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History of Fall River, Massachusetts online

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ning in 1826, a boat propelled b.y horses, on which the stages
could cross. The steamer Faith succeeded the horseboat in
1847, followed by the Weetamoe in 1859, and was used till the
bridge was opened to travel. The fare was established by
the county commissioners.

In 1863, following the extension of the Old Colony Rail-
road to Newport, the Bay State Steamboat Co., which estab-
lished the Fall River Line, transferred its steamboats to the
Boston, Newport & New York Steamboat Co. and withdrew

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from business. The new line established its terminal at
Newport, and in 1865 added two new steamers, the Newport
and the Old Colony, to its fleet.

The steamers Bristol and Providence, contracted for by
a line from New York to Groton which failed, were completed
in 1867, and in 1868 and 1869 they were run between New
York and Bristol by the Narragansett Steamship Co., in
which "Jim" Fiske was active. They were so far in advance
of previous models that they were looked on as marvels, and
their fame was world-wide. Each boat had a band, and the
officers and crew wore uniforms, innovations which helped
to make the line famous. In 1869 the company which had
acquired the Fall River Line succumbed to its Bristol rival, and
the steamboats Bay State, Empire State, Metropolis, New-
port and Old Colony were added to the fleet of the Narragan-
sett Co., which soon after removed its terminus from Bristol
to Fall River, discontinuing the line between Newport and
New York. This was in 1869, and this port has since re-
mained the eastern terminus. In 1874 the line was acquired
by the Old Colony Steamboat Co., a corporation organized by
the interests that controlled the Old Colony Railroad Co.

The steamer Pilgrim, the first steamboat on Long Island
Sound to be built of iron, took her place on the line in June,
1883, the Puritan in 1889, the Plymouth in 1890, the Priscilla
in 1894, the Providence, the second of that name, in 1905
and the Commonwealth in 1908. The Plymouth was burned
at her dock in Newport in 1906, while undergoing repairs,
but was rebuilt and placed in service again the following
year. Such magnificent boats as these have made the Fall
River Line famous the world over.

Since 1894 the line has been controlled by the New York,
New Haven & Hartford Railroad Co.

In 1874 the steamer Richard Borden of 785 tons was
placed on the Providence Line. The narrowness of the
Providence river made it very difficult for boats to turn and
this boat was constructed as a "double ender, " that is, to run
in either direction much the same as a ferry boat; she was
unusually fast, accommodated a large number of passengers
and became very popular. After many years she was sold to

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the Joy Line and re-named The Fairfield. She then ran from
New York on the Bridgeport Line and was dismantled in 1910.

In 1888 the Mount Hope of 880 tons, built in Boston, was
placed on the line to run to Block Island. This boat was both
swift and staunch and still makes regular trips in the summer
between Providence and Block Island, calling at Newport.

Soon after 1900 the passenger service which had been
maintained between Providence and Fall River since 1828 was
discontinued. Freight boats were run until 1905 when the
company withdrew from the service.

The line was run as a part of the Fall River Iron Works
Company from its inception in 1828 until 1880, when it was
incorporated as the Fall River & Providence Steamboat Com-
pany. In 1896 it was sold to the Providence, Fall River &
Newport Steamboat Company which continues business,
although it has withdrawn from this port, finding it unprofit-
able to compete with the electric railroads between this city
and Providence.

A freight line is now in existence under the name of the
Dyer Transportation Co., while the freight steamers of the
Merchants & Miners Transportation Co. make this city a port
of call for the Philadelphia-Providence steamers.

The federal government recognizing the growing import-
ance of the city, authorized the erection of the handsome
postoffice and custom house on Bedford street. This was
begun in 1875 and completed in 1880, at a total cost of $518,000,
of which $132,000 was for land.

The first session of the superior court was held here on
June 27, 1877, in a large room in the new Borden Block,
where sittings continued to be held till the North Main street
court house was ready for use. Until 1877, sessions were held
in this county only in Taunton and New Bedford.

A further addition to the steamship facilities of the port
had been made in 1876, when the Clyde Line made this the
terminus for its Philadelphia steamers.

The city had suffered in the panic of 1873 and in "The
Great Vacation" of 1875, when the mills were closed for nine
weeks during the summer, but these were mild in com-
parison with the losses caused through financial irregularities

36



in certain corporations that came to light in 1878 and 1879.
These caused the reorganization of several of the mills and
severe losses to many individuals. Savings banks were
restrained from paying more than ten per cent, of deposits
within six months. Dividends were suspended for a time,
and depositors sold their books for as low as 70 cents on the
dollar. The blow was a hard one to the community, but it
kept its courage and went to work with an energy that again
won success.

The Granite Mill fire which occurred on the morning of
September 19, 1874, and cost the lives of 20 workers and the
injury of 30 more, will long be remembered. It taught the
need of improved methods of escape in other mills, and they
were installed at once.

Crawford E. Lindsey was mayor in 1879 and 1880, and
in his administration sewer and highway work were again
pushed forward, and a board of health established, with
B. F. Winslow, J. S. Anthony and C.W. Copelandas members.
The city stables were removed from the building now occupied
by the police department as a central station, and the build-
ing remodelled so as to give the police, who had occupied
only part of the structure, the entire building with the
exception of that occupied by the second district court on
the second floor.

The last half of the decade from 1870 to 1880 saw a com-
parative lull in mill building, and though existing plants were
somewhat extended, the total spindles added during this
period numbered about 120,000. The population, too, was
growing much more slowly, and from 45,160 in 1875 had
reached but 47,883 in 1880. The city, however, was gaining
strength for another great advance in the coming ten years,
and was putting on more and more the aspect of a modern
municipality.

It already had the beginning of a telephone system,
installed in the late 70s, and in 1880 the first street cars were
put in use, drawn, of course, by horses, and running first on
Main and Pleasant streets, though in the beginning for only
a part of the present distance of the lines. Three years later,
in 1883, electricity was introduced in the city and began to
compete with gas for the illuminating field.

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The Troy Co-operative Bank, the first of the four
institutions of this nature which now hold large sums collected
through the savings of the citizens, was established in 1880,
followed by the People's in 1882, and the Fall River in
1888. New homes were needed by the First National Bank,
the Fall River National, the Massasoit and the Metacomet,
and suitable buildings were erected between 1887 and
1892.

The industries of the city after 1880, began to move for-
ward, and, beginning in 1881, the city saw the formation
before the end of the decade, of the Globe Yarn, which
erected three mills, the Laurel Lake, the Barnaby, for the
manufacture of ginghams, the Seaconnet, the Hargraves and
the Kerr Thread. It also saw the erection of new mills
by the Durfee, Sagamore, Richard Borden, Border City,
Tecumseh, and Stafford corporations and the construction
of the first of the seven large mills of the Fall River Iron
Works Co. , a corporation which years before had carried on
a large iron business here, and which has been maintained
under its old name, to preserve valuable rights given by its
charter, though now engaged in cotton manufacturing.

Across the Rhode Island line in Tiverton but so near that
Fall River benefitted largely from them, were built the
plant of the Bourne Mills, and a second mill of the Shove.
Approximately 800,000 spindles were added at this time bring-
ing the total well above the two million mark.

In the latter part of the decade, too, in 1887, a small be-
ginning had been made toward what is now the large hat
manufacturing establishment of the Marshall Brothers,

The magnificent high school building given by Mrs, Mary
B. Young in memory of her son, Bradford Matthew Chaloner
Durfee, was begun in 1883 and completed on June 15, 1887,
when it was with due ceremonies presented to the city,
accompanied with an endowment of $50,000. Of beautiful
proportions and placed on a commanding location, it was a
splendid addition to the city from an architectural as well as
an educational point of view. It has a total length of 253 feet,
a greatest width of 90 feet, with two towers, one bearing a
clock and chimes and the other a telescope.

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The record of the city government during the decade
shows a quiet but steady forward movement. WilHam S.
Greene was mayor in 1880 and was re-elected in 1881, but
resigned to become postmaster and was succeeded by Robert
Henry. The office of city engineer was established. The
Linden and Cambridge street schools were erected and the
city stables begun.

In 1882 and 1883, Henry K. Braley, now a justice of the
supreme judicial court of Massachusetts, was the chief execu-
tive. In his term, electric street lighting was introduced, and
the North Park dedicated to park purposes.

Milton Reed succeeded Mr. Braley in 1884. Additional
electric street lights were erected and three four-room school
buildings erected, the Covel Street, the Mt. Hope Avenue and
the Brownell Street.

John W. Cummings, mayor in 1885, was succeeded in
1886 by William S. Greene, and returned to office in 1887 and
1888. The burning of the interior and roof of city hall, March
19, 1886, leaving only the walls, and its rebuilding at a cost
of $300,000; the widening of South Main street from Pocasset
to Anawan, to a width of 60 feet, and the dedication of the
new high school are the facts that stand outmost prominently
in the record of these years.

1890-1911

In the 20 years since 1890 Fall River has continued to
make wonderful progress. It has added more than 45,000
inhabitants, increasing the number from 74,918 to 119,295 by
the federal census of 1910, a gain of practically 60 per cent.
The assessed valuation has increased from $53,473,183 to
$92,488,520, a gain of 73 per cent. The city has come but
little short of doubling the number of spindles in its mills.

It has extended and greatly improved its streets, beautified
its parks, protected the purity of the water supply, added
playgrounds, placed wires underground, eliminated grade
crossings and has seen the building of a handsome new bridge
across the Taunton river.

39



Scores of beautiful buildings have been erected, including-
those of the superior and district courts, schools, the Boys'
Club and its extension, the Women's Union, the Young Men's
Christian Association, the Public Library, the Armory, and
the churches of Notre Dame and Ste. Anne, with the latter's
convent and rectory. Five new hospitals have been built,
the Union, Ste. Anne's, the Highland, the City, and the Con-
tagious, and buildings have been erected for the Children's
Home, St. Vincent's orphanage, the Home for Aged People
and the Bishop Stang Day Nursery. Many modern business
blocks have been constructed, including those of the Massa-
soit-Pocasset and Metacomet National Banks, the Bennett
building, the Daily Globe building and the large department
stores on South Main street.

Fall River has seen times of depression, but to-day is
bigger, better and stronger than ever before.

Four new manufacturing corporations were formed here
in the early 90s, the Algonquin Printing Co., the Sanford
Spinning Co., the Stevens Mfg. Co., and the Parker Mills,
and all erected large plants. The Fall River Iron Works Co.
erected mills Nos. 2, 3 and 4, the Hargraves a No. 2, the
Chace a No. 2, the Tecumseh a No. 3, the Granite a No. 3,
and the Union a No. 4, while the King Philip put up a large
weave shed and the Seaconnet materially increased its
capacity.

The Arkwright was incorporated in 1897, and about this
time the Laurel Lake extended its plant, the Globe Yarn
enlarged and the Barnard and the Shove constructed weave
sheds that are small mills in themselves.

Since 1900 the Iron Works Co. has built two mills, the
Davis two, the Flint, the Sagamore and the Stevens one each.
The Lincoln Mfg. Co. incorporated in 1906, has begun opera-
tions. The Algonquin Printing Co. has erected its largest
building. The Barnard, the Narragansett, the Weetamoe,
and the Stafford have extended their plants, and the fact-
ories of the Charlton Mills, the Pilgrim Mills, and the Stan-
dard Fabric Co. have been begun.

During the first four years of this period, ending with
1894, Dr. John W. Coughlin was mayor and much was done

40



to meet the needs of the growing community. The fire dis-
trict ordinance was amended in his first term, and the poHce
force was enlarged and reorganized. In 1893, the Davol and
Osborn schools were completed. The new city hospital was
opened, July 1, 1894, and a city dispensary established, in
that year.

An important change at this time was in the motive power
of the street cars, which were equipped with electricity in the
summer of 1892. The first car was run on Aug. 17, from the
Stafford road car house to Morgan street, and on Sept. 2 the
first electric car ran through the center of the city. About
this period also an independent electric road, called the Fall
River Street Railway, had been built from the corner of North
Main and Bank streets to the Highlands, which was absorbed
by the Globe Street Railway Company in April, 1894. The
Dartmouth & Westport Street Railway to New Bedford, was
built in the latter year and opened July 1. It has now been
acquired by the Union Street Railway Co. of New Bedford.

Other suburban roads have followed. The Dighton,
Somerset & Swansea was built in 1895, but did not give direct
service into the city till May 5, 1903, the Newport road in 1898,
and the Providence line in 1901. Electric express service was
begun to New Bedford in 1903 and to Providence in 1905, and
later to Taunton and Brockton, and a substantial freight house
built on Bedford street in 1910. Electric street sprinkling
dates from 1905.

The steam road between this city and Providence was
equipped with electricity in 1900. The first passenger car
operated between the two cities by the new motive power
was run Nov. 27, 1900, and regular operations began Dec. 2.

During the administration of Wjlliam S. Greene, who had
been again elected mayor in 1895 and held office till 1898,
the city began the erection of its present public library build-
ing, which was authorized in 1895 and begun in May of the
following year and which stands on the site of the homestead
of the late Mrs. Mary B. Young. The cornerstone was laid
Sept. 30, 1896, and the structure, which, with land, curbing,
grading and furniture, had cost $252,000, was opened to the
public in March, 1899. The library had for 13 years, after

41



the burning of city hall, been occupying leased quarters. It
was for a time in Flint's Exchange on South Main street and
later in the skating rink on Danforth street, but from January,
1887, it occupied till the new building was completed a large
hall in the upper part of the Brown building, at the corner
of North Main and Pine streets.

In 1895 a reservoir commission was appointed, whose
duty was to protect the purity of the city's w^ater supply.
The Coughlin and William Connell schools were erected and
a new police building constructed on the north side of
Granite street.

Amos M. Jackson was mayor in 1898 and 1899 and John
H. Abbott in 1900 and 1901.

The superior court house had been authorized as early as
1887. The site selected on North Main street had been the
birthplace of Col. Joseph Durfee, the homestead of Micah H.
Ruggles and later the residence of Col. Richard Borden. The
cornerstone was laid with Masonic ceremonies on August 8,
1889, and the building completed in the early nineties, at a
cost of $225,000.

Another notable building constructed before 1900 was
the state armory, on Durfee street, between Elm and Bank,
for which the city on January 3, 1895, authorized the expendi-
ture of $100,000, which sum was subsequently increased to
$150,000. Bonds were issued by the state, eventually to be
met by a sinking fund toward which the city each year paid
a special tax. The building was completed in 1897, and con-
tains quarters for six companies, and a drill hall 150 feet by
75. The State has since taken possession of it.

During the war with Spain, Battery M, of the First
Regiment, and members of the Naval Brigade were employed
in the service of the United States. The call for the assem-
bling of the battery was issued on April 25, 1898, the day
war was declared, and within an hour the men were assem-
bled, armed and equipped. Early the next day they pro-
ceeded to Fort Warren, in Boston harbor, where, on May 9,
they were mustered into the United States service, for two
years, being a part of the first volunteer regiment in the
country to be mustered in. The Battery served at Fort

42



Warren until September 19, when it was sent to South
Framingham. A furlough was granted October 5 and duty
ended November 14.

Company F, Naval Brigade, saw service on the cruiser
Prairie, the monitor Lehigh and, on occasions when the men
were on detached duty, on other vessels. The Signal Corps
was also called out. Company I, Naval Brigade, was formed
May 25, 1898, as a reserve company.

The present railroad station on North Main street was
completed in 1892. The county jail, noted for never having
held a prisoner, at least under a sentence of the court,
was erected in 1898, under a legislative act of the previous
year, and cost, when furnished, $150,000. It has 126 cells,
and was believed to be needed when it was authorized. The
growth of the probation system since that time, however, has
been such that it has never been used.

One change, far-reaching in its effect, which had taken
place during this period and of which no mention has been
made, was in the control of the police department and the
liquor licenses, which took place in 1894. Citizens who
appeared before the legislature secured the passage of an act,
approved May 7, by which the administration of the police
department and the granting and supervision of licenses for
the sale of intoxicating liquors were taken from the board of
aldermen and placed in the hands of a commission of three
legal voters of the city appointed by the governor. Attempts
at various times to abolish the commission have failed.

The decade closed with a population in excess of 100,000.
In spite of business depressions the city had grown till it
numbered 104,863, an increase of 40 percent., while the valu-
ation had advanced more than $20,000,000. Almost 900,000
spindles had been added, and the aggregate was 3,042,472.

The abolition of the grade crossings on the main line
of the Old Colony railroad and on the Providence branch
within the city limits, was one of the most important improve-
ments in the early years of the new century. The work
began June 28, 1902, and was completed June 16, 1905 on the
opening of the viaduct connecting Central and Anawan
streets and the closing of the Pond street crossing.

43



The general plan followed, was that of depressing the
streets and raising the tracks, which in some cases are now
eight feet above the old level. The change also necessitated
the raising of the Fall River station about eight feet. The
old Central street tunnel, which had been constructed when
the road was first built, was torn down and rebuilt for three
tracks instead of one. Eleven crossings were abolished, two
at Brownell street and one each at Davol, Lindsey, Turner,
Danforth, Ferry and Pond streets, and Allen's crossing, Wil-
son road and Riverview Gardens. Seven railroad bridges
were built, and five highway bridges, one of which, the
viaduct, is 637 feet in length. It was impossible to eliminate
the grade crossing at Water street.

Efi'orts had long been under way to secure the improve-
ment, but quite a number of lives were sacrificed before
work was authorized. It had been petitioned for by the
aldermen in 1894, and the first hearing before the commis-
sioners was in the following year. The total cost of the
work was $1,580,051.16, of which the railroad paid 65 per
cent., the state 25 and the city 10. The engineers' estimate
of cost was $1,600,000. Most of the work of construction was
done during the administration of George Grime, who was
mayor from 1902 to 1904, inclusive.

Another important matter was the adoption in 1902 of the
present city charter, to take the place of that of 1854, which
a majority of the citizens felt had been outgrown. A change
had been urged for 30 years, but it was not until 1901 that a
representative committee of 30 citizens presented a plan which
was substantially adopted. The charter proposed by this
committee, after some amendments, was passed by the legis-
lature in 1902 and accepted by the voters at the State election
on Nov. 4, 1902, by a vote of 6,835 to 3,689. It went into
eff'ect at the beginning of the municipal year in January, 1903,
with Mr. Grime, who had just completed one year's service
under the old charter, the first mayor under the new.

The new charter abolished the common council, and
established a board of aldermen of 27 members, three from
each of the nine wards. Two of these were to be elected by
the voters of the ward, and one by the voters of the entire

44



city. The terms of the members were made two years, one
half to be elected each year, and it was provided that the
presiding officer should be elected from the board by the
members. The mayor's term, as well as that of the principal
heads of departments, was made two years, and he was con-
stituted strictly an executive officer, with control over the
various departments except the schools and the police. A fire
commission was established with a three years' term, and the
same term was given to the members of the board of health.
Many of the city officials were to be nominated by the mayor
and confirmed by the aldermen.

Mayor Grime in 1902 appointed the first park commission,
in accordance with the overwhelming vote of the citizens in
December, 1901, when by a vote of 6,563 to 1,159, they had
accepted the State law authorizing such a commission. Olm-
sted Brothers, landscape architects, were employed to prepare
plans for the improvement of the park system, and the plans
submitted by them were adopted. Loans were authorized,
and nearly $200,000 expended within about four years,
resulting in a very decided improvement of the park lands.
Ruggles park was part of a tract of 12 acres formerly belong-
ing to the "Rodman farm" and known as Ruggles Grove, pur-
chased in 1868. Part of the tract had been taken for the
extension of Pine and Seabury streets and the Ruggles
school, and the section west of Seabury street was sold.
The present park, of 8^ acres, was dedicated for park purposes
on June 10, 1895.

The South Park, which contains 60 acres, had been pur-
chased in 1868, and laid out between South Main street and
Broadway in 1871, but the remainder was not improved until
later. The North Park, 29 acres, was formerly a part of the
city farm, but was set aside for park purposes in 1883, though
little was done to develop it, until after the commission began
its work. Work is being carried on at the present time.

In addition to the three large parks, the commission was
given control of Durfee Green, at the junction of Highland
avenue and High streets, Cambridge Green, at the junction of
Cambridge and Coral streets and Staff'ord road, Eastern avenue,
and Plymouth avenue parkways and the cemeteries, and all
have been made much more attractive than formerly.

45



Another board which did much valuable work for the city
was the Reservoir Commission, established under a city ordi-


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Online LibraryHenry Milne FennerHistory of Fall River, Massachusetts → online text (page 4 of 10)