Shirley Timeline
by Meredith Marcinkewicz at the Shirley Historical Society
Shirley, Massachusetts

edited 11/17/18 

1655    Our town was part of the territory granted to Dean Winthrop, son of Governor Winthrop, which was named Groton in honor of his former home, Groton England.

ca. 1720    The first mills and farms were established along the Squannacook River and the Mulpus Brook.

1747    Thirty-three petitioners from the part of Groton south and west of the Squannacook and Nashua Rivers asked to be set off from the town and allowed to build their own meetinghouse. For more information, click here

1750's  The first mills were built on the Catacunemaug in the southern part of the area.

1753    The General Court of Massachusetts incorporated the territory as a district and named it after Colonial Governor William Shirley.

1754    The first small wooden meetinghouse was built near Parker Road, on Green Lane.

1757    It was voted to hold school for three months in private homes.
For further information on early Shirley schools, click here.
For further information on all Shirley school building projects, click here.

1765    The southern border of Shirley was moved further south and Stow Leg was added to the town. The Historical Society has a file of information on Stow Leg

1773    The First Parish Meetinghouse was erected in the middle of the Town Common.

1775, April 19,    Eighty Shirley men marched to the aid of their country men in Lexington, Concord, and Cambridge.  Twenty-two of them soon enlisted in the Continental Army.  To find their names, click here.

1775, August 23, A general act was passed in which all districts became towns

1777    First tax list shows men who paid poll tax and real estate tax - contact Museum for a copy.

1783    Shaker Mother Ann Lee visited the Wilds family in Shirley.

1787    Some Shirley men joined Shay in his protest of taxes assessed by the new government.

1793     The Shirley Shaker Community was formally established.  (It lasted till 1908.)

1798    Some Groton farms east of the Nashua River and south of the Nonacoicus Brook were made part of Shirley.  Further information is available at the SHS Museum.

1811    The first Shirley Post Office opened in the Center.

1812    Shirley sent its quota of troops to help defend our seaboard.

1816    The Universalists erected a building on the corner of Harvard and Lancaster Roads

1828    The small brick Congregational Church was built on Parker Road

ca. 1830    Shirley Village Post Office opened.

1832    Fredonia Mill was erected on the Catacunemaug

1837    A workhouse for the poor and homeless was built on farmland in North Shirley .

1845    The Fitchburg Railroad line opened, bringing new opportunities to Shirley Village.

1846    Bounds between Shirley and Lunenburg were adjusted.

1847    Construction was begun on a new Townhouse to be used for town meetings, offices,  lectures, school classes, and entertainments.  It was opened in 1848.  For information the development of Shirley Center, click here.

1848    Bounds between Shirley and Lunenburg were adjusted again, See SHS files for details .

1848    Shirley's last one room schoolhouse was built, in District Eight, to help educate the influx of factory worker families who were settling in the Village area.  This building is periodically opened for visitors.

1849    The Village Cemetery opened on Harvard Road.

1850    The Shakers built the factory later to be known as Samson Cordage Works.

1851    A large wooden Congregational Church was erected on what was to be named Church Street.

1852    A Baptist church was erected on Chapel Street.  It would remain active till 1937.

1853    The workhouse was discontinued and paupers were sent to county institutions.

1855    The grammar school building was erected on Lancaster Road.  It was later used for Shirley High School,  and later as a Police Station and Municipal Building.  Old photos are at the Museum.

1861    The town voted to support the families of those men who would enlist in the war against the rebels.  One hundred thirty-eight Shirley men eventually served in the Civil War.   For a list of their names, click here.

1868    Comrades of the Grand Army of the Republic began the custom of scattering flowers on the  graves of departed soldiers.

1870     Norman Munson moved the first Universalist church building to Leominster Road and renovated it to serve as a Village Hall. A new Universalist Church was built at the original location and is the current United Church of Shirley building.

1881    C.A. Edgarton and Sons opened a factory on Leominster Road to produce webbing for suspenders and garters.  Around 1900 - it became known as the President Suspender Company.  About 1930 - George Frost Belt Company merged with the Suspender Company.  In the early 1960's the President name was dropped and it was just George Frost Company. In 1988 - AMPAC bought the All Star sporting goods line from George Frost. In 1996 - AMPAC bought the George Frost building and rented out portions to other businesses.

1894    The Queen Anne style Fire Station was built on the corner of Lancaster and Leominster Roads.

1894    The Richardson Romanesque style Hazen Memorial Library was built on Lancaster Road.

1901    Episcopal Trinity Chapel opened on Center Road.
There is more information on Trinity Chapel at the Historical Society.

1903 - Shirley celebrated her 150th Anniversary with an Old Home Week.  Compare that to the 250th Celebrations.

  1905    St. Anthony's Catholic Church was erected on Phoenix Street.

1909    The Shirley Shaker Village had closed and the State of Massachusetts bought the property to be used as an Industrial School for Boys.

1917    The United States government leased land in southeast Shirley for the establishment of a military base.  Seventy-six Shirley men served in World War I.

1918    Phoenix Spring Beverage Company founded

1923    The Universalist and Congregational church groups became the Federated Church of Shirley.  In 1928 they incorporated as the United Church of Shirley, using the building at the corner of Lancaster and Harvard Roads.  There is more information on the history of  the United Church at the Historical Society.

1924    The Center School was built on Parker Road.  It had three rooms until it was remodeled in 1974 to adapt the building to two Kindergarten classes.

1936    The Lura A. White School was built on Lancaster Road. To learn about Miss Lura A. White herself, click here.

1938    The War Memorial Building was erected on Church Street, at the site of the former Congregational Church.

1944    First Parish Meetinghouse no longer had a congregation, but became an historic site.

1945    Over three hundred Shirley men and women served in World War II.

1956    Shirley Cooperative Bank erected a small brick building in Shirley Village.

1960    A one story addition, including gym and cafeteria, was put on the Lura A. White School.

1962    A new Post Office building was erected in Shirley Village.

1971    A New Fire Station was erected on Leominster Road.

1972    Another addition was put on Lura A. White School.

1972    The State of Massachusetts opened a prerelease correctional facility at the old Shaker site

1973    Shirley Historical Commission and Shirley Center Historic District Commission were formed

1976    The Shirley Shaker Village became a National Historic Register Site.

1978    Fredonian Park opened.  For a guide to that Park, click here.

1983 Shirley held its first All Town Hoe Down

1984    Shirley Historical Society Museum was erected. For more info, click here.

1985    Shirley voters approved their first Master Plan

1988    Shirley Center was listed on the National Register of Historic Sites.

1988    Samson Cordage discontinued production at its Shirley plant.  Buildings were re-used by many other small businesses.  There is more information on the business at the SHS Museum.

1990's    George Frost discontinued manufacturing in its oldest structures.  Buildings were reused by other small businesses.  There is more information on the business at the SHS Museum.

1990 - Opening of Mystical Maze Playground at Benjamin Hill

1990 - Opening of Shaker Meadows - Elderly Housing on Harvard Road

1991    A medium security facility was added to the state prison on Shaker property.

1993    St. Anthony's Church was destroyed by fire, later to be rebuilt in a new design
There is more information on St. Anthony's at the Historical Society.

1995    Fort Devens was decommissioned.

1996    A new Police Station was built on Devens property.

1997    The new Hazen Library opened on Devens property.

1998    A new Town Highway Garage / Fire Department Substation was built on Great Road.

1998    A maximum security facility was added to the prison.

1999    The new Municipal Offices opened on Devens property.

2000    Voters approved construction of a new middle school.

2001   Shirley was named the Most Historic Small Town in the nation by

2003    Many celebrations were held for the 250th Anniversary Year

2003    The town received a grant to purchase the Longley Farm for Conservation purposes

2003    Shirley Middle School opened

2007    Shirley Historical Society received a $500,000 grant to improve buildings at the Shirley Shaker Village

2009   Voters approved a proposal to create an Ayer-Shirley School District

2018    Main Street  Bridge was re-built

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