Mendon is a town in Worcester County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 5,839 at the 2010 census. Mendon is very historic and is now part of the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor, the oldest industrialized region in the United States.
The Nipmuc people once inhabited Mendon, and Nipmuc Pond is named for them. Nipmuc Regional High School was named after this lake. Nipmuc means "small pond place" or "people of the fresh waters". The Nipmuc name does not refer to a specific village or tribe, but to natives that inhabited almost all of central Massachusetts. Over 500 Nipmuc live today in Massachusetts, and there are two nearby reservations at Grafton and Webster. The Nipmuc had a written language, tools, a graphite mine at Sturbridge, and well-developed agriculture, including maize (a variant of corn), beans and squash.
During King Philip's War in 1675, Praying Indians (natives who converted to Christianity) were settled into Praying Indian Villages. Wacentug and Rice City held two of these villages in Mendon, in a section that later became Uxbridge. These were two of the 14 Praying Indian villages established by Reverend John Eliot, from Natick and Roxbury, who translated the Bible into the Nipmuc language.
Pioneers from Braintree petitioned to receive a land grant for square of land, west of Medfield. In September 1662, after the deed was signed with a Native American chief, "Great John", the pioneers entered this part of what is now southern Worcester County. Earlier, unofficial, settlement occurred here in the 1640s, by pioneers from Roxbury. This was the beginning of Mendon.
The land for the settlement was square of Native American land in the Massachusetts Bay Colony and was purchased from the Nipmuc Indians, “for divers good and vallewable considerations them there unto Moovinge and especiall for an in consideration of the summe of twenty fower pound Ster.” In 1662, "Squinshepauke Plantation was started at the Netmocke settlement and plantation", and was incorporated as the town of Mendon in 1667. The settlers were ambitious and set about clearing the roads that would mark settlement patterns throughout the town’s history.
The early settlement at Mendon was first listed in Essex County in 1667, then in 1671 in Suffolk County, and in Worcester County from 1731. Mendon was first settled in 1660 and was officially incorporated in 1667. The town was originally , including the modern-day towns of Milford, Bellingham, Hopedale, Uxbridge, Upton, Blackstone, Northbridge and Millville. For this reason, the town of Mendon is sometimes referred to as "Mother Mendon". Benjamin Albee (1614–1695) erected a water-powered mill in 1664 on modern-day Hartford Avenue in Hopedale and was one of the town's important early residents.
On July 14, 1675, early violence in King Philip's War took place in Mendon, with the deaths of multiple residents and the destruction of Albee's mill. These were the first settlers killed in this war in the Colony of Massachusetts. A man named Richard Post, of Post's lane, may have been the first settler killed. The town was largely burnt to the ground later that winter in early 1676. During King Philip's War, many Nipmuc from around Marlboro and Natick were re- located to Deer Island, and many died from the harsh winter in 1675. The town of Mendon was resettled and rebuilt in 1680.
Robert Taft, Sr., settled here, in the part that became Uxbridge, in 1680 and was the patriarch of the famous Taft family. He settled here in 1669 and was among those forced back to Braintree because of King Philip's War. In 1712, Mendon was the birthplace of Lydia Chapin, who became America's first legal woman voter, known later as Lydia Chapin Taft, or simply Lydia Taft. Ezra T. Benson was born here and became a famous Mormon Missionary and Utah Territory legislator. (See also the article of neighboring Uxbridge, Massachusetts.) The Taft family became an American political dynasty, especially in Ohio, but also in Iowa, Rhode Island, Vermont, and other states. President William Howard Taft was a descendant and also was a descendant of George Aldrich.
Another political dynasty American family began in Mendon with the immigrant George Aldrich. His descendents included a number of U.S. congressmen, including Senator Nelson Aldrich, who started the Federal Reserve Bank, and Vice President Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller. Other descendants were Ezra T. Benson and his grandson, Ezra Taft Benson, former Secretary of Agriculture under President Dwight D. Eisenhower, later 13th President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Colonial and revolutionary era
Mendon would eventually rebuild and find itself along Boston's Middle Post Road (Route 16 today). Milestone 37 (from Boston) was erected in 1772 and still stands today. In 1719, Bellingham became the first community to break off from Mother Mendon and incorporate as a separate entity. In 1789, it is purported that President George Washington, during his inaugural journey, was denied a room in Mendon by an innkeeper’s wife.
The first gig of Aerosmith took place at Nipmuc Regional High School in this town on November 6, 1970. History teacher Carl Olson hired the band and allowed them to use the girls' locker room, which they trashed with beer bottles.
In 1986 Congress created the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor, a national park. Mendon falls within this corridor. In modern times, Mendon serves primarily as a bedroom community but has seen some significant commercial development along Route 16 in recent years. Southwick's Zoo in Mendon is currently Massachusetts's largest zoo. The Twin Drive-In, one of only three drive-in theaters in Massachusetts, is located in Mendon.