State Sen. Jake Oliviera and state Rep. Aaron Saunders presented a proclamation from the Massachusetts State Legislature congratulating Ludlow on its 250th anniversary as a town. Linda Collette, the chair of the Ludlow 250th Commemoration Committee accepted the proclamation on behalf of the town.
Reminder Publishing photos by Sarah Heinonen

LUDLOW — Two and a half centuries ago, before the colonies broke away from England to form the United States, the people in a section of Springfield known as Stony Hill petitioned to break away from the large town and become their own community. The petition was granted by Royal Gov. Thomas Hutchinson on Feb. 28, 1774.

On the same date, 250 years later, state officials, School Department leadership and community members came together to read Hutchinson’s proclamation and wish Ludlow a happy birthday.
The Ludlow High School Chorus began the ceremony at the school by singing “The Star-Spangled Banner,” followed by a welcome from Principal Lisa Nemeth.

Former Ludlow High School history teacher Brian Bylicki read the opening of the proclamation. The reasoning for separation was clearly laid out in the document, “Whereas by reason of the remote situation of the inhabitants of that part of Springfield called Stony Hill, from the center of town and parishes of which they are now parts, and their incapacity thereby of receiving … advantages from a longer union and connection therewith.”

While the residents had requested the town be called “Stony Hill,” Hutchinson chose to grant separation under the name Ludlow. Bylicki offered a side note, explaining that Hutchinson’s reasons for the name are unknown as, with the American Revolution around the corner, he was run out of Boston and his papers destroyed shortly after the proclamation was signed. Technically, the proclamation made Ludlow a district, with the full right of a town to send representatives to the Legislature not until the next year.

State Sen. Jake Oliviera (D-Ludlow) and state Rep. Aaron Saunders (D-Belchertown), both Ludlow natives, spoke at the ceremony.

Oliviera, dressed in full colonial attire, spoke about the evolution of Ludlow from agricultural to industrial and bedroom community, but he noted the town had embraced all those facets and incorporated them into its identity. Similarly, he said the waves of immigrants who have settled there over the past two centuries have added to the identity of Ludlow.

Oliviera’s own family settled in Ludlow over a century ago to work in the mills. At the time, he said, someone with the last name Oliviera could not have been elected to the Legislature, but the town has grown and evolved since then.

He spoke about notable legislators from Ludlow’s past but told those gathered that the single most important position in a representative democracy is that of the citizen and the most important duty of that position is voting.

Saunders said it is important to understand why the residents of Stony Hill wanted to separate themselves from Springfield. He said the citizens of the area in 1771, when the petition was first sent to Boston, “did not feel connected to their local government.” People had to walk 10 miles, crossing the river, just to participate in the decisions of the town, he explained. He said they wanted the freedom to govern themselves and pursue the ideals which would become known as “the American dream.”

“It’s a thread that would extend well beyond the Revolution,” Saunders said. He added, “Eighty-four sons of Ludlow have paid the ultimate sacrifice.”

Like Oliviera, Saunders spoke about the immigrants who have come to Ludlow and added to the “rich tapestry” that makes up the town. He said that this moment in time is an important one to think about what today’s citizens will contribute to the next 250 years in Ludlow.

The two legislators jointly delivered a proclamation from the state Legislature congratulating Ludlow on its semi-quincentennial, accepted by Linda Collette, the chair of the Ludlow 250th Commemoration Committee.

The high school chorus closed out the event by singing “America the Beautiful,” before the crowd gathered in the cafeteria to share a birthday cake for Ludlow.

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