Historical Sketch of Worcester, MA
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WORCESTER was incorporated in 1684, but in consequence of Indian hostilities the first town meeting was not held till 1722. This part of the country was called by the Indians Quinsigamond, that being the name of a large pond on the eastern border of the town. The central situation of this town both in regard to the county and state, the fertility of its soil and that of the surrounding country, and the industry, intelligence, and wealth of the inhabitants, justly entitle it to the honor of being called the chief town of the “Heart of the Commonwealth.”

In October, 1668, a township of land of rather more than eight miles square, bounded easterly by Quinsigamond pond, was granted by the general court to Daniel Gookin, Daniel Henchman, Thomas Prentice, and their associates. On account of the Indian war prevailing about this period, the immediate settlement of the place was prevented. In 1685, the Indians appearing friendly, the persons named above, together with John Wing, George Danson, Peter Goulding, Dickery Sargeant, Isaac Bull, and Jacob Leon and, ventured to begin the plantation. It appears, however, that there were six or seven houses erected here in 1675, but, on account of King Philip’s war, which then raged, they were soon deserted.

The natives who inhabited Quinsigamond were of the Nipmuc tribe. The principal settlement of these Indians in Worcester was on a hill in the south part of the town, extending into Ward, called by them Pakachoag, now known as Bogachoag. Wigwam hill, on the eastern shore of Quinsigamond, was probably a favorite residence for them, on account of the Ash and wild game in the vicinity. These Indians were visited by Mr. Elliot, the “Indian apostle,” and Mr. Gookin, in 1674; at this time they had made considerable advances in. civilization, and some of them professed Christianity. In 1675, Pakachoag was visited by King Philip, who by his artifices and threats induced most of the Indians to take up arms against the whites.

After the return of the whites to Worcester in 1685, the settlement of the place went on prosperously till 1701, when the Indians again began to attack the frontier towns, and Worcester was again depopulated. After all the other planters had fled., Dickery Sargeant, with his family, determined to remain and brave the dangers from the Indian foe. He remained unmolested till 1703 or 1704. The following particulars of his death are preserved. When the Indians surrounded his house, Sargeant seized his gun to defend himself; as he was retreating to the stair way, he was shot down by the savages. Upon this they rushed into the house and completed the work of death by their tomahawks, and tore off his scalp. They seized his wife and ftve children, and commenced a rapid retreat westward. Mrs. Sargeant, overcome with grief and fatigue, inpeded their progress. As they were ascending the Tataesset or Tatnick hills, a chief stepped out of the file, and, while pretending to be looking for game, came up behind Mrs. Sargeant in an unsuspected moment, and deprived his sinking captive of life at a single blow. The children were carried into Canada, where they remained a long time before they were restored to their friends. Two of the children, Daniel and Mary, preferred remaining with their captors, and adopted the habits and manners of the Indians. In 1709, Elisha Ward, who was sent on an express from Marlborough to Hadley, having stopped to examine his deserted farm, was killed.

Peace being concluded with the Indians, Mr. Jonas Rice, with his family, on the 21st of October, 1713, moved into Worcester, and were the only inhabitants of the town until the spring of 1715. The first white male child born in Worcester was Adonijah Rice, who was born Nov. 7, 1714. His father built his house on Sagatabscot hill, and his farm included some of the lands once cultivated by Sargeant. In 1715, a considerable number of persons joined the settlement; in 1718 their number was augmented by emigrants from Jreland, principally of Scotch descent. The first labor of the in habitants was to erect a garrison house, on the west side of the Leicester road, not far from the old south church. Another log fortress was built near the head of the street called Columbian avenue; a third was on the Connecticut road, north of Lincoln square. A regular block house was placed north of Adams square, where a long iron cannon was afterwards mounted to give alarm of coming danger. During the French war, this gun was removed to the green near the meeting house. On the commencement of the Revolution, it was posted west of the court house. On the news of the march of the British to Lexington, its voice aroused the people to arms. Meetings for religious worship were first held at the house of Gershom Rice. A building was soon erected for religious worship on Green street, north of the union of Franklin street, where the inhabitants met. until a spacious meeting house was reared on the site of the old south church, in 1719. According to the evidence furnished by the proprietary records, there were in Worcester, in 1718, fifty eight dwelling houses. "Tradition says they were humble edifices, principally of logs, one story high, with ample stone chimneys. Some were furnished with windows of diamond glass, where the resources of the proprietor afforded the means for procuring such luxury; the light was admitted an many through the dim transparency of oiled paper."

Rev. Andrew Gardner, the first minister, was ordained in 1719. He was succeeded by Rev. Isaac Burr, in 1725. The next pastor was Rev. Thaddeus Maccarty, who was installed in 1747. Rev. Samuel Austin, D. D., his successor, was installed in 1790. Rev. Charles A. Goodrich, the next minister, was settled in 1816, and was succeeded in 1821 by Rev. Aretius B. Hull. Mr. Hull was succeeded by Rev. Rodney A. Miller, in 1827. Rev, Aaron Bancroft, D. D., was ordained pastor of the Second church in 1786. He was born in 1755, and is the oldest clergyman in the county. Rev. Alonzo Hill was ordained colleague pastor in 1827. Rev. Loammi I. Hoadley was ordained pastor of the Calvinist church in 1823. He was succeeded by Rev. John S. C. Abbott in 1830, and by Rev. David Peabody in 1835. Rev. Jona E. Woodbridge was installed pastor of the Union church in 1836. The first Baptist society was formed in 1812. Elder William Bentley was the first minister. He was succeeded by Rev. Jonathan Going in 1815. The next pastor, Rev. Frederick A. Willard, was settled in 1832. The Catholic society was formed in 1834, the Methodist Episcopal in 1834, the Protestant Episcopal in 1835, and the Tnion society in 1836.

Worcester is the shire town of the county, being situated 40 miles westward from Boston. 40 N. N. W. from Providence, about 50 from Northampton, 60 miles E. N. E. from Hartford, and 394 from Washington. Latitude 42° 16' 9" W., longitude from London 71° 49'. Tile township is about six miles square. The surface is undulating, swelling into hills of moderate acclivity, gentle slopes, and rounded outlines. The soil is fertile, and is in a high state of cultivation, affording many beautiful prospects on which the eye delights to linger. The population of the town is 7,117. The principal village of Worcester is built chiefly upon one street, extending a mile from north to south, and is situated in a valley opening to the south, and is surrounded by hills of moderate elevation on almost every side. It is one of the finest and most considerable inland villages in the New England states.

The above is a view of the north entrance to the village of Worcester, taken from the old Boston road. The first building seen in the center is the court house. The next is the Unitarian church, and the spire on the left is that of the Central church. The buildding on an elevation on the right is the mansion house of Stephen Salisbury, Esq. The large warehouses and stores, crowded with every variety of goods, the superior style and appearance of the public and private buildings, the passing of travellers and others in the streets, give this place the appearance and activity of a city. There are in the limits of the village 7 houses for public worship, 4 Congregational, (one of which is Unitarian,) 1 Baptist, 1 Catholic, and 1 Methodist. There are 4 banks. the Worcester, the Central, the Quinsigamond, arid Citizens' Banks, whose united capitals amount to $900,000. There are 2 Mutual Fire Insurance Companies; a Lyceum, formed Nov., 4th, 1829, 5 printing offices, from which are issued 7 newspapers. Among the public buildings are a Court House, the County House ol Correction, the Hall of the Antiquarian Society, and the State Lunatic Hospital It may be truly stated that few towns in this country "exhibit so uniform an appearance of taste, or contain so great a proportion of good buildings, and so small a proportion of those that are indifferent, as Worcester."

The following is a representation of the Hall of the American Antiquarian Society at Worcester. The central part of the building was erected in 1819 and 1820, and dedicated on the 24th of August of the latter year. This part of the building is 46 feet long, and 36 wide. Wings were extended in 1832, each 28 feet long and 21 wide. The whole building is of brick. The central part, and the land on which the building stands, is the donation of the late Isaiah Thomas, LL. D. The society was organized in 1812, and its officers annually chosen on its anniversary meeting, on the 23d of October, the day on which Columbus discovered America. The object of this institution is the collection and preservation of American antiquities. It was also the intention of Mr. Thomas, the munificent patron of the society, that its library should embrace as perfect a collection of American literature as possible. To assist in attaining this object, he presented the society between four and five thousand volumes of books, among which are many valuable works illustrating the history of the country, as well as many rare and interesting specimens of early printing. The library of the society now contains about 12,000 volumes, and is increasing. Visiters can have easy access to it, and it is open to those who have occasion to use the books. As it is national in its objects, this institution bids fair to have the largest, as well as the most valuable, collection of books and manuscripts in this country.

Isiah Thomas, the gentleman to whom this institution is so deeply indebted, was born in Boston. January 19th, 1749. At the age of less than six years he was bound apprentice to a Mr. Fowle, who carried on the printing business in a small way in Boston. Having purchased the printing materials of Mr. Fowle, Mr. Thomas issued a newspaper on March 7th, 1771, called the "Massachusetts Spy." The revolutionary contest was then impending. and Mr. Thomas being a warm friend of American freedom, his paper became the favorite champion of the rights of the people. Such a course rendered Mr. Thomas obnoxious to the royal officers of the government. He was put on the list of the proscribed, and was threatened with personal violence. Having been solicited by the whigs of Worcester to establish a newspaper in that place, he privately had his types and press conveyed thither, and the Spy made its appearance in this place May 3, 1775, after a suspension of three weeks. After the revolutionary war, Mr. Thomas, uniting the employments of printer, publisher, and bookseller, the manufacture of paper and binding, he was able to accomplish a great amount of business. At one period he had under his personal direction, and that of his partners, sixteen presses in constant motion. In 1802 Mr. Thomas relinquished a prosperous business to his son. He, however, did not remain idle. In 1810, his

History of Printing," in two octavo volumes, was published, evincing great research and fideiity of narrative, and is a standard work of the kind, In 1814 he received the honorary degree of Master of Arts from Dartmouth college that of Doctor of Laws from Alleghany college, in 1818. He was president of the Antiquarian Society from its foundation until his decease, April 4, 1831, at the age of 82 years.

LUNATIC HOSPITAL. "This monument of the charity of the state is situated on a beautiful eminence eastward of the town. The buildings of the west front, erected in 1831, consist of a center, 76 feet long, 40 feet wide, and four stories high, projecting 22 feet forward of the wings, which extend to the north and south ninety feet each on the front and 100 feet in the rear, are 36 feet wide, and three stones high. This arrangement was adopted so as to secure free communication with the central structure, occupied by the superintendent, steward, attendants, and domestics, and to permit the ventilation and lighting of the long halls reaching through the wings. The ranges of apartments for the insane, 8 feet by 10, have each a window, with the upper sash of cast iron and lower sash of wood, both glazed; on the exterior of the wooden sash is a false sash of iron, corresponding in its appearance and dimensions, hut firmly set into the frame, giving the reality of a grate without its gloomy aspect. In 1835, a building 134 feet in length and 34 feet in width was attached to the southern extremity of the hospital, of equal height, and extending eastward at right angles with the front; in 1836, another edifice of the same magnitude was placed at the north end. Three sides of a great square are now enclosed by these immense structures of brick. Provision is made for the diffusion of heat, the circulation of air, the supply of water; and the most judicious regulations promote the health and comfort of the inmates.

"In this hospital, those are placed under restraint by public authority who are so furiously mad that their liberty would endanger the safety of the community. To feel its value, one must have heard the chained maniacs howling in the dungeons of the common gaois, in frantic excitement and hopeless misery, and seen the quiet of the great establishment where the insane receive every alleviation of their mental diseases which fit accommodations, remedial treatment, and high skill can bestow. The institution has been under the superintendence of Dr. Samuel B. Woodward since its commencement. Its statistics are fully detailed in the reports annually made by the trustees to the legislature."

A number of the streams which form the head waters of Blackstone river meet in this town, and furnish a considerable water power. The Blackstone Canal extends from Worcester to Providence, a distance of about 45 miles. It is 18 feet wide at the bottom, 36 at the top of the banks. It is built alternately on both sides of the Blackstone river, and passes nearly all the great manufacturing establishments in the valley of the Blackstone. The first boat which passed through the whole extent arrived at the upper basin Oct. 7, 1828. The expense of the work was about 750,000 dollars; of this amount more than half a million of dollars was paid by the citizens of Rhode Island. The canal has been more useful to the public than to the owners; the amount of transportation, however, has increased.

"The BOSTON AND WORCESTER RAILROAD was incorporated June 23, 1831. The road, extending 44 miles eastward, is laid with a single track of edge rails, on cast iron chairs, resting on wooden sleepers, bedded in trenches filled with stones. The cost of construction has been $1,500,000, including land, labor, cars, engines, and buildings passenger cars go in each direction three times daily during the warm months, and. twice in the cold season, except on Sundays. The time is from 2½ to 3 hours, including stops at ten places; the fare has been $1.50, but in the autumn of 1836 was raised to $2. The freight of merchandise from Boston to Worcester, by the ton, is $3.50; from Worcester to Boston, $3. A branch railroad is soon to be laid to Millbury. About a mile from the depot on Main street, the road passes through a deep cutting of the slate rock, about 30 feet in its greatest depth, and extending about 30 rods. The strata are almost perpendicular, and were removed from their beds by a laborious process of blasting."

"The NORWICH AND WORCESTER RAILROAD COMPANY was incorporated March 26, 1833. A charter had been previously obtained in Connecticut, for the route within her jurisdiction, at the May session, 1832. By an act of this commonwealth, April 10, and. of that state, May, 1836, the two companies were united. From Norwich to Worcester is 58 miles; to Boston, 102. The work of construction is now advancing. The capital stock is $1,500,000."

"The WESTERN RAILROAD CORPORATION was established March 15, 1833, for the purpose of building a railroad from the western termination of the Boston and Worcester railroad to Connecticut river in Springfield, and thence across the stream to the western boundary of the state, where it will connect with railroads in progress, one to Albany, one to Troy, and one to Hudson. The stock of $3,000,000 has been subscribed, two thirds by individuals, and one third by the state, and a portion of the road located."

During the first movements of the Revolution, Worcester was the central point whence the animating influences in favor of American freedom were diffused over the surrounding country. In March, 1775, the company of minute men in this place were directed to train half a day in each week. This company had met almost daily for months, and, under the instruction of Capt. Bigelow, they attained great proficiency in military science.

"Their services were soon to be required for the defence of the country. Before noon on the 19th of April, an express came to the town, shouting, as he passed through the street at full speed, 'To arms! to arms! the war is begun!' His white horse, bloody with spurring and dripping with sweat, fell exhausted by the church. Another was instantly procured, and the tidings went on. The passage of the messenger of war, mounted on his white steed, and gathering the population to battle, made vivid impression on memory. The tradition of his appearance is preserved in many of our villages. In the animated description of the aged, it seems like the representation of death on the pale horse careering through the land with his terrific summons to the grave. The bell rang out the alarm, cannon were fired, and messengers sent to every part of the town to collect the soldiery. As the news spread, the implements of husbandry were thrown by in the field, and the citizens left their homes with no longer delay than to seize their arms. In a short time, the minute men were paraded on the green, under Capt. Timothy Bigelow; after fervent prayer by the Rev. Mr. Maccarty, they took up the line of march. They were soon followed by as many of the train bands as could be gathered, under Capt. Benjamin Flagg. On that day, 110 men marched from the town of Worcester for Concord. Intelligence of the retreat of the enemy met them after they advanced, and they turned towards Boston. When Capt. Bigelow reached the ancient Howe tavern, in Sudbury, he halted to rest his men. Capt. Benjamin Flagg, who had commenced his march an hour or two later, came up, and insisting on pushing forward without loss of time, both oth.cers moved on to Cambridge."

On Saturday, July 14, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was received at Worcester. It was first publicly read by Isaiah Thomas from the porch of the old south meeting house to the assembled crowd. On Sunday, after divine service, it was read in the church. On the Monday following, the event which separated the colonies from the mother country was celebrated with formal solemnities.

The following occurrences took place in Worcester during the insurrectionary period called "Shays' Rebellion." The following account is taken from the History of Worcester, by William Lincoln, Esq., an octavo volume containing 384 pages, published at Worcester, in 1837, by Messrs. Moses D. Philips & Co. This work is one of great research, is most ably written, and full of interesting details, and the author of this work is deeply indebted to it for the foregoing account of Worcester.

"Although warning of danger had been given, confiding in the loyalty of the people, their love of order, and respect for the laws, the officers of government had made no preparations to support the court, to be held in Worcester, in September, 1786. On Monday night, of the first week in that month, a body of eighty armed men, under Capt. Adam Wheeler of Hubbardston, entered the town, and took possession of the court house. Early the next morning, their numbers were augmented to nearly one hundred, and as many more collected without fire arms. The judges of the common pleas had assembled at the house of the Hon. Joseph Allen. At the usual hour, with the justices of the sessions and the members of the bar, attended by the clerk and sheriff, they moved towards the court house. Chief Justice Artemas Ward, a general of the Revolution, united intrepid firmness with prudent moderation. His resolute and manly bear. ing on that day of thificulty and embarrassment sustained the dignity of the office he bore, and commanded the respect even of his opponents. On him devolved the responsibility of an occasion affecting deeply the future peace of the community; and it was supported well and ably.

"On the verge of the crowd thronging the hill, a sentinel was pacing on his round, who challenged the procession as it approached his post. Gen. Ward sternly ordered the soldier, formerly a subaltern of his own particular regiment, to recover his levelled musket. The man, awed by the voice he had been accustomed to obey, instantly complied, and presented his piece in military salute to his old commander. The court, having received the honors of war from him who was planted to oppose their advance, Went on. The muitituL, receding to the right and left, made way in sullen silence, till the judicial officers reached the court house. On the steps was stationed a file of men with fixed bayonets on the front stood Captain Wheeler. with his drawn sword. The crier was directed to open the doors, and permitted to throw them back, displaying a party of infantry with their guna levelled, as if ready to fire. Judge Ward then advanced, and the bayonets were turned against his breast. He demanded. repeatedly, who commanded the people there; by what authority, and for what purpose, they had met in hostile array. Wheeler at length replied. After diaclaiming the rank of leader, he stated, that they had come to relieve the distresses of the country, by preventing the sittings of courts until they could obtain redress of grievances. The chief justice answered, that he would satisfy them their complaints were without just foundation. He was told by Capt. Smith of Barre, that any communication he had to make must be reduced to writing. Judge Ward indignantly refused to do this; he said he 'did not value their bayonets; they might plunge them to his heart; but while that heart heat he would do his duty: when opposed to it. his life was of little consequence: if they wouid take away their bayonets and give him some position where he could he heard by his fellowcitizens, and not by the leaders alone who had deceived and deluded them, he would speak, but not otherwise.' The insurgent officers, fearful of the effect of his determined manner on the minds of their followers, interrupted. They did not come there, they said, to listen to long speeches, but to resist oppression: they had the power to compel submission; and they demanded an adjournment without day. Judge Ward peremptorily refused to answer any proposition, unless it was accompanied by the name of him by whom it was made. They then desired him to fall back; the drum was beat, and the guard ordered to charge. The soldiers advanced, until the points of their bayonets pressed hard upon the breast of the chief justice, who stood as immovable as a statue, without stirring a limb or yielding an inch. although the steel in the bands of desperate men penetrated his dress. Struck with admiration by his intrepidity, and shrinking from the sacrifice of life, the guns were removed, and Judge Ward, ascending the steps, addressed the assembly. In a style of clear and forcible argument, he examined their supposed grievances; exposed their fallacy; explained the dangerous tendency of their rash measures; admonished them that they were placing in peril the liberty acquired by the efforts and sufferings of years, plunging the country in civU war, and involving themselves and their families in misery: that the measures they had taken must defeat their own wishes; far the government would never yield that to force, which would be readily accorded to re pectful representations: and warned them that the majesty of the laws would be vindicated, and their resistance of its power avenged. He spoke nearly two hours, not without frequent interruption. But admonition and argument were unavailing: the insurgents declared they would maintain their ground until satisfaction was obtained. Judge Ward, addressing himself to Wheeler, advised him to suffer the troops to disperse: 'they were waging war, which was treason, and its end would be.' he added, after a momentary pause, 'the gallows.' The judges then retired unmolested, through armed files. Soon after the court was opened at the United States Arms Tavern, and immediately adjourned to the next day."


In 1837, there were 3 cotton mills; 3,424 spindles; 546,521 yards of cotton goods were manufactured; value, $62,182; males employed, 34; females, 47; there were 8 woollen mills; 16 sets of machinery; 326,790 yards of cloth manufactured; value, $360,352; males employed, 112; females, 113; there were 18,697 pairs of boots and 27,075 pairs of shoes manufactured; value, $59,020 34; males employed, 89; females, 33. Nine manufactories of woollen machinery; value of machinery manufactured, $240,000; hands employed, 160. Four hat manufactories; 8,300 hats manufactured; value, $33,200. Two paper mills; value of paper manufactured, $54,815. One air and cupola furnace; 300 tons of castings made; value, $30,000. Wire manufactory value of wire, $45,000; straw bonnets manufactured, 12,500; value, $25,000. Two coach and chaise manufactories; value of coaches and chaises, $60,000; hands em ployed, forty.


FROM:
Historical Collections Relateing to the
History and Antiquities of
Every town in Massachusetts with
Geographical Descriptions.
By John Warner Barber.
Worchester
Published by Warren Lazell.
1848

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