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Lancaster, Massachusetts
First Church of Christ, a National Historic Landmark designed by Charles Bulfinch
First Church of Christ, a National Historic Landmark designed by Charles Bulfinch
Official seal of Lancaster, Massachusetts
Seal
Nickname(s): 
Lancaster-on-the-Nashua
Location in Worcester County and the state of Massachusetts.
Location in Worcester County and the state of Massachusetts.
Country United States
State Massachusetts
County Worcester
Settled 1643
Incorporated 1653
Government
 • Type Open town meeting
Area
 • 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
 (2020)
 • Total 8,441
 • Density 299.3/sq mi (115.63/km2)
Time zone UTC−5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−4 (Eastern)
ZIP Code
01523
Area code(s) 351/978
FIPS code 25-34165
GNIS feature ID 0618368
Website www.ci.lancaster.ma.us

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 2020 census, the town population was 8,441.

History

Lancaster Town Hall MA
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.

Lancaster boasts being the official "mothertown" to all of central Massachusetts. Towns such as Harvard, Bolton, Leominster, Clinton, Berlin, Sterling, and part of West Boyslton 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 February 1676 (1675 old style calendar). 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. The majority of her household was slaughtered, with the exception of her husband, Joseph Rowlandson Sr., who was not on the premises, their son, also called Joseph, their two daughters, Mary and Sarah, and herself. Mary, her son, and her two daughters were captured by the Indians and forced to join their travels across New England. The Indians non-fatally shot Mary Rowlandson in her side, but her youngest daughter, Sarah, sustained an injury during the attack that would later bring about her death.

Geography

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.

Demographics

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%
2010 8,055 +9.1%
2020 8,441 +4.8%
* = population estimate.
Source: United States Census records and Population Estimates Program data.

As of the census of 2010, there were 8,055 people, 2,409 households, and 1,758 families residing in the town. The population density was 290.8 people per square mile (112.3/km2). There were 2,614 housing units at an average density of 94.4 per square mile (36.5/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 86.4% White, 7.7% African American, 0.1% Native American, 1.7% Asian, 2.5% from other races, and 1.6% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 8.1% of the population.

There were 2,409 households, out of which 31.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 60.2% were married couples living together, 3.8% had a male householder with no wife present, 9.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 27.0% were non-families. Of all households 21.8% had a householder that lived alone and 8.4% had a householder that lived alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.66 and the average family size was 3.13.

In the town, the population was spread out, with 23.6% at the age of 19 or under, 7.9% from 20 to 24, 27.5% from 25 to 44, 29.1% from 45 to 64, and 11.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38.9 years. For every 100 females, there were 128.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 131.0 males.

As of the 2015 American Community Survey, the median income for a household in the town was $96,813, and the median income for a family was $99,207. Males had a median income of $62,500 versus $45,174 for females. The per capita income for the town was $32,899. About 8.3% of families and 9.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 17.1% of those under age 18 and 1.7% of those age 65 or over.

Library

1899 Lancaster public library Massachusetts
Lancaster public library, 1899

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

Education

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 1882–1883. The 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.

Notable people

  • Herman Vandenburg Ames, dean of the University of Pennsylvania graduate school
  • James Atherton, pioneer and the namesake of Atherton Bridge
  • Frank Bancroft, Baseball manager
  • 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
  • Abraham Haskell, physician
  • Stephen N. Haskell, clergyman and pioneering leader of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination, founded South Lancaster Academy
  • Caroline Lee Hentz, novelist
  • Henrietta Swan Leavitt, astronomer who discovered the relation between the luminosity and the period of Cepheid variable stars
  • Charles W. Moors, Wisconsin politician
  • Herbert Parker (Massachusetts politician), Republican politician, Massachusetts Attorney General from 1902–1906
  • John Prescott, pioneer, founder of Lancaster
  • Mary Rowlandson, colonial Indian captive and author of one of America's first best selling books
  • 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
  • Henry Whiting, soldier in the War of 1812 and the Mexican–American War
  • Abijah Willard, Loyalist soldier in the American Revolution
  • Dr. Samuel Willard, representative to the Massachusetts ratification of the United States Constitution
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