Oxford incorporated in 1600 was the first original township for this area. Dudley was founded in 1732 as part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and Webster was founded 100 years later in 1832 with parts of Dudley and Oxford. A portion of Oxford become part of Dudley in 1732 and the Oxford South Gore now known as East Village was made part of Webster around 1812. Originally the home of the Nipmuc and Huguenot Indian tribes who met on the shores of Webster Lake, “The Boundary Fishing Place – The neutral Meeting Ground.” The modern interpretation, “You fish on your side, I’ll fish on my side and nobody fishes in the middle.”
Town of Dudley
71 West Main Street, 01571
Tel 508-949-8000 Fax 508-949-7115
Dudley was settled by colonists in 1684, when the Nipmuck Indians sold large tracts of land after King Philip’s War. Incorporated in 1732, it was the first town incorporated after the formation of Worcester County. Reservoirs and ponds were created in the 19th Century and provided ample water power for significant textile, manufacturing and industrial development. Dudley also maintained a large agricultural establishment, growing hay, grains and vegetables and raising sheep and cattle. The introduction of woolen mills made Dudley an industrial force in the county and by 1832, 40,000 yards of broadcloth and 70,000 yards of satinet were being produced by residents and French Canadians and Irish immigrants. The Town’s economy was dominated by the textile industry until the 20th Century. Stevens Linen Works, founded in 1846, still operates a mill and a retail store in Dudley. The black Tavern, which still sits on Dudley Hill, was a halfway point on stage routes between Boston, Hartford, Springfield and Providence. The tavern is a surviving symbol of a hill village home, and both it and the Quinebaug basin it is located in convey history of earlier times. Dudley today still has poultry farms, dairy farms, and vegetable and market gardens.
Town of Oxford
325 Main Street, 01540
The town was named for Oxford, England. The land was purchased from the Nipmuck Indians in 1681, and first settled by French Huguenots but later abandoned because of Indian attacks. Permanent settlement was made by the English in 1713. The original land was about 65 square miles and included a large part of present day Charlton, on fourth of Auburn, one fifth of Dudley and the northeasterly portion of Southbridge. Manufacturing grew after Samuel Slater opened a spinning mill in town. The textile industry continued into the 20th Century, and Oxford is home to many of the original Slater Mills. Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross and “Angel of the Battlefield” during the Civil War, was born in Oxford and spent her last summers in the town. Both Clara Barton and Dr. Elliot P. Joslin, noted in the treatment of diabetes, are buried in North Cemetery. Present-day Oxford is primarily a residential community with some commercial activity and an industrial park.
Town of Webster
350 Main Street, 01570
Webster is one of the earliest mill towns in the state. Samuel Slater moved here and built a cotton mill in 1811. Four years later five more mills were built. Completion of the Norwich and Worcester Railroad in 1840 brought more industries to Webster. The textile and shoe industries flourished, making Webster’s population a combination of diverse ethnic backgrounds. The town’s richest asset is its beautiful fresh-water, spring-fed Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg. The name means “the fishing place at the boundaries and neutral meeting grounds”. The Nipmucks and their neighbors, the Narragansetts, Pequots and Mohegans, all gathered at the 1,300-acre lake. According to folklore, the name arose from a summit meeting of two tribes living at opposite ends of the lake. They named this beautiful lake after the terms of that treaty – Chargoggagogg – “you fish on your side” – Manchauggagogg – “I fish on my side” – and Chaubunagungamaugg – “Nobody fish in the middle”. Water activities abound on the lake, and also located on its shores is the well-known “Indian Ranch,” the New England home of Country Music which draws visitors to Webster from all over the northeast. For more information on Webster’s history you can visit www.oldewebster.com.