Main Births etc
Lancaster, Massachusetts
—  Town  —
First Church of Christ, a National Historic Landmark designed by Charles Bulfinch
Location in Worcester County in Massachusetts
Coordinates: 42°27′20″N 71°40′25″W / 42.45556, -71.67361Coordinates: 42°27′20″N 71°40′25″W / 42.45556, -71.67361
Country United States
State Massachusetts
County Worcester
Settled 1643
Incorporated 1653
 • Type Open town meeting
 • Total 28.2 sq mi (73.0 km2)
 • Land 27.7 sq mi (71.8 km2)
 • Water 0.5 sq mi (1.3 km2)
Elevation 300 ft (91 m)
Population (2010)
 • Total 8,055
 • Density 290/sq mi (110/km2)
Time zone Eastern (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) Eastern (UTC-4)
ZIP code 01523
Area code(s) 351 / 978
FIPS code 25-34165
GNIS feature ID 0618368

Lancaster is a town in Worcester County, Massachusetts, in the United States. Incorporated in 1653, Lancaster is the oldest town in Worcester County. As of the 2010 census, the town population was 8,055.

For geographic and demographic information on the village of South Lancaster, please see the article South Lancaster, Massachusetts.


Town Hall

Lancaster was first settled as "Nashaway" (after the local Nashaway Indian tribe) in 1643. It was officially incorporated and renamed "Lancaster on the Nashua" in 1653. Until it was cut down due to safety concerns, Lancaster boasted the largest oak tree in the state, called the Beaman Oak, named after settler Gamaliel Beaman (1623–1677).

Lancaster boasts being the official "mothertown" to all of central Massachusetts. Towns such as Harvard, Stow, Bolton, Hudson, Marlborough, Leominster, Clinton, Berlin and Boylston were all once considered part of Lancaster.

Supporters of Lancaster's founder, John Prescott (1604–1681), wished to name the new settlement Prescottville, but the Massachusetts General Court considered such a request from a common freeman presumptuous, given that at that time, not even a governor had held the honor of naming a town after himself. Instead, they decided to use Lancaster, the name of his home town in England.

Lancaster was the site of the Mary Rowlandson (c. 1637-1711) attack in 1675 and 1676. During King Philip's War, which was fought partially in Lancaster, a tribe of Indians pillaged the entire town of Lancaster. Their last stop on their trail of destruction was Mary Rowlandson's house. Coming to the defense of the house was Rowlandson's brother-in-law, who was immediately shot and killed by the attacking Indians. The Indians then set fire to the house, forcing Rowlandson to exit the burning building. Upon crossing the doorstep, Rowlandson saw a scene full of carnage. Her entire family was slaughtered, with the exception of her son, Joseph, her two daughters, Mary and Sarah, and herself. They were kidnapped by the Indians who then took them with them on their travels across New England. The Indians non-fatally shot her in her side.

After her release from captivity, Rowlandson wrote a book called A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson. The book is widely considered one of the greatest examples of a captivity narrative. In 2000, Lancaster Elementary School changed its name to Mary Rowlandson Elementary School.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 28.2 square miles (73 km2), of which 27.7 square miles (72 km2) is land and 0.5 square miles (1.3 km2), or 1.84%, is water.

Lancaster is bordered by Lunenburg and Shirley to the north, Harvard to the northeast, Bolton to the southeast, Clinton to the south, Sterling to the southwest, and Leominster to the northwest.


Historical population
Year Pop. ±%
1850 1,688
1860 1,932 +14.5%
1870 1,845 −4.5%
1880 2,008 +8.8%
1890 2,201 +9.6%
1900 2,478 +12.6%
1910 2,564 +3.5%
1920 2,461 −4.0%
1930 2,897 +17.7%
1940 2,963 +2.3%
1950 3,601 +21.5%
1960 3,958 +9.9%
1970 6,095 +54.0%
1980 6,334 +3.9%
1990 6,661 +5.2%
2000 7,380 +10.8%
2001* 6,553 −11.2%
2002* 6,603 +0.8%
2003* 6,686 +1.3%
2004* 6,802 +1.7%
2005* 6,888 +1.3%
2006* 7,071 +2.7%
2007* 7,165 +1.3%
2008* 6,984 −2.5%
2009* 7,027 +0.6%
2010 8,055 +14.6%

As of the census[11] of 2000, there were 7,380 people, 2,049 households, and 1,551 families residing in the town. The population density was 266.7 people per square mile (102.9/km²). There were 2,141 housing units at an average density of 77.4 per square mile (29.9/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 84.51% White, 10.61% African American, 0.19% Native American, 1.15% Asian, 1.54% from other races, and 1.99% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 7.44% of the population.

There were 2,049 households out of which 36.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 64.1% were married couples living together, 8.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 24.3% were non-families. 19.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.80 and the average family size was 3.22.

In the town the population was spread out with 21.7% under the age of 18, 11.1% from 18 to 24, 35.4% from 25 to 44, 21.8% from 45 to 64, and 9.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 125.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 129.3 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $60,752, and the median income for a family was $66,490. Males had a median income of $42,367 versus $35,417 for females. The per capita income for the town was $21,010. About 4.4% of families and 4.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 1.5% of those under age 18 and 14.0% of those age 65 or over.


County government: Worcester County
Clerk of Courts: Dennis P. McManus (D)
District Attorney: Joseph D. Early, Jr. (D)
Register of Deeds: Anthony J. Vigliotti (D)
Register of Probate: Stephen Abraham (D)
County Sheriff: Lew Evangelidis (R)
State government
State Representative(s): Jennifer E. Benson (D), Harold P. Naughton, Jr. (D)
State Senator(s): Jennifer L. Flanagan (D)
Governor's Councilor(s): Jen Caissie (R)
Federal government
U.S. Representative(s): Niki Tsongas (D) (3rd District),
U.S. Senators: Mo Cowan (D), Elizabeth Warren (D)


Lancaster is served by the Nashoba Regional School District. It is also the site of the former Atlantic Union College and of South Lancaster Academy, incorporated in 1881. Dr. Franklin Perkins School is a private special education school located in the town. Trivium School, founded in 1979, is a private Catholic college preparatory school occupying the former estate of E. V. R. Thayer, Jr.[12]


Lancaster public library, 1899

Lancaster's public Thayer Memorial Library first opened in 1868.[13][14] In fiscal year 2008, the town of Lancaster spent 1.74% ($259,465) of its budget on its public library—some $36 per person.[15]

Notable natives and residents[]

  • Luther Burbank, botanist, horticulturist and a pioneer in agricultural science
  • Ezra Butler, United States Representative from Vermont
  • James C. Carter, New York City lawyer
  • Charles F. Chandler, chemist
  • Horace Cleveland, landscape architect
  • Francis B. Fay, merchant and politician
  • Hannah Flagg Gould, poet
  • Timothy Harrington, Lancaster clergyman[16]
  • Abraham Haskell, physician[17]
  • Caroline Lee Hentz, novelist
  • Henrietta Swan Leavitt, astronomer
  • Mary Rowlandson, colonial Indian captive, author
  • Jared Sparks, historian, Harvard University president (taught at a private school in Lancaster 1815-1817)
  • John Thayer, ornithologist
  • Nathaniel Thayer, Unitarian congregational minister
  • Nathaniel Thayer, financier and philanthropist
  • John Whitcomb, soldier in the Continental Army[18]
  • Henry Whiting, soldier in the War of 1812 and the Mexican-American War[19]
  • Abijah Willard, Loyalist soldier in the American Revolution[20]
  • Dr. Samuel Willard, representative to the Massachusetts ratification of the United States Constitution


  • John Prescott (1605-1681) m. Mary Platts (1607-1674)


  1. ^ "TOTAL POPULATION (P1), 2010 Census Summary File 1". American FactFinder, All County Subdivisions within Massachusetts. United States Census Bureau. 2010. 
  2. ^ "Massachusetts by Place and County Subdivision - GCT-T1. Population Estimates". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved July 12, 2011. 
  3. ^ "1990 Census of Population, General Population Characteristics: Massachusetts". US Census Bureau. December 1990. Table 76: General Characteristics of Persons, Households, and Families: 1990. 1990 CP-1-23. Retrieved July 12, 2011. 
  4. ^ "1980 Census of the Population, Number of Inhabitants: Massachusetts". US Census Bureau. December 1981. Table 4. Populations of County Subdivisions: 1960 to 1980. PC80-1-A23. Retrieved July 12, 2011. 
  5. ^ "1950 Census of Population". 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. 
  6. ^ "1920 Census of Population". 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. 
  7. ^ "1890 Census of the Population". 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. 
  8. ^ "1870 Census of the Population". Department of the Interior, Census Office. 1872. Pages 217 through 220. Table IX. Population of Minor Civil Divisions, &c. Massachusetts. Retrieved July 12, 2011. 
  9. ^ "1860 Census". 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. 
  10. ^ "1850 Census". Department of the Interior, Census Office. 1854. Pages 338 through 393. Populations of Cities, Towns, &c.. Retrieved July 12, 2011. 
  11. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  12. ^ Trivium School website
  13. ^ 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
  14. ^ Retrieved 2010-11-08
  15. ^ 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. Retrieved 2010-08-04
  16. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg "Harrington, Timothy". Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. 1892. 
  17. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg "Haskell, Abraham". Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. 1892. 
  18. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg "Whitcomb, John". Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. 1889. 
  19. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg "Whiting, Henry". Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. 1889. 
  20. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg "Willard, Abijah". Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. 1889. 

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