Place:Ayer, Middlesex, Massachusetts, United States

Watchers


NameAyer
Alt namesAyer Groton Junctionsource: USGS, GNIS Digital Gazetteer (1994) GNIS25003935
Ayer Junctionsource: USGS, GNIS Digital Gazetteer (1994) GNIS25003935
TypeTown
Coordinates42.55°N 71.583°W
Located inMiddlesex, Massachusetts, United States
Contained Places
Cemetery
Woodlawn Cemetery
source: Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names
source: Family History Library Catalog


the text in this section is copied from an article in Wikipedia

Ayer is a town in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States. Originally part of Groton, it was incorporated February 14, 1871[1] and became a major commercial railroad junction. The town was home to Camp Stevens, a training camp for Massachusetts volunteers during the American Civil War. Later, Fort Devens was established by the federal government to train New England soldiers for World War I. Fort Devens was a major influence in the area until its closure in 1994. The town's population was 7,427 at the 2010 census.

For geographic and demographic information on specific parts of the town of Ayer, please see the articles on Ayer (CDP) and Devens, Massachusetts.

Contents

History

the text in this section is copied from an article in Wikipedia

Founding

Ayer's history dates back to 1667, when the first mill in the agricultural community was built. The settlement sits on what the Nipmuc Indians called Nainacocius. A brook remains with that name. Originally part of Groton, the community was initially called Groton Junction or South Groton. The town of Ayer was incorporated in 1871, named in honor of Dr. James Cook Ayer, a prominent resident of Lowell who provided the funding for the construction of the Town Hall.

Regional rail hub

The town's growth was influenced by a period of rapid development of railroad transportation. Though only in area, the town became a major junction for both east-west and north-south rail lines, and developed into an important commercial center oriented towards the rail industry. Known as Groton Junction and later Ayer Junction, the intersecting railroads included:

  • Fitchburg Railroad in 1844 to Boston and eventually points in New York State (still in operation in 2011 for freight and the MBTA Fitchburg Line).
  • Peterborough and Shirley Railroad in 1848 (became part of the Fitchburg Railroad and later the Boston & Maine Railroad. Its northerly terminus was Greenville, New Hampshire. In 2011 active rail on what is now known as the Greenville Industrial Track serves two customers on line, both located one mile north of Ayer center. Operational rail ceases at a derelict trestle spanning the Nashua River on the Ayer/Groton border. Tracks are intact to Townsend, Massachusetts.
  • Worcester and Nashua Railroad in 1848 (Southern branch to Worcester still in operation in 2011 as a freight line. Northern end of the branch from Ayer to Nashua, NH abandoned in 1981. The Nashua River Rail Trail has occupied the old right-of-way since 2005)
  • Stony Brook Railroad to North Chelmsford, Massachusetts, in 1848 (still in operation in 2011 as a freight line)

The split between the Stony Brook and Fitchburg main line was moved east from the central junction to reduce parallel trackage.


Military roles

During the Civil War an army training camp, Camp Stevens, was located near the Nashua River. Camp Devens, which eventually became Fort Devens, was established in 1917, during World War I. The presence of thousands of military and civilian personnel on the base shifted Ayer's commercial development towards meeting their needs until Fort Devens was closed in 1994.

Ski jump

In 1935, the largest Nordic ski jump in North America was constructed at Pingry Hill near the Willows. A 700-foot-high wooden trestle build, the ski jump operated for a single winter season amid the hardships of Great Depression-era Ayer. Part of the structure was blown down by the wind in the summer of 1936 and it was never rebuilt. Some of the lumber was salvaged by local residents over the next few years. As of 2013, no trace of the massive structure remains.

Modern day

Within its relatively small area Ayer boasts numerous industries, including plants belonging to Cains, Vitasoy and Pepsi, a historical downtown unique to the region, and modern commuter rail service to Boston.

The Hollywood film Conviction (film) depicted the legal drama surrounding the investigation, conviction and eventual exoneration of Kenneth "Kenny" Waters, for the 1980 murder of Katharina Brow. Waters' sister Betty Anne worked with the Innocence Project, a nonprofit organization devoted to overturn the wrongful convictions using DNA test results as evidence. In 2009 the town and its insurers eventually paid a $3.4 million settlement in response to a civil rights lawsuit by the estate of Kenneth Waters.

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