Monday, March 4, 2019

Facts about Cities, Towns and the State of Massachusetts

The State Library’s collections include numerous useful resources about the cities, towns and the State of Massachusetts.  Many people come to the Library to use our extensive holdings of annual town reports, but we have many other publications that have information about the cities and towns.  Here are a few examples.

The Massachusetts Municipal Directory 2018-2019, a reference book, takes each city and town and tells us who is in charge of their libraries, the Police Department, Town Clerk, housing, Public Works, schools etc., and also gives contact information.  Other information includes statistics about the municipality such as population, school enrollment, number of registered voters, the county they’re in, the square miles, income per capita, average tax bill, tax rate and total expenditures.  For instance, the city of Northampton has a population of 28,540, is part of Hampshire county, has an area 34.2 square miles, and has 178.9 miles of public roads.  Their next mayoral election is November 5, 2019.

Historic Data Relating to Counties, Cities, and Towns in Massachusetts is an extremely useful book for finding out when a city or town was incorporated as well as its history before and after incorporation.  One can also find out other names that the area was called and names for various parts of the city or town.  Did you know that before August 5, 1634 Ipswich (the old spelling is Ipswitch) was called Aggawam? The book gives the citation to this fact as the Mass. Bay Rec., Vol. I, p. 123.  (The Massachusetts Bay Records are volumes that precede the Massachusetts Acts.)  Some former section and village names of Ipswich include Appletons, Little Neck, Plum Island and Willowdale.

Another example is that “Southwick is in Worcester County and it was established as a district by the name of Southwick from part of Westfield. (Prov. Laws, Vol. V, p. 75).” In Aug. 23, 1775 it was made a town, by an act under which districts became towns.  Other names for Southwick sections or village names are Gilletts Corner, Point Grove, Rising Corners and Southwick Center. 

Here are a few more important dates of some other Massachusetts cities and towns.

If you want a variety of facts about Massachusetts check out these publications: Massachusetts Facts: A Review of the History, Government, and Symbols in Massachusetts, which is printed by the Secretary of State’s office. This volume has fun facts such as noteworthy people born in Massachusetts, a historic sketch of Massachusetts, explains the rooms in the State House, famous firsts in Massachusetts, information on the state flag, and a brief biography of Sgt. William H. Carney, an African American Civil War hero. 

Here is a partial list of Famous Firsts from Massachusetts Facts:

  • 1716 The first American lighthouse was built in Boston Harbor.
  • 1775 The first ship of the U.S. Navy, the schooner “Hannah”, was commissioned in Beverly.
  • 1778 The Town of Franklin was the first community to change its name to honor Benjamin Franklin.
  • 1789 The first American novel, William Hill Brown’s “The Power of Sympathy”, was published in Worcester.
  • 1803 The Middlesex Canal, the first canal built for commercial use in the United States, was completed.
  • 1806 The first church built by free blacks in America, the African Meeting House, opened on Joy Street in Boston.
  • 1827 Francis Leiber opened the first swim school in America. Among the first to enroll was John Quincy Adams.
  • 1831 The first abolitionist newspaper, “The Liberator”, was published in Boston by William Lloyd Garrison.
  • 1837 Samuel Morse invented the electric telegraph based on Morse Code, a simple pattern of “dots” and dashes.
  • 1839 Rubber was first vulcanized by Charles Goodyear in Woburn.
  • 1840 The typewriter was invented by Charles Thurber in Worcester.

The Encyclopedia of Massachusetts is a 2 volume reference set. Volume 1 contains information on subjects such as nicknames, the state seal, state flag, the bird, flower, tree, song and license plate.  Nicknames for Massachusetts include the Bay State, the Pilgrim state, the Puritan state, the Old Colony State and the Baked Bean State; the State Seal, State Flag, the motto, which is Ense petit placidam sub libertate quietem (By the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty).   The state license plate came into being in Massachusetts in September of 1902. The speed limit was 15 miles per hour.  Volume 2 has Massachusetts listings of historical places by county, and a select bibliography of books about Massachusetts.

Naomi Allen
Reference Librarian