By Harrison Staples, Esq.
Lakeville was incorporated May 13th, 1853. The most of its territory was embraced in the West Precinct of Middleboro. Its area is supposed to be about 19,000 acres, over 4,000 of which is water. The chain of Ponds or Lakes, parts of which are in Middleboro, Rochester and Freetown, have an area of about 6,000 acres, being by far the largest Lake region in the State. They give to many places in this vicinity fine natural scenery, and have a perceptible influence on the climate of the locality, especially in the exemption from early autumnal frosts. Middleboro, before the division, was the largest township in the State, having a surface of nearly 100 square miles. Its large territory was one of the main causes of the separation of Lakeville.
The borders of its Ponds were famous resorts for the Indians. Here was a fine place to raise their maize and beans; to chase the deer, and catch their fish, and this was one of the last places they abandoned. At “Betty’s Neck,” on the south side of Assawampsett, quite a number of Indians lived within the memory of the present generation and there is some doubt whether all their titles to land are extinguished.
One of their number, Benjamin Simonds, is especially recollected as a noble specimen of his race; he was of fine physical proportions, weighing we should judge about 200. He was in the war of the Revolution, and after receiving a pension of $96 per annum, he moved to the north side of the pond, where he lived at a place known as “Ben’s Island.” He died in 1836, and was buried in the Cemetery, about a mile west of Lakeville Depot, where, by the enterprise of one of the citizens, a fitting monument marks his sepulchre.
The murder of Sausaman, a friendly and Christian Indian, on the Assawampsett, hastened Philip’s war. During that war, the famous Captain Church had a severe skirmish with the Indians, on the west side of the same pond, resulting in their flight.
We think there was no settlement in the town till about 1700. One of the name of Peirce, came from Scituate and built near Myrickville, in 1705, whose descendants are very numerous. The Nelsons were the first white settlers on Assawampsett Neck, in 1717; the Southworths settled the part near Middleboro; Strowbridges, Richmonds, Canadys, Horrs, Sampsons and Pickenses, were early comers and large landholders.
There are in Lakeville, very considerable quarries of granite, that have already been worked quite extensively.
In 1688 the missionaries of the Society for the propagation of the Gospel among the Indians, reported: “There are at Assawampsit and Quittaub twenty houses and eighty persons. John Hiacoomes, preacher and constant schoolmaster. Mr. Jocelyn preached at Assawampsit. At Kehtehticut are forty adults, to whom Charles Abram preached.”
The first church was formed, (“The Precinct,”) in 1725. Their first house was built a little east of the present one. Their second one near the present site. The last, was built in 1835. The succession of ministers have been Benjamin Ruggles, Caleb Turner, Thomas Crafts, John Shaw, Homer Barrows, Mr. Bragg, Calvin Chapman, Augustine Root, Q. G. Perkins, and the present pastor James W. Ward. The ministry of the first three, covered nearly a century. The parish has always embraced a part of Taunton. The Second church was Baptist, formed in the westerly part of the town, in 1751. Elder John Hinds, and Elder Simeon Coombs, each served many years as pastors.’ There were times when large congregations were gathered. After continuing about a century it became extinct.
In that vicinity, a Freewill Baptist Church was formed about 1828, through the labors of H. N. Loring, Rev. Mr. Steere preached at a more recent period. It is now extinct.
A second Baptist Church was formed about 1796. They built a fine house of worship on the west shore of the Assawampsett, their first pastor’s name was Abbott, we believe, after which, the Rev. E. Briggs, held that relation for about forty years, till near the time of his death.
The Christian Church was formed February, 1842. Elders Shurtleff, Bryant, Tyler, Chadwick, and Jackson, have been pastors. E. W. Barrows is present pastor. Their house is in the westerly part of the town.
Three hundred and fifty volumes, the nucleus of the Lakeville Library, were donated to his native town, by Hugh Montgomery of Boston, in 1866.
Lakeville furnished 85 men for the Union Army, and 6 for the Navy.
NOTE – For list, see Appendix.