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Southbridge, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA - The Journal, Southbridge, MA, Thurs. June 7, 1888
Southbridge, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA
The Journal, Southbridge, MA, Thurs. June 7, 1888

Southbridge, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA - Main Street, looking W. Southbridge, Mass.
Southbridge, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA
Main Street, looking W. Southbridge, Mass.

Southbridge, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA - Marcy Street School
Southbridge, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA
Marcy Street School

Southbridge, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA - Southbridge, Mass., Post Office Square, looking West - 1907
Southbridge, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA
Southbridge, Mass., Post Office Square, looking West - 1907

Southbridge, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA - American Optical Co. Works, Southbridge, Mass. - 1909
Southbridge, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA
American Optical Co. Works, Southbridge, Mass. - 1909

Southbridge, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA - American Optical Co. - 1910
Southbridge, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA
American Optical Co. - 1910

Southbridge, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA - St. Mary's Church
Southbridge, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA
St. Mary's Church

Southbridge, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA - Residence of J.C. Wells
Southbridge, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA
Residence of J.C. Wells

Southbridge, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA - High School
Southbridge, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA
High School

Southbridge, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA - Main American Optical Co. Factory, Southbridge, Mass.
Southbridge, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA
Main American Optical Co. Factory, Southbridge, Mass.

Southbridge, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA - Southbridge Tool Company, Charlton Street, Southbridge, MA - 1941 - Edgar Tremblay, Archie Gagnon, Joseph Seremet
Southbridge, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA
Southbridge Tool Company, Charlton Street, Southbridge, MA - 1941 - Edgar Tremblay, Archie Gagnon, Joseph Seremet
photos belonging to Jeannette Lippe Tremblay 

Southbridge, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA - A Portion of the American Optical Company Plant, Lensdale, Southbridge, Mass.
Southbridge, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA
A Portion of the American Optical Company Plant, Lensdale, Southbridge, Mass.

Southbridge, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA - American Optical Company, Southbridge, Mass.
Southbridge, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA
American Optical Company, Southbridge, Mass.

Southbridge, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA - Southbridge Tool Company, Curtis Street, Southbridge, MA - 1949 (approx. 5,000 sq ft of space)
Southbridge, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA
Southbridge Tool Company, Curtis Street, Southbridge, MA - 1949 (approx. 5,000 sq ft of space)
photos belonging to Jeannette Lippe Tremblay 

Southbridge, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA - Ad for Southbridge Tool Company
Southbridge, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA
Ad for Southbridge Tool Company
Click here to go to source1949 Manning's Southbridge Directory Page 72

Southbridge, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA - American Optical Company
Southbridge, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA
American Optical Company

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Southbridge, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA
People, Pictures and News From the Past

Where is Southbridge, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA?  The area was initially inhabited by the Nipmuck and Mohegan tribes, with the Quinebaug River dividing their territories. As early as 1638, John Winthrop, Jr. purchased a tract for mining lead at what is now Leadmine Road in Sturbridge (it was thought at the time that where there was lead, there should be silver nearby).

Southbridge was first settled by Europeans in 1730 and incorporated in 1816; among the first settlers was Moses Marcy, who owned a home on the site of what is now Notre Dame church and was elected to Congress, and the Dennison family. Water power from the Quinebaug River made Southbridge a good location for sawmills and gristmills in the 18th century, and textile mills in the 19th century. After the Civil War, many immigrants of Irish and French Canadian descent came to work and live there; by the 1930s they had been joined by Poles, Greeks, Italians and others.

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Old Photos of Southbridge
Great old photos of Southbridge can be found here:
Digital Treasures

1826 - William Beecher comes to Southbridge
In 1826 William Beecher, a jeweler and watchmaker, settles in Southbridge, a small town on the Massachusetts/Connecticut border. He is part of a relatively new trend — jewelers expanding into the business of spectacle making.

News 1830 - Water Snakes
Mr. Ephraim Wheelock, of Southbridge, Mass. while mowing, came in contact with a large water snake, measuring 3 feet 9 inches. After killing it, he cut it open, and found it to contain 43 live ones.
Huron Reflector
Norwalk, Ohio
September 14, 1830

1833 - Manufacturing of Spectacles Begins
Within seven years of his arrival in Southbridge, William Beecher opens a shop above his jewelry store to manufacture spectacles. Business prospers. Beecher teaches one of his apprentices, a 14-year-old boy named Robert Cole, to craft the first steel-framed spectacles made in America... Southbridge becomes a center of the American spectacle-making industry.

1845 - SOUTHBRIDGE. [Pop. 2,031.Inc. 1816.]
Southbridge was composed of portions of Sturbridge, Charlton, and Dudley.

The Quinebaug passes across the township, and affords abundance of water-power.

The chief manufactures are cotton and woollen cloths, boots and shoes.

Distance from Worcester, 20 miles ; from Boston, 60.
An Elementary Geography for Massachusetts Children by William Bentley Fowle and Asa Fitz, 1845

1848 - Southbridge
SOUTHBRIDGE was originally a part of Sturbridge, Chariton, and Dudley. It was incorporated as a town in 1814. The first church was organized here in 1801, and Rev. Jason Park was ordained the first pastor in 1816. He was succeeded by Rev. Henry J. Lamb, who was ordained in 1833. His successor, Rev. Eber Carpenter, was installed in 1835. There are 3 churches, 1 Congregational, 1 Baptist, and 1 Methodist.

The above is a south eastern view in this flourishing village, which consists of about 40 ... Read MORE...

French Canadian Emigration to the United States 1840-1930
Marianopolis College

"...the emigration of French Canadians to the United States was internally caused by demographic pressures, rural poverty created by indebtedness and a host of other ills related to the climatic and geographical characteristics of the province, low productivity of the farms, the developing agricultural crisis, the lack of suitable regions of colonisation, the insufficient level o... Read MORE...

1862 - Robert Cole Takes Over
Southbridge, Massachusetts - William Beecher, prominent spectacle maker, retires in 1862 and Robert Cole takes over the firm... George Wells, a schoolteacher from nearby South Woodstock, Connecticut, leaves his job to become an apprentice at Robert H. Cole and Co. Young Wells has a genius for mechanics... When Robert Cole foolishly refuses to raise Wells's pay, the youth goes to work for a competitor.

News 1863 - Fire
A fire in Southbridge, Mass., on Saturday morning, destroyed the Baptist church, the Tammany Hall Building, the Amidon brick block, and Dr. Hartwell's block of stores. The whole loss is about $30,000.
The Windham County Transcript
Danielson, Connecticut
November 19, 1863

1869 - American Optical is Formed
Southbridge, Massachusetts - The merging of two competing spectacle making companies results in the formation of the American Optical Company.

Blacksmith Shop in Westville
"The Blacksmith shop, located between the bridge and the river bend, was operated by Mr. Charles Anger, maternal grandfather of the large Laliberte family... Waggons, buggies and farm equipment were repaired. Young boys like to stop there and watch the way different things were repaired. If the blacksmith was kicked by a horse while it was being shod, the boys would learn some words to add to their vocabulary, ones they wouldn't learn at Sunday school. It was also a good place to get a discarded... Read MORE...

1879 - George Wells accumulates AO stock
George Wells has accumulates a majority share in the stock of the American Optical Company. Wells builds the A.O. into the largest optical company in the world.

1882 - J & W Booth Advertisment

Click here to go to source1882 Massachusetts City Directory - Webster and Southbridge
June 19, 1882

News 1883 - Bound to Get Away
BOSTON, June 22. - J. P. Olds was arrested at Southbridge to-day on a charge of stealing large quantities of gold from the American Optical Company. Olds had been a respected citizen, and has had change of the valuable stock of the company. When arrested he was place in an upper room of the factory in charge of an employe. He jumped forty feet through a window, swam a river, and made his escape to the woods.
Dunkirk Evening Observer
Dunkirk, New York
June 23, 1883

Worcester, August 9. - The Columbian mill at Southbridge, with a boarding house and tenement, burned this morning. The mill had 9,000 spindles and employed 60 hands. It was owned by Providence parties.
Fort Scott Daily Monitor
Fort Scott, Kansas
August 10, 1884

News 1889 - Early to Bed
Southbridge goes to bed early as a rule. A stranger in town always notices how quiet the streets are after 9 p.m. Ten o'clock usually finds scarcely any one on the streets except the night watchmen, unless there happens to be entertainment at one of the opera houses. There are a number of reasons for this. The early closing of the stores on several evenings of the week may have something to do with this. There are no evening trains to arrive and depart and no strangers to arrive at midnight and ... Read MORE...

News 1889 - Largest Spectacle Factory in the World
Southbridge, Mass., has the largest spectacle factory in the world. More than 3/4 of the gold spectacles and eyeglasses made in this country are made in Southbridge, one company alone in that town turned out 1,600,000 pairs last year.
The Indiana Democrat
Indiana, Pennsylvania
March 14, 1889

Southbridge, Massachusetts 1890
Southbridge is a prosperous and important manufacturing town lying in the southwesterly part of Worcester County, 27 miles from the city of Worcester, and 70 miles. from Boston; being connected directly with the latter by a branch of the New York and New England Railroad. Charlton lies on the northeast, Dudley on the east, Sturbridge on the west and north west, and Woodstock, in Connecticut, on the south.

The assessed area is 12,029 acres. There are nearly 4,000 acres of forest, consisting mo... Read MORE...


Worcester, Mass., Nov. 30. - The most horrible accident which ever occurred in Southbridge happened there yesterday morning, and turned the day into one of sadness instead of thanksgiving, as the lives of two young men were shut out in a flash, two more were fatally injured and 18 others were more or less hurt, two of the latter not being expected to live.

The injured men are all members of the Southbridge Y.M.C.A., and were on the... Read MORE...

News 1899 - $2,000,000 for Southbridge People?
SOUTHBRIDGE, MASS., March 17. - It is believed here that the family of Mrs Lucier, mother of Michael Lucier, of Southbridge, has fallen heir to $2,000,000. Word was received here to-day of the death of Rev. F. R. L. Belthosor at San Jose, Cal., who, it is said, left this fortune. Mrs. Lucier is his sister. There are other Southbridge relatives.
The New York Times
New York, New York
March 18, 1899

News 1904 - Town Stricken With Diphtheria
Southbridge, Mass., Oct. 24. - An epidemic of diphtheria prevails in Southbridge to an extent that alarms the members of the board of health, who will appeal to the state board for help in stamping out the disease. A total of ninety cases and nine deaths is reported.
Pittston Gazette
Pittston, Pennsylvania
October 24, 1904

Southbridge, a banking post-village in Southbridge township (town), Worcester co., Mass on the Quinebaug River, about 32 miles E. of Springfield, and on the New York, New Haven and Hartford R. It has manufactures of cottons, optical goods, shoe-knives, general cutlery, shuttles, etc. Pop. of the town in 1900, 10,025.
Lippincott's New Gazetteer: A Complete Pronouncing Gazetteer Or Geographical Dictionary of the World, Containing the Most Recent and Authentic Information Respecting the Countries, Cities, Towns ... in Every Portion of the Globe Publisher J.B. Lippincott Company, 1906

News 1910 - BANK TREASURER NOT FOUND.; Shortage in Southbridge Savings Bank Believed to be About $100,000.
CAMBRIDGE, Mass, Jan. 22. - John A Hall, the Treasurer of the Southbridge Sayings Bank, which was closed yesterday by an injunction after the discovery of discrepancies in its accounts, is still missing to-night. Some of his friends here say that the missing man is a suicide, and the woods near the town were searched to-day, but without revealing any trace of him. There is a warrant against him charging the larceny of $21,000 from the bank's treasury. A description of the man has been sent brodc... Read MORE...

News 1913 - REVIVE GRAND TRUNK WORK. Construction of Southern New England Line to be Resumed.
Special to the New York Times.

SOUTHBRIDGE, Mass., Sept. 22 - Work is to be resumed immediately on the Southern New England Railway, the Grand Trunk subsidiary planned to connect the Canadian system with tidewater at Providence.

The construction stopped ten months ago, and it was charged that this was due to an agreement between C. S. Mellen, then President of the New Haven, and E. J. Chamberlin, President of the Grand Trunk. Last week Vice President G. C. Jones came here and inspected the... Read MORE...

News 1918 - Help Wanted
Help Wanted - Help Wanted in Southbridge, Mass., to work in Hamilton Woolen Co., established nearly 100 years, employing 2,000 hands. Easy work, steady employment, best of wages, especially good for boys and girls. Southbridge is a proseperous town with a population of 15,000, situated on N.Y. N.H. R.R. and the Worcester & Springfield trolley line. 45 miles to Boston, 45 miles to Providence, 35 miles to Springfield, 20 miles to Worcester. Has a large variety of industries…
The Adirondack News
New York
Saturday, April 30, 1918


Boston, Dec. 19 - (AP) - The board of directors of the Hamilton Woolen Co. of Southbridge late today voted to recommend the liquidation of the company.

Their decision was arrived at after several hours debate behind closed doors and it was announced early tonight. It means that 1,000 workers or one-fifth of the working population of Southbridge and neighboring towns must seek employment elsewhere.

There have been three strikes at ...

News 1938 - New Mask Invented - His Face Is Dirty
His Face Is Dirty - Seeking to combat silicosis, lung malady suffered by those who work in dust, researchers for the American Optical Company of Southbridge, Mass. have developed a mask. Its efficacy is demonstrated by the laboratory worker above, who has taken off the mask, after emerging from a chamber flooded with carbon black. Nose and lips were not blackened.
The Citizen Advertiser
Auburn, New York
Saturday, May 14, 1938

News 1945 - Maker of Bomb Very Depressed
Maker of Bomb Very Depressed - Southbridge, Mass. August 17 (UP) - A scientist who helped develop the atomic bomb said today, with permission of the War Department, that he became so depressed over the possibilities of the projectile, that he hoped its eventual use "would fail".

Dr. E. D. Tillyer and Dr. Alexis G. Pincus, research scientists at the American Optical Company, disclosed today that they kept their work secret even from their wives for the past two and a half years.

"Every few ...

1945 - Radio Phone for Pocket Use to Be On Market Soon
"Radio Phone for Pocket Use to Be On Market Soon -- Southbridge, Mass., August 23 (UP) - A pocket-size radio telephone for civilian use, which will cost about $25 and will be effective for distances up to three miles, will be placed on the market within six months, Richard Mahler, general manager of the Harvey-Wells Communications, Inc. announced today.

Mahler said his company, a pioneer in development of radar for the Army Air Force, would produce the instrument, which would be about six inc... Read MORE...

News 1946 - Women See Colors Better
Women See Colors Better - Southbridge, Mass (UP) - The American Optical Co., studying the incidence of color blindness, discovered that 90 percent of the nation's color blind are men.
Oswego Palladium Times
Oswego, New York
Tuesday, December 24, 1946

News 1951 - New Goggles
American Optical Co. of Southbridge, Mass. has a new airtight industrial goggle for use in working with gas fumes or smoke. The headband of the goggle is fastened to the outer frame. The inner frame is of rubber and when fitted perfectly give a gas-tight seal.
Utica Daily Press
Utica, New York
Saturday, July 7, 1951

News 1951 - New Machine Take Blood Directly from Veins for Red Cross
New Machine Take Blood Directly from Veins for Red Cross - Southbridge, Mass. - (UP) - A new miracle machine that takes blood directly from your veins for the Red Cross was announced today by the American Optical Company.

Thursday, July 26, 1951

The machine is the culmination of years of work at Harvard in splitting blood to make plasma and many medical remedies. Harvard last Fall built a trailer truck, carrying large blood-splitting machines and called the bloodmobile. It was designed to ... Read MORE...

1955 - WESO On the Air
March 20 - Radio Station WESO goes on the air for a first time. Announcers and newscasters are Bob Binet, John Bunnewith, Joe Capillo, Esther Costa, Bob Harris, Mildred Henshall, Bill Mindy, and Bob Nims.

1958 - Ames Worsted Textile Company
Milton and Irving Gilman open their first store in the Ames Worsted Textile Co. mill in Southbridge. This is the start of Ames Department Stores, which at its peak operated 700 stores in 20 states.

News 1961 - Keeping Out Noise
Southbridge, Mass. (UPI) - A new plastic, anti-noise ear plug for military and commercial aviation purposes has been developed by American Optical Co.

The device is about three fourths of an inch long and comes in three sizes - small, medium and large. While the device sharply reduces industrial noises, it still permits the wearer to hear conversation.
The Citizen Advertiser
Auburn, New York
Wednesday, February 3, 1961

News 1975 - Ames Has Grand Opening At New Amenia Store
From a humble beginning in an old factory building in 1958 to a modern new store in Amenia to serve the residents of the Harlem Valley area, Ames Discount Department Store has developed a unique history in the modern age of discount store retailing.

In 1958, Ames opened its first small store in an empty mill factory building in Southbridge, Mass., to rank as a pioneer in the new discount store field in New England. This first Ames store was replaced in 1971 with a modern self-service store in... Read MORE...

News 1980 - Making Eyes
In the days of old, someone who lost an eye wore an eye patch. That was replaced by getting a glass eye: now, American Optical of Southbridge, Mass. uses a light-weight plastic eye that can be modified in shape and size so the fit is exact. Here, an artist paints an eye to match the real one its owner still has. (UPI)
The Citizen
Auburn, New York
Tuesday, January 15, 1980

News THE BACK ROAD (About the AO Tunnel) by Joe Capillo
Over the years, hundreds of thousands have walked its darken underground paths across the Quinebaug River.

The AO service tunnel was a Wells family engineering marvel but after 80 years of existence it will no longer be in use.

Franklin Realty Advisors, leasing agent for the Southbridge Business Center, today closed the tunnel to workers and tenants, mainly for safety and security reasons. The tunnel connects the main plant building at 14 Mechanic Street to buildings across the river.Frank... Read MORE...

2002 - Out of Business
Ames Department stores, which began in Southbridge in 1958, goes out of business

Ancestors Who Were Born and/or Died Here

We currently have information about 443 ancestors who were born and/or died in Southbridge, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA. View them Now

Ancestors Who Were Married Here

We currently have information about 81 ancestors who were married in Southbridge, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA. View them Now

Cemeteries in Southbridge, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA

St. Mary's/Sacred Heart Cemetery

St. George’s Cemetery

Old Notre Dame Cemetery

New Notre Dame Cemetery

Oak Ridge Cemetery

Are you from Southbridge, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA? Do you have ancestors from there?

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Am I Royal?
My Memere always told me that she was French. Her family had came to the U.S. from Canada. It never occurred to me (or to her) that her family might have been partly German. We never wondered why the Lippe name didn't sound very French. We never linked it to things in Germany such as the Lippe River or the castle in Detmold, Lippe, Germany. I suppose that's because we didn't have Google back then…

It began with a search for my ancestors, beginning with my four grandparents, tracing their families back in time as far as I could. The first few steps backward were easy. I had heard the stories about my memere's father, Omer, and his wife, Marie Louise Peloquin. In fact, I even had seen pictures of them. Omer's father, Gilbert Lippe and his wife, Sophie Anger, are buried in St. George's cemetery (Southbridge, MA) not far from my memere and pepere. The stone was easy to find.

It became a little more difficult from there as Gilbert was the one who came here from Canada. Luckily, he had quite a few children with his first wife, Adaline Page. The footprints left behind helped me trace back to Gilbert's birth and parents, Joseph Rene Lippe and Sophie Beaugrand Champagne.

Thanks to the wonderful records kept by the Catholic churches in Canada and the Drouin Collection, it was easy to discover that Joseph Rene Lippe was the son of Joseph Sulpice Rene Zur Lippe and Marie Anne Hetu. The Zur Lippe name was beginning to not sound French at all. Researching French-Canadian records from the 1700s can be quite a challenge, especially when the researcher doesn't know the language very well. I pressed on…

Then, it got interesting: According to Joseph Sulpice Rene Zur Lippe's baptism record, his father was Ernst Lippe and his mother was Marie Francoise Fuseau dit Roch. Many attempts to find a marriage record for this couple proved unsuccessful; however, I did manage to find quite a few of Joseph's siblings. Numerous Google searches shed light on a possible theory that Ernst Lippe was Rene Ernst Phillip II Lippe of Alverdissen, Germany. The theory is that he married Ernestine, Princess of Saxe-Weimar 6 May 1756 in Germany. Sometime around 1763, he traveled to Canada (perhaps for military reasons). He either married Marie Francoise Fuseau dit Roch or had a long affair, during which several children were born. Around 1774, he supposedly faked his death and returned to Germany. In 1777, he inherited the Schaumburg-Lippe territories following the death of his cousin Wilhelm. In 1780, he married Juliane, Princess of Hessen-Phillipsthal. He reigned as Count until his death on the 13 February 1787 when he was succeeded by his son Georg Wilhelm.

I found it to be an interesting theory, but without a lot of proof, I was ready to dismiss it. In May 2007, I received an interesting email from a man named Simon from Quebec. He is also related to Rene Ernst Philipp Lippe (married to Françoise Fuseau). He told me that a historian from Montreal is working on "something that would explain our Germanic and royal roots. Ernst Lippe was supposedly a German Prince who came to Quebec to escape from his party...
This historian's wife is a Lippe and some of his related family own many artifacts from this Prince (watch, rings etc) and they have the royal crest on it!"

It all makes me wonder… Am I royal? Even if the theory isn't true, there's a good bet that my memere's Lippe family came from Germany to Canada before ending up in the U.S.

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The Great Reno, Escape Artist
While looking for ancestors in a local cemetery, I came across a stone that read "The Great Reno (1890-1965)". I thought it was pretty funny that someone might have that on their gravestone. Knowing that some of my relatives had the last name "Renaud", I thought there might be a connection, so I took a picture of the stone.

Many months went by and the picture remained on my computer in the vast dumping ground of files that I would probably never do anything with. One day, a man named Roger Renaud introduced himself to me via email. He had been talking with my grandfather's cousin, Lionel, (see "I Met My Grandfather’s 93-year-old Cousin on the Internet"). Roger sent me a huge file with family history information about the Renaud family. Someone had clearly spent a great deal of time documenting this family. Some of the family members were my "Renaud" family. As I gazed upon the many branches of this Renaud family, I came across the "Great Reno". He was born in Southbridge, Massachusetts in 1890. By the time he was 16, he was performing in vaudeville as an acrobat. He went on to perform strong-man tasks as well as being an escape artist. For more information on the Great Reno, visit The Great Reno - Escape King.

In 1914, he was arrested on the eve of his wedding. The headline in the Boston Journal dated January 8, 1914 read "Arrest Acrobat on the Eve of his Wedding - Southbridge Man Accused of Embezzling $1100 by Old Flame - Widow with nine children complains - Admits to writing love letters to acrobat while her husband was dying". For more details on the story, see article on the left.

I dug up the old photo from the depths of my hard drive, dusted it off, and created a page for Frank Xavier Renaud as a colorful member of my family tree.

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Southbridge, Worcester, Massachusetts
I grew up in Southbridge, as did my parents and 3 out of 4 of my grandparents. It used to be a booming town back when the American Optical (AO) was around. To get around town, you would time it so as not to "hit" the AO traffic. The fire station would blow its whistle at 6:00 every night. Since the AO left, the town has been on the decline. The fire station no longer sounds the whistle. Population had decreased and quality of life has also decreased. It's sad to see this happen to such a beautiful place. Southbridge still has one of the most picturesque downtown areas around. Unfortunately, most of the businesses have left. I hope that someday Southbridge can return to its thriving past.

10/23/2008 12:00:00 AM -

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