Shirley is a town in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States. It is approximately fifty miles west-northwest of Boston. The population was 7,211 at the 2010 census.
The inhabitants at the time of European encounter were Nipmuc (orPennacook) Indians, who called the area Catacunemaug. Once part of "The Plantation of Groton," Shirley was first settled by English pioneers about 1720.In 1753 it separated from Groton and was incorporated, 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 adapted for use by 21st-century businesses.A utopian religious community, Shirley Shaker Village, was established in Shirley in 1793. The Shakersadvocated pacifism, common property, celibacy and communal living. They are renowned for their plain architecture and furniture.