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Town rivalry has roots in distant past

Date: 7/13/2010

July 12, 2010

By Amanda Butcher

Special to Reminder Publications

I have been meeting people from all over the United States now that I'm visiting colleges, and I am asked a lot of questions when I tell them I'm from East Long-meadow.

"Where is that?"

"Is that really far away?"

"Is that the same place as Long-meadow?"

To the person who asked me that last question: this one's for you.

Longmeadow is often called "the eldest child of the independent State of Massachusetts" because it was the first town to be incorporated after the 13 colonies was formally known as independent. It became its own town in 1783 after being a parish of Springfield for about seven decades. The west side was full of fertile plains, plateaus, and meadows. The east side was a land of rolling hills and outcroppings of sandstone and brownstone. The two sides were separated by about three miles of sand, forest, and altogether unproductive land.

It is perhaps the major differences between the lands of the east and west, or because of the sand dunes that separated the two that West Longmeadow and East Longmeadow became two separate villages. West Longmeadow, also known as "The Street," was a town of social business people whereas East Longmeadow was full of farmers and quarry workers. East Longmeadow was also known as "East Village" or "Poverty Hill" because of how cheaply the land was sold for -- at times, it was only 83 cents per acre!

The question of the division of Longmeadow into two different towns in 1865 must not have come as a big surprise. Interests of the villages were totally different, commercial and social interaction slight, and marriages scarce; in the 75 years before the separation, there was only one marriage between the two villages.

The citizens of West Long-meadow were unhappy that they paid two-thirds of the taxes. They had less roads and schools that the tax money could be used towards. East Village was gaining population quickly because of the fast growing quarry business; therefore it was using more of the tax dollars.

In the early 1890s, a nasty discussion took place between the East, West, and their lawyers about whether or not the two should separate (record of which can be found in the East Longmeadow Public Library's archives room). Anti-divisionalists were largely from East Village because they profited from the wealthy "West Longmeadowites" paying most of the taxes. West Longmeadow was pro-division for obvious reasons such as the tax issue.

Needless to say, in 1894, East Village became East Longmeadow: population 1,600; 13.4 square miles. Longmeadow had gotten rid of its "satellite village," and one citizen of Longmeadow rejoiced by driving up and down Longmeadow Street waving around the pen which Governor Greenhalge used to sign the enactment of said division.

So, in response to the above question, no. East Longmeadow is not the same place as Longmeadow. And to anyone who wonders about the hype before East Longmeadow versus Longmeadow sports games, I have this to say: the competition between the two towns has gone on for over a century. Why stop such a long and wonderful tradition of rivalry?