Famous Women of Westborough Across the Centuries

by Local Historian Kristina Nilson Allen

Note: The following group of essays is taken from Kristina Nilson Allen’s Westborough Historical Society program held on January 9, 2023. You can view her talk here: http://westboroughtv.org/famous-women-of-westborough-across-the-centuries-with-kris-allen/.

Across the centuries, these five women broke barriers to pave the way for Westborough women today:

  • 1700s – Betsy Fay Whitney
  • 1800s – Annie Fales
  • 1900s – Esther Forbes and Bee Warburton
  • 2000s – Nikki Stone

Betsy Fay Whitney (1867-1972), Entrepreneur

Homestead of Betsy Fay Whitney, 36 Eli Whitney Street
The doorstep to the Whitney house on 36 Eli Whitney St.
Straw hat materials

Betsy Fay earned her dowry by starting a straw hat business. Later, her son Eli (future inventor of the cotton gin and interchangeable parts manufacturing) aided her by making long hair pins and a head mold.

A straw hat on the head mold that Eli Whitney, Jr. made for his mother

In the 1880s, Westborough’s straw hat business became the largest in the world.

The National Straw Works
The gravesite of Betsy Fay Whitney

Annie Elizabeth Fales (1867-1972), Westborough School Teacher

Annie Fales

Annie Elizabeth Fales (1867-1972)  was born in Walpole on July 17, 1867, and moved to Westborough at age 7. She was an 1885 graduate of Westborough High School and went on to earn her teaching credentials at Worcester Normal School (now Worcester State University).


After graduating in 1887, she taught in Upton a short time and then returned to Westborough. Annie Fales lived most of her life at 58 West Main Street, across from the Library.  Her home was filled with the aroma of homemade cookies and baked beans, which she shared with neighbors. Active in the community, Annie Fales was a member of the Women’s Club, Garden Club, Historical Society, and the Round Table.

Annie Fales’s home on West Main Street

Her first hometown assignment in 1892 was teaching in the one-room District 8 School House near Lake Chauncy. Miss Fales taught grades 5 through 8, and when the Eli Whitney School opened on Grove Street in 1902, she was named its principal. A lifelong love of music motivated her to take voice lessons in Boston, and she learned to play several instruments. She was a soloist in the Unitarian Church choir, as well as the organist.  Many special events at the High School were enlivened by Miss Fales’s piano accompaniment.

At age 95, she shared her philosophy of teaching: “Patience, a sense of humor, and a real love of children—that makes a good teacher.”

The Annie E. Fales Elementary School on Eli Whitney Street

On December 2, 1963, the first Annie E. Fales Elementary School opened on Eli Whitney Street. A newly constructed, environmentally progressive Fales School opened on November 15, 2021 with 381 students, grades K-3.  Both schools honor Annie Fales, who dedicated her life to teaching for more than a half-century in Westborough

She retired in 1937 and lived to be 104. Annie Fales died on March 3, 1972, and her memory is honored in the elementary school that bears her name. Over the span of her career, Annie Fales molded the lives of more than 1,000 Westborough students.

Esther Louise Forbes (June 28, 1891-August 12, 1967), Author

Birthplace of Esther Forbes at 39 Church St.

Esther Louise Forbes was born in Westborough at 39 Church St., home of her parents, Judge William Trowbridge Forbes and Harriet Merrifield Forbes.  Esther attended the elite Bancroft School in Worcester and later graduated in 1912 from Bradford Academy, a junior college in Haverhill.

Always interested in literature and writing, Esther published her first short story, “Breakneck Hill” in 1915. It won the O.Henry Prize as one of the year’s best short stories.

Esther Forbes at her typewriter

Esther’s reputation as a fine new author grew rapidly. Her first novel, O Genteel Lady, published in 1926, was selected for the newly created Book of the Month Club. Esther specialized in writing a series of historical novels, all set in New England with courageous female heroines. Over her career, she wrote 11 books:  8 historical novels, one biography, and two pictorial essays.

Esther’s novels claimed critical attention.  The 1928 A Mirror for Witches chronicled the life of Dilby, a young woman destroyed by ignorance and prejudice during the Salem witch trials. It was adapted for the stage, including a ballet in 1952 and an opera titled Dilby’s Doll in 1976.  She received the 1947 MGM Novel Award for The Running of the Tide.

Esther Forbes was also a serious intellectual historian. She eventually lived in Worcester with her mother, the noted historian Harriet Merrifield Forbes, who had written a history of Westborough titled The Hundredth Town in 1889.

Harriet Forbes and her daughter worked as a team. Harriet did much of the historical research for Esther’s books at the prestigious American Antiquarian Society. Esther went on to win the 1943 Pulitzer Prize for History for her definitive biography, Paul Revere and the World He Lived In.

The novel that Esther is most known for, however, is the young adult fiction, Johnny Tremain: Boston in Revolt, set during the American Revolution. Johnny Tremain, an apprentice to a Bostonian silversmith, witnesses the conflict between the Patriots and the Tories, as well as the battles of Lexington and Concord.

Still treasured as a classic, Johnny Tremain won the Newbery Medal in 1944 for its major contribution to children’s literature. It was even made into a Disney movie.

In 1960 for her contribution to the arts, Esther Forbes was elected as a Fellow of the Academy of Arts and Sciences and became the first woman to be elected to the American Antiquarian Society.

Esther Forbes died at age 76 and is buried in the Forbes family plot in Westborough’s Pine Grove Cemetery. Her papers and manuscripts were donated to Clark University, and the royalties from her work were donated to the American Antiquarian Society.

Beatrice A.Warburton (1903-1996), Iris Hybridizer

Bee Warburton

Bee Warburton, the internationally renowned iris hybridizer, majored in chemistry at Barnard College in the 1920s, where she planned to become a doctor. Tragedy struck when her father died unexpectedly when she was a sophomore, so Bee dropped out of college to help her six siblings with family finances. Despite this adversity, Bee never lost her desire to learn through research, conducting experiments, and writing about her findings.

After Bee married Frank Warburton, an MIT graduate, the couple settled in 1948 on the East Main Street farm of Frank’s father, who was a successful chicken farmer, where Mugford’s Florist Shop stands today.

Bee decided she would try her hand at gardening with help from her husband. When she couldn’t locate the dwarf iris she desired, Bee’s scientific training kicked in. She adamantly refused to give up. She decided to hybridize her own iris and to become an expert in iris genetics.

Through meticulous work with a tweezers and magnifying glass, Bee became adept at transferring pollen from one iris to another to create a different breed of iris.


One of her successful early experiments resulted in a chrome yellow dwarf iris that she registered as “Brassie” in 1957. Another early success was the “Blue Denim” iris. Over the next 38 years, she continued to hybridize dwarf irises and later in the 1970s tall bearded Siberian irises.

Bee Warburton registered and introduced to the world over 100 unique irises by crossing different colors, shapes, sizes, and petal details. On a quarter of an acre, plots of parent plants and seedlings stretched out beside the long Warburton driveway. By the late 1980s, there were 4,000 irises growing in her Westborough fields.

Bee’s irises won accolades all over the world. She was awarded the American Iris Society’s Hybridizer’s Medal seven times and the AIS Distinguished Service Medal in 1972. Over the years, Bee enjoyed hosting iris auctions that attracted iris experts to her rainbow-hued fields. The proceeds from these auctions were donated to the Massachusetts Iris Society.

Bee may have made an even greater contribution to iris gardeners by her writing, editing, and publishing about iris genetics. She wrote articles for the New York Times and for international iris journals. For 20 years she served as editor of the iris publication, The Medianite, and appeared on the 2007 cover of its 50th Anniversary issue.  One of her most  important accomplishments was her editing of the classic, The World of Irises (1979), which is in its third printing today.

To this day, Bee Warburton irises are grown in Europe, Asia, and Africa. It is believed that the majority of dwarf irises around the globe share some DNA with Bee Warburton’s irises.

Bee has remained an icon in the international circle of iris hybridizers long after she died in January 1996 at age 92. The greenhouse at Westborough High School was named for her in 2002.

Bee Warburton

Bee Warburton was known for being kind, witty, generous, and most of all, persistent. She didn’t sell her irises, but delighted in giving them away. Bee Warburton’s colorful legacy, born in Westborough, continues to bloom each spring the world over and in our local gardens.

Nikki Stone (1971 –     ), Olympic Gold Medalist

Nikki Stone in the air

Westborough native, Nikki Stone, won the Olympic Gold medal in aerial skiing at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan.

Over her skiing career from 1995 on, Nikki was awarded 35 World Cup medals, 11 World Cup titles, two Aerial World Cup titles, and four National titles. In addition, Nikki was the first inverted aerialist skier ever to become the Overall Freestyle World Cup Champion in 1998.

Nikki Stone grew up in Westborough and early on began to practice gymnastics. When she was five, after seeing teen gymnast Nadia Comaneci win Olympic gold in 1976, Nikki declared that she, too, was going to win a medal at the Olympics someday.

Always the daredevil, at home Nikki practiced flips from heights and landing on a mattress. She loved being airborne. Nikki also enjoyed recreational skiing, so when she saw aerial acrobatics at 18, she realized that aerial skiing was the perfect blend between gymnastics and skiing.

After graduating from Westborough High in 1989, Nikki went on to study at Union College in New York. She then earned a master’s degree in Sports Psychology–graduating summa cum laude–from the University of Utah. In 1994 Nikki settled in Park City, Utah, where she trained seriously for the Olympics in inverted aerial skiing, where competitors ski onto a ten-foot snow jump at 40 mph, flip or twist to a height of 50 feet, and then land on a 45-degree hill.

Four years later at Nagano, Nikki performed a single twisting, triple somersault perfectly, jumping as high as a four-story building, to place first in aerial skiing. With that performance, Nikki Stone became the first American ever to win the Olympic gold medal in  inverted aerial skiing.

After Nikki became an Olympic gold champion, Westborough held a Homecoming Parade for her on March 21, 1998, and proclaimed “Nikki Stone Day” to show its hometown pride in this indominable golden athlete.

Nikki Stone with Kristina Nilson Allen on “Nikki Stone Day”

Winning the Olympics generated a lot of interest in her success, so Nikki was engaged to speak all over the country. Nikki discovered that much of what she learned from sports translated directly into the business world. Today, she speaks to nonprofits and corporations to encourage their employees to achieve their best, take risks, and overcome difficulty. An award-winning motivational speaker, Nikki draws on her own experience of triumphing over adversity.

Her inspirational story: After winning 48 World Cup medals in aerial skiing, Nikki sustained an inoperable back injury. Ten doctors said she would never ski again. Eighteen months of training and rehab later, Nikki was competing in the 1998 Winter Olympics. Through pure determination and courage, she won the gold.

Display at the Westborough High School

In 2003, Nikki was inducted into the National Ski Hall of Fame. Her book, When Turtles Fly: Secrets of Successful People Who Know How to Stick Their Necks Out, was an Amazon bestseller in 2010 after Nikki introduced it on The Today Show.

“One of the most rewarding times for me,” confides Nikki, “is when someone comes up to me after a speech and tells me that they are going to change their life because of something I said. To have an impact like that on someone is awe-inspiring.”

Nikki Stone has made a career of being awe-inspiring—first on ski jumps and now behind the podium.

From business to athletics, from  science to the arts, these women pioneers have been role models for Westborough women today.



Online Exhibit: Westborough Baseball

People have been playing baseball in Westborough since at least 1869. This exhibit showcases items and photographs in the Westborough Center collections that relate to baseball in Westborough history.


Saturday Evening Chronotype, September 4, 1869

Earliest known report of a baseball game in a Westborough newspaper.

* * *

Westborough Baseball Team, 1906

Back Row – [?], George Taylor, Clarence Leland, [?], Mr. Waldren

Second Row – [?], David Roche, Frank Moses

Front Row – Lawrence Taylor, Frank Reily, [?], George Reily

* * *

Westborough Baseball Team, (ca. 1916)

Back Row – Joe Boudreau, John Linnane, Irving Hennessy, Ben Arnold

Second Row – Carl Henry, Leon Rogers, Ken Winter, Bill Crowell

Front Row – Ken Bruce, Leon Cantor(?), Walter Hayden, [?], John Foster

Note: Leon Cantor is also featured in a previous exhibit: Putting Names with Faces: WWI and Veteran’s Day.

* * *

Baseball at the Lyman School, ca. 1905-1912

 * * * 

Jeff Barclay at bat for the Fays Dairy Little League team in 1959

1959 – Final League Standings (sorry, Jeff)

* * *

Westborough American Legion Baseball Yearbook, 1977

* * *

“Baseball Players,” 2018-2019

Photograph by Brandin Tumeinski, the 2018-2019 Westborough Center Photographer-in-Residence.

Online Exhibit: Selections from the Westborough Players’ Club Records

The Westborough Players’ Club officially started in 1937 and was active on the stage for eighty years, up until its last staged production in 2017. The Westborough Public Library owns the club’s records from 1937 to 1981, which are compiled into three scrapbooks and includes playbills, newspaper clippings, ticket stubs, and photographs.

This short exhibit highlights three significant productions staged by the Westborough Players’ Club during the first half of its existence: The Late Christopher Bean, The Crucible, and Hello Dolly!.

The First Production: The Late Christopher Bean

The very first play presented by the Westborough Players’ Club was The Late Christopher Bean, a three-act comedy by Sidney Howard, on Monday, October 18, 1937 at Town Hall.

The action of the play takes place in a small town outside of Boston and centers on the Haggett family after they learn that several canvases they own by the late, acclaimed artist Christopher Bean have greatly increased in value. Only Abby, the family servant who owns the most valuable work, is able to resist the corrupting effect of this new knowledge about the artworks, and the play ends when she is revealed to have secretly been Bean’s wife.

Anniversary Production: The Crucible

As part of the 250th anniversary celebration of the founding of Westborough and to mark the 30th anniversary of the founding of their club, the Westborough Players’ Club staged The Crucible by Arthur Miller on May 26 and 27, 1967 at the High School Auditorium.

The play chronicles the Salem Witch Trials and was an appropriate choice for the occasion, given that one of the characters in the play is Rebecca Nurse, whose family in real life moved to Westborough after her execution in Salem for supposedly practicing witchcraft.

Blockbuster Production: Hello Dolly!

On April 22, 23, and 24, 1971, the Westborough Players’ Club presented Hello Dolly! at the Junior High School on Fisher St. The production was a mammoth undertaking and involved 18 speaking roles, a song-and-dance chorus of 35, a large production staff, and a live nine-piece orchestra.

The musical takes place in Yonkers, NY and is about a matchmaker who lands her own husband after successfully uniting a small group of younger couples who at first seemed hopeless in their ability to find love. After staging this production, the club subsequently presented a string of musicals throughout the early 1970s, including South Pacific, Oklahoma, and Brigadoon.

The Fight for Women’s Suffrage in Westborough: An Online Exhibit

Women won the right to vote in elections across the United States in 1920, but the fight for women’s suffrage was drawn out over many years before then.

The issue of women’s suffrage first appeared in a Westborough newspaper on November 16, 1867, and arguments both for and against women’s suffrage were published off and on in the Westborough Chronotype up until women finally won the right to vote.

The first mention of women’s suffrage in a Westborough newspaper: Saturday Evening Chronotype and Weekly Review, November 16, 1867.

When it came to women’s suffrage, Massachusetts and other Eastern states lagged far behind Western states, where women earned full voting rights in local and state elections years before those in the East did. When women in Massachusetts finally earned the right to vote in 1892, they could do so only for candidates running for school committee.

Three women became the first to vote in a Westborough election after winning that right in 1892:

  • Abbie M. Fay of Ruggles St.
  • A. B. Harvey of South St.
  • Esther M. Howell of Cross St. (Source: a handwritten “true copy” note by E. E. Dunlap, Clerk Assessors added to the library’s copy of the 1892 Westborough Assessors report, p. 40).

Given the limited voting power that they received, few women exercised their right to vote in Massachusetts during this interim period, so the fight for women’s suffrage continued.

Debates in the Westborough Chronicle

Proposed Meeting Warrant

Beginning in 1880, the women’s movement in Massachusetts lobbied for the right to vote in municipal elections by seeking to include petitions in town meetings that encouraged the Massachusetts Legislature to grant women the right to hold town offices and vote in town affairs. Most of these petitions were rejected by voters.

One such attempt seems to have occurred in Westborough.

Westborough Chronotype, March 17, 1883

Note: No article regarding Women’s Suffrage appears in the Westborough Town Records for the March town meeting in 1883.

Woman Suffrage Convention in Westborough

The Massachusetts Women’s Suffrage Association was founded in 1870 by suffrage activists Julia Ward Howe, Lucy Stone, and Henry Browne Blackwell, among others, and was active up until 1919. In 1884, Westborough held a convention as part of a series of programs across the state that were sponsored by the association.

Phoebe Couzins, the featured speaker, was one of the first female lawyers in the United States, and at the time she was engaged in traveling across the country lecturing on women’s suffrage. Later that same year, she testified before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee on the legal status of women.

Phoebe Couzins (Published in History of Women’s Suffrage by Susan B. Anthony, et. al, Rochester, NY – https://archive.org/details/historyofwomansu03stanuoft; Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19172989.)
Westborough Chronotype, January 12, 1884
Advertisement for the National Woman Suffrage Convention in Westborough, 1884 (Kristina Allen Papers, LH.032).

The Chronotype covered the activities of the convention in detail.

Description of the convention and Phoebe Couzins’s lecture. Westborough Chronotype, January 19, 1884

One Westborough suffragist objected to the coverage of the convention in the Chronotype.

Letter to the Editor, Westborough Chronotype, January 26, 1884

Anti-Suffrage Speaker

On November 2, 1915, men living in Massachusetts voted by referendum whether to support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to give women the right to vote. Debate across the state was intense, but the amendment was soundly defeated. Tewksbury was the only town in the state that voted to pass the referendum (with a vote of 149 for and 148 against), and only 35.5% voted in favor. Three other states voted on similar referendums at the time—New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York—and all three joined Massachusetts in defeating the measure.

Charles L. Underhill (Who’s Who in State Politics (1918) page 313; Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47515213)

Leading up to voting on the referendum, Charles L. Underhill spoke against women’s suffrage in Westborough. Hill served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives and later went on to become a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Westborough Chronotype, June 18, 1915

One writer took issue with at least one of Underhill’s points about Kansas and prohibition.

Westborough Chronotype, July 2, 1915

Pro-Suffrage Speaker

Frances Kellogg Curtis was the Chief Marshall of the first Massachusetts Suffrage Parade and was on the Executive Board of the Massachusetts Equal Suffrage Association. She lectured on women’s suffrage–at times on a soap box set up on the street–and as a member of the Americanization Committee of the Boston Equal Suffrage Association, she taught English to Italian immigrant women in Boston’s North End.

Westborough Chronotype, August 27, 1915

A follow-up report appeared in the Chronotype a week after Curtis’s talk.

Westborough Chronotype, September 17, 1915

Debates in and around Westborough

At Town Hall

Westborough Chronotype, February 18, 1882
Westborough Chronotype, May 21, 1915

In People’s Homes

Westborough Chronotype, March 24, 1888

The Chronotype regularly reported meetings of the Westborough chapter of the Women’s Suffrage League, which took place in various people’s homes, between 1866 and 1888.

In Churches

Westborough Chronotype, March 6, 1914

House-to-House (and at Fenway Park)

Westborough Chronotype, August 6, 1915
Westborough Chronotype, October 29, 1915

At the Library

Westborough Chronotype, November 13, 1914
Westborough Chronotype, March 5, 1915
Westborough Chronotype, February 16, 1917


Massachusetts finally became the eighth state to ratify the 19th Amendment on June 25, 1919, and women across the United States officially gained full suffrage after Tennessee became the thirty-sixth state to ratify the amendment on August 18, 1920.

Various Views of the Rotary through History

Note: This exhibit is currently on display in the Westborough Center for History and Culture through December, 2018.


Looking Down West Main Street

ca. 1906
ca. 1950

Looking Down South Street

ca. 1870
Eagle Block, built in 1855, burned in 1873.
Rebuilt and renamed Henry & Central Blocks.
ca. 1900

Looking Down East Main Street

ca. 1890
ca. 1935
From the top of the C. S. Henry Block

The Arcade Building


Putting Names with Faces: World War I and Veteran’s Day

Note: This exhibit was on display in the Westborough Center for History and Culture in November, 2018.

* * *

Welcome Home Celebration, WWI

Westborough, May 14, 1919

* * *

Every year, we celebrate Veteran’s Day on November 11, the anniversary of the end of World War I. This year’s commemoration is special, because it marks the 100th anniversary of the end of The Great War, as it was commonly known back then. World War I started on July 28, 1914, and given the war’s monumental impact on western society, I am surprised how few anniversary observances have taken place over the past several years.

Many historians look to World War I as the moment when western society broke from a naïve Victorianism and moved into Modernity. The advancements in military technology and the tactics used on the battlefields led to a scale of death that was unprecedented, with over 17 million people dying during the war. The horrific reports that came from the trenches created an existential crisis that impacted all levels of society and culture. Politics, international relations, economics, gender dynamics, even artistic and cultural production all went through radical changes as they were forced to reevaluate their relationship to a new world order that could lead to and carry out such destruction. These fears were not unfounded: in many ways, World War II was a continuation of the conflict that emerged in World War I.

The following photographs of Westborough soldiers who served in World War I are from a newly acquired collection of records from the American Legion Stowell-Parker Post 163. They present a unique opportunity to connect a few of the names listed on the monuments dedicated to those who served in the armed services during times of war that sit in front of the Forbes Municipal Building with their faces.

—Anthony Vaver

* * *

Oliver Lloyd Cooper, 16 Myrtle St., Leather Worker

Cooper joined the Medical Reserve Corps on June 30, 1917 at the age of 22 and was stationed at Ft. Ethan Allen, VT. He was discharged by reason of flat feet on October 25, 1917.

Service Record (1)
Service Record (2)
American Legion Membership Card


* * *

Curtis Forbush Banks, Lyman St., Mechanic

Banks served in the 102nd Ambulance Company in the American Expeditionary Force of the U.S. Army. He enlisted in Hartford on May 23, 1917 at the age of 19 and was slightly wounded on April 20, 1918. He was cited for bravery for his part in the second battle of the Marne on July 18-25, 1918.

“Westborough Chronotype” – December 6, 1918, p. 2
Service Record
American Legion Membership Card


* * *

Harry Hubbard Metcalf, 9 Charles St.

Metcalf was a graduate of Harvard University and enlisted in the Army on April 3, 1917 at the age of 23. At the time was married to Helen Williams Metcalf. He served in the Aviation unit of the Signal Corps and reached the rank of 2nd Lieutenant, R.M.A. (Reserve Military Aviator). He died on October 13, 1918 in Memphis, TN.

“Westborough Chronotype” – June 4, 1915, p. 1
“Westborough Chronotype” – March 24, 1916, p. 1
Service Record


* * *

Leon Cantor, Hopkinton Road

Cantor was inducted into the U.S. Service on October 5, 1918 at the age of 18 and died in Westborough on October 14, 1918.

Service Record


* * *

Timothy M. Downey, Milk St.

Downey enlisted in the U.S. Army at the age of 23 on May 12, 1917. He died on October 25, 1918 from wounds he received during action on October 23.

“Westborough Chronotype” – December 10, 1943, p. 2
Service Record


* * *

Errol D. Marsh, West Main St.

Marsh joined the U.S. Army on August 29, 1917 at the age of 28 and at the time was married to Jane Marsh. He served as a Second Lieutenant and was killed in action in France on November 2, 1918, nine days before the armistice was signed to end the war.

Service Record


* * *

Clarence Leland, Milk St., Publisher

Leland joined the army on June 3, 1918 at the age of 26 and served as a musician by playing clarinet in the 63rd Infantry Band. His father, Dexter Leland, was the Business Manager of the Westborough Chronotype, and the two of them eventually took over ownership of the newspaper.

Service Record

* * *


Click here to learn more about collections relating to the military in the Westborough Archive.

Recently Discovered Items from the Historical Papers of Dr. Charles H. Reed

Note: This exhibit is currently on display in the Westborough Center for History and Culture through the months of September and October, 2018.

* * *

Dr. Charles H. Reed was a Westborough veterinarian and devotee of local history. His collection of papers consists of correspondence, deeds, diaries, letters, maps, wills and other government documents pertaining to the early history of the Town of Westborough. Reed began gathering information on the Town’s history, land and people as a hobby, starting with the Town’s first 27 founding families. The collection grew to contain several hundred original documents, and a portion of journals and lists that were transcribed by Dr. Reed. All items contained in this collection describe the early culture, history and life of folks living and doing business in Westborough.

After Reed died, his daughter Rachel Deering carried on his work of collecting items relating to Westborough history. In 1985, she donated the collection to the Westborough Public Library for preservation and safekeeping.

Click here to learn more about the Historical Papers of Dr. Charles H. Reed and to start exploring the collection.


* * *

Receipt from William Brinsmead to Thomas Beman [Beeman], December 18, 1690

This receipt is the oldest known document in the library’s archives.


* * *


Appointment of Nathan Fisher, Esq, as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Second Regiment, signed by Governor John Hancock, 1787

Nathan Fisher eventually became Westborough’s first postmaster on March 6, 1811 and was the original owner of the “Nathan Fisher House,” which is now occupied by the Release Well-Being Center. The document is signed by John Hancock with the same flourish he used to sign the Declaration of Independence.


* * *

A love letter from Joseph Woods to his wife while serving in the French and Indian War, 1757

Kenterhook May ye 14th 1757

Loving wife these Lines are to Inform you that I am got to Kenterhook and am In good helth and I Can give No account when or where I Shall march Next there is a [T reant[?] story that we are to go to the Lake But nothing sartain and I would acquaint you that all that Came from Westborough are in helth give my love to the children No more at present So I Remain Effectionate Husband hopeing that we Shall Live So whilst apart that if we Never meet here on Earth that at Last we Shall meet In heaven

Joseph Woods

Brother Tuller these may give you account of my Afairs So I give my Love to you and my Sister and Remain your Loving friend

Note: Joseph was killed in action shortly after writing this letter during the Battle of Lake George in the French and Indian War.


* * *


Letter to Mrs. Mary Aldrich, December 26, 1861

Thank you letter to members of the Ladies Benevolent Society for sending sleeping caps to men during the American Civil War.

Camp Jackson, Md. Dec. 26/61


Mrs. Mary M. Aldrich

Sec. Ladies Benevolent Society of the

Unitarian Parish, Westboro. Mass.


The package directed to my care for the distribution of its contents among our company arrived here last evening, and the Sleeping Caps contributed by the ladies of your Society formed a large and most useful part of it. A portion of this fore-noon has been devoted to fitting the various heads with caps of a proper size, and could you have seen the smiling faces that passed out from my tent under your gifts, you would not have doubted they were fully appreciated.

Your request regarding the disposal of any caps not needed by the Company, I shall take pleasure in fulfilling.

Captain Hovey & Lieut. Bacon desire to join with the company and [back of letter not shown:] myself in expressing our thanks for the continued interest taken in us by the ladies of Westboro’ and in conveying to them through you, this sincere regards and the best wishes of the New Year.

Trusting that the confidences now reposed in our company and the officers may never be disappointed I remain Respectfully

Chas. B. Fox

2d Lieut. Co. K

The Rebellion Begins

Note: This exhibit was created for and displayed at the “1774 Militia Training Day” held in Westborough, MA on October 14, 2017 and subsequently in the Westborough Public Library.

To learn more, read the companion book, The Rebellion Begins: Westborough and the Start of the American Revolution by Anthony Vaver.

* * *