Over the centuries, the area now known as Groton has sustained many indigenous people including the Nipmuc and Nashaway, tribes who named the area "Petapawag" which means "swampy land" in the Algonquin language. Businessman John Tinker followed the Algonquin trails from the Bay Area to this location and set up a trading post to do business with the local tribes. Others soon followed and chose the rich farming and fishing area to settle. Named for Groton in Suffolk, England, Groton, Massachusetts incorporated in 1655.
Twenty years before the Salem Witch Trials, Groton resident Elizabeth Knapp, a 16-year-old farmer's daughter displayed erratic behavior and was labeled by others as a witch. Elizabeth worked as a servant in the home of Reverend Samuel Willard, a "fire and brimstone" preacher in Puritan New England. Surprisingly, Willard took a scientific and compassionate approach, keeping Elizabeth in his home and documenting every episode of seizures and fits she experienced from October 30, 1671 until January 12, 1672. He called in doctors trying for a cure and comforted her during her ordeal, but eventually declared her demon-possessed. Willard testified during the Salem Witch Trials to his conclusion based on his documentation.
On March 13, 1676, Indians burned almost every building in the town during King Philip's War. Those who survived the massacre abandoned the town but returned two years later to rebuild. The community then suffered another Indian attack 18 years later during King William's war. In the 1704 Queen Anne's War, during a French-Abenaki raid on Groton, three children from the Tarbell family were captured. The two boys, adopted into a tribe of Mohawks, later became Chiefs. The young girl, ransomed by a French family, later joined a Canadian Catholic Order.
Living in Groton
Quietly settled among the hills and along rivers, the citizens of Groton, with a population of about 10,000, enjoy a comfortable lifestyle that shows few signs of historic struggles to survive. Hiking, biking and riding trails provide scenic outdoor recreation. Groton also has two prep schools: Lawrence Academy at Groton, founded in 1792, and the Groton School in 1884. A well-attended annual event for this town is the National Shepley Hill Horse Trials.
Residents and visitors of Groton are fortunate to find themselves surrounded by so much beauty and history. One example is the ruins of the Bancroft Castle. Sitting atop Gibbet Hill, Bancroft Castle was originally built in 1906 as a retirement bungalow for General William Bancroft and his wife, Mary. After Mary's passing, and a shortage of funds, General Bancroft sold the property in 1918 to Harold Ayers, a physician, who then transformed the bungalow into a private sanitarium for the wealthy to rest. Changing ownership once again in the 1920s, it became the Groton Private Hospital, which treated patients suffering from tuberculosis. And lastly, it served as a place for entertainment by the Groton Hunt Club between 1930 and 1932 (the dates are often uncertain). Sadly, during a Fourth of July fireworks celebration, the structure became consumed in flames leaving only the stone exterior walls which still stand today. Pack a picnic and your camera and make the trek up the hill for the sweeping views of the surrounding area from the "castle". A visit in the fall is a must, especially when the foliage is at its peak.