REVOLUTIONARY MAIN STREET

Described by one traveler passing through in 1765 as “one of the best built and prettiest little inland towns I remember to have seen in America,” Worcester, on the eve of the Revolution, was not the oldest, largest, or the richest town in Worcester County. It was, however, in a central and easily accessible location and so was designated as the county’s shire town, what we would now call the county seat. Four times a year the Massachusetts provincial courts met in Worcester, making it the county’s political, social, and to some degree, economic center.

Four times a year people from all parts of the county would come to Worcester during court week to sue (or be sued), renew licenses, watch cases brought before the courts, or conduct other business. At those times the visitors would substantially increase Worcester’s normal population of approximately 1,900 people.

In 1774 Worcester would become a center of political activity that would eventually propel events that began the fight for independence from England. Some of its citizens would exert political and military leadership in the cause of independence while at the same time assuming control over local politics. Others, who had dominated the town before the Revolution, not only found that they no longer controlled local events but were forced to make a new living in exile in Canada.

SALISBURY MANSION

In 1767, when Stephen Salisbury turned 21, his brother Samuel sent him from Boston to open and operate a branch of the family store in Worcester. For five years Salisbury operated in rented quarters in what is now Lincoln Square. During that time he…

HANCOCK HOUSE

Boston-born Thomas Hancock was one of the wealthiest merchants in Massachusetts. In 1744 he adopted his 8-year old nephew, John. Twenty years later, when Thomas died, young John inherited the estate which included Thomas’s property in Worcester. John…

RURAL CEMETERY

Worcester’s Rural Cemetery, located on Grove Street, was not a burial ground during the Revolution but became the final resting place for many who either participated in or observed the events of 1774 and after. Much of the land had originally been…

TIMOTHY BIGELOW HOME, FORGE, AND TAVERN

Worcester’s Police Headquarters is located where Timothy Bigelow’s house and forge stood. In this house, on the banks of the Mill Brook that ran through the town, Bigelow not only lived but worked as a blacksmith. In 1767 he was awarded a license to…

JOHN ADAMS TAUGHT HERE

In 1755 the town of Worcester sent its minister, Thaddeus Maccarty, to Cambridge. His mission was to observe the new graduates of Harvard College and to offer to one of them the position of teacher. Maccarty, himself a Harvard alumnus, listened to a…

HENRY KNOX AND THE NOBLE TRAIN OF ARTILLERY

In the days and weeks following the battles of Lexington and Concord, militiamen from all parts of New England formed a siege around the British army garrisoned in the town of Boston. When George Washington, the newly named commander of the…

THE BOSTON POST ROAD

The Boston Post Road, which first came into existence in the 1670s, was Worcester’s means of accessing the wider world. To the east were the towns of Shrewsbury, Northborough, Marlborough and then Boston. To the west was the city of New York by way…

SITE OF THE SECOND WORCESTER COUNTY COURTHOUSE

As Worcester County’s shire town (county seat), Worcester was where the Court of Common Pleas and Court of General Sessions of the Peace were held four times a year. When Court Week was in session, people from all over Worcester County came to sue or…

ISAIAH THOMAS HOUSE

In 1775 Isaiah Thomas was 25 years old. Already he had established a reputation as a troublemaker, an expert publisher, and an ardent Patriot. His newspaper, The Massachusetts Spy, published in Boston, with a large paid subscribership, gave voice to…

ELIJAH DIX

In the 1770s Elijah Dix was an apothecary (meaning doctor) in Worcester, where he not only tended to patients but was part of the Patriot group. His medical and social connections extended to Boston as well as Worcester and included the Patriot…

HEYWOOD TAVERN

The Heywood Tavern, located at the site of the current deadhorse hill restaurant, was owned and operated by Daniel Heywood, whose family had operated the tavern since 1722. Its clientele was mostly Tory in outlook. It was one of the oldest taverns in…

KING'S ARMS TAVERN

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…

THE MEETING HOUSE

Until 1783 Worcester had only one church. The congregation met at the meeting house, located on the site of present-day City Hall. The meeting house was not only the place of worship but was a center of the town’s activities. Town meetings were held…

TIMOTHY BIGELOW MONUMENT

Born in Worcester in 1739, blacksmith Timothy Bigelow became not only a local leader of the Whig resistance to British rule but took on a larger role on the provincial and national levels. He was a member of the Worcester Committee of Correspondence,…

GARDINER CHANDLER MANSION

In the years prior to the political upheaval of 1774, the town of Worcester was governed by a small group of men linked by marriage and common interests. This group included the Paines, the Putnams, and the Chandlers. Of these the Chandlers were…

TIMOTHY PAINE HOUSE AT "THE OAKS"

The Timothy Paine House, now known as “The Oaks,” was under construction during the events of 1774. The Oaks stands near the site of Paine’s first house, a place where Paine (1730-1793), as one of the most prominent men in Worcester, maintained a hub…