The Town of Northborough, originally part of the Town of Marlborough, then Westborough, was incorporated in 1766 and became a full-fledged town with the right of representation at the Great and General Court of Boston in 1775. The early churches of Massachusetts, called "meeting houses," were the center of all town activity. Built on land given by Capt. James Eager, Northborough's first Meeting House stood about where the First Congregational Unitarian Church is today, on Church Street.
Town meetings were held there, as were church services - at which attendance was compulsory. The only religion tolerated within the Puritan Massachusetts Bay Colony was that of the Congregational Church, which, at that time, had strong Calvinist tenets. The church "tithing men" were the legally elected officers of the town, while town ministers were the arbiters of both town and family life. Customarily, they had strong influence in the conduct of the schools, which were not nearly as important to the founding fathers as was the church, and had no formal setup until well after everything else in town was established.
Northborough's open town meeting "grass roots" government now operates under its own home rule charter. The governing body of the town are the five elected members of the town's select board and the town meeting membership of registered voters. In the days of unheated meeting houses, town meetings were often adjourned to the warmth of the famous Post Road state stop, Monroe's Tavern. This tavern now stands on the spot to which it was removed in 1867, at the corner of Blake and Pierce streets.
The meeting locale of the select board as well as the "official" offices of the town have moved from the first church to the second church vestry to the Old Town House to the "old" Town Hall (which merited a listing from the National Park Service Department as an Historical Architectural Monument, having the longest roof span of any known French Mansard roof style building) to the "new" Town Hall, which is the old Northborough High School - built in the early 1930s.
Along the old Boston Post Road, commemorative plaques outline historical events including the place where Mary Goodnow, a young Northborough settler, was scalped by Indians in 1707. Scattered along the tributaries of the Assabet River, numerous mills serve as markers of another kind, commemorating the places where textile manufacturing and other early industry boomed, and then, ebbed and died. Today, in addition to providing the setting for several working farms, Northborough is also host to a burgeoning research and development-oriented industrial park; however, the town serves primarily as a residential area, rural home to Boston and Worcester commuters.