Massachusetts Industrial School for Boys

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Massachusetts Industrial School for Boys
Opened 1909
Closed 1972
Current Status Closed
Location Shirley, MA
Alternate Names
  • Shirley Industrial School for Boys


The Shirley Industrial School for Boys was a part of this town from 1909 - 1972 and was the topic of the Shirley Historical Society meeting on Friday, May 11, 2001. Ray Farrar who worked at the school and Joe Landry whose father worked there attended the meeting and were video taped sharing their stories. Other former workers and State School "boys" have contacted the Museum and we have added their memories to our files.

In 1908, the Shirley Shaker Community had only three Shaker sisters, 900 acres of land and twenty-six buildings. The Shaker Central Ministry decided to close the community, sell the property, and have the sisters move to the Harvard Shaker Village. The state of Massachusetts bought the Shaker property for an Industrial School for Boys, what we now call a reform school. This industrial school was to take boys ages 15 - 20 and give them a house mother and a house father, give them academic schooling, and teach them manners and a trade. The farmland and large old Shaker buildings were well suited to these purposes and were promptly fitted out with modern conveniences.

The Shirley Historical Society has census records for 1920, 1930, and 1940 listing the names of people who lived on the state property. It gives their ages and marital status, place of birth, and parents' places of birth, but not much else. The records of the boys would have been kept private by the state of Massachusetts.