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THE first settlements were made in this town about 1710. In 1724, the people had increased to thirty four families,
and finding it inconvenient, on account of the distance, to attend meeting and do duty in Sherburne, they petitioned
the town to set them off, which was amicably voted. The same year, (1724) they were incorporated by the general
court; and as a mark of respect for Thomas Hollis, of London, one of the patrons of the university in Cambridge,
the place was called Holliston. The soil in this town is generally of a good quality; a small branch of Charles
river rises in this town, and affords a good water-power. There is one woollen factory, one of thread, and one
of combs. A considerable quantity of brogans are made here, employing about 300 men, women and children. There
are 2 churches, 1 for Congregationalists and 1 Methodist. Distance, 21 miles S. of Concord, 6 N. E. of Hopkinton,
and 24 south-westerly from Boston. Population, 1,775. In 1837, there were manufactured in this town 20,803 pairs
of boots, 244,578 pairs of shoes, valued at $241,626; males employed, 312; females, 149. There were 26,580 straw
bonnets manufactured, valued at $33,210.
The first church was gathered, and Mr. James Stone was ordaided the first pastor here in 1728. In 1743, Mr. Josiah
Prentice was ordained the second minister; he continued pastor 42 years, and died in 1788. He was succeeded by
Mr. Timothy Dickinson, the third minister, who was ordained in 1789. December, 1753, and January, 1754, were remarkable
for what is called the great sickness in Holliston. "The patients were violently seized with a piercing pain
in the breast or side; to be seized with a pain in the head was not common; the fever high. The greater part of
those that died were rational to the last; they lived three, four, five, and six days after they were taken. In
some instances, it appears, they strangled, by not being able to expectorate; some in this case, who were thought
to be in their last moments, were recovered by administering oil. In about six weeks fifty three persons died,
forty one of whom died within twenty two days.” The following account of this sickness is extracted from the account
kept by the Rev. Mr. Prentiss. “December 31st, seven lay unburied. January 4th, ten lay unburied, in which week
seventeen died. There were two, three, four, and five buried for many days successively. Of those who died, fifteen
were members of this church.” “We are extremely weakened by the desolation death has made in many of the most substantial
families among us; four families wholly broken up, losing both their beads. The sickness was so prevalent, that
but few families escaped; for more than a month, there was not enough well to tend the sick and bury the dead,
though they spent their whole time in these services; but the sick suffored and the dead lay unburied; and that,
notwithstanding help was procured, and charitable assistance afforded, by many in the neighboring towns."
"We are a small town, consisting of about eighty families, and not more than four hundred souls."
Historical Collections Relating to the
History and Antiquities of
Every town in Massachusetts with
By John Warner Barber.
Published by Warren Lazell.