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Sterling, Massachusetts
—  Town  —
Sterling Town Common
Location in Worcester County in Massachusetts
Coordinates: 42°26′15″N 71°45′40″W / 42.4375°N 71.76111°W / 42.4375; -71.76111
Country United States
State Massachusetts
County Worcester
Settled 1720
Incorporated 1781
 - Type Open town meeting
 - Executive Secretary Tim Bragan
 - Total 31.6 sq mi (81.8 km2)
 - Land 30.5 sq mi (79.0 km2)
 - Water 1.1 sq mi (2.8 km2)
Elevation 502 ft (153 m)
Population (2000)
 - Total 7,257
 - Density 237.7/sq mi (91.8/km2)
Time zone Eastern (UTC-5)
 - Summer (DST) Eastern (UTC-4)
ZIP code 01564
Area code(s) 351 / 978
FIPS code 25-67385
GNIS feature ID 0619490

Sterling is a town in Worcester County, Massachusetts, USA. The population was 7,257 at the 2000 census.



Sterling was first settled by Europeans in 1720 and was officially incorporated in 1781.

Previous to its incorporation it was "the Second Parish of Lancaster," and was commonly called by a portion of its Indian name, Chocksett. [1] The original Indian name of the area being Woonsechocksett. The land encompassing the Chocksett region was not originally included in the first land sold by the great Indian Chief Sholan to the settlers of the Lancaster grant. However, Sholan's nephew Tahanto would eventually sell the Chocksett land to inhabitants of Lancaster in 1713.

The first White settlers arrived in Chocksett seven years later in 1720, formerly inhabitants of Lancaster proper.[2] Among these first settlers were families such as Beman, Sawyer, Houghton, and Osgood; names reflected to this day in the names of Sterling's oldest roads.[3]

A short time after settlement, in 1733, the residents of the Chocksett area requested its own incorporation, separate from Lancaster, due to the "great inconvenience" of a long distance to the church in Lancaster's center. This request was denied. However, by 1780 the population of Chocksett was so numerous as to constitute a majority and so the voters of the area voted out the existing Lancaster town officers and began to conduct town business and meetings in Chocksett. This was enough to convince the rest of Lancaster that it was now time for Chocksett, the Second Parish of Lancaster, to go its own way. [4]

In 1781, Chocksett was incorporated as its own town: Sterling. The town derives its name from General William "Lord Stirling" Alexander, a Scottish expatriot, who served valiantly under Gen. George Washington in the New York and other campaigns. His portrait hangs in the town hall and the Town commemorated Alexander with a medallion during its bicentennial celebration in 1976.

Residents recently approved and built new facilities for the police and fire departments. The town enjoys a low crime rate even though it has large metropolitan areas both north and south of its borders.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 31.6 square miles (81.8 km²), of which, 30.5 square miles (79.0 km²) of it is land and 1.1 square miles (2.8 km²) of it (3.42%) is water. It is bordered by Leominster on the north, West Boylston on the south, Princeton and Holden on the west, Lancaster on the northeast, and Clinton and Boylston on the southeast. Sterling borders Boylston on the Wachusett Reservoir.


Old Town Hall

As of the census[5] of 2000, there were 7,257 people, 2,573 households, and 2,068 families residing in the town. The population density was 237.7 people per square mile (91.8/km²). There were 2,637 housing units at an average density of 86.4/sq mi (33.4/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 98.06% White, 0.58% African American, 0.10% Native American, 0.40% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 0.28% from other races, and 0.58% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.81% of the population.

There were 2,573 households out of which 39.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 69.8% were married couples living together, 7.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 19.6% were non-families. 15.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 6.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.82 and the average family size was 3.16.

In the town the population was spread out with 27.5% under the age of 18, 5.6% from 18 to 24, 30.7% from 25 to 44, 27.1% from 45 to 64, and 9.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 99.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 95.1 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $67,188, and the median income for a family was $76,943. Males had a median income of $51,227 versus $32,734 for females. The per capita income for the town was $28,844. About 1.7% of families and 2.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 4.5% of those under age 18 and 5.7% 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: (D)
State government
State Representative(s): Lewis G. Evangelidis (R), Harold P. Naughton, Jr. (D)
State Senator(s): Jennifer L. Flanagan (D)
Governor's Councilor(s): Thomas J. Foley (D)
Federal government
U.S. Representative(s): John W. Olver (D-1st District),
U.S. Senators: John Kerry (D), Paul G. Kirk (D)

Blood Family Homestead (1859) in Sterling, by Mary Blood Mellen (1817-1882)


The tax rate in Sterling has remained fairly steady over recent years and has occasionally been reduced by a small percentage. These small decreases however have been dramatically overshadowed by extreme increases in house evaluations resulting in many residents effectively paying 50–75% more in taxes in 2005 as compared with five years earlier.

The Waushacum Homeowner's Association, however, being a private neighborhood southeast of the Sterling Junction, employs a system in which the land is leased from the neighborhood committee, which creates low house valuations in the area.


Sterling provides town water and the quality is high after the installation of a purification system. The water is drawn from a private underground spring which flows from the Chickopee Water Table. In the early 2000s town water supply was affected by high bacteria levels and residents were forced to boil water for three weeks until the situation was resolved. With the exception of the Waushacum Home Owner's Association (whose residents enjoy a private purification system) there are no town sewer services - all houses have private septic systems.

The town also offers curbside trash pickup for no additional fee and has a recycling center with one of the highest recycling percentages in the state.

Sterling is one of 38 or so communities in the state that has it own municipal electric light company that is separate from other municipal government functions. Sterling ratepayers are the owners of this utility and reap the benefits of exceptional service and an early payment discount on their monthly bills. Once a year ratepayers receive an increased discount, usually in the month of November. It is the only municipal light department in the state that currently offers a year end discount as a "dividend" to customers. The utility provides a $40,000 in-lieu-of tax payment to the town each year.

Points of interest

An annual event, the Sterling Fair, is a popular place to be in early to mid-September. There are Carnival games and Spinning rides. A close proximity to Wachusett Mountain (State forest and ski area) and Leominster State Forest give Sterling plenty of outdoor adventure. Unfortuntely the home of Mary Sawyer burned down, due to suspected arson, several years ago. Sterling also has a type of black rock that bears and a white-colored "X" through the middle, purportedly evidence that Massachusetts was once part of Africa as the rock is also found only in northwest Africa.

Notable residents

Film and literary references

  • The 2001 film Shallow Hal had scenes shot in Sterling.
  • Sterling is the setting of Sarah Josepha Hale's famous poem, "Mary Had a Little Lamb". Mary Sawyer, the subject of the historically true poem, lived in Sterling. The Sawyer's house was burned down in August 2007.


  1. ^ of the Court of general sessions of the peace for the county of Worcester, Massachusetts, from 1731 to 1737
  2. ^ History of Worcester County, Massachusetts, Abijah Perkins Marvin, 1879
  3. ^ Topographical and historical sketches of the town of Lancaster, in the commonwealth of Massachusetts: furnished for the Worcester magazine and historical journal (1826)p. 47
  4. ^ Topographical and historical sketches of the town of Lancaster, in the commonwealth of Massachusetts: furnished for the Worcester magazine and historical journal (1826) p. 56
  5. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.  

External links

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