Ashburnham Massachusetts, 1890
Ashburnham is a thriving town in the northern part of Worcester County, on the water-shed between the Connecticut and Merrimack rivers, and sixty miles northwest of Boston by the Fitchburg Railroad. Its stations on this road are Ashburnham — the central village — on a short branch, and Ashburnham Junction, where it connects with the Cheshire Railroad ; the last having a station here and at Burrageville (Ashburnham station) in the western part of the town. Its post-offices are Ashburnham, North Ashburnham, and Ashburnham Depot. These, with Lane Village and South Ashburnham, constitute the villages. The population in 1885 was 2,058 ; and in 1888 there were 467 dwelling-houses. The town is bounded on the north by Rindge, in New Hampshire, east by Ashby, south by Westminster and Gardner, and west by Winchendon. From precipitous and rocky Watatic Mountain, in the northeast, 1,847 feet above sea-level, is obtained a most splendid view of Monadnock, Wachusett, and other more distant mountains, together with a vast panorama dotted with lakes, woods, and villages. At the northwest is Rocky Hill ; Mount Hunger, central on the east side, commands beautiful views of the large ponds on either side of it ; and Brown Hill overlooks the central village. Meeting-house Hill, where the first house of worship was placed, is 1,280 feet high. The average elevation of the town is about 1,000 feet above sea-level. The railroad station at Ashburnham Junction is said to be the highest point on the railroad line between Boston and the Rocky Mountains.
The numerous streams afford many small powers, and their flow is regulated by the storage afforded by not less than ten ponds, mostly beautiful. The largest is Naukeag, containing 302 acres, and varied with many charming islands. Phillip's Brook runs through the centre of the town, furnishing motive power for extensive chair and other factories. Another branch of the Nashua enlivens Ashburnham Depot and South Ashburnham ; while Bluefield Brook, and other tributaries of Miller's River, furnish water-power in the north and west. The largest product of the factories is furniture — mostly rattan chairs, amounting in 1885 to $349,576 ; food preparations were $32,201 ; wood and metal goods, $6,000 ; and there are made, also, shoes, cotton goods, clothing, carriages, leather, children's toys and games ; and in the northerly part of the town are still several lumber mills. The aggregate of manufactures was $418,815.
The assessed area of the town is 23,336 acres, of which 7,275 acres is woodland. The land is broken and rocky, but the soil is strong There are 176 farms, yielding a product valued in 1885 at $111,154 ; the dairy furnishing $30,303 of this sum ; other farm items being in proportion. The valuation in 1888 was $992,400, with a taxation of $17.50 on $1,000. The First National Bank of this place, on December 31, 1888, had assets to the value of $145,373, of which $50,000 was paid-up capital. The schools are both graded and mixed. There are ten school-houses, valued, with appurtenances, at upwards of $7,000. There is also a well-endowed private school — Cushing Academy, — which has a fine building, and is unusually furnished with a library of upwards of 2,000 volumes. The town public library contains nearly 1,500 volumes; and there is a private circulating library and Sunday-school libraries.
The churches are the First Congregational, the Methodist, the Roman Catholic and the Second Congregational at North Ashburnham.
This place was originally called "Dorchester Canada," because the land was granted to Thomas Tileston and other soldiers of Dorchester for services in the expedition to Canada in 1690. It was incorporated February 22, 1765 ; being named in honor of John Ashburnham, second Earl of Ashburnham. In 1815, part of Gardner was annexed ; and in 1824, part of Winchester. The first church (Congregational) was organized here in 1760, having Rev. John Winchester for its first pastor. He was succeeded in 1768 by the Rev. John Cushing, D.D., who died in 1823, and was followed by the Rev. George Perkins. The town, in 1885, had thirty residents who were over 80 years of age.
Thomas Parkman Cushing, a public-spirited merchant of Boston, was born here in 1787, and died in Boston in 1854. He bequeathed a large sum to establish a school in the town of his birth; and Cushing Academy (previously mentioned) is a noble monument to his memory.
pp. 117-119 in Nason and Varney's Massachusetts Gazetteer, 1890