SHIRLEY is located in Middlesex County about 50 miles north of Boston and only a town or two from the New Hampshire border. The town has a population of 7,672 as of the 2017 census.
The town offers modern amenities, a slice of quiet, small town life, a rural ambience, and well-preserved historic roots. Shirley was the home to many military men, women, and families until the close of Fort Devens. It has evolved into new neighborhoods, businesses and more. For commuters or trips to Boston the commuter rail is available in the center of Shirley.
The inhabitants at the time of European encounter were Nipmuc or PennacookIndians, who called the area Catacunemaug. Once part of "The Plantation of Groton," Shirley was first settled by English pioneers about 1720.
In 1753 it separated from Groton and was incorporated, named in honor of William Shirley, governor of Massachusetts (1741–1757). The town established a paper mill around 1790, and the first of seven cotton mills in 1812. Other local products included iron, nails, rope, textiles, belts, suspenders, and athletic equipment. Two of the large 19th-century mill buildings have been subdivided and adapted for use by 21st-century businesses.
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