Lancaster Massachusetts, 1890

Lancaster is the oldest and one of the most beautiful towns in Worcester County. It lies on the Nashua River, 35 miles northwest of Boston. On the north are Lunenburg and Shirley, on the east Harvard and Bolton, on the south Clinton and on the west Sterling and Leominster. The assessed area is 16,192 acres. There are 6,6160 acres of woodland, containing oak, pine and maple. The highways and the 366 acres of water surface of the seven ponds added give a total area of 18,183 acres. The land is generally level, but rises in the southwest into the beautiful eminences of Ballard and George hills. The north and south branches of the Nashua River are conjoined near the southeast angle of the town; whence flowing through rich alluvial lands it forms the line between Lancaster and Harvard. The geological formation (according to Prof. Hitchcock) is the St. John's group argillaceous slate predominating. In the gneissic portion are found fine examples of kyanite, chiastolite, and staurotide in the mica slate. The soil is a sandy loam, and that of the meadows is deep and rich. The value of the aggregate product of the 157 farms in the last census year is given as $180,761. There are manufactures of cotton yarn, certain wool goods, wire, bricks, brooms, machinery and metallic articles; the value of the aggregate being $118,404. The valuation of the town in 1888 was $2,663,325, with a tax-rate of $9.25 on $1,000. There were 420 dwelling-houses, 2,050 inhabitants, and 440 legal voters. Lancaster, the central and principal village, is delightfully situated on a gentle swell of land above the confluence of the north and south branches of the Nashua, and contains a town-house, The high school, a fine Memorial Hall to the 38 soldiers lost in the war for the Union, in which is the public library of upwards of 21,000 volumes. There are also some very handsome residences. On the south branch of the Nashua is the pleasant village of South Lancaster, the location of South Lancaster Academy; both these being post-offices and stations on the Worcester and Nashua Railroad. Other villages are North Lancaster and Poniken. All the villages especially the centre are plentifully shaded by elm, maple, ash and other trees, some very old and large. The "Great Elm" in this place is widely known, and is said to be the largest in the United States. The roads of this town are excellent; and the Nashua River is here spanned by eight iron bridges.

The Unitarians of Lancaster have a brick church designed by Charles Bulfinch many years ago; to which has been added a large apse. The bell-tower is domed, and 120 feet in height. The New Jerusalem Church edifice is a rustic chapel; the Roman Catholic a Gothic structure. That of the Congregationalists is of large seating capacity. A Seventh-Day Advent society is also reported in the town. A State industrial school for girls is situated in the southerly part of the town.

Lancaster was incorporated May 18, 1653, the first in the county. Its name was chosen in memory of the old town bearing it in England. The Indian term for the locality was Nashawog. Thomas King, of Watertown, purchased the territory of this town of Sholan, an Indian sachem. Settlements were commenced prior to 1650. The town suffered greatly in King Philip's War. Ten persons were killed on August 22, 1675; and on the 10th of February following Philip's warriors set fire to the house of the Rev. Joseph Rowlandson, which contained 42 persons, only one of whom escaped. Subsequently the town was reduced to ashes by the enemy. In the summer of 1704, a force of 500 French and Indians assaulted the town, killed four persons, and burned the meeting-house. In October of the year ensuing, Thomas Sawyer, his son Elias, and John Bigelow, were carried away captives to Canada. There to purchase their liberty Mr. Sawyer built at Chamblee the first saw mill in that country. The Rev. Joseph Rowlandson, the first settled minister, was ordained in 1658. The Rev. John Whiting succeeded him, and was killed by the Indians in 1697. Lancaster is the birth-place of Gen. John Whitcomb (d. 1812), a Revolutionary patriot; Miss Hannah Flagg Gould (1789-1856), a poetical writer; and Mrs. Caroline Lee Hentz (1800-1856), the novelist.

pp. 400-401 in Nason and Varney's Massachusetts Gazetteer, 1890