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Dracut Town


Dracut Town Hall is located at 62 Arlington Street, Dracut, MA 01826; phone: 978-452-1227.

Beginnings [1]

Dracut was first permanently settled by Edward Colburn in 1669 on land bought from Thomas Henchman and previously owned by Richard Shatswell and before him John Everet Webb. Webb had acquired interest in what was known as "Drawcutt upon Merrimack" from a 1659 Military Grant which had allotted Webb and three other men 1,100 acres of land. Periodic Indian attacks through King Philip's War in 1674, primarily by the Mohawks and Wampanoags kept many settlers away from Dracut. Over the following years, these tribes moved northward into Canada, opening the way for new families to join the small settlement north of the river. Dracut subsequently grew into a community of homesteads and farms.

Dracut was granted incorporation from its "mother town" of Chelmsford in 1701 where all settlers had voted, paid taxes and worshiped until then. Its independence was the result of growing agricultural and commodities based economy. Important to the development of Dracut's economy were the river ferries that facilitated the crossing of the Merrimack and the movement of goods to and from the Boston area market.

In the second half of the 18th century a road network developed as the stagecoach replaced more antiquated means of transportation. This change consequently led to more development as a network of inns and taverns, such as the Blood-Durkee House, were built as places of shelter and refreshment for travelers. The loss of almost one-half of Dracut's land to New Hampshire and Dunstable in 1741 and 1755 respectively did little to affect Dracut's agricultural economy. By 1763 there were mills in operation for fulling and dressing cloth and paper. To aid this growing industrial base, the Middlesex Merrimack (Pawtucket) Bridge was built in 1762 as the first of five bridges that were to connect the town to the south shore of the Merrimack River.

The opening of the Middlesex Canal in 1809 and the Middlesex Turnpike in 1811 strengthened the growth of the mills in the Collinsville and Navy Yard sections of Dracut. Both these transportation corridors served as vital links to Boston to transport goods and materials to and from Lowell, the growing center of the region's economy. The Merrimack River provided Dracut with strategic connections to other local and regional economies through steamboats that began operating on the river by 1819. By 1826, in tandem with the incorporation of the Town of Lowell, the Central Bridge was constructed, improving access to that burgeoning mill town. The Boston and Lowell area economies were brought even closer together with the opening of the Boston and Lowell Railroad in 1835.

By the mid 1800s, the character and economy of Dracut shifted as the industrial metropolis of Lowell established itself as the region's primary engine. Although Dracut maintained its agricultural based activities, most manufacturing based activities occurred in Lowell. It was at this time that certain sections of Dracut, such as Centralville and Pawtucketville, grew into residential areas for Lowell mill workers. Due to these areas proximity to Lowell on the north shore of the Merrimack, they were annexed by Lowell in 1872 and 1879 respectively. The construction of an electric railway system in Dracut near the turn of the century only accelerated the exodus of the working class to Lowell for the promise of greater economic opportunity there. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Dracut rebounded and was reborn as a result town. In 1908, Harry Kittredge built the Lakeview Park summer resort on Mascuppic Lake that popularized Dracut as a resort destination. For more than two decades from spring until fall, the park was a mecca for summer vacationers. In addition to the growth of this tourism trade, small manufacturing based activities continued in some of the old mills, but on a much lesser scale than before. Farms continued to dot the eastern portion of Dracut which remained largely undeveloped.

As the use of the automobile grew, roadway improvements continued to allow the dispersion of Dracut's working class. By the 1960s major highways such as Routes 93, 495 and 3 had been constructed through neighboring towns providing access to other employment centers. This reinforced the development of Dracut as a bedroom community in support of outside employment centers such as Nashua, Lowell, the Route 28 employment belt, and the Boston area itself.

Today, Dracut is a growing suburban community of approximately 25,000 residents. With the majority of its residents working outside of town, it is anticipated that Dracut will continue to develop in this manner in the coming decades.

  1. John Brown Associates, Inc. In Association With: Bluestone Planning Group, Daylor Consulting Group and David J. Friend, ITE, Town of Dracut Master Plan, 1999, www.dracutma.gov, accessed May, 2018.
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