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Southbridge MA

The Town of Southbridge is a town[1] in Worcester County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 17,214, at the 2000 census.

 

History

View of Southbridge c. 1905

The area was initially inhabited by the Nipmuck and Mohegan tribes, with the Quinebaug River dividing their territories. Local inhabitants likely paid tribute to both to be left in peace. As early as 1638, John Winthrop, Jr. purchased a tract for mining lead at what is now Leadmine Road in Sturbridge (it was thought at the time that where there’s lead, there should be silver nearby).

Southbridge was first settled by Europeans in 1730 and incorporated in 1816; among the first settlers was Moses Marcy, who owned a home on the site of what is now Notre Dame church and was elected to Congress, and the Dennison family. Water power from the Quinebaug River made Southbridge a good location for sawmills and gristmills in the 1700s, and textile mills in the 1800s. After the American Civil War, many immigrants of Irish and French Canadian descent came to work and live there; by the 1930s they had been joined by Poles, Greeks, Italians and others.

Southbridge has a long history of manufacturing optical products, earning it the unofficial title "Eye of the Commonwealth," in reference to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Under the Wells family, The American Optical Company ("AO") became the world’s largest manufacturer of ophthalmic products, and at its height employed more than 6,000 people around the world. Many of its workers were exempted from the draft during World War II since they were doing vital defense work, including making Norden bombsights and even some work on the Atomic Bomb.

By the early 1960s, the mill town had a movie theatre, an AM radio station (WESO), and an airport. New immigrants from Puerto Rico, Laos, and Vietnam began arriving in the 1970s and 1980s, and the town now has a large Hispanic population. The American Optical Company shut down in 1984, and Southbridge is still struggling from the loss of these and other manufacturing jobs.

 

Geography

According to the United States Census Bureau, the Town has a total area of 20.9 square miles (54.0 km²), of which, 20.4 square miles (52.7 km²) of it is land and 0.5 square miles (1.3 km²) of it (2.40%) is water. Southbridge is drained by the Quinebaug River.

The principal road in Southbridge is Route 131, known as Main Street through downtown and East Main Street past the "AO Rotary" and through Sandersdale, a village on the town’s east side. North-south roads include Eastford Road and Elm Street (Route 198), and Worcester Street-Mechanic Street-North Woodstock Road (Route 169).

Southbridge was formed out of portions of three of its neighboring towns: Sturbridge to the west, Charlton to the north, and Dudley to the east. The other neighboring towns are Woodstock, Connecticut, and Eastford, Connecticut to the south.

 

Demographics

As of the census[2] of 2000, there were 17,214 people, 7,077 households, and 4,522 families residing in the city. The population density was 845.4 people per square mile (326.4/km²). There were 7,511 housing units at an average density of 368.9/sq mi (142.4/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 85.23% White, 1.43% Black or African American, 0.42% Native American, 1.52% Asian, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 8.70% from other races, and 2.63% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 20.17% of the population.

There were 7,077 households out of which 31.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 43.6% were married couples living together, 15.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 36.1% were non-families. 29.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.41 and the average family size was 2.98.

In the city the population was spread out with 25.4% under the age of 18, 8.6% from 18 to 24, 30.3% from 25 to 44, 20.7% from 45 to 64, and 15.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 92.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 87.2 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $33,913, and the median income for a family was $41,863. Males had a median income of $36,008 versus $25,685 for females. The per capita income for the city was $18,514. About 13.0% of families and 15.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 25.8% of those under age 18 and 10.2% of those age 65 or over.

 

Education

Southbridge has three public elementary schools, formerly "neighborhood schools" serving grades K-5. Since the 1988-1989 school year, however, all kindergarten and 1st grade classes have been at Eastford Road School; all of grades 2-3 at Charlton Street School; and all of grades 4-5 at West Street School. Grades 6-8 are at Mary E. Wells Junior High School, the former high school building. Grades 9-12 are at Southbridge High School, which includes the old Cole Trade School building. Southbridge residents can also attend Bay Path Vocational Technical High School in Charlton, MA.

In addition to the public schools, a parochial private school, Trinity Catholic Academy, serves the elementary grades.

 

Transportation

Southbridge has a small airfield, Southbridge Municipal Airport.

 

Sites of interest

 

Notable residents

 

 

References

  1. ^ Although it is called the "Town of Southbridge," it is a statutory city of Massachusetts. See Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth.
  2. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. http://factfinder.census.gov. Retrieved 2008-01-31.

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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