A Chronological History of
Charlestown, settled in 1629, only nine years after the Pilgrims founded Plymouth Colony, is actually the starting point of Woburn’s history. In the early 1630s, looking to expand Charlestown, its citizens petitioned the newly elected representatives of the Great and General Court of Massachusetts Bay Colony for more land. A wide extent of territory on the “main land” eight miles northward was granted to Charlestown (this area includes present day Woburn, Winchester, Burlington and parts of Stoneham and Wilmington).
In February of 1640 a group set forth from Charlestown to find a suitable location for their projected town. After much deliberation, present day Woburn Center was chosen as the site for the new Village.
On November 5, 1640 a committee of seven was appointed by Charlestown to determine the boundary lines of the new settlement. The seven men who received this grant to undertake the settlement of Charlestown Village, as it was to be called, were Captain Edward Johnson, Thomas Richardson, Samuel Richardson, Ezekiel Richardson, Thomas Graves, Edward Converse and John Mousall.
These men were required to build houses for habitation within two years. They also were entrusted with the power to grant lands to other persons willing to build and live within the newly formed Village. The grant further stated that it was the duty of these men to select newcomers who would work as a unit to improve the land, lay out the streets and maintain a civil and religious society.
Edward Converse is said to have built the first house and mill in 1640. It was located in the southern part of town (now Winchester Center). John Mousall’s house was the first dwelling built in present day Woburn. It was located on what is now Montvale Avenue. Captain Edward Johnson was chosen as the first Town Clerk on December 18, 1640. Not yet even a year old, the spirit of independence was strong in the new Charlestown Village. Already plans were underway to create a distinct Town, instead of a Village more or less dependent upon Charlestown.
Religion played an important role in Puritan Massachusetts. Every incorporated Town or Parish was required to have a church and pastor. On December 5, 1641 the Rev. Thomas Carter, the first pastor, gave his first sermon. The first church was built around this time on the southerly side of the Common.
The new Village was growing, a church and pastor were a part of the community; the way was now prepared for granting the privileges of a Town to this newly established community. The General Court met in session in the fall of 1642 and the Town of Woburn was incorporated on October 7, 1642. The act of incorporation reads: "Charlestowne Village is called Wooborne'.
- The vicinity of present day Woburn was first visited by white men in 1621.
- Charlestown petitioned the Great and General Court of Massachusetts for more land. This decade was a time of exploration and planning for the future settlement.
- This was a busy decade for the new Village. In addition to the events described in the narrative, other memorable occurrences included:
- Bridges were built over the Aberjona River (Feb. 10, 1641) and the Horn Pond River (Aug. 26, 1641).
- The first birth in the Village was Increase Winn, son of Edward, born December 5, 1641.
- The first church of Charlestown Village was built in late 1641, early 1642 - located on the southerly side of the Common.
- Charlestown Village now had about thirty families living within its boundaries; almost 150 people.
- The General Court met in session and the Town of Woburn was incorporated on October 7, 1642. The act of incorporation reads: "Charlestown Village is called Wooburne".
- The first general town meeting was held November 9, 1643; absence from a public meeting without an excuse meant a fine of 18 pence.
- Lynn Village (Reading) separated from Woburn, May 29,1644.
- The first organizational Town Meeting was held and the first town officers were chosen on April 13, 1644. Selectmen were: Edward Johnson, Edward Converse, John Mousall, William Learned, Ezekiel Richardson, Samuel Richardson and James Thompson. William Learned was also selected as Constable.
- Some of the first streets were laid out in November of 1644, including Upstreet (Main St. “Busy Bend” area); Sawpit Lane (take Lexington St. to Revere Road - off to the left parts still exist as it was in the 1600s); and Military Lane (Common St. in front of City Hall).
- More streets were laid out by 1646, including the road to Reading and the Highway to Mistick Bridge (Medford).
- Ezekiel Richardson, one of the original founders died on October 21, 1647.
- By 1652 Woburn had grown to sixty families, doubling its population in ten years.
- The first silver money coined by the State was seen in town by the early 1650s.
- New Bridge Village (North Woburn) was named for the new bridge over the river in 1656.
- Three of the original founders died during this decade: Thomas Richardson died on August 28, 1651. Thomas Graves died in 1653. Samuel Richardson died on March 23, 1657.
- Baldwin Mansion in North Woburn was built by Henry Baldwin in 1661.
- A great earthquake was recorded during the year 1663.
- In 1668 Gershom Flagg's tannery was located behind the present day Unitarian and Baptist Churches.
- Samuel Converse was killed by the water wheel at the Mill in South Woburn on February 20, 1669.
- Two of the original founders died in the 1660s: John Mousall died on March 27, 1665. Edward Converse died on August 10, 1663.
- Susanna Brooks is listed in town records of 1670 as the first practitioner of medicine in Woburn.
- In 1671 the Court ordered Selectmen to go round and see if the children were 'catechised' according to law (weekly religious lessons were required).
- The Second Meeting House was built on the hill East of the Common in 1672. Only three pews were allowed to be built
- Edward Johnson, Town Clerk and the last survivor of the original founders, died in 1672. His son William Johnson was chosen to replace him as Town Clerk.
- The first public schoolmaster, in 1674, was Jonathan Thompson and the first public schoolmistress was Mrs. Allen Converse.
- In 1674 two Selectmen were fined for non-attendance at meetings, six pence each.
- By law no person could “harbor a stranger” more than three days without the consent of the Selectmen.
- In 1675, the first known tavern was kept by Samuel Walker.
- Samuel Walker was the first person licensed to sell intoxicating liquor.
- Samuel Walker was fined 20 shillings for improper sale of liquor.
- Hopestill Foster was fined in 1677 for oppression in charging inordinate wages.
- Samuel Richardson's wife and children were killed by Indians April 10, 1676.
- In 1678 Small pox was prevalent.
- Newton's great comet as it was called, appeared in 1680.
- The Rev. Thomas Carter died in 1684. The town paid for fourteen gallons of wine for his funeral.
- By 1685 there were one hundred families living in Woburn.
- Women were reproved by the authorities for extravagance in dress in 1686.
- In 1688 there was a spring drought and measles were prevalent that year.
- The Town, established fifty years ago, had a population of 550 in 1692.
- The first Town Treasurer was elected in 1695.
- The beginning of the century witnessed Woburn’s continued growth. Since established as a town, records indicated there had been 1313 births and 340 deaths. In 1708 the total real estate value in town was 22 pounds, 8 shillings, 3 pence. Woburn was fourth in the county for population and wealth.
- In 1713 the first school house was built.
- Count Rumford's birth place in North Woburn was built around 1714.
- The winter of 1717 brought The Great Snow - 20 to 25 feet
- Dr. Peters, the first resident physician, arrived in 1719.
- There were 305 tax payers in Woburn by 1725.
- On October 29, 1729 a great earthquake occurred.
- Wilmington separated from Woburn in 1730.
- Second Parish, (Woburn Precinct, Burlington) was incorporated September 27, 1730.
- By the town's one hundredth year, the population had increased to about 1400.
- Col. Loammi Baldwin was born January 10, 1745.
- Prince Walker was sold as a slave on July 10, 1751.
- Count Rumford (Benjamin Thompson) was born in North Woburn on March 26, 1753. Some of his inventions included the drip coffee pot and the kitchen stove. President Franklin D. Roosevelt once said that the three greatest minds America ever produced were Jefferson, Franklin and Benjamin Thompson (Count Rumford).
- In 1756 David Cummings began tanning on the estate formerly used by the Hon. John Cummings.
- Bears were seen on the old Converse Place located on Salem Street in 1760.
- A great gale was reported in 1761.
- The Black Horse Tavern opened for business in 1763 in South Woburn.
- By 1765 the population had increased to 1575 and there were now 228 dwelling houses located in Woburn.
- Records of the Revolutionary War dominate the news from this decade.
- In 1775: Asahel Porter and Daniel Thompson were killed at the Battle of Lexington,
- April 19, 1775. Hancock, Adams and Dorothy Quincy were concealed at Madame Jones’ house
- at Woburn Precinct that same day.
- In 1776 Washington was entertained at Black Horse Tavern in South Woburn.
- Some weather conditions during these ten years were also notable: 1770 brought what was called a ‘remarkable storm’. The next year lists great spring floods. In 1773 twenty people froze to death. The decade drew to a close with a hurricane that tore off the roof of the Woburn Precinct Church on
- August 15, 1777.
- May 19, 1780 was recorded as the “Dark Day”. Conditions were probably caused by numerous forest fires in upstate New York and in Canada.
- Icabod Parker's Hotel (Mishawum House) opened in May 1785.
- The Social Library was founded in 1789.
- That same year, Simeon Reed sold his wife to James Butters of Wilmington for a yoke of oxen, valued at $40.00.
- Joseph Bartlett, Esq., Woburn’s first lawyer began his practice in 1789.
- Black House at Central Square, so named because it was painted black, was "raised" on
- August 25, 1790. It was owned by Joseph Bartlett.
- In 1792 school districts were first established.
- Woburn, now 150 years old, had a population of 1750.
- Fourth of July was first celebrated in town in 1793.
- New Burying Place, Montvale Avenue was established by the parish in 1794.
- James Walker, President of Harvard College, was born in Woburn August 16, 1794.
- Nine schoolhouses were built in 1795 at a cost of $2000.00.
- In 1797 the first U. S. Post Office in Woburn was located at Mishawum House, Ichabod Parker was appointed first postmaster October 3rd of that year.
- On February 28, 1799, Burlington separated from Woburn.
- By 1800 Woburn’s records show there were 156 dwelling-houses, of which only one was painted (apparently Black House); 22 shoe shops; 2 currying shops; 3 saw mills and 7 grist mills. About this time Central Square was called Hawker's Square because of the produce vendors located in the area.
- In 1801 "Woburn Clarionet Band" a seven piece instrumental band was established.
- The first boats ran on the Middlesex Canal on April 22, 1802, the Canal actually opened for business in 1803. The Middlesex Canal was the first regional transportation canal in the United States.
- The Charitable Religious Library was founded in 1807.
- Col. Loammi Baldwin died October 20, 1807.
- Joseph and Benjamin Brooks froze to death January 19, 1810.
- December 25 was first called Christmas in 1810.
- In 1811 a "Great Comet" appeared.
- On February 4, 1811 snow drifts were reported to be ten feet deep.
- Powder House on Powder House Hill was built by the town in 1812.
- With two dollars capital, Gen. A. Thompson began tanning near the corner of Cambridge and Russell Streets.
- September 1815 produced a 'famous gale'.
- The first elephant exhibited in the U. S. was on display in a shed at Wood's Tavern (National Bank block), admission was ninepence.
- B. Thompson established a tannery at Cummingsville in 1823.
- Prince Walker, slave, died at the age of 1 15 years.
- Warren Academy was founded in 1827.
- In 1828 the Town's first fire engine "The Woburn" was purchased.
- Henry Clay entertained at Mishawum House in 1830.
- Steel pens were first used in Woburn in 1831.
- The John Mousall House, the first house to be built in Woburn Center, burned in 1833.
- The year 1835 brought trains to Woburn. On May 27th the “Stephenson” engine ran a trial trip to the Town. The Boston and Lowell Railroad opened for business on Wednesday, June 24 of that year.
- The first newspaper, the Woburn Sentinel began in 1839.
- Goodyear discovered the 'Art of Vulcanizing' rubber at his home on Montvale in 1839.
- The North Woburn Library was founded November 19, 1840.
- The Woburn Gazette also began that year.
- In 1841 Central House was built by Joseph Rollins; Central House Stable was added the following year.
- Woburn Marion Band - 22 pieces, was formed in 1842.
- On February 5, 1843 game cocks, etc. were seized at Horn Pond House. Gamblers were tried in the Baptist Vestry. The cocks and implements were destroyed on the Common.
- The Woburn Branch Railroad opened for business in 1844. Eli Cooper was the engineer on the first train.
- In 1846 three newspapers were begun in Woburn: The Woburn Gazette was again in print as well as the Woburn Weekly Advertiser and the Woburn Guide Post.
- The South Woburn Library Association was established March 20, 1848.
- Winchester separated from Woburn in 1850.
- The Woburn Fire Department was established in 1851.
- The Woburn Journal began publishing in 1851.
- The first High School in Woburn was established in 1852.
- On November 7, 1855 the Young Men's Literary Association was organized.
- That same year the Lyceum Hall Association was also established.
- The first Public Library was established in 1855, opening in 1856.
- Lyceum Hall was built in 1856.
- The Irish Literary Association and the Pippy's Circulating Library both were established in 1857.
- Donati’s Comet appeared in 1858 and the following year a great display of Aurora Borealis was reported.
- The Town, now with a population of 6287, first adopted a seal in 1860.
- The number of dwelling-houses had grown to 1074 by 1861 and the tax rate was reported to be $5.80.
- By 1865, 203 men and 105 women were employed making boots and shoes. There were 21 tanning and currying shops in town.
- Woburn had 28 schools, 30 teachers and 1483 pupils by 1866.
- The Young Men's Library Christian Association, North Woburn was established July 17, 1866.
- The North Woburn Street Railroad opened that same year.
- On January 21st of that same year, Joshua Converse's 100th birthday was celebrated at Lyceum Hall.
- The first telegraphic message was sent from Woburn by Sparrow Horton on January 22, 1867.
- Joshua Converse died February 5, 1868, aged 101 years, 16 days.
- October 14, 1869 the Soldiers' Monument on the Common was dedicated to the Woburn men who fought and died in the Civil War.
- The tax rate jumped to $13.00 in 1870.
- The Woburn Advertiser began printing in 1871.
- November 1872 saw the organization of the National Bank Association.
- On March 6, 1873 there was a great fire on Main Street at the corner of Walnut Street.
- Water was first “let on to” the Woburn Water Works, October 9, 1873.
- The Hon. J. B. Winn died December 12, 1873.
- Charles Bowers Winn, donor of the Woburn Public Library in memory of his father, died December 19, 1875.
- In 1876 Woburn accepted the Winn bequest.
- The Rumford Historical Association was organized March 26, 1877 and the Woburn Brass Band began on September 1st that year.
- On May 1, 1879 the Woburn Public Library opened.
- The women of Woburn petitioned to be taxed, for the purpose of voting, July 4, 1879.
- Women of Woburn voted for the first time in 1880, for School Committee.
- Tuesday, September 6, 1881 was recorded as 'dark or yellow day'. Forest fires again were responsible for the conditions.
- The Fourth District Court of Eastern Middlesex was established on July 1, 1882. Parker L. Converse was appointed Justice of Court; Edward F. Johnson was appointed Clerk of Court.
- Public telephone came to Woburn January 10, 1882.
- Electric lights were first introduced in town on July 21, 1885.
- The last two months of 1885 saw the completion of Woburn Loop. The first passenger train over Woburn Loop traveled on November 30th from Woburn to Wilmington. Woburn Loop, part of the Boston and Lowell opened for public travel December 14, 1885.
- Woburn was incorporated as a City on June 12, 1888. The vote for a city charter was 966 to 32.
- The first election held under the City charter was on December 4th of that year.
- Edward F. Johnson was elected as the first mayor.
- Free post office delivery began on October 1, 1888.
- The Woburn Daily City Press and the Woburn News both were established in 1890.
- Edward F. Johnson was appointed Justice of the Fourth District Court upon the resignation of Parker L. Converse on July 1, 1891.
- The year 1891 brought an epidemic of "La Grippe”.
- That same year Alice G. Bryant, M.D. became the first female resident physician of the City.
- On July 24, 1892 electric cars first ran regular trips over East Middlesex Street Railway.
- In 1892 Woburn celebrated its 250th anniversary. Population had reached about 14000 and there were more than 2290 dwelling-houses. The City boasted 197 streets and courts, in all about 63 miles of roadway. The number of schools had increased to 48; teachers numbered 56 and pupils, now called scholars had increased to 2561. The Woburn Public Library had a collection of 30000 volumes.
- A boiler at Loring Tannery on Conn Street exploded on Monday morning, April 1, 1895, five people were killed, many others injured.
- "Spelling Matches" were very popular in the late 1890s. Members of teams from surrounding communities competed against each other in front of large audiences.
- The beginning of this century witnessed Woburn’s continued growth. The population reached 14254.
- The tax rate for this year was $17.80.
- In 1901 the Woburn Daily Times was founded.
- Woburn’s first sewer system was operational by 1905.
- The new High School was built in 1906.
- In 1909 the Charles Choate Memorial Hospital opened on Warren Avenue.
- The Post Office on Federal Street opened in 1911.
- The Cowl from the Battleship Maine was placed on the Common in 1913.
- The year 1915 brought the first motorized engines to the Woburn Fire Department.
- Woburn Armory was built in 1917.
- Two tornados roared through Woburn in this decade. The first was in 1921 and the second, in 1925, struck Woburn Center, toppling the Unitarian church steeple.
- The Country Club opened in 1923.
- A monument to honor those who fought in World War I was dedicated in 1926.
- Fresh water ground wells, the first in Massachusetts, were operating by 1926.
- A fire on Jefferson Ave. destroyed two businesses in 1928.
- In 1930 the Junior High system was established and the Junior and Senior High wings at the High School opened.
- On August 31, 1931 the new City Hall was dedicated.
- A memorial to Spanish American War veterans, Hiker Monument, was dedicated on November 12,1934 on the Common.
- The great hurricane of 1938 lashed the City.
- Woburn’s population reached 19751 by 1940.
- In 1940 Company G and B of the Mass. National Guard were called to active duty; the Guardsmen set sail for the Pacific in 1942.
- The World War II memorial was dedicated in 1945.
- Warren Academy was destroyed by fire in 1948.
- Route 128 opened in 1951.
- St. Charles Church suffered a fire on Christmas morning 1951.
- Woburn High School football team captured the State Class C Championship in 1954.
- Two hurricanes, Carole and Edna, tore through the City in 1956.
- Dial telephone was introduced to Woburn in 1959.
- The population of Woburn jumped to 31241 by 1960.
- In 1960, the Woburn section of route 93 opened, but that same year the Boston & Maine Railroad eliminated the Woburn - Lowell run. The Railroad Depot closed in 1962.
- Almost three thousand water meters were installed in 1964.
- In 1965 the 325th Anniversary of Woburn was celebrated.
- An eight hour black out occurred in 1967.
- The City's tax rate had increased to $78.20.
- In 1968 the Woburn Golf and Ski Authority was formed by a vote of the electorate. The ski lift opened the following year.
- There was a teachers' strike in 1970.
- The summer of 1971 was a time of turmoil in the City.
- Baldwin Mansion was moved to its present location in 1972.
- The energy crisis struck in 1971 and the gas shortage led to long lines at area gas stations in 1974.
- Woburn’s football team, 1975 Superbowl champions.
- In 1976 the tax rate was reduced to $45.00.
- The Blizzard of '78 shut the City down for a week.
- Woburn Public Library celebrated its 100th Anniversary in 1979.
- The temperature was ten degrees below zero on Christmas morning in 1980. In many homes, Christmas dinner was delayed because of electrical outages.
- Effects of Prop. 2 1/2 hit the City in 1981 with layoffs in many Departments.
- Woburn High School's Football Team was Middlesex League Champions in 1981, 1982 and 1987.
- Noted W.H.S. football coach, Peter Sullivan retired in 1986. He was replaced by Rocky Nelson.
- Woburn Public Library was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1987. This same year, John Frizzell of Woburn bequeathed two million dollars to the Woburn Public Library, the interest of which was to be used specifically for the upkeep of this historic building.
- The 1989 film, Talk Radio featured Eric Bogosian (W. H. S. Class of 1971). Bogosian who has had a successful writing and acting career, wrote the one-act play that was the basis for the movie.
- Nick Paleologos, and Fred Zollo, also 1971 graduates of Woburn High, achieved fame as their film Mississippi Burning was nominated for seven Academy Awards in February of 1989.
- In 1989 Woburn celebrated 100 years as a city.
- The 150th anniversary of Goodyear’s discovery of the vulcanization of rubber was celebrated in 1989.
- After 80 years of service to the community, Choate-Symmes Hospital closed in December of 1989.
- In 1989 the Woburn Public Library began the first of several projects using the Frizzell funds, to upgrade and restore the Historic Landmark to its former elegance.
- In 1990 the U. S. Census Bureau listed Woburn's population as 35943, with 14105 housing units.
- Woburn's new Police Station opened in September 1990 with a well attended dedication ceremony and public tours of the modern facility.
- Baldwin Mansion re-opened as a restaurant December 12, 1990.
- The tax rate in 1991 was $8.49.
- “Silly String” was outlawed in Woburn in 1991.
- In 1992 Woburn celebrated its 350th Anniversary
In 1640, seven courageous men, followed by their families, left the safety of Charlestown to undertake a settlement they could make their own. In a land previously known only to the Indians, these first Woburnites carved out a strong foundation upon which the City of Woburn was built.
Woburn's history is rich and diverse. Its citizens have included prominent figures in education, science, politics and entertainment. Inventions and ideas first discovered and discussed in our City have had direct impact on the entire country, perhaps on the entire world.