Seth Chandler.

History of the town of Shirley, Massachusetts, from its early settlement to A.D. 1882 online

. (page 1 of 69)
Online LibrarySeth ChandlerHistory of the town of Shirley, Massachusetts, from its early settlement to A.D. 1882 → online text (page 1 of 69)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook



M WW ^J^. . ^ ^^K^


This volume is damaged.


^^>^Mvr^..L.^ ^.-^

• Open and close carefully.

• Keep loose pages in order.

• Return to an attendant,
instead of a bookdrop.

■ r^^i^ r^ ^ f^, H W» w WW ^^^- ^ s< w J

of M4f J,



^ ■ f^^'










A. D. 1882.






Press of Bi.ANCiiAKiJ & Bkow.n, Fitfhliuig, Mass.






'^l'il» "^oEtntic-






Introduction 9-14



Situation and Extent. Boundaries. Origin. Petition for a separation
from Groton. Incorporation. Name. Additions of Territory. First
Town-Meeting 17-25

Soil and Productions. Roads. Rivers and Bridges 25-35


Mills. Manufactories and Manufactures 35~64

Schools. Parker School Fund. Libraries and College Graduates. . . 65-98


Burying-Ground. Training-Field. New Cemetery. Hearses. Town
Tombs. Record of Deaths 99-113


War of the Revolution and its precursors. Shays' Rebellion. Wars

of 1812, and of the Southern Rebellion 1 13-140


Almshouse. New County. Post-Offices. Stores. Railroads. Physi-
cians 141-158


Town Hall. Legacy of Hon. James. P. Whitney. Donation of Thomas
and George A. Whitney. Laying the Corner-Stone. Proceedings and
Report of Building Committee. Dedication of the Hall. Village
Hall. Liberality of its owner, etc 15S-187


Town Officers. Clerks. Selectmen. Treasurers. Representatives.

Senators. Votes for Governor, etc., etc. ' 187-198



Early Ecclesiastical Movements. First Meeting- House. Candidates
for the Ministry. Settlement of Mr. Whitney. Formation of a
Church. Church Covenants 201-219

Second Meeting-House. Events of Mr. Whitney's Ministry. Enlarge-
ment of Meeting-House. Settlement of a Colleague 219-237

Ministry and Dismission of Mr. Tolman. Death and Character of

Mr. Whitney 237-245


Shaker Society. Brief Sketch of the Origin, Progress and Faith of
the Shakers as a Sect. History of the Community in Shirley. . 245-276

Universalist Society. Rise of Universalism. Formation of a Society.
Meeting- Houses. Ministers. Church and Sunday-School. Ladies'
Aid Society 277-288

First Congregationalist Society. Formation of the First Parish.
Engagement of Mr. Chandler. His Settlement. Change of Hymn-
Book. New Bell. Sunday- School. Ladies' Benevolent Society.
Alteration of the Meeting-House. Legacy of Thomas Whitney, Esq.
Legacy of Hon. James P. Whitney. Church Organ. Removal of the
Meeting-House. Other alterations. Benefactions to the Society.
Library, etc 289-310


Orthodox Society. Church Organization. Meeting- Houses. Ministers.

Miss Jenny Little. Benefactions. Sunday-School, etc 311-327

Baptist Church. Organization. Chapel. Ministers. Too many
churches for the population. Conclusion of Ecclesiastical History.
Moral reflections 328-335


Genealogical Register 337-693

Appendix 695-723

Addendum 723

Index of Subjects — Parts I. and II 725

Index of Names — Parts I. and II 729

Index of Names to Part III 731



Rev. Seth Chandler, facing title

rufus longley, m. d., 97

Augustus G. Parker, M. D., 153

Rev. Phinehas Whitney, 224

Capt. Zenas Brown, 362

Hon. Samuel Egerton, 402

Suel Hazen, 447

Thomas H. Clark, 448

Samuel Hazen, 449

Sylvanus Holden, lisQ., 463

Dea. Edmund Holden, 476

Oliver La wton, 498

Israel Longley, Esq., 525

Artemas Longley, 546

Samuel Putnam, Esq., 549

Asa Longley, 550

Mrs. Lucy H. Goodrich, 551

Mrs. Samuel Putnam, 552

Hale W. Page, Esq., 570

Mrs. Bathsheba Egerton, 643

Mrs. Harriet Walker Garfield, 650

Elisha Garfield, Esq., 651


Stable and Office of George Davis, Esq., 40

Fredonia Mill, 49

Phcenix Mill, 50

Residence of Charles A. Edgarton, 64

Entrance to the New Cemetery, 109

Residence and Store of Samuel Longley, Esq., .... 147

Town Hall 176

Shaker Village, — Church Family 245

Universalist Church, 282

First Congregational Church 304

Residence of Rev. Seth Chandler, 308

Residence of Thomas L. Hazen, 450

Residence of Joseph Hazen, 451

Residence of Mrs. Sylvanus Holden, 464

Residence of the late S. M. Longley, 532

Farm Residence of Samuel Longley, Es(j., 547

The Whitney Residence, 668


"Of all the affections of man, those that connect him
with ancestry are among the most natural and generous.
They enlarge the sphere of his interests ; multiply his
motives to virtue ; and give intensity to his sense of duty
to generations to come, by the perception of obligation to
those that are past. In whatever mode of existence man
finds himself, be it savage or civilized, he perceives that
he is indebted for the far greater part of his possessions
and enjoyments, to events over wiiich he had no control ;
to individuals whose names, perhaps, never reached his
ear ; to sacrifices in which he never shared ; and to suffer-
ings, awakening in his bosom few and very transient

To make a compilation of local annals is a humble
employment ; to justly review the occurrences and customs
of other times is a difficult task ; and yet it is the way by^
which to connect the present with the past, so as to give
the existing actor an opportunity to understand his obliga-
tions to those who shall come after him, by his indebted-
ness to those who have gone before him.

Such a review, too, is calculated to awaken gratitude,
by impressing the mind with the progress — in the arts and
comforts of life — which the advancing ages of civilization

*Quincy's Boston Centennial Address.


have made, and of which every new generation becomes
the inheritor.

Minute local events — which are not of sufficient im-
portance to be noticed by the general historian — are the
facts upon which general history must essentially depend ;
as one has said, "they are the mass of seeds from which
the spirit of his narrative should be laboriously distilled."
Besides, it is a successful way of perpetuating the worthy
deeds of men who, in every town and small community,
have been distinguished for their usefulness, enterprise
and valor, yet have not been sufficiently noted to obtain a
place in more extended histories.

The lives of useful and patriotic men are none the
less valuable, for the comparatively humble walk which
they have pursued on earth ; for it is the deep and in-
creasing respect which crowns their memories that is
silently and surely inspiring the masses with good pur-
poses, awakening their energy, and exciting them to
generous and worthy deeds. The events of a man's life,
who has risen to any degree of eminence by the force of
his own genius and enterprise, are always interesting and
instructive, because the}' serve as a light and guide to
others whose beginnings may be equally unpropitious.
Daniel Webster has said, that "nobler records of patriot-
ism exist nowhere, — nowhere can there be found higher
proofs of the spirit that was ready to hazard all, to pledge
all, to sacritice all, in the cause of their country, — than in
the New-England towns."

Such are some of the purposes which town histories
are designed to secure ; and, hence, they have been loudly
demanded and largely multiplied within the last few
3'ears. And, humble and unpretentious as their province
is, they should not be slightly regarded, so important are
the advantages to be derived from them. It is not, how-
ever, to be denied that great difficulties are necessarily
encountered in the preparation of these histories. Many
of the earlier town records are so imperfect and illegible
that they rather perplex than enlighten the understandings


of those who consuh them. Tradition is often found too
vague and uncertain for confident reliance, and the
threads by which the lab3a"inth of events may be traced
are often broken, or irrecoverably lost. And, owing to
the necessarily limited circulation of works of this char-
acter, the (Compiler must look for his reward m the
reflection that he is performing an act of justice to past
generations, and one of usefulness to those which are to

Dr. Johnson has said that "incident is the life of biog-
raphy ;" it is no less the life of history. There is, how-
ever, rarely any very striking incident connected with our
town histories. The course of New Englanders has been
generally even, quiet, unambitious — their progress gradual
and certain. The perils attending the colonization and
settlement of our countr}^ were not realized, to their full
extent, in the inland towns. The soil of many of them
was never stained with the blood of Indian warfare ; and
though the majority of them were connected, in some
measure, with the events of the American revolution, the
perils of that revolution were confined to a few years, and
were borne with fortitude under the comforting hope of
ultimate success. Their history must, therefore, be
mainly filled with commonplace events, which have been
enacted, from year to year, with trifling variation.
Indeed, with few exceptions, it may be said of the most of
our inland towns, that they have but one history ; — similar
trials, efforts, discouragements and hopes, having attended
the settlement and growth of them all.

The labor attending such a compilation, and the
benefits to be derived from its publication, at best, can en-
sure for it but a limited circulation and a temporary
interest. When the antiquarian and the historian shall
have noted its salient points, and when the descendants of
that ancestry whose names and deeds it records — and of
whom little is known, except .what has come through
the uncertain channel of tradition — shall have devoured
its contents, its only place, if not consigned to the fate


"of things lost on earth," will be to sleep in a dusty niche
of the public or family library, there to lie — "unknowing
and unknown," like the men whose deeds it records —
among things forgotten on earth. But notwithstanding
the doom that awaits this class of publications, such are
the immediate advantages to be derived froiti them, that
everv New-England town will eventually have its histo-
rian and its w^-itten history.

The plan pursued by different authors, in the
arrangement of their compilations, has varied with their
varying tastes. Some have strictly adhered to chro-
nology, giving each event its place in the order of its
time ; others have separated and mingled dates, so as to
unite kindred circumstances. Some have filled the pages
of their text with literal transcripts from town records,
giving explanations in marginal notes ; others have
abridged and transposed the language of original records,
supplied defects, and thus presented the facts of history
in their own language.

The method of mingling dates to connect kindred
events, and of transposing the language and condensing
its facts as they appear in the common record, seems to
combine the advantages of all, renders the work more
interesting to the reader, and more convenient for refer-

Such is the method mainly adopted in this history.
Occasionally a chain of events has been broken to secure
a connection of dates, and important records have been
literally transcribed, accompanied by suitable comments ;
but this will be found the exception and not the rule. To
prevent confusion by the intermingling of dissimilar cir-
cumstances, the history has been divided into three parts ;
under one or another of which all secular and all eccle-
siastical events worthy of note, — and all genealogical items,
and biographical notices of the early settlers and their
descendants, that could be collected, — have been embodied
and presented in as succinct and readable form as could
well be adopted.


It is the sincere hope of the compiler that his humble
undertaking may remain, for a time, among the thousands
of similar landmarks, at which the future traveller may
pause to contemplate the trials, privations, and moral
energy of a people — and their immediate descendants —
who left homes of plenty, that, in a wilderness they might
enjoy, and transmit to posterit}', the noble privileges of
civil and religious liberty.

Most of the materials of this history had been col-
lected previous to the year 1848 ; at which time Mr.
Butler, having completed his History of Groton, and
wishing to append to it a brief sketch of Shirley, obtained
the loan of the author's papers for that purpose. * It was
the intention of the respected author of the Groton history
to acknowledge the use he made of these papers, in a note
prefixed to the sketch alluded to ; but this was omitted by
the printer, — whereupon, Mr. Butler prepared the tbllow-
ing for insertion in this place, should the compiler of the
Shirley history deem it advisable : —

"Rev. Seth Chandler:

By accident, the note I prepared to be inserted
in the History of Groton, — acknowledi^ing the use I
made of your manuscript in the preparation of that
part relating to Shirley, — was not printed. Should you
publish your account of Shirley, you. are at liberty to
make such use of this note as you may please, to show
that I have been indebted to you, and not you to me,
for the many things which may be common to both publi-

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Caleb Butler.

Groton, x\pril, 1848."

The sources of all quotations made, the reader will
tmd duly acknowledged ; and no assertion has been haz-
arded without good authority as to its accuracy, especially


when it has come through the uncertain channel of tra-

The compiler would respectfully acknowledge the
assistance and encouragement he has received from
friends, too numerous to be individually designated. He
regards them, one and all, as entitled to his sincere
thanks for their courtesy, and hopes they will accept this
recognition of their kindness, though oflered in a general
form. The compilation was attempted at the suggestion
of an esteemed friend, and native of Shirley, Mr. George
A. Whitney of Boston ;- and but for the death of that esti-
mable man, would have been given to the world many
years sitice.

To the citizens of Shirley the volume is with diffidence
submitted. The compiler lays no special claim to the
qualifications which such an undertaking would seem to
require. He has related, in a manner as simple and intel-
ligible as he could command, the facts deemed most
worthy of preservation in the history of their ancestors.
To them then, if not to the general reader, he hopes that
his labors will present something of interest, instruction
and amusement.





Situation and extent — Boundaries — Origin — Petition for
a separation from Groton — Incorporation — JSfanie —
Additions of territory — First town-meeting.

Shirley is situated in the northwesterly part of Mid-
dlesex County. It is thirty-eight miles northwest from
Boston, the capital of the state. It is thirty miles in the
same direction from Cambridge, and twenty miles south-
west from Lowell, the two shire-towns of the county.

The town is of irregular form, being seven and
one-half miles in extent between its extreme north and
south points, and but four miles broad at its greatest
width. It contains nearly ten thousand five hundred and
twenty-five acres, or about sixteen and one-half square
miles, according to the survey made by Caleb Butler
in 1832.

It is bounded on the north by Groton, on the east by
Groton and Harvard, (from which towns it is separated
by the Nashua and Squannacook rivers, which unite on
its eastern boundary) ; on the south by Lancaster, and on
the west by Lunenburg and Townsend. Harvard, Lan-
caster and Lunenburg are in the county of Worcester.



Shirley was originally a part of Groton, which in-
cluded a large territory granted to Dean Winthrop, son
of Gov. Winthrop, with several others, by an act of "the
General court held at Boston the 23d day of the 5th month,
1655." Its location is so far from the center of the above-
named territory — the settlement of which at first pro-
gressed very slowly, owing to Indian depredations, and to
a sparseness of settlers — that it remained an unbroken
wilderness for more than sixty years after the grant of the
territory of Groton, and until all the settlements of the
nei"-hborinir districts had successfully commenced. Dur-
ino- this period the Indian wars of Massachusetts had
been waged, carried on and concluded, and enter-
prising settlers were encouraged to penetrate and occupy
those hitherto wild lands which were to be the future
homes of themselves and their children, without the pro-
tection of garrisoned houses, and with no fear of surprise
from the nocturnal visits of the revengeful aborigines of
the soil.

The precise time of the first settlement in Shn-ley
cannot now be ascertained, but it is supposed to have been
about the year 1720. The farms first occupied were those
on the Squannacook river, and along the northern
boundary of the town. The second framed house was
erected two miles from what is now "Shirley Centre," at
the corner formed by a union of the roads leading from
Shirley and Lunenburg to Groton. The population had,
however, become sufficiently numerous, as early as i747'
to realize the need of a distinct town organization, and
those who most fully recognized this need united in for-
warding a petition to the parent town praying for an early
separation. The following, taken from the town records
of Groton, is a copy of that


"To the inhabitants of the town of Groton, assembled
in town meeting on the first day of March, 1747-

The petition of us the subscribers, being all inhab-
itants of the town of Groton, aforesaid, humbly showeth.



that your petitioners all live in the extreme parts of the
town, and by that means are incapacitated to attend
public worship constantly, either ourselves or families ;
and being sensible that our being set oft' in order for a
precinct will be of great service to us, we desire that we
may be set oft' by the bounds following, viz., beginning
at the mouth of the Squannacook river, and so run up
said river till it comes to Townsend line, and then by
Townsend and Lunenburg lines till it cometh to Groton
southwest corner, and so by the south line in said town
until it cometh to Lancaster (Nashua) river, and then run
down said river till it cometh to Harvard corner, and then
about a mile on Harvard north line, then turn to the north
and run to the waste brook in Coicors (Canicus or Nona-
cancus) farm, where people generally pass over, and from
thence to the mouth of Squannacook river, where we first
began ; and your petitioners as bound in duty shall ever
pray, &c.

John Whitney,
John Williams,
David Gould,
John Kelsey,
Phinehas Burt,
Joseph Wilson,
Thomas Laughton,
James Patterson,
Jonathan Gould,
Robert Henry,
John Williams Jr.,
Jacob Williams,
William Far well,
Jonas Longley,
Oliver Farwell,
Isaac Holden,
Jarathmael Powers,

Philemon Holden,
Stephen Holden Jr.,
William Simonds,
William Preston,
William Williams,
Henry Farw^ell,
Isaiah Farwell,
John Russell,
James Park,
Daniel Page,
Joseph Dodge,
Moses Bennett Jr.,
Caleb Bartlett,
Francis Harris,
Caleb Holden,
Hezekiah Sawtell.
32 signers.

"The above petition was read at the anniversary meet-
ing in Groton, March i, 1747, and the prayer thereof


granted, except the land on the easterly side of Lancaster
(Nashua) river, and recorded.

Thomas Tarbell, Town Clerk.'"'

It is probable that the signers of the petition for a
separate town constituted a majority of the voters within
its proposed limits, when the petition was presented, and
yet it is certain that some of the first families are not rep-
resented. Whether they considered the project premature,
or had other motives for not sustaining the movement, can-
not now be known.

Although, as appears from the action of the town, no
opposition was made to this movement of the peti-
tioners, yet it was almost six years before their plan of
organization was carried into effect. Whether this delay
was occasioned by opposition on the part of the minority
interested in the proposed change, by legislative refusal,
or by indolence and inefficiency in the leaders of the
movement, no record or tradition remains to inform us.
Whatever the cause, it must have been a discouraging
delay to those who were seeking to remove the incon-
veniences which they w^ere forced daily to encounter from
their location in a remote and comparatively inaccessible
corner of the district.

At the January session of the '' General Court," in the
year 1753, an act of incorporation was passed and
approved, whereby the territory became a district and
received the name of Shirley., in honor of William
Shirley, who was then Governor of Massachusetts

By a subsequent act of the Legislature, in the 3'ear
1786, all districts which had been incorporated previous to
the year 1777 were made towns. In this change Shirley
was included.

B}^ an act of the Legislature of 1765, a strip of land
on the south boundary of Shirle}', lying between Shirley

*See Appendix A.


and Lancaster, — "being a territory of about two hundred
rods in breadth, and extending in length one mile, from
Lunenburg line to Nashua river — was annexed to Shirley."'
This piece of territory has usually been denominated
Stow Leg.*

By still another legislative act, passed in 1798, the
farms of Moody Chase, Samuel Chase and Simon Daby
or Darby — forming a territory of irregular shape, on the
east side of the Nashua river — were set off from Groton
and annexed to Shirle}^ The territory as described in
the petition for a separation from Groton, together with
these two annexations, constituted the town of Shirley
until the year 1871, when the last-mentioned addition was
severed from Shirley and united with the territory which
now constitutes the town of Ayer.

Such are the territorial changes through which
Shirley has passed since it became an independent mimici-
pality ; but such are its present geographical relations to
other towns that no further alterations need be expected, f

What the population of the town was at the time of
its incorporation cannot now be ascertained ; but the fol-
lowing table will show its increase and decrease from the
first census year after its organization, down to the last
census, that of 1880 :

In 1765 — 430 inhabitants. In 1840 — 957 inhabitants.

'' 1776 — 704 " " 1850 — 1158 "

" 1790 — 677 " " i860 — 1468 "

" 1800 — 713 " " 1865 — 1217 "

" 1810 — 814 " " 1870 — 1451 "

" 1820 — 922 " " 1875 — 1352 "

" 1830 — 991 " " 1880 — 1366 "

Thus it appears that the increase of population for
nearly one hundred years, though gradual, was compara-
tively small. The loss of territory by the incorporation

*See Appendix B. tSee Appendix C.


of Ayer 101871 diminished the number of inhabitants, —
and this town, in common with other farming districts, has
been continually drained of its young men who remove
to cities and large towns, preferring these more exciting
fields of enterprise to the quiet, though manly and digni-
fied pursuits, which the country affords.

There may appear but little hope of much greater
immediate increase ; and yet it is certain that the water
facilities of the town are not all under improvement, and
the soil too, if properly cultivated, is capable of double its
present amount of production. The location is such as
to promote health and favor long life, and such as to in-

Online LibrarySeth ChandlerHistory of the town of Shirley, Massachusetts, from its early settlement to A.D. 1882 → online text (page 1 of 69)