Turners Falls is named after the 1000 foot-long, 30-foot fall cataract that stretches from the south bank of the Connecticut River at Turners Falls to the north shoreline at Riverside, Gill, MA.
In 1823, at the age of 30, Edward Hitchcock (1793–1864)—then a principal at Deerfield, MA—drove his carriage to the falls to learn about the geology of the area. Fascinated by the cataract he penned this in his “Report on the Geology, Mineralogy, Botany, and Zoology of Massachusetts, 1833.”
“Three miles above Turner’s Falls, Miller’s river empties into the Connecticut, over a dam about ten feet high. I apprehend these falls have been confounded with Turner’s; and hence the latter are sometimes called Miller’s Falls. They cannot, however, be said to have as yet any well established name. For a reason which will be mentioned below, ventured some eighteen years since, in a geological account which I published of the Connecticut valley, to denominate these falls, Turner’s Falls; and Gen. Hoyt, in his History of the Indian Wars, has given them the same designation. I am aware, however, how very difficult it is to make popular and prevalent, a new name for any natural object; although in the present case, I doubt not, that every man acquainted with the history of this spot, would say that to prefix the name of Capt. Turner 1 to this cataract, is appropriate and just.”
1 Accordingly, the falls are called Turner’s Falls. Today, the possessive “Turner’s Falls” is revised to read the non-proprietary Turners Falls. Please to keep in mind that this name, Turners Falls, is for the cataract—the village did not yet exist.