Concord is a town in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, in the United States. At the 2010 census, the town population was 17,668. The United States Census Bureau considers Concord part of Greater Boston.
Prehistory and founding
The area which became the town of Concord was originally known as "Musketaquid," situated at the confluence of the Sudbury and Assabet rivers. The name Musketaquid was an Algonquian word for "grassy plain," fitting the area's low-lying marshes and kettle holes. Native Americans had cultivated corn crops there; the rivers were rich with fish and the land was lush and arable. However, the area was largely depopulated by the smallpox plague that swept across the Americas after the arrival of Europeans.
In 1635, a group of settlers from Britain led by Rev. Peter Bulkley and Major Simon Willard negotiated a land purchase with the remnants of the local tribe. Bulkley was an influential religious leader who "carried a good number of planters with him into the woods"; Willard was a canny trader who spoke the Algonquian language and had gained the trust of Native Americans. Their six-square-mile purchase formed the basis of the new town, which was called "Concord" in appreciation of the peaceful acquisition.
Battle of Lexington and Concord
The Battle of Lexington and Concord was the initial conflict in the American Revolutionary War. On April 19, 1775, a force of British Army regulars marched from Boston to Concord to capture a cache of arms that was reportedly stored in the town. Forewarned by Paul Revere and other messengers, the colonists mustered in opposition. Following an early-morning skirmish at Lexington, where the first shots of the battle were fired, the British expedition under the command of Lt. Col. Francis Smith advanced to Concord. There, colonists from Concord and surrounding towns (notably a highly drilled company from Acton led by Isaac Davis) repulsed a British detachment at the Old North Bridge and forced the British troops to retreat. Subsequently, militia arriving from across the region harried the British troops on their return to Boston, culminating in the Siege of Boston and outbreak of the war.
The battle was initially publicized by the colonists as an example of British brutality and aggression: one colonial broadside decried the "Bloody Butchery of the British Troops." A century later, however, the conflict was remembered proudly by Americans, taking on a patriotic, almost mythic status ("the shot heard 'round the world") in works like the "Concord Hymn" and "Paul Revere's Ride." In April 1975, the town hosted a bicentennial celebration of the battle, featuring an address at the Old North Bridge by President Gerald Ford.
Concord has a remarkably rich literary history centered in the mid-nineteenth century around Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882), who moved to the town in 1835 and quickly became its most prominent citizen. Emerson, a successful lecturer and philosopher, had deep roots in the town: his father Rev. William Emerson (1769–1811) grew up in Concord before becoming an eminent Boston minister, and his grandfather, William Emerson Sr., witnessed the battle at the North Bridge from his house, and later became a chaplain in the Continental Army. Emerson was at the center of a group of like-minded Transcendentalists living in Concord. Among them were the author Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804–1864) and the philosopher Bronson Alcott (1799–1888), the father of Louisa May Alcott (1832–1888). A native Concordian, Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862), was another notable member of Emerson's circle. This substantial collection of literary talent in one small town led Henry James to dub Concord "the biggest little place in America."
Among the products of this intellectually stimulating environment were Emerson's many essays, including Self-Reliance (1841), Louisa May Alcott's novel Little Women (1868), and Hawthorne's story collection Mosses from an Old Manse (1846). Thoreau famously lived in a small cabin near Walden Pond, where he wrote Walden (1854). After being imprisoned in the Concord jail for refusing to pay taxes in political protest against slavery and the Mexican-American War, Thoreau penned the influential essay "Resistance to Civil Government," popularly known as Civil Disobedience (1849). Evidencing their strong political beliefs through actions, Thoreau and many of his neighbors served as station masters and agents on the Underground Railroad.
The Wayside house, located on Lexington Road, has been home to a number of authors. It was occupied by scientist John Winthrop (1714–1779) when Harvard College was temporarily moved to Concord during the Revolutionary War. The Wayside was later the home of the Alcott family (who referred to it as "Hillside"); the Alcotts sold it to Hawthorne in 1852, and the family moved into the adjacent Orchard House in 1858. Hawthorne dubbed the house "The Wayside" and lived there until his death. The house was purchased in 1883 by Boston publisher Daniel Lothrop and his wife, Harriett, who wrote the Five Little Peppers series and other children's books under the pen name Margaret Sidney. Today, The Wayside and the Orchard House are both museums. Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, and the Alcotts are buried on Authors' Ridge in Concord's Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.
Concord maintains a lively literary culture to this day; notable authors who have called the town home in recent years include Doris Kearns Goodwin, Alan Lightman, Robert B. Parker, and Gregory Maguire.
In 1849 Ephraim Bull developed the now-ubiquitous Concord grape at his home on Lexington Road, where the original vine still grows. Welch's, the first company to sell grape juice, maintains a small headquarters in Concord.
Plastic bottle ban
On September 5, 2012, Concord became the first community in the United States to approve a ban on the sale of water in single serving plastic bottles. The law bans the sale of single-serving PET bottles of one liter or less starting on January 1, 2013. The ban proposed was not met without controversy. An editorial in the Los Angeles Times characterized the ban as "born of convoluted reasoning" and "wrongheaded." Some residents have stated that this ban will not do much to affect the sales of bottled water, which is still very accessible in the surrounding areas, and that it restricts consumers' freedom of choice. It has also been stated that it may be considered unfair targeting one product in particular, when other, less healthy alternatives such as soda and fruit juice are still readily available in bottled form.