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About Southborough

History (cont):

By the mid-1800s, however, came the railroad and small factories were springing up along the town's two branches of the Sudbury River and its tributaries. Best remembered, perhaps, is the Cordaville Cotton and Woolen Mill that made blankets for the Civil War and left its name to one of the four villages. And with the passing years came straw bonnet, plaster, brush, and boot and shoe factories, thriving now in Fayville as well as Cordaville.

But then, as the end of the 19th Century approached, Boston and its burgeoning population, now becoming accustomed to indoor plumbing, was searching for water beyond Chestnut Hill and Cochituate. The Water Works looked to Wachusett in Boylston, to the northwest of Southborough, for its next supply-and built a dam to create storage for the water on its way to the city. The dam was across the upper branch of the Sudbury coming into Southborough from Marlboro.

Thus it was that the 1898 building of the Fayville Dam assured that Southborough's prospering industry would lose much of its water power and, rather than gaining its livelihood from manufacturing, Southborough would remain a rural community, growing substantially only much later with the post-World War II housing boom and the advent of the "high tech" industry and Route 495. The huge waterworks project also added to the growing Irish population of the town and brought the first wave of Italians. They were the ancestors of many who remain to this day.

But the reservoirs were actually the second turning point. The first had come just a bit earlier through the endeavors of several residents destined to leave their mark on the town just as significant as being the home of the watershed.

While there are dozens of names to be found in the annals of our past, there has to be one family that, among its contributions, created the town center that we still know today. For it was members of the Burnett family who founded St. Mark's Church, St. Mark's School, and the Fay School, as well as Deerfoot Farm, the premier establishment of the town from the mid-1800s until well into the 1900s.

Add the Choate family who donated the Community House to the Village Society and Francis Fay's donation of the first $500 for a town library, and you see that much of the center of town, with the lawns and characteristic buildings of the schools and the English-style stone church, is what it is because of families prominent two centuries ago.

It goes without saying that there are hundreds of more names who have added-and continue to add-their contributions, large and small, to making Southborough what it is in the 21st Century. There were the first settlers and the town's own company of Minutemen, the preachers and teachers who guided their flocks in matters of education and the spirit, the town "fathers" and, rather late, town "mothers," who have cared for its government and public life since the first Selectmen were elected in 1727 and the first Town Meetings met (at that time, nearly continuously), and as the "modern times" came along, the developers who have built far more houses than the founders could ever have imagined and the businessmen who have found the town an attractive and convenient location for their facilities. And there were, throughout the years, the men and women who left the town, some forever, to fight-first for independence, for the union, and for peace in the world.

As our town fully enters the "world of the web" with this site, we look forward to how this electronic still-miracle can contribute to our community. Yet we look back, too, to realize that for all of its nearly 275 years (yes, we'll be celebrating in 2002), the people who have walked these ways before us gave us the Southborough that we call home. As did they, we struggle with allocating town funds, with electing officials in whom we can be confident, and with preserving the special flavor that drew us here and makes so many of us want to stay. It continues to be a worthwhile pursuit, this taking care of our town.

Read all this and much more for yourself in the town's history, Fences of Stone, published in 1990 under the auspices of the Southborough Historic Commission and written by Southborough resident and Fay School teacher Richard E. Noble. See some history for yourself in the Historical Society's new museum in the old one-room schoolhouse behind the Town House. See Historical Society's web site at

Southborough Town Hall ~ 17 Common Street ~ Southborough, Massachusetts, 01772 ~ p:(508)-485-0710 ~ f:(508)-480-0161

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