Sterling, Massachusetts
Sterling Town Common
Sterling Town Common
Official seal of Sterling, Massachusetts
Location in Worcester County and the state of Massachusetts.
Location in Worcester County and the state of Massachusetts.
Coordinates: 42°26′15″N 71°45′40″W / 42.43750°N 71.76111°W / 42.43750; -71.76111
CountryUnited States
 • TypeOpen town meeting
 • Town AdministratorBill Caldwell
 • Select BoardMaureen Cranson
John Kilcoyne
David A. Smith
 • Total31.6 sq mi (81.8 km2)
 • Land30.5 sq mi (79.0 km2)
 • Water1.1 sq mi (2.8 km2)
502 ft (153 m)
 • Total7,985
 • Density250/sq mi (98/km2)
Time zoneUTC-5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST)UTC-4 (Eastern)
ZIP code
Area code351 / 978
FIPS code25-67385
GNIS feature ID0619490

Sterling is a town in Worcester County, Massachusetts, USA. The population was 7,985 at the 2020 census.[1]


Sterling was first settled by Europeans in 1720 and was officially incorporated in 1781.

Previous to its incorporation it was "the Second Parish of Lancaster." It was commonly called by a portion of its Indian name, Chocksett.[2] The Nipmuc minister, Peter Jethro, worked in the area in the 1670s. The original Indian name of the area was Woonsechocksett. The land encompassing the Chocksett region was not originally included in the first land sold by the great Indian Chief Sholan to the settlers of the Lancaster grant. However, Sholan's nephew Tahanto would eventually sell the Chocksett land to the inhabitants of Lancaster in 1713.

The first white settlers arrived in Chocksett seven years later in 1720, formerly inhabitants of Lancaster proper.[3] Among these first settlers were families such as Beman, Sawyer, Houghton, and Osgood; names reflected to this day in the names of Sterling's oldest roads.[4]

A short time after settlement, in 1733, the residents of the Chocksett area requested its own incorporation, separate from Lancaster, due to the "great inconvenience" of a long distance to the church in Lancaster's center. This request was denied. However, by 1780 the population of Chocksett was so numerous as to constitute a majority. So the voters of the area voted out the existing Lancaster town officers and began to conduct town business and meetings in Chocksett. This was enough to convince the rest of Lancaster that it was now time for Chocksett, the Second Parish of Lancaster, to go its own way.[5]

In 1781, Chocksett was incorporated as its own town: Sterling. The town derives its name from General William "Lord Stirling" Alexander, who served valiantly under Gen. George Washington in the New York and other campaigns. His portrait hangs in the town hall, and the town commemorated Alexander with a medallion during its bicentennial celebration in 1976. A duplicate portrait resides in the town hall of New Windsor, NY.

Residents recently approved and built new facilities for the police and fire departments.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 31.6 square miles (82 km2), of which 30.5 square miles (79 km2) is land and 1.1 square miles (2.8 km2), or 3.42%, is water.

Interstate 190 cuts Sterling in half. Sterling is also crossed by Massachusetts Route 12, Massachusetts Route 62, Massachusetts Route 140, and Massachusetts Route 110.

Sterling is bordered by Leominster to the north, West Boylston to the south, Princeton and Holden to the west, Lancaster to the northeast, and Clinton and Boylston to the southeast. Sterling borders Boylston on the Wachusett Reservoir.


Historical population
* = population estimate.
Source: United States census records and Population Estimates Program data.[6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15]
Old Town Hall

As of the census[16] of 2000, there were 7,257 people, 2,573 households, and 2,068 families residing in the town. The population density was 237.7 inhabitants per square mile (91.8/km2). There were 2,637 housing units at an average density of 86.4 per square mile (33.4/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 98.06% White, 0.58% African American, 0.10% Native American, 0.40% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 0.28% from other races, and 0.58% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.81% of the population.

There were 2,573 households, out of which 39.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 69.8% were married couples living together, 7.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 19.6% were non-families. 15.3% of all households were made up of individuals, and 6.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.82 and the average family size was 3.16.

In the town, the population was spread out, with 27.5% under the age of 18, 5.6% from 18 to 24, 30.7% from 25 to 44, 27.1% from 45 to 64, and 9.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females, there were 99.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 95.1 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $67,188, and the median income for a family was $76,943. Males had a median income of $51,227 versus $32,734 for females. The per capita income for the town was $28,844. About 1.7% of families and 2.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 4.5% of those under age 18 and 5.7% of those age 65 or over.


County-level state agency heads
Clerk of Courts: Dennis P. McManus (D)
District Attorney: Joe Early Jr. (D)
Register of Deeds: Katie Toomey (D)
Register of Probate: Stephanie Fattman (R)
County Sheriff: Lew Evangelidis (R)
State government
State Representative(s): Kimberly Ferguson (R), Meghan Kilcoyne (D)
State Senator(s): John J. Cronin (D)
Governor's Councilor(s): Jennie L. Caissie (R)
Federal government
U.S. Representative(s): James P. McGovern (D-2nd District),
U.S. Senators: Elizabeth Warren (D), Ed Markey (D)
Blood Family Homestead (1859) in Sterling, by Mary Blood Mellen (1817-1882)


The tax rate in Sterling has remained fairly steady over recent years and has occasionally been reduced by a small percentage. These small decreases however have been dramatically overshadowed by extreme increases in house evaluations resulting in many residents effectively paying 50–75% more in taxes in 2005 as compared with five years earlier.

The Waushacum Village Homeowner's Association, however, being a private neighborhood southeast of the Sterling Junction, employs a system in which the land is leased from the neighborhood committee, which creates low house valuations in the area.

The Waushacum Village Homeowner's Association is also the only neighborhood in Sterling that operates a unified sewage and waste management system.

Sterling public library, 1891


The Sterling public library began in 1871.[17][18] The Conant Public Library building, financed by Edwin Conant in memory of his daughter Elizabeth Ann Conant, was dedicated in 1886.[19] In fiscal year 2008, the town of Sterling spent 1.59% ($289,567) of its budget on its public library—approximately $36 per person, per year ($47.44 adjusted for inflation to 2022).[20] The Conant Library building closed in 2002 so it could be renovated. During this time, the library was temporarily moved to the Old Town Hall. The renovation was finished in 2004, and the library returned to its original location.


Sterling is part of the Wachusett Regional School District. Students between Grades K–4 attend Houghton Elementary School while students between Grades 5–8 attend Chocksett Middle School. Most Sterling residents attend Wachusett Regional High School in Holden for high school. Some Sterling residents however can attend Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School in Fitchburg.


Sterling provides town water to many residents although the more rural parts of town remain on private wells. The quality of the town water is high after the installation of a purification system. The water is drawn from a private underground spring which flows from the Chickopee Water Table. In the early 2000s town water supply was affected by high bacteria levels and residents were forced to boil water for three weeks until the situation was resolved. With the exception of the Waushacum Home Owner's Association (whose residents enjoy a private purification system) there are no town sewer services—all houses have private septic systems.

The town also offers curbside trash and recycling pickup for no additional fee. The town recycling center at the Sterling Department of Public Works closed permanently on July 1, 2015.[21] Residents may use the Wachusett Watershed Regional Recycling Center in West Boylston, MA to drop off recycling and larger bulk items.

Sterling is one of 38 or so communities in the state that has its own municipal electric light company that is separate from other municipal government functions. Sterling ratepayers are the owners of this utility and reap the benefits of exceptional service and an early payment discount on their monthly bills. The Light Dept works under the direction and control of three elected Commissioners who serve rotating 3 year terms. The Light Board hires a Manager who runs day-to-day operations. In May 2013, the Light Board began the process of expanding to establish a Municipal Gas Company to bring natural gas service to town.

In fall of 2016, Sterling Municipal Light Department broke ground on the "first utility-scale energy storage facility in Massachusetts",[22] which can, in the case of an electric outage, power the emergency dispatch center and police station for up to twelve days. The battery storage also helps the town save money on peak power charges from the grid operator. The award-winning project has generated considerable interest, attracting international visitors from Europe and Asia.[23] In the aftermath of the devastating 2017 hurricanes Irma and Maria in the Caribbean, the microgrid project has been cited as a model of designing and building power infrastructure for resiliency in disaster situations.[24]

Points of interest

An annual event, the Sterling Fair, is typically held in early to mid-September. The Sterling Fair is one of the last remaining agricultural fairs with free admission. In addition to traditional livestock exhibits including goats, cows, rabbits and sheep, the fair has carnival games and rides, as well as patron-submitted exhibits and art works, a petting zoo, contests, oxen pulls, a pancake breakfast held by the Sterling Chocksett Club, live music performances, food, and fireworks.

Close proximity to Wachusett Mountain (state forest and ski area) and Leominster State Forest.

Davis Farmland, a seasonal petting zoo for children and Davis Mega Maze, New England's only world class adventure cornfield maze.

Sholan Park located on Lake Waushacum has a beach area with a dock for swimming. It also has grills for cookouts, a sand volleyball court, and a boat ramp.

Notable people

Film and literary references

See also


  1. ^ "Census - Geography Profile: Sterling town, Worcester County, Massachusetts". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved November 11, 2021.
  2. ^ Records of the Court of general sessions of the peace for the county of Worcester, Massachusetts, from 1731 to 1737
  3. ^ History of Worcester County, Massachusetts, Abijah Perkins Marvin, 1879
  4. ^ Topographical and historical sketches of the town of Lancaster, in the commonwealth of Massachusetts: furnished for the Worcester magazine and historical journal (1826)p. 47
  5. ^ Topographical and historical sketches of the town of Lancaster, in the commonwealth of Massachusetts: furnished for the Worcester magazine and historical journal (1826) p. 56
  6. ^ "Total Population (P1), 2010 Census Summary File 1". American FactFinder, All County Subdivisions within Massachusetts. United States Census Bureau. 2010.
  7. ^ "Massachusetts by Place and County Subdivision - GCT-T1. Population Estimates". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  8. ^ "1990 Census of Population, General Population Characteristics: Massachusetts" (PDF). US Census Bureau. December 1990. Table 76: General Characteristics of Persons, Households, and Families: 1990. 1990 CP-1-23. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  9. ^ "1980 Census of the Population, Number of Inhabitants: Massachusetts" (PDF). US Census Bureau. December 1981. Table 4. Populations of County Subdivisions: 1960 to 1980. PC80-1-A23. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  10. ^ "1950 Census of Population" (PDF). Bureau of the Census. 1952. Section 6, Pages 21-10 and 21-11, Massachusetts Table 6. Population of Counties by Minor Civil Divisions: 1930 to 1950. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  11. ^ "1920 Census of Population" (PDF). Bureau of the Census. Number of Inhabitants, by Counties and Minor Civil Divisions. Pages 21-5 through 21-7. Massachusetts Table 2. Population of Counties by Minor Civil Divisions: 1920, 1910, and 1920. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  12. ^ "1890 Census of the Population" (PDF). Department of the Interior, Census Office. Pages 179 through 182. Massachusetts Table 5. Population of States and Territories by Minor Civil Divisions: 1880 and 1890. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  13. ^ "1870 Census of the Population" (PDF). Department of the Interior, Census Office. 1872. Pages 217 through 220. Table IX. Population of Minor Civil Divisions, &c. Massachusetts. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  14. ^ "1860 Census" (PDF). Department of the Interior, Census Office. 1864. Pages 220 through 226. State of Massachusetts Table No. 3. Populations of Cities, Towns, &c. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  15. ^ "1850 Census" (PDF). Department of the Interior, Census Office. 1854. Pages 338 through 393. Populations of Cities, Towns, &c. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  16. ^ "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  17. ^ C.B. Tillinghast. The free public libraries of Massachusetts. 1st Report of the Free Public Library Commission of Massachusetts. Boston: Wright & Potter, 1891. Google books
  18. ^ Conant Public Library. Retrieved 2010-11-10
  19. ^ "About the Library | Conant Public Library". Retrieved March 9, 2022.
  20. ^ July 1, 2007 through June 30, 2008; cf. The FY2008 Municipal Pie: What's Your Share? Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Board of Library Commissioners. Boston: 2009. Available: Municipal Pie Reports Archived 2012-01-23 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 2010-08-04
  21. ^ "Drop Off Recycling Center | Sterling MA". Retrieved February 13, 2016.
  22. ^ "Town of Sterling, MA Breaks Ground on a Resilient Energy Storage Project | AltEnergyMag". Altenergymag. Retrieved October 27, 2017.
  23. ^ Olinsky-Paul, Todd. "Sterling, Massachusetts Changes the Business of Electricity in New England — Forever". Retrieved October 27, 2017.
  24. ^ Lozanova, Sarah (October 14, 2017). "Solar+Storage provides emergency power during Irma". pvbuzz media. Retrieved October 27, 2017.