Spencer's Memorial Town Hall, on Main Street at Maple Street.
Location in Worcester County in Massachusetts
|• Type||Open town meeting|
| • Town
|• Total||34.1 sq mi (88.2 km2)|
|• Land||32.9 sq mi (85.1 km2)|
|• Water||1.2 sq mi (3.1 km2)|
|Elevation||925 ft (282 m)|
|• Density||340/sq mi (130/km2)|
|Time zone||Eastern (UTC-5)|
|• Summer (DST)||Eastern (UTC-4)|
|Area code(s)||508 / 774|
|GNIS feature ID||0618385|
Spencer was first settled in 1717 by Nathaniel Wood, and first permanently settled by Samuel Bemis in 1721. It was officially incorporated on April 12, 1753, splitting from the town of Leicester. Spencer was named after the then-acting governor of Massachusetts, Spencer Phipps. Spencer was the home of the Howe family of inventors, including Elias Howe, who perfected the lockstitch sewing machine.
Rich in history, Spencer is located in central Worcester County, twenty minutes west of Worcester via Route 9, and about forty-five east of Springfield via Routes 49, 20, and the Massachusetts Turnpike. The town was settled in 1717 by Nathaniel Wood, and first permanently settled by Samuel Bemis in 1721. Bemis built the first frame house in the town. His descendants still reside in Spencer to this day. Spencer was incorporated as a town in 1753. It had been established as a district from a part of Leicester. Its name was assigned by Lieutenant Governor Spencer Phipps who had signed the order establishing the district.
In 1784 Spencer was a major stopping place on the Old Boston Post Road's stage route between Boston and Hartford, and on to New York. Passengers changed stages in Spencer, as one coach would come from Boston and connect with one coming north from Hartford. Each stagecoach would turn around and return whence it came. Travelers often stopped for the night at Jenk’s Tavern in Spencer, as did General Henry Knox, pushing his cannons through the streets of the town on his way to Boston from Ticonderoga, and George Washington in 1789. Spencer still has colonial-era milestone markers showing the route of the old post road.
When the War of Independence broke out in 1775 it found Spencer ready to take part in it. 56 men under Captain Ebenezer Mason immediately set out to Boston. Many of these men later took part in the Battle of Bunker Hill. 313 Spencer men are known to have served in the Civil War. 32 lost their lives in the service of their country.
Spencer's first mill was built in 1740 on the Seven Mile River, the greatest source of waterpower in the town. In 1811, Josiah Green began making shoes, and in 1834 he built a factory. The Prouty family began to make shoes in 1820, and built their factory in 1855. In 1812, Elliot Prouty had begun to "draw" wire in a mill he had built. His business flourished in his family until 1916, when it merged with Wickwire Steel Co. At one time, Spencer had 11 factories and 26 buildings for wire drawing.
In 1839 the town hall was constructed, and eighteen years later, Denny Hall, the town's first high school, was built. In 1888-1889, four prominent citizens (David Prouty, Richard Sugden, Luther Hill and Nathaniel Myrick) presented the town with a new high school, a library, a public park and the Spencer Agricultural Fair Grounds. The Howe family of Spencer did much to make the town famous in the annals of ingenious Americans. William Howe of Spencer developed a wooden truss bridge named for him, and his brother, Tyler Howe, patented a spring bed. Their nephew, Elias Howe, Jr., may well have eclipsed them when he invented the lockstitch sewing machine.
Spencer is home to a monastery of the Cistercians, a Catholic religious order, the Holy Rood Guild, which makes incense, chrism, and church vestments worn by Catholic clergy (the cope, the dalmatic for a deacon, the chasuble for a priest, the alb, and the stole).
2007 public water lye accident
On April 25, 2007, it was discovered early in the morning that there was a malfunction at one of the town's water treatment facilities where a hazardous amount of sodium hydroxide (lye) was released into the town's water supply. The official cause was a malfunction of the system due to operator error, that regulates the amount of lye released. According to local news reports, dozens of people received medical treatment for "burning sensations and skin rashes."
According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 34.0 square miles (88 km2), of which 32.8 square miles (85 km2) is land and 1.2 square miles (3.1 km2), or 3.52%, is water.
The town, roughly rectangular in shape, is bounded on the east by Leicester, on the south by Charlton, on the west by East Brookfield and North Brookfield, on the northwest by New Braintree, on the north by Oakham, and on the northeast by Paxton.
|* = population estimate.
Source: United States Census records and Population Estimates Program data.
As of the census of 2000, there were 11,691 people, 4,583 households, and 3,093 families residing in the town. The population density was 355.9 inhabitants per square mile (137.4 /km2). There were 4,938 housing units at an average density of 150.3 per square mile (58.0 /km2). The racial makeup of the town was 97.93% White, 0.59% Black or African American, 0.24% Native American, 0.33% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.26% from other races, and 0.64% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.33% of the population.
There were 4,583 households out of which 31.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 53.0% were married couples living together, 10.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 32.5% were non-families. 25.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.53 and the average family size was 3.05.
In the town the population was spread out with 24.6% under the age of 18, 8.7% from 18 to 24, 29.9% from 25 to 44, 24.4% from 45 to 64, and 12.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females there were 98.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 95.9 males.
The median income for a household in the town was $46,598, and the median income for a family was $56,763. Males had a median income of $40,581 versus $29,837 for females. The per capita income for the town was $21,017. About 5.9% of families and 8.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 10.2% of those under age 18 and 10.1% of those age 65 or over.
|This section requires expansion. (June 2008)|
|County-level state agency heads|
|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:||Lew Evangelidis (R)|
|State Representative(s):||Anne M. Gobi (D), Peter Durant (R)|
|State Senator(s):||Stephen M. Brewer (D)|
|Governor's Councilor(s):||Jen Caissie (R)|
|U.S. Representative(s):||James P. McGovern (D-2nd District),|
|U.S. Senators:||Elizabeth Warren (D), Ed Markey (D)|
Spencer's public schools are regionalized K-12 with East Brookfield. Spencer students attend Maple Street School for kindergarten, Lake Street School for grades 1-3, and Wire Village School for grades 4-6. Students from both towns attend Knox Trail Junior High School for grades 7-8 and David Prouty High School for grades 9-12. David Prouty Junior High School, which was also the former building of the old high school, was recently closed and reopened as a senior living center after being replaced by the Wire Village School.
- Elias Howe (1819–1867), inventor of the sewing machine
- Nathan Cobb (1859–1932), known as "the father of nematology in the United States"
- Phineas Jones (1819–1884), represented New Jersey's 6th congressional district from 1881-83
- "Chemical Release Taints Spencer Water Supply". wbztv.com.
- "TOTAL POPULATION (P1), 2010 Census Summary File 1". American FactFinder, All County Subdivisions within Massachusetts. United States Census Bureau. 2010.
- "Massachusetts by Place and County Subdivision - GCT-T1. Population Estimates". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
- "1990 Census of Population, General Population Characteristics: Massachusetts". US Census Bureau. December 1990. Table 76: General Characteristics of Persons, Households, and Families: 1990. 1990 CP-1-23. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
- "1980 Census of the Population, Number of Inhabitants: Massachusetts". US Census Bureau. December 1981. Table 4. Populations of County Subdivisions: 1960 to 1980. PC80-1-A23. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
- "1950 Census of Population". 1: Number of Inhabitants. Bureau of the Census. 1952. Section 6, Pages 21-10 and 21-11, Massachusetts Table 6. Population of Counties by Minor Civil Divisions: 1930 to 1950. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
- "1920 Census of Population". Bureau of the Census. Number of Inhabitants, by Counties and Minor Civil Divisions. Pages 21-5 through 21-7. Massachusetts Table 2. Population of Counties by Minor Civil Divisions: 1920, 1910, and 1920. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
- "1890 Census of the Population". Department of the Interior, Census Office. Pages 179 through 182. Massachusetts Table 5. Population of States and Territories by Minor Civil Divisions: 1880 and 1890. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
- "1870 Census of the Population". Department of the Interior, Census Office. 1872. Pages 217 through 220. Table IX. Population of Minor Civil Divisions, &c. Massachusetts. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
- "1860 Census". Department of the Interior, Census Office. 1864. Pages 220 through 226. State of Massachusetts Table No. 3. Populations of Cities, Towns, &c. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
- "1850 Census". Department of the Interior, Census Office. 1854. Pages 338 through 393. Populations of Cities, Towns, &c. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
- "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
- C.B. Tillinghast. The free public libraries of Massachusetts. 1st Report of the Free Public Library Commission of Massachusetts. Boston: Wright & Potter, 1891. Google books
- Richard Sugden Library. Retrieved 2010-11-10
- July 1, 2007 through June 30, 2008; cf. The FY2008 Municipal Pie: What’s Your Share? Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Board of Library Commissioners. Boston: 2009. Available: Municipal Pie Reports. Retrieved 2010-08-04
- "JONES, Phineas, (1819 - 1884)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved August 13, 2007.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Spencer, Massachusetts.|
- Official town website
- Spencer-East Brookfield Regional School District
- Spencer Fair - held Labor Day weekend
- Spencer New Leader - free weekly newspaper
- Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Spencer". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press