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THIS town was originally a part of the town of Lunenburg, and wholly included in the grant made to the proprietors
of Turkey Hill. It was incorporated a town in 1764. A part of Fitchburg, to the north, was cut off in the year
1767, to aid in forming the town of Ashby. What the Indian name given to this territory was, is not known; but
the first name applied to it by white men was Turkey Hills, so called on account of the great number of wild turkeys
which frequented the place for their favorite food of chesnuts and acorns there abounding.
When the order or grant of the general court passed, in 1719, there was but one family residing in the territory
of Turkey Hills. The head of this family was Samuel Page, universally designated by the honorable title of "old
Governor Page.” When the general court’s committee (as they were styled) first visited the place, in Dec. 1719,
in the performance of their duty, they found Governor Page, whose faithful subjects were composed of his wife Martha
and several promising children, oocupying a comfortable habitation on the southerly side of Clark’s Hill, a few
rods to the rear of the barn belonging to the farm of Micah Marshall. It is directly opposite to the principal
grave-yard, little more than one mile in a south-easterly direction from the meeting-house. Old Governor Page exercised
not a little taste in the selection of his place of abode. He had, however, no title to the land which he was cultivating,
for it was then public domain, and belonged to his majesty’s province of the Massachusetts Bay. David Page was
undoubtedly among the earliest, perhaps the first, of the settlers in Fitchburg. The birth of his eldest child
is dated Oct., 1735. Some of the aged people of this town think that the first settlement was on the place now
owned by James L. Haynes, and that the occupant was sometimes called Governor Page. Others say that David Page
lived there, but from how early a period they cannot tell. As to the residence of old Governor Page near the center
of Lunenburg, there can be but little doubt; for the land on which the first pound was built was purchased of him,
and the governor himself was elevated to the office of pound keeper. The house occupied by one Page, near James
L. Haynes’, was “garrisoned,” that is, sticks of timber, hewn on two sides to the thickness of six inches, were
firmley driven into the ground so near together as to touch. They extended around the house at the distence of
about ten feet from it. Port holes were made through this of sufficient dimensions to allow the fire of musketry.
The condition of the highways, in the early history of the town, can hardly be imagined at the present time. For
the most part they were merely bridle paths,” winding through the woods, over one hill after another, increasing
the distance double to what it is at the present time. Wheel carriages had not then been introduced. Travelling
was performed on horseback. In order that people might not lose their direction, trees were marked on one side
of the path. A few roads, which would soon prove the destruction of one of our modern carriages, were laid out
at an early season near to the center of the town; but in that part of the town which is now Fitchburg there was
nothing of the kind till, in 1743, a committee was chosen “to lay out and mark a way to the west line of the town,
in order to answer the request of the Hon. Thomas Berry. Esq. in behalf of Ipswich Canada, (Winchendon,) and to
accommodate Dorchester Canada, (Ashburnham,) and the new towns above us.” The two most important roads, which led
from this part of the town to the center, were the one by David Page’s, (J. L. Haynes’,) and corresponding nearly
with what is now denominated the old road, and the one by David Goodridge’s, who lived in the place now occupied
by W. Bemis, near the brick factory, at South Fitchburg. What little communication there was between Lunenburg
and “the new towns above,” was principally made through the road by David Page’s, already mentioned. This road,
probably, passed the village oi Fitchburg, nearly in the same place with the present travelled way. It then wound
up the hill, by Enoch Caldwell’s, over flat rock, through the land lately owned by Sylvanus Lapham, and thence
to what was then Lunenburg west line, and into Dorchester Canada. John Scott had been for a long time desirous
of a more direct route to the center of Lunenburg; but the town would not accede to his wishes. He accordingly
procured a court’s committee, who laid the present Scott road, “to the great satisfaction of Mr. John Scott,"
as the records say. This road passed from the middle of Lunenburg by the log house where John Battles, Jr., now
lives; then by Ebenezer Bridge's, where Deacon Jaquitt now resides, and then by Scott's own house, and so cn to
the road before mentioned. This Scott road was for some years quite a celebrated thoroughfare, and used to be called
Cronm Point road. David Goodridge. at quite an early period, commenced on his farm at South Fitchburg. His house
was near to the spot now occupied by William Bemis. In the year 1745 or 6, one Amos Kimball, and his cousin Ephraim.
moved from Bradford into this town. The house occupied by Samuel Hale was built by Amos, and the house on the Stony
farm was built by Ephraim. Soon after their settlement they built a grist-mill, with one run of stones, on the
place where the stone factory now stands. The darn was only about forty feet in length, made of a log laid across
the river, having spoilings driven in above it.
For several rears previous to the incorporation of the town, sas Mr. Torrey, "the inhabitants of the westerly
part of Lunenburg began to have shrewd suspicions that they were able to walk alone - that they were sufficient
in knowledge and numbers to manage their own affairs and that it was an unnecessary burden upon them to be compelled
to travel the distance of fibe or ten miles to attend divine service, and transact the ordinary business of town
affairs. It will be seen, upon an inspection of the case, that there was a pretty good foundation for these opinions.
By an examination of the records, it will be seen that a very fair proportion of those who were selected to manage
the most important affairs of the town, was taken from among those afterwards belonging to Fitchburg. It ought,
furthermore, to he considered that a ride of ten miles then was quite a different affair from a ride of that distance
now. Of the roads at that period mention has already been made. They were but little better than cow-paths. When
this town was incorporated, there were no wheel carriages here of a higher rank than ox carts. Any vehicle of lighter
construction would have soon gone to destruction over such roads. Journeys were then made on horseback, or on foot.
A spruce young gentleman, in treating the mistress of his affections to a rile, or the sober-minded husband, in
carrying the nartner of his life to church, brings the sure-paced animal to the horse-block, and mounts, the lady
places herself on the pillion behind him. The horse starts off on a walk the greatest speed at which it would be
considered safe to drive him, through roads en rough. They thus pursue their journey, winding along up one hill
and theti another. The horse leaps over the smaller streams, for fear of wetting his feet, and wades boldly through
the larger ones, even to endangering the feet of his riders. Now the gentleman dismounts "to let down"
the bara, and then proceeds along, dodeing under the boughs, twigs, and limbs of trees. He must start very early,
or arrive at his journey's end very late. It is, therefore, not to be wondered at, that the early settlers of this
town began, so early as they did, to desire a separation from the parent stock, that they might be nearer in the
performance of their public duties, whether they were such as they owed to the community or to their Maker. The
long sought for object of the people of the westerly part of Lunenburg having been obtained, a committee, consisting
of Messrs. John Fitch, Amos Kimball, Samuel Hunt, Ephraim Whitney, and Jonathan Wood, was chosen to procure the
act of incorporation; which was obtained in Feb. 1764. At this time the whole number of inhabitants did not exceed
The following individules and there families composes the population of Fitchburg at the time it was incorporated:
The above is a southern view in the central part of Fitchburg. The village, which is large and flourishing,
lies in a narrow valley on the north eastern bank of a branch of the Nashua river. There are S mercantile and 2
book stores, a printing-office, where a newspaper is published, two large hotels, a bank, "The Fitchburg Bank,"
which was incorporated in 1832, with a capital of $100,000. This place is 24 miles from Worcester, 30 from Lowell,
and 47 from Boston. The general surface of the town is extremely uneven, consisting almost entirely of hills, some
of which are very abrupt, and of considerable magnitude. Rollstone, a hill lying immediately south west of tile
village, rises abruptly 300 feet above the bed of the stream which flows at its base: and there are other summits
which rise still higher. The soil when properly subdued produces heavy crops, and abounds with excellent pasturage
lands. Population, 2,662. There are 5 churches, 2 Congregational, (1 of which is Unitarian,) 2 Baptist, and 1 Methodist.
In 1837, there were 4 cotton mills, 3,880 spindles: 699,700 yards of cotton goods were manufactured; value, $62,700;
males employed, 27; females, 62; there were 3 woollen mills, 10 sets of machinery; 294,500 yards of cloth were
manufactured; value, $274,500; males employed, 88, females, 64. Two paper mills; 175 tons of stock were manufactured;
value of paper, $20,000; two scythe manufactories; 31,200 scythes were manufactured; value, $23,000.
The first church in Fitchburg was formed in 1764, and Rev. John Payson was ordained pastor. Rev. Samuel Worcester,
his successor, was ordained in 1797, and continued here about five years, when he resigned, and was installed pastor
of a church in Salem. Dr. Worcester entered zealously into the cause of missions. He died at Brainerd, a missionary
station among the Cherokees, June 7th, 1821. The successor of Dr. Worcester was Rev. Titus T. Barton. who was installed
pastor in 1804; he was succeeded by Rev. William Bascom, in 1805. Rev. William Eaton, the next minister, was ordained
in 1815. Rev. Rufus A. Putnam, the successor of Mr. Eaton, was ordained in 1824, and was succeeded by Rev. John
A. Albro, who was installed in 1832. Rev. Joshua Emery, the next pastor, was ordained in 1835. Rev. Calvin Lincoln
was ordained pastor of the Second Society in 1824. The Village Baptist society was formed in 1831; their meeting
house was built in 1833. Rev. Appleton Morse, Rev. John W. McDonald, and Rev. O. L. Lovell, have been the ministers
of this society. The Methodist society was formed in 1834; Rev. Joel Knight was their first minister. "The
first Baptist society of Fitchburg and Ashby" was incorporated in 1810. They have a kind of meeting-house
in the north part of the town.
Historical Collections Relateing to the
History and Antiquities of
Every town in Massachusetts with
By John Warner Barber.
Published by Warren Lazell.