% Asian, 0.06% from other races, and 0.65% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.44% of the population.
There were 1,367 households out of which 30.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 59.8% were married couples living together, 8.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 27.9% were non-families. 23.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.49 and the average family size was 2.92.
In the town the population was spread out with 23.4% under the age of 18, 6.6% from 18 to 24, 27.6% from 25 to 44, 28.1% from 45 to 64, and 14.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 41 years. For every 100 females there were 100.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 98.5 males.
The median income for a household in the town was $41,981, and the median income for a family was $53,885. Males had a median income of $40,205 versus $26,042 for females. The per capita income for the town was $19,156. About 4.6% of families and 6.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 9.3% of those under age 18 and 6.3% of those age 65 or over.
Cheshire employs the open town meeting form of government, and is led by a board of selectmen. The town operates its own services, such as police, fire and public works. The town's public library, which is attached to the town hall, is connected to the regional library network. The town is roughly located equidistantly between the North Adams Regional Hospital and Berkshire Regional Hospital in Pittsfield.
On the state level, Cheshire is represented in the Massachusetts House of Representatives as part of the Second Berkshire district, which covers central Berkshire County, as well as portions of Hampshire and Franklin Counties, and is represented by Paul Mark. In the Massachusetts Senate, the town is part of the Berkshire, Hampshire and Franklin district, which includes all of Berkshire County and western Hampshire and Franklin Counties, and is represented by Ben Downing. The town is home to the Fourth Station of Barracks "B" of the Massachusetts State Police.
On the national level, Cheshire is represented in the United States House of Representatives as part of Massachusetts's 1st congressional district, and has been represented by John Olver of Amherst since June 1991. Massachusetts is currently represented in the United States Senate by senior Senator John Kerry and junior senator Elizabeth Warren.
Cheshire is joined with Adams to form a regional school district. The town operates its own elementary school, Cheshire Elementary, which houses students from pre-kindergarten through sixth grade. Both towns previously sent their middle school students to Adams Memorial Middle School in Adams. However, following a government grant to renovate and vastly improve the educational facilities at the district's high school, sixth through twelfth grade is held at Hoosac Valley High School. Additionally, private, parochial, charter and vocational schools can be found in Adams and North Adams.
The nearest community college is Berkshire Community College in Pittsfield. The nearest state college is Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams, and the nearest state university is Westfield State University.
- Sergeant First Class Daniel Petithory, U.S. Army Special Forces Soldier killed in Afghanistan on December 5, 2001. Posthumously awarded the Silver Star.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Cheshire, Massachusetts.|
- Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD).
- "TOTAL POPULATION (P1), 2010 Census Summary File 1". American FactFinder, All County Subdivisions within Massachusetts. United States Census Bureau. 2010.
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- Senators and Representatives by City and Town
- Station B-4, SP Cheshire