Stone Directional Markers in Lunenburg
By: Richard McGrath of the Lunenburg Historical Commission
The first half of the 19th century brought continued and accelerated change to Lunenburg. New and better roads created easier and quicker access to other communities creating exposure to new markets and businesses. Commerce in the area expanded with a wide variety of new businesses being started. Along local area waterways, a number of grist mills and sawmills appeared. Hopeful entrepreneurs started businesses making straw hats, furniture, and baskets. There were printing and bookbinding businesses as well. In 1837, 16,000 books were printed and bound in Lunenburg, Massachusetts.
The stagecoach from Boston and Nashua came through town regularly on its way to Fitchburg and beyond. With commerce prospering and people traveling, permanent stone markers were set up along Massachusetts Avenue and also Page Street, circa 1840, by Franklin Francis. They were made using local stone, either split from the ground or found on its surface. They were roughly shaped into a flat rectangular, and with a hammer and chisel, they were hand-lettered with the name of the town and an arrow pointing in the direction. Mileage to the destination was also marked. Stone markers were erected at crossroads or where roads were divided.
Today, two of these stones still can be seen along Page Street. One is at the corner of Reservoir Road and points the way to Shirley Village and Lunenburg. The other is at the crossroad with Flat Hill Road, and it points the way to Shirley Center and Lunenburg. Another existing marker of Fitchburg granite is located on Leominster Road across from the end of Fish Street and marks the direction and mileage to Fitchburg, Leominster, and Lunenburg. The Leominster Road marker was made much later than the Page Street stones and was professionally made.
Lunenburg directional markers are a direct connection to our early American heritage and still function to point the wayward traveler in the correct direction.