by Henry E. Warren

The incorporation of the Town of Ashland is a story by itself. In 1837, one hundred thirty people who lived in this vicinity, then called Unionville, were persuaded by a leading citizen, James Jackson, to present a petition to the General Court asking for incorporation as a separate town. Fewer than 10% of the population signed this petition and the result was immediate objection from Framingham, Holliston and Hopkinton. The General Court merely referred the subject matter to the next session.

During the following year, Rev. Joseph Haven, Jr., second pastor of the local church, joined the petitioners and enlisted the support of a much larger number of people. Again they went to the legislature, but were strongly opposed as before by official agents of the three towns. Apparently the objection to incorporation involved the matter of pauper support. By 1846 this was settled to the satisfaction of the three communities. During that year a third petition framed by Calvin Shepard and signed by James Jackson and 209 others was presented.

It was Jackson who proposed the name “Ashland,” because he was an ardent admirer of Henry Clay, and that was the name of Clay’s home in Kentucky.

Of the three towns Holliston alone still objected, but the petition was accepted and the legislature voted for the statute incorporating the Town. This was signed by Governor George N. Briggs and became effective on March 16, 1846. The act of incorporation as issued described the boundaries of the Town and invested it with all the powers, privileges and immunities possessed by other towns.

A second article made the Town liable for its proportion of all taxes previously assessed upon the parent towns, and article three laid down similar provisions concerning the support of paupers. Section seven made the Poor Farm owned by Holliston and located within Ashland free of taxes by Ashland so long as it was owned and maintained by Holliston as a poor farm. Section nine compelled the Town to pay Hopkinton, within four years, the sum of $600.00 as full compensation for its portion of the Town debt to Hopkinton [1].

Directions – November 1975


[1] Framed document in the collection of the Ashland Historical Society.