Carlisle in the 1600s
The geographic area that is now Carlisle was once part of four surrounding towns: Acton, Billerica, Chelmsford and Concord. Carlisle’s earliest inhabitants were Native Americans – the Musketaquid Indians who lived in this area for thousands of years before diseases brought by European settlers greatly reduced their numbers.
James Adams, from Carlisle, England, was reputedly the first English settler in what is now Carlisle. Other early families living here were the Blood brothers, James and Robert, who gave the name “Blood’s Farms” to the area. Robert Blood married Elizabeth Willard, daughter of Simon Willard, one of the founders of the town of Concord. A fragment of Elizabeth’s wedding dress survives, and can be viewed at the Heald House Museum.
The familiar names of Heald and Parlin appear as well in the seventeenth century. Another early settler, John Barrett, established a fulling mill near Great Brook in 1691.
Carlisle in the 1700s
The First District of Carlisle was established in 1754 and lasted for two years. It was comprised of 6600 acres and 60 families. The Second District of Carlisle was formed in 1780. A year later in 1781, Carlisle’s first “settled” minister, Reverend Paul Litchfield, began his 46-year ministry here.
A number of Carlisle men responded to the call to arms on the morning of April 19, 1775. We are told that Timothy Wilkins beat his drum and John Kemp sounded his horn that morning. The Carlisle Minutemen were distinguished by the sprig of pine they wore in their hats! Today they are remembered every Patriot’s Day when many Carlisle families walk through Estabrook Woods to Concord’s Old North Bridge for early morning festivities.
Carlisle has always had an appreciation for learning and for books. As early as 1797 the First Library Society was formed in town.
Carlisle in the 1800s
Carlisle was incorporated as a town in 1805. A number of people influenced its growth and development during the nineteenth century. Dr. Austen Marsh is remembered as one of the first doctors in town. The Carlisle copper mine was productive during the late 1840s. A number of tradesmen operated thriving businesses, including James Kemp, a blacksmith, and Elmon Rose, who ran a hoop mill.
The Civil War figured importantly in the lives of Carlisle residents. Thirteen Carlisle men were killed or died as a result of fighting for the Union cause. Many other “native sons” fought. At home, the women gathered to roll bandages and prepare supplies for the soldiers. There are a number of artifacts in the Society’s collections from this time period. A folder of information exists on Clara Barton, who was known to Carlisle’s Elizabeth Robbins Berry.
The 1800’s saw the expansion of schools in town, and in 1896 the opening of Gleason Public Library. Reverend Moses Patten’s wife, Lydia, was important in the efforts to form the library. Money for project came from Joanna Gleason, for whom the building was named. The first town librarian was Mary A. Green, who conveniently lived right across the street!
Carlisle in the 1900s
The “modern” era began with the coming of electricity to Carlisle in 1911. Carlisle’s current conservation efforts may be traced to the early 1900’s when conservation of trees was deemed important. Of particular concern were the white pines known as the “Carlisle Pines.” In 1922 the town forest was established.
Twenty Carlisle men served in World War I, including Oscar E. Pedersen. Pamela S. Ouelette served as an army nurse. The townspeople loyally supported the war effort with five Liberty Loan drives. Again, during World War II Carlisle residents worked long and hard to support the Allied cause. As early as March 1941 the town had established a defense organization, reportedly the first town in Massachusetts to have one! Carlisle lost one resident in both World War II and the Vietnam War.
The familiar traffic circle in the center of town dates to 1946. In 1967 the Historic District was established and the modern Carlisle Minutemen were formed. The last quarter of the twentieth century saw expansion of town services, conservation efforts, and growth of the population.