WESTMINSTER HISTORICAL SOCIETY
This section of the web site will feature articles on town history. This first one is the introduction
to the new town history, expected to arrive from the publisher by September 2009. If you are
interested in submitting an article for this page on Westminster's history, please email
INTRODUCTION – EARLY HISTORY
Westminster is nestled at the foot of Mount Wachusett, the highest mountain in central
Massachusetts. The town is about 37 square miles and the land is about 1000 feet above sea
level. A significant portion of the land is owned by the Commonwealth, and many lakes and
rivers create a large watershed for the Nashua River.
The town is 45 miles west of Boston and lies on the old Boston Turnpike and the historic
Mohawk Trail. Several major roads run through town - Route 2 and Route 2A, as well as Route
140. The Boston and Maine Railroad also has tracks through town.
Westminster was unsettled territory in the 18th century. This land was designated to be given as
payment to soldiers who had fought in the French and Indian War, but many years later no one
was interested in leaving the comforts of home to settle in this wilderness. This virgin territory
was finally settled by descendants of those early soldiers and others who responded to the bounty
offered to those who would come. In 1737 by pioneers from more civilized areas around
It was first called Narragansett Number Two in deference to the many Indian tribes who lived in
the region. As the population grew, it became a district in 1759 and assumed the name of
Westminster, a name rooted in traditions of the minister in old England, and then became fully
incorporated in 1770.
Water was essential to the early industrial growth of the town, beginning with sawmills, gristmills,
fulling mills, tanneries and then the manufacturing of chairs and other furniture, as well as paper.
When the railroad bypassed the center of town in the mid 1800s, the factories lost their ability to
cheaply bring raw materials into town and their finished products to the world, and today there’s
little evidence of these early industries left.
The early period of Westminster history – from 1727 to 1959 – is rich with stories. If you haven’
t done so, take a look at one of the histories and discover the unique characters who lived in town
and find out how Westminster was connected to major events in this country and to the world.
You’ll find information about:
• the birth of paper manufacturing in Westminster,
• the greatest industrial age of Westminster highlighted by dozens of chair factories of the
late 19th century,
• the Hessian soldiers quartered in five homes in Westminster during the Revolutionary War,
• helping slaves travel through Westminster on their way to Canada on the Underground
• the fervor of inhabitants for the temperance movement of the early 19th century ,
• Mr. Proctor’s squabble with his neighbor bringing into existence the “Spite Wall,” and
• the life of General Nelson A. Miles, the only general of the United States Army to have been
born in Westminster.
If you are looking for the history of “old” Westminster, you won’t find it in the new history to
arrive in September 2009. The earlier histories were important works in their own right and if
you’re interested in this early period, please hunt them out. They are available to read at your
Library and are also for sale at the Historical Society. Here is a brief account of each one and
what you will find in them.
History of Westminster: 1832 by Charles Hudson
42-page history of Westminster’s settlement
History of Westminster: 1893 by William S. Heywood.
Reprint of 963-page history from 1728 to 1893 including extensive genealogical Register, 1734
proprietor’s map and 1893 map of Westminster.
History of Westminster: 1962 by WHS and edited by Newton Tolman.
347-page history from 1893 to 1959 and genealogical register of families, 1959 map of
Homestead Heritage of Westminster, 1980, by WHS
266-page award-winning book describing 2324 pre-1855 houses in Town. Also, a visual and
geographic description of homes, lives and times of Westminster.
Images of Westminster, 2001, by WHS.
128-page book for the popular series by Arcadia Publishing with 200 photos capturing the images
of Westminster from its beginning through World War II.
200th Anniversary of Westminster, 1976 by WHC.
104-page commemorative booklet with photos and descriptions of Westminster’s 200th
anniversary year-long celebrations in 1959.
200th Anniversary of Westminster, 1959 by WHS.
40-page booklet with photos and text describing Westminster during 1959, the 200th anniversary
of the incorporation of the town of Westminster.
Wachusett: Wajuset Gatherings from Then and When, 1996 by Warren Sinclair
193-page history of Wachusett Mountain, revealing the “real story” of the “Great Hill” from local
diaries, family albums, and historical society records.
This new history book will cover the past fifty to one hundred years of Westminster. You will
discover a Westminster quite different from the 19th century. Residents are proud of our town
for its rural beauty and for the many advantages a small town can offer. The outstanding school
system, many community organizations for youth and adults, nearby recreational facilities, and a
rural New England countryside are qualities that residents have cherished and visitors admire.