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Leicester ( ) is a town in Worcester Countymarker, Massachusettsmarker, United Statesmarker. 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 Massachusettsmarker residents and British troops, the Battles of Lexington and Concordmarker 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 Hillmarker, 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 Massachusettsmarker' 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 Reverand 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).

Eli Whitney, the man who invented the cotton gin and devised the idea of interchangeable parts, went to school at Leicester Academy, which eventually became Leicester High School. Ebenezer Adams, who would later be the first mathematics and natural philosophy professor at the Phillips Exeter Academymarker, was the academic preceptor in Leicester in 1792. Leicester's Pliny Earle helped Samuel Slater build the first American mill in Pawtucketmarker, Rhode Islandmarker, by building the first carding machine. This began the American Industrial Revolution.

Other social leaders who came from Leicester include Charles Adams, United Statesmarker military officer and foreign minister, born in town; Emory Washburn, governor of Massachusetts from 1854-1855, and Samuel May, a pastor and active abolitionist in the 1860s, whose house was a stop on the underground railroad. He also served as secretary of the Massachusetts Anti-Slave Society. This house has also become a part of the Becker College campus.

In 2005, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette named Leicester as one of Central Massachusetts' top ten sports towns.

Joseph Lennerton III (Lenny), a resident of Leicester and current member of the Leicester High School Faculty, has immortalized much of Leicester's history in his book, which includes photographs of historic buildings in Leicester, most of which have subsequently been destroyed by fire.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of , of which, of it is land and of it (5.35%) is water.

Leicester includes three distinct villages—Leicester Center, Cherry Valley (the east side of town, near Worcestermarker) and Rochdale (a crossroads in the southeast corner, near the Oxfordmarker line). Cherry Valley and Rochdale have separate ZIP codes from the rest of the town (01611 and 01542, respectively), but otherwise the village boundaries have no official significance, although some Cherry Valley and Rochdale residents identify more strongly with their village than the town. The village of Greenville is now considered part of Rochdale, as it falls within the 01542 ZIP code; the former villages of Mannville and Lakeside were destroyed to construct the Kettle Brook reservoir system, in northeastern Leicester, to supply water to Worcester.

The town is cut into quarters by two state highways, east-west Route 9 and north-south Route 56. Route 9 is called Main Street through Cherry Valley and most of the rest of town; it follows a bypass alignment called South Main Street around the Washburn Square area. The town is actively trying to encourage business development along the western end of Route 9. Route 56 north of the Leicester Center crossroads is Paxton Street; south, it is Pleasant Street until it detours along a bypass road, Huntoon Memorial Highway, that skirts the edge of Rochdale.

Spencermarker, now a separate town to the west, was once part of Leicester. Other municipalities bordering Leicester include Paxtonmarker along Route 56 to the north, Worcester and Auburnmarker on the east, and Oxford and Charltonmarker on the south. Large parts of both Paxton and Auburn were also once part of Leicester.

The end of Worcester Regional Airport'smarker longest runway, along with much of the airport's property, is in Leicester. Additionally, most of Worcester's Kettle Brook water reservoir system is in Leicester.


As of the census of 2000, there were 10,471 people, 3,683 households, and 2,707 families residing in the town. The population density was . There were 3,826 housing units at an average density of . The racial makeup of the town was 96.29% White, 1.28% African American, 0.31% Native American, 0.74% Asian, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 0.31% from other races, and 1.01% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.75% of the population.

There were 3,683 households out of which 35.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 59.1% were married couples living together, 10.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 26.5% were non-families. 21.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.73 and the average family size was 3.21.

In the town the population was spread out with 26.0% under the age of 18, 9.2% from 18 to 24, 30.0% from 25 to 44, 22.5% from 45 to 64, and 12.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 94.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 90.5 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $55,039, and the median income for a family was $64,202. Males had a median income of $40,991 versus $27,913 for females. The per capita income for the town was $20,822. About 3.2% of families and 4.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 4.3% of those under age 18 and 5.6% of those age 65 or over.



Public schools

Public school students in Leicester attend Leicester Primary School (grades K-2), Leicester Memorial School (grades 3-5), Leicester Middle School (grades 6-8) and Leicester High School (grades 9–12). Notable graduates of Leicester High include Diane and Elaine Klimaszewski, better known as the Coors Light Twins.

Higher education

Becker College has a campus on Washburn Square in the center of Leicester. The college's main campus is in Worcestermarker; the Leicester campus was formerly operated independently as Leicester Junior College, one of the oldest colleges in the country (founded 1792). The two institutions merged under the Becker name in 1977.


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