Lexington is a town in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 31,394 at the 2010 census, in nearly 11,100 households. Settled in 1642, this town is famous for being the site of the first shot of the American Revolutionary War, in the Battle of Lexington on April 19, 1775, as the "Shot heard 'round the world" when news spread about the revolution.
Lexington was first settled circa 1642 as part of Cambridge, Massachusetts. What is now Lexington was then incorporated as a parish, called Cambridge Farms, in 1691. This allowed them to have a separate church and minister, but were still under jurisdiction of the Town of Cambridge. Lexington was incorporated as a separate town in 1713. It was then that it got the name Lexington. How it received its name is the subject of some controversy. Some people believe that it was named in honor of Lord Lexington, an English peer. Some, on the other hand, believe that it was named after Lexington (which was pronounced and today spelled Laxton) in Nottinghamshire, England.
In the early colonial days, Vine Brook, which runs through Lexington, Burlington, and Bedford, and then empties into the Shawsheen River, was a focal point of the farming and industry of the town. It provided for many types of mills, and later, in the 20th Century for farm irrigation.
For decades, Lexington showed modest growth while remaining largely a farming community, providing Boston with much of its produce. It always had a bustling downtown area, which remains so to this day. Lexington began to prosper, helped by its proximity to Boston, and having a rail line (originally the Lexington and West Cambridge Railroad, later the Boston and Maine Railroad) service its citizens and businesses, beginning in 1846. (Today, the Minuteman Bikeway occupies the site of the former rail line.) For many years, East Lexington was considered a separate village from the rest of the town, though it still had the same officers and Town Hall. Most of the farms of Lexington became housing developments by the end of the 1960s.
Lexington, as well as many of the towns along the Route 128 corridor, experienced a jump in population in the 1960s and 70s, due to the high-tech boom. Property values in the town soared, and the school system became nationally recognized for its excellence. The town participates in the METCO program, which buses minority students from Boston to suburban towns to receive better educational opportunities than those available to them in the Boston Public Schools.
On April 19, 1775, Lexington was the location of the first battle of the American Revolutionary War. A British military patrol made a forced march on Lexington and Concord on information from an informant that there was a large supply of weapons and gunpowder in the area. A force of Minutemen stood on Lexington Green to fight off the British. It is not clear where or who fired the first shot of the battle, but it is known as the "Shot heard 'round the world." Every year, on the third Monday of April, the town observes Patriots' Day. Events begin with Paul Revere's Ride, with a special re-enactment of the Battles of Lexington and Concord. At 6 a.m., there is a re-enactment of the skirmish on the Battle Green, with shots fired from the Battle Green and the nearby Buckman Tavern (to account for the fact that no one knows from where the first shot was fired, or by whom). After the rout, the British march on toward Concord. The battle in Lexington allowed the Concord militia time to organize at the Old North Bridge, where they were able to turn back the British and prevent them from capturing and destroying the militia's arms stores.
Throughout the rest of the year many tourists enjoy tours of the town's historic landmarks such as Buckman Tavern, Munroe Tavern, and the Hancock-Clarke House, which are maintained by the town's historical society.