Wednesday, April 14, 2021

How Maynard Became Maynard

On April 19, at 7:00 p.m., the Maynard Public Library will present a Zoomed talk titled: “How Maynard Became Maynard.” Register (free) at This is the third in a monthly series of history lectures produced by the Sesquicentennial Steering Committee as part of Maynard’s celebration of the 150th anniversary of its creation on April 19, 1871. The May talk will be “Assabet River Floods and Droughts.” A new history book “MAYNARD MASSACHUSETTS: A Brief History” is for sale for $21.99 at 6 Bridges Gallery, 77 Main Street, THUR-SAT, 12-5. 

Prior to European colonization, an area that is now central Massachusetts plus northern parts of Connecticut and Rhode Island was inhabited by the Nipmuc people, one of the New England groups speaking versions of the Algonquian languages. The Nipmuc were displaced from the land that became Maynard through three major events. The Town of Sudbury, established in 1638, expanded northwest to the Assabet River in 1649 as the “Two Mile Grant.” Because it was five miles wide, iIt encompassed ten square miles. Colonial practice was for the appointed Governor of the colony to grant creations and expansions of towns, the colonists having achieved these grants, then to negotiate purchase with Native Americans. ‘Purchase’ of the land appropriated in 1649 took place in 1684 – after King Philip’s War – with a nominal payment of 12 English pounds, to a small group of Nipmuc who had survived the war. In 1651 a colonial court case had been brought by Harman Garrett against Tantamous, also known as “Old Jethro,” for 1,000 acres in lieu of non-payment for purchase of two horses. Last, Stow was created in 1683, signed in 1684 be the same group of Nipmuc people, with no mention of payment. 

Leap to 1840. Massachusetts was one of 26 states. Sudbury and Stow were primarily rural, with populations of 1,422 and 1,230, respectively. The Assabet River, which was the dividing line between the towns, hosted several water-powered mills that were part of the nascent Industrial Revolution. In what becomes Maynard, there was a mill at Mill Street, making spindles used in the spinning of yarn (1821). Earlier, this had been a combination saw-, grist- and cider mill. There was also a paper mill (1820) at Waltham Street. Close down river was a gunpowder mill (1835), a conversion from a sawmill. 

In 1846, Amory Maynard and William Knight arrived in what was then called Assabet Village with pocketsful of money from selling their Framingham and Marlborough mill ponds to Boston for water supply. Together, they bought up hundreds of acres, built a dam and a woolen mill (1846), and arranged for a railroad spur to connect Assabet Village to the Fitchburg Railroad. During the Civil War and post-war years, the mill expanded, immigrants arrived, housing was constructed. Residents wanted to be their own town. Key points of the complaint were that the fast-growing population clustered around the mill was miles away from the town centers of Sudbury and Stow, and people were not getting adequate school and street improvement spending despite taxes being paid to the parent towns. 

David Griffin (L) and Paul Boothroyd (R) of the Maynard
Historical Society hold the first (never submitted) petition.
A note here on the 'Founders' of the Town of Maynard. Most of the histories of the town list as founders the 71 men who signed the official petition, dated January 26, 1871. Actually, months earlier there had been a petition with 68 signees to create a town, name not yet selected, to encompass larger portions of Sudbury and Stow plus modest portions of Acton and Concord. This was never submitted to the state legislature. The official petition gave up annexing the gunpowder mill land from the second pair of towns, but still stipulated a much larger part of Sudbury than was finalized. Subsequent to this official petition there were three additional supporting petitions with 76 more names. All tallied, minus a few who signed more than once, the count came to 211 men who favored the creation of a new town. 

Stow and Sudbury were against the idea. Stow residents circulated three petitions which garnered about 140 signatures. Its opposition stated that such a division would remove “…the only portion that has increased in its population and in its valuation for the past ten years.” and also that such a sundering “…would leave our ancient town in a weak and crippled condition to which we most decidedly object.” Sudbury held a vote at Town Meeting, 183 against and 88 for. (Some of the “for” were in the portion that would be annexed.) In disregard of this opposition, the request to form a new town was granted. 

Maynard becoming Maynard was not free. The first year’s annual report mentioned a commitment to pay Stow $7,970 over seven years and Sudbury $2,700 over nine years. This in addition to the $10,072.77 paid to Sudbury for debt and $10,810.51 for railroad stock. Sudbury was paid more because the woolen mill was in Sudbury. Maynard started with a population of about 800 people from Stow and 1000 people from Sudbury, making it larger than its truncated parent towns. That status persisted until after the 1950 census. 

Amory Maynard
Amory Maynard was not among the signees although he was perhaps the largest landowner and also part owner and manager of the woolen mill. His sons Lorenzo and William signed, and Lorenzo became the town's first Treasurer and Tax Collector. An account of the day, in the Hudson newspaper, had this comment on how the town came to be named: "Mr. Maynard is the chief founder of the community now incorporated in his name. He is a taking man withal, and his personal christening of the new town is a popular acknowledgement of his agency in its birth and breeding." 

The inaugural celebrations marking the founding of Maynard, April 19, 1871, are described in great detail in the 1921 book "A Brief History of Maynard." A parade included the Eagle Cornet Band, International Order of Good Templars, mill representatives, the Amateur Brass Band, St. Bridget Temperance and Benevolent Society, students, and town officials. A Revolutionary War cannon was borrowed from Concord. The Treasurer's Report recorded $13.50 spent on gunpowder and $34.13 on fireworks. 

The 50th anniversary was a huge event. According to the program, church observances on Sunday, April 17th, school observances on Monday, and on Tuesday morning a 50-gun salute and a parade of an estimated 1,000 people down Main, Nason and Summer Streets. Speeches by Governor Cox and Senator Gibbs followed. Local veterans of the Civil War (!), Spanish-American War and the Great War participated. Afternoon activities included Glee Club and choir singing, a band concert and ball game - Maynard versus Concord - at Crowe Park. Likewise, the 100th anniversary was a huge event. Huge. Celebration was pushed to June, perhaps in hope of better weather? Ten days of celebrations included picnics, concerts and performances, capped by a parade and fireworks on July 4th. Celebration of the sesquicentennial anniversary has been handicapped by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the hope is that vaccinations will reach critical milestones before the end of the year, so events can be live and in person.

Not in newspaper column: In addition to a town named Maynard existing in Massachusetts, there are also towns named Maynard in Iowa, Minnesota and Arkansas. And a Maynardville, Tennessee.   

No comments:

Post a Comment