Woburn, Massachusettes City History
The History of the
City of Woburn, Massachusetts
The incorporation of Woburn as a city was a slow process. Even
in the early 1870's, the population of the Town of Woburn gave credence
to the belief that in a few short years of continued prosperity, the town
would have the required 12,000 inhabitants entitling it to become a city.
Although not all members of the community wanted to change their form
of government, the selectmen's report for the year ending March 1, 1874
expressed the need to become a city : "Unfortunately just now our
population is too large for the proper management of local affairs under
our present system and too small to come under such restrictions and
regulations as a city gives for the control of affairs of large communities."
Woburn, however, continued to function as a town for fifteen more years.
In 1883 the idea of becoming a city progressed to the point where
the General Court was petitioned for a city charter. The Committee on
Cities at the State House voted to refer the matter to the next Legislature.
Proponents for city government were further disappointed when a census
taken the following May showed that the population had decreased to
Finally in 1887, when the population had increased sufficiently,
a committee of twenty-one was appointed at Town Meeting to prepare a
city charter. On May 18, 1888 the charter, submitted to the General
Court on behalf of the town, was enacted by the Legislature. Woburn
voters accepted the charter on June 12, 1888 by the decisive vote of
966 to 32. As the first mayor of the City of Woburn related in the
"History of Middlesex County, Massachusetts": "As soon as the result
was announced, twenty-five blows on the firealarm alternatedwith an
equal number of peals from the cannon to emphasize the verdict
of the citizens in declaring Woburn to be the twenty-fifth city in the
Commonwealth of Massachusetts."
After literally years of anticipation, on January 7, 1889, Edward F.
Johnson stepped forward to receive the oath of office as the City of
Woburn's first mayor. A holiday spirit prevailed throughout the new
city. Buildings were decorated with red, white and blue bunting.
Business and industrial outlets closed early as over 2,000 citizens
made their way to Main Street for the ceremony.
At Lyceum Hall only half the crowd could be seated. The others
remained outside in the relatively mild mid-winter afternoon, relying
on reports from those inside concerning the events of the two hour
inaugural. Promptly at three o'clock William C. Kenney, Chairman
of the Board of Selectmen, appeared on the stage at Lyceum Hall.
He was followed by Judge Parker L. Converse of Woburn District Court,
Rev. Dr. Daniel March of the First Congregational Church, Town Clerk
David F. Moreland, members of the present and past Board of Selectmen
and delegates from surrounding towns as well as elected officials of the
new city government.
Chairman Kenney initiated the proceedings with a few introductory
remarks. Next was an invocation given by Rev. Dr. March. Town Clerk
Moreland then read the vote for mayor and invited Mr. Johnson to step
forward to receive the oath of office. The mayor-elect's walk across the
stage was accompanied by tremendous applause from the audience.
The oath of office taken by the city's first mayor was much the same as
the oath which has been administered to every mayor of Woburn since
that time. The votes for Aldermen and Council were each read and the
men elected to these positions were sworn in, to complete the basic
structure of city government.
Once these formalities were concluded, Mayor Johnson again
stepped forward and commenced his inaugural address. According to the
Wobum Joumal printed January 11, 1889 "it was a clear, comprehensive
and able" speech. Mayor Johnson discussed his proposals for everything
from the schools and taxation to the condition of the city streets. The
oration was considered the highlight of the inaugural ceremonies.
By five o'clock that afternoon the public ceremony had come to an
end. Immediately, the new city officials elected presidents for each Board
and later that same evening met again to fill key positions in the city.
With perseverance, dignity and celebration, Woburn completed its
evolution from town to city.
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