Open main menu
This page needs to be proofread.
851
MASSACHUSETTS


and Connecticut, and on the W. by New York. It lies approximately between 41° 15' and 42° 50' N. lat. and 69° 55' and 73° 30' W. long. The bulk of its area-which is about 8266 sq. m. (of which 227 are water)-forms a parallelogram of 130 m. E. and W., 46 m. N. and S., the additional area lying in a projection at the S.E. and a lesser one at the N.E., which give the mainland a breadth of oo m. where it borders upon the ocean, while the general irregularity of the coast-line gives a sea frontage of about 250 m.

Physical Fealuresr-The east and south-east portions are in general undulating or level, the central hilly and broken, and the west rugged and mountainous. (For geological details see UNITED STATES: Geology, ad fin.) The Hoosac Hills (1200-160Q ft. high), separating the valleys of the Housatonic and Connecticut, are a range of the Berkshires, a part of the Appalachian system, and a continuation of the Green Mountains of Vermont, and with the Taconic range on the west side of the Housatonic Valley-of which the highest peaks are Greylock, or “ Saddleback ” (3535 ft.), and Mt Williams (3040 ft.)-in the extreme north-west corner of the state, form the only considerable elevated land.1 Bordering on the lowlands of the Connecticut, Mt Tom (1214 ft.) and a few other hills (Mt Holyoke, 954 ft.; Mt Toby, 1275) form conspicuous landmarks. East of this valley the country continues more or less hilly and rocky, but the elevations eastward become increasingly slight and of little consequence. Mt Lincoln (1246 ft.) and especially Mt Wachusett (2108 ft.), to the east in a level country, are very exceptional. The Blue Hills in Milton are the nearest elevations to the coast, and are conspicuous to navigators approaching Boston. The south-east corner of the state is a sandy lowland, generally level with a slightly elevated ridge (Manomet) south of Plymouth, and well watered by ponds.

With the exception of this corner, Massachusetts is a part of the slanting upland that includes all of southern New England. This upland is an uplifted peneplain of sub aerial denudation,2 now so far advanced in a “ second " cycle of weathering and so thoroughly dissected that to an untrained eye it appears to be only a country of hills confusedly arranged. The general contour of the upland, marked by a remarkably even sky-line, is evident at almost every locality in the state. In the nature and position of the upland rocks;-mainly crystalline schists and gneisses, excessively complicated and disordered in mass, and also internally deformed-there is found abundant proof that the peneplain is a degraded mountain region. The upland is interrupted by the rivers, and on the coast by great lowlands, and is eve where marked by hills somewhat surmounting the generally even skyline. Monadnock (in New Hampshire, nearN.E.Massachusetts), the Blue Hills near Boston, Greylock, in the north-west, and Wachusett in the centre, are the most commanding remnant-summits (known generically as “ Monadnocks ) of the original mountain system. But in the derivant Valley peneplains developed in the present cycle of denudation, and there are residual summits also; in the Connecticut Valley trap ridges, of which Mt Tom and Mt Holyoke are the best examples; at Mt Holyoke, lava necks; occasionally in the lowlands, ridges of resistant sandstone, like Deerfield Mountain near Northampton; in the Berkshire Valley, summits of resistant schists, like Greylock, the highest summit in the state. The larger streams have cut their channels to very moderate gradients, but the smaller ones are steeper. The Housatonic and Millers (and the Connecticut also, but not in its course within Massachusetts alone) afiord beautiful examples of the dependence of valley breadth upon the strike of soft or harder rocks across the stream. The Connecticut lowland is cut from 5 to 18 m. wide in soft sandstones and shales. The glacial era has left abundant evidences in the topography of the state. The ice covered even the Monadnocks. Till drumlins, notably abundant on the lowland about Boston and the highland near Spencer; morainic hills, extending, e.g. all along Cape Cod; eskers, kames and river terraces aiiord the plainest evidences of the extent of the glacial sheet. The Berkshire country-Berkshire, Hampden, Hampshire and Franklin counties-is among the most beautiful regions of the United States. It is a rolling highland dominated by long, wooded hill-ridges, remarkably even-topped in general elevation, intersected and broken by deep valleys. Scores of charming lakes lie in the hollows. The district is often called the Lake Region of America, partly from the comparableness of its scenic beauties with the English Lake Country (Matthew Arnold, however, wrote: “ The country is pleasing but not to be compared with Westmoreland. It is wider and opener, and neither 'hills nor lakes are so effective.”), and partly from the parallelism of literary associations. It has become since 1850, and especially in much more recent years, a favoured resort of summer residents. Owing to topography, and also to the manner in which Massachusetts 1

At least seventy hills in the state, mainly in this quarter, have an elevation of ISOO ft. (twenty-four above 2000 ft.). 1 in some localities it is not easy to establish irrefutably and in detail the inter-arrangement of drainage and rock structure that proves it to be a sub aerial peneplain instead of an uplifted submarine platform; but the general proof is very clear.

was settled, the western counties were long connected commercially more closely with New York than with Massachusetts, and this territory was long in dispute between these two states. The Connecticut is the most considerable stream, and is navigable by small craft. Its valley, much the richest portion of the state agriculturally, is celebrated for the quiet variety and beauty of its scenery. The Housatonic, in portions placid, in others Wild and rapid, winding along the deflecting barrier of the Hoosac Hills, is the most beautiful river of the state, despite the mercantile use of its water-power. The Merrimac, the second stream of the state in volume, runs in a charming valley through the extreme north-east corner, and affords immensely valuable water-power at Lowell, Lawrence and Haverhill.

South of Cohasset the shore is sandy, with a few isolated rocky ledges and boulders. About Boston, and to the north of it, the shore is rocky and picturesque. Cape Cod, like a human arm doubled at the elbow, 40 m. from shoulder to elbow and 30 from elbow to hand, is nowhere more than a few miles broad. It is a sandy ridge, dotted with summer resorts and cottages. Cape Ann has a rugged interior and a ragged, rocky coast. It, too, is a summer recreation ground, with much beautiful scenery. Boston Harbor (originally known as Massachusetts Bay, a name which now has a much broader signification) is the finest road stead on the coast. The extreme hook of the Cape Cod Peninsula forms Provincetown Harbor, which is an excellent and capacious port of refuge for vessels. approaching Boston. Salem Harbor is the most considerable other haven on Massachusetts Bay; on Buzzard's Bay New Bedford has a good harbour, and on the Atlantic coast are the excellent harbours of Gloucester and Marblehead, both frequented by summer residents. Gloucester has the largest fishery interests of any place in the country, and is one of the chief fishing ports of the world. Buzzard's Bay is also a popular yachting ground, and all about its shores are towns of summer residence. W00d's Hole is a station of the United States Bureau of Fisheries, and a marine biological laboratory is there.

The principal islands lie off the south coast. The largest is Martha's Vineyard, about 20 m. long, with an extreme breadth of about 9% m. It has in Vineyard Haven (Holmes's Hole) a spacious harbour, much frequented by wind-bound vessels 'seeking a passage round Cape Cod. The island is covered with stunted trees.. ts population was formerly dependent wholly upon the sea, but its climate has made it a popular summer resort, Oak Bluffs being one of the chief resorts of the Atlantic coast. Farther east, Nantucket, a smaller island of triangular shape, is likewise the home of a seafaring folk who still retain in some degree primitive lritbits, though summer visitors are more and more affecting its 1 e.

Flora and Fauna.-Massachusetts lies entirely in the humid area of the Transition life-zone, with the exception of the extreme north-western corner of the state, which lies in the Boreal zone. Thus the original native trees and plants were those common to New England and northern New York. The presence of a dense population has driven out some, and brought in others, including some noxious weeds. The larger wild animals have disappeared, excepting an occasional black bear or deer. Of the smaller fur hearing animals, the beaver was long ago exterminated, the otter is seen very rarely, and the mink only in the most isolated districts; but foxes, skunks, weasels, musk-rats, rabbits, and grey and red squirrels are not uncommon. Copperhead snakes and rattlesnakes are occasionally seen, and there are several species of harmless serpents. Of game birds the most characteristic is the partridge (rufied grouse), exclusively a woodland bird; the Wilson's snipe and the woodcock are not uncommon in favourable localities, and several species of ducks are found especially in the bays and marshes near the coast during the seasons of migration. A stray eagle is sometimes seen. Very interesting to ornithologists are the 'few heath hens, the eastern representative of the prairie hen (pinnated grouse), which are found on the island of Martha's Vineyard, and are the sole survivors in the eastern states of one of the finest of American game birds, now practically exterminated even on the western (plains. There are many insectivorous birds; among the song bir s are the hermit thrush, the wood thrush, the Wilson's thrush, the brown thrasher, the bobolink, the catbird, the oven bird, the house Wren, the song sparrow, the fox sparrow, the vesper sparrow, the white-throated Sparrow (Peabody bird), the goldfinch and the robin. Brook trout are found, especially in the streams in the western part: of the state, and bass, pickerel, perch and smaller fish occur in the rivers and other inland waters. Fish are so abundant on the coast that the cod is sometimes used as an emblem of the state; thus a figure of one hangs in the representatives' chamber at the State House. The artificial propagation and preservation of salmon and other edible fresh-water fish have been carried on successfully under the supervision of a state commission. The commonwealth has expended large sums since 1890 in a vain attempt to exterminate the gipsy moth (Ocneria, or more exactly Porthetria, dispar), accidentally allowed to escape in 1869 by a French naturalist.

Climate.—The climate is trying, showing great extremes of temperature (20° F. below zero to. 100° above) and marked local variations. The south-eastern coast and islands are mildest. The mean average