Cambridge started out sprawling but barely settled. As centers of population emerged in the outlying areas of the village, they began to break off and form their own towns. The areas of Shawnsin and Cambridge Village became Billerica and Newton, respectively, in the seventeenth century, and Cambridge Farms became Lexington at the beginning of the eighteenth. By the nineteenth century, Cambridge's outline roughly resembled what it is today. Yet, the town's population was growing: it went from around 2,000 in 1810 to around 8,000 in 1840. This speedy growth rate was three times the growth rate of Massachusetts during the same period. At the beginning of the century, if you had told a local that the population would be growing that way in his or her lifetime, he or she would probably have assumed – incorrectly – that Cambridge was finally going to take off as a center of trade, like Boston.
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