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Full text of "Handbook of historical data concerning Leicester, Massachusetts"

Gc i 

974.402 
L52b 
1852027 



GEMEALOay COLLECTiQN 



ALLEN COUNTY PUBLIC UBRARY 



3 1833 01068 1069 



HANDBOOK 

OF 

HISTORICAL DATA 

CONCERNING 

LEICESTER. MASSACHUSETTS 




(ADOPTED MARCH 5' iQOo) 



ILLUSTRATED 




MISS ADELINE MAY, 
Regent of Col. Henshaw Chapter, D. A. R. 



DEDICATED 

TO 

ADELINE MAY 

REGENT OF 

COL. HENSHAW CHAPTER 

DAUGHTERS OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION 
AT ITS 

TENTH ANNIVERSARY 
I9I2 




MAUD KNOWLTON BURNETT 
EDITOR 



LEICESTER, MASSACHUSETTS 



This brief outline of the history of the town Introductory 
of Leicester, Massachusetts, was, for the great- 
er part, compiled from essays written by pu- 
pils of the graduating class of the Leicester 
Center Grammar School, nineteen hundred and 
eleven, in response to the offer of a prize for 
the best composition on the subject from the 
Col. Henshaw Chapter, Daughters of the 
American Revolution. The matter has been 
arranged by a member of the chapter, assisted 
by the late Parkman T. Denny, and others. 



January 27, 1686, a tract of land eight miles 
square was bought of the Nipmuc tribe of 
Massachusetts Indians, by nine men living, 
most of them, in Roxbury. Fifteen pounds, of 
the value of the money then used in New Eng- 
land, was paid for it, and the deed was signed 
by the heirs of the recently deceased chief, 
Oraskaso, 

The place was known as Towtaid, and the 
towns we know as Leicester, Spencer, some of 
P'axton and twenty-five hundred acres of Au- 
burn formed the purchase, which, geographi- 
cally, is 42 degrees, 14 minutes 49 seconds 
north latitude, 71 degrees, 54 minutes 47 sec- 
onds west longitude. Our immediate vicinity 
was known to the settlers at first as Strawberry 
Hill. It is about fifty miles from Boston, six 
from its nearest neighbor on the east, Worces- 
ter, and something like one thousand and sev- 
en feet above sea level. 

February 15, 1713-14, Leicester was made a 
town by the General Court of Massachusetts, 
and named after the old city of Leicester in 
England. 

It was divided, February 23, 1713-14, the 
eastern part to be sold to settlers, the western 
to belong to the proprietors who now number- 
ed twenty-two wealthy investors. In June of 
this year, John Chandler surveyed the town 
to determine the boundary lines which were 
said to have been established by the General 
Court. 



Incorpor- 
ation 



Spencer xhe first Settler of the western half was Na- 

thaniel Wood. These eighty lots, including 
the two for church and school, sold slowly, 
but in 1753 were incorporated as the town of 
Spencer, named after the lieutenant-governor 
of the colony, Spencer Phipps. 

Eastern ^Q^-g ^^ ^j^g eastern half were deeded on Tan- 

Part -^ 

uary 11, 1724, to thirty-seven different persons, 

among whom were ancestors of the Denny, 
Earle, Southgate, Henshaw, Smith and Sar- 
gent families, all since that time closely iden- 
tified with the history of the town. Before 
this, by a vote of the proprietors, nominal al- 
lotments had been made of the fifty house lois 
into which this eastern part had been divided, 
at ''a shilling an acre." 
Paxton In 1765 a strip of land two miles wide was 

taken from the northern side of the town for 
Paxton. 

Auburn About twenty-five hundred acres from the 

southeast part went to the town of Ward — 
now called Auburn — in 1778. 

Size The town now contains about thirteen thou- 

sand four hundred fifty-three acres. 

First -phe first settlement on Strawberry Hill was 

Settler 

on lot numbered one, drawn by John Steb- 

bins. May 14, 1714, Samuel Stebbins, the fa- 
ther of John and Joseph, was given a life in- 
terest in lots one and two, the sons being un- 
der age, as they might agree. Hereabouts was 



built, not later than, perhaps before, 1713-14, 
the first house. The site is identified by a 
granite marker. 

We are told by the historian of Leicester, 
the Honorable Emory Washburn, that "at the 
foot of Meeting House Hill, east of the prin- 
cipal village, the waters on the south side of 
the Great Road flow into the Quinnebaug," 
thence into the Thames, "while those upon its 
north side find their way into the Blackstone,"' 
and Narragansett Bay. Shaw Pond flows to 
the Connecticut, Burncoat to the Thames, and 
Waite Pond into the Blackstone. 

Two miles east of the Center village is 
Cherry Valley named in 1820. South Leices- 
ter, next called Clappville, from Joshua Clapp, 
who became the owner of the mill property 
there in 1829, and finally named Rochdale, in 
November, 1869, is about three miles south. 
This name was for Rochdale in England, the 
same kinds of cloth being manufactured here 
as there, and some of the people having come 
from that place. 

Greenville, named for one of its first settlers. 
Captain Samuel Green, and once known as 
Hammertown, lies between Rochdale and the 
Center village. 

Mannville, so called about 1856, after Mr. 
Billings Mann, who improved the water priv- 
ilege of the neighborhood, is about two miles 
north of the Center. 

9 



First 
House 



Water- 
shed 



Cherry 
Valley 



Mulberry 



Carey Hill 



Natural 
Ponds 



About 1827, the northeast part of the town 
began to be known as Mulberry Grove, from 
the fact that Mr. Silas Earle attempted to 
start a silk industry there from the silk worms 
which fed upon the mulberry trees he had 
planted. 

Legend tells us that a hermit was found by 
the exploring white men, living on what was 
afterwards from the name of its new settler, 
Arthur Carey, called Carey Hill. Another tra- 
dition says that Bald Hill in Cherry Valley was 
so called because it had already been cleared, 
and crops planted there before the white set- 
tlers came. 

All about was a trackless forest, filled 
with wolves and rattlesnakes. There has been 
found no record of any Indian raids in this 
immediate vicinity, though the fear of such 
was great, and garrisons were built at the 
house of Rev. Mr. Parsons, on Strawberry 
Hill, at Judge Alenzie's near Henshaw Pond, 
at Jonah Earle's in the northeastern part, and 
it is said, at the John King house, a couple of 
miles south of the center which was standing 
until about 1905. 

The only natural ponds, those fed by 
springs, in town are Shaw Pond in the north- 
western part, once called North Pond, and 
Henshaw Pond, only a mile southeast of the 
center, formerly known as Judge's Pond, from 
being on the farm of Judge Menzies, an early 



comer, but known by its present name since 
the purchase of the property by Capt, David 
Henshaw. The house now standing, amid 
what must have once been imposing surround- 
ings, was built about 1720. 

There are many houses in the town which 
were built previous to 1800, and a large num- 
ber were erected between that time and the 
completion of the May house in 1835. 

Set into a retaining wall opposite Paxton 
Street is one of the original milestones, ^er Stone 

Mile 

up after the measuring of distances by Benja- 
min Franklin, indicating that it is "54 miles 
to Boston." 

Lake Sargent was originally the "Town 
Meadow," and is still referred to as "Tophet" 
by old residents. Waite Pond, so called from 
adjoining the land of Nathan Waite, the inn- Ponds 
keeper, was made from meadow land about 
1847. This was until recently known as the 
Alice Waite Pond, Alice having been the 
daughter of Nathan Waite. A number of oth- 
er ponds have been made by damming streams 
for mill privileges or reservoir use. 

Leicester Center is supplied with water from Water 
springs in Paxton, with a stand pipe on Carey Supply 
Hill, built in 1891, by the Leicester Water 
Supply District. A new district was formed 
in 1910 to supply water to the villages of Cher- 
ry Valley, Rochdale and Greenville from wells 
at Henshaw Pond, with standpipes on Bald 



Hill and near Greenville. Worcester, our 
neighbor six miles to the east and five or six- 
hundred feet belowf us, obtains part of her wa- 
ter supply by damming Lynde Brook, in the 
northeastern part of the town. A series of 
three reservoirs extends along the road from 
Paxton to Lakeside. In the spring of 1876, 
this dam broke causing a flood which did 
great damage to the country below it, and to 
the mills and property in general in Cherry 
Valley. 

An Indian trail passed through the old town 
of Leicester from east to west. This, in time, 
became the "Great Post Road," extending from 
Boston to Albany. Leicester built her share 
of this in 1723. A vote by the town, taken in 
1724, authorized the laying out of Pleasant 
street, or the "Charlton Road." The next 
month the "Oxford Road," Pine street, was 
voted for, and in 1739, Henshaw street, now 
so called, came into existence. 

Leicester had a number of taverns in the old 
coaching days. As early as 1721, there was a 
public house at the northwest corner of Main 
and Paxton streets, then called respectively 
the "Great Post Road" and the "Rutland 
Road." The original building was burned in 
1767, but was rebuilt and occupied until some- 
where about 1818. From 1727 until a few 
years previous to 1818, a tavern was kept on 
the Post Road opposite the present Catholic 



church. This building was taken down be- 
tween 1855 and i860. 

Leicester Inn stands where a tavern has 
been carried on since 1776. Previous to, and 
during the Revolution, houses in the vicinity 
of Mt. Pleasant were used as taverns, and still 
others were to be found in Rochdale and 
Greenville, one on the road leading to Tat- 
nuck, and one on the Paxton Road. 

The first recorded town meeting was March 
6, 1721-2, in the meeting house. Samuel Green 
was the moderator and was chosen first select- 
man, assessor and grand juror. 

The first saw mill in Leicester was built by Begin- 
Captain Green, at Greenville. '^^ss 

Before 1730 a grist mill was built by Wil- 
liam Earle on "Hasley Brook," which flows 
into Lynde Brook in the northeast part of the 
town. 

Carpenters came in 1717, and a very few 
years later a mason, a wheelwright, ana a 
tailor had established themselves here. There 
were two hatters in the town at one time, and 
also a book bindery, a scythe manufactory, a 
small cotton mill, and a number of grist and 
saw mills. 

The manufacture of woolen goods was begun Manufact. 
in 1814 by Mr. Samuel Watson, a clothier, in 
Cherry Valley. Mr. Thomas Bottomly has 
been called the founder of Cherry Valley, as, 
in 1821, he built the mill now known as the 
13 



unng 



Olney mill, and thus formed the nucleus of 
the manufacturing village. In 1889 there were 
ten woolen mills in the town of Leicester. 

The manufacture of satinets was begun in 
1838 by Amos S. Earle and Billings Mann in 
the Mannville district. Earlier than this, sat- 
inets were woven by hand, in this same vicin- 
ity, for Mr. Samuel Watson, four yards being 
the extent of a day's work, for which the pay 
was one dollar. 

In the Kent planing mill and box factory, 
built at Lakeside in 1853, was set up the first 
circular saw in this part of the state. 

After building a dam and canal, Chapel mill 
in Cherry Valley, was begun by John Waite, 
but, after being later used as a shuttle shop, 
it was in 1844, occupied as a wire mill by H. G. 
Henshaw. Two of his employees, Richard 
Sugden and Nathaniel Myrick, bought the ma- 
chinery in 1849, ^^^ with it established a 
large and profitable business in Spencer. 

In 1830, five large tanneries and several 
small ones were in operation in the town. 

Messrs. Horace and Warren Smith began 
to make shoes in 1866 at Mt. Pleasant. The 
same industry was carried on previously for 
a number of years by the Leicester Boot Co. 

The machine knives made at the Hanky 
mill in Greenville for very many years, are ex- 
ported to all parts of the world. 
14 



Leicester's first settlers were farmers, and 
their clothing was made from thread spun by 
the women upon their own wheels, woven on 
their hand looms out of the flax or wool raised 
by them, as was the custom of the time. 

Leicester has been made famous by the 
manufacture of card clothing, first by hand and 
then by machinery. The nature of the busi- 
ness did not admit of foreign labor, so Leices- 
ter had no foreign population during its early 
years. Nearly every name associated with the 
growth of Leicester Center is synonymous 
with the card clothing industry. It began 
with Edmond Snow who, in 1785, was making 
hand cards for wool. Mr. Pliny Earle, begin- 
ning the business the next year, was the first 
manufacturer of machine-made card clothing 
in the United States. This was in 1790. In 
1837 there were seventeen concerns making 
hand cards in Leicester. In 1890, the Ameri- 
can Card Clothing Co. took over the control of 
most of the card clothing factories in the Unit- 
ed States, thus, because the works were moved 
to larger centers, depriving this village, Lei- 
cester Center, of its chief industry. 

L. S. Watson & Company make hand cards, 
heddles, and so forth. They started the indus- 
try in 1842, later buying the business of J. B. 
and Edward Sargent. A member of the lat- 
ter firm, George H. Sargent, founded the well 
known Sargent Hardware Commission House 
of New York. 

IS 



The diversion of the water, which furnished 
the power for the mills at Lakeside and Mann- 
ville, to Worcester's water supply, ruined the 
industries of those villages, and today but lit- 
tle remains of them. 
Banks The first town house was built in 1826. The 

same year the Leicester bank was chartered as 
a state institution with John Clapp its first 
president, and located in the town house. In 
1853, the bank was removed to the second floor 
of a brick building standing at the east cor- 
ner of the present Market street. In 1865 
it was made a National bank and in 1871 was 
removed to the building now of the Leicester 
Savings Bank, which was incorporated in 1869. 
The National Bank was discontinued in 1904, 
when the Savings Bank purchased its building 
from the National Bank. 
Town The present Town House was completed in 

House jg^„_ j^ might be interesting to note that the 

bricks of which it was built were made on the 
farm of John E. Bacon in South Eastern Spen- 
cer. 

At the town meeting in March, 1888, it was 
voted to contract with the Leicester Electric 
Co. to light the town hall by electricity. The 
following September steam heating was in- 
stalled. 
Library For some years before the Library building 

was finished, in 1896, the Town House contain- 
ed the property of the Social Library, formed 
16 



about 1793, and its successors of 1829 and the 
Public Library established in 1861. The two 
early collections of books were kept some time 
in a store near Pleasant Street, and some time 
in a private house. The Public Library is 
well equipped for its purposes. There is a ju- 
venile department in the basement and a mu- 
seum of considerable historical value on the 
second floor. On the first of January, 191 1, the 
library contained thirteen thousand eight hun- 
dred and fifty-seven volumes. 

In 1801 an electric car line was established Electric 
. Road 

to succeed the old stage coach. This was the 

first suburban line out of Worcester. 

In 1906 a telephone exchange was installed 
at the Center. 

Electricity was first manufactured for illu- _ 

Electric 

minating purposes in this town by L. S. Wat- Lights 
son and William F. Whittemore, the Leicester 
Electric Company, in the factory at "Lower 
Tophet." 

At the town meeting in March, 1889, it was 
voted to light the streets of the town with elec- 
tricity. The evening of Aug. 13, 1889, eighty- 
two incandescent lamps of twenty-six candle 
power each illuminated the town. 

Pipes were first laid for gas by the Worces- ^ 
ter County Gas Company in 1905. 

The first Post Office at the Center was prob- 

^ Post Offices 

ably established in 1798. Ebenezer Adams 

was the first commissioned postmaster. In 

17 



Depart 
ment 



1826, Rev. Mr, Meunscher was made master 
of the Post Office then established at Clapp- 
ville. In 1859, Harvey Tainter, Esq., was 
commissioned Postmaster at Cherry Valley. 
The mail was first brought to town by the 
"post rider" on the route from Worcester to 
Springfield. Later the stage coach brought 
it, and now it is conveyed from Worcester en 
the electric cars. Rural free delivery was es- 
tablished here in 1905. 
Fire As early as 1841 a fire department was pro- 

jected. Somewhat later a steamer was pur- 
chased, partly by the town and partly by pri- 
vate subscription. Previous to this, for very 
many years, two "hand tubs" had been used. 
Apparatus and equipment has been purchased 
from time to time, that at the Center being 
housed in a small building in the rear of the 
Town House. Other pieces of apparatus are 
established in Rochdale and Cherry Valley. 

As the religious afifairs of early New Eng- 
land were conducted by the state, they form 
an almost inseparable part of its history. The 
first church had been built on the common, in 
Leicester, before the year 1719 arrived. It 
was erected by Captain Eleazer How, who, 
because he had been building the church, had 
not settled his own lot May 21, 1719, and was, 
in consequence, given until January 20 to do 
it. The meeting house was a very rude struct- 
ure without embellishments or, indeed, con- 
18 



First 
Church 



veniences of any kind. Later, each family 
built its own pew and furnished it with a foot- 
stove, if any heat was desired, and seats. 

In November, 1720, the town voted "that 
Mr. David Parsons be our Gospel minster." 
He was to have "the forty-acre lot next the 
meeting house, a salary of sixty pounds, and 
sixty pounds settlement." As he hesitated to 
accept these terms, thirty of the settlers agreed 
to add to this amount so that the salary should 
be seventy-five pounds, and the settlement one 
hundred. He accepted this and became pastcrr 
in 1721. The town soon found itself short of 
funds and consequently could not pay the sal- 
ary agreed upon. Within six years it was vot- 
ed "that the town be willing that Mr. Parsons 
should remove and remain out of this town." 
Thus began a quarrel that lasted for sixteen 
years. Mr. Parsons finally left March sixth, 
1735) but died and was buried in Leicester. 
His grave is a few feet north of the house now 
occupied by Col. E. J, Russell on Paxton 
Street. 

The third pastor, Rev. Joseph Roberts, was 
eccentric and a miser. After his death, at the 
age of ninety-six, bags of money were found 
hoarded in his garret, he having lived in ex- 
treme poverty, 

A second meeting house was built, a little in 
the rear of the old site, in 1784. This was mov- 
ed to the location of the present Congregation- 
19 



First 
Minister 



Third 
Pastor 



Second 
Meeting 
House 



Pastor 



al church in 1826, and sold in 1867, moved to 
the rear of the Academy and used for a gym- 
nasium and some time for dormitories, until 
demolished in 1908. 

The third church was a fine example of the 
best church architecture of that period. It 
was struck by lightning and burned in 1901. 
A stone church, dedicated the following year, 
now occupies nearly the same spot. The early 
New England faith, you will remember, was 
Orthodox. 
Sixth The sixth pastor was the Rev. John Nelson, 

D. D., to whose memory the present edifice 
was erected. He "exercised a deep and abiding 
influence on his church and the community" for 
fifty-nine years and a little more than nine 
months. He came to Leicester in 1812. Rev. 
Amos H. Coolidge held the pastorate of the 
church for thirty-seven years. 

A Society of Friends was organized about 
eighteen years after the incorporation of Lei- 
cester. In 1732 eight men resident in Leices- 
ter declared themselves to be Friends. The 
first meeting house was built in 1739, the second 
in 1791, at the north end of the cemetery, on 
Earle Street. In 1826 the Society had about 
one hundred and twenty members, mostly of 
the Mulberry Grove neighborhood. Today 
there is only the little Quaker burying ground 
and the memory left. 



T 







In 1777 a colony of Jews, the most promi- 
nent of them Aaron Lopez, came here from 
Newport, Rhode Island, to escape the threat- 
ened British invasion. The colony numbered 
about seventy persons, twelve of whom were 
slaves, was wealthy, quiet and highly esteem- 
ed. They lived in Leicester only about five 
years, most of them returning to Newport. 

Thomas Green, one of the first settlers of 
Greenville, and the first physician of the town, 
founded in 1738, and was pastor of, a society of 
Baptists in Greenville, whose first church was 
built about 1747. Dr. Green was a most ver- 
satile man, and has many noted descendants, 
among them Samuel S. Green, for years the 
efficient librarian of the Worcester Free Public 
Library, which was founded by his uncle. The 
present church edifice was erected and dedicat- 
ed in i83o. 

In 1823, Christ Church, Episcopal, was 
formed in Clappville, through the influence of 
Mrs. Ann Wilby, an English lady who came 
to Leicester in 1822. In 1824 their church 
building was erected and is the oldest of its 
kind in Worcester County. 

St. Thomas' church was built in Cherry Val- 
ley in 18-44, as a "House of Prayer," a branch 
from Christ church. It was burned Novem- 
ber 25, 1911. 

By the withdrawal from the "First Church" 
in 1833 of a number of prominent families, a 



Jews 



Baptists 



Episco- 
palians 



Unitarian Society was formed. Their church 
was built the following year, and still stands 
north of the common. Rev. Samuel May was 
the first and most prominent of its pastors. 
He resigned after twelve years of service, but 
continued to reside in Leicester until his death 
in 1899. He came from a prominent Boston 
family, was an active abolitionist, agent for 
the Worcester County Anti-Slavery Society, 
South, Secretary of the Massachusetts Anti- 
Slavery Society; secretary, permanently, of the 
famous class of 1829, Harvard College; deeply 
interested in all town affairs during his lift, 
and ably succeeded by his two daughters in 
philanthropic vvork. 

In 1844 a Methodist Episcopal church was 
organized. In 1845 the denomination was di- 
vided; the Methodist Episcopal church made 
its home in Cherry Valley, while the Wesleyan 
Methodists built a house of worship on Pleas- 
ant Street in Leicester Center the next year. 
The Cherry Valley church was burned in 1856, 
but was soon rebuilt. The Pleasant Street 
church is now called the Sanderson Methodist 
Episcopal. 

The first Catholic services in town were held 
in the house on Water Street of Michael Ken- 
ary, January 12, 1846. For a number of years 
it was under the charge of priests from Holy 
Cross College. 

About a half mile east of the Center in 1854 



tenes 



a Roman Catholic church edifice was erected, 
called St. Polycarp's. In 1867 this having been 
removed to Rochdale, and rebuilt, was re- 
christened St. Aloysius. St. Joseph's has occu- 
pied the site of the first named since 1869, Rev. 
Robert Brady being its first resident pastor, 
1880. According to a census taken in Janu- 
ary, 1888, by Rev. Father McGrath, and his 
assistant, Father Kenney, there were in the 
town of Leicester three hundred and twelve 
Roman Catholic families. 

Back of the first meeting house, surrounded Ceme- 
by a brush fence, was one of the earliest bury- 
ing grounds. About 1765, Rawson Brook cem- 
etery on Main Street was opened. Captain 
Samuel Green was the first white person to be 
laid to rest in the cemetery of the Baptist 
church in Greenville. This was in 1736, but 
this is really the oldest burying ground in 
Leicester, as it was used as such by the In- 
dians. The Friends' burying ground on Eliot 
Hill was opened in 1739, and one in the ex- 
treme north part of the town was first used 
about 1850. There are several family burial 
places apart from these. 

Cherry Valley Cemetery was laid out in 
1816. Pine Grove cemetery was incorporated 
in 1841. In this beautiful place, on Pine Street, 
Leicester Center, many men who, in life, 
achieved national reputation, have their last 
resting place. Among them is the Honorable 
23 



John E. Russell, statesman, orator, and schol- 
ar. Here also is the tomb of the Henshaw 
family, as well as many another patriot, and 
the grave of Hon. David Henshaw, appointed 
Secretary of the Navy by President Tyler. 

A short distance north of St. Joseph's 
church, on Waite Street, is the Catholic cem- 
etery, dedicated on June 13, 1900, the gift, as 
was also a Celtic cross, of Honorable and Mrs. 
John E. Russell. 

On the last day of the year 173 1, within ten 
years of the actual settlement of the town, it 
was voted to choose a committee of three to 
provide a school master. Eight dollars and 
seventy-five cents was appropriated to meet 
the expense. School was kept in three differ- 
ent parts of the town, by one master, John 
Lynde, Jr., for three months in the year. When 
the town was originally laid out, one hundred 
acres were allotted for school purposes. 

The next year there was no school, but a 
fine at the quarter sessions of the General 
Court was thus incurred, and the next year 
there is said to have been a school held in the 
public house of Jonathan Sargent, opposite the 
present Catholic church. 

In 1736 the town voted to build a school- 
house, and, sometime, probably during the 
summer of 1738, the first schoolhouse in Lei- 
cester was built on or near the site, on the 






o ^ 



CO 

2. W 




southwestern part of the common, marked 
now by a granite block. It was twenty by six- 
teen feet in size and only seven and a half feet 
high, and cost forty-seven dollars and eighty- 
four cents. In these first seventeen years John 
Lynde had taught school, all together, nine 
months. 

Now there were more branches taught and a 
grammar school master engaged. His salary 
was at first one dollar and thirty-two cents per 
week. For the sake of comparison, note that 
the minister was receiving one hundred and 
twenty-five dollars a year. A laboring man 
was paid thirty-three cents a day, with half as 
much more for the use of his yoke of oxen on 
the highway. 

The settlers on the proprietors' half of the 
town did not think it fair for them to pay tax- 
es for schools of so little use to them, so, al- 
though unwilling to abate their taxes, it was 
voted to move the school about to the four 
quarters of the town in 1^42. The next year 
school was kept in six places, two months in 
each. Now for over twenty years the school 
appropriation for each year approximated one 
hundred and thirty-three dollars and thirty- 
three cents, the incorporation of Spencer as a 
separate town having no effect on this sum. 

In 1765 a committee favored the division of 
the town into districts, each to build its own 
25 



schoolhoiise, but there was so much disagree- 
ment that the town took the management of 
the entire matter, the expense to be as at first 
planned. Then there was so much local dis- 
sension about locations that five years passed 
by before all the buildings were completed. 
About this time the Center schoolhouse was 
sold "to the best advantage" and a new one 
built, a little west of where Water Street is 
now located. There were, in 1776, nine dis- 
tricts, and each had a school building. This 
arrangement continued as long as there was a 
"district school" in Leicester. 

In 1766 the first woman teacher was em- 
ployed. 

In 1791 the third schoolhouse in the Center 
village was erected on the northern side of the 
Great Road, a little west of the Rutland Road, 
in other words, northwest of the corner of 
Main and Paxton Streets. This was succeed- 
ed in 1828 by a house of two rooms, on the 
"Clappville Road" (Pleasant Street), facing 
the south. This has been remodelled into a 
dwelling house and is the residence of Mrs. 
Mandana Marsh. 

In January, 1855, the brick building used 
at the present time, was opened on Pleasant 
Street. It had two rooms for the common 
school on the first floor, and one above, for 
the high school. It now contains six rooms 
and has been much altered. There are now 



(191 1 ) buildings occupied for schools in 
Mannville, Greenville, Cherry Valley (new in 
1904), and a fine new one in Rochdale, built 
in 1910. 

The school appropriation in 1910 was eleven 
thousand five hundred dollars. A school board 
directs its affairs with a superintendent main- 
tained jointly with Charlton, partly remunerat- 
ed by the State. 

At the time of the organization of a high 
school in 1857, then called the "Town School," 
one term each year was held in Clappville, 
Cherry Valley and the Center. It was estab- 
lished at the Center about three years later. In 
1865 or 1866 an arrangement was made with 
Leicester Academy for its use as a high school. 
In 1907 this was made legal by an act of the 
Massachusetts Legislature, a stated sum be- 
ing paid by the town to the academy trustees 
towards its maintenance. 

Leicester Academy is the oldest academic 
institution in Worcester County, the third in 
point of seniority in Massachusetts. In 1783 
the mansion built by Aaron Lopez on Lot No. 
I was purchased by three individuals and af- 
ter some delay in raising the necessary amount 
of money, the most of it from outside the town, 
Leicester Academy was incorporated March 
23, 1784, with a governing board of fifteen 
trustees, self-perpetuating. Benjamin Stone 
was its first principal. 

27 



High 
School 



Academy 



Mulberry 
Grove 



Indian 
Wars 



The Lopez "Mansion" was divided ana mov- 
ed to Pleasant Street. One-half still standi 
just north of the Center school, the other to 
make room for the school building-, was mov- 
ed to Cambridge Street, Worcester, and has 
since been demolished. 

A second building replaced the Lopez house 
in 1816, but was replaced in 1833 by the pres- 
ent structure which was remodeled, renovat- 
ed and made strictly modern in 191 1. The 
Academy has a long and interesting history 
all its own. It began with three pupils, grew 
to strength and fame, and has sheltered and 
taught some of the greatest and best known 
men of New England — statesmen, inventors, 
teachers, and public leaders of both war and 
peace. 

From 1527 to 1^39 there was conducted in 
a house at the corner of Mulberry and Earle 
Streets, a boarding school for young ladies 
called "The Mulberry Grove School," which 
was, during its existence, as well known as 
Leicester Academy. It was taught by Sarah 
Earle until 1832, when her sister Eliza suc- 
ceeded her as principal. The building still 
stands. 

In all the Indian Wars from 1744 to 1763, es- 
pecially the French and Indian, Leicester fur- 
nished a large number of men. Captain Brown, 
of this town, commanded a company at the 
28 



tion 



capture of Louisburg. In 1756, fifteen men en- 
listed from Leicester in the expedition against 
Crown Point and twenty-three Leicester men 
were at the downfall of Quebec. 

The town took an active and prominent part Revolu- 
in the War of the American Revolution. Col. 
William Henshaw, who in 1771 superintended 
the building on Mt. Pleasant, now known as 
the Tarleton House, and where his brother, 
Joseph Henshaw, lived, was the organizer of 
the world famous "Minute Men." From the 
letter of instructions which was sent to their 
representative at the General Court, and from 
later "resolutions," we are made to believe 
that Leicester was the home of men of unusu- 
al intellectual ability. Many others had been 
well trained in the earlier wars and now ren- 
dered valuable service to their country. Dur- 
ing one year, 1775, there were eighteen town 
meetings, so high did the fire of patriotism 
burn. 

In May, 1770, a company of forty-six men 
was formed and was drilled, to be ready for 
war at a minute's notice. 

Late in the afternoon of the nineteenth of 
April, 1775, the alarm was given by a messen- 
ger, riding hard, and that same afternoon, un- 
der the leadership of Captain Seth Washburn, 
the blacksmith, the company of Leicester's 
minute men were marching to battle. They 
halted at the house of Nathan Sargent in Cher- 
29 



ry Valley (still standing near the top of the 
hill on Sargent Street), and obtained a supply 
of bullets which had been melted and molded 
from Mr. Sargent's clock weights. They ar- 
rived in time to take part in the battle of 
Bunker Hill, though delayed by the traitor, 
Dr. Church. The negro, Peter Salem, who 
shot Major Pitcairn, was, for many years af- 
ter the war, a familiar figure in Leicester. The 
site of his home, on Peter Salem Street, has 
been marked by the Daughters of the Ameri- 
can Revolution. He was buried in Framing- 
ham. 

Between 1775 and 1781 there were twenty- 
eight drafts for soldiers made upon this town. 
There were so few men left that the town rec- 
ords are exceedingly meagre. Two hundred 
and fifty-four recruits were furnished besides 
the seventy-two who marched at the first 
alarm, the "three years men," and others sup- 
plied at various times to complete troops as 
required. 

More than eight thousand dollars was paid 
by Leicester for war expenses, and a barrel of 
powder and twelve muskets furnished. Captain 
Washburn was for some time "muster-mas- 
ter" for Worcester County, and Leicester was 
a storehouse of supplies and ammunition. 

Leicester men were engaged in many of the 
great battles of the Revolution, the stirring 
30 



tale of Solomon Parsons at Monmouth being a 
sample of their patriotism. 

During Burgoyne's army's march to Boston 
in 1777, as prisoners of war, after the surren- 
der of Saratoga, an encampment was made in 
the grove where Grove Street, Leicester Cen- 
ter, is now located. Another party stopped for 
lunch on the Eddy Farm, in the northern part 
of the town. It is related that Gen. George 
Washington mentions in his diary having 
passed through Leicester on Friday, October 
twenty-third, 1789, 

General Lafayette also went through Lei- 
cester. A note of this event, which "all the 
town turned out to see," is found in more than 
one diary and story. This occurred September 
third, 1824. 

The Civil War again aroused the patriots of 
the town, and the first regiment to march from 
the state, the sixth Massachusetts, was under 
the command of Col. Edward F. Jones of Lei- 
cester. Lieutenant Joseph Waldo Denny, with 
the Worcester Light Infantry, was a Leices- 
ter boy, and in all, probably, two hundred and 
seventy-two Leicester men fought in the War 
of the Rebellion from 1861 to 1865. Mem- 
orial Hall, which occupies a part of the first 
floor of the Town House, the Town Hall oc- 
cupying the entire upper floor, was set apart 
in memory of those who lost their lives for 
their country, in the War of the Rebellion. 



Spanish 
War 



Popula- 



Country 
Club 



Stonewall 
Farm 



Marble tablets upon the wall are inscribed 
with the names, and other data, of those who 
fell. This hall now provides a meeting place 
for the veterans and kindred societies. 

The Spanish War, 1895, called forth but two 
or three Leicester men, but a Relief Society 
was organized by the women and did splendid 
work supplying the needs of the soldiers at the 
front. 

The Leicester of today has a reputation as 
a select summer resort. Its population by the 
1910 census was three thousand two hundred 
and thirty-seven. 

When the route of the Western Railroad 
was mapped out, Leicester was on its line and 
a tunnel was contemplated to avoid the hill. 
This project was finally abandoned, though 
Leicester is on the line of the Boston & Al- 
bany railroad; the station is at Rochdale. 

Lipon a hill overlooking a part of the Cen- 
ter Village of Leicester is located a flourish- 
ing country club house and grounds, with golf 
links, tennis courts, boat house and so forth. 
The club was incorporated in 1910, but was 
the outgrowth of a local golf club of years' 
standing. 

Stonewall Farm, in the center of Leicester, 
and on Leicester Hill, the residence of Col. 
Samuel E. Winslow, is one of the finest es- 
tates in Worcester County. The main house 
was built in 1833. 
32 



If an attempt should he made to enumerate 
the famous men and women whose lives have 
been linked with the history of Leicester, the 
task would not only be formidable, but the re- 
sult would forever be incomplete. It would 
be a list including eminent clergymen, states- 
men, warriors, inventors, artists, actors, poli- 
ticians, lawyers, physicians, scholars, philan- 
thropists, and financiers. The very atmos- 
phere of the place appears to foster intellectual 
acumen and business shrewdness, with an ad- 
mixture of patriotism. 

For more extended accounts of Leicester the 
folloAving references are recommended, besides 
the town records : 

Historical Sketches of the Town of Leices- 
ter, Massachusetts, by Emory Washburn. 

Brief Sketch of the History of Leicester 
Academy, by Emory Washburn. 

The Archives of the Col. Henshaw Chapter, 
D. A. R. 

History of Leicester, by Rev. A. H. Cool- 
idge. 

Oration by Hon. John E. Russell at Centen- 
nial observance in Leicester, July, 1776. 

Oration by Hon. Emory Washburn, July 4, 
184Q. 

Article in New England Magazine, May, 
1900. by John White Chadwick. 

"A Century Old:" A history of the Card 
Clothing Industry. 

33 



Reminiscences of Joseph A. Denny. 

History of Leicester by Rev. Abijah P. Mar- 
vin. 

History of the Second Congregational 
Church and Society, by C. Van D. Chenoweth, 
A. M. 

History of the Tarleton House, by Mr. C. C. 
Denny. 

Genealogy of Denny Family. 

Genealogy of Earle Family, and other sim- 
ilar works. 

Diary of Rev. Samuel May. 

The Greenville Baptist Church, 1738-1888. 

"St. Joseph's Golden Jubilee." 

Also manuscripts of Mr. Christopher C. 
Denny. 



PRESS OF W. J. HEFFERNAN 

Spencek, Mass. 
The Leicester Banner Print 



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