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The Leap-Year Town
Holbrook was incorporated as a town on February 29, 1872. Holbrook will be 136 years old, but will have
had only 33 "birthdays" on February 29, 2008.
Not much is known of Holbrook's inhabitants before European
settlement. All of New England had long been inhabited by Algonquian-speaking
native peoples, and there is evidence of human activity in Holbrook for many,
For the earliest
Europeans, mostly British colonists, Holbrook was part of the old Town of
Braintree, which comprised Braintree, Quincy, Randolph, and Holbrook. As the
population increased and settlers moved south from Boston, first Quincy, and
then Randolph, became individual communities.
Holbrook became known as East Randolph. This area gradually became
increasingly self-sustaining, and by the 1850's and 1860's still more people
had arrived. There was a separate parish church, which made the area officially
a village, the railroad was operating; there was a post office, and shoe
factories had become an important part of the economy. Additionally, there
were farmers, millers, blacksmiths, storekeepers.
Of the one hundred ten men who served in the Union Army, twenty-five
died. Four factories received government contracts for boots and shoes, which
resulted in expansion of the factories and financial advantage to the
This growth led to the eventual decision to become independent of
Randolph. After considerable discussion, and vehement protests from Randolph, a
petition was submitted to the state legislature (the General Court of the
Commonwealth) for incorporation as a town, and Mr. Elisha Niles Holbrook
pledged the sum of $50,000 should the petition be successful.
When the issue came
to a vote, the petition was passed over further protests from Randolph's
representatives. Sadly, Mr. Holbrook did not live to see his wish become a
reality; he had died only a few days before the decision was final.
Since that time the town of Holbrook has seen periods of
considerable growth, particularly after WW II, and a change in the primary
occupations of its residents. The factories and farms are gone. They have been
replaced with service businesses and a commuting population whose work takes
them to Boston and other venues. It remains, however, small enough so that
there is a feeling of friendliness and helpfulness among its citizens.
Copyright 2010 Holbrook Historical Society. For permission to use this text, contact the Society's President.