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THIS township was granted to certain persons in 1717, most of whom belonged to Marlborough, and was originally
larger than at present. It began to he settled the same year by a few people from Marlborough; but the settlement
did not progress as rapidly as some other towns in its vicinity. Indeed, at that time people, not deeming it a
good tract of land, passed through and took up their residence elsewhere. Such progress was, however, made, in
the course of ten years, that application was made to the general court to be invested with full town privileges.
This petition was granted, and the town incorporated in 1727. The town originally included most of what is now
Boylston, most of West Boylston, and a portion of Sterling, Westborough, and Grafton. It is a remarkable fact that
the name of Indian, as is stated, does not occur on the records of the town. They had, some years before, retired
to a distance too great to alarm the first settlers.
The first church was gathered in this town on the 4th of December, 1723. Rev. Job Cashing was settled as their
pastor on the same occasion. He died in 1760. and was succeeded by Rev. Joseph Sumner, D. D., who was ordained
in 1762. The next minister, Rev. Samuel B. Ingersoll, was settled in 1820 and died the same year. He was succeeded,
in 1821, by Rev. Edwards Whipple. Rev. George Allen, the next pastor, was settled in 1823. The first meeting-house
was erected in 1721. The cost of the building was defrayed by a tax of £5 on each proprietor, which amounted
to the sum £210. After a lapse of about 40 years, the society voted, in October, 1764, to build a new meeting
house, 60 feet in length and 45 in width. The Baptist society in this town was formed in 1812, and. their meeting-house
built in 1813, at the cost of about $450. Mr. Elias McGregory was their first settled minister, ordained June 17,
1818. The Restoration society was formed April, 1820, and was incorporated in 1824.
The following is a southern view of the Congregational church, which, with the principal part of the village, stands
on a commanding elevation. Distance, 6 miles from Worcester, and 36 from Boston. Population, 1,507. This is principally
an agricultural town. In 1837 there were 93,101 pairs of shoes manufactured; value, $88,993; males employed, 140;
females, 109; value of clothing manufactured, $60,000.
This town presents to the eye an uneven surface, variegated with hills and valleys. A range of highland, extending
from north to south, passes through the middle of the town. The numerous swells and tracts of rolling land, which
are most of them in good cultivation, are to be seen in all directions from the middle of the town, and give a
pleasing variety to the landscape. The town is well watered by springs and rivulets, though there are no large
rivers in the town. Long pond, called by the natives Quinsigamond,' lying in this town by the line of Worcester,
is a beautiful piece of water. It lies in the form of a crescent, nearly four miles long as it runs, and from 100
rods to near a mile in width. The water is, in general, of considerable depth; in some places it has been found
to be 90 feet deep. There are twelve islands in this pond, of various sizes. Stratton's Island, which contains
150 acres under cultivation. has sevcral families living upon it. Some of the other islands are more or less cultivated.
This pond is the principal feeder of Blackstone canal. In the south-west part of the town is a large meadow. which
contains excellent peat.
The following account of a fire which took place in the infancy of the settlement is from the Boston News Letter
of Aug. 15, 1723:
" Boston., August 15th, 1723.
"An exact account of the awful burning of Capt. John Keyes's house, with five persons in it, at Shrewsbury,
in the night between the 7th and 8th of this inst.. taken from a letter of the Rev. Mr. Breck of Marlborough, and
from the mouth of Mr. Ebenezer Bragg of the same. formerly of Ipswich, the only person of those who lodged in the
house who, by a distinguishing providence, escaped the flames.
"Capt. Keyes was building an house about nine or ten feet off his old one. It was almost finished. And Mr.
Bragg aforesaid, the carpenter, with his brother Abiel, of 17 years of age, and William Oaks of 18, his apprentices.
were working about it. Capt. Keyes with his wile and four daughters, lodged in the old one ; and the three carpenters,
with three Sons of the Captain's, viz. Solomon of twenty, John of thirteen, and Stephen of six years of age, lay
in the new. On the Wednesday night, going to bed, they took a more than ordinary care of the fire, being excited
thereto by the saying of one, He would not have the house burnt for an hundred pounds; and the reply of another,
He would not for two hundred. Upon which, they carefully raked away the chips lying near it, and stayed till the
rest were almost burnt out; and then they went all six together into three beds in one of the chambers; and were
very cheerly and merry at their going to bed, which was about ten of the clock.
"But about midnight Mr. Bragg was awaked with a notion of the house being on fire, and. a multitude calling
to quench it; with which he got up, saw nothing, heard no voice, but could hardly fetch any breath, through the
stifling smoke; concluded the house was on fire, perceived somebody stirring, against whom he hit two or three
times in the dark: And. not being able to speak, or to breathe any longer, and striking his forehead against the
chimney, be thought of the window and happily found it. When he gained it, he tarried a minute, holding it fast
with one hand, and reaching out the other, in hopes of meeting with some or other to save them, till the smoke
and fire came so thick and scorching upon him, he could endure no longer; and hearing no noise in the chamber,
only, as he thought, a faint groan or two, he was forced to jump out, and, the window being small, head foremost;
though he supposes, by God's good providence, he turned before he came to the ground. As Mr. Bragg was just got
up again, Capt. Keyes, being awaked in the old house, was coming to this side of the new. and met him. But the
flame immediately burst out of the windows, and the house was quickly all on a light fire No noise was heard of
the other five who perished and it is very questionable whether more than one of them moved out of their beds.
The old house was also burnt, and almost every thing in it; but the people were saved, through the great goodness
of God. But a most dreadful sight it was in the morning, to see the 5 bodies frying in the fire, among the timbers
fallen down in the cellar, till towards the evening, when the few almost consumed fragments, without heads or limbs,
were gathered, put into one coffin, and buried. Psalm lxvi. 3, Say unto God, How terrible an thou in thy works!
James iv. 15th, Ye know not what shall be on the morrow. Luke xii. 40th, Be ye therefore ready." Thus far
"The Capt. Keyes above named was afterwards the well known and much esteemed Major John Keyes, who died in
Shrewsbury, not many years since, in a-very advanced age. The new house which was burnt stood on the great road,
about three quarters of a mile eastward from the present meeting.house; and upon the same spot a large dwelling-house
The following is the inscription on the monument of Gen. Ward, in the grave yard back of the church, represented
in the engraving:
Sacred to the memory of the Honorable Atremas Ward, Esqr., who was born in Shrewsbury, Nov. 1727, graduated at
Harvard College 1748. Being furnished with natural and acquired abilities for public and important trusts, in 1751
he was commissioned a Justice of the Peace; in 1762 he was appointed a Justice of the Court of Common Pleas in
this county; in 1776 was made presidet of the said court, His firm attachment to the rights of man induced him
to take an active pert in the cause of America and when the controversy with Great Britain was about to be decided
by the sword, he consented to take the command of the American army, and continued in command during a most critical
period of tje contest. In 1779 he was appointed a member of Congress, amd by the free suffrages of his fellow citizens.
was repeatedly elected a member under the Federal Governmant, and continued in elevated public stations until ago
and bodily infirmity constrined him to retire. Such was the firmness of his mind that he was swayed neither by
the applause or censures of man, but appeared ever to act under a sense of duly and accountability to God. In every
public station he acquitted himself with dignity, ability, and integrity, and his memory will long be precious
with the friends of liberty and religion. He died Oct. 28, 1809, in the 73d year of his age.
Historical Collections Relateing to the
History and Antiquities of
Every town in Massachusetts with
By John Warner Barber.
Published by Warren Lazell.