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Shirley, Massachusetts: Wikis


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Shirley, Massachusetts
—  Town  —
Shirley Shaker Village in 1884
Location in Middlesex County in Massachusetts
Coordinates: 42°33′31″N 71°38′47″W / 42.55861°N 71.64639°W / 42.55861; -71.64639
Country United States
State Massachusetts
County Middlesex
Settled 1720
Incorporated 1753
 - Type Open town meeting
 - Total 15.9 sq mi (41.2 km2)
 - Land 15.8 sq mi (41.0 km2)
 - Water 0.1 sq mi (0.2 km2)
Elevation 279 ft (85 m)
Population (2007)
 - Total 7,726
 Density 489.0/sq mi (188.4/km2)
Time zone Eastern (UTC-5)
 - Summer (DST) Eastern (UTC-4)
ZIP code 01464
Area code(s) 351 / 978
FIPS code 25-61590
GNIS feature ID 0618234

Shirley is a town in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 6,373 at the 2000 census. The town has a well preserved historic New England town center and is home to two state prisons, including the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center. The remains of a Shaker village are located on the prison grounds.



Old Town Hall

The first inhabitants were either Nipmuc (or Pennacook) Indians, who called the area Catacunemaug. Once part of "The Plantation of Groton," Shirley was first settled about 1720. It broke away from Groton to be incorporated in 1753. The town was named in honor of William Shirley, governor of Massachusetts (1741 - 1757). A paper mill was built here around 1790 and in 1812 Shirley established the first of seven cotton mills. Other local products included iron, nails, textiles, rope, belts, suspenders, and athletic equipment.

Two of the large 19th century mill buildings have been subdivided and are being used by 21st century businesses. See

A utopian religious community was established in Shirley in 1793. The Shakers advocated pacifism, common property, celibacy and communal living. They are renowned for their plain architecture and furniture. The Shaker movement peaked in the 1840s, but gradually dwindled, perhaps because of greater employment opportunities offered by the Industrial Revolution, or because succeeding generations grew less tolerant of the Shaker church's insistence on self-abnegation. Shirley Shaker Village would close in 1908. Today, only one "society" remains in the control of the last Shakers, located at Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village in New Gloucester, Maine. Several other Shaker village sites operate today as museums. A similar community was founded in nearby Harvard.

The meetinghouse of Shirley Shaker Village was moved in 1962 at Hancock Shaker Village in Pittsfieldto replace an identical one which burned and then was razed in 1938.


The town has a total area of 15.9 square miles (41.2 km²), of which, 15.8 square miles (41.0 km²) of it is land and 0.1 square miles (0.2 km²) of it (0.50%) is water.[1] It is bounded by the Squannacook and Nashua rivers and contains Mulpus Brook and Catecunemaug Brook. Significant wetlands are Spruce Swamp (drained by Spruce Swamp Brook) and Tophet Swamp.[2]




First Parish Meeting House, built in 1773

This article describes the town of Shirley as a whole. Additional demographic detail is available which describes only the central settlement or village within the town, although that detail is included in the aggregate values reported here. See: Shirley (CDP), Massachusetts.

As of the census[3] of 2000, there were 6,373 people, 2,067 households, and 1,426 families residing in the town. The population density was 402.7 people per square mile (155.5/km²). There were 2,156 housing units at an average density of 136.2/sq mi (52.6/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 83.90% White, 6.72% Black or African American, 0.47% Native American, 2.10% Asian, 0.08% Pacific Islander, 5.12% from other races, and 1.62% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 6.86% of the population.

There were 2,067 households out of which 34.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 56.2% were married couples living together, 9.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 31.0% were non-families. 25.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.55 and the average family size was 3.09.

Shirley Shaker Village Meetinghouse at its original site in c. 1910

In the town the population was spread out with 21.7% under the age of 18, 7.6% from 18 to 24, 39.2% from 25 to 44, 22.3% from 45 to 64, and 9.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females there were 137.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 151.8 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $53,344, and the median income for a family was $66,250. Males had a median income of $42,078 versus $32,130 for females. The per capita income for the town was $20,556. About 1.9% of families and 3.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 2.1% of those under age 18 and 4.4% of those age 65 or over.


On March 6, 2010 Shirley and Ayer voters approved the creation of a new regional school district to take effect in the 2011-2012 school year.

At the present time, Shirley high school students attend Ayer High School, Lunenburg High School, or Nashoba Technical High School.


  • Benjamin Hill Recreation Area
  • Fredonian Nature Center
  • Whiteley Park


Points of interest

Information on the Shaker Village site is available at the Historical Society.


Commuter rail service from Boston's North Station is provided by the MBTA with a stop in Shirley on its Fitchburg Line.[4]



Notable residents


  1. ^ United States Census Bureau
  2. ^ U.S. Geological Survey, Ayer, Massachusetts, 7.5x15 minute quadrangle, 1988.
  3. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  4. ^ MBTA Accessed May 25, 2008.

Further reading

External links


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