History of Marion Massachusetts

By J. Batchelder, M. B.

Marion was incorporated May 14th, 1852. Previous to this event it constituted a part of Rochester, and was called Sippican. Its corporate name was selected for no special reason. It was suggested merely for its euphony and the facility of hailing vessels at sea by this name, this last circumstance rendering the former name objectionable. At various times, there had been exhibited some sectional differences between the two precincts of the town, which, in 1S50, (or about that time), culminated in the repudiation, by the Rochester precinct, of all the Sippican candidates for town officers.

Marion is bounded on the north and east, by Wareham, Sippican and Weweantit Rivers, which separate it from Wareham, and Buzzard’s Bay; on the south, by Buzzard’s Bay, and Mattapoisett; on the west by Mattapoisett and Rochester. It is about four miles in medium length, and breadth, and therefore contains about sixteen square miles. Its cutline is very irregular, following, to a considerable extent, the serpentine course of river and sea-coast. It is almost cleft into two nearly equal parts by Sippican Harbor. The land is low, level, and rocky. The soil is a marine deposit, and fertile, but requiring great expense and labor to clear it of rocks; hence but a small portion is under cultivation. This is divided into small lots by high stone fences. Dense forests of white pine and oak cover nearly four-fifths of the town. One source of industry with the early settlers was the manufacture of tar, of which each resident was allowed by the proprietors, to make ten barrels from the undivided forest, and if he made more, he must pay a tax of one shilling per barrel to the proprietors. More recently, the manufacture of salt, and of late, box-boards, and fire-wood, constitute the principal exports.

The harbor is safe and commodious, and sheltered by several large islands. The channel, as far as opposite the upper wharf of the lower village, contains eleven feet of water. There are now owned in this place, four whale men, (one brig, and three schooners), and two schooners engaged in the cod fisheries; there are also one or two smaller vessels engaged in the coasting business. aggregate tonnage 750. There are five wharves in the lower village, and two in the upper. Two of the former are not now in use. The imports from three whale men and two fishermen, for the year 1866, were, for the former, 865,000, for the latter, $12,000. The people are generally mariners, a smaller portion mechanics and farmers. Formerly, they were extensively engaged in southern coasting, and many accumulated handsome fortunes. Now the fisheries are tho chief industrial pursuit. There have been no persons of great public note belonging to this town. The citizens, however, have generally been enterprising, and successful in business, many of them eminently so.

Among the prominent and useful citizens of this precinct, were:

Seth Hiller, an extensive landholder
Charles and George Blankinship, eminent ship-builders and owners
George B. Nye, a prominent business men
Stephen Hammond, an eminent mariner
Dr. W. N. Ellis, who, for nearly thirty years, was the principal medical and legal adviser.
Many of the clergymen have been men of character and influence.

The population of the town is about 1000, chiefly concentrated in two very pleasant villages, half a mile apart. There are four religious societies, one Protestant, Methodist, Episcopal Methodist, Universalist, and Congregationalist, each with a neat and commodious house of worship. There is one hotel, the “Bay View House,” in the lower village, a boarding house in the upper, and an other, called the “Marion House,” on the extremity of Great Neck, of a capacity to accommodate three hundred boarders. All of these public houses will accommodate five hundred, and they are full to repletion every summer, at least a part of the time, besides several private houses owned by non-residents. Many private families also receive boarders. The are five stores, and one Petroleum Oil Factory, whose permanent stock amounts to $6500, and when in operation yields an income of about 50 per cent.

The salubrity of this town is above the average of towns in New England.

This town contributed 40 soldiers for the war of the Rebellion, four of whom died in the service, and one since, also 23 seamen, three of whom became officers. There are evidences of a remarkable change in the depth of water in the upper harbor. Where there is now considerable depth of water, during low ebbs there may be seen large trunks and stumps of trees, and there is a tradition, that the channel was once so narrow, that a person might step across at low water below the wharves, between Black Point and the ship-yard. The distance between these two points is about thirty rods.

The territory now called Marion, the greater part of Rochester, the westerly part of Wareham, and, (in many instances), Mattapoisett, was called Sippican, or, as it is more frequently spelt in the ancient records, Sepeean. It belonged to the territory of Massasoit, and afterwards, of his son and successor, Philip Metacomet, sachem of the Wampanoags. In 1662, Phillip entered into an agreement with the English not to dispose of any part of his territory without their consent. In 1666, he confirmed the title of the lands of Sepeean to two subordinate chiefs, Watachpoo and Sampson; with the provision in the deed corresponding with the above agreement. These lands had been held in the line of Watachpoo’s ancestors, for at least six generations. On the 24th day of Dec, 1668, Philip gives his consent that Watachpoo may sell his lands, or a portion of them, to the English. The deed of his sale is not recorded. July 11th, 1667, two sachems of Sepaconit (probably Agawam Neck in Wareham), sold the westerly part of the present town of Marion, including what is called Charles Neck to an Indian chief named Pompmunet, alias Charles of Ashimmit, “with libertie of Comanage for cattle and likewise to make use of any timber for fencing or building that is without this neck, with libertie of fishing or fowling or whatever privilege is belonging thereunto as necessary.” The consideration was eight pounds $26.67.

The northern portion of Sepecan, including the north-west section of Wareham, and nearly the whole of Rochester, was granted to Thomas Besbeck, and others, Jan. 22d, 1638-9. In 1649, (June 6th,) “Libertie is granted unto the townsmen of Plymouth, to make use of the land at Sepecan for the herding and keeping of cattle, and wintering of them there as they shall see cause.” This section included Great and Little Necks, and the vicinity bordering upon the sea-shore. For many years before and after this grant, herdsmen, with their herds, tenanted temporary habitations erected for their use, where the rich pasture lands and extensive salt marshes afforded ample sustenance for their charge. June 5th, 1651, the above grant was confirmed, and limited to the citizens of Plymouth; “and the bounds thereof to extend itself eight miles by the sea-side and four miles into the land.” July 2d, 1655, “At this Court libertie was granted to the town of Plymouth, to purchase lands of the Indians at Sepecan, to winter cattle upon.” June 3rd, 1679. An Act was passed preliminary to the sale of these lands to certain persons, which was confirmed at the next Session of the Court in July, and the settlement commenced in 1680. The first house appears to have been erected by Samuel Briggs, who built about one fourth of a mile north-west of the residence of Abel Griffith. The names of some of the first principal settlers, as given by Barber, are: Samuel Arnold, John Hammond, Moses Barlow, Samuel White, Samuel Hammond, John Wing, Aaron Barlow, Joseph Dotey, Jacob Bumpus, Joseph Burgess, John Haskell, _____ Sprague, Abraham Holmes, Job Winslow.

The first settlement commenced near the entrance to Little Neck, and soon after extended to Great Neck, and towards Rochester center. Their first minister was Samuel Shiverick, from 1683 to 1687. He was succeeded in the latter year by Samuel Arnold, who died Feb. 11th, 1707. Timothy Ruggles was settled in 1710, who held the pastorate 57 years. The church was organized Oct. 13th, 1703. The first meeting house was a building constructed for a “corn-house” by Samuel Briggs, and moved onto Little Neck, near a huge rook, around which the Indians used to perform their noisy demon worship, sometimes at the same hour when the Christian worshippers were engaged in their service. The first burial-place was laid out, according to their usual custom, in the rear of the meeting-house. The first person buried there, is said to have been Eliza Briggs, aged 12 years. The next meeting-house was built in Rochester Center, not far from 1730. The first house built on Great Neck, was by John Allen, near the head of the Cove, between Stephen Allen’s and Mrs. Bolles.

The first house in the lower village was built by John Clark, where the store of J. C. Luce stands, about 1760.

The first house in the upper village was built by John Keen, where W. P. Delano’s house stands. It was swept away by the great tide in 1815.

The Sepecan Indians do not appear very prominent in the history of Massachusetts. They were, at some remote period, very numerous, as the frequent and extensive shell-heaps indicate; though the interior tribes contributed largely to these relics, in their periodical excursions to the sea-shore. In Aug. 1677, while King Phillip’s war was raging, the Saconet tribe, near the eastern shore of Narraganset Bay, was detached from the Confederacy through the efforts of Captain Church, who advised queen Awashanks to go to Sandwich with her tribe and arrange terms of amity with the governor who resided there. Church, impatient at their delay, set out to find their camp. He passed through Agawam [Wareham], crossed the Weweantit River, and found Awashanks and her tribe encamped near the beach at Great Hill, on the spot where the “Marion House” stands. “Some were running races on horseback; some playing at football; some were catching eels and flat-fish; and others plunging and frolicking in the waves.” The gallant queen received the English officer with the greatest respect and cordiality; entertained him with fried eels, bass, flat-fish, and shell-fish; and then, around a huge bonfire of pine knots, herself and warriors pledged their allegiance to the English, and thus sealed the fate of Philip.3

Died in Revolutionary Service From Marion

The list of Marion men, lost in service, so far as we can obtain it, is as follows:
Jesse L. Swift, C, 18th, of disease, Dec. 1, 1864
Nathan H. Weeks, C, 18th, of disease
Richard Gurney, A, 29th, killed
Benjamin D. Clifton, A, 20th, killed
Andrew T. Pratt, E, 3d, killed
Joseph Davis, 9th, N. H., Eeg., Co. I, died in prison.


3.See Abbott’s History of King Phillip. Abbott calls the river which Captain Church crossed to reach Awashank’s camp, Mattapoisett. If he has copied this name correctly, it is to be recollected, that, at this early period, the names of places, rivers, &c., had not became settled, Many instances of the interchange of names from ancient records might be quoted. The stream which bears this name at present, is an insignificant stream, near the western limit of Mattapoisett, ten miles be yond the Weweantit,’ and no bluff is found near it which commands “a wide prospect of Buzzard’s Bay.” If there is a spot near the former stream elevated enough to command a view of the water, only a portion of what is called Mattapoisett Harbor could be seen, a view incomparably inferior to that from Great Hill.

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