Uxbridge, is a town in Worcester County, Massachusetts first settled in 1662, incorporated in 1727, and named for the Earl of Uxbridge, in England. The town, (population 13,457), lies 39.77 miles (64.00 km) southwest of Boston and 16 miles (26 km) south-southeast of Worcester in the Greater Boston (CSA). This National Heritage Corridor community, offers glimpses of the Rhode Island System of mill villages at: Rogerson's Village, Elmdale, and Ironstone.
The original Nipmuc village of 'Wacentug" (bend in the river), saw 17th century settlers arrive from Braintree, including the Taft family, (a later political dynasty). Agriculture was dominant for the first 100 years. Lt. Col. Seth Reed fought at Bunker Hill, and was "instrumental" in adding E Pluribus Unum, ('From Many, One'), to U.S. Coins. There are more than 375 state or national historic sites that include architectural styles of the 18th and 19th Century. Rivers powered mills, and the Blackstone Canal moved freight, positioning Uxbridge for textile advances in: woolen power looms, satinets, vertical integration for clothing, military uniforms, "wash and wear" fabrics, and more. One of the oldest US woolen mills began here in 1809. Uxbridge Worsted Co., begun by the Caprons in 1820, made "Uxbridge Blue", the first US Air Force Dress Uniform. Fortune 500 BJ's northern distribution warehouse is located here.
Uxbridge granted town meeting rights to America's first woman voter, Lydia Chapin Taft in 1756, and approved Massachusetts's first women jurors in 1922. Local Quakers led Uxbridge to become a center for anti-slavery work, a junction on the underground railroad, and home to national anti-slavery champion, and textile scion, Effingham Capron. A local Quaker, Abby Kelley Foster, led Susan B. Anthony, and Lucy Stone into the abolition movement. Brian Skerry, a modern reformer, captures the effects of climate change, fisheries, and devastation of sea-life in his epic photojournalism. Uxbridge "weaves a tapestry of early America" in industry and social reform.
Colonial era, Revolution, and Quaker heritage
John Eliot started Nipmuc Praying Indian villages. "Wacentug" natives sold land to settlers in 1662, "for 24 pound Ster". Mendon began in 1667, and was burned in King Phillips War. Western Mendon became Uxbridge in 1727, and Farnum House held the first town meeting. The 1728 Town Meeting, funded 15 gallons of 'ye good rum for ye raising of ye meeting house'. Nathan Webb's church, was the Colony's first new Congregational church in the Great Awakening. Lydia Chapin Taft, voted in the 1756 Town meeting, a first for women.
Seth and Joseph Read. and Simeon Wheelock joined Committees of Correspondence. Baxter Hall, was a Revolutionary War drummer. Seth Read fought at Bunker Hill, and in the Canadian campaign. Washington stopped at Reed's tavern, en route to begin command of the Continental Army. Samuel Spring, was a Revolutionary war chaplain. Deborah Sampson, posed as a male soldier to enlist as "Robert Shurtlieff of Uxbridge". Shays' Rebellion's opening salvos began here and Governor John Hancock quelled Uxbridge riots. Lt. Simeon Wheelock, died protecting the armory. Sen. Seth Reed was instrumental in adding E pluribus unum to U.S. coins. President Washington slept here on his post Inaugural tour.
Transportation, education and public health
The Tafts built the Middle Post Road's Blackstone River bridge in 1709. "Teamsters" drove horse "team" freight wagons, on the Worcester-Providence stage route, giving Uxbridge the nickname of "a crossroads village". Construction of the Blackstone Canal brought horsedrawn barges to Providence through Uxbridge for their overnight stop. The town became a junction on the underground railroad. The P&W Railroad ended canal traffic in 1848.
In 1732 the town voted to "set up a school for ye town of Uxbridge". A 1788 grammar school was quickly followed in 1797 by 13 one room district school houses, built for $2000 to serve the rural farming sections. Uxbridge Academy (1818), became a prestigious New England Prep School. (see Education, below)
Uxbridge voted against smallpox vaccine in 1775. Samuel Willard (physician) treated smallpox victims in South Uxbridge and Glocester (Burrillville), and had the scars to prove it. Town vital records recorded infant mortality, the death of Joseph Richardson, a local Selectman, from smallpox, "Quincy", smallpox, "dysentary", and tuberculosis deaths. Dr. Leonard White recorded Malaria in 1896 that led to a plan for his son to collect mosquitoes to study, and citizens to add window screens, and drain standing water, firsts in public health community mitigation efforts for malaria as a mosquito-borne infection.
Industrial era: 19th century to mid-20th century
Bog iron and three iron forges marked the colonial era, with the inception of large-scale industries beginning around 1775—examples of this development can be seen in the work of Richard Mowry, who built and marketed equipment to manufacture woolen, linen, or cotton cloth,. and the early emergence of gristmills, sawmills, distilleries, and other large industries. By the 19th century, Uxbridge had twenty different industrial mills. Daniel Day built the Valley's first woolen mill in 1809. By 1855, 560 local workers made of cloth.
North Uxbridge was home to Clapp's 1810 Cotton Mill, the Chandler Taft 1814 Mill at RIvulet, Blanchard's granite quarry, and the 1824 Rogerson's village. Crown and Eagle Mill has been described as "a masterpiece of early industrial architecture". Blanchard's granite quarry provided curb stones to New York City and public works projects in the northeast region. Richard Sayles ran the Rivulet Mill Complex in the mid 1800s.
Effingham Capron, and his brother John Willard Capron ran the 1820 Capron Mill at Uxbridge Center. Charles Arthur Root transformed the company to the Bachman Uxbridge Worsted Co., which grew to thirteen plants, and leadership in women's fashion. Bachman Uxbridge proposed a buyout to be the top US woolen company. Capron Mill, and the successor, Bachman Uxbridge Company, manufactured US Army uniforms for the Civil War, World War I, World War II, the nurse corps, and the first Air Force "dress uniforms", dubbed "Uxbridge Blue".
Mid-20th century to present
State and national parks developed around the mills and rivers were restored. The Great Gatsby (1974) and Oliver's Story (1978) were filmed locally including Stanley Woolen Mill. The National Heritage Corridor contains the Blackstone Canal Heritage State Park, of the Blackstone River Bikeway, the Southern New England Trunkline Trail, West Hill Dam, a 567 acre wildlife refuge, and Cormier Woods. 60 Federalist homes add to 54 National, and 375 state-listed historic sites, including Georgian Elmshade. Capron's wooden mill survived a 2007 fire at the Bernat Mill. Stanley mill is being restored while Waucantuck mill, was (mostly) razed. See National historic sites.