This state is full of great small towns, but not everyone knows the story behind how their hometown came to be. In order to help inspire everyone to celebrate their community, we dug up some fascinating information about a handful of great Bay State towns. Here are ten interesting towns in Massachusetts and the stories behind their names and origins.
The small coastal town at the tip of the Cape was first settled by the Nauset tribe and was known as Meeshawn. In 1602, Bartholomew Gosnold landed in Provincetown and first called the area "Shoal Hope." Later that day, he ended up catching a large amount of cod and revised his moniker to Cape Cod. More than 100 years later in 1727, the area’s inhabitants voted to accept "Provincetown" as the township’s name rather than "Herringtown."
Our capital city was originally named Trimontaine by early settlers in 1630. The name reflected the three large hills that dominated the area at that time. Eventually, two of the hills were leveled and today only Beacon Hill remains. The early settlers in Boston thought that the city was protected by a special covenant with God, and sought to create a city on which all others could model themselves.
Hilarious trivia: the two other hills that once stood in Boston were called Cotton Hill and Mt. Whoredom.
3. North Adams
North Adams is a center of culture and tourism in the Berkshires, but it got its start as an early colonial town. The town is named in honor of Samuel Adams, signer of the Declaration of Independence and governor of Massachusetts. The town flourished as a mill community and electricity producer. Sprague Electric Company was one of the town’s big employers in the early 20th century, and its scientists were actually called upon to design and manufacture weapons systems —
including the atomic bomb during WW II.
4. Shelburne Falls
This historic town in Franklin County includes the village of Shelburne Falls. It was founded in 1768 and named after Irish-born British politician, William Petty, 2nd Earl of Shelburne. He actually served as Prime Minister of England during the Revolutionary War. Shelburne was a mainly agricultural area during its early years and became a bustling milling community when the Industrial Revolution hit its stride.
5. Bloody Brook
Part of the town of South Deerfield is also known as Bloody Brook. This area gets its unusual name from the 1675 Battle of Bloody Brook between Pocumtuck natives and European settlers. As settlers steadily took over the lands of the native people, the Pocumtuck retaliated by staging an attack on a force of traveling militia. A memorial erecting in honor of the battle still stands in town today.
Worcester was first settled by the Nipmuc tribe. In 1673 English settlers began to inhabit the region, and the city later became a center of the Revolutionary war effort. Candlepin bowling was first invented in Worcester, and the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence in New England also occurred in the city.
This coastal city in Essex County is now best known for the Salem Witch Trials, but it had a long and interesting history even before those infamous events. Salem was one of the most important seaports in American history. First settled by Native American groups, European colonists arrived in 1626 when a group of fisherman led by Roger Conant arrived to try their hand at surviving the harsh New England climate. The town’s name comes from the Hebrew word for "peace."
This town in Barnstable County (a.k.a. Cape Cod) has one of the oddest names in the state. It is the oldest town on Cape Cod and was originally inhabited by the Wampanoag people. Sadly, this community was not named after the popular lunch option. Instead, it was named for the seaport of Sandwich in Kent, England. The town has a particularly poetic motto: Post tot Naufracia Portus, which is Latin for "after so many shipwrecks, a haven."
The town of Peru once had an even stranger name: Northern Berkshire Township Number 2. Once it was officially incorporated in 1771, the town was known as Partridgefield in honor of one of the three purchasers of the town, Over Partridge. In 1806, the town was again renamed to Peru on the suggestion of Rev. John Leland. He thought the name to be appropriate "because it is like the Peru of South America, a mountain town, and if no gold or silver mines are under her rocks, she favors hard money and begins with a P."
The town of Orange was first settled in 1746 and became known as the District of Orange in 1783. The community was named for William, Prince of Orange, who was the king of England, Ireland and Scotland between 1689 and 1702. The town became known for its milling business and was home to the automobile company Grout. The first car ever built in a factory was built in Orange.
Do you know the backstory behind your hometown? Share in the comments! For more Massachusetts history lessons, check out the
weirdest and strangest things that have ever happened in this state.