Douglas is a town in Worcester County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 8,471 as of the 2010 census. It includes the sizable Douglas State Forest, managed by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR).
The name of Douglas was first given to the territory of the town in the year 1746. New Sherburn or "New Sherburn Grant" had previously been its designation, since its first occupancy by the English settlers which was as early as 1715. The original settlers came primarily from Sherburn, although many hailed from Natick as well. The name was given in 1746, when Dr. William Douglas, an eminent physician of Boston, in consideration of the privilege of naming the township offered the inhabitants the sum of $500.00 as a fund for the establishment of free schools together with a tract of of land with a dwelling house and barn thereon.
Douglas's forests gave rise to a woodcutting industry and the Douglas axe company. A woolen manufacturing company, on the Mumford River in East Douglas, in recent times held by the Schuster family, has been prominent in the history of this community. General Lafayette, of France, stopped here during the Revolutionary War, to change horses, on his way to Boston to join General Washington. Lafayette was a hero of the American Revolution and the French Revolution.
From a very early period reaching beyond 1635, bands of Native Americans, principally the Nipmuc tribe, dominated this region of Worcester County. The Blackstone River was once called the Nipmuc River. Most of Douglas is part of the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor.
The underlying geology consists of rocks rich in quartz, feldspar, and mica. Boulders are plentifully scattered all over town, and gold and silver ores are said to be found in some localities. Large quantities of building and ornamental stone are quarried from the granite ledges found in the center of town which is shipped to almost every section of New England.
A common misconception in Douglas is in regard to the New England Trunkline Trail. Many believe that railroad tracks were laid here for commuting from northern Connecticut to northern Massachusetts. In fact, they were used to haul ice from Wallum Lake as interstate commerce. Today you can hike these trails through Massachusetts and Connecticut. The New England trunkline was originally planned as a railroad, but the financier died in the sinking of the Titanic.
E.L. Jenckes Store and Museum
The E.L. Jenckes store and museum sits on Main Street in the village of East Douglas. During the 1830s, when East Douglas was becoming the economic center of the town, Ebenezer Balkcom opened a small store at the corner of Main and Pleasant (now Depot) streets.
Later, Gardner Chase bought the property and enlarged the building as his business expanded to meet the needs of the growing community. Apparently, Mr. Chase's extraordinary efforts ruined his health. On his doctor's orders he retired and leased the business to a series of entrepreneurs until Edward L. Jenckes bought the business and building from Mr. Chase's widow in 1884. Mr. Jenckes made several more additions. By 1895, the building looked like the museum as it appears today.
The store of the 1890s was far different from a modern supermarket. The smell of a smoky wood stove, the kerosene lamps, the boxes of salt codfish, and the pickling brine mingled with the aroma of ground coffee, spices, and fancy soaps. The presence of horses, hitched to the posts in front, was also quite evident.
In addition to the sewing supplies and the food which could not be raised locally, the store carried a variety of housewares. Included were from kettles, tin pans, enamelware coffee pots, glass, canning jars, and ceramic items, generally referred to as "crockey." Mr. Jenckes also stocked inexpensive furniture and floor coverings.
In the horse and buggy era, the store was a busy place. Four men and a woman clerk were needed to carry on business. After Mr. Jencke's two daughters E. Mialma and Helen R. - graduated from Wellesley College, one of them was always in the store because no woman customer would ever consider mentioning her personal needs to a male clerk.
Two of the men spent much of their time going from house to house, taking orders from the customers one day and delivering their purchases the next. Goods from the wholesalers had to be moved from the freight house to the store, a job known as "drawing freight." One man was need in the store because a customer might stop for a bag of grain or some other item too heavy for a woman to lift.
After Mr. Jenckes's death in 1924, his daughters continued to run the show. During the Great Depression, the Jenckes sisters extended credit to many families because they could not live with the knowledge that people, especially children, were Hungry. The business was also important during the gasoline rationing of World Warr II, when customers were allotted on three gallons a week, and could save fuel by having their groceries delivered.
After 1945, business declined rapidly but the sisters did not forget their long-time customers. Orders still were taken by telephone and delivered. If anyone wanted meat, flashlights, batteries, or anything the Jenckes Store no longer stocked, these items were purchased as a local market or the Goodness Store (another mainstay in the Village) and delivered along with bread, soup, and other groceries still available at the Jenckes Sote. Examples of this arrangement are found in store ledgers, the last of which was written in 1964, when the business closed its doors.
The store remained closed until 1972 when Mrs. Jenckes gave the property to the Douglas Historical Society as a memorial to their father. Because the store was neither dismantled nor converted to another use, it remains - after careful restoration by the Douglas Historical Society - a fine example of the general store of a hundred years ago.
Breezy Picnic Grounds & Waterslides
Breezy Picnic Grounds is located on 520 Northwest Main Street in Douglas, MA 01516. Since 1953 Breezy has been serving the Blackstone Valley as well as the rest of Massachusetts and neighboring states Rhode Island and Connecticut With three three hundred foot waterslides, free parking, game rooms, snack bar, certified lifeguards, and picnic tables, Breezy Picnic Grounds & Waterslides sits off the edge of the Whitin Reservoir. The park is open from the beginning of June and closes after Labor Day Weekend.