Natick was established in 1651 by the Puritan missionary, John Eliot, who settled a group of "Praying Indians" here on land granted by the General Court which was part of the Dedham Grant. To the Indians it was a "Place of Hills". The Speen family (Indian) owned much of the land in the Natick area and they deeded it to the Praying Indians taking house lots for themselves.
In the area now called South Natick, the Indians settled on both sides of the Charles River. Over the river they built a wooden bridge with a stone foundation that was eighty feet long and eight feet high to withstand the high water during floods. Next, three streets were laid out. To the north Eliot and Union Streets, and to the south Pleasant Street, as they are now called.
Natick was originally a farming town, but later, industries began to emerge. Mills had developed along the Charles River with gristmills first, and later nailmaking, papermaking, and woodturning. The shoe industry (which started as a cottage industry with piece work given out and picked up each day by runners) gradually became mechanized, and by 1836 (when the Boston and Albany Railroad came through Natick) became one of the largest producers of boots and shoes and by 1880 had 23 shoe manufacturers. During the early part of this century the shoe industry suffered and the last shoe factory in Natick, the Winchell Shoe Co., closed in l971. H. Harwood and Sons developed the figure eight stitching for baseballs and was the first such company in the country.
In 1872 in South Natick and in 1874 in Natick Center. Businesses quickly rebuilt and the population increased rapidly. After World War II there was another tremendous population increase, the Massachusetts Turnpike was built through the northern section of the town and there was a spurt in commercial development and demand for housing. Commercial development along Route 9 has been extensive.
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