written by Meredith Marcinkewicz at the Shirley Historical Society
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.
The first mills and farms were established along the Squannacook River and the Mulpus Brook.
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
The first mills were built on the Catacunemaug in the southern part of the area.
The General Court of Massachusetts incorporated the territory as a district and named it after Colonial Governor William Shirley.
The first small wooden meetinghouse was built near Parker Road, on Green Lane.
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.
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
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
First tax list shows men who paid poll tax and real estate tax – contact Museum for a copy.
Shaker Mother Ann Lee visited the Wilds family in Shirley.
Some Shirley men joined Shay in his protest of taxes assessed by the new government.
The Shirley Shaker Community was formally established. (It lasted till 1908.)
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.
The first Shirley Post Office opened in the Center.
Shirley sent its quota of troops to help defend our seaboard.
The Universalists erected a building on the corner of Harvard and Lancaster Roads
The small brick Congregational Church was built on Parker Road
Shirley Village Post Office opened.
Fredonia Mill was erected on the Catacunemaug
A workhouse for the poor and homeless was built on farmland in North Shirley.
The Fitchburg Railroad line opened, bringing new opportunities to Shirley Village.
Bounds between Shirley and Lunenburg were adjusted.
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.
Bounds between Shirley and Lunenburg were adjusted again, See SHS files for details .
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.
The Village Cemetery opened on Harvard Road.
The Shakers built the factory later to be known as Samson Cordage Works.
A large wooden Congregational Church was erected on what was to be named Church Street.
A Baptist church was erected on Chapel Street. It would remain active till 1937.
The workhouse was discontinued and paupers were sent to county institutions.
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.
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.
Comrades of the Grand Army of the Republic began the custom of scattering flowers on the graves of departed soldiers.
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.
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.
The Queen Anne style Fire Station was built on the corner of Lancaster and Leominster Roads.
The Richardson Romanesque style Hazen Memorial Library was built on Lancaster Road.
Episcopal Trinity Chapel opened on Center Road. There is more information on Trinity Chapel at the Historical Society.
Shirley celebrated her 150th Anniversary with an Old Home Week. Compare that to the 250th Celebrations.
St. Anthony’s Catholic Church was erected on Phoenix Street.
The Shirley Shaker Village had closed and the State of Massachusetts bought the property to be used as an Industrial School for Boys.
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.
Phoenix Spring Beverage Company founded
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.
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.
The Lura A. White School was built on Lancaster Road. To learn about Miss Lura A. White herself, click here.
The War Memorial Building was erected on Church Street, at the site of the former Congregational Church.
First Parish Meetinghouse no longer had a congregation, but became an historic site.
Over three hundred Shirley men and women served in World War II.
Shirley Cooperative Bank erected a small brick building in Shirley Village.
A one story addition, including gym and cafeteria, was put on the Lura A. White School.
A new Post Office building was erected in Shirley Village.
A New Fire Station was erected on Leominster Road.
Another addition was put on Lura A. White School.
The State of Massachusetts opened a prerelease correctional facility at the old Shaker site
Shirley Historical Commission and Shirley Center Historic District Commission were formed
The Shirley Shaker Village became a National Historic Register Site.
Fredonian Park opened. For a guide to that Park, click here.
Shirley held its first All Town Hoe Down
Shirley Historical Society Museum was erected. For more info, click here.
Shirley voters approved their first Master Plan
Shirley Center was listed on the National Register of Historic Sites.
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.
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.
Opening of Mystical Maze Playground at Benjamin Hill
Opening of Shaker Meadows – Elderly Housing on Harvard Road
A medium security facility was added to the state prison on Shaker property.
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.
Fort Devens was decommissioned.
A new Police Station was built on Devens property.
The new Hazen Library opened on Devens property.
A new Town Highway Garage / Fire Department Substation was built on Great Road.
A maximum security facility was added to the prison.
The new Municipal Offices opened on Devens property.
Voters approved construction of a new middle school.
Shirley was named the Most Historic Small Town in the nation by ePodunk.com
Many celebrations were held for the 250th Anniversary Year
The town received a grant to purchase the Longley Farm for Conservation purposes
Shirley Middle School opened
Shirley Historical Society received a $500,000 grant to improve buildings at the Shirley Shaker Village
Voters approved a proposal to create an Ayer-Shirley School District
Main Street Bridge was re-built