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COPYRIGHT DEPOSIT



HISTORY OF THE

TOWN OF MIDDLEBORO

MASSACHUSETTS



BY



THOMAS WESTON, A. M.

OF THE SUFFOLK BAR




BOSTON AND NEW YORK
HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN AND COMPANY

Cl)c EtijfrfiiHf prcBB, CambrtDjc
1906



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MAP OF MIDDLEBORO IN 1853



PREFACE

This volume should have been written fifty years ago, during
the lifetime of many men who were familiar with the early
history and traditions of the town, which they had learned
from older men with whom they had conversed in their younger
days, who, in turn, had learned these stories from the early
settlers. These men were Wilkes Wood, Zachariah Eddy, his
son Samuel Eddy, Colonel Thomas Weston, Alfred Wood, and
others. Wilkes Wood delivered an historic address in 1815;
Zachariah Eddy wrote the history of the First Church ; Sam-
uel Eddy gathered many important facts not before recorded ;
Colonel Weston was especially familiar with the genealogy and
traditions of the settlers, and John Bennett left a number of
valuable papers relating to their conveyances of land ; but
when these men passed away, much of the early history which
might have been preserved was lost forever. General Ebenezer

. fence, wh ■ ' mterested in the military affairs of the town

and the early hisiv./y of Lakeville, wTote an account of Middle-

. boro and Lakeville for the "History of Plymouth County," a

genealogy of the Peirce family, and many articles which were

published in the Middleboro "Gazette."

We have transcribed what could be obtained relating to the
early history from the records of Plymouth Colony and the
Massachusetts Archives ; but it is unfortunate that in King
Philip's War the records of the town and many ancient docu-
ments were burned. There have been kept, however, many of
the records of different purchases from the Indians, the original
or early copies now being in the possession of the town clerk.

The traditions here given have come down uniformly from
father to son through generations, so that they may be regarded
as trustworthy and correct statements of facts. Many of the
incidents were told to the author in his boyhood by those men



vili PREFACE

before mentioned. For the account of Judge Oliver and the
various stories connected with his life, the author is largely-
indebted to his father, who learned them from Mrs. Mary Nor-
cutt, Judge Oliver's housekeeper. Many years ago, Granville
T. Sproat published the same in the Middleboro " Gazette."
Family genealogies have given more or less information con-
cerning some of the individuals whose lives are recorded in
the following pages.

We desire to make special acknowledgment of the assistance
rendered by Joseph E. Beals, chairman of the publication com-
mittee, for many valuable suggestions and facts. The author
also acknowledges the aid he has received from other members
of the committee, from many interested in the preparation
of this work, and from his daughter Grace, who examined and
transcribed many historical documents, and from her researches
added many facts not heretofore published. Most of the illus-
trations are from photographs taken by Walter L. Beals, and
the plates and designs have been made by or under the super-
vision of Herbert S. Sylvester.

In this volume we have adopted the shorter spelling of
Middleboro instead of Middleborough.

This book is submitted with the many imperfections and
mistakes which, with the utmost care, a work of this kind must
necessarily contain, but the author has endeavored to set forth
the story of this ancient town, and something of the lives and
character of the men, that they may not be forgotten amid the
stirring scenes of the present age and generation.

/^



CONTENTS



Chapter

I.

II.

III.

IV.

V.

VI.

VII.

VIII.

IX.

X.

XI.

XII.

XIII.

XIV.

XV.

XVI.

XVII.

XVIII.

XIX.

XX.

XXI.

XXII.
XXIII.

XXIV.

XXV.

XXVI.

XXVII.

XXVIII.

XXIX.
XXX.

XXXI.
XXXII.



ixtroductiox
Indi.a^xs .



P.\GE

, xvii
I -

• 15
21

• 29



Praying Ixdiaxs

middleboro as first known to the english
Early Settlers before King Philip's War

Kjng Philip's War

The French and Indian W.\rs, 1689-1765

Slaves in Middleboro loi

The Re\-olution ic6

The Loyalists of the Revolution . . . .145

Middleboro in the War of 181 2 157

Middleboro in the War of the Rebellion . . 168

Local Militia 193

S0CI.A.L Customs of the Eighteenth Century . . 206

L.A.WYERS 225

Physicians 238

Education, Libr.aries, Nevvsp.\pers, Post-offices . . 245

Four Corners 272

Mad Mare's Neck, Waupaunucket, Fall Brook . . 303

The Green 309

Tho-mastown, Rock, Rocky Meadow, R.A.YiioND Neigh-
borhood, France, South Middleboro . . . 329
Eddy\tlle, Waterville, Soule Neighborhood, Hali-
fax 342

Muttock 355

Thompson' Road, The Lowlaxds, Warrextown, Pur-
CHADE 386

TiTICUT 398

L.\ke\ille 419

ecclesla.stical history . . . 439

Town Meetings, Herring Fisheries, Ixdiax Paths,
Roads and Highways, Fire District . . . 495

Town Officers, Public Officers 517

CI^^L History 544

Early Purchases from the Indians .... 582

Fraternal Organiz.\tions 631

Cemeteries 634

Descriptive Catalogue of ^Iembers of the First

Chu'rch from 1695 to 1846 639

Index 687



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

Town Hall, High School Building, Soldiers' Monument, Frontispiece

Map of Middleboro in 1853 vii

Map of Middleboro in 183 i xvii

Proposed Division of the Town of Middleboro to form a New

Town with a Portion of Taunton xix

View of the Four Corners in 1832 from Barden's Hill . . xx

Map of Middleboro in 1855 i

alex.4nder about to embark on the river 8

Indian Monument 14

The Beginning of the Lord's Prayer 16

Samuel Barrows's Autograph 36

Joseph Bumpus's Autograph 37

The Mayflower 42

Is.\.\c Howland, Sr.'s Autograph 46

John Miller, Jr.'s Autograph 48

John Morton's Autograph 48

John Morton, Jr.'s Autogr.aph 49

Samuel Pratt's Autograph 51

Da\is Thomas's Autograph 53

John Tomson's Autograph. 55

A Halberd of the Time 58

John Tomson, Jr.'s Autograph 59

George Vaughan's Autograph 59

Joseph Vaughan's Autograph 60

Samuel Wood, Sr.'s Autograph 63

S.\MUEL Wood, Jr.'s Autograph 63

Billington Sea 64

John Cobb's Autograph 65

The Stutitevant Plough 67

A View of Assawampsett Pond, where the Body of Sassamon

was concealed . . 72

Facsimile of John Sassamon's Letter to Governor Prince, while

Secret-^vry of Philip 72



Xll



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS



King Philip's Lookout

John Tomson's Gun

A View of the Rock upon which Isaac Rowland shot the Indian

AT THE Beginning of King Philip's War

View of Danson Brook, Thompson Street

Captain Benjamin Church's Autograph

Site of the Encounter at the Bridge, Lakeville

Indian Hatchet, Pipe, Mortar, and Pestle ....

A Copy of one of the Stamps under the Stamp Act

Ichabod Tupper's Autograph

Musket and Powderhorn

DoGGETT House

Ransome House

Soldiers' Monument

Kitchen Fireplace

A Family Loom of the Eighteenth Century .

The Attic of the Backus House ....

Samuel Prince's Autograph

Elkanah Leonard's Autograph

Wilkes Wood

Zachariah Eddy

Eliab Ward

William H. Wood

Everett Robinson

Judge Wood's Office

Dr. Arad Thompson .......

Dr. Morrill Robinson

Dr. Ebenezer W. Drake

Dr. William W. Comstock

Dr. George W. Snow

High School

Old Baptist Chut^ch, Chapel, and First Academy.
Baptist Church and Second Academy ....

Professor J. W. P. Jenks

Enoch Pratt

Pratt Free School

Public Library

Thomas Sproat Peirce

The Silas Wood House



73
76

77
79



87
106
124
144
153
153
191
206
214
221
227
228
230
232
234
23s
236

237
240
241
242
243
244
252

253
255
256

259
260
264
265
272



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS Xlll

The Old Morton House 273

The Dr. Clark House . 275

The Old Barrows House 277

Judge Wood's House 278

The Old Bourne House 278

Joseph T. Wood 279

Rev. Charles W. Wood 280

Rev. Henry C. Coombs 281

Ebenezer Pickens 282

Major Levi Peirce 283

Peirce Academy 284

Colonel Peter H. Peirce 285

Home of Colonel Peter H. Peirce 285

Colonel Peter H. Peirce's Store 286

Branch Harlow 286

Elisha Tucker 290

Bank Block 292

Site of B.a.nk Block in 1875 292

Peirce Block 293

Site of Peirce Block in 1875 293

Albert Alden 294

Nathan King 295

Horatio Barrows 296

The Four Corners 297

Four Corners in 1850 from Barden Hills ... 298
Four Corners at the Present Time from Barden Hills . . 299

Four Corners 300

The Old Barden House 302

Old Methodist Chut^ch of Fall Brook ..... 303

Colonel Benjamin P. Wood 304

Site of the Old Fall Brook Futrnace 305

Abishai Miller 306

The Old Miller House ........ 307

Rev. Saml'el Fuller's Autograph . . . . . . . 309

Second Meeting-house 311

Rev. Peter Thacher's Autograph 313

Rev. Sylv.anus Con.\nt's Autograph 3^4

Sturtevant House 3^5

House of Rev. Sylvanus Con ant 315



XIV LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

John Bennett's Autogr.\ph 317

Nehemiah Bennett's Autograph 318

Old Sproat Tavern 319

Signboard of the Old Sproat Tavern 321

Colonel Ebenezer Sproat's Autograph 322

Colonel Ebenezer Sproat 323

Deborah Sampson 330

Deborah Sampson's Home 331

View of the Rock 334

Stillman Benson 340

Samuel Eddy's Autograph 343

Captain Joshua Eddy 344

Residence of Zachariah Eddy 346

Office of Zachariah Eddy 347

Residence of Samuel Eddy and Dr. Powers .... 347

William S. Eddy 349

John Soule's Autograph 350

Jacob Tomson's Autograph 352

John Morton's Autograph 354

John Tomson's Pistol 354

Oliver's Walk 360

Peter Oliver 363

Peter Oliver's Autograph 363

Plan of Judge Oliver's Estate and Works .... 365

Peter Oliver's Book-plate 366

Stairs in Sproat House 373

Residence of Peter Oliver, Jr 374

James Bowdoin 375

James Bowdoin's Autograph 375

William Tupper's Autograph 376

Thomas Weston 380

Abiel Washburn's Residence 381

Ritchie House 382

Backpiece in Fireplace at Oliver Hall 384

Captain Isaac Thomson 386

George Thomson House 387

Shipyard from Woodward's Bridge 388

Cephas Thompson 389

John Weston House 391



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS



XV



Colonel Thomas Weston .

Old Weston Tavern ....

Residence of Mrs. Tom Thumb

John Alden

Site of the Old Indian Fort .
House of Rev. Isaac Backus
House of Rev. Mr. Gurney

Elijah E. Perkins

Site of Shipyard

Solomon Eaton

Oliver Eaton

First Congreg.ational Church

Jared Pratt

Isaac Pratt

Map of the Ponds ....
Thomas Nelson's Autograph .
Captain Job Peirce House

Sampson's Tavern

Major Peter Hoar's Residence

The Washburn House ....

The Ward House ....

George Ward

A Broadside of the Time, by Hannah Sproat

Sprague S. Stetson

Town House

Cudworth House

Elkanah Leonard House

Thomas Palmer's Autograph
Ebenezer Tinkham's Autograph
Pulpit of First Church ....

First Congregational Church at the Green
Rev. Israel W. Putnam, D. D.
Rev. David Gurney's Autograph
Congregational Church, North Middleboro
Central Congregational Church

Rev. I. C. Thatcher

Old Baptist Church, North Middleboro

Rev. Isaac Backus

Rev. Isaac Backus's Autograph



392
393
394
395
398
406
406
410
411
412
413
415
416

417
419
420

423
428
429
430
431
433
432
433
434
436
438
443
445
456
457
458
465
466
468
469
470
470
471



xvi LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

Baptist Church, North Middleboro 473

Rev. Ebenezer Hinds 47^

Baptist Church, Rock 478

Rev. Ebenezer Briggs 481

Central Baptist Church 483

Rev. Hervey Fitz 484

Rev. Ebenezer Nelson 485

Methodist Episcopal Chltich, Four Corners . . . 488

Methodist Episcopal Chltrch, South Middleboro . . . 489

Unitarian Church 491

Episcopal Church 492

Roman Catholic Church 493

Square Pews of the Olden Time 494

Old Town House 497

View of Herring-Weir, Muttock 499

Stick of Herring 5°°

Railroad Station 512

Se.'VL of the Town of Middleboro 519

Map of Early Purchases of Lands from Indians . . . 582

The Old Oak Tree, Titicut 583

John Howland's Autograph 589

George Soule, Sr.'s Autograph 590

Constant Southworth's Autograph 591

Thomas Southworth's Autograph 592

John Alden's Autograph 593

Thomas Prence's Autograph 598

Thomas Savory's Autograph 602

George Bonum's Autograph 604

John Chipman's Autograph 622

Isaac Cushman's Autograph 623

Thomas Doggett's Autograph 623

Entrance to Hill Cemetery 635

Gr.westone of Rev. Samuel Fuller 637




INTRODUCTION

HE history of Middleboro is that of an inland town of
the Old Colony, remote from any business centre, a
simple story of events, not so stirring as to seriously
affect the history of the commonwealth, a story of
men, thrifty, intelligent, and able, who have contributed their
share to the advancement of the best interests of the country.
By an act of the Colonial Legislature, June i, 1663,^ the
inhabitants at Nemasket " were accounted to belong to the
town of Plymouth," and continued under that jurisdiction until
the year 1669, when that portion of Plymouth was incorporated
under the name of the Town of Middleberry. This name may
have been given on account of its location, midway between
Plymouth and the residence of the Pokanoket chief, or it may
have come from the town of Middleboro in North Riding of
York, England. It included what had been known as Assa-
wampsett, Nemasket, the Titicut land of the Indians, the west-
ern portion of the town of Halifax, and the whole of Lake-
ville. Before the later division, but after that portion of Hali-
fax was set off, it was, excepting Plymouth, the largest town
in the state, measuring from north to south over eleven miles,
from east to west fourteen miles, and containing an area of
more than one hundred square miles.

In 1 718 the proprietors of the Sixteen Shilling Purchase,
with those who were in possession of much of the land in Taun-
ton formerly owned by Miss Poole and her associates, desired
to be incorporated into a separate township. Jacob Tomson
drew a map, the original of which is now in the Massachusetts

• " 1663 — I June — Prence, Gour.

" It is ordered by the Court that those that are

sett downe att Namassakett to belonge to the towne of Plymouth vntill the Court
shall see reason otherwise to order." Plymouth Colony Records, vol. iv, p. 41.



XVlll INTRODUCTION

Archives, and a copy on the following page. This project was
principally urged by those living within the bounds of Taunton,
but as there were few inhabitants at this time in that portion
of Middleboro, it was soon after abandoned.

In 1734 the northeasterly part of the town, included in the
territory between its present boundary line on the northeast
and that on the Winnetuxet River, was set off to form a por-
tion of Halifax.

The setting off of North Middleboro was for a long time
the subject of much discussion. At a meeting held December
23, 1741, "The town taking into consideration the petition
of Jabez Eddy and others respecting there being set off a sepa-
rate township ; and after the same was fully debated, upon a
question being asked the town whether they would grant their
request, the vote passed in the negative." In 1743 a petition
was presented to the General Court signed by thirty-six sub-
scribers and heads of families, asking that the northern por-
tion of the town be set off from Middleboro to become a new
town with part of Bridge water. This, however, was never acted
upon. In 1744 a similar petition was presented to the General
Court, which resulted in their separation as a parish distinct
from that worshipping at the Green. In 1792 a petition was
presented to the General Court, but this was also refused.
The last petition was presented in 1821 ; since then there has
been no further attempt at a division of this part of the town.

In 1853 the legislature incorporated as a separate town that
part which was substantially included in the Sixteen Shilling
Purchase, under the name of Lakeville.

By the act of incorporation, the boundaries of some portions
of the town were indefinite ; this gave rise to not a little con-
troversy, which extended over many years, and in the case of
the adjoining town of Bridgewater, was attended with consid-
erable bitterness. The eastern boundary, which in the early
history was the township of Plymouth, as well as the south-
ern boundary, which adjoined Rochester, was settled by agents
of that town in 1695. The dividing line between Middleboro
and Bridgewater was settled by the agents of the two towns



INTRODUCTION



XIX



•si'li '^tr-^X f^" ■'^'^'ify'W




PROPOSED DIVISION OF THE TOWN OF MIDDLEBORO TO FORM A NEW

TOWN WITH A PORTION OF TAUNTON

(Drawn by Jacob Thomson in 1718)



XX



INTRODUCTION




VIEW OF THE FOUR CORNERS IN 1832 FROM BARDEN'S HILL
(From an old picture)

in 168 1, and since that time the Taunton River has remained
the northern boundary. The line between that portion of
Taunton and Middleboro between Baiting Brook and Trout
or Poquoy Brook was indeiinite, the boundary having been
the Indian Reservation, whose western limit was not settled
until the year 1686. This has remained as then established,
although the older inhabitants of the town claimed that Taun-
ton had acquired a much larger amount of territory than the
original act of the legislature authorized. That portion of the
western side of Lakeville bordering upon Freetown has been
changed ; in the year 17 18 the boundary was a straight line.
It was not until after that time that the indentation as indi-
cated upon the present map of Lakeville was made, but when
or by whom authorized, we have been unable to ascertain.
On the east a small portion of the town was given to Plymp-
ton, and in 1842 a narrow strip of land at the southeastern
part of the town was annexed to Carver. The Taunton River
has always been the boundary line between Middleboro and
Raynham.

Most of the early settlers from Plymouth and the neighbor-



INTRODUCTION XXI

ing towns who came to occupy the lands they had previously
purchased were farmers, whose prudence and industry soon
enabled them to live in comparative independence, their farms,
with the rivers, ponds, and forests, supplying them with the
necessaries of life.

The Lakeville lands were very productive, yielding large
crops of corn and rye ; those bordering on the ponds were usu-
ally exempt from the early frosts which proved so disastrous
in other localities. Flax, at one time raised extensively, is not
now cultivated. Fruits were abundant, especially apples. The
census of 1781 gives the number of "581 houses, 18 Distill
houses, 608 oxen, 1521 cows, 338 horses, 584 coaches, chaises,
etc., and 2144 barrels of cider" for that year.

For two generations the only mills were the sawmill, the
grist-mill, and the fulling-mill, which have now almost entirely
disappeared, and in place of the sawmill there are a few box-
board mills. In the early part of the eighteenth century the
deposits of iron ore in the larger ponds gave rise to the estab-
lishment of six blast furnaces for the making of cast-iron ware.
There was a large forge and one slitting-mill, both of which
were used for the making of nail-rods, out of which hammered
nails were made. In the early part of the last century there
were four shovel factories, two cotton mills, and one tack fac-
tory, all of which have long since disappeared. In 1837 the
two cotton mills had two thousand three hundred and eighty-
four spindles, and made about half a million yards of cloth
annually. The building of a few ships along the Taunton
River entirely ceased after the embargo of Jefferson in 18 12.
The public houses, or ordinaries, which in early times were
scattered throughout the town, are no longer to be seen. Early
in the settlement Muttock, Titicut, Eddyville, then connected
with Waterville, and Fall Brook were places of business im-
portance for more than a century, but of these villages
Titicut alone has retained its population and industrial posi-
tion, while the Four Corners, which a hundred years ago was
sparsely settled, is now one of the largest and most prosperous
villages of the country. Social, business, and religious interests



XXll INTRODUCTION

have been drawn to this centre. The outlying churches, once
so flourishing, have decreased in attendance and importance.

The First Church, which was organized in 1694, was for
generations one of the largest and most influential in the col-
ony ; in 1800 there were more than fourteen hundred people
included within its parish. As the town has grown in size,
various societies have been formed, and now the churches are
numerous.

Next to the Four Corners, a greater change has occurred in
Lakeville in one hundred and twenty-five years than in any
other section of the town, there probably being not as many
houses and inhabitants there by one third.

Between the years 1772 and 1787, more than fifty families
moved from Middleboro to Woodstock, Vt., led, probably, by
Dr. Stephen Powers. Among these may be named : —
Dr. Stephen Powers, 1774 Eleazer Wood, 1779

Joseph Darling, 1776 Caleb Wood, 1779

Isaac Tribou, 1776 Nathaniel Wood, 1779

Jabez Bennett, 1776 William Raymond, 1780 y

Jacob Churchill, 1778 George Sampson, 1783

Joseph Churchill, 1778 David Thomas, 1787

Others moved to various parts of Vermont, and not a few
emigrated into that part of the state then known as the dis-
trict of Maine. It was considered noteworthy that these
families should go so far into the wilderness. This tide of
emigration seems to have continued up to 1800, so that the
descendants of Middleboro men in various pursuits and profes-
sions are to be found all over the country, and their records
indicate that they have not forgotten the ancestry from which
they sprang.

In the early part of the last century the town was noted for
the general health of its inhabitants and their remarkable lon-
gevity. Dr. D wight. President of Yale College, in his letters
containing an account of the towns in Massachusetts which he
visited, has the following table, showing the mortality in the
first parish between 1802 and 1812 and their ages, namely r^ —

1 Dwight's Travels, vol. ii, p. ii.



INTRODUCTION XXllI



Years


Above 90


So


70


50


20


Under 20


Total


1802


I


3


2


->


3


8


19


1803


I


4


2


4


4


16


31


1804




4


I


7


2


6


20


1805






6


3


14


6


29


1806


I




3




I


7


12


1807




5


2


5


6


4


22


1808




2


10


7


4


8


31


1809




2


4


7


4


12


29


1810




2


3


4


5


6


20


1812





2


4




5


7


22


Total


7


24


37


39


48


80


235



From this table it appears that the average number of deaths
in this precinct was 23.5. Of the whole number 235, seven, one
thirty-third part, lived to be above 90 ; and twenty-four, a tenth
part, above 80 ; thirty-seven, nearly a sixth part, above 70 ; and
sixty-eight, the whole number that died above 70, was a little
less than one third of the total. One hundred and seven died
above 50, not far from one half ; while those who died under
20 were eighty, a little more than one fourth of the whole.

The population has not materially increased during the past
one hundred years as compared with some other towns of the
commonwealth. There were not as many inhabitants in 18 10
as in 1790. Since i860 the population has steadily increased.

No official census was taken of any of the towns in the
province or in the commonwealth until 1765. The following
table giv^es the population of Middleboro from that time to the
present : —



1765


Province


3412


1S40 State 50S5


1776


■'


4119


1850


5336


1790


State


4526


1860I


4565


1800


"


4458


1870


46S5


I8I0


"


4400


1880


5-39


1820


"


4687


1890


' 6065


1830


"


5C08


1900


6SS5



1 The town of Lakeville was set off from Middleboro in 1S53, thus reducing its
population.




^ i^ ^ "^



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HISTORY OF THE TOWN OF
MIDDLEBORO

CHAPTER I

INDIANS

HEN the pilgrims landed at Plymouth in 1620, Middle-
boro was occupied by the Nemasket Indians. ^ From
them the place took its name until the incorporation
of the town in 1669. They were a part of the great
nation of Pokanokets,^ under the sachem Massasoit, whose rule
extended over all of the tribes in southeastern Massachusetts ;



Online LibraryThomas WestonHistory of the town of Middleboro, Massachusetts → online text (page 1 of 62)