Groton, Massachusetts
Town Hall
Town Hall
Official seal of Groton, Massachusetts
"All Are Welcome", "Faith, Labor"
Location in Middlesex County in Massachusetts
Location in Middlesex County in Massachusetts
Coordinates: 42°36′40″N 71°34′30″W / 42.61111°N 71.57500°W / 42.61111; -71.57500
CountryUnited States
Named forGroton, Suffolk, England
 • TypeOpen town meeting
 • Administrative OfficerJean E. Kitchen[1]
 • Board of
George F. Dillon, Jr.[2]
Peter S. Cunningham
John L. Saball
Mihran Keoseian, Jr.
1 Vacancy
 • Total33.7 sq mi (87.3 km2)
 • Land32.8 sq mi (84.9 km2)
 • Water0.9 sq mi (2.4 km2)
320 ft (98 m)
 • Total11,315
 • Density340/sq mi (130/km2)
Time zoneUTC−5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−4 (Eastern)
ZIP Code
Area codes351/978
FIPS code25-27480
GNIS feature ID0619399

Groton is a town in northwestern Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States, within the Greater Boston metropolitan area. The population was 11,315 at the 2020 census. An affluent bedroom community roughly 45 miles from Boston, Groton has a large population of professional workers, many of whom work in Boston's tech industry. It is loosely connected to Boston by highways (Route 2) and commuter rail (the MBTA Fitchburg Line).

The town has a long history dating back to the colonial era. It was a battlefield in King Philip's War and Queen Anne's War, and several Grotonians played notable roles in the American Revolution (including William Prescott, the American commander at the Battle of Bunker Hill) and Shays' Rebellion. Groton is home to two college-preparatory boarding schools: Lawrence Academy at Groton, founded in 1792; and Groton School, founded in 1884. Notable Groton residents include U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and journalists Peter Gammons, Steve Kornacki, and Dan Shaughnessy.


Early frontier settlement

The area surrounding modern-day Groton has, for thousands of years, been the territory of various cultures of indigenous peoples. They settled along the rivers, which they used for domestic tasks, fishing and transportation. Historic tribes were the Algonquian-speaking Nipmuc and Nashaway Indians.[3]

Groton began as a trading post of John Tinker, who conducted business with the Nashaway tribe at the confluence of Nod Brook and the Nashua River. The Nashaway called the area Petapawag, meaning "swampy land." As Tinker had, other pioneers followed the Algonquian trails from Massachusetts Bay. They found the region productive for fishing and farming.[3]

The town was officially settled and incorporated in 1655. It was named for Groton in Suffolk, England, the hometown of Massachusetts governor John Winthrop; Winthrop's son Deane was one of the town's founding selectmen.[4] Called The Plantation of Groton, it included all of present-day Groton and Ayer, almost all of Pepperell and Shirley, large parts of Dunstable, Littleton, and Tyngsborough, plus smaller parts of Harvard and Westford in Massachusetts, as well as Nashua and Hollis, New Hampshire.[3]

During King Philip's War, when English colonists and Native Americans tried to destroy each other, on March 13, 1676, Native Americans raided and burned all buildings except for four Groton garrisons.[5] Among those killed was John Nutting, a Groton Selectman. Survivors fled to Concord and other safe havens. Two years later, many returned to rebuild.[3] The rebuilt town was heavily militarized, and recorded a garrison of 91 men in 1692.[6]

In 1694, Abenaki warriors attacked the town again during the Raid on Groton (during King William's War). Lydia Longley and two of her siblings were taken captive; the rest of their family was killed. Lydia was taken to Montreal where she was ransomed, converted to Catholicism, and joined the Congregation of Notre Dame, a non-cloistered order.

In 1704, during Queen Anne's War, an Abenaki raiding party kidnapped Matthias Farnsworth III from his home and brought him to Montreal.

In June 1707, Abenaki warriors abducted three children of the large family of Thomas Tarbell and his wife Elizabeth (Wood), cousins to the Longleys who were abducted in 1694. The raiders took them overland and by water to the Mohawk mission village of Kahnawake (also spelled Caughnawaga) south of Montreal. The two Tarbell boys, John and Zachariah, were adopted by Mohawk families and became fully assimilated. They later each married chiefs' daughters, had families, and became respected chiefs themselves.[7] They were among the founders in the 1750s of Akwesasne, after moving up the St. Lawrence River from Kahnawake to escape the ill effects of traders. The brothers' older sister Sarah Tarbell was ransomed by a French family, and converted to Catholicism. Renamed as Marguerite, she followed Lydia Longley in joining the Congregation of Notre Dame, and served with them for the rest of her life.[7][8][9] In the late nineteenth century, a plaque was installed about the Tarbell children at the site of the family's former farm in Groton. Descendants with the Tarbell surname are among the Mohawk living at Kahnewake and Akwesasne in the 21st century.

Revolutionary era and early republic

First Parish Church

The townsfolk of Groton supported the Patriot cause in the American Revolutionary War. Following the Boston Tea Party, the town passed a resolution thanking Boston "for their wise, prudent and spirited conduct at this alarming crisis," and resolved to boycott the tea industry until duties on tea were lifted.[10]

In 1775, local minutemen assembled on the common in front of the First Parish Church of Groton before marching to the Battles of Lexington and Concord.[3][11] Groton sent 101 men to the battle, but they arrived too late to participate.[12] The American commander at the Battle of Bunker Hill, William Prescott, was born in Groton, and Groton lost 10 or 12 men at the battle, more than any other town.[13][14][15]

This patriotic feeling did not last very long, and a majority of Groton residents aligned with the rebels during Shays' Rebellion.[16] Job Shattuck, a former Continental Army officer and Groton's largest landowner,[17] organized an early tax revolt in 1782.[18] He escaped with a fine, but rose up again in 1786 and led a mob that shut down the Middlesex County Courthouse in Concord, Massachusetts.[17] He was captured by a search party that included some pro-government Groton residents.[19] He was sentenced to death but pardoned by Governor John Hancock.[17]

1831 map of Groton

Early Groton developed a strong economy, assisted in large part by its advantageous location near the confluence of the Nashua and Squannacook Rivers. By 1790 it was the second-largest town in Middlesex County, with 1,840 residents.[15] Agriculture was the backbone of the economy, but Groton also saw the birth of several industrial enterprises.[20] In the early 1800s, the Hollingsworth family (Hollingsworth & Vose) acquired a paper mill in West Groton.[21] In 1828, a large soapstone quarry was discovered in the area; Groton eventually hosted the nation's largest soapstone factory, which exported soapstone products as far away as China.[22] The area was connected to several railroad lines in the 1840s, one of which now survives as the MBTA Fitchburg Line, Groton's present-day commuter rail link to Boston.[23][24][25]

Starting in the 1840s, Catholic immigrants (mainly Irish, but also some French Canadians) began moving to the Nashoba Valley in large numbers.[26] St. Mary's Catholic Church was established in 1858 to serve the Catholic residents of Groton Junction (now Ayer).[27] Ayer split off from Groton in 1871, and in 1904, one of the local private schools donated Sacred Heart Church for the use of the Catholics who stayed in Groton proper.[28]

African-Americans have lived in the area since at least the 1770s, when private Pomp Phillis was called up to fight at Lexington and Concord.[29] In addition, historian Jeremy Belknap wrote that "a negro man belonging to Groton" fired the shot that killed British general John Pitcairn at the Battle of Bunker Hill.[30][31]

Economic decline and social unrest

Groton's economic growth slowed in the second half of the nineteenth century. The soapstone quarry shut down in 1868.[22] The town's population nearly halved (3,584 to 1,862) from 1870 to 1880, although most of this was due to the 1871 secession of Ayer, which had 1,600 residents in 1870.[32]

In the 19th century and early part of the 20th century, Groton's population was largely white and Christian; people have debated whether it was a sundown town.[33] The town became a center of the Second Ku Klux Klan, which was active in Massachusetts in the 1920s. This incarnation of the Klan expressed primarily anti-Catholic and anti-immigrant prejudice, while also opposing racial minorities.[34] Local schoolmaster Endicott Peabody summarized the movement as follows: "There is an astonishing tendency among some of the respectable people in this part of the world to justify [the Klan's] existence on the ground that the Jews and Roman Catholics are taking possession of the country."[35]

Lithograph of Groton from 1886 by L.R. Burleigh with list of landmarks

The Klan held a rally in Groton in September 1924.[33] In 1925, an Irish resident reported a cross burning on Gibbet Hill, not far from Main Street.[36] In October 1926, a group of 400 Klansmen were meeting in a field in the town when they were fired upon with guns used by a group of approximately 100 people opposed to the Klan; the police reported that over 100 gunshots were exchanged between the two groups, but no casualties were reported.[33] In 1927, the local Klan chapter endorsed a full slate of candidates for the town elections, with partial success.[37] The Klan appears to have peaked as an organized force in the area by 1931, when Klan head Hiram Wesley Evans visited West Townsend to implore the remaining Klansmen to rebuild the local chapters.[38] The rate of inter-confessional marriages, which decreased significantly from 1924 to 1928, began rising again starting in 1929.[39]

In 2020, Groton unanimously approved a measure denouncing racial bigotry and advocating equality in recognition of earlier violence and the contemporary social justice movement.[40]

Economic revival

Starting in the 1950s, the town of Groton enjoyed an economic revival as Boston's high-tech sector expanded along the Route 128 beltway. Although Groton does not lie on Route 128, the gravity of the suburban beltway pulled exurban towns like Groton into Boston's economic orbit. The town attracted professional workers, and the population expanded rapidly, nearly quadrupling since 1950.[41] (A group led by Marion Stoddart, the wife of one such technology worker, sponsored the cleanup of the Nashua River;[42] previously, the river was so polluted with sludge that on some days, animals could run across it.[43]) In 2021, Groton's per capita income ranked 32nd out of 341 towns and cities in Massachusetts. In addition, as of 2015, 31 Groton residents reported incomes over $1 million.[44] Town representatives describe Groton as a "bedroom community"[45] and "a relatively affluent town" where "[m]ost residents are well-educated and hold high-paying professional, managerial, or other office jobs."[46]

In the 21st century, the town has sought to preserve its rural character and to slow population growth; as of 2017, 42% of the town's 32.5 square miles of land was permanently protected from development.[47] In the 2000s, Geotel Communications founder Steven Webber purchased the 338-acre Gibbet Hill Farm to prevent residential development on the site; the town meeting reportedly greeted his intervention with a standing ovation.[48] Town representatives state that they welcome tourists and seek to encourage "a constant trickle rather than a deluge of visitors."[45] In 2017, the town adopted the motto "All Are Welcome" and placed six waystones engraved with the motto on the major roads entering the town.[33]

Although the town's policies have successfully slowed population growth, town amenities have generally improved. Gibbet Hill now hosts a farm-to-table steakhouse.[49][50] In 2017, the nation's largest Shirdi Sai Baba temple opened in Groton; it cost approximately $11 million to build.[51] The 126,000-square-foot Groton Hill Music Center opened in 2022 and includes a 1,000-seat (expandable to 2,300) concert hall, a 300-seat secondary performance hall, a professional orchestra, and a community music school;[52][53][54] it was the gift of an anonymous donor, posthumously revealed to be Sterilite owner Albert Stone.[55][56] The Groton-Dunstable Regional School District is currently building a new $88.4 million campus for its elementary school, which is scheduled to open in 2024.[57] However, the annual per-pupil expenditures in the 2022–23 school year were $19,392.35, just below the state average of $20,133.67,[58] and in April 2024, voters rejected a proposed $7.6 million/3 year tax increase for the school district by a 3-to-2 margin.[59]


According to the United States Census Bureau, Groton has a total area of 33.7 square miles (87.3 km2), of which 32.8 square miles (84.9 km2) is land and 0.9 square miles (2.4 km2) (2.79%) is water. Groton is the largest town in Middlesex County in terms of square mileage. The town is drained by the Nashua River, Squannacook River, and Merrimack River.[60] The center of the town is dominated mainly by Gibbet Hill, with several other large hills throughout the town.

Groton is served by state routes 40, 111, 119 and 225. It borders the towns of Pepperell, Dunstable, Tyngsborough, Westford, Littleton, Ayer, Shirley, and Townsend.

Groton has a hot-summer humid continental climate (Dfa) bordering on Dfb and monthly averages range from 23.8 °F (−4.6 °C) in January to 71.8 °F (22.1 °C) in July.[61] The hardiness zone is 5b.[62]


In a typical year, temperatures in Groton are below 50 °F (10 °C) for 195 days per year. Annual precipitation is typically 45.7 inches per year (high in the US) and snow covers the ground 68 days per year, or 18.6% of the year (high for the US). It may be helpful to understand the yearly precipitation by imagining nine straight days of moderate rain per year. The humidity is below 60% for approximately 25.4 days, or 7% of the year.[63]


See also: List of Massachusetts locations by per capita income and Groton (CDP), Massachusetts

Historical population
* = population estimate.
Source: United States census records and Population Estimates Program data.[64][65][66][67][68][69][70][71][72][73][74]

As of the census[75] of 2000, there were 9,547 people, 3,268 households, and 2,568 families residing in the town. The population density was 291.3 inhabitants per square mile (112.5/km2). There were 3,393 housing units at an average density of 103.5 per square mile (40.0/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 97.22% White, 0.35% Black or African American, 0.13% Native American, 0.97% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.27% from other races, and 1.04% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.14% of the population.

There were 3,268 households, out of which 46.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 70.0% were married couples living together, 6.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 21.4% were non-families. Of all households 17.1% were made up of individuals, and 5.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.90 and the average family size was 3.31.

The age distribution of the town's population was 32.6% under the age of 18, 4.2% from 18 to 24, 32.7% from 25 to 44, 23.5% from 45 to 64, and 7.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females, there were 98.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 94.5 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $118,041, and the median income for a family was $136,653. Males had a median income of $101,117 versus $60,402 for females. The per capita income for the town was $44,756. About 1.1% of families and 1.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 1.0% of those under age 18 and none of those age 65 or over.[76]


Groton annually hosts the National Shepley Hill Horse Trials, an equestrian competition. The Groton-Dunstable Crusaders high school boys and girls athletic teams also compete in the town.


The town of Groton is governed by an open town meeting and administered by an elected five-member select board and appointed town manager.[77]

The town has a large proportion of swing voters. 58.9% of Groton voters chose Republican Mitt Romney in the 2002 Massachusetts gubernatorial election,[78] 55.0% chose Republican Scott Brown in the 2010 U.S. Senate election,[79] and 53.8% chose Republican Charlie Baker in the 2014 Massachusetts gubernatorial election.[80] By contrast, 50.8% of Groton voters chose Democrat Barack Obama in the 2012 U.S. presidential election,[81] 63.9% chose Democrat Ed Markey in the 2020 U.S. Senate election,[82] and 67.2% chose Democrat Joe Biden in the 2020 U.S. presidential election.[83]

Voter Registration and Party Enrollment as of February 1, 2021[84]
Party Number of Voters Percentage
Democratic 1,915 21.92%
Republican 1,089 12.47%
Unaffiliated 5,662 64.81%
Total 8,736 100%


Public schools

District schools

Main article: Groton-Dunstable Regional School District

Other public schools

Private schools

Groton School

Groton previously hosted Prescott Elementary School (1927–2008, now closed),[86] the Catholic Country Day School of the Holy Union (1949–2017, now closed),[87] and the Lowthorpe School of Landscape Architecture (1901–1945, merged with the Rhode Island School of Design).[88]

Points of interest

Gibbet Hill

Buildings and structures

Conservation land

Over 30% of the land in Groton, Massachusetts is protected open space.[95] The majority of this open space is accessible to the public. Groton also has over 100 miles of trails. Many of these trails can be walked and biked, others are available for hunting and/or camping. The trails are made and maintained by the Groton Trail Committee and the land itself is owned and managed by the Groton Conservation Trust, The Groton Conservation Commission, the Massachusetts Audubon Society, The New England Forestry Foundation, The Massachusetts Department of Conservation & Recreation, and The Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game.

Notable people


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Further reading