A Brief History of Spencer
Rich in history, Spencer is located in central Worcester County, twenty minutes west of Worcester via Route 9, and about forty-five minutes form Springfield via Routes 49, 20, and the Massachusetts Turnpike.
Settled in 1717 by Nathaniel Wood, Spencer was incorporated as a town in 1753. It has 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. Famous visitors were General Henry Knox who pushed his cannons through the streets of the town on his way to Boston from Ticonderoga and George Washington who stayed in 1789.
When the war of Independence broke out in 1774 it found Spencer ready to take part in it. Fifty-six men under Captain Ebenezer Mason immediately set out to Boston. Many of these men later took part in the Battle of Bunker Hill.
Spencer residents also took part in the Civil War. Three hundred and thirteen Spencer men are known to have served. Thirty-two lost their lives in the service of their country.
Spencer's first mill was built in 1740 on 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 eleven factories and twenty-six buildings for wire drawing.
In 1839, the town hall was constructed and eighteen years later the town's first high school, Denny Hall, was built. In 1888-1889, four prominent citizen (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, 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.