This is a section of one of the principal east and west trunk lines through New England from the Hudson valley via Pitts-field to Boston. Carrying the traffic of two important trunk lines it is perhaps traversed by more vehicles than any one other route in the heart of New England. The splendid State Road all the way is unmistakable, marked by red bands on the telegraph poles.
A few miles from Springfield the route enters the hills of the ancient crystalline highlands and follows the deep narrow valley of the Quaboag, the waterpower of which is utilized in a series of small industrial towns, then follows through a farming country with shoe towns to Worcester.
Leave Springfield by State St. past the Library and the Arsenal, and at the fork of the two trolley lines follow the red bands on the telegraph poles. The barren sand plain covered with scrub growth on either side of the highway was originally called Springfield Plain.
Just outside of Springfield, Athol Junction on the B. & A. R.R. marks the western terminus of those twin streaks of rust, formerly the Hampden Railroad, which though only fourteen miles long cost more than $3,300,000, the most expensive road per mile ever built in New England. It has stood for years completely equipped but never used,one more monument to the folly of Mellen management. The Hampden Railroad was built by the Woronoco Construction Company operating in connection with the Hampden Investment Company, both of which were controlled and financed by those who formerly had to do with other New Haven jobberies. Large loans were made on Mellen’s verbal promises `rubber stampede by the B. & M. directors. Its purpose was to shorten by a few miles the direct route and bring the Central Massachusetts into use, and at the same time pay for obligations attaching to an unsuccessful New York enterprise, or, as they say, to kill two cows with one locomotive.
Beyond St. Michael’s Cemetery a road leads to the left to Indian Orchard, an industrial center; among its numerous plants The Chapman Valve Manufacturing Company is of national significance. The village received its name from the fact that after the attack in 1676 on Springfield 600 Indians bivouacked here for the night. The highway skirts Five Mile Pond and beyond Ludlow, the site of extensive twine and yarn mills, reaches the Chicopee river, which furnishes valuable water-power. Washington wrote in his Diary of this part of the route: “A little before the road descends to Chicopee river, it is hilly, rocky, and steep, and continues so for several miles; the country being stony and barren with a mixture of pine and oak till we come to Palmer.”
10.0 NORTH WILBRAHAM. Alt 86 ft. (In Wilbraham twp.) Hampden Co. Mfg. paper and wood pulp.
In stage coach days this was a favorite stopping place after the long climb up from the Connecticut valley. Near the North Wilbraham Station is the old Bliss Tavern, another of Washington’s stopping places. On the floor of the former bar room, which was patronized freely by the Revolutionary soldiers, are pointed out the scars of the musket butts.
Note. About two miles to the south lies
WILBRAHAM. Pop (twp) 2332 (1910), 2521 (1915). Settled 1730. Indian name Minnechaug, “berry-land.”
This little town, originally called Springfield Mountain, is strung along at the foot of the Wilbraham Mountains, which rise sharply behind the town to a height of 900 feet, and the broad meadows before it give the place a setting of remarkable beauty. The country hereabout is one of the best peach districts in New England. The State Game Farm specializes in pheasants, but also raises some quail and wild turkeys, and makes shipments of eggs for breeding. In 1915 about 5000 birds were put forth. Wilbraham Academy, now a boys’ school, had its beginnings in 1817 as one of the first Methodist coeducational schools.
Between North Wilbraham and Palmer the road leaves the river and runs through a narrow valley in the hills. There are several dangerous railroad crossings and bridges. For several miles on either side of Palmer we have constantly in sight a newly constructed railroad road-bed, deep cuttings, and high embankments, constructed at enormous expense but without rails or other equipment. This Southern New England R.R. was planned to reach tidewater at Providence or New London, but was finally killed by the machinations of railroad directors who controlled New England’s destinies.
Just before entering Palmer a great elm is passed, under which, according to the inscription, Washington addressed the townspeople in 1775.
15.5 PALMER. Alt 332 ft. Pop (twp) 8610 (1910), 9468 (1915). Hampden Co. Settled 1716. Mfg. carpets, copper, tin, and sheet iron products, cotton goods, and wire.
Palmer though an industrial town has a mellow, almost elderly appearance. Its mills and factories are strung along the course of the stream wherever waterpower is available.
The hills rise abruptly above the narrow valley to a height of from 700 to 900 feet. Bald Peak to the south is the highest, but Mt. Dumpling to the north is striking in its abruptness. At the State Fish Hatchery here nine kinds of game fish are reared, among them trout, salmon, perch, pike, and bass.
The enormous pine, known as `Bear Tree,e next the Catholic parish house is 17 ft in circumference and 100 ft high. Tradition accounts for its name with the tale that Thomas King, the son of the earliest settler, shot a bear in this tree on his way to church and was brought to task for violating the Puritan Sabbath.
Emigrants from Ireland settled here at `The Elbows’ in 1727 when the town was renamed for Chief Justice Palmer. In 1748 the town was called Kingston to perpetuate the name of the first settler, and at various times it bore the names of Kingstown, Kingsfield, and New Marlborough.
Just beyond Palmer a side valley opens to the south, through which runs the railroad to New London. On the slope of Chicopee Mountain is the State Farm and Alms House, a colIection of `institution-like’ buildings with a factory chimney.
The highway follows the narrow valley of the Quaboag river and affords picturesque views of the river with its dams and small factories. Of this road, Washington says in his Diary, “From Palmer to Brookfield, to one Hitchcock’s is 17 miles; part of which is pretty good, and part (crossing the hills) very bad; but when over, the ground begins to get tolerably good and the country better cultivated.” This portion of the valley is especially narrow and deep. Cook’s Mountain (1000 ft) is an abrupt hill on the right. Just beyond West Warren (24.5) is isolated Mark’s Mountain (1100 ft).
26.7 WARREN. Alt 596 ft. Pop (twp) 4188 (1910), 4268 (1915). Worcester Co. Originally called Western. Inc. 1740. Mfg. cotton goods, paper, and machine shop products.
The most conspicuous object in the town here is the yellow brick Town Hall. Two miles of factories extend along the valley, the principal plant being that of the International Steam Pump Works. Perhaps the town’s most interesting institution is that surviving from earlier times, “The Warren Thief-Catching Society,’ formed in the days following the Revolution to assist in the maintenance of law and order. It has in its later days become a social institution, restricting its membership to those who can show reasonably law-abiding tendencies for several generations.
The Quaboags were the aboriginal tribe, and when they were as-sailed by other stronger tribes they appealed to Massasoit for help and he came to live with them as sachem until his death in 1661. During his regime the locality was known as Squapauke, or Squabaug, meaning “red water place,” in reference to the peculiar color of the ponds which are so frequent in this vicinity. The land was first known to the white men in 1647, when the Indians made a request to the colonists for help against the attacks of the bloodthirsty members of other tribes, probably the Narragansetts and Monhegans. Nathan Reed, a native of the town, was the first man to apply for a patent under the Constitution for the first machine for making nails. He also was among the first to apply steam to locomotives.
Crossing R.R. the route proceeds along the fairly level road with hills rising to 1000 feet on the right and the Quaboag river about two miles to the left.
30.0 WEST BROOKFIELD. Alt 604 ft. Pop (twp) 1327 (1910), 1288 (1915). Worcester Co. Settled 1665. Mfg. corsets.
Here George and Charles Merriam carried on their printing and publishing business in a brick building opposite the Library, erected by their father a century ago, and here they issued several hundred thousand volumes before moving their plant to Springfield. In the Library, presented to the town by the Merriams, is an interesting historical collection. A short distance beyond is the Town Hall, and at the further end of Quaboag Park stands Hitchcock’s Tavern (Ye Old Tavern), which opened in 1765 and has never since closed its doors. The oil paintings of the first proprietors may be seen at the rooms of the West Brookfield Historical Society at the Library. Here Washington and Lafayette were guests. Just beyond is the house in which Professor Phelps, the father of Elizabeth Stuart Phelps Ward, used to live. Lucy Stone Blackwell, one of the earliest woman suffragists, was born on Coy’s Hill.
Foster Hill, east of the village, was the site of the first settlement. The tavern of Sergeant John Ayres which stood on the top of the hill was once the object of Indian attack which lasted for several days. The present road winds around the hill, but the Old Post Road went over the top past Indian Rock Farm where sites of the first houses are marked by tablets. There is also a boulder marked “Whitefield Rock, 1740,” in memory of George Whitefield, the evangelist, who addressed the townspeople here in 1741. The old Dwight Tavern stood a little further down the road.
The road from here follows the red markers through a broad open valley whose rich farm lands early attracted settlers. Before entering Brookfield on the right stands the Brookfield Inn, a relic of Colonial days.
33.0 BROOKFIELD. Alt 606 ft. Pop (twp) 2204 (1910), 2059 (1915). Worcester Co. Settled 1665. Indian name Quaboag. Mfg. shoes, paper goods, and woolen and cotton goods.
The village of Brookfield lies in the midst of broad meadows on a slight elevation overlooking them and the surrounding ponds. The Common, presented to the town by Seth and Solomon Bannister in 1773, was the rallying place of the patriots. The Town Hall and Memorial Library have since been given to the town by other members of the Bannister family. Brookfield was at one time the home of Rufus Putnam (see Rutland, R. 19), whom Washington declared to be the best engineer in the whole of his army.
In 1660 the General Court granted to some Ipswich petitioners “a place near Quaboag ponds provided they have twenty familyes there resident within 3 yeares & they have an able minister settled there within the same term.” The Indians made compliance with these terms impossible and it was not until 1665 that any attempt at settlement was made.
From 1665 to 1675 whites and-reds led a peaceful existence, and many of the latter were followers of John Eliot, but Philip and the restless Nipmucks in 1675 induced most of them to join an attack upon the little settlement. Four or five settlers were killed at Mendon in July, and the powers at Boston sent Captain Hutchinson, son of Anne, and a company of men to confer with the Indians and bring about an amicable settlement, but they were ambushed, several were killed including Captain Hutchinson, and the settlement attacked. Among the attacking party were many of John Eliot’s Christian Indians, and of them Captain Wheeler wrote: “The next day being August 3rd they continued shooting and shouting and proceeded in their former wickedness, blaspheming the name of the Lord and reproaching us, his afflicted servants, scoffing at our prayers as they were sending in shot upon all quarters of the house and many of them went to the townes meeting house, who mocked, saying, ` come and pray and sing psalms.”‘ The relieving forces finally came to the rescue of the beleaguered settlers, but not until many of the houses as well as their live stock had been destroyed, and it was necessary to temporarily abandon the town.
Leaving Brookfield the road crosses Dunn Brook, which flows into Quaboag Pond. Just before entering East Brook-field (621 ft), Furnace Pond is passed on the left, and Teneriffe Hill (880 ft) rises to the right.
Spencer is seen from a long distance as we approach it. Like all these New England hill manufacturing towns its most conspicuous features are the huge Catholic Churches, two in number, one for the French, the other for the Irish. Just outside the town in the Bemis Memorial Park are two monuments, one marking the location of the first frame house in Spencer, built by Samuel Bemis in 1721, the other in honor of Edmund Bemis, who served at Louisburg.
40.0 SPENCER. Alt 900 ft. Pop (twp) 6740 (1910), 5994 (1915).
Worcester Co. Settled 1713. Mfg. shoes, boxes, and wire.
Spencer, though high on the hills and far from the main railway, is a thriving shoe town with a large foreign population. On Main St. opposite the Hotel Massasoit a granite marker indicates the site of the old Jenks Tavern and the fact that in 1776 Washington stopped there overnight. Opposite the Town Hall is the handsome Howe memorial with bronze medallions of the three inventors and a bronze relief of the house in which they were born in the south of the town. Tyler Howe (b. 1800) invented the spring bed, William Howe (b. 1803), his brother, was the inventor of the truss frame used in bridges and roofs, and Elias Howe (b. 1819), a nephew of the former, was the inventor of the sewing machine. Elias spent many years endeavoring to popularize and protect his invention. His visits to England, his financial support of the Federal Government in the Civil War, and his eventual success and acquirement of a large fortune make an interesting romance in the history of industry. The Pope Mansion, built in 1745, was the Iodging place of the colonel of a Hessian regiment of Burgoyne’s army when on the way to Boston as a prisoner of war.
The pioneer of the boot industry in Spencer was Josiah Green, who before 1812 used to peddle the shoes he had made, in Boston. The War of 1812 stimulated his business and it grew to large proportions. The Proutys have, however, for -three generations dominated the shoe industry in this town, and still operate here one of the largest shoe factories in the country, employing 1500 hands. A mile from Spencer is Wire Village, where for nearly a century there have been wire mills.
In the old coaching days Spencer was a famous stopping place. It had three taverns which did a thriving business. The oldest was built in 1754 by John Flagg, and in 1775 it came into the hands of Isaac Jenks, who made it famous. It was described by a traveler in 1788: “The chambers were neat, the beds good, the sheets clean, the supper passable; cider, tea, punch, and all for fourteen pence per head.”
East of Spencer, Moose Hill (1050 ft), a gently swelling drumlin bare of trees, is crowned by the Sibley residence. The rounded drumlin hills in this region usually have their summits cleared while their lower slopes are wooded. This bears evidence to the fact, early discovered by New England settlers, that these drumlins afforded good plow lands. The red-marked State Road between Spencer and Leicester crosses the highest land east of the Connecticut valley, but the only steep hill is just before entering Leicester.
45.0 LEICESTER. Alt 1080 ft. Pop (twp) 3237 (1910), 3322 (1915). Worcester Co. Settled 1713. Indian name Towtaid. Mfg. woolens and worsteds.
This pleasant old town is now almost wholly residential, al-though there are some factories in villages connected with the town. This, the central village, is located in a sightly situation on the top of a high hill. The Mansion House on Mt. Pleasant was built in 1772 by Joseph Henshaw and in 1795 became the property of James Swan, who set up an estate of such magnificence as to dazzle all beholders. However, his wealth failed and he withdrew to France, where he was imprisoned for debt in Paris for thirty-two years and one day, all of which he spent in the same room in the Debtors’ Prison.
Leicester was purchased from Sachem Orakaso for fifteen pounds by “Nine Gentlemen from Roxbury” in 1686. Seven years later, when the settlement was finally established, there was a solitary hermit by the name of Arthur Casey found in a cave which he had made in the side of the hill that to this day bears his name. As late as 1740, pits were dug for the capture of wolves. In 1777 a colony of seventy Jews from Newport, disliking the warlike atmosphere of their Rhode Island home, settled here for a time, but returned to Newport at the close of the war.
The first representative to the General Court was Judge John Menzies, who served three terms without pay, and when his successor was chosen the town voted that he “should be paid the same as Judge Menzies, and no other.”
The Old Post Road, sometimes called the Great Post Road, or the County Road, which ran between Boston and Albany, went through the town, although its course has been greatly changed in the last few years. Over this road the volunteers from the western part of the State marched through the night to Lexington, and the people of the town kept their houses lighted and their doors open to cheer them on their way. One of the patriots, Thomas Earle, had a home-made gun which General Washington admired so that Earle made a duplicate of it and walked to New York to present it to his commander-in-chief.
Leicester Academy, established in 1784, was one of the earliest and most notable of the New England academies, for here were introduced many educational innovations.
From Leicester the road descends gradually to Worcester, in the southern part of which was located Jones’s Tavern, a famous oldtime coaching place. Main Street in Worcester follows the course of the Old Post Road as far as Lincoln Square.
51.0 WORCESTER. Alt 482 ft (City Hall). Pop 145,986 (1910), 160,117 (1915); about one third foreign-born. Seat of Worcester Co. Settled 1713. Indian name Quinsigamond, “pickerel fishing place.” Mfg. wire, machine tools, grinding wheels, drop forges, carpets, leather, corsets, shoes, looms, envelopes, skates, vacuum cleaners, electric cars, elevators. Value of Product (1913), $89,707,000; Payroll, $19,887,000.
Worcester, the `Heart of the Commonwealth,’ as it loves to call itself, is second only to Boston among Massachusetts cities and third among New England cities. Both as an industrial and educational center it manifests vigorous enter-prise and great diversity, with products ranging from envelopes to organs, and providing instruction in such diverse subjects as child psychology and mechanical engineering. In the past two decades it has doubled in wealth and population and tripled the value of its products. This development has been greatly stimulated by the activity of the Chamber of Commerce, which publishes the “Worcester Magazine” distributing 30,000 copies annually, sending one to every U.S. consul as well. as to purchasing agents all over the world. The city has spread from its original level site upon the surrounding higher land, and now boasts that like Rome it is built on its Seven Hills. The numerous parks aggregate 1000 acres in area. As the first city in the country to purchase and set aside land for park purposes Worcester deserves the compliments of the nation. The Blackstone river provides some power for manufacturing purposes.
The largest industry is that of the American Steel & Wire Company. Its plant has three divisions: the North Works, on Grove St.; the Central Works, on Kansas St.; and the South Works, on Millbury St. The industry dates from 1834, when Ichabod Washburn and Benjamin Goddard first started the manufacture of wire with half a dozen men. It was the hoop skirt that made his fortune. During the height of the fashion he made thirty tons of hoop skirt wire a week. About 6000 hands are employed and the maximum output for a single year approximates 200,000 tons with a value of over $12,000,000. The Crompton & Knowles Loom Works has the largest plant of its kind, and its success is based on the inventive skill of its founders. The Norton Company is the largest manufacturer of abrasives and grinding wheels in the world. The Royal Worcester Corset Company is another important industry. Seventy-five per cent of the drop-forged automobile crank shafts and eighty per cent of all the bicycle chains made in America are Worcester productions. The first envelopes made in America were folded here, and the industry continues.
The Old Common, in the center of the city, was the training ground of the Minute Men. In the center is a marble memorial to Colonel Timothy Bigelow, a Revolutionary officer, and a Soldiers’ Monument. At the upper end of the Common is the City Hall, a dignified granite building in front of which is Daniel Chester French’s statue of Worcester’s famous adopted son, the late Senator George Frisbie Hoar. It was near the site of this statue that the Declaration of Independence was first read to the people in the ‘State of Massachusetts.
At the north end of Main St. is the County Court House, standing somewhat back upon a granite terrace on which is a statue of General Devens, a Worcester lawyer who won his military laurels in the Civil War and later became Attorney-general of the United States. Close by is a tablet marking the site of the school where John Adams taught. Opposite is the Exchange Hotel where Washington put up.
On Elm St. near Main St., a tablet on the wall of Poli’s Theatre marks the site of the Stearns Tavern, famous in pre-Revolutionary times. Further up this street are many fine old houses, among them the Lincoln, Bullock, and Thayer mansions, and the. Burnside and Foster houses.
Lincoln Square, which perpetuates the name of the Lincoln family, among Worcester’s most prominent citizens, was long the center of trade and of civic and religious life. On the north side of the square is the old Salisbury mansion, a fine type of Colonial house whose liberal breadth gives it a -hospitable appearance, now the property of the Art Museum.
On Salisbury St. to the left above Lincoln Square is a group of fine buildings including the Armory, the Worcester Society of Antiquity, a library chiefly of town histories and genealogies, and the Women’s Club. The Art Museum, close by, is third in the United States in endowment. Its collections contain some especially choice examples of European and American art, among which are works by Copley, Herrera, Inness, Moreelse, Raeburn, and Gilbert Stuart, as well as rare engravings,
and the Bancroft Japanese collection. The summer loan exhibitions of the work of American artists are notable. The new building of the American Antiquarian Society, at the corner of Salisbury St. and Park Ave., founded in 1812, was erected from funds left by the late Stephen Salisbury. It contains a priceless collection of Americana and is especially rich n files of old newspapers.
On this same street, opposite Massachusetts Ave.,is a tablet marking the site of the house of George Bancroft, the American historian. On the summit of the hill, in Bancroft Park, which includes the old Bancroft farm, is Bancroft Tower, from which there is an extensive view including Mt. Wachusett and Mt. Monadnock to the north.
Worcester has seven important educational institutions. Clark University, a mile and a half south of the center of the city on Main St., was founded in 1887 for the purpose of re-search. Its President is Dr. G. Stanley Hall, the psychologist and educational authority, under whose regime the University has attained a high reputation for its investigation of child psychology. Clark College for undergraduates was opened in 1902. The College of the Holy Cross, a Jesuit institution, with a preparatory, school, founded in 1843, is on Mt. St. James, or Packachoag Hill. Worcester Polytechnic Institute, one of the leading technical schools of the country, on Boynton St. opposite Institute Park, was founded in 1865 by a gift of 8100,000 from John Boynton, and was opened in 1868. Its President is Dr. Ira N. Hollis, who was formerly in the Navy and later professor of engineering at Harvard College. It specializes in the scientific management of manufacturing industries: the course requires both theory and practice, books and shop-work; time cards, payrolls, and lost motion in employees as well as in machines are among its subjects of study and research. The Worcester Boys’ Trade School in Armory Square, supported by State and city, is the largest and best school of its kind in the country on a free basis. Worcester Academy, on Providence St., is a large boys’ preparatory school. The State Normal School and its ally the Kindergarten Training School are on Normal St. and Eastern Ave. An annual institution in Worcester is the Music Festival, held every year since 1858, for a larger number of years than any other annual festival in the country.
Elm Park, at the junction of Highland and Pleasant Sts., was the first tract of land purchased with public funds for park purposes by any municipality in the United States. Green Hill Park, off Lincoln St., is one of the prettiest natural pleasure grounds in the State; it was formerly a private estate, and the mansion house is a social center, rented for parties and lectures at a nominal charge.
Worcester and the country within a radius of fifteen miles have given to the world Eli Whitney, inventor of the cotton gin; Ichabod Washburn, who made the first piano wire drawn in America; Erastus Bigelow, inventor of the carpet machine; Thomas Blanchard, inventor of the machine lathe for turning irregular forms; George Crompton, inventor of the power loom for weaving fancy cottons; Charles Thurber, who invented the first typewriter, 1843; J. C. Stoddard, who invented the first steam calliope; Asa Hapgood, who invented the upper berth in the sleeping car; Osgood Bradley, who established the first car works still in existence in America. Among Worcesteres famous residents was Elihu Burritt, the learned blacksmith, who knew more than fifty languages ancient and modern, but deserves greater fame as the organizer of the first international peace conference, Brussels, 1848. John B. Gough, though born in England, reached his greatest depths of degradation in Worcester and likewise began the reformation which resulted in his remarkable career as a successful temperance lecturer. As a scientific and literary center the city today is the home of Dr. W. E. Storey, the mathematician; Dr. A. G. Webster, the scientist; Harry Worcester Smith, the financier and horseman; Eben Francis Thompson, the translator of Omar Khayyam; William B. Scofield, the sculptor-poet; and Harry H. Chamberlin, the poet. Edward Everett Hale, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Eli Thayer, who saved Kansas to the Union, and Clara Barton, founder of the Red Cross, have also lived in Worcester.
The first grant of land in this part of the Blackstone valley was made in 1657, and the town, called Quinsigamond, was laid out in 1688. On the outbreak of King Philipes War it was abandoned, and though the settlers made several attempts to return it was not until 1713 that settlement became permanent. By 1722 Worcester was incorporated as a town, receiving its name from Worcester, England, whence some of its first inhabitants came. The rugged turnpike was opened all the way to Boston and travel was fairly frequent, but packs of wolves roamed close to the town as late as 1734. In 1755 a small band of exiles from Acadie, the `land of Evangeline,’ was located here. After the Revolution, in the feeble strife of Shayse Rebellion, traces of which have followed us hither from Springfield, the town was taken by the insurgents, who closed the courts and held sway for a short time. Brissot de Warville, the French traveler, visiting Worcester in 1788, says: “This town is elegant and well peopled. The printer, Isaiah Thomas, has rendered it famous throughout the Continent of America. He has printed a large part of the works which appear, and it is acknowledged that his editions are correct and well edited. Thomas is the Didot of the United States.” Dwight a few years later indorsed this opinion.
Route 12 from New London to Peterboro and Concord, N.H., and Route 19 from Providence to Manchester, Vt., and Fort Ticonderoga pass through Worcester, and Route 11, from Stafford Springs and Southbridge, terminates here.