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Northfield in History

1800's Sketch of Centennial House, Northfield MA

In 1669, English explorers arrived at the banks of the Connecticut River, encountering native peoples whose ancestors had farmed there for over 1,600 years. In 1671, the Squakheag's deeded their land to the English. The village of Squakheag played a key role in the French and Indian Wars. Decimated several times, the village finally became 'Northfield' in 1723, and was a prosperous center for farming, the practice of law, and river commerce.

In the 19th century, the Stearns family of builders gave the village its characteristic look. In 1811, the house at 94 Main Street, now Centennial House, was built by Calvin Stearns for Maj. General John Nevers. This early original sketch, still on display in the house, shows the south entrance to Nevers' law office and a bustling Main Street.

Northfield is the birthplace of the 19th century evangelist, Dwight L. Moody, who founded the Northfield Seminary for Young Ladies and Mount Hermon School for Boys that live on today as Northfield Mount Hermon School ( Moody's summer conferences and grand hotel on the site of today's Northfield Golf Club ( made the town a popular destination for almost a century.

In the 1930's, the American Youth Hostel movement was founded here, bringing hundreds of young people to town to explore New England by bicycle. In 2012, Hosteling International marked its 80th anniversary with a monument at 88 Main Street and a celebration held at Centennial House. For more on Northfield, see Northfield (Images of America, Arcadia Press, 2014).

Sensing a theme? Northfield continues to have great recreational assets that you'll hear more about in these pages -- like the Franklin County Bikeway that passes by our front door, and the re-purposing of the Schell Bridge for hiking and cycling to begin in 2017. Stay tuned!

"You can feel the history here." -- Jim and Carole, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK