New Salem, Massachusetts

Coordinates: 42°30′15″N 72°19′57″W / 42.50417°N 72.33250°W / 42.50417; -72.33250
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New Salem, Massachusetts
New Salem Town Common
New Salem Town Common
Official seal of New Salem, Massachusetts
Location in Franklin County in Massachusetts
Location in Franklin County in Massachusetts
Coordinates: 42°30′15″N 72°19′57″W / 42.50417°N 72.33250°W / 42.50417; -72.33250
CountryUnited States
 • TypeOpen town meeting
 • Total58.6 sq mi (151.9 km2)
 • Land44.8 sq mi (116.0 km2)
 • Water13.9 sq mi (36.0 km2)
Elevation1,048 ft (319 m)
 • Total983
 • Density17/sq mi (6.5/km2)
Time zoneUTC-5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST)UTC-4 (Eastern)
ZIP code
Area code351 / 978
FIPS code25-45490
GNIS feature ID0618172[1]

New Salem is a town in Franklin County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 983 at the 2020 census.[2] It is part of the Springfield, Massachusetts Metropolitan Statistical Area.


New Salem was first settled in 1737 and was officially incorporated in 1753, named for the settlers from Salem that founded the town. The geography of New Salem benefited greatly from the construction of the Quabbin Reservoir. Prior to its building, New Salem, which has always been the southeast corner of Franklin County, did not extend much further south than the village of Cooleyville, now along U.S. Route 202. However, with the forming of the reservoir, the town received all lands above the water line between the two forks of the reservoir, as it was the only land connection to the peninsula. With its southern borders now following former branches of the Swift River, New Salem now includes most of the former town of Prescott (except for a small corner east of the Middle Branch of the Swift River, which is now in Petersham), and parts of Greenwich and Enfield. (All of the northern half of Prescott had once belonged to New Salem; the southern half was originally part of Pelham, but was annexed to Prescott in the latter nineteenth century.) All the lands gained by the annexation were once part of Hampshire County.

Today most of the lands it gained are off-limits, protected as part of the Quabbin Reservation, which is administered by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation & Recreation (DCR). The Five College Radio Astronomy Observatory, until 2011,[3] lay along what was once the Prescott-Greenwich town line, and researchers from the Five Colleges were allowed access to it. Additionally, members of the Swift River Historical Society take a yearly tour of the area in the peninsula by bus. No other access is permitted.


South Main Street

According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 58.6 square miles (151.9 km2), of which 44.8 square miles (116.0 km2) is land and 13.9 square miles (36.0 km2), or 23.69%, is water.[4] Because of the lands of the Prescott Peninsula, New Salem is the largest town by area in Franklin County and the largest community by area in western Massachusetts (Hampden, Hampshire, Franklin, and Berkshire counties). It is the twenty-first largest of 351 cities and towns in the Commonwealth. New Salem's modern southern town lines are dictated by the former West and Middle Branches of the Swift River, which are now submerged as part of the Quabbin Reservoir. The land of the two forks of the reservoir is now known as the Prescott Peninsula, containing the highest points in town, at Mount Pleasant and Prescott Hill (the latter of which was part of Pelham). The town owns several islands in the reservoir as well, including those around Russ Mountain and Mount L. Much of the original town land was high ground, sloping down eastward towards the marshes near Lake Rohunta, along the Athol town line. A small section of state forest is located near this lake, with other small sections scattered in the western part of the former town.

New Salem lies at the southeastern corner of Franklin Valley, with its lands extending southward between Hampshire County and Worcester County. The town is bordered by Orange to the north, Athol to the northeast, Petersham to the east, Ware to the south, Belchertown to the southeast, and Pelham, Shutesbury and Wendell to the west. Because of the reservoir, there is no land link between New Salem and Pelham, Belchertown or Ware. From the town common, New Salem lies 19 miles (31 km) east-southeast of the county seat of Greenfield, 35 miles (56 km) north-northeast of Springfield, 40 miles (64 km) northwest of Worcester and 75 miles (121 km) west of Boston.


In a typical year, New Salem, Massachusetts temperatures fall below 50 °F for 195 days per year. Annual precipitation is typically 44.6 inches per year (high in the US) and snow covers the ground 62 days per year or 17% of the year (high in the US). It may be helpful to understand the yearly precipitation by imagining 9 straight days of moderate rain per year. The humidity is below 60% for approximately 25.4 days or 7% of the year.[5]


The town has no interstates or limited-access highways, lying just south of Massachusetts Route 2, the major east–west route through northern Massachusetts. Its easiest access lies along U.S. Route 202, which runs from Pelham in the west and through the town's center before heading north into Orange and towards Route 2. For approximately the last half-mile the route is in New Salem, it runs concurrently with Massachusetts Route 122, which enters New Salem through Petersham, heading northwest towards Route 202 before both enter Orange and split shortly thereafter.

The nearest general aviation airport is Orange Municipal Airport to the north, and the nearest national air service can be reached at Bradley International Airport in Connecticut, some 50 miles (80 km) south of town.


New Salem is home to the Swift River Elementary School which serves K–6, which also serves students from Wendall. High School students then attend Ralph C. Mahar Regional High School in Orange.


Historical population

Source: United States census records and Population Estimates Program data.[6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15][16]

As of the census[17] of 2000, there were 929 people, 379 households, and 264 families residing in the town. The population density was 20.7 people per square mile (8.0/km2). There were 422 housing units at an average density of 9.4 per square mile (3.6/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 95.48% White, 0.75% African American, 0.54% Native American, 0.75% Asian, 0.32% from other races, and 2.15% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.86% of the population.

There were 379 households, out of which 30.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 59.6% were married couples living together, 8.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 30.3% were non-families. 21.6% of all households were made up of individuals, and 7.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.45 and the average family size was 2.88.

In the town, the population was spread out, with 24.2% under the age of 18, 3.4% from 18 to 24, 29.6% from 25 to 44, 32.8% from 45 to 64, and 9.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 42 years. For every 100 females, there were 104.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 100.0 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $48,688, and the median income for a family was $54,500. Males had a median income of $38,000 versus $27,188 for females. The per capita income for the town was $23,234. About 3.8% of families and 6.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 8.8% of those under age 18 and 3.0% of those age 65 or over.

Notable people[edit]

References in the literature[edit]

In the trilogy The Secret Circle by L.J.Smith events take place in the town of New Salem, which is located in Massachusetts.

In the New York Times best seller “The Once and Future Witches” by Alix E. Harrow, the plot unfolds in New Salem, Massachusetts.


  1. ^ a b U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: New Salem, Massachusetts
  2. ^ "Census - Geography Profile: New Salem town, Franklin County, Massachusetts". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved November 14, 2021.
  3. ^ "MWRA Historic Observatory at Quabbin Decommissioned". Massachusetts Water Resources Authority. Retrieved October 17, 2012.
  4. ^ "Geographic Identifiers: 2010 Demographic Profile Data (G001): New Salem town, Franklin County, Massachusetts". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved August 28, 2012.
  5. ^ "Climate in New Salem, Massachusetts". Retrieved August 8, 2022.
  6. ^ "Total Population (P1), 2010 Census Summary File 1". American FactFinder, All County Subdivisions within Massachusetts. United States Census Bureau. 2010.
  7. ^ "Massachusetts by Place and County Subdivision - GCT-T1. Population Estimates". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  8. ^ "1990 Census of Population, General Population Characteristics: Massachusetts" (PDF). US Census Bureau. December 1990. Table 76: General Characteristics of Persons, Households, and Families: 1990. 1990 CP-1-23. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  9. ^ "1980 Census of the Population, Number of Inhabitants: Massachusetts" (PDF). US Census Bureau. December 1981. Table 4. Populations of County Subdivisions: 1960 to 1980. PC80-1-A23. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  10. ^ "1950 Census of Population" (PDF). Bureau of the Census. 1952. Section 6, Pages 21-10 and 21-11, Massachusetts Table 6. Population of Counties by Minor Civil Divisions: 1930 to 1950. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  11. ^ "1920 Census of Population" (PDF). Bureau of the Census. Number of Inhabitants, by Counties and Minor Civil Divisions. Pages 21-5 through 21-7. Massachusetts Table 2. Population of Counties by Minor Civil Divisions: 1920, 1910, and 1920. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  12. ^ "1890 Census of the Population" (PDF). Department of the Interior, Census Office. Pages 179 through 182. Massachusetts Table 5. Population of States and Territories by Minor Civil Divisions: 1880 and 1890. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  13. ^ "1870 Census of the Population" (PDF). Department of the Interior, Census Office. 1872. Pages 217 through 220. Table IX. Population of Minor Civil Divisions, &c. Massachusetts. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  14. ^ "1860 Census" (PDF). Department of the Interior, Census Office. 1864. Pages 220 through 226. State of Massachusetts Table No. 3. Populations of Cities, Towns, &c. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  15. ^ "1850 Census" (PDF). Department of the Interior, Census Office. 1854. Pages 338 through 393. Populations of Cities, Towns, &c. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  16. ^ "City and Town Population Totals: 2020-2022". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved September 5, 2023.
  17. ^ "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  18. ^ Who Was Who in America, Historical Volume, 1607-1896. Marquis Who's Who. 1967.
  19. ^ 'Biographical Review of Dane County, Wisconsin Containing Biographical Sketches of Pioneers and Leading Citizens,' Biographical Review Publishing Company, Chicago, Illinois, Biographical Sketch of Hiram Giles, pg. 417-418
  20. ^ Bullard, Eugene (sesquicentennial chairman): New Salem Sesqui-Centennial and History of the Town 1903, Athol, Massachusetts (1904) pg 21, 49.

External links[edit]