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THE town of Acton lies wholly within the ancient limits of Concord. Most of the lands comprised within its limits
were granted to the town of Concord. “for feeding;” they were, however, not very accurately defined, as when they
were actually surveyed they were found to contain a greater number of acres than nominally specified in the grants.
A settlement was commenced in these grants as early as 1656, and pdrhaps a few years earlier. The Shepherd and
Law families were among the first. Many of the meadows were open prairies, and afforded, with little or no labor,
grass in abundance. Some of the uplands had been cleared by the Indians, and were favorite places for feeding.
In 1668, the town leased to Capt. Thomas Wheeler, for 20 years, 200 acres of upland near Mr. Silas Holden's present
residence, and 60 acres of meadow lying in several parcels on Nashobah brook, on condition that he should keep,
'except 12 Sabbath days yearly, 'a herd of 50 cattle for is. per head for the inhabitants, to be paid 'one third
part in wheat, one third part in rye or pease, and the other third part in Indian corn.' They were to be constantly
watched by a 'herdsman,' and kept in a yard at night to protect them from the wild beasts. Capt. Wheeler agreed
to build a house '40 feet by 18, and 12 stud,' covered with shingles, and to have a 'pair of chimneys;' and a barn
40 by 24, and 12 high, to be left for the use of the town aftex the expiration of the lease."
The town was incorporated in 1735, one hundred years from the incorporation of Concord. The surface of the town
is rough and uneven, though there are no considerable hills; and with some exceptions the soil is rocky and hard
to cultivate. It contains, however, many good farms. The principal employment of the inhabitants is agriculture.
There are, however, from 15,000 to 20,000 barrels annually manufactured here, and this business is a source of
considerable income. There are two Congregational churches in this town, one for the Orthodox, the other for Unitarians.
This place is 21 miles N. W. of Boston, and 5 N. Westerly from Concord. Population, 1,071. The first meeting house
(42 feet by 36, and 21 feet high) was built in 1736, and, served as a place of worship till the present one was
erected, in 1808. The Rev. John Swift was the first minister ordained in this town; this was on Nov. 8, 1738. During
the prevalence of the small pox in Acton, in 1775, he was severely attacked, and was never able to preach afterwards.
He died the same year, in the 37th year of his ministry. The Rev. Moses Adams was next ordained here, June 25,
1778. He died in 1819, aged 70. The Rev. Marshall Shed in 1820 became their next pastor; he was dismissed at his
own request, in May, 1831. The Orthodox society seceded from the town, and formed a separate parish during the
latter part of Mr. Shed's ministry, and the Rev. James T. Woodbury was ordained over them, Aug. 29, 1832. The Universalist
society in this town was organized in 1816, and incorporated in 1825.
Historical Collections Relating to the
History and Antiquities of
Every town in Massachusetts with
By John Warner Barber.
Published by Warren Lazell.