WESTBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS "THE HUNDREDTH TOWN "
Before recorded time, Westborough had become known as a crossroads. As early as 7,000 B.C., prehistoric people in dugout canoes followed the Sudbury and Assabet Rivers to their headwaters in search of quartzite for tools and weapons. During the Late Woodland Period (1200-1600 A.D.), seasonal migrations brought Nipmuc Indians to hunt and fish near Cedar Swamp and Lake Hoccomocco. Using Fay Mountain as a landmark, Indians crisscrossed Westborough on well worn paths: the old Connecticut Path leading west from Massachusetts Bay; the Narrgansett Trail leading south, and the trail (along the present Milk Street) leading to Canada.
The early English explorer John Oldham followed these trails through Westborough in 1633, and settlers in search of fertile farmlands followed not long after. By the late 1600s, a few families had settled near Lake Chauncy, in the "west borough" of Marlborough.
On November 18, 1717, Westborough was incorporated as the hundredth town in Massachusetts, populated by twenty-seven families. Soon large farms were carved out, mills built long the Assabet River and Jack Straw Brook, and taverns flourished. Westborough's first minister, Reverend Ebenezer Parkman, shepherded the growing town of colonists through the years toward independence from England. Forty-six minutemen from Westborough fought bravely under Captain Edmund Brigham in the Revolutionary War.
In 1810 the route from Boston to Worcester was straightened and improved into an official turnpike (the present Route 9), and along its Westborough route, the Wesson Tavern Common, Forbush Tavern and Nathan Fisher's store prospered. The center of commerce shifted downtown in 1824 with the arrival of the steam train through Westborough's center. The railroad brought a new era to the town industry: over the next century, local factories shipped boots and shoes, straw hats, sleighs, textiles, bicycles, and eventually abrasive products, across the nation. Westborough dairies supplied cities with milk and local greenhouses shipped out carnations, while the eight orchards found ready markets for their produce.
The industrial progress of the entire country is indebted to Westborough's most famous native son Eli Whitney Jr. Born in 1765, Whitney invented the cotton gin in 1795 after graduating from Yale, and in 1798 he introduced mass production to the United States at his Whitney Arms Company in New Haven, Connecticut. Whitney's legacy is apparent in the modern industries located within the town's borders: Astra Pharmaceuticals, Dover Electric, Proteon, the Massachusetts Microelectronics Center, and the world headquarters of Data General.
Westborough continues in its role as a major crossroads of New England: the Massachusetts Turnpike, Route 9 and Route 495 transect the town and have attracted major corporate, industrial and residential development. The "Hundredth Town" in Massachusetts, reflecting its proud heritage, continues to grow and prosper.
~Kristina Nilson Allen