The town of Shirley was laid out on 14 September 1866 by John M Foster (12 November 1806 – 11 May 1898). Foster was a native Charleston County, New Hampshire. Before the village was established there was a switch at the location and a few lots had been platted. Foster built a brick house and store south of the railroad. The original town consisted of ten small blocks, mostly on the north side of the St. Louis Chicago and Alton Railroad. In 1874 Foster’s home and a store and the station were on the south side of the tracks and a warehouse and mill were on the north side. In 1895 there was a Methodist church, a Christian church, and a hotel north of the tracks; at that time were about twenty houses scattered on both sides of the railroad.