Leicester, Massachusetts

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Leicester (pronounced /ˈlɛstər/) is a town in Worcester County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 10,471 at the 2000 census.



Leicester was first settled in 1713 and was officially incorporated in 1714.

Although no significant battles of the American Revolution were fought in the area, Leicester citizens played a large role in the conflict's start. At a Committee of Safety meeting in 1774, Leicester's Colonel William Henshaw declared that "we must have companies of men ready to march upon a minute's notice"—coining the term "minutemen", a nickname for the militia members who fought in the revolution's first battles. Henshaw would later become an adjutant general to Artemas Ward, who was second in command to George Washington in the Continental Army.

Leicester's own standing militia fought along with other minutemen at the first conflict between Massachusetts residents and British troops, the Battles of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775. A few months later on June 17, 1775, a freed slave and Leicester resident named Peter Salem fought at the Battle of Bunker Hill, where he killed British Major John Pitcairn. Both men are memorialized in Leicester street names (Peter Salem Road, Pitcairn Avenue).

Leicester also held a leading role in Massachusetts' second great revolution, the coming of industrialization. As early as the 1780s, Leicester's mills churned out one-third of American hand cards, which were tools for straightening fibers before spinning thread and weaving cloth. By the 1890s when Leicester industry began to fade, the town was producing one-third of all hand and machine cards in North America.

Ruth Henshaw Bascom (1772–1848),the wife of Reverend Ezekial Lysander Bascom and daughter of Colonel William Henshaw and Phebe Swan, became America's premier portrait folkartist and pastelist producing over one thousand portraits from 1789 to 1846.(Henshaw St was named after Ruth Henshaw Bascom).

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