Arlington History


Arlington, founded over 350 years ago, remaians proud of its history, even as it has grown into a thoroughly modern community. The birthplace of Uncle Sam, the location of the first public children’s library, the site of most of the fighting when the British marched through it returning from the Old North Bridge at the start of the Revolutionary War.  Arlington has preserved many of its historical buildings and even recreated it town common.  Once a thriving agricultural and mill town, Arlington’s excellent access to metropolitan Bost has made it a very desirable place to live.

History Highlights of Arlington

The town of Arlington was originally settled in 1635 as a village under the Name Monotoy in 1807, the town and a section of what is now Belmont were set off from Cambridge and incorporated as West Cambridge. In 1867, the name was changed to Arlington in honor of the heroes buried at the Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington Va.
Squaw Sachem: When the first settlers made an agreement in 1635 with Squaw Sachem, she reserved the right to maintain some land near the Mystic Lakes for her use and required as part payment, a new English (woolen ) coat every year for as long as she lived.  This area was called Menotmy , an Algonquian word.

Captain Cooke:  Two years later, Captain George Cooke took advantage of the Swift  running water in Mill Brook by building the first mill in this area.  Farmers from Cambridge, Woburn, Watertowwn, and Medford brough their grain to the mill to be ground into flour.

The First School: In 1688 Menotomy’s taxpayers petitioned for the right to build a school. An unusual request because they did not have as yet a meetinghouse. The school located at what  is now the cemetery on Pleasant St was completed in 1693 and stood there for more than 100 years.
Battle of Menotomy ( Patriot’s Day): Arlington ( then called Menotomy ) played a prominent role on the first day of the American Revolution -April 19, 1775. Minutemen from surrounding towns converged on Menotomy tto ambush the British on their retreat from Concord and Lexington.  More than half of that fateful day’s Casualties were suffered in the short distance from the foot of Foot of the Rocks ( at the intersection of Lowell Street and Massachusetts Avenue) to Spy Pond.
Uncle Sam:  Uncle Sam was born in Menotomy. Samuel Wilson was Almost nine years old when the Battle of Menotomy took place. He started a meat-packing business in Troy NY where he became known as Uncle Sam. People say that the U.S. stamped on boxes of meat for the U. S. Army during the War of 1812 stood for Uncle Sam.
Libraries: Through a gift of $100 from Dr Ebenezer Learned in 1835, and an additional appropriation of $30 from the town in 1837, the first free public library in Massachusetts was established in Arlington. (then known as Cambridge)
Prince Hall: Mystic Cemetery on Garner St in East Arlington there is a monument in a small park on the site of that only Black Masonic Cemetery in the United States. The cemetery dedicated in 1864, held members of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge F & AM, formed in 1776. Through much of the cemetery has since been developed, a  geophysical survey of the site in 1988 found remains of the original gate and an obelisk.
Industry and Agriculture:  Arlington now is a town of homes with little or no industry or agriculture, But at one time seven mills operated along Mill Brook when it was a mightier stream than it is today. An ice industry thrived on Spy Pond. Ice harvested there was transported to Boston for shipment to the South and even India. Arlington’s market gardens and greenhouses were famous for their produce, especially Arlington lettuce that was shipped all along the East Coast. California put the farms out of business when refrigerated trains came into use.
Moxie  The connection between Moxie and Arlington is the legacy that Arlington reside100 sent Francis Thompson as president of the Moxie Co ( from 1904 to his death in 1939) and his wife left to the town. The money finances scholarships for Arlington High School graduates as every year, and more than 100 seniors receive Thompson Scholarships ranging from $200 to $2000.
The Thompson School is a token of our town’s appreciation for this generous act Mr Thompson’s father, Dr Augustin Thompson, developed in 1876, a syrup he called Moxie Nerve Food and marketed it as a tonic to aid digestion.  In 1884, he changed Moxie to a carbonated soft drink that at first was also marketed as a tonic with extravagant claims thit it would cure all sorts of ailments.  A few years later Moxie was marketed exclusively as a delicious and refreshing drink in the U. S.   In fact, it  became so popular that the word moxie became part of our language meaning energy courage or guts.  Moxie is still enjoyed by many people anld can be obtained in local supermarkets.
Cyrus Dallin: Born in a log cabin in Utah and where as a boy he played with Indians. Cyrus Dallin showed talent at a your age in art and model making.  A Boston businessman who financed the 19 year old’s education in Boston recognized his talent. Later Cyrus studied in Paris. Cyrus Dallin Spent his adult life in Arlington, his children and grandchildren grew up here.  He is especially known for the heroic size bronze of Paul Revere near the Old North Church, which reminds of our national heritage.
Also, he is famous for his Indian statues, the most famous being The Appeal of the Great Spirit that stands in front of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.  Ohers are Massasoit in Plymouth as well as American equestrian statues in Chicago, Kansas City, and Philadelphia. Arlington’s most famous Dallin work, the Menotomy Indian Hunter, was commissioned by the Robbins family to honor Winfield Robbins. This work, which portrays one of the community’s first inhavitants, stands in a beautiful wooded setting in the garden between the Robbins Memorial Town Hall and the Robbins Library.

Menotomy Minuteman Trail

The 4-mile trail follows a loop the begins and ends at the Jefferson Cutter house in Arlington Center. It is designed for self guided walking tours for anyone interested in American history, including families, school groups, and Boy Scout and Girl Scout unit.


History of Arlington High School

The current Arlington High School, Designed by Howard B.S. Prescott, was opend in 1915 for grades 10 – 12. WHAT IS NOW KNOWN AS “Fusco  building “ was the original building. Boys and girls were required to enter the building through two separate entrances. Two additions were later added on, the “B” building as it is now know, in 1937 and the “Downs building”.

Pierce Field, a field for football, soccer, track, baseball and softball, was created by filling in “Cutter Pond” which had been previously used for milling. Mill Brook still runs underneath the High School to this day. The field was renovated in 2004 due to toxin levels in the soil, which stemmed from a company located where the Department of Public Works is currently. A settlement was reached with the company to pay for the entire cleaning, capping, and renovation.

Since the mid-1990’s several news documentary shows have been to Arlington High School, including Chronicle, Nightline, and MTV made.
An HBO show chronicling actor / comedian Dane Cook’s tour featured a segment where Cook returned to Arlington High School, which he attended, and spoke to students and faculty.


Arlington High School has been one of the best public schools in the state for hockey for most of the 20th century. Ed Burns, a notable name in High School Hockey, was the Arlington Head Coach for 50 years from 1947 to 1997.  Burns holds a career winning percentage of .786 (695 wins-167 ties-62 losses ) one of the best of any high school hockey coaches ever.  He led Arlington High to 5 state championships.  He won the John Mariucci Award in 1989 and in 1998, he was inducted into the Massachusetts Hockey Hall of Fame.  The annual Ed Burns Classic tournament is named after him.

Arlington was Also a Greater Boston League Football Powerhouse in the 80’S AND 90’S WINNING 5 GBL Titles and appearing in the Division 1 Superbowl in 1992 and 1995 under Coach John Hanley. (Class of 1959)

In addition to the excellent football and Hockey teams, Arlington High School boasts three championship teams for the Fall 2006 season. 
The Girls Cross Country team, Girls Soccer team (also GBL champs 1997 -2001) and Field Hockey team each finished first in the Greater Boston League. The Girls Soccer team was also the Division 11 North State Champions in 2006 and 2007.  
The Spy Ponders Boys Lacrosse Team won the Greater Boston League title and wen
t on to the Division H State Tournament.