Leicester, Massachusetts

Leicester /ˈlɛstər/ is a town in Worcester County, Massachusetts

Leicester, Massachusetts
Leicester Town Hall
Leicester Town Hall
Official seal of Leicester, Massachusetts

Location in Worcester County and the state of Massachusetts.
Location in Worcester County and the state of Massachusetts.
Coordinates: 42°14′45″N 71°54′33″W / 42.24583°N 71.90917°WCoordinates: 42°14′45″N 71°54′33″W / 42.24583°N 71.90917°W
CountryUnited States
 • TypeOpen town meeting
 • Town AdministratorDavid A. Genereux
 • Board of SelectmenHarry Brooks (Chair) (terms ends 2018)
Dianna Provencher(1st Vice Chair) (2017)
Sandy Wilson (2nd Vice Chair)(2020)
Douglas Belanger (2018)
Brian Green (2019)

 • Interim Superintendent of SchoolsDr. Marilyn Tenza
 • School CommitteeScott Francis (Chair)
Tom Lauder (Vice Chair)
Stella Richards (Secretary)
Tammy Tebo
Nathan Hagglund
 • Total24.7 sq mi (63.9 km2)
 • Land23.4 sq mi (60.5 km2)
 • Water1.3 sq mi (3.4 km2)
1,009 ft (308 m)
 • Total10,970
 • Density440/sq mi (170/km2)
Time zoneUTC-5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST)UTC-4 (Eastern)
ZIP code
01524, 01542, 01611
Area code(s)508 / 774
FIPS code25-34795
GNIS feature ID0619483


Leicester was incorporated in 1713[1]. The town was named after Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester.[2]

One of the early settlers in town was Dr. Samuel Green, who lived in a house at 2 Charlton St. in Greenville (which is now part of Rochdale, a village in Leicester). Dr. Green trained many other doctors in the early 1700s. This constituted the first medical school in Massachusetts. The Green family was involved in the creation of both Worcester's Green Hill Park and New York City's Central Park.

Although no significant battles of the American Revolution were fought in the area, Leicester citizens played a large role in the conflict's start. At a Committee of Safety meeting in 1774, Leicester's Colonel William Henshaw declared that "we must have companies of men ready to march upon a minute's notice"—coining the term "minutemen", a nickname for the militia members who fought in the revolution's first battles. Henshaw would later become an adjutant general to Artemas Ward, who was second in command to George Washington in the Continental Army.

Before the British troops marched to Lexington and Concord, looking for the ammunition and equipment held by the Americans, that ammunition and equipment was moved further West to four locations in the town of Leicester, including the house Dr. Green built at 2 Charlton Street. This information can be found in books held on reserve in the Leicester Public Library. When they heard that the British had attacked, Leicester's own Minutemen gathered on Leicester Common. They marched quickly to join with other Minutemen on April 19, 1775, to fight at the first conflict between Massachusetts residents and British troops, the Battles of Lexington and Concord. A few months later on June 17, 1775, a freed slave and Leicester resident named Peter Salem fought at the Battle of Bunker Hill, where he killed British Major John Pitcairn. Both men are memorialized in Leicester street names (Peter Salem Road, Pitcairn Avenue), as is Colonel Henshaw (Henshaw Street).

General Knox brought cannons from New York through the town of Leicester, delivering them to General Washington at Dorchester Heights. There is a monument near the Leicester Library to mark that route. These cannons caused the British to evacuate their troops from Boston, after they woke up one morning to find cannons facing them from above them.

Leicester also held a leading role in Massachusetts' second great revolution, the coming of industrialization. As early as the 1780s, Leicester's mills churned out one-third of American hand cards, which were tools for straightening fibers before spinning thread and weaving cloth. By the 1890s when Leicester industry began to fade, the town was producing one-third of all hand and machine cards in North America.

Ruth Henshaw Bascom (1772–1848), the wife of Reverend Ezekial Lysander Bascom and daughter of Colonel William Henshaw and Phebe Swan, became America's premier portrait folk artist and pastelist, producing over one thousand portraits from 1789 to 1846.

Eli Whitney, the man who invented the cotton gin and devised the idea of interchangeable parts, went to school at Leicester Academy, which eventually became Leicester High School. Ebenezer Adams, who would later be the first mathematics and natural philosophy professor at the Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, was the academic preceptor in Leicester in 1792.[3] Leicester's Pliny Earle helped Samuel Slater build the first American mill in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, by building the first carding machine. This began the American Industrial Revolution. Leicester today is one of the most northernmost communities within the Blackstone River Valley, National Heritage Corridor. Its early role with carding machines, and the role that Pliny Earle played with the first water powered mill at Pawtucket, complete the case for inclusion on Leicester in this Federal NPS historic designation.

As with most Massachusetts cities and towns, local history can be found and researched in the local public library. The Leicester Public Library has a rich collection of books and articles connected to Leicester's history. In addition, local cemeteries have graves dating back to the French and Indian War and the American Revolution.

Other social leaders who came from Leicester include Charles Adams, military officer and foreign minister, born in town;[3] Emory Washburn, governor of Massachusetts from 1854–1855; and Samuel May, a pastor and active abolitionist in the 1860s, whose house was a stop on the Underground Railroad. He also served as secretary of the Massachusetts Anti-Slave Society. His house has become a part of the Becker College campus.

In 2005, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette named Leicester one of Central Massachusetts' top ten sports towns.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 24.7 square miles (64 km2), of which 23.4 square miles (61 km2) is land and 1.3 square miles (3.4 km2), or 5.35%, is water.

Leicester includes four distinct villages—Leicester Center, Cherry Valley (the east side of town, near Worcester), Rochdale (a crossroads in the southeast corner, near the Oxford line), and Greenville (now considered to be part of Rochdale). Cherry Valley and Rochdale have separate ZIP codes from the rest of the town (01611 and 01542, respectively), but otherwise the village boundaries have no official significance, although some Cherry Valley, Rochdale, and Leicester have 3 separate and distinct Water Districts and 4 sewer districts. The Town of Leicester also created the Moose Hill Water Commission to bring the Moose Hill Reservoir online as a Class A water source for the entire town.[4] The village of Greenville is now considered part of Rochdale, as it falls within the 01542 ZIP code; the former villages of Mannville and Lakeside were destroyed to construct the Kettle Brook reservoir system, in northeastern Leicester, to supply water to Worcester.

The town is cut into quarters by two state highways, east-west Route 9 and north-south Route 56. Route 9 is called Main Street through Cherry Valley and most of the rest of town; it follows a bypass alignment called South Main Street around the Washburn Square area. The town is actively trying to encourage business development along the western end of Route 9. Route 56 north of the Leicester Center crossroads is Paxton Street; south, it is Pleasant Street until it detours along a bypass road, Huntoon Memorial Highway, that skirts the edge of Rochdale.

Spencer, now a separate town to the west, was once part of Leicester. Other municipalities bordering Leicester include Paxton along Route 56 to the north, Worcester and Auburn on the east, and Oxford and Charlton on the south. Large parts of both Paxton and Auburn were also once part of Leicester.

The end of Worcester Regional Airport's longest runway, along with much of the airport's property, is in Leicester. Additionally, most of Worcester's Kettle Brook water reservoir system is in Leicester.


Historical population
* = population estimate.
Source: United States Census records and Population Estimates Program data.[5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14]

As of the census[15] of 2000, there were 10,471 people, 3,683 households, and 2,707 families residing in the town. The population density was 448.3 inhabitants per square mile (173.1/km2). There were 3,826 housing units at an average density of 163.8 per square mile (63.2/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 96.29% White, 1.28% African American, 0.31% Native American, 0.74% Asian, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 0.31% from other races, and 1.01% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.75% of the population.

There were 3,683 households out of which 35.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 59.1% were married couples living together, 10.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 26.5% were non-families. 21.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.73 and the average family size was 3.21.

In the town, the population was spread out with 26.0% under the age of 18, 9.2% from 18 to 24, 30.0% from 25 to 44, 22.5% from 45 to 64, and 12.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females, there were 94.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 90.5 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $55,039, and the median income for a family was $64,202. Males had a median income of $40,991 versus $27,913 for females. The per capita income for the town was $20,822. About 3.2% of families and 4.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 4.3% of those under age 18 and 5.6% of those age 65 or over.


The Town of Leicester is governed by a five-member Board of Selectmen. This board appoints a town administrator, who is responsible for executive decisions in running the town. They also appoint a Superintendent of Schools, who is responsible for the education department. There is a three-member Board of Health elected by the people of the town, which has separate powers to regulate health matters. These powers are derived directly from Mass General Law chapter 111.

The legislative body of the town it the town meeting, in which all registered voters of the town may participate in approving the annual budget for the following fiscal year of July 1 through June 30. There are typically two or more town meetings each year, the annual Spring town meeting, and a special town meeting held in the Fall, and occasional other special town meetings, called for by the selectmen as the need arises.

County-level state agency heads
Clerk of Courts: Dennis P. McManus (D)
District Attorney: Joe Early Jr. (D)
Register of Deeds: Katie Toomey (D)
Register of Probate: Stephanie Fattman (R)
County Sheriff: Lew Evangelidis (R)
State government
State Representative(s): Kate Campanale (R)
State Senator(s): Michael O. Moore (D)
Governor's Councilor(s): Jen Caissie (R)
Federal government
U.S. Representative(s): James P. McGovern (D-2nd District),
U.S. Senators: Elizabeth Warren (D), Ed Markey (D)
1899 Leicester public library Massachusetts
Leicester public library, 1899


The Leicester public library began in 1801.[16][17] In fiscal year 2008, the town of Leicester spent 0.57% ($145,270) of its budget on its public library—some $13 per person.[18]


Public schools

Public school students in Leicester attend Leicester Primary School (grades K-2), Leicester Memorial School (grades 3-5), Leicester Middle School (grades 6-8) and Leicester High School (grades 9–12). Notable graduates of Leicester High include Diane and Elaine Klimaszewski, better known as the Coors Light Twins.

8th graders at Leicester Middle School have a choice between going to Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School or Tantasqua Regional Technical High School for high school.

Higher education

Becker College has a campus on Washburn Square in the heart of Leicester, next to Town Hall. The college's main campus is in Worcester; the Leicester campus was formerly operated independently as Leicester College, one of the older colleges in the country (founded 1782). The two institutions merged under the Becker name in 1997.


  1. ^ https://www.leicesterma.org/home/pages/about-leicester
  2. ^ Gannett, Henry (1905). The Origin of Certain Place Names in the United States. U.S. Government Printing Office. p. 184.
  3. ^ a b Who Was Who in America, Historical Volume, 1607-1896. Chicago: Marquis Who's Who. 1963.
  4. ^ "Water Issues | Leicester MA". www.leicesterma.org. Retrieved 2017-03-08.
  5. ^ "Total Population (P1), 2010 Census Summary File 1". American FactFinder, All County Subdivisions within Massachusetts. United States Census Bureau. 2010.
  6. ^ "Massachusetts by Place and County Subdivision - GCT-T1. Population Estimates". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  7. ^ "1990 Census of Population, General Population Characteristics: Massachusetts" (PDF). US Census Bureau. December 1990. Table 76: General Characteristics of Persons, Households, and Families: 1990. 1990 CP-1-23. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  8. ^ "1980 Census of the Population, Number of Inhabitants: Massachusetts" (PDF). US Census Bureau. December 1981. Table 4. Populations of County Subdivisions: 1960 to 1980. PC80-1-A23. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  9. ^ "1950 Census of Population" (PDF). Bureau of the Census. 1952. Section 6, Pages 21-10 and 21-11, Massachusetts Table 6. Population of Counties by Minor Civil Divisions: 1930 to 1950. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  10. ^ "1920 Census of Population" (PDF). Bureau of the Census. Number of Inhabitants, by Counties and Minor Civil Divisions. Pages 21-5 through 21-7. Massachusetts Table 2. Population of Counties by Minor Civil Divisions: 1920, 1910, and 1920. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  11. ^ "1890 Census of the Population" (PDF). Department of the Interior, Census Office. Pages 179 through 182. Massachusetts Table 5. Population of States and Territories by Minor Civil Divisions: 1880 and 1890. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  12. ^ "1870 Census of the Population" (PDF). Department of the Interior, Census Office. 1872. Pages 217 through 220. Table IX. Population of Minor Civil Divisions, &c. Massachusetts. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  13. ^ "1860 Census" (PDF). Department of the Interior, Census Office. 1864. Pages 220 through 226. State of Massachusetts Table No. 3. Populations of Cities, Towns, &c. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  14. ^ "1850 Census" (PDF). Department of the Interior, Census Office. 1854. Pages 338 through 393. Populations of Cities, Towns, &c. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  15. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  16. ^ C.B. Tillinghast. The free public libraries of Massachusetts. 1st Report of the Free Public Library Commission of Massachusetts. Boston: Wright & Potter, 1891. Google books
  17. ^ http://www.leicesterma.org/government/library.html Retrieved 2010-11-08
  18. ^ July 1, 2007 through June 30, 2008; cf. The FY2008 Municipal Pie: What’s Your Share? Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Board of Library Commissioners. Boston: 2009. Available: Municipal Pie Reports Archived 2012-01-23 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 2010-08-04

External links

Becker College

Becker College is a college in central Massachusetts, United States, with campuses in Worcester and Leicester. Becker College traces its history from the union of two Massachusetts educational institutions—one founded in 1784 and the other in 1887. The college offers more than 40 undergraduate degree programs including nursing programs, a veterinary science program, and video game design and development programs. The college's fall 2016 enrollment was 2,189. Becker College has more than 21,000 alumni.

David Henshaw (American politician)

David Henshaw (April 2, 1791 – November 11, 1852) was the 14th United States Secretary of the Navy.

Henshaw was born in Leicester, Massachusetts in 1791 and educated at Leicester Academy. Trained as a druggist, he achieved notable success in that field, then expanded his energies into banking, transportation and politics. He was elected to the Massachusetts Senate in 1826 and served as Collector of the Port of Boston from the late 1820s until 1838. Though he suffered business reverses during the later 1830s, Henshaw regained his political position as a leader of the Massachusetts Democratic Party within a few years.

In July 1843, President John Tyler selected Henshaw as Secretary of the Navy. During his brief term in office, he addressed shipbuilding problems, selected senior officers for important seagoing commands, revised supply arrangements in the Navy Yards and attempted to establish a school for Midshipmen. His recess appointment as Secretary failed to receive Congressional confirmation, requiring that he leave office when his successor was confirmed. Henshaw then returned to Massachusetts politics. He died in 1852.

USS Henshaw (DD-278) was named in his honor.

Emory Washburn

Emory Washburn (February 14, 1800 – March 18, 1877) was a United States lawyer, politician, and historian. He was Governor of Massachusetts for one term (from 1854 to 1855), and served for many years on the faculty of Harvard Law School. His history of the early years of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court is still considered a foundational work on the subject.

Born in Leicester, Massachusetts, Washburn attended Dartmouth and Williams before studying law. After establishing what grew to become a successful and distinguished law practice in Worcester, Washburn entered politics as a Whig. After serving several years in the state legislature, he was elected governor in 1853. Despite his support for a reform-minded agenda, he was swept out of office on the Know Nothing tide in 1854.

Washburn joined the faculty of Harvard Law in 1856, where he was a popular and influential figure until his retirement in 1876. His publications, in addition to his history of the SJC, include a history of his hometown of Leicester and numerous treatises on legal subjects.

French River (Massachusetts)

The French River is a river in south-central Massachusetts and northeastern Connecticut, USA.

The river rises near Leicester, Massachusetts, and flows generally southwards through Auburn, Oxford, and along the town line between Webster and Dudley; it then enters Connecticut where it joins the Quinebaug River at Thompson, just northeast of Putnam. The Quinebaug in turn flows into the Shetucket River and ultimately the Thames River to empty into the Long Island Sound.

The river's total length is 25.3 miles (40.7 km), of which 18.8 miles (30.3 km) are in Massachusetts. It drains a watershed area of about 95 square miles (250 km2), containing 67 lakes and ponds, 38 of which cover at least 10 acres (4.0 ha). Only one lake in its basin is larger than 500 acres (200 ha), namely Lake Chaubunagungamaug (Webster Lake) in Webster, Massachusetts at 1,195 acres (484 ha).

French River was so named from a settlement of French Protestants in Oxford.

Ichabod Washburn

Ichabod Washburn (1798–1868) was a church deacon and industrialist from Worcester County, Massachusetts, United States. His financial endowments led to the naming of Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas and the foundation of Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Washburn became an apprentice in a Leicester, Massachusetts blacksmith shop at the age of sixteen. He attended Leicester Academy with his distant relative Emory Washburn (later Governor of Massachusetts) and Stephen Salisbury II, both of whom would many years later help in the founding of Worcester Polytechnic Institute.By 1865, Washburn was co-proprietor (with his son-in-law Philip Moen) of Washburn and Moen Manufacturing Company, the world's largest wire mill. The company manufactured piano wire, crinoline and supports for hoop skirts, wire for fences and other similar products.

James Earl

James Earl, an American portrait painter, was a brother of Ralph Earl. He was born in Leicester, Massachusetts on May 1, 1761, and died of yellow fever at Charleston on August 18, 1796 at the age of 35.

John E. Russell

John Edwards Russell (January 20, 1834 – October 28, 1903) was a U.S. Representative from Massachusetts.

Born in Greenfield, Massachusetts, Russell was instructed by private tutors.

He returned to Massachusetts and became interested in mail transportation west of the Mississippi River and in steamship lines on the Pacific coast.

He engaged in agricultural pursuits.

Russell was elected secretary of the Massachusetts State Board of Agriculture in 1880.

He was reelected five times.

Russell was elected as a Democrat to the Fiftieth (March 4, 1887 – March 3, 1889).

He served as delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1892.

He was an unsuccessful candidate for Governor of Massachusetts in 1893 and 1894.

He served as member of the Deep Waterways Commission.

He died in Leicester, Massachusetts, October 28, 1903.

He was interred in Pine Grove Cemetery.

Joseph John Rice

Joseph John Rice (December 6, 1871—April 1, 1938) was an American prelate of the Roman Catholic Church. He served as Bishop of Burlington from 1910 until his death in 1938.

Leicester Airport (Massachusetts)

Leicester Airport was an airfield operational in the mid-20th century in Leicester, Massachusetts.

Peter Salem

Peter Salem (October 1, 1750–August 16, 1816) was an African American from Massachusetts who served as a soldier in the American Revolutionary War. Born into slavery in Framingham, Massachusetts, he was freed by a later master, Major Lawson Buckminster, to serve in the local militia. He then enlisted in the Continental Army, serving for nearly five years during the war. Afterwards, he married and worked as a cane weaver. A monument was erected to him in the late 19th century at his grave in Framingham, Massachusetts.

Ralph Earl

Ralph Earl (May 11, 1751 – August 16, 1801) was an American painter known for his portraits, of which at least 183 can be documented. He also painted six landscapes, including a panorama display of Niagara Falls.

Richard Olney II

For the former U.S. Secretary of State and Attorney General, see Richard Olney.Richard Olney (January 5, 1871 Milton, Strafford County, New Hampshire – January 15, 1939 Boston, Massachusetts) was a member of the United States House of Representatives from Massachusetts.

Stephen C. Earle

Stephen Carpenter Earle (January 4, 1839 – December 12, 1913) was an architect who designed a number of buildings in Massachusetts and Connecticut that were built in the late 19th century, with many in Worcester, Massachusetts. He trained in the office of Calvert Vaux in New York City. He worked for a time in partnership with James E. Fuller, under the firm "Earle & Fuller". In 1891, he formed a partnership with Vermont architect Clellan W. Fisher under the name "Earle & Fisher".Earle's most noted work is the Richardsonian Romanesque Slater Memorial Museum on the campus of the Norwich Free Academy in Norwich, Connecticut, where he had a generous budget and a sympathetic patron. In 2015, the Hartford Courant called the Slater Museum the "crown jewel among Norwich's cultural treasures" and "a masterpiece of Romanesque revival design."

He designed university buildings, commercial buildings, churches, and more. Among his university buildings are:

Clark University, Clark University campus, Worcester, Massachusetts

Mears Hall, Grinnell College campus, Grinnell, Iowa

Goodnow Hall, the oldest building on the Grinnell College campus (Grinnell, Iowa), built after most of the campus was destroyed by tornado in 1882

Old Chapel, University of Massachusetts campus, Amherst, MassachusettsIn December 1913, Earle died at Memorial Hospital in Worcester after becoming ill with pneumonia.

Thomas Earle

Thomas Earle (April 21, 1796 – July 14, 1849) was an American journalist, lawyer, and politician.

The son of Pliny Earle, he was born in Leicester, Massachusetts, the descendant of Ralph Earle, one of the original petitioners of King Charles I to found the state of Rhode Island. His son was Philadelphia lawyer George H. Earle, Sr. His grandson, born after his death, was noted "financial diplomat" George H. Earle, Jr. His great-grandson was George Howard Earle III, governor of Pennsylvania.

He was educated at Leicester academy. In 1817 he moved to Philadelphia, where he engaged in mercantile pursuits for a few years, but subsequently studied law and practiced his profession. He became distinguished also as a journalist, editing in succession the Columbian Observer, Standard, Pennsylvanian, Pennsylvania Freeman, and Mechanics' Free Press and Reform Advocate. In 1837 he took an active part in calling the Constitutional convention of Pennsylvania, of which he was a prominent member, and it is supposed that he made the original draft of the new constitution. He lost his popularity with the Democratic Party by advocating the extension of the right of suffrage to African Americans.

He was the vice-presidential candidate in the 1840 presidential election; he ran on the Liberty Party ticket with James G. Birney. Although they pulled in less than seven thousand votes, their following became the germ of the Republican Party.In 1837-1838 Earle was a delegate to the convention to revise Pennsylvania's constitution. There he was one of the strongest defenders of the black voting rights, along with Thaddeus Stevens. His defense of black voting rights was, however, unsuccessful. The new constitution included the word "white", formally disenfranchising blacks for the first time.

He died in 1849, aged 53.


WVNE (760 AM) is a radio station broadcasting a Christian radio format. Licensed to Leicester, Massachusetts, United States, the station serves the Worcester area. The station is owned by Blount Masscom, Inc. and features programming from the Salem Radio Network. The station's programming is also heard on translator station W268CQ (101.5 FM).

William H. Crane

William Henry Crane (April 30, 1845 – March 7, 1928) was an American actor.

William Henry Draper (congressman)

William Henry Draper (June 24, 1841 – December 7, 1921) was a Republican member of the United States House of Representatives from New York.

William Upham

William Upham (August 5, 1792 – January 14, 1853) was a United States Senator from Vermont.

Worcester Regional Airport

Worcester Regional Airport (IATA: ORH, ICAO: KORH, FAA LID: ORH) is three miles (5 km) west of Worcester, in Worcester County, Massachusetts. The main property lies within municipalities of Worcester and Leicester, with supporting facilities in Paxton. Once owned by the City of Worcester, the airport has been owned and operated by the Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport) since June 2010.

Municipalities and communities of Worcester County, Massachusetts, United States
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