Shirley Massachusetts, 1890
Shirley is situated in the northwesterly section of Middlesex County, 40 miles northwest from Boston on the Fitchburg Railroad, which has a station at Shirley village, in the southern part of the town. The Peterboro and Shirley Branch follows on the opposite side of the Squannacook River, which forms the northeastern line of the town. Groton adjoins on the northeast, Ayer and Harvard on the east, the latter and Lancaster on the south, and Lunenburg on the west.
The assessed area is 9,255 acres. Upwards of 4,000 acres are woodland, containing much oak and hard pine. There are many small hills and several ponds. Malpus Brook crosses the middle of the town to the Nashua, having Woodsville near the latter river. Nashua River forms half the eastern line; receiving from Catacunnemug Pond, at the western border, a stream furnishing the power for Shirley village. The soil of the uplands is light and sandy, and devoted to forests, while along the streams is much good intervale. Apples, pears and cranberries are raised in large quantities.
The product of the 112 farms, in 1885, was reported in the census as $107,753. There is a cotton mill, employing in June, 1885, 57 persons; the paper mill employed 8, and the suspender factory, 17. Other manufactures were lumber, leather, hoops, baskets, brushes, brooms, straw goods, wrought stone, agricultural implements and metallic goods. The value of the aggregate manufactured product was $85,016. The population was 1,242, — of whom 292 were legal voters. The valuation in 1888 was $639,018, with a tax-rate of $12 on $1,000. There were 290 taxed dwelling-houses.
The post-offices are Shirley (centre) and South Shirley. North Shirley is a small hamlet, and at the extreme south is located a, Shaker community. The town has six public school-houses, valued at $4,000. The town library has some 3,000 volumes, and the First Parish Ladies' Library Association has about 2,000. Two weekly papers — the "Oracle" and the "Union" — are published here. The churches are the Baptist, Congregationalist, Unitarian, Universalist and Shaker.
The territory of this town was detached from Groton, and incorporated, January 5, 1753; being named in honor of Governor William Shirley. Daniel Parker (1782-1846), a lawyer, and a brigadier-general of the U.S. army, and Mrs. Sarah C. Edgarton Mayo (1819-1848), a popular author and editor, were natives of this town.
pp. 593-594 in Nason and Varney's Massachusetts Gazetteer, 1890