|Stow, MA, 1856 = before north part of Marlborough became
Hudson and before Maynard created from parts of Stow and
Sudbury. Boon's Pond not yet enlarged and Gleasondale was
known as Rock Bottom. Click on images to enlarge.
Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Shrinking Stow - Part Two
Last week's column left off with
having gained land from Sudbury
and given up land to Harvard and Shirley. After the Shirley subtraction, Stow was contained within
seemingly sensible boundaries (no more Stow Leg), but would subsequently lose
land and people to Boxborough, Hudson and Maynard.
Boxborough was created as a District in 1783, officially becoming a Town in 1835. Its creation took parts of
Harvard and Littleton.
Stow amiably gave up hundreds of acres, but
Boxborough's situation with Littleton
was contentious. The compromise was that individual landowners within the
District of Boxborough could consider themselves residents of Littleton and pay taxes accordingly. Over
subsequent decades most of these landowners or their descendents finally agreed
to become Boxborough-ites, but two farm-owning families were still holdouts
until 1890. Finally, a piece of the border between the towns was shifted south, making
them legally part of Littleton.
Earlier, in 1868, there had been an attempt to expand Boxborough by acquiring West Acton. This failed.
Stow tried to annex a
small but crucial part of Sudbury.
The was a boundary dating back to
1683. William Knight and Amory Maynard starting buying water rights and land on
both sides of the river circa 1843 with intent to build a dam, canal and woolen
mill. The dam site was entirely in Assabet River Stow; the
mill site and what later became Maynard's Main Street entirely in Sudbury.
A petition by Knight to shift the boundary southwards, so that all of their
property would be in Stow, was joined by the
town of Stow, ostensibly to straighten the
borderline and strengthen one of Stow's
school districts. (Ha!) Sudbury
opposed the action. Stow
lost. More on this next week
Back in 1702
had tried for a much larger land acquisition. In the aftermath of King Philip's
war, the Indian town of Nashobah,
some sixteen square miles, had been vacated. Individuals were moving in, and
towns such as Groton
were shifting borders. Stow
reasoned that the land was adjacent to its northern border, and would be a gain
toward raising taxes to support a Minister. Stow lost. Nashobah was later incorporated as
another border brouhaha, there was a thwarted early attempt to chop off a
southern portion of Stow via a petition to
create a new town from land in Sudbury, Framingham, Marlborough and
Stow in 1739.
This was opposed by parent towns in 1740. Nothing came of it.
From a collection of stories about
history, collected by Lewis Halprin, there was one final minor boundary
adjustment with Hudson in 1979: putting a dividing line down the center of the three upper
basins of . Prior to that there had been a
straight line border which had caused a dozen or so houses on the north side of
the lake, surrounded by Stow, to be legally part of Hudson and a similar number
of houses on the south side, reachable only via Hudson, legally part of Stow. Lake Boon
The creation of Maynard on April 19, 1871 took 1,300 acres from
Stow, but of greater impact, nearly half
its population, in what was informally had been called .
There were some exploratory town-founding rumblings in 1870, followed by a
petition to the Assabet Village , filed
January 26, 1871. Supportive petitions with additional signers were submitted
in January and February. All told, nearly 160 signatures gathered. Key points
of the complaint were that the fast-growing population clustered around the
woolen mill on the Commonwealth
of Massachusetts Assabet River was miles away from the town centers of Sudbury and Stow,
and were not getting adequate school and street improvement spending despite
taxes being paid to the parent towns.
There was opposition to the petition. Stow residents countered with three remonstrances, stating that such a division would remove “…the only portion that has increased in its population and in its valuation for the past ten years.” A total of 136 men signed three counter-proposals.
Stow lost. In
received $6,500 plus interest ($1,470) spread out over seven years. The only
solace was that an initial, non-official proposal for a 'Greater Maynard' would
have taken close to an additional 600 acres from the southeast edge of Stow, all the way down to
White Pond. What was left to Stow
after Maynard decamped was an area of 18.1 square miles (11,584 acres) with a population
of about 1,000. With the exception of the Gleasondale mills, Stow remained primarily a farm town (poultry
and apples) for a long time, not reaching a population of greater than 2,000
until the 1950s.
Much of the work on this topic, including the "
map, rests on research that Francis W. Warren, a Stow historian, conducted in
1979 for a lecture "Boundaries of Stow," some since revisited and retold by Stow historian and author, Lewis
Halprin. Concluded in Part Three.