WGBH’s Curiousity Desk answered a question by a reader curious about, “Massachusetts Has A Northborough, Southborough And Westborough. Why No Eastborough?”
Although I knew that Southborough was originally part of Marlborough, many of the details they shared were new to me. I thought it might interest readers:
The answer to Richard’s question is a tale — not uncommon here in New England — of colonial expansion and the division of large swaths of land into smaller ones as the population grew. But there is also a more complicated side to the story. One of the displacement of a people who had called what is today Massachusetts home for thousands of years.
It all starts with the beginning of the town of Marlborough, today a city of some 40,000 along Route 495, about 30 miles west of Boston.
“All of the people who first settled Marlborough were residents of Sudbury,” explained Paul Brodeur, trustee emeritus for the Marlborough Historical Society.
In 1657, 38 families were granted 6,000 acres of land to Sudbury’s west to make a go of things — their way.
“These were dissidents,” said Brodeur. “They were looking for more land. There [were] all kinds of political issues over there [in Sudbury].”
In 1660, they incorporated the new town of Marlborough, named — to no one’s surprise —after a town in England. Over the years the population steadily grew, including along the town’s westernmost edge.
“[It was] probably seven, eight miles away from the center of town,” said Brodeur. “So that’s a long way to go to Sunday services, which is mandatory. Town meetings are impossible.”
And so, in 1717 the western part of Marlborough split off and formed a new town, appropriately — if not creatively — named Westborough.
“Ten years after the Westborough separation, Southborough separates,” said Brodeur.
That separation was undertaken for similar reasons — as was the next one, in 1766, which established the town of Northborough.
“And they don’t separate from Marlborough, they separate from Westborough,” Brodeur explained.
The story also includes a darker chapter of Marlborough’s treatment of native americans. You can read the full story here. Click here to read (or listen to) the full story.