Settled in 1654 as a part of Lancaster, Clinton was incorporated in 1850. It is named after the DeWitt Clinton Hotel in New York by its founders, carpet loom inventor Erastus Brigham Bigelow and his brother Horatio, who were owners of the Bigelow Carpet Company. Erastus and Horatio provided an economic and civic base for the community, endowing local institutions including the Bigelow Public Library and the town common, which was named Central Park.
Clinton was home to an ethnic population of Irish, German, Scottish and English immigrants. Located on the Nashua River, whose source of water provided the power for its 19th century mills, the town began construction on the Wachusett Dam in 1897. The filling of the Wachusett Reservoir in 1908 flooded a substantial portion of Clinton and neighboring towns, whose residents were relocated.
Home to the Russian Icon Museum, Clinton claims to have the oldest continuously-used baseball field in the world.