Although the town of Grafton (population 14,894) was incorporated in 1735, its heritage began well before its formal boundaries. In about 1660, several Nipmuc Indian families joined missionary John Eliot in an English Christian "praying village" called Hassanamessit.
Four acres of land have remained in Nipmuc ownership and a Native American Fair to exhibit and honor Indian traditions is held on the site annually. Grafton prospered through farming, cottage industries, tanning, and boot manufacture, peaking at over 671,000 pairs of shoes and 18,000 pairs of boots made in the year 1837. Ethan Allen began to manufacture small arms in town in 1832.
The water power of the Blackstone and Quinsigamond rivers drew investors towards textile mill building along the river, leading to the establishment of associated villages and preserving the 19th-century town center. Grafton's three centuries of historic architecture surround a beautiful four-acre Common established in the 1720s, now the center of the Historic District.
The oldest structure on the Common, the Grafton Inn, was built by shoe manufacturer Samuel Wood in 1805, and provided a stopping place as stagecoaches passed from Boston to Hartford or Providence to Worcester. The bandstand was built in 1935 at the site of the original first meetinghouse for the filming of MGM's Ah Wilderness.
Other historic highlights include the Willard House and Clock Museum, home of America's premier 18th century clock makers, and the old mill villages of New England Village and Farnumsville. Two historic districts in the village of Farnumsville encompass over 500 properties. Last year, students from Grafton researched and published an interactive guide to their favorite Blackstone River Valley sites for family tourism.
Designated a Preserve America Community in June 2004.