The Earthquake of 1755 was the largest earthquake in Massachusetts history, occurring on November 18, 1755 around 4:30 in the morning. The quake originated off of Cape Ann and registered at least as a 6.0 on the Richter scale. The earthquake thankfully did not result in any deaths and did little damage to buildings beyond collapsing chimneys, but its effects were felt as far away as South Carolina.
The 1755 earthquake woke the residents of what would be West Boylston in the middle of the night. (At this time, West Boylston was still part of several other towns.) The quake reportedly “caused kettles and other things to rattle and make much noise, plates and other articles were thrown from shelves, and people who had retired found their beds rocking like cradles.” According to one report, a portion of land in what was then Holden sunk thirty feet as a result of the quake. Despite this commotion, nobody was hurt, and a whole generation of our town’s residents had exciting stories to share with their children and grandchildren.
This small paragraph about the earthquake taken from one of our books in the West Boylston Room.
Population can be hard to comprehend. It can be hard to wrap your mind around the thought of 7 billion people living on Earth living their own complicated, beautiful lives. Thankfully, West Boylston is and always has been a small town, so we don’t have to strain too hard. Below is a clipping from a town report in the early 1900s detailing the population throughout the course of the 19th century.
The town was founded in 1808, and two years later the population was only 600 people. By 1888, we had grown to 2,950 people. This population growth of over 2,300 people was a mark of how attractive our now washed-away industrial center was to people nearby and abroad. The population likely dipped in the late 1800s as the construction of the reservoir pushed more and more people out of their homes and destroyed their jobs at the factories or local businesses.
Despite this setback, West Boylston’s population recovered in the 20th century. Today, our population is around 7,500 people--a number much easier to imagine than 7 billion.
In 1900, there was a spring flood which devastated West Boylston--which was already devastated from the construction of the reservoir. The flood damaged property and washed out a major bridge. The photograph below features some damage from the storm in front of the Cowee household. The Cowees owned a local mill.
"West Boylston, July 4th, 1905 - There was more noise in West Boylston today than for many years. No accidents were reported." It is very nice to see an accident-free news article for such an important holiday!