Sterling Massachusetts, 1890

Sterling is a pleasant manufacturing and farming town of 1,321 inhabitants, lying in the northeastern section of Worcester County, 49 miles northwest of Boston; having for its boundaries Leominster on the north, Lancaster and Clinton on the east, Boylston and West Boylston on the south, and Holden and Princeton on the west. The assessed area is 18,668 acres; including upwards of 5,000 acres of forest, consisting of pine and walnut. It has three postal villages -- Sterling Centre (an uncommonly beautiful place), Sterling Junction, Pratt's Junction, and West Sterling, --all except the last being also railroad stations. The Boston and Maine and Old Colony railroads give it ready communication with Boston, Worcester and Fitchburg.

The formative rock is Merrimack schist and the St. John's group; and in the southerly part of the town specimens of iron pyrites, galena, carbonate of iron, spodumene, chiastolite, blende or sulphuret of zinc, and copper pyrites, are discovered. Justice Hill in the northwest corner, Fitch's Hill near the centre, Kendall Hill and Redstone Hill in the southeast, are all beautiful eminences, affording delightful scenic views. The latter hill is so called from the color of its rocks, which consist in part of sulphuret of iron. A shaft was sunk to the depth of about 100 feet in 1775 in search of precious metals, the traces of which are still visible. There is a potash spring near the centre. The town has several valuable ponds, the most noted of which are those bearing the names of the East and the West Waushaccum, lying in the southerly section; the former covering 190 and the latter 180 acres. The principal streams are Bailey Brook, Rocky Brook, and Stillwater River flowing southerly, and, with another, forming the Nashua River.

The land is moist and fertile; and the agricultural condition of the town is considered excellent. The dairy products are large, and much attention is given to marketing of milk. The principal manufactures are chairs and settees, earthenware, basket-work, clothing, and wooden and metallic goods. The value of all goods made in 1885, as appears in the census for that year, was $84,493. The value of the aggregate farm product was $229,860. The number of legal voters was 359. The valuation in 1888 was $884,077, with a tax of $13 on $1,000. The number of assessed dwelling-houses was 529.

Sterling has a good town-hall, a free public library of nearly 3,000 volumes, and 11 public school-houses; the latter valued at nearly $20,000. The schools are graded as primary, grammar and high. The Conant Library building was erected in 1885. There is one church each of the Unitarians, Congregationalists and Baptists. The camp-meeting grounds at Sterling Junction are very attractive, and are a favorite resort.

This town was originally called by its Indian name, Chockset, and most of it was embraced in a purchase made in 1701 of Tahanto, nephew of Sholan, sachem of the Nashua Indians, who dwelt in the vicinity of the Waushaccum Ponds. It was included in Lancaster until April 25, 1781, when it was incorporated under its present name -- derived from Stirling, the capital of Stirlingshire in Scotland. Gamaliel Beaman, who came here in 1720, was the first white settler. The Rev. John Mellen, of Hopkinton, ordained in 1744, was the first pastor. Sterling furnished 178 men for the Union armies in the late war, of whom 26 were lost. Among the eminent men of this town were Henry Mellen (1757-1809), a lawyer and poet; Prentiss Mellen, LL.D. (1764-1840), an able jurist; Bartholomew Brown (1772-1854), a lawyer and musical composer; Rev. Martin Moore (1790-1866), a clergyman and editor; and William Frederick Holcombe, M.D. (1827), an eminent surgeon.

pp. 615-616 in Nason and Varney's Massachusetts Gazetteer, 1890