A Look Into the History of Arlington, Massachusetts

Founded over 350 years ago, the Town of Arlington has a long and proud history that is largely preserved through historical buildings. The birthplace of Uncle Sam and the location of the first public children’s library in the country, Arlington manages to hold onto its history while also providing excellent access to metropolitan Boston and all that it has to offer.

Settling Arlington

The Town of Arlington was originally settled in 1635, at which time it was a village given the Algonquian word of Menotomy to be its name. The name was later changed in 1867 in honor of the heroes buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.

When the town was first established, the settlers made an agreement with Squaw Sachem that allowed her to maintain some land near the Mystic Lakes for her personal use. As part of her payment for the land, she also received a new English woolen coat every year for as long as she lived.

The Arrival of Captain Cooke

Two years after the town was settled, Captain George Cooke built the first mill in the swiftly running waters in Mill Brook. This attracted farmers from Cambridge, Medford, Watertown and Woburn who brought their grain to the mill to be ground into flour. Shortly after, 24 of the town’s taxpayers petitioned for the right to built a school. This was an unusual request since the town did not yet have a meetinghouse, but a school was nonetheless built in 1688 in the area that is now the cemetery on Pleasant Street. Completed in 1693, the school stood at the location for more than 100 years.

Playing a Role in American History

Arlington has played a prominent role in American history in many ways. On April 19, 1775 when the town was still known as Menotomy, minutement from surrounding towns converged on the town to ambush the British as they attempted to retreat from Concord and Lexington. More than half of the casualties from that event took place in the area where Lowell Street and Massachusetts Avenue intersect.

Arlington is also recognized as the birthplace of Uncle Same. Just nine years old when the Battle of Menotomy took place, Samuel Wilson grew up to start a meat-packing business in Troy, New York. He later became known as Uncle Sam, with legend stating that the U.S. stamped on boxes of meat sent to the U.S. Army during the War of 1812 standing for Uncle Sam.

Arlington Today

Despite being built largely on industry and agriculture, Arlington is now a town with little to no industry or agriculture. Instead, it is largely residential. Neighborhoods located within the town include:

  • Arlington Center
  • Arlington Heights
  • Arlmont Village
  • Brattle Square
  • East Arlington
  • Jason Heights
  • Little Scotland
  • Morningside
  • Poet’s Corner
  • Turkey Hill

With its borders on the Mystic River, Mystic Lakes and Alewife Brook, other notable features located within the boundaries of Arlington include Arlington Reservoir, Hills Pond, Mill Brook and Spy Pond.

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