Historical Commission

Mailing Address: 325 Main Road, Gill, MA 01354

Email: ghc@gillmass.org

Visit us on FaceBook @GillHistoricalCommission

Commission: 7 members (currently 5 are filled with 2 vacancies) plus 2 Alternates - 3 yr. terms

Volunteer Opportunities: If you are interested in GHC membership or want to volunteer, please contact a member.

Meeting Schedule: The Commission generally meets on the third Tuesday of the month at 3:00 p.m. at the Riverside Municipal Building, 54 French King Highway, Gill. Please contact the Chair to confirm the meeting time and to be included on the agenda.

Next 6 meetings:


5 of 7 seats. 3 years each seat.

  • Kit Carpenter, Chair. June, 2023. Gill, MA 01354 - 413-863-2505
  • Charlene Currie. June, 2024.
  • Terri Rice. June, 2024.
  • Pam Shoemaker. June, 2025. Gill, MA 01354 - 413-863-4170
  • Robert Perry. June, 2025.

Alternate Members:

Bev Demars

Lynda Hodsdon Mayo

Previous meetings:

The History of Munn's Ferry

Lorenzo P. Munn crossing the Connecticut River at Munn's ferry around 1885

Early travel throughout Franklin County was made by foot, horseback, and ox cart- stagecoaches for private use did not become common until after the Revolutionary War. Winding paths over time became wider trails and later dirt roads creating well-used routes connecting our small towns and villages.

Travel could be dirty, dusty and at times difficult, especially when they approached streams or rivers. Travelers found “fording” or traversing over these well-travelled routes easy enough to cross if they were shallow. But when a deep stream had to be crossed, a raft was necessary for crossing. As a result, ferries were established in these challenging areas.

Early records for the towns along the Connecticut River have many entries where permission was granted to establish a ferry route when the need was evident. To reach the opposite side via ferry, tolls were collected by a “ferryman”. Oftentimes, the maintenance of the ferry and its route was handed down to the same family for generations.

Munn's ''Wire'' Ferry across Connecticut River in Northfield.

Typically, the ferryman rowed foot passengers on a skiff, but when carts or livestock needed to be transported, a ferry was required. These well-built “rafts” varied in size and needed to be strong enough to carry heavy loads. When the current was too strong to stay on course in a particular area, a cable was firmly anchored on each side of the riverbank and strung across the river. Chains were then attached to the ferry and to rings around the cable that kept the boat on an even course. The “power” was provided by the ferryman who stood at the front of the boat and held a wood clencher, grasped a wire strung above the cable pulling and walking backward at the same time. This forced the boat forward by one length. Multiple repetitions of this action repeatedly resulted in it arriving to the other side of the river. These were called “wire ferries”.

Ferrymen and their families lived nearby and were not always readily available, requiring a traveler to first get their attention. If the traveler was on the opposite side of the river, they shouted a loud “halloo” or clanged a tin plate or rang a well-placed bell on a post in hopes of attracting the attention of the ferryman. It could be a long, inconvenient wait as the ferryman could be out in his field hoeing his corn or doing other chores away from the shore. This was one of the main arguments in favor of constructing bridges. As bridges began to replace ferries on main roads, tolls decreased requiring towns to help maintain the ferries for public convenience.

Crossing the Connecticut River to Northfield at Munn's Ferry in 1914.

The earliest known ferry locally was across the Connecticut River just above the falls that eventually became the Red Suspension Bridge. The ferrymen for this ferry lived on the Montague side of the river.

Both Northfield Farm ferries were maintained with expenses divided by the towns of Northfield and Gill. Munn’s Ferry was the upper Northfield Farms Ferry and established in 1825. At a town meeting January 3, 1825, it was voted ‘to accept the road beginning at the Connecticut River on the land of Seth Munn from thence to said Munn’s house, if anybody will indemnify the town of all expense.’ Mr. Munn assumed this obligation as he faithfully performed this duty for the next 40 years.

John C. Delvy married Mr. Munn’s granddaughter and in 1864 became the second ferryman over the next 8 years. During his tenure, it was redesigned to become a “wire ferry” and the road down to the river on the Gill side was altered to have a more direct approach for this type of ferry. Seven more ferrymen followed with the last being Fred Shantley.

Most ferry usage ceased to exist after automobiles were introduced (in the 1890’s) as it was quicker to detour several miles by driving to a bridge than it was to wait for a slow moving ferry. Munn’s Ferry was discontinued in 1935.

Explore historical collections from libraries, museums, and archives across Massachusetts.

Digital Commonwealth is a non-profit collaborative organization, founded in 2006, that provides resources and services to support the creation, management, and dissemination of cultural heritage materials held by Massachusetts libraries, museums, historical societies, and archives. Digital Commonwealth currently has over 200 member institutions from across the state.

This site provides access to photographs, manuscripts, books, audio recordings, and other materials of historical interest that have been digitized and made available by members of Digital Commonwealth, a statewide consortium of libraries, museums, archives, and historical societies from across Massachusetts.

The Digital Commonwealth site, managed by the Boston Public Library, provides access to thousands of images, documents, and sound recordings that have been digitized by member institutions so that they may be available to researchers, students, and the general public.

After almost a year of working together with Digital Commonwealth and the Boston Public Library, our book the "History of Gill 1793-1943" (Vol. 1) by Ralph M. Stoughton is now available as a digitized version!

Published in 1978 as part of a 1976 Bicentennial Project, this book has been out of print for quite a while, but now you can access it on their site here.

A quick search in the site's search bar brought up more on Gill.

In addition to the Gill History Volume 1, you'll also find several maps of 1937 from the Massachusetts State Planning Board of The Roads and Waterways of Gill, Roads and Buildings of Gill, Topography of Gill and more.


1794 Chap. 0070 -an act setting off part of the Town of Northfield and annexing it to the Town Of Gill.

GHC's next project is digitizing the 1872 Town of Gill's Ledgers to share with all. These ledgers were rescued from the water pipe burst in the town hall this February 2023. It was realized these gems must be preserved. This will be an ongoing project over the next few years in conjunction with Digital Commonwealth and the Boston Public Library.

Beautiful handwritten entries that were most likely entered with a quill pen.

We are excited to share this wonderful free resource. Not only has it been valuable for Gill Historic Commission and other Historic Societies and Commissions, but also as a personal resource if you are looking for information on your family geneology or history around the Comonwealth of Massachusetts. It does take a little practice to search and find what you are looking for, but we invite you to explore this amazing site! You won't be disappointed.

History of Gill Volume 1: 1793-1943 Digital Link

After almost a year of working together with Digital Commonwealth and the Boston Public Library, our book "History of Gill 1793-1943" (Vol. 1) by Ralph M. Stoughton is now available as a digitized version!

Published in 1978 as part of a 1976 Bicentennial Project, this book has been out of print for quite a while, but now you can access it here.

Now Available! Gill Maps by Casey Williams

Now available - beautiful hand designed Gill maps by local artist Casey Williams! These heavy weight prints are available in postcard ($3.00 donation) and 8x10 size ($18 donation).

Perfect for framing and gift giving. Contact us at ghc@gillmass.org if you are interested.

Three Historical Books of Gill Now Available

The Gill Historical Commission has three books now available:

Jennie Williams Bardwell: Life in Gill 1860-1950 A beautiful, full-color, hardcover book (published 2021) with more than 200 vintage photos, maps, artwork and documents. This book follows the life and times of Jennie Williams Bardwell and living in Gill through excerpts of her handwritten diary and letters. ($50 donation) Click here for order form.

Riverside: Life along the Connecticut in Gill, Massachusetts A full-color, 180-page coffee table book with over 300 vintage photographs, maps, artwork and documents. ($50 donation) Click here for order form.

History of Gill Volume II: 1943-1993 Originally published in 1993, this 300-page volume incorporates a collection 50 Gill residents’ reminiscence of life in Gill as seen through their eyes and in their own words. This includes over 100 photos, maps and images. ($10 donation) Click here for order form.


Please submit your check, payable to Gill Historical Commission, with
an order form. We will keep reprinting the book as we receive orders.
Sorry no credit cards. We will contact you when the books are available.
Donations will be used to cover printing costs, other expenses, and for
the work of the Gill Historical Commission. Please include an additional
$9.00 for Priority Mailing. Thank you for your order.

Additional Links:

Archaeological Accountability Policy Click here to read more.

Historical Research on Roswell Field, Gill Farmer (1804-1882) To view the complete paper click here. (Used by permission of, and many thanks to Robert Herbert.)

History of Gill (Vol. 1) 1793-1943 (digitized book) by Ralph M. Stoughton To view the entire book click here.

Calendar of Events
Tue, Jun 6, 2023, 7:00 pm
Town Hall
Board of Assessors -- SCHEDULED
Thu, Jun 8, 2023, 9:00 am
2nd Floor Town Hall
Posted to: Board of Assessors
Fri, Jun 9, 2023, All Day
Town Hall
Posted to: Town Hall
Mon, Jun 12, 2023, 7:00 pm
2nd Floor Town Hall
Tue, Jun 13, 2023, 10:30 am
2nd Floor Town Hall
Latest News
FCSWMD - Holding a Composting Made Easy Workshop
Bulky Waste Recycling Day; Saturday, May 13, 2023 from 9 a.m. to noon