Investing in History Archives - Common Trust FCU

Investing In History: Woburn’s Inventive Past

At Common Trust Federal Credit Union, we believe honoring our communities’ past and present is critical for building and supporting our members’ future success. Our new series “Investing in History” focuses on better understanding the foundations of our beloved communities. Next up is Woburn! 

In the Name of Expansion

In 1629, the Charlestown settlement was looking to grow its borders and petitioned Massachusetts Bay Colony representatives for access to the land north of Boston. This land was settled in 1640 and incorporated as Woburn in 1642, taking its name from a small village in Bedfordshire, England. Co-founder Edward Johnson served as the first town clerk and is often called the “Father of Woburn”; Deacon Edward Convers, another co-founder, was one of its first selectmen and built the first house and first mill in Woburn. 

Shoe Leather and Tanning

Until 1803, Woburn remained a primarily agricultural center for the region. When the Middlesex Canal opened, this gave local tanners and leather manufacturers better access to materials, and the leather industry boomed. This led to expansions in both the shoe-making and tanning industries, leading to the establishment of the rubber industry in East Woburn in 1836. By 1885, Woburn was the leading producer of leather in the area; none of these manufacturers are around today because of the Great Depression and other market changes affecting the demand for tanning.

Great Inventors

Benjamin Thompson, also known as Count Rumsford, was one of Woburn’s more notable citizens. Born in 1793, he is credited with the inventions of the drip coffee pot and the kitchen stove. In fact, President Franklin D. Roosevelt once said that the brightest minds America ever produced were Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Benjamin Thompson. Another bright idea to come from Woburn: Charles Goodyear discovered the process of rubber vulcanization in 1839, just in time to revolutionize the world forever.

‘A Civil Action’

An environmental trial cast both a shadow and spotlight over the town when, in May 1982, citizens filed a lawsuit against W.R. Grace and Company and Beatrice Foods, accusing them of contaminating local water sources with chemicals linked to cancer. At the time, Beatrice Foods was acquitted and Grace was fined only $8 million; later, the EPA found that both companies were responsible for the contamination. The case garnered Hollywood attention, leading to a book and adapted movie starring John Travolta and Robert Duvall.  

Today and Into the Future

Woburn today is a mix of quiet neighborhoods located about 9 miles from downtown Boston. It is still an industrial center and home to vibrant industrial parks and medical facilities. The Woburn Public Library was designated a National historic landmark in 1987, and the new police station opened in 1990. Two silly laws still on the books: 

  • Don’t try to use Silly String within town borders — the stuff was outlawed in 1991. 
  • In bars, it’s illegal to stand up and/or walk around with a drink in your hand.

At Common Trust Credit Union, we are proud to support Woburn’s residents and businesses as part of our community of financial leadership. If you would like more information on how to become a member of CTFCU, contact our local branch today to get started! 

Investing In History: Winchester’s Rich Industrial Past

At Common Trust Federal Credit Union, we believe honoring our communities’ past and present is critical for building and supporting our members’ future success. Our new series “Investing in History” focuses on better understanding the foundations of our beloved communities. First up is Winchester! 

Humble Beginnings

Prior to European settlement, the bulk of northern Massachusetts was settled by the Massachuset tribe of Native Americans. In 1633, an area of land known as Wildwood (later Waterfield) was given to the town of Charlestown; it is on this land that Winchester was incorporated in 1850. In the 200+ years between these two dates, the land was shifted between Charlestown and Woburn and eventually incorporated sections of what was then Arlington and Medford. 

Industrial Boom

In the 1800s along the Middlesex Canal, mills began popping up, changing the character of the small village. These mills became factories, and the introduction of the railroad in 1835 helped build business and trade. Blacksmiths, iron shops, and various manufacturers moved in to profit from this transportation access, boosting the town’s cache among local communities. During the Revolutionary War, the town’s Black Horse Tavern served as an important meeting place for soldiers and citizens to discuss and trade news.

Official Incorporation

The town of Winchester broke away from Woburn and was incorporated in 1850. According to historical record, it was almost named Columbus, but leaders instead chose to name it after Colonel William P. Winchester — a wealthy businessman who donated $3,000 to the incorporation efforts. He died shortly thereafter, having never visited the town bearing his name. 

Residential Growth

During the late 1800s, two social groups dominated Winchester’s population: the industrial workers and the wealthy elite who worked in Boston and either commuted home to Winchester or owned summer property. This led to intense conflict in town meetings and the eventual transition of the town from an industrial center to a suburban hub. The tanneries in the town center were turned into parks, and new residents quickly moved in. By 1900, the town was no longer a hub of industrial work but rather a thriving residential community.

Medical Support

With this influx, public and medical resources were needed to support the population. In 1917, Winchester Hospital admitted its first patient into what began as a 44-bed facility. This local hospital now features state-of-the-art technology including a leading cancer center, sleep disorder center, and robotic surgery capabilities. It’s the only hospital in Massachusetts to have been thrice designated a Magnet hospital, which is the highest level of recognition possible for excellence in nursing. More than 2,000 babies are born here every year.

Modern Community

Winchester today is a bustling suburb of well-maintained parks, clean waterways, and a culture that highlights the importance of supporting local businesses. From coffee shops to bookstores, volunteer groups to professional businesses, the bright town center is a welcoming space for young adults and families to settle and grow. Known now as a “bedroom” town, Winchester is still a prime commuting location for Boston professionals, earning it recognition as one of the best places to live in Massachusetts.

At Common Trust Credit Union, we are proud to support Winchester’s residents and businesses as part of our community of financial leadership. If you would like more information on how to become a member of CTFCU, contact our local branch today to get started!

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