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History of Fall River, Massachusetts online

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been established, the Massasoit in 1846, the Citizens Savings
in 1851, the Metacomet in 1852 and the Pocasset in 1854.

The new mills brought new inhabitants, including immi-
grants from Great Britain, and the population grew to 10,290 in
1845, and 11,170 in 1850. New school buildings were required
and built, the Anna wan having been burned and rebuilt shortly
after 1843, the High street, later called the Lincoln, in 1846,
the June street in 1849 and the Columbia street about 1852. An
evening school was opened in 1848, a high school the following
year, on Franklin street, but removed in 1852 to the building
erected for its use on June street, later called the Foster
Hooper. Other early schools were one of brick on the west
side of North Main street, opposite where the Narragansett
Mill now stands and the "Green Schoolhouse" on the north side
of Franklin street, between High and Rock, erected in 1832
and later sold, and occupied on the first floor by members of the
Society of Friends and on the upper floor by a private school.

23



A police force of six men had been appointed in 1844, and
a hospital built on the town farm land in 1851, on the north
side of Brownell street, about midway between North Main
street and Highland avenue. Gas had been introduced in
1847, and three years later the first street lights of gas, some 20
or 30, were authorized. In 1853 the records show an appropri-
ation of $1,000 for street sprinkhng.

A regular steamer was now plying to Providence. The
Hancock, of 98 tons, began trips in September, 1828, v^as
succeeded by the King Philip, of 169 tons, in 1832, and the
Bradford Durfee, of 333 tons in 1845. The Canonicus, an
excursion boat, was built in 1849, and later enlarged. The
Metacomet, which came here in 1854, was in 1857 purchased
by the United States government and entered the navy as the
gunboat Pulaski. She was finally sold at Montevideo, Uruguay,
in 1863, and was plying on the LaPlatte river as late as 1870.

Before the Hancock took her place on the line there were
packets running regularly between Providence and Fall River,
under command of Capt. Thomas Borden, who, when the Han-
cock was purchased, brought her around from Boston and after-
ward commanded her. He was extremely unwilling to turn
from anything he had undertaken, and when, in bringing the
Hancock up the Seaconnet river he found she was a little too
wide to pass through the draw at Stone Bridge, he is said to
have hewn off" with a broadaxe enough of the guards to allow
her to pass, rather than go back and come up via Newport.

Steamers were also running to New York, beginning
with the Eudora, a propeller, which began making schedule
trips about once a week early in 1845.

What later became the Fall River Line had its beginning
in 1846, when the Bay State Steamboat Co. was organized
and began passenger service with two steamers, the Bay State
and the Massachusetts. They were the first to approach the
modern standard of Sound steamers, and served as models for
those subsequently built. The Bay State was in service 17
years, and was dismantled in 1864, when her hull was con-
verted into a barge and her engine placed in the Old Colony.

Soon after the line was opened another steamer was
needed, and the Rhode Island was chartered until the Empire

24



State was ready. The latter, built for the service, was
completed in 1848, and remained in use on the line till 1871,
when she was sold and later used as an excursion boat running
out of Boston. She ended her days by burning at the dock
at Bristol, R. I. May 14th, 1887. Next was the State of Maine,
which had been built for a line projected between Boston and
Portland, but which was never employed there and was sold
to the Fall River Line soon after her completion. She joined
the fleet in 1850 and remained in service till 1863. The
Metropolis followed in 1854, and was the finest boat of the
period.

Between 1840 and 1860 a half dozen or more whale ships
were fitted out here and sent on cruises, though after the dis-
covery of gold in California most of them were used in trans-
porting passengers and freight to the Pacific coast. The
wharf where they discharged their cargoes was on Davol
street, being the one occupied by Pardee & Young Co.

The Fall River railroad was opened for travel June 9,
1845. It ran to Myricks, where connection was made with
trains by which one could reach Boston over the New Bedford
and Taunton, the Taunton Branch and the Boston and Provi-
dence railroads. The station was just south of the Central
street tunnel, but was discontinued and a new station erected
on the wharf when the steamboat line to New York was
opened.

FALL RIVER A CITY



Fall River became a city in 1854, adopting a seal with the
motto ''We'll Try." It then had a population of more than
12,000, a valuation of $8,939,215 and an annual tax of $56,000.
It had school, fire and police departments, churches, mills,
railroad and steamship lines, and was a thriving and vigorous
town, well equipped to assume the duties of the 11th city of
the commonwealth.

The change, from town to city government, appears to
have been generally desired, and steps toward bringing it
about were taken at a town meeting on Jan. 5, 1854, one

25



article of the warrant for which was, "to see what action if
any the Town will take in relation to obtaining a City Charter. "
A committee was appointed, consisting of Foster Hooper, chair-
man. John Westall, N. B. Borden, Israel Buffinton, Thomas
Wilbur, Robert C. Brown, Eliab Williams, Samuel L. Thaxter
and Louis Lapham, to petition the legislature and draft a
proposed charter. Mr. Westall declined to serve, and Benja-
min Earl was appointed in his place. The Committee reported
a charter and after some amendments it was submitted to the
legislature. The desired act of incorporation was secured
April 12, 1854, and approved by the voters of the town at a
meeting on April 22 by a vote of 529 to 247.

The charter provided for the election of a mayor, the divi-
sion of the city into six wards, the electionof a board of alder-
men of six members, one from each ward, and of a common
council composed of three members from each ward. It also
provided for the establishing of fire and police departments.

The first city election was held on May 6, resulting in
the choice of James Buffinton, afterwards congressman, for
mayor, and James Henry, Edward P. Buffinton, Oliver H.
Hathaway, Alvan S. Ballard, Edwin Shaw and Julius B.
Champney for aldermen. The new government was inaugu-
rated at the city hall on May 15, with prayer, the administer-
ing of the oaths of office and addresses by Chester W. Greene,
chairman of the selectmen, and the mayor.

Mayor Buffinton was re-elected in the following year, but
resigned on his election to Congress, and was succeeded by
Edward P. Buffinton. followed" in 1857 by Nathaniel B. Borden;
in 1858 and 1859 by Josiah C. Blaisdell, and in 1860 again by
Edward P. Buffinton, who remained in office throughout the
war, and until 1867.

One of the first important acts of the new city government
was the purchase of 47 acres of land in 1855, at $200 an acre
for a burial ground, and called Oak Grove Cemetery. At this
time the city traded a tract of land between North Main street
and present Highland avenue, on both sides of present Lincoln
avenue, which the town had bought for a park in 1853.

During the summer of 1854, this city, as did many others,
sufi^ered from an outbreak of cholera, which, before it was

26



stamped out in October, caused the death of 130 persons.
Only the most stringent quarantine regulations prevented
much greater ravages of the disease.

The panic of 1857 caused much suffering, as nearly all the
mills were obliged to close, and in November only two were in
operation. To meet the situation, on recommendation of
Mayor Borden, large numbers of men were given work by the
city, at ten cents an hour, at the cemetery and poor farm and
on the highways. About the close of the year, however, the
New York banks resumed payment, and the stringency was
reheved, allowing the resumption of work in the mills.

The following year some dissatisfaction was felt with the
city charter, and an attempt was made to secure a return to
the town form of government. A public meeting attended
by some 400 citizens showed, however, that sentiment was
about two to one in favor of continuing with the existing
government, and the agitation subsided.

The annual municipal election had been held on the first
Monday in March, but in 1860 this was changed to the first
Monday in December and the municipal year modified so as to
begin in January. The date of the election was later changed
to the Tuesday after the first Monday.

In the same year, 1860, a public library was established,
though deserving pupils in the public schools had since 1837
been entitled, in consideration of a payment of $800 by the
town, to the use of the books of the Athenaeum, a private
Hbrary organized in 1835. Most of the volumes in its collection
were destroyed by the fire of 1843, but a new library had now
been collected, housed first in the town hall and subsequently
in the old Music hall on Franklin street. Through an agree-
ment with the stockholders of the Athenaeum the city obtained
its collection of 2,362 volumes, to which were added by gift
214 belonging to the Ocean Fire Company, and with these the
library was opened for use, in the southwest corner of the
second floor of the city hall building, May 1, 1861. This was
but nine years after the founding, in Boston, of the first free
public library in the world supported by general taxation.

A beginning of a modern fire department was made in
1859, when the first steam fire engine was purchased, and in

27



1860 the first permanent member of the department was
engaged as its driver.

The making of flour was a considerable industry at one
time, and there were three plants engaged in this business.
The first of these was the Bristol Count.y Flour Mills, erected
in 1852, at the corner of Central and Davol streets, which had
a capacity of 80 barrels a day. The Massasoit Flour Mills,
where the Massasoit Mfg. Co. now stands, had a capacity of 200
barrels a day, and continued till the late seventies. At the
foot of Central street the Fall River Flour Mills were started
in 18G1 and were smaller than either of the others.

A most important step in the development of the city's
industries was made in 1859, in the organization of the Union
Mill Co. the first corporation whose capital was secured by
public subscription. Before this time the manufacturing
corporations had been in the hands of comparatively few
interests, but now, funds were secured aggregating $175,000,
in shares of $1,000 each, and a mill of 15,000 spindles was
erected. Its success brought about the starting of many other
new mills, the Granite in 1863, the Robeson, Tecumseh
and Durfee in 1866, the Merchants and Davol in 1867, the
Mechanics in 1868 and many others within the next decade,
among them, the first fine goods mill, the King Philip, in 1871.

The news of the firing on Fort Sumter aroused a storm of
patriotic feeling. At a crowded public meeting in city hall on
April 19, 1861, the day the Massachusetts troops were attacked
in the streets of Baltimore, speeches were made by many
prominent men of the city and resolutions adopted by acclama-
tion, declaring that the government of the Union must be
sustained and calling on the city to appropriate $10,000 for
the aid of those who might volunteer and for the support of
their families, and to pay each volunteer $20 a month in addition
to what the government offered. Five days later the city
council appropriated the $10,000 as requested, and voted to
pay $15 each month for every volunteer.

The city was the third in the list of applicants to Governor
Andrew for permission to raise military companies. Enlist-
ments had already begun under Lieutenant Gushing, who had
seen service in the Mexican war, while Chester W. Greene

28



organized a rifle company. These were companies A and B
of the Seventh Regiment and were mustered in on June 11.
A third company was also formed, but it was decided not to
muster this in, and it was disbanded.

In addition to the first two companies of the Seventh
regiment, the city furnished Company G of the 26th, mus-
tered in Oct. 18, 1861, which served three years, Companies
C and D of the 3rd and a large part of F and G of the 58th,
which left for the front the last of April, 1864. It also con-
tributed many men to other regiments and 497 to the navy.
In all 1,770 men went to the front, including 820 for three
years, 207 for nine months, 192 for three months and 37 for
one year. The total appropriations by the city government on
account of the war were $107,828, and $127,510 were expended
in the aid of soldiers' families. The troops on their return
from the field, either on furlough or at the expiration of duty,
were greeted with parades, the decoration of buildings and
public exercises, and on occasions when the few Southern
sympathizers dared express their feelings, they promptly
received treatment that showed the attitude of the citizens in
no uncertain manner.

The news of the fall of Richmond was announced by the
general ringing of bells, and when it became known that Lee
had surrendered, the bells were again rung, cannon fired, the
Light Infantry paraded, schools dismissed and work generally
suspended. A large meeting was held in the city hall in the
evening, presided over by the mayor.

During the war a final settlement was reached of the
vexed question of the state boundary line, which had been a
subject of controversy for many years. The matter had been
carried to the supreme court of the United States, and in
1861 a decision was obtained which went into effect in March
of the following year, by which the line was moved from a
point a short distance north of Columbia street to its present
location.

The old line, which ran from near the corner of William
and Bay streets easterly through the old button wood tree that
long stood on the east side of South Main street, a short dis-
tance north of Columbia had been established in 1741 by a

royal commission.

29



The chang-e annexed to the city, the town of Fall River,
Rhode Island, which by its request had been set apart from
Tiverton by the Rhode Island legislature Oct, 6, 1856. This
had an area of about nine square miles, a population of 3,593
and a valuation of $1,948,378. The town had been closely
allied with the city, and the merger was of the greatest
advantage to both.

The war period also saw a great improvement in the rail-
road facilities of the city, through the extension of the exist-
ing road to Newport in 1863 and the construction of a line to
Providence two years later. The first passenger train to
Stone Bridge was run on Nov. 19, 1863, and the first to New-
port on the 26th of the same month. The railroad from
Warren to South Somerset, where connection was made with
a ferryboat to this city, had been begun in the same year, but
scarcity of labor, high cost of materials and severe weather
combined to cause delay, and it was not until May 22, 1865,
that the first train was run over this line. Connection was
made with a ferryboat landing at the foot of Ferry street.

Two toll roads within the city limits were discontinued
about this time. One of these was, what is now Pleasant
street, east of Quarry, near which a toll house and gate
stood. This road which had been built in 1827, started from
Twelfth street, and continued into Westport. It was called
the Watuppa Turnpike, and was owned by a stock company,
known as the Fall River and Watuppa Turnpike Corporation,
which was reimbursed when the toll road was made a public
thoroughfare by the county commissioners in 1865. Previous
to that time the Old Bedford Road, now County street was
available as a public highway for those who did not wish to
pay toll, but it was not kept in good repair.

The second toll road ran from the corner of Chace and
Bay streets, where the gate was situated, nearly to Stone
Bridge. So much of it as was within the city limits, was
opened to the public by the aldermen in 1863.

Soon after the close of the war, the first large numbers
of French Canadians, who have since become so considerable
an element in the population, began to come here. The city's
industries were prosperous, the demand for labor was keen,

30



and the early-comers, who soon found employment, sent for
others, resulting in a large immigration.

Meantime, to meet the needs of the growing community,
progress had been made in various directions. The Wamsutta
Bank, afterwards the Second National, had been started in
1856, and in 1864 the First National. A third savings bank,
the Fall River Five Cents Savings, was opened in 1856 and the
Union Savings followed in 1869. The free delivery of mail
had also been put into effect in 1863, and the first superin-
tendent of schools in the city elected in 1865.

The churches had been active, and between 1850 and 1860
the edifices now occupied by the First Baptist, the United
Presbyterian, St. Paul's Methodist Episcopal and St. Mary's
Roman Catholic, had been added to the city's notable struc-
tures.

Mayor Buffinton had been succeeded in 1867 by George 0.
Fairbanks, who served two years, and in 1869 by Samuel M.
Brown, who remained in office until 1872. Especially notable
in Mayor Fairbanks' administration was the erection of the
Morgan street school, now known as the N. B. Borden, the
first large school building and the first to be constructed of
other material than wood, the purchase of the South Park
and the laying out and working of Highland road.

From a population of about 12,000 at the time it became
a city, Fall River had advanced to 17,525 by the end of the
Civil War. In the five years that followed, it added nearly
10,000 inhabitants, and the census of 1870 showed a popula-
tion of 27,191. The valuation in that period grew from
$12,000,000 to $26,000,000, and the number of spindles in
operation from 265, 328 to 544, 606. It had made great strides,
but even greater were to follow.

1871-1890

The period of 1871 and 1872 will long be recalled as
remarkable for the wonderfully rapid increase in the city's
industries and corresponding growth in wealth and popula-
tion. Fifteen new corporations were formed and began the

31



erection of large mills, eleven of which were constructed in
a single year, 1872. From this period date the Stafford,
Weetamoe, Slade, Richard Borden, Wampanoag, Narragan-
sett. King Philip, Crescent, Osborn, Chace, Montaup, Flint,
Border City, Sagamore, Shove and Barnard, as well as the
Fall River Bleachery. The mills built in the previous decade
had prospered, confidence was strong and capital easy to
secure.

Land values doubled and trebled, carpenters and masons
were everywhere in demand and the city grew as it had
never grown before. Nearly nine million dollars were added
to its taxable valuation in a single year. The new factories
gave employment to 6,000 additional hands, and newcomers
with their families poured in from every side. In the four
years between 1870 and 1874 more than 15,000 inhabitants
were added to the city, increasing the population to 43,289.

It was at this period that the very rapid growth of
the eastern section of the city, popularly known as Flint
Village, began. It had until this time been sparsely settled
farming land, but the first mills were so quickly followed by
others, that a considerable community speedily grew up, and
the vacant land was soon covered with buildings. To-day a
territory, that in 1870 was almost entirely given up to agri-
culture, is covered with what is in itself a small city.

The northern section called Border City, and the southern
section embracing Globe Village also began their rapid
development at this time, for mills were built there as well
as at the east end. The growth of the Stafford Road and
Maplewood districts is more recent.

Better highways, schools and fire protection were required
and furnished. In the closing years of Mayor Brown's ad-
ministration, and in that of Robert T. Davis, who was the
chief executive of the city in 1873, important highway improve-
ments were made, including the widening of North Main,
South Main and Pleasant streets.

Three large schools were ordered, the Slade, Davis and
Davenport, two of which were begun, and work started on
three fire and police stations at the north, east and south ends
of the city. In the public schools, in 1874, text books were
made free to the pupils.

32



Still other municipal work at this time was the laying out
of the South Park in 1871 and the rebuilding of the city hall,
to meet the demand for additional offices. A mansard roof,
tower and clock were added at a total cost of $200,000.

Even more important was the construction of the water
works system. This had been urged for years, but it was
not until 1870 after an analysis of the water in the wells had
shown a dangerous condition, while that in the North Watuppa
when analyzed proved to be unusually pure, that the first
steps were taken toward the construction of a system. Forty-
eight acres of land at the head of Bedford street were pur-
chased, and an engineer engaged to prepare plans. In March,
1871, the legislature authorized the project, and it was
approved by the voters at an election on April 10, at which
933 voted in favor of it and only 89 against.

The first board of water commissioners, Philip D. Borden,
William Lindsey and Joseph A. Bowen, was elected the
following spring and in the fall, work was begun on the con-
struction of a road, nearly a mile and a half long, which it
was necessary to build to the site selected for a pumping
station. The foundations for the buildings were built in 1872
and the superstructure was completed the next year. These
included a granite tower for standpipes, 121 feet high, the
balcony of which, situated 72 feet above the base, is 324 feet
above sea level. The laying of mains had meantime been in
progress, and by September, 1876, 45 miles of pipe from 6
to 24 inches in diameter, had been installed. An engine had
been put in, in 1873 and pumped the first water through the
mains in December of that year, though it was not until Jan.
8, 1874, that it was available for public use. A second pump
was added in 1875. The cost of the water system to Oct. 1,
1876, was $1,328,456.

With a water works system in operation, the city now
turned its attention to the building of sewers, and in the
administration of James F. Davenport, who was mayor from
1874 to 1877, large sums were expended on this work.
Following substantially the plans which had been prepared by
Phinehas Ball in 1873, a total of 9,329 feet were constructed
in 1874 at a cost of more than $70,000. Practically $100,000

33



was used in 1876, when more than four miles of sewers were
built.

Other notable city work at this period included the
erection of the large Davenport school, and the construction
of a fire station on Plymouth avenue and a new city hospital.

The new Central Congregational Church and the Church
of the Ascension were erected in 1875 and the former dedi-
cated at this time. The Borden Block, containing the Academy
of Music, was opened on Jan. 6, 1876. The railroad between
this city and New Bedford had likewise been completed, and
the first passenger train run over it on Dec. 16, 1875.

It was at this period, too, that Slade's Ferry bridge was
built, doing away with the old ferryboat system and furnish-
ing much more convenient communication between the city
and the towns on the west side of the Taunton river, as well
as the running of Providence trains directly to the city. This
bridge, which was opened to the public on Jan. 4, 1876, had
been authorized by the legislature in 1872 and was begun in
October two years later. It was completed except for the
approaches on Nov. 9, 1875. It is 955 feet long and 20 feet
wide and cost $305,000, of which the county paid $41,361, the
city $26,000, Somerset $5,200, Swansea $3,200 and the Old
Colony Railroad Company the remainder. During its con-
struction five men were killed by the bursting of an air
chamber, Dec. 4, 1874. The first train was run across it Dec.
6, 1875.

Prior to the erection of the bridge, a ferry had long been
maintained here by members of the Slade family, established
by William Slade, soon after he settled in Somerset in 1689.
Rowboats were used at first, then sailboats and later, begin-


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Online LibraryHenry Milne FennerHistory of Fall River, Massachusetts → online text (page 3 of 10)