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The town of Milford was incorporated in 1780 after breaking away from Mendon. The next US Census in 1790 found the population to be 839 souls. The population gradually increased over the years and the 1830 US Census established the population at 1360 people. At the same time there was a change from strictly agrarian culture to the beginnings of boot, shoe and leather industries assuming importance. These new industries attracted a number of Irish Catholics by occupation or trade known as cordwainers, tanners and curriers of hides.
Road construction in Milford along West Street to Upton (1834) and a new route from Milford to Medway (1835) with a Dominic McDavitt as sub-contractor and builder attracted more Irish families and laborers. The famine of 1848-49 brought an increase in Irish immigration and the US Census of 1850 shows an increase of 3,459 for a total of 4,819 people of which 1500 are estimated to have been the Irish Catholic population.
This Catholic population was served sporadically by priests from Boston, Worcester, and Woonsocket and by the occasional priest on Mission to Milford. Lacking a church Mass was held in private homes from 1836-1846. In 1847 the Rev. John Boyce of Worcester commenced regular services. The Rev. W. W. Gibson assisted Fr. Boyce in gathering funds for the acquisition of a plot in the "Plains" area off East Main Street where the first St. Mary's Church was soon erected on Church Hill Street on land formerly owned by Noah Wiswall. Built of wood the church was dedicated by the R.Rev. Bishop Fitzpatrick in 1848.
The Rev. George A Hamilton was the first regular pastor of St. Mary's starting in 1850; he was succeeded by Rev. Michael Caroher in 1853; he by Rev. Edward Farrelly in 1854 who died of consumption in 1857 and he immediately by the Rev. Patrick Cuddihy who was to be Pastor for 41 years. One of Rev. Cuddihy's desires was to provide a Catholic education for the youth of his parish. In view of this he acquired the Erskine-Cook estate on Main Street which he converted into the Parochial School opening the school in Sept. 1880 under the direction of the Sisters of Notre Dame. Fr. Cuddihy had already commenced work on building the present St. Mary's Church on Winter Street, the cornerstone of which was laid June 1, 1866 and the church was opened for worship Dec. 25, 1870. The stately tower adorning the church was not added until twenty years later and was completed in March 1890.
The building of a Catholic school in Milford was another of the projects that the Reverend Patrick J. Cuddihy, a Franciscan, undertook during his years as pastor of St. Mary of the Assumption Church. Fr. Cuddihy well understood the humanist and Christian ideals of an education. On the humanist ideal it would do well to paraphrase A. Bartlett Giamatti in his discussion of Richard Mulcaster’s The First Part of the Elementarie, “this sense of the proper end of education as the formation of a civic being informs all of the Elementarie. Every dimension of its stated subject – ‘reading, writing, drawing, singing and playing of music’ – is discussed with an eye to improving the moral health of the individual and, hence, of the commonweal.”
That was one of the ideals Fr. Cuddihy had in mind when he had the St. Mary's Grammar School (today's Granite Building) erected in 1896. The architect, Robert Allen Cook, was a Milfordian. The raw material used to in the building was quarried from Milford quarries by Irish, Italian, and Scandinavian immigrants, many of whom were parishioners of St. Mary’s and these very same immigrant parishioners built it. The St. Mary's Grammar School would be a building of permanence; similar to the adjacent St. Mary of the Assumption Church and the Irish Round Tower (1894) which graces the grounds of St. Mary’s Cemetery.
In the ensuing years two other structures have been built next to the Granite Building. St. Mary’s Academy, a large, beautiful two story red brick building at 43 Main Street was built in 1923. In the 1930’s it was known as St. Mary’s High School. In the 1960’s, a one story, yellow brick Elementary School was built next to the Granite Building. And in 1964, an addition was added to St. Mary’s High School.
History of St. Mary's Parish published on the Occasion of the Golden Jubilee June Fifteenth Nineteen Hundred Twenty-four.
Attachment to 2002 Massachusetts Ten Most Endangered Historic Resources Nomination Form.
One of a kind: America's Irish round tower. (Milford, MA's Irish round tower).
Stevens, Peter F. "One of a kind: America's Irish round tower." World of Hibernia. 4.n1 (Summer 1998): 30(3). Academic OneFile. Gale. Milford Town Library. 9 Feb. 2009.
The Milford Journal. Milford, Mass., Wednesday Morning, October 27, 1880 Volume XXXI, -- NUMBER 18. (page 3).
History of Worcester County Massachusetts 1879. Volume II, Chapter I, Pgs. 76-77.
Town of Milford BY Rev. Adin Ballou Religious History Catholic.
History of Worcester County MA 1889. Volume II, Chapter CLX. Page 1265.
Milford By William T. Davis.
Milford Daily News Tuesday, June 17, 1930.
Page 2 of Sesqui-Centennial Edition Sec.
Milford Houses of Worship – By Edwin L. Gaskill
Organization, Development, And Societies