Spencer Massachusetts, 1890

Spencer is an elevated and beautiful farming and manufacturing town in the southwesterly section of Worcester County, 18 miles from Worcester and 62 from Boston. The Boston and Albany Railroad runs through the southwestern part, haying a station at South Spencer and sending a branch to Spencer (centre). The latter is the post-office for the town. The other villages are North Spencer, Hillsville north of the centre, and Wire Village northeastward.

The town has Oakham and Paxton on the north, the latter and Leicester on the east, Charlton on the south, and Brookfield and North Brookfield on the west. The territory is in the form of a parallelogram, with its length north and south. Its assessed area is 20,490 acres; of which 6,564 are forests of oak, pine, chestnut, white and black birch and maple. The laurel (Kalmia latifolia) often adorns the pastures. The land is varied by many beautifully rounded hills and by winding valleys. Green, Flat and Moose hills are the most noted elevations. Near the latter, and a little north of the central village, is Moose Pond, whose outlet furnishes power for manufacturing purposes. The town is drained chiefly by Seven-mile River and its tributaries, which also furnish power. This stream issues from Browning's Pond on the northern border of the town, and flows in a generally southwestward course to Podunk Pond, in Brookfield The underlying rock is ferruginous gneiss and some shale. The summits of some of the ledges still show the grinding and smoothing of the ancient glaciers. The soil is loamy, somewhat hard to work, but productive.

The dairy leads in the agricultural industries; the stock of neat cattle in 1885 having been 1,550, and the value of the milk sold $47,059. Apple trees are prolific, and wild and cultivated berries are numerous. The value of the product of the 260 farms in 1885 was $215,658. There are 12 boot and shoe factories, the largest being that of Isaac Prouty & Company; this industry employing in June, 1885, according to the State census, 1,507 persons. Other large factories were the Ladd Woollen Mills and the Spencer Wire Company's works; the first employing 214 persons and the latter 70. The value of the boots and shoes made was $2,617,736; of the textiles, $481,000; and of wire, machinery and other metallic articles, $166,236. Other manufactures were lumber and boxes, artisans' tools, clothing, furniture, oils or illuminating fluid, leather, carriages, liquors and food preparations. The value of the aggregate product was $3,627,467. The Spencer National Bank has a capital stock of $150,000; and the savings bank at the close of last year held deposits to the amount of $499,508. The population was 8,247; of whom 1,320 were legal voters. The valuation in 1888 was $4,011,090, with a tax-rate of $16.50 on $1,000. There were 1,597 taxed dwelling-houses.

The town-house, constructed of brick, cost about $62,000. The David Prouty high school house (cost $46,000) and the Richard Sugden Public Library are both new and elegant buildings. There are also many handsome residences, both new and old. The 15 school buildings in 1885 were valued at some $70,000. The publications are the "Sun" and the "Bulletin," weekly journals; and the "Catholic Home Journal," a monthly. The Roman Catholics have two churches here; and there are one of each of the Baptists, Congregationalists, Methodists and Universalists.

This town, originally the Second Precinct of Leicester, was incorporated April 3, 1753. The Rev. Joshua Eaton, ordained November 7, 1744, was the first minister. The town sent 265 men into the Union army in the late war; and 49 of them were killed in battle, or died in consequence of the service.

Elias Howe, the inventor of the sewing-machine, was born in this town, July 9, 1819; and died at Brooklyn, L. I., October 3, 1867. He was the son of Elias and Polly (Bemis) Howe, and worked with his father at his mill on Cranberry River; which, with his humble birthplace in a quiet valley, may be seen from the cars in passing from Charlton to South Spencer. He completed his first machine in Boston, May, 1845; and, after many struggles, realized a fortune, and received the Cross of the Legion of Honor at the Paris Exposition.

pp. 610-611 in Nason and Varney's Massachusetts Gazetteer, 1890