Sunderland lies on the southern edge of Franklin County, north of Hampshire County. The town has a total area of 14.7 square miles and is bordered by Montague to the north, Leverett to the east, Amherst and Hadley to the south, and Whately and Deerfield to the west. It has a population of appoximately 3600. Mount Toby, a prominent conglomerate mountain with a firetower lookout, stands at the east border of the town and is traversed by the 47-mile (76 km) Robert Frost Trail. The mountain, surrounded by Mount Toby State Forest, is known for its waterfalls, scenic vista, and biologically diverse ecosystem.
Sunderland Fish Hatchery, on Route 116 near the Amherst town line, is operated by the State Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. It raises trout that are stocked in streams and ponds throughout the state. The public is welcome to tour the facility between 8:00 am. and 3:00 pm. For guided tours, it is best to call a week or two in advance. Call (413) 665-4680 for further information.
Cronin National Salmon Station, which is part of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's effort to restore Atlantic salmon to the Connecticut River and its tributaries, is open to the public. The facility located on East Plumtree Road, off Route 116 near the Amherst town line. It offers various activiites, special-needs fishing programs and school tours. It is open Monday through Friday from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm. Call (413) 548-9010 for times and further information.
Mount Toby Reservation, can be reached by Reservation Road off Route 47 near the Montague town line. The summit of Mt. Toby, which rises 1,269 feet, has an observation tower and offers a panoramic view of the surrounding countryside. A trail leading to the summit takes about an hour to hike.
Cranberry Pond, is located between Routes 63 and 47 near Mount Toby. It has a boat ramp for non-gasoline powered boats and is annually stocked with trout. Reservation Road off Route 47 leads directly to the pond.
"Button Ball" Tree, more than 350 years old, sits on North Main Street is an attraction for tourists and residents.
Sunderland was originally known as Swampfield because of swamps that began near the village and continued nearly down to the Hadley town line. The first settlements were made before the start of King Philip's War in 1675, but were abandoned when hostilities began.
The early settlers' descendants in the towns of Hadley and Hatfield desired more land, however, and in 1713 they petitioned the Assembly held in Boston for resettlement of Swampfield. The petition was granted, "provided that 40 families be settled within three years and that a learned orthodox minister be settled with them."
The bounds of the town were to include the whole of the present towns of Sunderland and Leverett, the larger part of Montague and a part of what is now Wendell. The land to the north was known in the early days as "Hunting Hills." Wolves, bears, and wildcats abounded there, as well as smaller game.
Sunderland, which has long been a thriving agricultural community that benefits from the rich Connecticut River Valley soil, was incorporated on November 12, 1718. The name of the town was chosen to honor Charles Spencer, Earl of Sunderland and Prime Minister of England. The first town meeting was recorded as being held on March 16, 1719.
Early industry included potash, milling, hat and saddle making.
A local landmark is the button ball tree on Main Street, the largest sycamore east of the Mississippi River.