D. Hamilton (Duane Hamilton) Hurd.

History of Plymouth County, Massachusetts : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men (Volume 2) online

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on the lake, and did so with great speed. When
done he had no crew to man it. The commodore
could spare no men from his other ships. But the
youug hero was not to be foiled in that way. Re-
sorting to the general in command of the laud forces,
he got from him pel mission to gather a crew from
the iusubordiuates under arrest. They were a bad
set of meu apparently, but under Smith's training
became a baud of heroic patriots. Taking them on

board his ship, and treating them with that kindness
with which his great heart always overflowed, in a
very short time his men were wholly welded to his
will. The famous Lake battle began. Smith's ves-
sel was soon in the hottest of it. One side was
nearly torn away by the enemy's shot, and the guus
there dismounted. Availing himself of what he had
learned in North River navigation, in the carrying of
his father's vessels over the shoals which had begun
to obstruct that river, he sent out a boat's crew with
the necessary appliances for the work to swing the
wounded side of his ship to the enemy while he
loaded the guns on the other side, and then swing
that side towards them to deliver his fire. Thus he
fought till the end. This was a part of his naval

The war of the Rebellion found him an old man,
but still with all the vigor of youth providentially at
the head of the Bureau of Docks and Yards. The
great navy created during that war grew up under
his vigorous management. He did more clerical
work personally than any two men in his employ, be-
sides having the care of the immense work of the
bureau. The " Monitor," which saved the navy and
perhaps the government, would not have been ac-
cepted but for his strenuous efforts in its behalf. It
is among the saddest incidents of the war that this
vessel arrived at Newport News one day too late to
save the life of his gallant son. His son, Joseph
Smith, — a man worthy of his name and of his noble
sire, — was in command of the " Congress." In a visit
to Washington, a short time before, he had urged his
father to hurry up the " Monitor," in which he had
so much confidence, because of the great danger they
were in from the " Merrimac," and he parted from
his parent with apparent foreboding of his coming
fate. It was evident he looked upon it as a final
parting. It is natural to suppose that parental affec-
tion added energy to the efforts for the speediest pos-
sible dispatch of the " Monitor" to the scenes of its
great triumph.

It was Sunday. Secretary Welles drove round to
the church where he knew Commodore Smith was
always to be found on the Sabbath and called the old
hero out. He said, " You know the dangerous posi-
tiou of our fleet in the Chesapeake in case the ' Mer-
rimac' comes out?" " Yes," was the reply. " Well,"
said the secretary, " we have ouly partial particulars.
The ' Merrimac' has come out, and all we kuow is
that the ' Cumberland' has been sunk and the ' Cou-
gress' has surrendered." " Then Joe is dead," said
the noble father, as he turned and walked back into
the church. He knew the high spirit of his son so



well that he was confident no surrender could occur
while he was living. And so it proved. The first
broadside from the " Merrimac" had killed him, and
deprived the couutry of one of its best naval officers.

Capt. Albert Smith, the other son of the admiral,
died during the war from the effects of what he suf-
fered in passing up the Mississippi and at the battle
of New Orleans, the vessel he commanded being in
the hottest of the fight. He was the last of this
heroic race. This may seem like digression, but it is
a bit of history that grows out of ship-building on
North River. A war vessel on Lake Erie and the
" Monitor" saving the fleet at Fortress Monroe are
closely associated therewith.

Edmund and Samuel Eells afterwards built at this
yard, and theu John B. and Elijah Barstow, and
lastly Elijah Barstow, Jr.

The next yard was that of David Kingman. This
was not in use so long as some others. Isaiah Wing
built a vessel there, as did also Benjamin and Martin
Stockbridgc. All the above yards were within a dis-
tance of one-half mile from Barstow's Bridge, and are
within what is now the territory of Hanover, but as
when many of them were first established they were
within what was then the town of Scituate, mention
of them all seems to belong properly to the history
of the old town and of this river.

On the Pembroke side of the river, opposite, were
also ship-yards, occupied by George Turner, Thomas
Turner, and Nathaniel Cushing.

Down the river, below the Third Herring Brook,
is the yard of Elijah Barstow and Capt. Thomas
Waterman. After Capt. Waterman died his son,
Thomas B. Waterman, continued the business of
ship-building at the same place with Mr. Barstow,
aud these enterprisiug gentlemen continued long after
all others had abandoned the business, aud built the
last vessel on the river. They are still living, and to
be, as they are, the last representatives of that strong
race of business men who for so many generations
made North Iliver ship-building famous is no slight

Near their ship-yard, but not probably on the precise
site, Nathaniel Church and John Palmer began build-
ing vessels before 1G90. More than one generation
of their families probably continued the business there.
Michael Ford, who came into Scituate from Marshfield
with his brother-in-law, William Copeland, afterwards
did business at this yard. It is certaiu also that the
sons of these two men, Michael Ford and William
and Ebeuezer Copeland, built ships there with much
enterprise for many years. Mr. Michael Ford died
about 1SS0, very aged. He was a soldier in the war of

1812, which war interrupted all ship-building on the
river for a time, and made the ship-carpenters feel like
fighting England or whoever they suspected was the
cause of their misfortunes.

Some distance below was the famous Wauton ship-
yard. Edward Wanton (a Quaker, whose family re-
moved to Rhode Island and became very eminent
there, his son, William Wanton, being Governor of
Rhode Island) came to Scituate, aud .ibout 1GG0
bought of William Parker a farm of eighty acres at
Till's Creek, now called Dwelley's Creek. Here, just
below the creek, where the river sweeps grandly in to
the upland, he began ship-building about 1GG0, one of
the earliest on the river. He died in 171G, and was
buried on his farm. His children having removed,
his farm was sold to John Stetson, and ship-building
appears to have been carried on by the Stetsons. In
1770, Benjamin Delauo removed from Pembroke and
settled on the ancient Dwelley place, at Till's Creek
brook, recently the home of Maj. Samuel Foster, and
now owued by the Delanos again. He succeeded to
the business at the Wanton ship-yard, and there con-
ducted the business for forty years. His son, Wil-
liam Delano, succeeded him, and carried on the busi-
ness with great energy and enterprise. He built the
imposing mansion on River Street, where his daugh-
ters still reside. This house, which has always been
the home of the best culture and refinement of the
old town, commands a tine view of the beautifully-
winding river and some of the finest scenery in the
world. Elisha Foster and Samuel Foster also built
ships at this place. Joseph Clapp also carried on the
business here, succeeding Mr. Foster. He was the
last gentleman who had enterprise enough to build at
this place, and is still living. The last ship built here
by him was about the year 1S35.

At this Wauton ship-yard more and larger vessels
were built than at any other point. A half-mile or
so farther down, about the year 1G90, Job Randall
engaged in the business. Here also the Proutys,
Chittendens, aud Torreys are reported to have built
ships. Within the memory of those now living, Eli-
jah Cudworth carried on ship-building at this yard,
and with him the work there ceased. Another halt-
mile lower down was the block-house, garrisoned and
suffering attack during King Philip's war.

Here also was another ship-yard, and here the pos-
terity of Elder Nathauiel Tilden aud Deacon John
James carried on the business for over a hundred
years. To this point the river had flowed in a course
that was nearly due north from Barstow's bridge.
Here it makes a turu nearly at a right angle, and
thence flows east till near the beach, wheu it again



turns and runs nearly south to its entrance into the i
sea. A little below the James ship-yard is Uuion I
bridge. Barstow's bridge had been erected above in
1656, and was a free bridge. In 1801 a corporation
erected Union bridge. It was a toll-bridge until 1850,
when it was nude free. A ferry had previously ex-
isted at this point. As Elisha Bisbe was the ferryman
in 1645, it was probably established about that time.
The Oak man family, of Marshfield, usually managed
this furry, but John Tolman was the last ferryman, so
far as can be learned. Farther down the river was
another ferry, known as Doggett's FerTy. Here, in
1S25, a toll-bridge, called Little's bridge, was built.
This also was made a free bridge March 20, 1865.

About a mile below Union bridge was a ship-yard,
where the first vessel on the river was reputed to have
been built by Samuel House in 1650. After him
Thomas Nichols built vessels there, and following him
Israel Hobart. Jeremiah and Walter Hatch also oc-
cupied the yard. The Briggs family, for several gen-
erations, built vessels there. Here, about 1773, James
Briggs built the ship " Columbia." It was the first
American ship to visit what is now the Pacific coast
of this great country. Capt. Kendrick sailed up the
great river he found there and named it after his ship,
the " Columbia," a name so appropriate that it has
been retained. Thus a little ship, built on little
North River, gave a name to the mightiest river that
empties from this continent into the Pacific Ocean.
The last builders at this ship-yard were Cushing Briggs
and Henry Briggs, and thus the business ceased about
1S40. At Little's bridge, vessels were built at one
time on the Marshfield side. Below Little's bridge
the river expands greatly in width, the salt meadows
form a vast expanse, and the scenery takes on grand
proportions of beauty. The view from the " High
Hills" and from the Third and Fourth Cliffs is among
the finest in New England. Nearly a mile from the
mouth of the river a ferry was very early established
by the colony court. This was iu 1638, and Jonathan
Brewster was the first ferryman. He probably dis-
liked the business or distrusted its profits, for three
years later he sold the privilege to John Barker and
another. But it could not have been a profitable
business, for, later, Kalph Chapman petitioned the
court to excuse him, as it would bring him to extreme
poverty. The court voted to relieve him from his
contract, " except upon special occasions, as bringing
over the magistrates who reside there."

This river near its mouth, between that aud the
Fourth Cliff, was sometimes called " New Harbor," to
distinguish it from what is more properly known as
Scituate harbor. It was recognized as a harbor as

early as the incorporation of the town, and vessels
wintered there, the mouth of the river then being
deep enough to admit them. Commerce with the
West Indies lias been carried on from thence also.
Such is its character, that if an entrance could be ob-
tained it would furnish one of the finest harbors of
refuge on the coast. It is by no means certain but
that if the government should spend some money in
dredging out the mouth of this river it would benefit
commerce more largely and more cheaply than is often
the case with its " River and Harbor" appropriations.
Upon the sea-coast is Scituate harbor, a secure little
gem of a harbor when vessels get safely into it, but
rather difficult of access. Governmeut has recently
been at considerable expense in building a breakwater
to protect and secure and improve it. This work was
brought about largely through the exertions of Hon.
George Lunt, who has recently become a resident of
the town and greatly interested himself in its im-
provement. Vessels were built in Scituate at the
harbor. William James began the business there
about 1646. Whether the first vessel was built here
by him or by Samuel House on North River is un-
certain. Afterwards Job Otis conducted the business
there. In modern times the Brothers Briggs built
vessels there, but that industry has now wholly van-
ished from the town.

Briggs Harbor, or Strawberry Cove, or, as the In-
dians called it, Mushquashtuck, is a small cove formed
by the projection of the Glades. Ship-building on a
small scale was once carried on here, and it was quite
a useful little cove to the fishermen. The name
" Brisjjs Harbor" is from the name of the man who


first settled there in 1651, — Walter Briggs, a valuable
citizen. His will, dated 1684, contains this quaint
provision : " To my wife Frances one-third of my es-
tate during her life, also a gentle horse or mare, and
Jemmy, the Negur, shall catch it for her." The
Glades, so called, situated at the northernmost point
of the town, is a beautiful promontory jutting out
into the sea. The southerly part of it is rugged,
rocky, and covered witli red-cedar. These trees, of
an old growth when the country was first settled,
formed quite an article of merchandise, and were sent
iu large quantities to Boston. The north portion of
the Glades is composed of some of the finest arable
land in the county. It all has quite an elevatiou
above the sea, and the view therefrom in all direc-
tions is very fine. It is now owned aud occupied by
a Boston club.

Natural Topography. — Though the general fea-
tures of the land and its natural productions are the
same throughout Plymouth County, each town, like



each human being, has those features drawn iu varying
lines to that extent that no one exactly resembles
another, but each ever preserves its own identity.
What hand but that of a Divine Architect could thus
design, draw, and create a world and its inhabitants
in such a way ? Surely chance would be unequal to
the work. Work, and designed work, it must be.
There is no town in the county whose face is so varied
as this. High hills, deep valleys, a few level plains,
many damp, dark swamps, extended fresh meadows,
broad salt marshes, and brooks running iu all direc-
tions, are features of its surface. Approaching from
the sea the first objects to attract the voyager are the
Pour Cliffs, with their white sandy fronts lifting them-
selves above the sea. Just inside of these that
strange upheaval or deposit, whichever it may be
called, now Colmau's Hills, barren aud unsightly in
themselves, contrasting sharply with the rich meadows
skirling the base, and useless except for the grand
and inspiring view they afford.

The laud as a whole rises gradually as it recedes
from the sea and river. The soil in the northerly
part of the town, near Hiugham aud Cohasset, is good,
but generally hard of cultivation, bowlders being
scattered over it with lavish hand. Large spaces of
easily tilled laud, however, abouud. In the north
part of the towu are Mann Hill, Hooppole Hill, Mast
Hill, Black Pond Hill, Mount Blue, aud Prospect
Hill. The last lies partly in Hingham, rises to a
great height, and its summit affords an immense field
of vision. Boston may there be seen on a clear day.
It is a region thickly strewn with bowlders, covers
hundreds of acres of land, and affords rich pasturage
for large herds of cattle. Its soil is favorable to the
growth of the barberry, which here abounds. Wal-
nut-Tree Hill, named so by the early settlers because
black-walnut trees were found growing there, is near
where Judge William Cushing, of the United States
Supreme Court, resided. It is unfortunate that these
valuable trees should have been all destroyed without
any provision being made for a succession. The last
of them, an ancient survivor of the primeval forest,
its trunk three feet in diameter, fell before the wood-
man's axe in 1820. Farther southwest is Cordwood
Hill. Up the river still farther, and above Till's
Brook, is an extended elevation of great height, early
called Randall Hill, but since Studley Hill. This is
mostly a stony range partly covered with wood, and
in part affords fine pasturage aud some good tillage
land. Wild-Cat Hill, a mile west of this, is so called
because of the killing of animals of that kind there.
Pinccr's Hill, at the centre of the town, and Simon's
Hill, at the west part, complete the catalogue of the

principal elevations of land in the town. Although
there are many ponds in the town, created for manu-
facturing purposes, only three natural ponds of any
size exist. These are Mushquashcut Pond, near the
shore in the Conihasset grant; Black Pond, a deep,
dark, cold pond in the north part of the town, cover-
ing about four acres; and Accord Pond, at the west
corner of the town. This pond derives its name from
the fact that the commissioners appointed to settle the
line between the Plymouth Colony aud Massachusetts
Colony came to au accord or agreement that the line
should run through this pond. It lies within the
limits of the three towus of South Scituate, Hing-
ham, and Rockland. It is a fine sheet of water, clear
and deep, covering about seventy acres, has recently
been stocked with black bass, and supplies the towns
of Hingham and Hull with water. With the excep-
tion of the cliffs, " Greenfield," the north point of
the Glades, part of Belle House Neck, and other
places along the line of the North River which had
been cleared and planted by the Indians, the early
settlers found the place au unbroken forest. With
the exceptiou of the black-walnut, all the varieties of
trees then existent are still represented iu the exten-
sive forests of the town. All the varieties of oak
known to a northern climate grow here, — the hickory,
shell-bark, and pignut, the white- and black-ash, the
beech, the willow, the graceful elm, the finest of all
landscape or shade-trees, and largely utilized as such,
the three kinds of birch (white, black, and yellow),
sassafras, holly, iron-wood (hornbeam), hemlock, all
these growing on the upland. The extensive swamps
grow great quantities of white-cedar and maple, and
among these grows the poisonous dogwood ; and last,
but not least, the white-pine grows in great vigor and
abundance on both upland and swamp.

The white-pine is a very valuable wood for manu-
facturing purposes and of rapid growth. This has
been of great value to the towu from its early settle-
ment, and has entered largely into the erection of its
buildings and its manufactures. Saw-mills for cutting
it into lumber have always abounded in all parts of
the town. The acreage covered by white-pine is to-
day as large as it has been at any time within the last
century and a half.

To describe the several hundred species of plants
growing there is here impossible. The most striking
of the flowering shrubs is the laurel, which grows iu
wild and rich luxuriance in or near Valley Swainp.
Iu early times wolves, wild-cats, beavers, and deer
were found in the forests. That wolves were uumer-
ous is evident from the passage of laws requiring the
town in lG42to maintain four wolf-traps, aud in 1665



two wolf-traps. By the colony laws it appears also
that a bounty of four bushels of corn was given for
every wolf killed, and for a wolf killed by au Indian
" a coat of trading cloth." Foxes, woodchucks, rab-
bits, raeeoous, and squirrels abounded in the woods.
Bounties at different periods have been offered for the
destruction of such of these as were iujurious to the
fanning interests. Foxes, raccoons, squirrels, crows,
blackbirds, and hawks were especially under the ban.
The blue-jay, the robin redbreast (" red thrasher," so
called), woodpecker, oriole, bobolink, and many others
contributed to make the woods beautiful with plumage
and vocal with music, and must have been welcomed
back to their haunts in the spring with the keenest
joy by the self-exiled planters of the colony. Laws
should ever be in existence and in force to protect
and perpetuate these feathered friends of mankind.
Wild fruits are abundant. Grapes grow in the woods
and pastures, and cranberries in the meadows. Whor-
tleberries, blackberries, strawberries, and raspberries
are also found in great abuudance, aud have been
gathered in baskets and bark by all the generations.
The geological formation in Scituate is syenitic.

Indians. — When the early settlers of Scituate
first came there they found a condition of things
similar to that of Plymouth when the Pilgrims
lauded. Pestilence had swept off the natives, and a
depopulated land invited their occupation. There
was proof enough that this was once a well-peopled
region. But the cleared planting-grounds had been
long abandoned. The Indian corn-hills were over-
grown with grass to an extent that gave the name of
Greenfield to one at least of those plauting-places.
The tribe to which this territory had belonged was
the Mattakeesetts, and the remnaut thereof was living
about the Indian Ponds in Pembroke. Very likely
this locality may have been always the headquarters
of the tribe. A few scattered individuals of the race
lingered about the burial-grounds of their fathers, aud
died there perhaps. Deane says a few families made
a summer residence about Wigwam Neck as late as
1700. Members of the families of Opechus, Tan-
tachi, and Attawan were there as late as 1740, and
the Indian Simon, living near Simon's Hill, which
still bears his name, was there later still, and the last
of the race probably was Comsett, who enlisted in
the Revolutionary army. The settlers might well
have claimed that this abandoned territory could be
taken possession of under a claim of right, and that
their title would be an honest one. For this, how-
ever, they were far too conscientious, and as soon as
the proper negotiations could be entered into pro-
ceeded to extinguish whatever Indian title might be

said to exist by purchase from Josias Wampatuck,
the chief of Mattakeesetts, within whose tribal terri-
tory Scituate was supposed once to lie. This Iudiun
title deed to the township of Scituate reads as follows.
Perhaps it should be added here that this deed is not
the first one which was obtained about 1G40, but was
one substituted for it, with the evident object of in-
cluding the " Two Miles." The Mattakeesetts were
a friendly people :

" I, Josiah Wampatuck, do acknowledge and confess that I
have aold two tracts of land unto Mr. Timothy Hathorly, Mr.
James Cudworth, Mr. Joseph Tilden, Humphrey Turner, Wil-
liam Hatch, John Hoar, and James Torrcy, for the proper use
and behoof of the Town of Scituate, to he enjoyed by them ac-
cording to the true intents of the English grants. The one parcel
of such land is bounded from the mouth of the North River, as
that River goeth to the Indian Head Hiver ; from thence, as
that River goeth unto the Pond at the head of that River, and
from the pond at the head of the Indian Head River upon a
straight line unto the middle of Accord Pond ; from Accord
Pond, by the lino set by the Commissioners as the bounds be-
twixt the two jurisdictions, untill it meet with the line of the
laud sold by me unto the sharers of Conihasset, as that lino
runs between the Town and the sharer9, until it coiueth to the
sea ; and so along by the sea unto the mouth of the North River
aforesaid. The other parcel! of land, lying on the easterly side
of the North River, begins at a lot which was some time the land
of John Ford, and so to run two miles southerly as the River
runs, aud a mile in breadth towards the east, for which pureell
of land, I do acknowledge to have received of the men, whose
names are before mentioned, fourteen pounds in full satis-
faction, in behalf of the inhabitants of the town of Scituate as
aforesaid ; aud I do horcby promise and engage to give such
further evidence before the Liovcrnor as thu Town of Scituate
shall think meet, when I am thereunto required. In witness
whereof, I have hereunto set my hand
in presence of
" Nathaniel Moiiton.

Eijwaud Hawks.

Samuel Nash.

" At the same time when Josias mado acknowledgment, as
above mentioned, there was a Deed brought into Court which
he owned to be the Deed which he gave to them whose names are

Online LibraryD. Hamilton (Duane Hamilton) HurdHistory of Plymouth County, Massachusetts : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men (Volume 2) → online text (page 90 of 118)