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History of Concord, Massachusetts

The site of the first battle of the War of Independence, Concord, Massachusetts, was settled and incorporated in 1635. The Battle of Lexington and Concord began in Lexington on April 19, 1775, where several hundred men had gathered in the town and began a slow march toward the oncoming British redcoats. They joined with 500 Minutemen and other colonists assembled at North Bridge to join in the skirmish, which led to a victory for the colonists. Concord was named for the harmonious relationship between settlers and local Indians. It also is where the popular purple grape was propagated, and is the location of a number of historic sites. The Old Hill Burying Ground, which contains the graves of colonial families and War for Independence veterans, is located in Concord, as well as at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, named for a poem by William Ellery Channing, not the hamlet of Washington Irving fame. Built in 1747, Wright's Tavern on Monument Square played home to the Provincial Congress on the eve of the Revolution, while the larger body sat in the Meeting House nearby. It was the meeting place of the Minutemen in the early morning of the Battle of Concord and later that day was held by the British under command of Colonel Smith and Major Pitcairn. Following the Declaration of Independence, the question arose of new state constitutions, and who should draft them. The town meeting in Concord on October 22, 1776, declared that a state-wide constitutional convention should have that responsibility. Concord thus became an early voice for a process that was eventually accepted throughout the country. In Massachusetts, the call was not heeded until 1779. In the early-to-mid 19th century, Concord hosted some of the most famous writers of American literature. Ralph Waldo Emerson; Nathaniel Hawthorne; Henry David Thoreau, the Alcott family, including Bronson Alcott and Louisa May Alcott; and Margaret Fuller, publisher of The Dial, all lived in Concord at one time or another during this flowering of free American thinking. Emerson and other intellectuals from Harvard University founded the Transcendental Club in September 1836, on behalf of "deeper and broader views than can be obtained at present." These savants, including Henry Hedge, George Putnam, George Ripley, Orestes Brownson, and others, began to meet in the Greater Boston area, including Concord, to pursue their ideals. The club was established as a protest to the “arid intellectual climate” of Harvard and Cambridge, to which most of them originally belonged. Thoreau once lived for about two years in a small, self-made cabin outside of Concord on Walden Pond, which was the location and inspiration for his book Walden. Of Concord, Thoreau wrote,

“I lived alone, in the woods, a mile from any neighbor, in a house which I had built myself, on the shore of Walden Pond, in Concord, Massachusetts, and earned my living by the labor of my hands only.”
Founded in 1886, the Concord Museum features Paul Revere’s “One, if by land, and two, if by sea” lantern, as well as the largest selection of furniture and other items from Thoreau’s home on Walden Pond. The museum serves as a learning and cultural center visited by thousands touring historic Concord each year.