Whately has a total area of 20.7 square miles and lies along the southern border of Franklin County, north of Hampshire County, bordered by Conway to the northwest, Deerfield to the northeast, Sunderland to the east, Hatfield to the south, and Williamsburg to the west. Whately is located 11 miles south of Greenfield, 26 miles north of Springfield, and 95 miles west of Boston. The population is approximately 1470.
Whately Historical Museum, in the former Center School at 218 Chestnut Plain Road, is open Tuesday mornings 9:00 am to noon and by appointment. The exhibits include memorabilia and crockery made by Whately residents in the 1800s. For information call Adelia Bardwell at (413) 665-3837
Whately was incorporated on April 24, 1771, not long after the 55 people living there petitioned for separation from Hatfield because of the long distance they lived from the center of town. Hatfield had agreed to set off the district at their town meeting in May, 1770, and the boundary lines were already carefully drawn and agreed upon.
The original draft of the Act of Incorporation passed through its many readings in the House of Representatives and received consent from the Council with no name. The original papers show the name of the town was inserted by Governor Thomas Hutchinson in honor of his British friend in Parliament, Thomas Whately, from whom he had received much political help.
The town got right down to business after being incorporated, holding its first town meeting May 6, 1771 at the house of Daniel Morton, innkeeper.
The First Congregational Church was formed on August 21, 1771, with 19 men, 25 women and listed separately, one slave. The first pastor was Reverend Rufus Wells from Deerfield.
Many of Whately's first citizens were descended from the people who settled Hadley and Hatfield. Among them were Lucius Allis, Samuel Baldwin, Robert Bardwell, Samuel Dickenson, John Field, David Graves, Richard Morton, Moses Sanderson, David Scott and John White.
Whately is the site of the first gin distillery in the state. Water power gave rise to many mills - saw, grist, cider and woolen - as well as chair and coffin factories. Ore deposits were used in an iron works and pottery was made from clay. Many other shops and mills flourished.
However, Whately has always primarily been an agricultural area with commercial crops that include apples, cider, hay, maple products, tobacco and vegetables during this century.