History

We’ve put together and compiled a list of events of the history of Woburn, Massachusetts – we hope you take the time to read or discover this city’s history. Browse our timeline below to see how Woburn came to be the city it is today.

1640s

The city is located north of Boston, nearly at the head of the Mystic River Valley and roughly halfway between Lowell and Boston. Woburn was settled in 1640 and incorporated as a distinct township in 1642. It is one of the oldest and most historic communities in New England. Colonial Woburn once also encompassed the modern Massachusetts towns of Wilmington, Burlington and Winchester who broke off into separate townships in 1730, 1799 and 1850 respectively. The following monumental events happened in the 1640s:

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.

1650

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.
By 1685 there were one hundred families living in Woburn.

1690s

The Town, established fifty years ago, had a population of 550 in 1692.
The first Town Treasurer was elected in 1695.

1710

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.
By the town’s one hundredth year, the population had increased to about 1400.

1750

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.
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.

1780

Icabod Parker’s Hotel (Mishawum House) opened in May 1785.
The Social Library was founded in 1789.
Joseph Bartlett, Esq., Woburn’s first lawyer began his practice in 1789.
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.

1800

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.
December 25 was first called Christmas in 1810.
In 1811 a “Great Comet” appeared.
Warren Academy was founded in 1827.
In 1828 the Town’s first fire engine “The Woburn” was purchased.

1830s

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.
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.
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.

1870s

The Woburn Advertiser began printing in 1871.
November 1872 saw the organization of the National Bank Association
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.
Women of Woburn voted for the first time in 1880, for School Committee.
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.

1890s

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.
“Spelling Matches” were very popular in the late 1890s. Members of teams from surrounding communities competed against each other in front of large audiences.

1900s

The beginning of this century witnessed Woburn’s continued growth. The population reached 14254.
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.

1930

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.
Woburn’s population reached 19751 by 1940.
The World War II memorial was dedicated in 1945.
Route 128 opened in 1951.
Woburn High School football team captured the State Class C Championship in 1954.
Dial telephone was introduced to Woburn in 1959.

1960

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.
In 1968 the Woburn Golf and Ski Authority was formed by a vote of the electorate. The ski lift opened the following year.
Woburn’s football team, 1975 Superbowl champions
Woburn Public Library celebrated its 100th Anniversary in 1979.

1980

Woburn High School’s Football Team was Middlesex League Champions in 1981, 1982 and 1987.
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.
In 1992 Woburn celebrated its 350th Anniversary

2017

The Woburn of today is mix of quiet residential neighborhoods, vibrant office and industrial parks, and wooded conservation areas, such as the Horn Pond Reservation, Forest Park, and Shaker Glen. As a result of its long history, virtually all the historic architectural styles typical of New England are found in Woburn. These include the Baldwin Mansion, built in 1661 by Deacon Henry Baldwin and altered to its present Federal-era appearance by his great-grandson, Colonel Loammi Baldwin in 1803, and the Woburn Public Library, the first public library designed by the great Victorian-era architect H. H. Richardson, his first work after completion of his masterful Trinity Church in Boston. To learn more about Woburn’s intriguing history, visit historic Woburn.

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