Shirley is a rural industrial town located on the lowlands of the Catacoonamaug River. A handful of colonists arrived in 1720 and settled on scattered farms throughout the town.
Early in its history Shirley was supported by its many farms and orchards. There was an increase in industrial activity around 1790 and the first paper mill was opened followed shortly after by a small iron works and nail factory.
The location of the water to power industries served to create an industrial village along the narrow valley where Shirley is located. Many of the period brick towered mills still survive and create an authentic period landscape.