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Uxbridge

The Uxbridge area was originally known as Waucantuck or Waucantaug from the Indian word Waentug meaning "place near the waters". On April 22, 1662, a large parcel of Nipmuc Indian land was purchased for 24 pounds from Indian Great John. This parcel included land that is now known as Milford, Mendon and Uxbridge with the Village of Waentug located in the Ironstone Village area of South Uxbridge. In fact, this was one of the 14 Indian Praying Towns established by Christian missionary John Eliot who translated the Bible into the Indian language. Another village was apparently located between the West and Mumford Rivers, but in 1676 these settlements joined Indian Chief Metacomet, aka Philip, in burning the village of Mendon as King Philip's War permeated the region. By 1700, the tribe was lost due to intermarriage, war and sickness. In 1727, the eraly English settlers separated from Mendon and the Town was incorporated as Uxbridge, probably named after its sister city, Uxbridge, England.

The first century of Uxbridge community and economic life was mostly agriculturally-based. Main routes developed from Indian footpaths that had evolved into cartpaths, then became stage coach roads. Until the Industrial Revolution in the early 1800s, the main villages in Uxbridge were Ironstone and North Uxbridge. After Samuel Slater invented the water wheel in Pawtucket, RI, hundreds of mills eventually developed in the Blackstone Valley, especially along the Blackstone River, thus triggering construction of the 1828 Blackstone Canal to compete with the English cloth that was transported further, yet more cheaply by ship across the seas than by the heavy burdens of horse and wagon used locally. The Canal led to Uxbridge developing as an active commerce center, heightened by the Providence and Worcester Railroad in 1848 and the electric trolley car in 1901.

The trolley passed through Hecla Corner and on to Milford, Framingham and Medway, Hopkinton and North Grafton. Until the industrial revolution quickened the pace of making cloth by automation in the mills run by water power, cloth had been imported from England or made in homes throughout the area. The 1774 embargo increased home production, but costs of transporting it were difficult until Massachusetts politicians and investors finally joined with Rhode Islanders to build the Blackstone Canal, still very visible at River Bend Farm or behind Stanley Woolen Mill.

Uxbridge was particularly well-known for its cassimeres (fine wool) and satinettes (shiny cotton or wool). Although the depression of 1858 led to a plateau for business, the 1961 advent of the Civil War almost doubled the number of employees and production for uniforms, replacing the cotton from the South that had been shut off during the bloodiest conflict in America. Up to 20 mills were operating in Uxbridge by the mid 1880s and many were fully or partially owned by the same wealthy residents. Their wealth and prosperity can be seen in the historic houses and buildings still seen throughout Uxbridge.

There are still signs of the agricultural heritage in Uxbridge, too, but Bangsma Dairy Farm (Quarry Hill) is the last of the farms operating in Uxbridge today with several generations of the Bangsmas involved with the farm since purchase in 1924. Uxbridge's Carol Masiello gives an indepth look at the dairy farms of the past while Renee Thibault provides wonderful photos taken in winter 2003.

Uxbridge performed a Historic Properties inventory in 1981 and 1995 with over 250 properties listed in the State Historic Register. Sixty of those properties are also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Historical Buildings in Uxbridge

The historical buildings in Uxbridge represent a proud, innovative and hard working past - filled with culture, commerce, religion, transportation routes, mills, farming, education and a multi-cultural heritage. Most of these buildings are still standing, though some are in disrepair after manufacturing dwindled in the North and went South while others are renovated and thriving. Take a tour and witness the magnificent past and the bright future of Uxbridge.............

The earliest intact structure is the John Cornet Farnum House, built around 1710, where the first Uxbridge Town Meeting was held on July 25, 1727,. At that time, Uxbridge was approximately 29 square miles and contained about 50 families. Directly across from this attractive and renovated home is the Prospect Hill Cemetery.

In 1737, Daniel Taft donated land to the Town along the west side of South Main Street for a burial place. In 1795 and then again in 1855, the Town purchased parcels of land from Jonathan Farnum and Deacon William Capron for a new cemetery called Prospect Hill at 35 Mendon Street. The remains of the original 1737 burial ground, the site of the Town Hall area, were transferred to Prospect Hill between 1865-1875 to clear the way for the Old Center School, Town Hall and the Methodist Church along south Main Street. The wall and entrance to Prospect Hill Cemetery were added in 1901 with funding from the Ladies Union Association of Uxbridge. Nearby is St Mary's Cemtery and there are or have been 31 other smaller burial grounds in town. There are many historic gravestones at Prospect Hill cemetery, so this is certainly worth a visit if you're any kind of a history buff!

When Route 146A was constructed, a burial ground was uncovered near the Quaker Meeting House. There has been controversy as to whom was buried there with many persisting that it was an old Indian burial ground and others stating that it was a Quaker burial ground. Harvard University studied the remains and then the remains were moved.

Starting with Southern Uxbridge in Quaker City, the Friends Meeting House at 479 Quaker Highway was built in 1770 and served the Quaker community until 1910. It is once again open on special occasions, including some holiday services. Two separate entrances and meeting places followed the Quaker tradition of separating genders. Attendance was often very large so that the balcony was full. As the Revolutionary War broke out, many Quakers refused to pay taxes that would support any fighting, this holding onto the Quaker tenet of peace.

In the 1820-30s, nearby Aldrich Village sprang up as a community of the extended family of the Aldriches. The Aldrich family were Quakers and their community included their homes, businesses including the Jacob Aldrich Farm (and Orchard) at 389 Aldrich Street which is a light colored brick home made in a kiln nearby on River Road. 364 Aldrich Street was owned by Daniel Aldrich who ran a saw mill, a blacksmith shop and a wheelwright shop which produced numerous products such as roof shingles, wagons, lumber. A one room schoolhouse was in the community as was an ice house cutting and storing ice from Aldrich Pond. 317 Aldrich Street was the home of Seth Aldrich and the family cemetery `is on Glendale Street.

 

These two villages were abutted by Ironstone and across Rte 146, Albeeville. As one travels towards Uxbridge center and beyond, the villages of Happy Hollow, Chocolog, Scadden, Elmdale, Hecla, Wheelockville, Calumet, Rivulet, Quarry Hill, Rice City, Linwood, Rogersons Village, Linwood, Williams Hill and North Uxbridge all conjure up vivid memories and local histories that make Uxbridge so unique and historic.

In the nearby Ironstone section is the historic Ironstone School, renovated by the South Uxbridge Community Association and open by appointment or on special occasions. This intact building, erected after a former school had burnt down, brings alive the proud one room schoolhouse tradition that lasted here until 1948. Originally, a 1797 structure was built here with eight grade levels being taught with one teacher. When the building burned before this present 1914 William Cass Aldrich structure was built, the children went for a few years to classes in the nearby Ironstone mill which is now demolished.

The Ironstone section of town was influential in Uxbridge's history. It was an agricultural community until 1734 when Benjamin Taft built an iron forge. Before 1800, Caleb Handy had established a saw mill and trip hammer shop and made guns and scythes. The Boston, Hartford and Erie Railroad even came to the Ironstone area in the 1860s for shipping goods to the markets west and east.

The Ironstone Mill Housing at 135 Ironstone Street was built by the Ironstone Cotton Manufacturing Company which produced cotton yarns. William Arnold built this mill in 1815 to to make yarn from raw cotton which was then woven into fabric by area families operating as cottage industries. Around 1820, Arnold added this housing when he increased the factory production by increasing water power and installing power looms. Due to the goods needing transport, this became an important stopover for various transportation carriers - the stagecoach, the train. A post office and store were shortly established on the mill property. The mill, was finally lost after it burnt down in 1875 after two earlier fires had led to rebuilding the mill.

Going north to Chocolog Village at 255 Chocolog Road is the 1820-30 wooden clapboard house that became the farm of wagon maker Elisha Southwick by 1855. Elisha and his brother Jonathan had rebuilt the Ironstone Mill after it burnt to the ground the first time. They produced the cloth to produce Kentuky jeans. During this time, Elisha was also producing a wagon each month and handling some smaller side jobs like carts, too. The brothers also ran a tannery and Jonathan operated a brick yard, too, off River Road inthe Ironstone Village.

By the 1870s, David Southwick was living in the home . He was a farmer and a blacksmith. He created some of the wheels used by the Conestoga Wagons that the pioneers traveled westward in during the late 1800s. The family burial ground, which might be the oldest in Uxbridge, lies between this home and George Southwick's home. George had started the first store in Uxbridge in Quaker City which was also a lending library and the post office.

One of Uxbridge's wealthiest citizens and largest landowners, Joseph Richardson Jr, lived in the 1819 home at 685 Chocolog Road. He was a farmer and landowner, but also a captain int he French and Indian War. Richardson died of smallpox in 1825 at the age of 41, but descendants still live int he home today, according to the Uxbridge Historical Society.

Heading north to the Elmdale Village at 14 Elmdale Road is the former Elmdale Mill which produced wool since 1810. Daniel Day built the first woolen mill in the East which burned down in 1844. It was rebuilt, bought by Samuel Scott and burnt down again in 1878. This present day mill was mostly built around 1879 and named as the SF Scott Elmdale Mill which made melton cloth until 1958 when it closed. It is now rented to diversified businesses. The village of Elmdale is filled with mill housing and former residences of the Scott family, though now owned privately.

Moving towards Uxbridge Center onto 240 South Main Street is the lovely Cocke n Kettle Resturant which was once the 1794 Georgian home of the The Honorable Bazaleel Taft Sr. (1750-1839) Taft was a loyal Federalist who served in the Revolutionary War before becoming a State senator and representative to the General Court for over 30 years. His mother, Lydia, a widow was the first legal woman voter in the United States when she voted in support of funding the French and Indian War at Town Meeting. When Bazaleel passed on at the ripe age of 89, his daughter and her husband, Joseph Taft Thayer who was a Brown University graduate in law, and had been a strong proponent and active in the Blackstone Canal and the providence and Worcester Railroad construction.

The 1807 "Elmshade" home at 195 South Main Street was a gift for Bazaleel Taft Jr. from his father after the son graduated from Harvard Law School and was practicing law next door in a brick building. Like his Father, Taft Jr. also became a State Senator and a representative to the General Court and on the State Executive Council. He also was also President of the Blackstone National Bank for nearly 20 years after being one of the active founders. Five generations of the Taft descendants lived in "Elmshade" - many of whom had powerful politic and legal careers, including George S. Taft, Bazaleel Jr's son, who was a lawyer, District Attorney and private secretary to U.S. Senator George Hoar in the 1880s. It is his influence that probably led to the Lincoln Square, Worcester Court House being erected. In 1874 during a family reunion at "Elmshade", a young future US President, William Howard Taft, most probably attended.

In the 1850s, three Federalist brick homes were built along Main Street with 53 South Main Street being the home of Captain George Carpenter. Owner of the Shuttle Shop, he was also one of the twelve owners of the 1814 Rivulet Mill. Carpenter was involved with many products, both produced by hand as well as utilizing automation including cloth items, tables, coffins and more.

The Uxbridge Town Hall at 21 South Main Street was built by Ira Southwick on the former burial ground after the remains were moved to Prospect Hil Cemetery. The Great Hall was dedicated on February 25, 1879 and a jail was built int he basement in 1882. The building, still a Town Hall, has been used for roller skating, dances, social events, sports and graduations over the years. Next door, the fire station, built in 1928, was joined by a brick arch. In 1938, the great hurricane swept away the main tower which has never been rebuilt, but an addition was added onto the building in 1939. The ceilings are the original metal and the interior is mostly original.

20 South Main Street is the current home of Savers Coop Bank, but they expect to move to the old Hotel Wilson at 6 North Main Street after renovations. However, this was built as the railroad depot in 1894, though trains traveled through Uxbridge since 1848 using an earlier depot at the same location. When train travel ceased, this was temporarily used as a bus depot and then by several businesses until the Savers Coop bought the depot. President William Howard Taft stopped here on April 3, 1905 where he proudly told of his many relatives int he Uxbridge area.

The Keka Monster as it is presently known, located at 2 South Main Street, is the former Blackstone National Bank building and the Taft Brothers dry goods store that also contained a public hall and was built by John Capron. This Capron Block was built in the 1840s and often, Town Meetings were held here at the public hall before the Great Town Hall was built. A great fire wiped out five blocks downtown including the Capron Block, but in 1902, the Taft Brothers rebuilt the brick building for their dry goods store. The Tafts also leased the Uxbridge Woolen mill and had produced woolen goods during the Civil War in the 1860s. Currenlty, the brick building is home to unique and cahrming specialty shops that are certainly worth a visit!

Diagonally across from the Keka Monster building is the historic Hotel Wilson building at 6 North Main Street built in 1882 by Levi Wilson to attract summer visiotrs to the mineral springs in Ironstone, as wellas businessmen traveling to the mills. Almost immediately, Wilson sold the hotel to George Day who renamed it Hotel Windsor. In 1909, the hotel was sold to Charles Ames and renamed to the Uxbridge Inn, a name that is still known today as it is undergoing renovations for its new owners, the Savers Coop Bank. The hotel was sold again in 1920 and it was a popular hotel and restaurant for locals and travelers for decades. The front veranda was a wonderful vantage point for viewing town parades, and other events. Prior to this building, two other public houses were built on this parcel, but both have been moved - one to South Main Street and the other to Douglas Street for rental housing.

Uxbridge Center is filled with historical charm and architecture, starting with the typical New England white-steepled First Evangelical Congregational Church at 8 Court Street built in 1833 along the west side of Uxbridge common. The First Church of Christ Society had initially formed in 1727 and evolved to the First Congregational Society, incorporated in 1797. The abutting building, formerly the Taft stable, is now home to the Uxbridge Natives and Newcomers Club playgroup, an art gallery and community use. It used to house a bowling alley at one time.

Also along Court Street is the Robert Taft House at 6 Court Street, built in 1820 and the home of Robert Taft, who ran the dry goods store at Capron building and leased the Woolen Mill to manufacturer woolen goods during the Civil War. Taft was born in Hecla Village and was joined byhis brother Jacon in his business ventures. Robert's son Arthur resided in the home. He became Selectman in the 1890s and Uxbridge's representative to the General Court in 1898. He was involved with banking as a director of the Blackstone National Bank and vice-president of the Uxbridge Savings Bank. He was also involved with real estate and was president of the Uxbridge and Northbridge Electric Company.

In 1818, the first floor of the brick Uxbridge Academy at 10 Court Street was built to house secondary education. In 1819, the second floor was built as the Solomon Temple Lodge of Masons. This partnership of using the building lasted until the Masons purchased the first floor in 1941. The secondary school (academy) went through various forms - all male, all female and co-ed over the years of 1820-55. 35 towns and six states sent students when the academy was under the principalship of Dr. Joseph Macomber who held an exceptional educational reputation. The newly built Center School, at Park and South Main, educated the students after the Academy closed in 1867. For several decades in the 1900s, the 2nd District Court of Southern Worcester County held court on the first floor before moving to its newly built courthouse located near the Cocke n Kettle Restaurant on South Main Street. The upper story has always been the MAsonic Hall while the use changed on the lower level several times.

Across North Main Street from the Mason's building is the D.A.R. house, originally built as the home of Simeon and Deborah Thayer Wheelock in 1768 at 33 North Main Street. Wheelock served as Town Clerk for five years and was a Revolutionary War officer as well as a blacksmith. He lost his life in the Shays Rebellion in 1784 at the age of 43 after fathering eight children. Son Jerry Wheelock was prominent in the textile industry in Uxbridge. Other blacksmiths lived in this home throughout the 18-19th century with a blacksmith shop right next door where the bank buildingis now located. In 1910, owners Mr. and Mrs. William Hayward donated the home to the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) in 1910. It is presently open on special occasions and actively used. It is painted a dark red.

The First Congregational Church at 21 North Main Street was built across the Common in 1834 when a dispute in 1831 separated the First Congregational Society members into Calvinistic or liberal paths and dogma. A wonderful Hook and Hastings pipe organ was donated by relatives in memory of Charles Wheelock.and the first pastor, Rev. Samuel Clark, dedicated this Church in 1835. During WWI, the parishes shared services, but otherwise their beliefs of conservatism vs. moreliberal have kept them entirely separate.

Next door to the First Congregational Church is the Thayer Memorial Building at 15 North Main Street, which houses the Free Public Library. George Southwick of Chocolog Village had run the community's first library, originally known as the Uxbridge Social and Instructive Library, at his store from 1775-1812. in 1874, the Town voted to establish a library thanks to the rganizing efforts of Charles Wheelock. The books moved from Barnes Jewelry Store to the new Town Hall in 1880 until the Thayer Memorial building was donated to the town for the library in 1893 by Edward C. Thayer in memory of his parents. Dedication was held on June 20, 1894 with 6,750 books. There are over 45,000 volumes today and the library is filled with portraits of many of Uxbridge's most prominent historical citizens.

Around the corner at the end of North Main lies Mendon Street along which many old mills still stand. The Capron Grist Mill and Gun Shop, now housing Lynch's Package Store, at 16 Mendon Street was built in 1821 by John Capron. The pond in back used to be orchards until a log dam across the Mumford River changed it. Next door on the western side used to be the home of John Capron where cloth satinette was made at home. This was removed to make way for the Lynch parking lot. On the eastern side, there were terraced gardens and now is a small park certainly worth a stroll along the Mumford River falls. Two additions were made to the building in the mid 1800s and use included a grist mill, a gun shop known as Bay State Arms, an electrician's shop and other uses.

Across the street at 19 Depot Street, was the Capron Mill built by Effingham Capron in 1820. New uses include a variety of shops, and studios including a youth center and a School Department art exhibit space with changing art shows wellworth a visit. The original mill operated under several names during roughly 150 years and were famous for the cloth known as "Uxbridge Blue" patented and used for the US Air Force uniforms. The kettles filled with dyes were dumped into the river aftr use so the river often ran blue. The mill also produced uniform cloth for the nurse corps, too. A personal letter from President Roosevelt gave thanks to the mill for its tremendous help witht he war effort. In 1962, Emile ernat bought the mill and for nearly three decades, it became the third largest mill in the US for proiducing yarn. As of the 1990s, it has a variety of uses as stated above.

The Richard Sayles House at 90 Mendon Street was built with similar stone to the Crown and Eagle Mill around the same time in the 1820s. Richard Sayles from Rhode Island had come to Uxbridge to attend the Academy located at 10 Court Street after working to save money for his education. He worked in several local mills before purchasing the Rivulet Mill at 44 Rivulet Street. This became known as the Richard Sayles Mill. Sayles was also involved with building the North Uxbridge Baptist Church.

Further down Mendon Street at 146 Mendon is the Stanley Woolen Mill, originally known as the Central Woolen Mill in Calumet Village. It is mostly vacant, yet a portion of the huge wooden buildings house a spacious antique store and is the subject of future visioning sessions by State, federal and local partnerships. In 1852, Moses Taft built the mill and leased it to Israel Southwick and Richard Sayles. During the Civil Way, 24 hour production of indigo blue uniform cloth was ongoing before the mill was sold to Robert and Jacob Taft in 1865. Soon after, they built a dam at Rice City Pond which considerably increased the water power. In 1866, an 80 horsepower steam engine was installed and production continued to rise dramatically as the mill started producing fancy cassimeres as the name changed to the Calumet Woolen Company. Arthur and Stanley Wheelock bought the mill after 1905 and during WWI, a half million yards of khaki for the US government was produced as wella s cloth for the French and Italian governments. This was the longest running family-owned woolen mill in the US until it closed in 1988.

Further down Mendon Street at 325 Mendon Street are the Waucantuck Mills built originally in 1824 although fire destroyed that building within a year. Luke Taft, son-in-law of Daniel Day of the Elmdale Mill, had built a dam on the West River at this location but did not rebuild his mill until 1838. This became the West which was soon sold to the Wheelocks - Silas, Jerry and Charles who renamed the millto Waucantuck Mill. The village became known as Wheelocksville. In 1923, the Brady family owned the mill for almost 40 years. Woolen cloth, satinettes and cassimeres.

Back to the center and then north until reaching East Hartford Avenue, the North Uxbridge School at 65 East Hartford Ave., now known as the Virginia Blanchard School which is currently under study as to its future. Due to lead paint, the building was being used as a preschool until closing in 1999. However, this was known as one of the longest running schools in the State after being built in two sections - one circa 1870 and the front section around 1900. This school served the needs of North Uxbridge and Rogerson's Village school children. Formal education had been started in Uxbridge with a 1732 Town Meeting vote to establish 13 schools - one for each village in town.

Rogersons Village's earliest building was the Clapp Mill at 84 East Hartford Avenue built by Forbes and Benjamin Clapp in 1810. This was the first mill to make cotton thread in Uxbridge and was purchased by Robert Rogerson (hence the village name). Rogerson turned this mill into housing and then built two mills - The Crown in 1823-25 and the Eagle in 1827 over the Mumford River. The roof was a clerestory monitor roof and was the oldest stone mill with this type of roof in Massachusetts. This complex had housing, a mill, a store and community building. The Whitin family of Northbridge (whitinsville) purchased the mill in 1841 and renamed it the Uxbridge Cotton Mills. It closed in the early 1920s and a fire devastated the mill in 1975, but the mill was rebuilt for elderly housing.

The Samuel Taft House, 87 Sutton Street, was built on the Old Hartford Turnpike in the mid 1770s. Samuel Taft, a Revolutionary War soldier, farmer and father of 22 children ran a weaving shop and tavern here. President George Washington stayed overnight at this home as a guest in November 1789! President William Howard Taft stayed overnight here in 1909! For two hundred years, the Taft family owned this home which was one of five center chimney, gambrel roofed homes in Uxbridge.

This information was compiled with thanks from the Uxbridge Historical Society's 1997 brochure, Uxbridge and Her Villages, Uxbridge resident Cynthis Walenty's History on Uxbridge Schools, Carol Masiello's 275th Anniversary Report and from historical references at the American Antiquarian Society with gratitude to all.