"Nimrod." The weather being hazy, the barges were not discovered
until close to the fort, but the preparations for their reception were so evi-
dent that they withdrew to effect a landing elsewhere. Everything in
the village was in the greatest confusion at the approach of the barges
filled with armed soldiers, and all roads leading out into the country
were alive with wagons loaded with the aged and the sick, the women
and children, and with household goods. All day long preparations for
defence went on, but Wareham was the doomed village, not New Bed-
ford. There twelve vessels were set on fire, five of which were totally
consumed. The cotton factory was also fired, but the flames were extin-
guished after the departure of the invaders. In all, about $25,000 was the
amoimt of property damage, and no lives were lost.
All through the summer the "Nimrod" was a source of great discom-
fort, and particularly did she annoy the fisherman along the coast, who
were frequently captured, and their catch of fresh fish removed to the
brig. Traces of her work still exist in many of the old residences along
NEW BEDFORD 165
the coast that were within reach of her guns. But the principal damage
was from the constant rumors of attack which steadily oppressed the
people and kept them ever fearful. A significant item is found in the
record book of Oxford Village Fire Engine Company, dated September,
1814: "At a special meeting of the proprietors of Oxford Engine held
at Nicholas Taber's house, it was voted that the engine be removed to
Captain John Rowland's for 'safety,' and it was done without delay."
On September 27 and 28, 1814, five hundred soldiers marched into
the village from towns in the northern part of Bristol county on their
way to assigned stations along the seacoast. The village was under
strict military rule for several months, and on August 12, 1814, Charles
Gilbert was shot dead by a sentry on duty near the gun house, near the
southeast corner of South Sixth and Spring streets. Gilbert did not
respond when the sentry asked for the countersign, although he was
loyal and in possession of it. His intention no doubt being to test the
fidelity of the sentry.
On Saturday, September 25, 1813, the following item appeared in
"Marine Diary New Bedford Mercury" : "Arrived â€” Cartel Russian
ship "Hoflfming Harms," 47 days from Plymouth, England, with 402
prisoners." These were American sailors who had been impressed into
the British service during the Napoleonic wars, they being a part of the
more than fourteen thousand so compelled to serve in the English navy
against France. When war was declared against their own country,
many thousands refused to longer serve, and were incarcerated in prison
and on prison ships, many of them being held until the war ended. These
four hundred and two men had been confined in Dartmoor prison, "a
dreadful house of bondage," seventeen miles from Plymouth, on the east
side of one of the highest and most barren mountains in England.
There never were records available as to Dartmoor prisoners, nor of
the Americans held in other English prisons, but scores of sailors belong-
ing to New Bedford and neighboring towns were taken from merchant
ships and either forced into the British service or confined in English
prisons for refusing to fight against their own flag. There were confined
in Dartmoor the following men from New Bedford : Daniel McKenzie,
Edmond Allen, Clement P. Covell, John Underwood, Captain Sawdey,
Jacob Taber, James Rider, Humphrey Maxfield, Elijah Tovey, William
Dunham, David Shepherd, James Tilton, Richard Lipscumb, Martin Sut-
ten, Enos Chandler. Also there died at Dartmoor the following: Amasa
Delano, November 18, 1813; John Montgomery, February 25, 1814; Mat-
thew Stetson, February 22, 1815; Martin Sutten, February 22, 1815.
There were two recorded escapes of New Bedford men from Dartmoor:
Captain Swain, in October, 1814; Mr. Russell, in December, 1814. New
Bedford men who were confined in prison ship at Chatham, England,
are, so far as known : John Brown, Asa Bumpus, John Fitz, John Barks,
i66 NEW BEDFORD
William Denning, John Jackson. John James, of New Bedford, was
confined in prison at Cork, Ireland, and Isaac Bly and Peter Amy were
confined on prison ships.
There were many New Bedford men in the army and navy, but no
company was recruited entirely from the village. A number of citizens
exempt from military duty organized themselves into an independent
company under the command of Captain Robert Taber and Lieutenant
Haskell. This company was afterward commanded by Captain John
Avery Parker, the first president of the Merchants' National Bank of
But the end was near, and on the 24th of December, 1814, a treaty
of peace was signed at Ghent between the United States and Great
Britain, a bond that has stood for over a century, although sometimes
sorely strained ; and now the two nations are united in a holy cause, and
the flags of the United States, Great Britain and France fly in conjunc-
tion from the public buildings of America, and at a military service held
in Westminister Abbey, London, the' Stars and Stripes were accorded
an honor unprecedented. These ancient foes, now united for the preser-
vation of human rights, can well afiford to forget that once they were
enemies, and with their blood seal a compact that all foes of liberty and
human rights will recognize and respect as a guarantee that the day of
absolutism in government has passed.
If New Bedford, like all New England, had been lukewarm in sup-
porting the war, she was most energetic and vociferous in welcoming
peace. It was 11 o'clock on Monday night, February 21, 1815, when
Alexander Townsend, of Boston, rode into Bedford Village with the glad
tidings of peace. In a few moments church bells were clanging, the news
spread quickly and the whole town was alive with demonstrations of joy.
Says the "Mercury" of that date: "So sudden and total was the
revolution of feeling that age forgets its gravity and poverty its sorrows.
A despondency awoke to joy and resignation kindled into rapture. So
powerfully were the animal spirits agitated that a stranger to our sober
lives and steady habits and unacquainted with the cause of mirth would
have supposed that we were celebrating a feast of Bacchus and could not
easily have been persuaded to believe that all this apparent intoxication
was merely a spontaneous revel of delightful feelings."
The celebration of peace and the birthday of Washington, February
22, 181 5, was a notable day in the history of the village. The flags of the
United States, England, France, Portugal, Denmark and Sweden flew
from buildings and ships, the bells continued their clamor of praise and
thanksgiving, salutes were fired and in spite of its being a stormy day the
people gave themselves to the full enjoyment of the occasion. The cele-
bration culminated in the evening with a grand display of fireworks,
rockets, transparencies and the illumination of the town, the houses of
NEW BEDFORD 167
Bedford Village and Fairhaven being brilliant with lighted candles in the
Mid the roar of cannon and peal of bells and the discharge of fire-
works the celebration came to an end and the people retired to their
homes conscious that an era of prosperity was at hand. Though the
wheels of industry had long since ceased to move, the fleet which had
brought prosperity was gone, shops and shipyards were closed and the
port closed against every enterprise, provisions were high and but little
money in circulation, hope ran high and that this spirit of optimism was
justified results quickly proved. The paralyzed industries quickly recov-
ered, shops, rope walks, riggers lofts and ship-yards quickly sprang into
being and fairly hummed with activity, the wharves were alive with the
fitting out of ships and the "Mercury" that had for many months been
bare of maritime news was soon recording the arrival and departure of a
goodly fleet of vessels and prosperity followed in the path of peace.
After the War of 1812 to 1830.
The New Bedfoid of a century ago would scarcely be admitted as
bearing any relationship to the city of to-day, with its 120,000 inhabit-
ants, living in comfortable and elegant homes. Where now are mam-
moth mills and factories, fine stores and solid business houses of every
nature, evidencing a prosperous manufacturing city, then were fields,
meadows and forests. Even the river front has so changed as to be
unrecognizable, and the harbor has greatly altered. The most thickly
settled portion of the town was south of Union, yet Madison street was
the actual limit, there being few houses beyond. Fourth and Fifth
streets ended at School street, and the area south of Union, between
Seventh and Third streets, consisted of open fields. The gun house
stood on the square southeast of the Friends' meeting house, and all the
section west of County street was a forest, the only buildings being Gil-
bert Russell's residence at the head of Union, the Friends' Academy
(where now stands the County Street Methodist Episcopal Church), and
the Kempton house at the head of North street. The whole town in
181 5 contained five hundred and six houses. Walnut street was the
southern border of the village ; beyond it dense woods, only broken by
the County road, which led to Clark's Cove.
The "Great Gale'" of September 29, 1815, has ever since been re-
corded as the most severe that ever swept the harbor, and the most dis-
astrous. The tide rose ten feet above normal high water, and four feet
higher than ever before recorded. So rapid was the rise that occupants
of the stores and warehouses situated along the river front were obliged
to leave them, hurriedly abandoning goods and merchandise, several
merchants losing also their books and papers. Several lives were lost
and much property was destroyed. In New Bedford the salt works be-
longing to Caleb Russell were carried away, and the rope walks of Griffin
Barney, William Rotch, Jr., and Buller & Allen were partially destroyed.
Card's turning mill. Coffin's boat-building shop, Wilcox's blacksmith
shop. Cannon's tallow chandlery, a row of stores on Rotch's Wharf, and
several other business houses, were wholly or partially destroyed ; sev-
eral dwelling houses were blown down ; wharves were either ruined or
badly injured ; the Bedford-Fairhaven bridge was carried away ; sixteen
vessels moored at the wharves were blown adrift and cast away at differ-
ent points in the harbor. This list of losses proves how wonderfully New
Bedford had recovered from the frightful stagnation of a few months
War and the elements, which had seemed to conspire against New
Bedford, gave her an uninterrupted period of peace for five years, in
which she exhibited her wonderful recuperative powers and the uncon-
querable spirit of her merchants. There was no bank in operation in the
village from 1812, when the charter of the Bedford Bank expired, until
1816, when the Bedford Commercial Bank was organized. May 31, with
George Howland, president. This was the first strong evidence of the
revival of confidence, and right merrily the work of reconstruction and
rebuilding went forward.
In 1818 there were registered at the custom house the following
Wilmington & Liverpool Packet.
In 1819 the following additional were registered:
Polly & Eliza.
Rose in Bloom.
A vigorous temperance movement was inaugurated in the town in
1819, and public action taken May 26 to suppress "the sale of cider and
other intoxicating liquors to minors, so that their morals may not be
corrupted and their future prospects blasted by habits they have acquired
in their youth."
The next disaster to overtake New Bedford is thus chronicled in the
"Mercury" of September 8, 1820:
On Wednesday morning about half past four the inhabitants of this
town were alarmed by the cry of fire which originated in the extensive
bake house of Mr. Enoch Horton, situated on the street leading from
the Commercial Bank to William Rotch's (formerly Enoch Russell's)
wharf. In a few minutes the whole building was involved in flames
which spread to an adjoining wood house containing a large quantity of
dry pine wood, and in spite of the exertions of the citizens, aided by
seven engines, which were constantly playing on the desolating element,
it spread in almost every direction, consuming in its progress the build-
ings on the east, west and north of it until by great exertions it was
finally subdued just as it was communicating to the store of Peter Bar-
ney on the southeast and the dwelling owned by Gilbert Russell on the
west. Had either of these buildings been permanently on fire no human
exertions could have arrested its progress until a large part of the town
had been laid in ashes ; and had there not fortunately been a calm at the
time we should in all probability have had to record a calamity scarcely
inferior to those of Wilmington and Savannah.
NEW BEDFORD 171
A stage route from Newport to Providence via Stone Bridge was
established November 9, 1820. In that year the following merchants
were engaged in business in New Bedford, although the list is not com-
Isaac Rowland, Jr., & Co., plows, iron hoops, etc.
William James, ship stoves.
H. Taylor, shoes and dry goods.
Oliver Swain, boots and shoes.
George Sisson, crockery and glassware.
Jonathan Ellis, plows.
Caleb Green, drugs.
T. T. Churchill, W. & G. Allen, J. R. Shiverick, Perry & Tobey,
Joseph Bourne, Henry Tucker & Son, dry goods.
Nye & Grinnell, grocers.
Hussey & Allen, flour, leather, etc.
Seth Russell & Son., iron.
Samuel Rodman, Jr., cordage, etc.
John A. Parker, iron.
Thomas S. & N. Hathaway, hemp, duck, iron.
Gorham & Parker, grocers.
A. Sherman, books and stationery.
Harvey Sullings, hardware.
Samuel W. Heath, crockery.
Isaac Manchester, leather and shoes.
Job Baker, grocer.
Green & Tillinghast, dry goods.
Randall & Haskell, grocers and ship chandlers.
Barney Cory, proprietor of the ''Sign of the Swan."
Benjamin Pitman, silversmith and manufacturer.
Daniel Whitaker's Classical School was opened April 22, 1821.
Friday, January 19, 1821, stands out as the "Cold Day," the ther-
mometer registering twelve below zero at sunrise.
December 14, 1822, the market and town house was opened to the
public in the same building on South Second street ; later it was used as
the Central Police Station.
The week of Sunday, March 30, 1823, was marked by an extraordi-
nary gale and snow storm, there being no communication with the out-
side world during the week. On December 2^, 1823, it rained for twenty
hours, the record stating that "the oldest people do not recollect such
The Mozart Society for the practice of sacred music was organized
in 1824, and gave its first public performance in Rev. William Dewey's
meeting house on December 2, 1824. This society, the first of its kind
in the town, was given the free use of the town hall for rehearsals.
On June 6, 1825, Benjamin Lindsay opened a reading and news room
that for sixty 3'ears continued to be the headquarters for the business
men of the town.
172 NEW BEDFORD
The ordination of Elder Harvey Sailings as a preacher of the gospel
among the people "usually denominated Christians" took place in the
North Baptist Church, June 26, 1825.
Among the deaths that occurred in the town during the first quarter
of the century are some remarkable examples of longevity :
Colonel Seth Pope, a prominent figure in the Revolution, June 9,
1802, aged 83.
Hon. Walter Spooner, April 3, 1803, aged 81.
Joseph Russell, October 16, 1804, aged 86.
Dr. Samuel Perry, April 15, 1805, aged 75.
Rev. Samuel West, D. D., September 24, 1807, aged 78.
Major Ebenezer Willis. November 7, 1809, aged 83.
William Sawyer, November 13, 1816, aged 48.
Elisha Thornton, December 31, 1816, aged 70.
Captain Nathaniel Pope, July 17, 1817, aged 70.
Dr. Samuel Perry, October 26, 1820, aged 56.
Deacon Jabez Hammond, December 31, 1820, aged 51.
Hannah Andrews, September 11, 1822, aged loi years, 6 months.
Captain Benjamin Hill, January 20, 1823, aged 68.
Captain Silas Parker, February 20, 1823, aged 80.
Captain George Whipper, April 4, 1823, aged 78.
Mrs. Susannah Maxfield, May 5, 1823, aged 70.
Jeremiah Mayhew, September 21, 1823. aged 79.
Daniel Ricketson, August 11, 1824, aged 79.
Zachariah Hillman, August 11, 1824, aged 66.
James Davis, February 25, 1825, aged 81.
Thomas Taber, January 30, 1825, aged 79.
John Pickens, August 31, 1825, aged 83.
Abraham Ricketson, August 12, 1825, aged 78.
Captain Thomas Cook, September 5, 1825, aged 85.
Abraham Smith, March 18, 1826, aged "\ postmaster of New Bed-
ford twenty years.
The Ark Riots â€” During these years of prosperity. New Bedford had
acquired considerable notoriety through an element scornful of law and
decency, congregated in a neighborhood on Kempton street, called "Hard
Dig," and on the river front in a built-over old whaling hulk, "The
Camillus," known as "The Ark." In August, 1826, the dead body of a
man was found in the woods near "Hard Dig" by some boys, who
hastened to the town with the story of their discovery. Several citizens
returned to the spot with the boys, but the body had been removed. A
ship carpenter had recently disappeared (from whom no tidings were
ever received), and this fact gave color to the belief that a murder had
been committed. As "Hard Dig" was the home of a vicious and danger-
ous class who were a menace to the public peace, it was deemed wise by
an element who distrusted the slow processes of the law to take matters
into their own hands. A large party met at the corner of Kempton
NEW BEDFORD 173
street, organized, and in two hours' time "Hard Dig" was a thing of the
past, the small frame houses having been pulled down and burned.
Emboldened by their easy success in abating the "Hard Dig"
nuisance, the crowd decided it was a good time to act in a similar man-
ner toward another nuisance and evil resort, "The Ark," located on the
river front, the exact location being later the site of the Charles S.
Paisler brick building on Water street. "The Ark" stood upon the shore
as far up as a high tide would permit the old hulk to be floated, and was
kept in an upright position by keel blocks. The stern board of an old dis-
mantled whaler, "The Ark," was secured and nailed in position on the
upper deck, which gave to the hulk (formerly the whaler "Camillus")
its name. At first the home of a respectable family who built a house
covering the whole deck, "The Ark" later came to a base use, and was a
moral offence to the community. After the destruction of "Hard Dig"
and the agreement to meet the next night and perform a similar service
for "The Ark," the crowd dispersed to meet again the next night. Dur-
ing the day which intervened, the inmates of "The Ark" learned of the
proposed raid, and with their sympathizers gathered a plentiful supply
of stones, bottles and other missiles with which to defend their home.
This ammunition was piled upon the four-foot portico which surrounded
"The Ark," and when the attack was made by the crowd a very lively
fight ensued. But the crowd won, "The Ark" was smashed to pieces
with axe and crowbar, and set on fire. The fire engines were called out,
but their only work was to protect surrounding buildings. Some fifty
citizens of New Bedford were subpoenaed before the court at Taunton,
but the matter was soon dropped, no evidence being obtained to impli-
cate any particular man.
From the destruction of "Hard Dig" and "The Ark" in August,
1826, until the same month in 1829 there was a constant conflict between
the criminal element of New Bedford and the forces of law and order.
A second "Ark" appeared, this built over the hull of the ship "Indian
Chief," located a little further west than the first. It was occupied by
the worst classes, and neither property nor life were considered safe.
Every attempt to banish the scourge had failed, the law being openly
In the spring of 1829 the Elm Street Methodist Episcopal Church
was set on fire on a Saturday night. The basement of the building was
filled with casks of oil, which had they taken fire would have spread a
conflagration most destructive. But about eleven o'clock the fire was
discovered and extinguished before a great deal of damage was done, the
audience room being used for service the next day. It was believed that
some of the frequenters of "The Ark" had set the church on fire, and as
no crime seemed impossible to the criminals who infested that resort, it
passed for a fact that they were guilty of this last fiendish crime. The
174 NEW BEDFORD
proprietor of this second "Ark" was a thug named Titus Peck, who had
gained such a criminal following that it was said the selectmen of the
town were afraid to interfere with him. Word was quietly passed around
that a meeting of citizens was to be held in the town hall, and on Satur-
day evening, August 29, 1829, about two hundred men packed the hall.
While there seemed to be no organization, it was evident that a plan of
action had been agreed upon, and that most of the men there well under-
stood what was to be done, and only awaited an agreed upon signal.
Influential citizens, among whom were Gideon Rowland, Zachariah
Hillman. Francis Taber, Samuel Rodman, Thomas Mandell, J. A.
Parker, Jethro Hillman, and Barney Taber, used their utmost influence
to prevent an outbreak, and the riot act was read by Timothy G. Coffin.
All was quiet until the nine o'clock bell on Dr. Dewey's Church rang out,
then pandemonium broke forth. With a shout, "Jerry is in town" (the
agreed upon signal), the crowd rushed to the vicinity of Ark Lane.
There the hook and ladder truck was found brought by unknown hands,
and a band of twenty-five men, distingui.shed by their uniform coats
turned inside out, trousers covered with white canvas at the knees, and
slouch hats. The work of destruction began at once, and by midnight
most of the crowd had gone home. At midnight the torch was applied
to the infamous craft, and this second "Ark" to disgrace New Bedford
was burned to the water edge. Several small houses near by also caught
fire, and although the fire department was called out, but little was
accomplished, and severe loss was sustained by the quiet, peaceful
owners of these houses, who could ill afford it. This was unfortunate
and not intended, for the action of the mob was against "The Ark" only,
and a notice to the town authorities that they must use their power to
keep the town free from open violation or mob rule would supplant law-
On July 30, 1830, a town meeting was held to "see if the town will
take into consideration the expediency of adopting measures to prevent
the further destruction of property by riotous assemblages, and also to
see if the town will think it proper to take any further measures to secure
the safety of the town in consequence of the recent burnings of dwelling
houses in the vicinity." The meeting appointed a committee to take into
consideration the proposed subject, said committee consisting of Samuel
Rodman, Joseph Ricketson, D. Davenport, John Rowland, Jr., Nathan
Hathaway, James B. Congdon, Timothy I. Dyer, Benjamin Rodman and