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History of Fall River



BY Henry M.-Fenner
under the direction of the

Historical Committee

OF the Merchants Association





Fall River Merchants Association

Copyright, 1911,

By Merchants Association.

Published May, 1911.

T}ie Mimrue Press, Fall River, Massachusetts.

The observance of the one hundredth anniversary of the
beginning of cotton manufacturing in Fall River has seemed
to the Merchants Association a fitting occasion for the publica-
tion of a concise history of the community. Its historical
committee has therefore prepared the pages which follow, in
the hope of making the history of the city better known by its
citizens and the thousands of visitors within its gates, as well
as by many others to whom copies may be sent by friends.

The book has been prepared and published in less than
two months, and has of necessity been made brief. A strong
effort has, however, been made to secure accuracy, and to
include all the principal facts in connection with the city's
development. The original spelling of names has been retained
in many cases, and incidents of interest have in some instances
been interwoven.

The committee hopes that its work may be the basis of a
more extensive history of Fall River. The story of its growth
is an inspiration to greater things, and deserves to be more
generally known.

FALL RIVER, in population the third city of the Common-
wealth of Massachusetts, situated in the southeasterly-
section of the state, is in North Latitude 41" -42'-04"+
and W. Longitude 71° - 09' - 20" +. The distance in a direct
line from the State House in Boston to the City Hall in Fall
River being 45.58 miles.

The city is located on the easterly shore of Mount Hope
Bay and Taunton River, bounded northerly by Freetown,
easterly by Freetown, Dartmouth and Westport, southerly by
Dartmouth, Westport and Tiverton, R. I., westerly by Tiver-
ton, R. I. and the channel of Mount Hope Bay and Taunton
River. Within these limits there is included an area of nearly
41 square miles, consisting of approximately 33.94 miles of
land, 4.43 miles of fresh water and 2.5 miles of salt water.
Its extreme length approximates 11 miles and its width 71
miles. Its shape is very irregular and somewhat peculiar,
as seen in the illustration.

A study of the drawing will explain the cause of the
long continued controversy as to the location of the "centre
of Fall River."

From the water front the rise is, as a rule, abrupt. South
Main street in front of City Hall (less than one-half mile from
the shore) is at an elevation 119 feet above mean high water
in Taunton River. Townsend Hill (so-called) on the easterly
side of South Main Street near the Rhode Island Line, (less
than three-fourths of a mile from the shore) has an elevation
of 272 feet. Highland Avenue at its junction with New
Boston Road is at an elevation of 254 feet.

The highest point within the city limits is Copicut Hill,
about 5 miles northeasterly from City Hall, where an elevation
of 355 feet is reached.

The city's water supply. North WatuppaPond, having an
area of 2.82 square miles and an extreme depth of 27 feet, is
one of the best in the State, judged both as to quantity and
quality. The water shed of the pond (including the area of

the pond itself) is 11.444 square miles. Its capacity at full
pond is 7,199.907,200 Gallons. At 5 feet below full pond (a
depth approximated but once since the installation of the
water works) its capacity is 4,488,189,500 Gallons. From
these figures it would appear that danger of a water famine
is very remote.



The sewerage of the city is, as a whole, on the ' 'Combined
System," that is, the sewers are planned to care for storm
water as well as for domestic sewage. There are, howev^er,

limited areas in which separate systems are maintained, the
object being to furnish as much of the storm water as is
possible for use by the mills along Quequechan River.

Underlying much of the city are granite ledges from
which material for construction of buildings, making of street
curbing, paving, etc., is obtained. While this is a valuable
asset for the city, it is not an unmixed blessing, as this same
granite accounts for what, to some, appears to be an unreason-
able cost of sewers, water works, and other lines of work re-
quiring the building of underground structures.

The city has one natural curiosity of considerable interest,
the "Rolling Rock" on County street, referred to in old
bounds as "The Goose-nesting Rock." It is a boulder of
coarse conglomerate, resting on a ledge of granite, and show-
ing that it was brought to its present position by diluvial
action. It was so finely balanced that until recent years it
could be easily moved by one hand, and by using both hands
could be made to oscillate two or three inches at the top. It
is eight feet thick, with a horizontal circumference of 58 feet.
Its estimated weight is 140 tons.

Fall River to-day is a beautifully situated city of approxi-
mately 120,000 inhabitants. It is a busy, prosperous and
growing community, which in half a century has risen,
through its own efforts from a little town of about 13,000
people to its present prominence. Its citizens are justly
proud of it and of its growth, and, inspired by what they
have done, look forward with confidence to even greater

It is known as the largest cotton manufacturing center
in the United States, and its more than 100 mills, containing
nearly 4,000,000 spindles, give employment to 35,000 persons.
Its factories use about 450,000 bales of cotton a year, or 9,000
a week, from which are produced more than a thousand
million yards of cloth in a year, or three and a half million
yards each working day. Reduced to miles, this means 1900
miles of cloth a day, or three miles a minute.

But it is not alone of the (luantity of its product that the

city boasts. It produces many medium weight goods to meet
the various demands of the market, as well as twills, sateens
and curtains, and its newer mills have almost exclusively
been designed for the making of fine goods, and more and
more of the finest fabrics are being manufactured each year;
also fine ginghams, colored yarns, sewing thread, Marseilles
quilts and cloths with finishes of linen and silk.

It has bleacheries and print works, one of the latter, the
Amei-ican Printing Company, the largest in the United States,
with an extensive and increasing export trade. It has plants
for the manufacture of its own machinery, plants for the
utilization of the waste cotton in the manufacture of rope,
twine, mops and " comforters" and plants for the making of
cotton bags and narrow fabrics. It has, among others, the
largest hat manufacturing establishment in the country, and
also an extensive piano factory.

Though in recent years large numbers have come here
from foreign lands, the best of order is maintained. The
newcomers are acquiring homes of their own and doing their
part in the upbuilding of the city.

The community is well policed and well lighted. It main-
tains an efficient fire department, and the annual loss by fire
is comparatively small. Its schools are modern, housed in
commodious, beautiful and well arranged structures. The
system is supplemented by a large and well equipped textile
school. It has a public library of 86,000 volumes, in a new
and centrally located building, with 22,834 cardholders and an
annual circulation of more than 200,000 volumes.

It has parks and playgrounds of more than 100 acres,
situated in various parts of the city, 73 miles of sewers and
16h miles of paved streets.

Its situation near the coast gives it an excellent climate.
Severe storms are almost unknown. Its winters are not
severe, and its summers are cool. From the higher parts of
the city, view^s of marked beauty are obtainable over the
adjoining bay and rivers and across the farming lands on the
west side of the river, and on clear days Providence can be
seen in the distance. Many of the sunsets are almost unsur-

It has charming residential sections, scores of churches,
and numerous charitable institutions, housed in most attrac-
tive buildings, of which the Boys' Club, the Young Men's
Christian Association, the Women's Union, the Union and
Ste. Anne's Hospitals, the Children's Home, the St. Joseph's
and St. Vincent's orphanages, the Home for Aged People
and the Bishop Stang Day Nursery are examples.

Many of its stores are large, and well arranged and
compare favorably with those in other cities. Its Merchants
Association has a large and active membership, and has done
much for the city.

There are four national banks, with a combined capital
of $2,200,000 and deposits in excess of $6,000,000, a trust
company with deposits of more than $2,000,000, four savings
banks that hold nearly $23,000,000 for 55,000 depositors,
and four co-operative banks, whose assets are in excess
of $2,000,000.

Four daily newspapers are published here, the Evening
News, established as a weekly in 1845 and as a daily in 1859,
the Herald, started in 1872, the Globe, in 1885 and L'lnde-
pendant, printed in French, and founded in 1885. There are
also two weeklies, issued in Portuguese, called As Novidades
and Amigo do Poro.

The city has excellent transportation facilities, both by
rail and water. It has deep water to its wharves and regular
lines of steamers to New York, Philadelphia and Providence,
including the famous Fall River Line, whose magnificent
fleet is well and favorably known to the travelling public.

It has a modern street railway system, with suburban
roads to Providence, Taunton, New Bedford and Newport,
and excellent train and electric car service to these and other

Its assessed valuation in 1910 was $92,488,520, and its
tax rate, which includes all charges, except in the case of
granolithic sidewalks, which are put in on application of
abutting owners, was $18.70 per thousand.


The territory included in the city of Fall River was
fornjerly a part of the colony of Plymouth, and remained so
until that colony was united with Massachusetts in 1692.
Like the remainder of New England, it was inhabited by
Indian tribes, and, until after King Philip's war in 1676, when
the spirit of the Indians in this section was finally broken and
many of them exterminated, there were but very few, if any,
white settlers.

The coast of North America had been skirted as early as
1498, six years after the discovery by Columbus, by Sebastian
Cabot, a fact on which the English based their title. Much
earlier, however, this immediate section had probably been
visited by the Northmen, whose sagas relate that in 1008 a
party led by Thorfinn had come up the Sagkonate, now
Seaconnet river and spent the winter on Mount Hope Bay,
where they traded with the natives. Whether they placed
the inscriptions on the rock at Dighton is a question which in
all probability will never be satisfactorily answered. Another
early visitor was a Florentine, Joseph Verrazzano, who was
under the patronage of the French king, Francis I, and who,
with a party of 50 men, in the ship Dauphin, is said to have
entered Narragansett Bay in 1524 and remained for 15 days.

The natives who dwelt in this vicinity were the Pocassets,
a sub-tribe of the Wampanoags, and a part of the great
Algonquin nation. At the time of the Plymouth settlement,
Massasoit, the father of King Philip, otherwise known as
Metacomet, was sachem of the Wampanoags, and Corbitant
of the Pocassets. Corbitant's principal place of residence
was at Mattapoisett, now Gardner's Neck, in Swansea. He
was not friendly to the whites, but was kept in check by
Massasoit, and on his death in 1624 was succeeded by his
daughter, Weetamoe, who was drowned in 1676 while cross-
ing the Tehticut, now the Taunton river, at Slade's Ferry.
She was the wife of Wamsutta, an elder brother of Philip.

Of other more familiar Indian names, Annawan was one
of Philip's captains, Canonicus, the chief of the Narragansetts,
who dwelt on the west side of the bay which bears their name,

Montaup, the name of Mount Hope, Quequechan, signifying
"Falling Water ", the title of the stream which flows through
the center of the present city, Quequeteant, the name of the
neighborhood adjoining the Quequechan, Watuppa the name
of the ponds still known by the same designation. Sagkonate
was the Indian name for what is now Little Compton and
Sagamore was the title of a chief. Tecumseh was the head of
an Indian tribe in the West.

The Wampanoags appear to have been on the whole a
superior race. They were long friendly to the whites and
hospitable. They are described as having the familiar cinna-
mon colored skin, long black, coarse hair, scanty beard, high
cheek bones, small, deep-set eyes, a broad nose, protuberant
lips and a square, depressed forehead. They were tall, supple,
graceful, agile, and able, it is said, to run 80 or 100 miles a day
and back the next, but they were unequal to continuous labor.
They had the same immobility of countenance that is character-
istic of all red men, and seldom wept or smiled. The deaf, the
blind and the lame were seldom seen; these were too burden-
some to the others to be allowed to live. As a rule, an Indian
had but one wife. The women did the drudgery, while the
men hunted and fished.

Their clothing in winter consisted of skins of deer or other
wild animals; in summer, when less was required, the men wore
only a piece of deer skin about their waists. Moccasins were
of thin deer skin or moose hide, according to the season. Paint
and feathers were their adornment, combined with rings,
bracelets and necklaces.

Fish, game, nuts, berries and roots, were their principal
food. Meat could be preserved only by smoking, as they had
no salt. With the aid of but a single tool, a hoe made of a
clamshell or bone fastened on the end of a stick, they culti-
vated the soil and raised Indian corn, squashes, pumpkins,
beans and a kind of sunflower, the root of which pleased their
taste. Tobacco was also cultivated for smoking. The potato
was unknown, and the only domestic animal was the dog.
They had no poultry.

The following description of an Indian village in New Eng-
land at this time is taken from a recent work on King Philip's
war by Ellis and Morris:

"Arranged around a center left open for the performance
of the village games and ceremonies, were the wigwams, con-
structed of saplings, which, set firmly in the ground and bent
together, were fastened at the top and covered with bark or
mats. Some were cone-shaped, holding only a single family,
while others, resembling a covered arbor, varied in length from
20 to 100 feet.

The wigwams were pitched closely together, and the
village seldom occupied more than from three to four acres.
Within the wigwams, and arranged around the walls, were
the woven baskets that held the corn, stone or earthen
household utensils, the pails and the low raised bunks covered
with boughs and skins. In the center blazed the fires, which,
either for the purpose of cooking or for warmth, were kept
constantly alight, and the smoke from which found its way
skyward through a hole in the roof."

Their axes and most of their household utensils were of
stone, as were the bowls of their long pipes. Their fish lines
were of twisted fibres of the dogbane or of sinews of the
deer, the hooks, of sharpened bones of fishes or birds.
Arrows were tipped with bone, claws of the larger birds, or
flint. Spears were made in the same way. The tomahawk
was a wooden club, some two feet long, with a large knob at
the end. The money known as wampum was of small round
beads made of shells, drilled so that they could be strung. A
species of football, quoits, wrestling and dancing, combined
with gambling, fishing and the hunt, furnished amusement.
Their language was guttural, with words of great length.

Some corn was preserved for the winter by burying it in
the ground, under a covering of bark, and some basketry and
pottery were made, but on the whole they were slothful and
improvident. After the coming of the whites they obtained
some of the articles of civilization, which made their lives
easier, but from them they also secured liquor, which they
had not known before.

This last fact made it early necessary for the colony of
Massachusetts Bay to pass stringent regulations forbidding
the sale of intoxicants to the natives and a penalty of 40
shillings was provided for every pint sold or delivered,


"except in cases of sudden exigent, faintness, or sickness,
not to exceed two drams." An Indian found drunk was to
be fined five shillings or openly whipped. Similar legislation
was passed by the Plymouth colony, which in 1658, forbade,
on penalty of a fine of ten shillings, the sale of liquor to
Indians, and directed that Indians found drunk should be set
in the stocks, and should be required to pay charges of two
shillings, six pence.

The first land bought from the natives was known as the
Freemen's Purchase, and was secured under a grant made
by the general court of Plymouth to 26 residents of that
town in 1656. The deed was dated April 2, 1659 and signed
by Wamsutta and Weetamoe, or Tattapanum, his wife. It
conveyed all the land with one small exception, between the
Quequechan river and the present northern boundry of Free-
town, a distance of eight or nine miles, and extending back
from the Taunton river about four miles. In other words, it
included all of what is now Fall River north of the line of
Bedford street, and all of Freetown. The price paid was 20
coats, two rugs, two iron pots, two kettles and one little
kettle, eight pairs of shoes, six pairs of stockings, one dozen
hoes, one dozen hatchets, two yards of broadcloth and the
satisfaction of a debt from Wamsutta to John Barns.

With reference to the price paid for this large tract of
land, the following quotation from G. E. Ellis is in point:

"When we read of the earliest so-called 'deeds' by which
the English colonists obtained from the sachems wide spaces
of territory on the consideration of a few tools, hatchets,
kettles or yards of cloth, we naturally regard the transaction
as simply illustrating the white man's rapacity and cunning
in tricking the simplicity of the savage. But we may be sure
that in many such cases the Indian secured what was to him
a full equivalent for that with which he parted. For, as the
whites soon learned by experience, the savages supposed that
in such transactions they were not alienating the absolute
ownership of their lands, but only covenanting for the right of
joint occupancy with the English. And then the coveted tools
or implements obtained by them represented a value and a use
not measurable by any reach of wild territory. A metal

kettle, a spear, a knife, a hatchet transformed the whole life
of a savage. A blanket was for him a whole wardrobe.
When he came to be the possessor of firearms, having regarded
himself the equal of the white man, he at once became his

The purchasers were Captain James Cudworth, Josiah
Winslow, Sr., Constant Southworth, John Barns, John Tesdale,
Humphrey Turner, Walter Hatch, Samuel House, Samuel Jack-
son, John Daman, Timothy Hatherly, Timothy Foster, Thomas
Southworth, George Watson, Nathaniel Morton, Richard
Moore, Edmund Chandler, Samuel Nash, Henry Howland,
Ralph Partridge, Love Brewster, William Paybody, Christo-
pher Wadsworth, Kenelme Winslow, Thomas Bowen and John
Waterman. The deed was later confirmed by the Plymouth
government, and the lots divided among the purchasers in 26
shares, each with a frontage of about 100 rods on the river
and running back to the easterly bound. Timothy Foster had
the lot nearest the Quequechan and Humphrey Turner the
next. Beyond him in order were Wadsworth, Chandler, House,
Howland and Watson.

Matthew Boomer was probably the first settler in this
tract, having bought a part of the fourth lot in March, 1676,
and erected a dwelling near the corner of North Main and
Brownell streets soon after. John Read came from Newport,
and in 1686 was living where St. Joseph's church stands.
George Lawton, Samuel Gardner of Newport, Henry Howland
of Duxbury, Robert Durfee, Hugh Woodberee and William
Chase also settled here soon after King Philip's war. After
the inhabitants had been established as a township under the
name of Freetown by act of the Plymouth colony in July, 1683,
Gardner was made town clerk and later purchased what is now
known as Gardner's Neck at South Swansea.

The land south of the Freeman's Purchase, including the
present town of Tiverton, and extending back from the bay
four to six miles, with certain exceptions of small tracts previ-
ously sold, was conveyed from the Plymouth government
March 5, 1679-80, in consideration of 1100 pounds, English
money, to Edward Gray of Plymouth, Nathaniel Thomas of
Marshfield, Christopher Almy, Job Almy and Thomas Waite of


Portsmouth and Benjamin Church, Daniel Wilcox and William
Manchester of Puncatest,

The ' ' mill right ' ' a strip of land about 30 rods wide along
the Quequechan river extending back from the bay one mile
was held in common and sold in shares. Several divisions
were made of the remainder. The first was in 1682-3, when
the so-called "great lots" were laid out, in most cases 52 rods
wide and running back one mile from the bay to what is now
Plymouth avenue, formerly called Eight Rod Way. Edward
Gray was the first individual owner of lots one and two and
William Manchester of number three. Later the land between
Plymouth avenue, the Watuppa pond and the Quequechan
river was divided into "six-score acre lots" and in 1697 a
third division took place.

The tract which also included land east of the Freeman's
Purchase, was known as the Pocasset Purchase and was under
the government of Plymouth till March 2, 1692, when it, with
Puncatest, was incorporated by the state of Massachusetts
as the town of Tiverton. The original freemen of the town
were Major Church, John Pearce, John Cook, Gersham
Woodle, Richard Borden, Christopher Almy, Thomas Cory,
Stephen Manchester, Joseph Wanton, Forbes Manchester,
Daniel Rowland, Edward Gray, Edward Briggs, William
Manchester, Amos Sheffield, Daniel Wilcox, Edward Colby,
Joseph Tabor, David Lake, Thomas Waite, Joseph Tallman,
John Briggs, John Cooke, William Almy, and John Cooke, Jr.

A question as to the location of the boundary line between
Freetown and Tiverton, (that being the line between the
Freeman and Pocasset purchases,) arose early in the eighteenth
century, owing to indefiniteness in the Plymouth and Rhode
Island charters, and a committee consisting of Job Winslow,
Josiah Winslow, Robert Durfee, and Henry Brightman was
chosen to represent the proprietors of Freetown, and Christo-
pher Almy, Samuel Little, and Richard Borden to represent
those of Tiverton.

This committee reported and fixed the line as follows:
" Beginning at a cleft rock on the East side of the country
road near the Fall River, said rock being the bounds of the
Freeman's first lot and from said rock ranging southwest and


by West to the river at the westerly side of the country road,
and from thence the river to be the bounds westerly unto
Taunton river, and from the aforesaid rock ranging East
South East four miles into the woods by a range of marked
trees unto a heap of stones with several trees marked about it
and from said heap of stones ranging Northeast and by North
one degree northerly by a range of marked trees unto a stone
set into the ground with other stones laid about it being the
head of the four mile line from Stacy's Creek. Said range to
extend until it meet with Middleboro town bounds. These
aforesaid boundaries thus run and settled we do mutually agree
shall be the perpetual bounds between the land of the aforesaid
proprietors of Freetown and the proprietors of Tiverton."

This report was signed by all of the committee above
named save Job Winslow, and was approved by act of the
general court or assembly for his Majesty's province of the
Massachusetts Bay in New England May 29, 1700.

The water power of the Quequechan had been recognized
as of special value when the strip along its border was set
aside as a "mill right," and Col. Benjamin Church and his

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Online LibraryHenry Milne FennerHistory of Fall River, Massachusetts → online text (page 1 of 10)