History of Bridgewater Massachusetts

By Hosea Kingman, Esq.

Bridgewater was originally a plantation granted to Duxbury, by the Old Colony Court, in the year 1645, to compensate that town for its recent loss of territory by the incorporation of the town of Marshfield. The original gi-ant to the inhabitants of Duxbury was of a competent proportion of land about Saughtuekquett (Satucket), towards the west “four miles every way from the place where they shall set up their center.” This being a mere right to purchase of the natives, afterwards in 1649, a tract of land usually called Satucket, extending seven miles each way from the weir at Satucket, was granted to Miles Standish, Samuel Nash and Constant South worth, in behalf of the town of Duxbury, by Ousamequin, who afterwards styled himself Massasoit.

Although the grant from the Court was only four miles every way from a center, yet for some unexplained reason, this purchase from the Indians embraced seven miles every way from the weir. No center was fired upon during the time that Bridgewater remained a part of Duxbury. In June, I656, this plantation was incorporated, by an order of Court, into a separate and distinct town under the name of Bridgewater. In the same year Miles Standish having been granted by the Court three hundred acres, with a competency of meadow at Satucket, provided it did not entrench upon Bridgewater, it became necessary that the center of that town should be fixed upon.

After several years of delay, urged by repeated orders from the Court, the town finally assented to the setting up of its center, about a mile and a half west of the old weir. The monument, now a stone near where the house of Thomas Hayward stood and near the East and West depot, was a small white oak tree bearing the initials of Constant Southworth, who was probably the Court committee appointed to fix the center. In 1662, in answer to a petition by inhabitants of the town dated 1658, the Court granted and confirmed to them the meadow north and west from the center, and within the seven miles granted by Ousamequin. In 1668, upon a petition praying for an enlargement “the whole six miles from the center, east, west, north and south” was granted, provided that grants of land formerly made by the Court be not molested. This was known as the two mile additional grant and the first as the old four mile grant. By this grant were secured two additional miles on the north towards the Massachusetts Colony line, and part on the south, but little if any on the east and west, as on the east six miles from the center would interfere with an earlier grant called the Major’s Purchase. On the south six miles would extend into the Indian settlement of Titicut, and all of the land on the North side of Titicut River was within the six miles. In or about the year 1672, Nicholas Byram, Samuel Edson and William Brett were appointed to purchase, and did purchase, by a deed from Pomponche alias Peter, all the lands lying on the north side of Titicut River and within the bounds of Bridgewater, excepting two parcels afterwards purchased of the Indians by individuals.

In 1685, all of these grants were confirmed by deed under the hand of Governor Hancock and the seal of the Government; about the same time another deed confirming the deed of Ousamequin was made by Josiah Wampatuck to Samuel Edson, John Howard and John Willis, agents for the town of Bridgewater. Thus the greater part of the town was twice purchased of the Indians, once of Massasoit and again of Wampatuck. With a small tract of land on the North, along the Colony line, purchased by individuals after the union of the Colonies, and annexed to Bridgewater in October 1730, these several grants and enlargements constituted all the territory, over belonging to Bridgewater in its greatest extent. In this situation, containing about ninety six square miles, the town remained without diminution in its territorial limits until June 10, 1712, when the town of Abington was incorporated. Again on the seventh of June 1754, a large tract of land, now forming the greater part of Hanson, was taken from Bridgewater and annexed to Pembroke. Thus the town remained for nearly one hundred years, containing about seventy square miles. There were of course divisions in reference to church matters, made from time to time, five parishes being formed, the North, South, East, West, and Titicut. These parishes or precincts constituted the ground work of the subsequent divisions of the town.

As early as 1719, the South, only three years after its incorporation as a parish, applied to the General Court, to be made a distinct town, this although agreed to by the remainder of the town and granted by the House, was not concurred in by the Council; again, in 1738, the North precinct petitioned to be incorporated as a town; the remainder of the town at the same time consented and voted that the South and East should become separate and distinct towns, all these applications were however resisted and it was not until June 16, 1821, that any change was made. At this time the North, the youngest, but most populous parish, was incorporated by the name of North Bridgewater. The West, (the old town), was incorporated February 16, of the next year, by the name of West Bridgewater, and the East, by the name of East Bridgewater was incorporated June 17, 1823. Thus the South Parish, although the first to move in the matter was left with Titicut to retain the old name. And now, as it was then left, it remains, containing twenty-eight and one-eighth square miles, or 18,300 acres, bounded by East and West Bridgewater on the north, Halifax on the east, Middleboro on the south and Raynham on the west. The town is very pleasantly situated, about midway between Boston and Fall River, ten miles from Taunton and eighteen miles from Plymouth, on the Old Colony and Newport Railway.

The first settlements in this town, also the first in the interior of the Old Colony, were commenced in the year 1650, upon the Town River, which flows from Nippenicket pond, in the present town of West “Bridgewater, principally by inhabitants from Duxbury. House lots of six acres were granted these first settlers. The house lots were contiguous, and the settlement compact, to serve as a protection against the Indians. Among the names of these first settlers we find those of James Keith, the first minister. Deacon Samuel Edson from Salem, who built the first mill in the place, in about 1600, and Bassett and Mitchell who were among the forefathers. The adjoining towns of Marshfield and Taunton were also represented in this settlement. From the west the town grew in a southerly direction towards the great pond on the road to Taunton, with which place the people had considerable intercourse. Until within a few years of the incorporation of the North precinct, the South and Titicut parishes were most populous, later, there was a rapid growth in the northerly part of the town. Now, the present town, although it has been slowly increasing in population, and within a few years there has been a rapid increase in a northerly direction about the iron works, has fallen considerably behind the other Bridgewaters, except perhaps the West. Its own children manifest a strong disposition to go abroad and take up their abode elsewhere, while their places are filled by a foreign population; still there yet remain descendants bearing the names of those ancient settlers, Hayward, Willis, Bassett, Washburn, Ames, Mitchell, Keith and Edson. And there are now in town, besides the numerous public buildings, manufactories, stores, workshops, &c., nearly six hundred dwelling houses, accommodating four thousand one hundred and ninety-six inhabitants. In wealth, it yields to no town of its size in the state, the amount of property assessed during the past year being 1,868,845 dollars.

The surface of the town is generally level, tho only high ground, and even that not very high, is Sprague’s Hill, in the eastern part. The soil is generally fertile and for the most part in a. good state of cultivation. The people are very industrious and for a town of its size the number of idlers, and the number of places for their accommodation, is very small. Although considerable attention is paid to farming, yet this by no means constitutes tho chief employment. Manufactures of various kinds are largely carried on. In the old town, in Titicut parish, were made, at the commencement of the revolution, small arm and cannons, probably the first ever made in the country. And now the manufacture of iron in the establishment of the Bridgewater Iron Manufacturing Company, incorporated in 1825 [the business having been previously carried on by Lazell, Carey & Co., and Lazell Perkins & Co.] furnishing employment for hundreds of men and requiring the aid of some of the heaviest machines of the kind in the country, is the most extensive of any in. the state. The heaviest work in the world is made in these works. Here also was built the greater part of the iron work for many of those “Yankee cheese boxes,” the monitors. The manufacture of copper and yellow metal is also carried on extensively by this corporation.’ The manufacture of cotton gins was here commenced very early and is now largely carried on in the establishments of Bates, Hyde & Co., and Joseph E. Carver. Cotton Gins are sent from these two manufactories to nearly all parts of the world. Both of them are to be represented in the coming World’s Fair, at Paris. There are also in town several foundries, [one new and very large recently erected by Henry Perkins], a paper mill, box and saw mills, and two brickyards furnishing nearly three millions of bricks in a year and employing about fifty men.

Bridgewater is quits noted for its various institutions of learning, and as in former times, where it quite early in its history, subscribed liberally for the aid of the college at Cambridge, and was there largely represented, has paid great attention to education, both public and private. The first corporate action for the establishment of schools was taken in 1700, when Thomas Martin was engaged for four years, to keep a school in four places in town, each year. Its academy, established as early as 1799, is still maintained and is now in a most flourishing condition, under the able tuition of Horace Willard, a graduate of Brown University. This time honored institution has received and sent forth into the world hundreds of pupils, scattering broadcast its influences throughout the land. Here also is established the State Normal School, the school of teachers. This institution has been largely patronized, and at present, under the charge of Albert G. Boyden, attended by seventy-five pupils from various parts of the State, gives great promise for the future. And the last act of the town, when it abolished the school districts and established the town system, was one great step towards the accomplishment of that much desired result, a perfect system of public education.

The first meeting house in the old town was built as early as 1663, in what is now West Bridgewater, and the first within the limits of the present town, was built in 1717. Now there are six churches in various parts of the town, each largely attended. Here also was built, in 1853, a State Aims House, situated in the southern part of the town. Part of this is now being changed to a Work House.

In its military history, Bridgewater has nobly sustained the honors it gained in its infancy, during the struggle with the Indians, ( King Philip’s war.) Then, although removed from their friends, situated in the midst of the Indians country, and numbering not more than fifty capable of bearing arms, urged by every possible inducement to retire to the sea shore, they still resolutely held out. They were the first to take up arms, and that, too, not only in defense of themselves, but to aid the town of Salem. The meeting-house was converted into a fortress, by means of palisadoes. In 1676, the Indians, about three hundred strong, having made an attack upon the easterly part of the town, were repulsed and overcome by the inhabitants issuing from the garrison. Nearly all the houses were burned on the borders of the town. Yet, notwithstanding the various encounters and the great courage and activity of the people, not one of this feeble settlement is known to have been killed. In the revolution, too, it stands forth as patriotic and as true to liberty as any of its neighbors, bearing its full proportion of its trials and burdens. During this time, the male population capable of bearing arms did not exceed one thousand. In the Continental service, exclusive of the Province and State service, during, three years of the war, it furnished four hundred and twelve men, more than three thousand dollars, besides contributions of various supplies for the army. Among the number of killed are the names of Capt. Jacob Allen and Abner Robinson, who were killed at Saratoga, at the capture of Burgoyne, in 1777.

And in the last struggle for the maintenance of those principles of liberty and justice, in the establishing of which it had taken so active a part, it stands forth in all the strength of its riper years, and responds nobly to the country’s call, furnishing forty men more than were required to fill its quota, paying out freely from its treasury thousands of dollars and sending to the relief of its soldiers, provisions and supplies of various kinds in abundance, withholding nothing even to the end of the war. Company K. of the third Massachusetts regiment was mainly composed of men from this town. Also a large portion of this company re-enlisted in the Fifty-Fourth regiment and there did good service at the battles of the Wilderness and before Petersburg. The town has sacrificed some of its best men upon the altar of its country, and we have but to mention the names of:

Died in Revolutionary Service From Bridgewater

Josiah Benson Jr., of Co. I, 58th Reg’t. who died at City Point, Va.
Woodbridge Bryant, Co. E, 38th, Reg’t. who died at Carrolton, La.
Philo Carver, who died at Baton Rouge, La.
Charles W. Clifford, Co. 0, 29th Reg’t, died in Bridgewater
Seth W. Conant, Co. D, 58th Reg’t, killed at Petersburg, Va.
Lucius Conant, Co. D, 58th Reg’t, killed
Frederick E. Fuller, died at Newbern, N. C
S. O. Grovesnor, Co. O, 29th Reg’t, killed near Petersburg, .Va.
John T. Hartford, Co. D, 2d. Cavalry killed
Edwin A. Hayward, Co. I, 38th Reg’t, who died at Baton Rouge, La.
Samuel Jones, Co. K, 3d Reg’t, died at Newbern, N. C.,
Corp. A. Bartlett Keith, Co. I, 7th Reg’t, who died from wounds received at Chancellorsville
John C. Lambert, Co. C, 29th , Reg’t, killed at Blains’ Cross Roads, Va.
Homer S. Leach, Co. I, 16th Reg’t, killed
Frank R. Lee, Co. D, 38th Reg’t, died at Bridgewater
Nathan Mitchell, Co. F, 38th Reg’t, died at Poolesville, Md.
Lysander W. Mitchell, who died in prison
Wm. T. Murphy who died in rebel prison
Henry B. Rogers, Co. F, 12th Reg’t, who died at Bridgewater
James H. Schneider, chaplain 2d U. S. colored troops, who died in Florida
Francis A. Tuttle, Co. K, 31st Reg’t, who died at Port Hudson
Roscoe Tucker, Co. I, 1st Cavalry, who died in rebel prison
Henry A. Washburn, Co. D, 58th Reg’t, killed at Petersburg, Va.
Joseph A. White, 11th Reg’t, who’ died at Washington, D. C.
Benj, F. Winslow, 1st Battery, who died at Bridgewater
Rufus W. Wood, I8th Reg’t, who died at Harrison’s Landing Va.
William B. Wrightington, Co. K, 24th Reg’t, who died at Annarundel, Md.

The fallen, lost during the rebellion, bring vividly to mind men of sterling virtues and great worth.

“The gallant man, though slain in fight he be,
Yet leaves his country safe, his nation free,
Entails a debt on all the grateful state;
His own brave friends shall glory in his fate,
His wife live honored, and all his race succeed
And late posterity enjoy the deed.” [ Pope’s Homer]

Note. The writer is greatly indebted to Mitchell’s History, for many facts.


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