Grafton Massachusetts, 1890

Grafton is an important and prosperous manufacturing and farming town in the southeastern part of Worcester County; the station of the Boston and Albany Railroad at North Grafton being 38 miles from Boston. The Providence and Worcester has stations at Saundersville and Farnumsville, in the southwest part of the town, following the line of the Blackstone River. At the latter village this stream receives the Quinsigamond River, coming down through the midst of the town.

Grafton is bounded on the north by Shrewsbury and Westborough, on the east by the latter and Upton, on the south by Northbridge and Sutton, and on the west by the latter and Millbury. The assessed area is 13,467 acres; of which 3,890 are woodland. The geological basis is calcareous gneiss. The land is elevated, uneven, somewhat rocky, being stocked with innumerable rounded stones of various sizes, which are turned to good account in making wall fences. Chestnut Hill near the centre, George Hill on the Upton line, Keith Hill at the south, and Brigham Hill at the west, are all beautiful eminences, affording extensive prospects of the adjacent territory, which is charmingly diversified with woodland, cultivated field and meadow, lake, hamlet and village.

The soil is moist and strong; and the timber growth is walnut, pine, oak, birch, chestnut and maple. The number of fruit trees is 22,881. Pear trees have here proved unusually productive. The cereal crop is larger in proportion to others than usual. The number of farms is 150; and their aggregate product in 1885 was $218,022. The principal business of the people, however, is the manufacture of cotton and linen cloth, boots and shoes and leather. The value of the textiles made in the last census year was $809,500; and of boots and shoes, $564,921. There are also manufactures of straw goods, clothing, carriages, emery and sand paper, lumber, flour and meal. The aggregate of manufactures was $1,470,582. There are two national banks with a capital of $100,000 each; and the savings bank, at the close of last year, held $226,197 in deposits. The population is 4,498, 877 being voters; and the dwelling-houses numbered 867.

There are a good town-hall, a public library of about 5,000 volumes; and further means of intelligence are furnished by the newspapers of the town the "Herald" and the "Telephone," both issued weekly. The public schools are graded, and occupy eleven buildings valued at about $30,000. The Baptists have here two churches; the Free Baptists, one; the Congregationalists, two; the Methodists, one; the Unitarians, one; the United Presbyterians, one; and the Roman Catholic, one Saint Philip's.

The town furnished 359 soldiers for the late war, of whom 49 lost their lives in the national service. A beautiful monument of Italian marble upwards of 30 feet in height has been erected to their memory.

This place was set apart as one of John Eliot's " Indian praying-towns;" and here he had a prosperous Indian church, which Major Daniel Gookin visited, in company with the apostle, in 1674, and of which he gives the following account :

      "The name Hassanamissitt signifieth 'a place of small stones.' It lieth about 38 miles from Boston, west-southerly, and is about two miles eastward of Nipmuck River, and near unto the old roadway to Connecticut. It hath not above twelve families, and so, according to our computation, about sixty souls; but is capable to receive some hundreds, as generally the other villages are, if it shall please God to multiply them. The dimension of this town is four miles square, and so about eight thousand acres of land. This village is not inferior unto any of the Indian plantations for rich land and plenty of meadow, being well tempered and watered. It produceth plenty of corn, grain, and fruit; for there are several good orchards in this place. It is an apt place for keeping of cattle and swine; in which respect this people are the best stored of any Indian town of their size. Their ruler is named Anaweakin, a sober and discreet man. Their teacher's name is Tackuppawillin, his brother, a pious and able man, and apt to teach. Their aged father, whose name I remember not, is a grave and sober Christian, and deacon of the church. They have a brother, that lives in the town, called James, that was bred among the English, and employed as a pressman in printing the Indian Bible; who can read well, and, as I take it, write also. The father, mother, brothers, and their wives, are all reputed pious persons. Here they have a meeting-house for the worship of God, after the English fashion of building, and two or three other houses after the same mode; but they fancy not greatly to live in them. Their way of living is by husbandry, and keeping cattle and swine; wherein they do as well, or rather better than any other Indians, but are yet very far short of the English both in diligence and providence. There are in full communion in the church, and living in town, about sixteen men and women, and about thirty baptized persons; but there are several others, members of this church, that live in other places. This is a hopeful plantation."

All that now remains of these primitive owners of the soil is an ancient Indian burial-place, together with a few arrowheads and stone mortars, which have been ploughed up in the fields.

This town was settled by the English as early as 1728, when the land was purchased for the sum of £2,500; and the grant was made on condition that the settlers should "provide preaching and schooling, and seats in the meeting-house, for the remaining Indians." A church was organized here December 28, 1731, of which the Rev. Solomon Prentice was ordained the first pastor. The plantation of Hassanamisco was incorporated as a town under the name of Grafton, April 18, 1735.


Nason and Varney's Massachusetts Gazetteer, 1890, pp. 336-338