Bolton, Massachusetts is a town in Worcester County, covering approximately 20 square miles. Once part of Lancaster, it has a population of nearly 5,000 people. Primarily a residential community, town has a long history of agriculture, including dairy farming and orchards, some of which are still in operation today.
Located on the eastern slope of the Nashua River Valley, the land is characterized by rolling hills and sloping valleys. With few rivers and waterways, Bolton was not a mill town like many early settlements in Massachusetts. While there are many varieties of rocks and minerals to be found within the town, only limestone was quarried and marketed here. The town is part of the Metrowest area, and is surrounding by the towns of Harvard, Stow, Hudson, Berlin, Clinton, and Lancaster.
Bolton was originally settled as part of Lancaster, Massachusetts, which was incorporated in 1653 as a plantation. Following King Philip’s War, which devastated Lancaster, settlers began looking to the land in what would become Bolton, believing that a more spread out settlement would be less likely to come under future attack. Many of these early settlers’ homes were designated as garrisons to protect the town. Bolton was incorporated as a town separate from Lancaster in 1738.
The town’s agricultural economic base flourished and it remained a center for dairy farming, poultry, and orchards through the start of the 20th century. As roads, including Routes 117 and 85 saw improvements, more residents began finding employment outside of the town borders. With the construction of Route 495 in 1964, the town completed its transformation to a residential community, though its primary industry remains agriculture. Today, the town is characterized by its rural feel, with homes situated on large lots, with farms dotting the landscape.
King Philip’s war played a dramatic role in the settlement of Massachusetts, including the town of Bolton. Also known as Metacom’s Rebellion, it was fought between the Native American tribes and the new English settlers from 1675-1678. As one of the most devastating wars, each side lost nearly 10% of their soldiers during this conflict. It is named after the Native American leader, Metacomet, who was known as King Philip.
As English settlers pressed outward from the early settlements along the coast, the Native Americans were slowly pushed west off their land. The breaking point came when three from the Wampanoags were hanged in Plymouth County for the murder of a Christian Native American man. This led to Native American attacks on many colonial towns, with devastation of towns, and the decimation of the Native American population.
In 1676, Metacom led 1,500 Native Americans from three separate tribes in an attack on Lancaster, Massachusetts. Setting the local minister’s house on fire, more than 30 of the settlers were killed, and his wife kidnapped. Many of the houses were destroyed, and settlers left the area.
King Philip’s War dramatically impacted the settlement of many Massachusetts towns and ultimately led to the settlement of Bolton. This residential and agricultural community has a proud history of perseverance that continues today. With its rolling hills, apple orchards, and stunning vistas, Bolton remains a desirable place to call home.