Shirley is a town in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 7,211 at the 2010 census. The town has a well preserved historic New England town center and is home to two state prisons, including the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center. The remains of a Shaker village are located on the prison grounds.
The first inhabitants were either Nipmuc (or Pennacook) Indians, who called the area Catacunemaug. Once part of "The Plantation of Groton," Shirley was first settled about 1720. It broke away from Groton to be incorporated in 1753. The town was named in honor of William Shirley, governor of Massachusetts (1741 - 1757). A paper mill was built here around 1790 and in 1812 Shirley established the first of seven cotton mills. Other local products included iron, nails, textiles, rope, belts, suspenders, and athletic equipment.
Two of the large 19th century mill buildings have been subdivided and are being used by 21st century businesses. See www.phoenixparkonline.com