Natick Massachusetts, 1890
Natick is a large and flourishing town in the southerly part of Middlesex County, noted chiefly for its shoe manufacture. The Boston and Albany Railroad crosses the town, having its chief station in Natick village, at the centre, 17 miles from Boston. From this point a branch road extends to Saxonville, on the Sudbury River, in Framingham. The large angles of the town lie at its north, south and west. The assessed area is 8,309 acres. Wayland bounds it on the north, Needham on the east, Sherborn on the southwest, and Framingham on the northwest.
The most commanding eminence is Pegan Hill, at the southeast, 408 feet in height. Others are Tom's Hill in the west, and Fisk's and Broad hills near the centre, — from which may he had fine views of the principal village and of Lake Cochituate. This beautiful expanse of water extends from the central part of the town northward along the borders of Framingham and Wayland. Eastward, just over the border, are the Wellesley ponds. There are other small ponds in the northeast, south and west. Dispersed about the town are tracts of forest to the extent of 1,870 acres. There is a well-wooded range of small hills in the south and east, whose most elevated summits mark the form of a rude letter S. Not far from these flows the Charles River across the southeast corner of the town into Needham, furnishing power at South Natick. This valley drew from President Washington the remark, "Nature seems to have lavished all her beauties here."
The soil of this town is not remarkably fertile, yet skilful cultivation procures good crops. The value of the product of the 92 farms in 1888 was $96,815.
About the year 1830 Natick began to make a kind of sale shoes called "brogans," by hand, for the Southern market. A few years later machinery was introduced, and about the same time railroad communication was opened with Boston; and under the lead of the enterprising men, among whom were the Messrs. Walcott, Hon. Henry Wilson, Isaac Felch and others, the business increased. Workmen came in, new streets were laid out, buildings erected, new firms and shops established; so that from a sparsely settled town of 890 inhabitants in 1830 it has come to contain at this date up-wards of 10,000 people (census of 1885, 8,460). One mile north of the centre the enterprising village of Felchville sprang up; and the very handsome village of South Natick has been steadily increasing. Other villages are Mossville, in the southwest, and North and West Natick. Natick and South Natick are the post-offices. The central villages are connected by a street railway; and the place is a trade centre for neighboring towns.
[residence of Hon. Henry Wilson, Natick, Mass.]
There were in the town in 1885, 28 shoe establishments, employing 1,505 persons, and making goods to the value, in that year, of $2,042,856. There are also manufactures of lumber, boxes, furniture, leather, paint, straw goods and other clothing, base balls, metallic goods, carriages, textiles, soap, flour and meal and other food preparations. The value of the aggregate product was $2,534,495. The Natick National Bank has a capital of $100,000; and the savings bank, at the opening of the present year, held deposits to the amount of $934,768. The taxed dwelling-houses in 1888 were 1,594 in number; the legal voters, 2,117; the valuation was $5,193,230, and the tax-rate $17.20 on $1,000.
There are a good town-hall, a well-shaded park, an excellent opera house, and a fine library building of brick (the "Morse Institute") containing a free reading-room and a library of nearly 20,000 volumes. The Odd Fellows also have a good three-storied edifice of brick. There is a good high school at the centre, and spacious buildings for the lower grades here and in other villages; their value being about $50,000. The churches are one each of the Baptists, Congregationalists, Methodists, Episcopalians and Roman Catholics, in the central part of the town, and a Congregationalist, a Unitarian and a Roman Catholic at South Natick. The Dell-park Cemetery is beautiful in itself and in its situation.
The oldest newspaper is the "Natick Bulletin;" the "Natick Weekly Review" is a more recent Democratic venture; and the " Natick Citizen" is a pronounced Republican prohibition journal; the good effects of its work being shown by the establishment of local prohibition in the town. The land as a whole is elevated, and the water-supply excellent.
The celebrated John Eliot, the apostle to the Indians, established the first Indian church in New England in this town in 1660. Three years later, the Bible, translated by him into the Nipmuck language, was printed at Cambridge. The oak tree under which he used to instruct the sons of the forest is still pointed out. There is an Indian burial place at South Natick, and one at the centre. The name Natick is an Indian word signifying " a place of hills." This town first appears in the State records, April 16, 1679, as a plantation making an exchange of lands with Sherborn. On February 23, 1762, it is recorded: " The parish of Natick established as the district of Natick;" and on February 19, 1781, the district was made the town of Natick.
Of the eminent people associated with this town, there are William Bigelow (1773-1844), editor and poet; Calvin E. Stowe, D.D. (1802-1885), an able divine and educator, the husband of Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author; Alexander W. Thayer (1807), a musical critic and author; and Hon. Henry Wilson, shoe manufacturer, U.S. senator, and vice-president of the nation.
pp. 483-486 in Nason and Varney's Massachusetts Gazetteer, 1890