ALLEN COUNTY PUBLIC UBRARY
3 1833 01068 1069
(ADOPTED MARCH 5' iQOo)
MISS ADELINE MAY,
Regent of Col. Henshaw Chapter, D. A. R.
COL. HENSHAW CHAPTER
DAUGHTERS OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION
MAUD KNOWLTON BURNETT
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,
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
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
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-
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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-
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
up after the measuring of distances by Benja-
min Franklin, indicating that it is "54 miles
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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-
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-
Library For some years before the Library building
was finished, in 1896, the Town House contain-
ed the property of the Social Library, formed
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
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- _
minating purposes in this town by L. S. Wat- Lights
son and William F. Whittemore, the Leicester
Electric Company, in the factory at "Lower
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
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-
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
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-
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-
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
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.
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
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
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
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
About a half mile east of the Center in 1854
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
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
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
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 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
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-
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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-
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-
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
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
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
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
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.
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
The Leicester of today has a reputation as
a select summer resort. Its population by the
1910 census was three thousand two hundred
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'
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.
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-
Oration by Hon. John E. Russell at Centen-
nial observance in Leicester, July, 1776.
Oration by Hon. Emory Washburn, July 4,
Article in New England Magazine, May,
1900. by John White Chadwick.
"A Century Old:" A history of the Card
Reminiscences of Joseph A. Denny.
History of Leicester by Rev. Abijah P. Mar-
History of the Second Congregational
Church and Society, by C. Van D. Chenoweth,
History of the Tarleton House, by Mr. C. C.
Genealogy of Denny Family.
Genealogy of Earle Family, and other sim-
Diary of Rev. Samuel May.
The Greenville Baptist Church, 1738-1888.
"St. Joseph's Golden Jubilee."
Also manuscripts of Mr. Christopher C.
PRESS OF W. J. HEFFERNAN
The Leicester Banner Print
15^^ N. MANCHESTER,