Chelmsford Massachusetts, 1890


Chelmsford
is an ancient and pleasant town in the northern part Middlesex county, about 26 miles northwest of Boston. Tyngsborough, Dracut and Lowell bound it on the north; the latter with Billerica on the east; Carlisle on the south; and Westford on the west. The Merrimack River forms the line along the Dracut border. The assessed area is 14,132 acres including 5,483 acres of woodland. The villages are Chelmsford (centre), North, South, West and East Chelmsford, which— except the last — are also post-offices. The Ayer Junction Branch of the Boston and Lowell Railroad has stations at North and at West Chelmsford, and the Lowell Branch of the Old Colony Road has stations at Chelmsford and South Chelmsford.

The principal eminences are Rocky Hill, abounding in ledges in the southeast; Robbin's Hill, affording grand views, near the centre; and Vine, Chestnut and Francis hills, toward the west. These are in parallel ranges lying nearly northeast and southwest. Among the hills of the eastern range flows River-meadow Brook, finding its devious way to the Merrimack at Lowell. Across the northwest section runs Stony Brook, affording motive power at West Chelmsford; also at North Chelmsford, where it falls into the Merrimack. Deep Brook crosses the extreme northwest part to the same river. Hart Pond, containing 105 acres, is a beautiful sheet of water in the southwest side of the town. Sheldon's Pond, of 80 acres, at North Chelmsford, is valuable for its ice, as well as for its reserved supply of water-power.

The principal rocks are calcareous gneiss and Merrimack schist, in which occurs a bed of limestone. The soil, though sandy, is in general very good. The farms number 129, being much fewer and larger than twenty years ago. There were, in 1885, 19,125 fruit trees and many acres devoted to cranberries. The aggregate farm product was $160,009. The town affords good building stone, and several quarries are worked from time to time. At North Chelmsford is a factory making worsted and carpet yarns, an iron foundery, a file factory and one or two shops making textile machinery. At West Chelmsford is a woollen mill and a cutlery factory. Other manufactures of the town are hosiery, leather, food preparations, lumber, carriages, etc. The aggregate value of the manufactures for the year mentioned was $517,868. The valuation of the town in 1888 was $1,602,565; and the tax-rate was but $9 on $1,000. The population by the last census was 2,304; and in 1888 there were 577 dwelling-houses.

The public schools are graded, and occupy nine buildings, valued with appurtenances, at $12,300. There are two association libraries in the villages, and the Sunday schools also have books; so that altogether there are about 5,000 volumes. The "Chelmsford Chronotype '' is the local newspaper. The Baptists, Congregationalists, Methodists, Episcopalians) Unitarians, and Roman Catholics, each have a church edifice in the town.

The Indian name of this place was Pawtucket; and the first grant of its territory, then including Westford and a part of Lowell, was made in 1653 to persons in Concord and Woburn. It was in the form of a parallelogram. On May 29, 1655, it was incorporated as "Chelmsford" in remembrance of the town of that name eight miles from Billericay, Essex County, England. In the following year William How was admitted an inhabitant, and granted 12 acres of meadow and 18 of upland, "provided he set up his trade of weaving, and perform the town's work." In 1660 the bounds between the town and the Indian plantation at "Patucket" were established; in 1729 part of the territory was established. as the town of Westford; in 1780, a part of this went with parts of other towns to form Carlisle; in 1826 another part was established as Lowell; in 1865 a portion was annexed to Carlisle; and in 1874 a portion was annexed to Lowell.

The Rev. John Fiske, settled in 1655, was the first minister. He served his people also as a physician, and was an excellent man. By request of the church he prepared a catechism, which was printed in 1657 by Samuel Green, of Cambridge. It bears the quaint title, "Watering of the Plant in Christ's Garden, or a Short Catechism for the Entrance of Chelmsford Children.'' In the latter part of his life he was carried to his church in a chair, from which he addressed the people. The Rev. John Eliot preached. to the Indians here on the 5th of May, 1674.

Chelmsford has an interesting Revolutionary history; and in 1859 a handsome granite monument was erected to the memory of its soldiers who perished in that war. Other eminent men of Chelmsford, distinguished in different fields, are Benjamin Pierce (1757-1839), a Revolutionary officer, and governor of New Hampshire in 1827; John Farmer (1789-1838), a celebrated antiquary; Jeffries Wyman., M.D. (1814), a distinguished anatomist and author; John C. Dalton (1825), an able physiologist and author. 

pp. 230-232 in Nason and Varney's Massachusetts Gazetteer, 1890

Gazetteer