The King’s Arms Tavern, on the corner of Main and Elm streets, was established by Thomas Stearns in 1732. Stearns operated the tavern for 40 years. When he died in 1772 his widow, Mary, became proprietress and continued the business until 1784. Her clientele included both Patriots and Tories (Royal sympathizers), but it was the Tories who formed the bulk of her customers.
In June 1774 it was in this tavern that a Patriot organization, the Worcester County Convention, drafted the non-importation Solemn League and Covenant that was subsequently approved in the town meeting. Not long afterward, 43 Tories in this same tavern drafted their protest against the covenant. Because the town clerk was a Tory, this protest was formally entered into the town book, although it had not been approved by a vote of the town. Three months later, when the militia succeeded in closing the courts, that protest would be blotted from the town records. Despite the tavern’s name, George Washington stayed there in July 1775 on his way to Cambridge to take command of the forces besieging the British in Boston.
When Isaiah Thomas read the Declaration of Independence in public on July 14, 1776, at the meeting house, the King’s Arms sign was taken down and burned and the name of the tavern changed.