Thursday, March 2, 2017

Shrinking Stow - Part Three

Last week's column glossed over some of the interesting details that brought William Knight and Amory Maynard to Assabet Village, and years later lead to the creation of Maynard. History has it that Knight and Maynard starting buying land on both sides of the river circa 1846 with intent to build a dam and canal (1846) and a carpet mill (1847).

We know for a fact that Knight sold his water rights to Long Pond (later renamed Lake Cochituate) to Boston on March 30, 1846, and Maynard his rights to Fort Meadow Reservoir circa 1847. However, a careful perusal of Sudbury town records, thankfully transcribed and posted by the Sudbury Historical Society, identifies William Knight as active in Sudbury affairs as early as 1843. This means that Knight and Maynard as partners were planning to relocate years before finally being bought out from their existing operations in, respectively, Framingham and Marlborough. What may have sent them searching was that for years it was clear that Boston desperately needed more water, and was looking west for solutions. 

Border stone north of the Assabet River with
"A" for Acton on the west side. Click on
any photo to enlarge.
What was found in Sudbury's records were the minutes of a Town Meeting, April 1843, with a vote that the Selectmen oppose a road petitioned by William H. Knight and others. Apparently, Knight (and Maynard) were already buying up water privileges for the Assabet River and land on both sides of the river. What Knight wanted the town to pay for was a road next to his intended factory site, to be able to bring wool in and finished carpet out. Knight tried again in 1844, and then in 1846 submitted a petition to shift the boundary southwards so that all of the property would be in Stow. The petition was seconded by the town of Stow, ostensibly to straighten the borderline and enlarge the smallest of Stow's school districts. Sudbury opposed the action. Sudbury won this battle, but ceded the war when it went ahead and built the road and bridge over the river (now Main Street, Maynard), in 1849.

As for the 1871 creation of Maynard, aka Assabet Village, Stow created a committee, naming F.B. Warren, Henry Gates, Jonathan Priest, B.W. Gleason and Francis Tuttle to negotiate. According to their reports, the Assabet committee failed to show at the first scheduled meeting. At the second meeting the Assabet people took the position they the new town would be taking on debt associated with the land, so Stow should pay them to secede. This "...did not receive much favor from your [Stow's] committee." The next proposal from Assabet is that it wanted a larger part of Stow than initially proposed, no payment. Stow counter-proposed that it did not want the new town to be created, but if it were to happen, less land and Stow to get $15,000.   

Maynard side has a "S" because the stone
dates to when this side was Stow
These two groups not reaching an amicable agreement, on January 26, 1871, residents of Assabet Village submitted official petition to the state Legislature, with name "Maynard" written in on a space that had been left blank, and proposed boundaries. This is referred to as the Henry Fowler Petition. In February and March 1871 Stow residents submitted three petitions against - a total of 136 signatures. Preamble from one petition:

 "The undersigned legal voters of the Town of Stow respectfully and urgently remonstrate against having our small town divided for the purpose of forming a new town as prayed for by the petition of Henry Fowler and others, taking as it is proposed about one half of our population and more than a third part of the valuation, it would leave our ancient town in a weak and crippled condition to which we most decidedly object."

Sudbury also opposed formation of the new town. Regardless, Maynard was created on April 19, 1871. The boundaries were smaller than what the residents of Assabet Village has wanted. Stow ended up being paid $6,500 (plus interest) over seven years. Stow gave up approximately 1300 acres and 800 people (out of 1,800). What went was everything north of the Assabet River plus a long triangle of land south of the river. Sudbury gave up 1900 acres - including the mill and the railroad - and 1,000 people (out of 2,100), and received $20,883.28. As late as 1950 the population of Maynard was larger than Stow and Sudbury combined.

A final note: the aqueduct from Lake Cochituate to Boston was completed in 1848. On October 25th of that year a great celebration was held in Boston Common, with an estimated 100,000 people attending. The great day began with a 100-gun salute and an immense parade through the city, ending near Frog Pond, in the Common. Mayor Quincy gave a speech, at the end of which he asked if the people of Boston were ready for Cochituate water. "The crowd roared, the gates opened, and a fountain of water 80 feet high burst into the air." Cochituate was in service until 1951, supplemented and finally superseded by Wachusett (operative 1908) and Quabbin (operative 1946) reservoirs. Boston had also bought Amory Maynard's Fort Meadow Pond, but never connected it to the aqueduct, and in time sold it back to Amory to add to his water privileges on the Assabet River.


Butler, Caleb. History of the Town of Groton, Including Pepperell and Shirley. Boston, MA: T.R. Marvin, 1848.
Chandler, Seth. History of the town of Shirley, Massachusetts, from its early settlement to A.D. 1882. Town of Shirley,MA. 1883.
Gutteridge, William H. A Brief History of the Town of Maynard, Massachusetts. Maynard, MA: Town of Maynard, 1921.
Hager, Lucie Caroline. Boxborough: a New England Town and Its People. Philadelphia, PA: J.W. Lewis & Co, 1891.
Hudson, Alfred Sereno. The Annals of Sudbury, Wayland, and Maynard, Middlesex County, Massachusetts. Self-published, 1891.
Hudson, Alfred Sereno. The History of Sudbury, Massachusetts, 1638-1889. Sudbury, MA: The Town of Sudbury, 1889. Republished, The Sudbury Press, 1968.
Hudson, Charles. History of the Town of Marlborough. Boston, MA: T.R. Marvin & Son, 1862.
Norse, Henry S. History of the Town of HarvardMassachusetts, 1732-1893. 1894. Republished Higginson Book Company, Salem, MA, 2006.
Sudbury Historical Society Archieves.
Zwinger, Ann, and Edwin Way Teale. A Conscious Stillness: Two Naturalists on Thoreau's Rivers New York, NY: Harper and Row, 1982.

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