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The HISTORY of
BY PAUL JOHN RICH
Town Hall, East Bridgewater.
The Indian Raid — The Sheldon Murder
Odd Characters of the Past
The Town's Biggest Fire
and Oldest (107 Years) Citizen -
With Maps and Engravings
The Arthur Baggia Press, East Bridgewater, Mass,
UMTARIAN CHURCH ':
AM. SUNDAY ''
RIV PAUL JOHN RICH
/ *- : " PREFACE & NOTES
East Bridgewater is certainly very old, but poor in its written history. Its
stories will vanish forever unless secured in this generation. This little book of
mine is also a plea for the help of those who have materials about the town.
It is a peculiar idea that tomorrow can be faced without trying to understand
the past. The man with no roots is bound to repeat his ancestors' errors. In a few
years I would like to publish a complete history of the town, hardbound and
about 300 pages in length. Anything you can do to provide me with stories for it
will be warmly received.
Those who are curious about the age of their house or any other historical
point are invited to use the large collection of old maps and plans that we have at
the church. There are many questions that I have about the town that I hope
someday to find the answers to — I would like to know about the successive
waves of integration, about the changes over the centuries in the school curricu-
lum, about the part the town played in the various state and national elections.
Much of the material for answering such questions is already available in raw form
and needs only patient study.
I wish to express my appreciation to Miss Mildred Simpson, Mrs. Grace
Eastman, Mrs. Ruth Thayer, and Mrs. Jane Doherty for helping me with this,
and to respectfully dedicate it to my parents in anticipation of a fuller work.
PAUL JOHN RICH
1. THE BEGINNINGS OF EAST BRIDGEWATER
Shortly after the retreat of the last great ice age, the first men appeared in
East Bridgewater. What little is known about them is thanks to the work of
Maurice Robbins and the Massachusetts Archaelogical Society. Their digs on the
South Shore have completely changed ideas of what New England was like in
The excavations in this area show that the first residents of East Bridgewater
were men of considerable energy who erected large round houses or temples, cre-
mated their dead, and painted themselves with a clay that turned blood red when
wet. Wlien people dig cellars or plow in this area they come across reminders of
the mysterious past — axes, mortars, blades of stone. Particularly near Robbins
Pond and along the banks of the Satucket River are caches of the early inhabit-
ants. They were not Indians. The Indians came later.
Wlien the Indians did come, they made East Bridgewater one of their principal
centers. Satucket, as we now spell it, means "the place where rivers meet. "About
thirty yards north of the fish weir in the river, a weir that can still be seen when
the water is down, the Indians had a clearing where they gathered for festivals.
The land was held by the Wampanoags, who became inhibited, then poxed, and
finally extinct under the white man's occupation. The last East Bridgewater In-
dian, given the Christian name of Robert Pegin, died in 1815.
East Bridgewater was granted by Plymouth Colony to the people of Duxbury
as compensation for the part of their town known as Marshfield, lost when Marsh-
field spht off from them. A team headed by Captain Myles Standish obtained title
by negotiations with the Wampanoags carried out in March of 1649 at Sachem's
Rock, a jagged outcropping located on the land now of Dr. and Mrs Donald
Bannerman, southeast of the Carver Cotton Gin Company. The area bouglit in-
cluded Brockton, all the Bridgewaters, and parts of Abington, Hanson and Mid-
The Indian that Captain Standish bartered with was Massasoit, and the deed he
gave Standish still exists, marked with his signet in the shape of a hand. All of the
territory passed for a value of less than $30. — the price was seven coats, nine
hatchets, eight hoes, and twenty knives, along with four moose skins and ten and
a half yards of cotton.
The original town of Bridgewater that resulted from the purchase was the first
interior settlement of the Old Colony. Many of the people who moved to East
Bridgewater were the sons and grandsons of the very first Plymouth settlers. They
set aside house lots laterally by the rivers, about six acres each. The first house in
East Bridgewater was built by Samuel Allen Jr., who moved from East Braintree
in 1660. He built on the east side of the Matfield River. His land included what is
now East Bridgewater center, with the cemetery and common and property of the
First Church. After Allen settled, next to come was Josiah Standish, his brother-
in-law. In 1662, Nicholas By ran arrived from Weymouth and built a house on
Snell Meadow Brook. He owned five shares of the original 56 shares that the
Standish purchase had been dived into. Another early homesteader was Thomas
Wliitman, from Weymouth. Born in England and first settled in Weymouth, he is
the ancestor of most of the Whitmans in America. He built along the Matfield
in 1662. In 1663, Robert Latham built on the Satucket, approximately where
the Carver plant is now. Here he erected a saw mill and cut lumber for his
All of these original houses with the exception of Byran's were burned to the
ground on Sunday morning, April 9, 1676. The Indians surprised the settlement
and destroyed East Bridgewater. The only house spared owed its good fortune to
the fact that Byran had an orchard and supplied the Wampanoags with hard
Rebuilding took place immediately, aided by donations from England. Others
populated the river banks — Experience Mitchell who came over on the famous
ship "Ann" arrived in 1 689 with his son Edward and started the Elmwood dis-
trict. Issaic Harris brought his sons Issaic and Samuel and built on the Satucket.
Francis and James Cary settled in 1685, Francis in Elmwood and James in the
Beaver district near the Brockton hne. Issaic Alden built in Beaver too, in 1685.
Joseph Shaw moved from Weymouth in 1 696 to Beaver, and built on the Matfield
the first grist mill in town.
In 1785 there was a population of 959 with 157 families living in a total
of 142 houses. Of course it was really still a district or parish and did not become
a town until the 19th century, with intervening changes in its boundaries and
structure. In 1810, the population was 1 195. In 1820, 1435. In 1830, 1653. In
1837, 1927. During those early years. East Bridgewater was considerably bigger
than West Bridgewater and the same size as Brockton (called then North Bridge-
Early living conditions in the town were described in an anniversary address
made by Benjamin Harris on June 3, 1856. Looking back, Harris remarked that
the houses in East Bridgewater at the turn of the century (1800) were without
paint inside or out, and the churches were similarly bare. Furniture was simple -
no cushions, no carpets. As for music, he remarked that the only music East
Bridgewater knew then was the spinning wheel heard in every home. He grum-
bled, "Instead of this helpful music we now have the sickening piano, suggestive
of nothing than effemine luxury and the want of better employment." Harris
described the people as plain and homespun. He went on, "Who dares now to
retire for the night without fastening his doors and windows. How much of the
quahty of conditions is conducive to good fellowship? How is it with religious
fellowship? At the close of the last century no clergyman was ever settled that
did not spend his days here. How has it been since? Since the commencement of
the present century, there have been settled no less than six ministers, five of
whom are now living, and there are now in the same town, three other societies
neither of the ministers of which can agree on an exchange with either of the
others." In short, things had gone to the dogs.
Certainly all of the curious personalities to inhabit East Bridgewater during
its beginnings, the most epic was Deacon John Whitman, born in 1735 and died
in 1842 at the age of 107 years and three months. In the memoir of Whitman,
by his own son Jason, we find many anecdotes about the town. The food in East
Bridgewater during Deacon Whitman's life is described as mostly boiled salt beef
or boiled pork. It was boiled in water thickened with a little Indian meal or some
beans and then the liquid was used for supper and breakfast as well as dinner.
The early settlers noticed the cold too, going by Whitman's remarks concerning
the many holes in their buildings that the snow blew through.
In the 1740's the Great Revival or Great
Awakening took place in New England and ^*^
was promoted by the Reverend George ai#,,
Wliitefield, a contemporary of John and
Charles Wesley. When Whitefield, a bold and loud Evangelical, came to town.
Reverend John Angier refused to let him use the meetinghouse. Poor Whitefield
has gone down in history as one of the great preachers in Christendom - but
when he came to East Bridgewater he had to speak in a barn. The Byram family
was so incensed at Reverend Angier because of this slight (they had invited
Whitefield) that they removed themselves to New Jersey. In this controversy,
the good Deacon supported his minister.
Whitman told of being in Church one Sunday during the Revolution when
British ships were sighted off the coast of Plymouth. The whole congregation
fled the church and made their houses ready for invasion. Whitman's wife
helped him pack cartridges and bolt the door. Fortunately there was no attack.
Although it was 200 years ago. Whitman's ups and downs sound similar to our
own. At the age of 95, he decided that by giving up meat he would be in better
health and he went on a milk diet. At the age of 100, he concluded it made no
difference and went back to a mixed table.
Coffee in East Bridgewater, according to Deacon Whitman, was made by
burning and pounding a crust of bread. It was usually well doctored with milk
and sugar. In fact, he said, it was often little else than cream or milk with a bit of
During all his 107 years, from the time of his baptism by Reverend Angier
until his death, the Deacon was a loyal member of the First Church. When the
time came that others left to form the other churches of the town, the Deacon
was asked, "How can you, Deacon Whitman, assist in settling Mr. Flint who is
known as a Unitarian?" Deacon Whitman answered, "I have never called myself
by sectarian names, I never liked any of your sectarian names; if I must take a
name, I should prefer to be called a Christian. Mr. Flint's preaching seems to me
to be religious and therefore I am willing to take part in settling him."
Referring back to the troubles when Whitefield came to East Bridgewater and
preached in the barn, the Deacon was asked by one son, the Reverend Nathaniel
Whitman, "Did you date your conversion from the preaching of Whitefield?"
Whitman answered with much energy, "Date my conversion from the preach-
ing of Whitefield? No, I have never yet dated my conversion. I know of no other
way of salvation than by a patient continuance in well-doing until the end."
Three of his sons became Unitarian ministers and one eventually became mini-
ster of the First Church.
Dancing in the early days was frowned on and when young people in the
same house as the Deacon took to dancing, even though he was nearly a hun-
dred, he remarked, "Young people must be in motion and it is better that the
motion be regular than that it should be irregular." Even in his last years, over
100 in age, if he saw a woman bringing a pail of water or lifting a log, he would
attempt to help. When a woman entered the room, he insisted on rising.
In those days, the Universalist denomination was regarded with some scorn
even by the Unitarians. The Universalists did not believe in hell and it was felt
that they would tend towards immorality on that account. When the Universal-
ists in East Bridgewater started a church in the Chamberlain tavern, then the
Keith house and now the Napolitan house. Deacon Whitman was told who at-
tended the meetings and he remarked that he had no doubt it would be a great
improvement on their previous mode of spending Sunday, even if the preaching
was not true!
The life of Deacon Whitman and the life of Mr. Prescott Washburn, still
happily alive in his 90s, span together most of the recorded history of the Town
of East Bridgewater. Between them they knew everyone who has ever been pro-
A confusing part of the tales about the early town is that the church and the
government were the same. The same meetings transacted both the political and
religious business. For example, in the recordbook of the church for November,
1735, "The assessors brought in their charge for making the precinct rates the
year past. Then the moderator put it to a vote whether they were willing to grant
Rev. Pastor Mr. Angier anything more for his support for this year than his stated
salary. They agreed to grant him something more for his support this year than
his stated salary, 30 pounds more." On December 4, 1735, "The inhabitants of
the East Precinct in Bridgewater met together and there was some discussion as
to whether they proposed to take some legal methods for prosecuting the matter
of becoming a township. Agreed in the affirmative." And on September 2, 1739,
the records say, "It was put to a vote whether they chose two men as agents to
give reasons to the General Court why the prayer of the West Precinct for some
part of the East Precinct to be assessed to them should not be granted. Voted in
The point being that these records are now solely in the possession of the
church, and the same meeting would wander from maintaining the roads to
having the church bell rung, to the dispute with West Bridgewater. Everyone be-
longed at the same time to the church and the town.
The dispute with West Bridgewater was a hot one. On September 2, 1739, the
clerk wrote, "Proposed to make these offers to the East Precinct that the mini-
sters of West and East Precincts should be maintained out of one treasury. . ."
Deciding who would pay for what is still part of the problem of local govern-
ment, and the dispute with West Bridgewater ended inconclusively when "Doctor
Joseph Byran brought in charges in endeavoring to keep any part of our precinct
from being part of the West Precinct granted to him by clear vote."
(November 5, 1739).
In the very earHest times, the settlers went to what is now West Bridgewater to
worship. West Bridgewater was not separate and has no more claim to be the
original Bridgewater than East Bridgewater - they were parts of one whole, the
original land grant of Standish. In 1723 the people in what is now East Bridge-
water petitioned the General Court in Boston to be set off, which is the reason
behind the land trouble referred to above. The thirteen families who petitioned
agreed to assume the financial liabilities of such an incorporation. They also tried
to get back the taxes they had paid West Bridgewater, but were not successful.
Even then the area of East Bridgewater had a number of little settlements
within its boundaries. Elmwood was in the southwest part of the town and to
this day has its own post office, store, and church. Beaver in the northwest part
of the town had a big part in early manufacturing and got its name from the
beaver dam in the stream running through it. Satucket was the area around the
Carver Cotton factory. Northville was in the northeast part of the town and had
a Methodist Church and a general store, both now gone. A cemetery there con-
tinues the name. Matfield clustered on Pleasant Street around the Congregation-
alist Church and included part of West Bridgewater. Auburnville was the northJ
em part of the town and most of it was given up when Wliitman was incorporat-'
ed. Each of these tiny villages had its own school.
The first post office was established in November of 1799. Judge Nathan
Mitchell got the appointment as first postmaster and kept the mail in his lav
office. Prior to 1799 there were only four post offices in the whole county, s(i
getting a post office was quite a mark of progress. Mail in the 18th centurV
went from East Bridgewater by horseback once a week on Thursdays. Some-^
times the rider didn't come through until Sundays. Even that was an improve-
ment over the original mail arrangements, for in earliest times one went t(\
Weymouth to get or send letters.
The early tax rolls show that the total yearly taxes for a family were seldon'
for more than fifty or sixty cents. Of course people gave their labor on th»|^
roads and other projects. The big expense was keeping up the meetinghouse o
First Church. This was taken care of by selling pews. You bought your seat ant'
the seats were priced accordingly to how close up front they were. "The Pew'
in the side galleries in the Meeting House in the East Precinct of Bridgewater be-
ing four in number viz two on the men's side and two on the women's side wi];
be sold at a Public Auction to the highest bidder on Monday, the 18th day o
April at one o'clock in the afternoon at the aforesaid Meeting House.F
(November 8, 1762 records). "
"November 10, 1769. Voted that the whole of the money due the Precinct
for the sale of the Pews should be appropriate to the use of the English School."
Here we have a clear example of the way the church and town were one. The
money from selling the pews went to take care of the school.
As the town grew, it was necessary to divide the school into districts.
"March 22, 1774. Voted to have the Precinct divided into School districts.
Voted that a standing committee should divide the English School money be-
longing to said Precinct in the several districts according to the number of polls
in said districts between three and sixteen years of age."
The town was also concerned with pubHc health problems at an early date.
"June 30, 1777. Voted to provide a proper house or houses for all those who
may be or are the subjects of Small Pox. Not to allow any person who has had
Small Pox to go beyond their limits until they have a certificate from a Doctor
that they have recovered from the disease."
Men were much more clearly in charge in those days than now. The church
records repeatedly show that the women and men were seated on separate sides
of the meetinghouse and all the offices were held by men — not a woman ap-
pears until the 20th century.
The Revere Bell, one of the great treasures in the town, first appears in the
ecords on September 7, 1795, when the meeting voted to purchase "a bell."
>ince Revere cast the bell in 1804, we wonder if it took that long to get it?
\s late as 1816, the town meeting was taken up with a debate over whether to
lave singing in church. After two meetings, they decided to purchase eighteen
lymn books. It wasn't until the 28th of May, 1823, that the parish voted to
eparate town and church affairs and thus to end the unique and to us confusing
ystem of doing everything within the same organization.
Although East Bridgewater was only touched by the events of the 18th cen—
ury, not being the site of any wars like the early Indian raid that destroyed its
Irst homes, it was part of a national scene that made it relatively more important
than today. In 1790 New York City had a population of 33,000 and Boston had
8,000 residents. Old Bridgewater, including Brockton and the other two Bridge-
waters, had a population of 4,975. Thus the Bridgewaters were a third the size of
Boston and one-sixth the size of New York. Maine was still part of Massachusetts.
Kentucky was part of Virginia. The states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan,
and Wisconsin were part of Minnesota and Tennessee was part of North Carolina.
A journey from New York to Washington took eight days. There were 5,100
houses in Plymouth County and a total of 7,500 families. The total population
of the county was 29,535. In comparison with the rest of the nation, the Bridge-
waters were important.
Every town has its characters. In East Bridgewater in the 1700's they in-
cluded Barnabus Seabury, the cooper . . . born in North Yarmouth, Maine, he
attended Harvard for a year in the Class of 1719. He made the town's barrels and
boxes and was able to outdrink any ten men.
Also important was John Holman. Born in Milton in 1678, he was Harvard,
Class of 1700. He married the daughter of a Boston goldsmith and moved to
East Bridgewater in 1727. Because of his close friendship with a royal governor,
Jonathan Belcher, he was appointed Sheriff of Plymouth County. The governor
wrote him, "How could you be so silly and abandoned to all rational thinking as
to sell your sheriffs post to Col. Warren for the small trifing sum of 200 pounds -
a place of honor and profit worth more than 300 pounds a year." Apparently
politics even then had its venial side. This was not the only favor Holman re-
ceived. In 1732, the governor offered him a major's commission for a new regi-
ment to be recruited from the county. Belcher also used him to manage his mines
and other business holdings, to supervize the making and selling of shingles on
the governor's Abington farm, and other sundries. Over the shingle business the
two cronies fell out. Holman was accused of cheating on his accounts. To add to
his troubles, his first wife died in 1740 and his second wife was not an unmixed
blessing, for in the Boston Post the following advertisement appeared, "Whereas
Arrabella Holman in Newport in the Province of Massachusetts Bay absoulutely
(sic) refuses and declines to cohabit with me at my house in said Bridgewater but
keeps still at Newport where she is continually running me in debt and exposing
me to many law suits of which I have had some late experience; this is to warn
and caution all people from entrusting her with any kind of goods of workmanship
on my account. I will not pay them if they do. John Holman." In later years,
Holman was made a colonel. East Bridgewater's most prominent politican-sheriff
died on May 26, 1759.
Eliab Byran was born in East Bridgewater on December 4, 1718, the son of
Captain Ebeneziah and Hannah Byran. In November of 1741 he accompanied
Elizah Wheelock in a preaching tour through the Old Colony that helped start the
Great Awakening. (Note that like many early New England families, the Byrans
spelled their name variously — Byram, Bryan, Byrane, Bryram.) Byran was a mem-
ber of the Harvard Class of 1740. After preaching in Titicut, he decided to go to
New Jersey, but came back in time to get involved in the famous incident with
Angier over the invitation to George Whitefield. He and his family permanently
moved to Rocksiticus in Morris County, New Jersey, in protest over Angier's
treatment of Whitefield. There Ehab started his own church. He died in 1754 a
his grave alone marks the site of the church and small settlement which started as
a result of an East Bridgewater dispute.
Wlien should East Bridgewater celebrate its birthday? In 1721, according to a
diary kept by James Carey, a meetinghouse was raised so people wouldn't have to
go over to West Bridgewater for worship. But as we see in the records, the fuss
over separation went on over many years. The land for the meetinghouse was
given by Samuel Allen, the son of the Samuel Allen who had been one of the first
settlers. He deeded as follows, "For and in consideration the regard he had had
for settling the ministry in the east end of the north precinct in Bridgewater, did
grant, make over, convey and confirm unto the said east end of the north pre-
cinct designing with submission to the authority to be a distinct precinct, to their
proper use behouth and disposal, a certain small piece of land lying in Bridgewater
aforesaid on which the frame, the meetinghouse nearly erected in said place now
standeth for conveniency about said meetinghouse." So 1721 or 1723 could be
taken as founding dates, since the building went up in 1721 and the parish was
incorporated on December 14, 1723. Or one could take the much later date in
the 1800s when the town and church were separated.
The principal citizen of East Bridgewater in the eighteenth century was the
Reverend John Angier, the first minister of the town. Angier was the grandson of
a president of Harvard, Uriah Oakes. He graduated from there in 1720 and taught
in Scituate before his call to the First Church. He served as minister for 62 years
until his death on April 14, 1787. His gravestone shows him with wig and long
gown in his pulpit.
Plymouth Street owes its origin to the ordination of Mr. Angier. The old road
from Boston to Plymouth passed by the meetinghouse and tavern to the west of
what is now Plymouth Street. It was declared to be too long a distance from the
river for the ecclesiastical council that ordained Angier to walk to their meal. So
young men of the church cut Plymouth Street down to the river. Along this
avenue the guests went to near what is now the Dr. Orr House, where a long
table was arranged from east to west, shaded by four apple trees. A temporary
oven had been built in the rocks in which the meats were cooked and the beans
we are told were served on pewter plates.
Reverend John Angler's life was punctuated by a great tragedy. In July 1747,
his wife and three eldest children died within 18 days of each other from pneumo-
nia. His wife got her fatal illness from visiting the sick of the parish. He was left
with the three youngest children - Mary, Samuel and Oakes, to raise. His sister
Eunice helped him do this. Angler's daugliter Mary married the Reverend Ethram
Hyde from Rehoboth. Angler's son succeeded him, the Reverend Samuel Angier.
Samuel Angier was the last man in the town to wear a three-cornered hat, wig,
and knee buckles. At the close of worship every Sunday he passed down the aisle,
bowing politely to the congregation. A bachelor until 53, he married Judith
Smith, daughter of the minister in Pembroke. She was killed on Plymouth Street
in June of 1798 when she was going down the hill on horseback and was thrown.
With Angler's death in 1804, the tension between those who wanted to continue
the old arrangement of the town and church being combined, and those who
wanted to separate the two came to a head.
Under the Anglers, the First Church had gradually departed from traditional
views of Jesus and the Bible. In the Matfield section of town, several of the fam-
ilies held their own religious meetings at which the more conservative teachings
were heard. Finally they organized the Union Trinitarian Society of East and West
Bridgewater. This group itself split into two churches, one of which survives as
the Union Congregational Church. The other group were followers of Reverend
B. Sanford, a Brown graduate who for a time had his own church on North
Central Street near the corner of Elm Street.
The Swedenborgians began the church in Elmwood in 1838 and built the pre-
sent church in 1854. Their most famous minister was Timothy Otis Payne. Payne
was world famous for his studies of ancient Egypt and he translated the Egyptian
Book of the Dead into English.
There were three Methodist churches in East Bridgewater. One started in 1842
and closed in 1849. Another in Northville started in 1849 and closed in 1860. The
present Methodist Church originated in 1856 and started by meeting in a build-
ing first used by the Universalists on the site of the present public library and
used after the Methodists by the Catholics.
The public library site was certainly the holiest in town, because the church
there that the Universalists originally built got subsequent use by both the Meth-
odists and the Catholics before burning down. When it burnt, the Catholic church
was built adjacent to the Unitarian meetinghouse and Common, then itself burnt
down and was replaced by the present building. The original Union Congrega-
tional building also burnt, so there have been three church fires in the town.
It is in the old cemeteries that the earliest history is most graphically preserved.
The oldest of all is the plot facing the Town Hall. The graves there go back as far
as 1685. One of the first things that John Angier did when he came as minister was
to cut initials and dates upon the stones that he found in that already somewhat
ancient graveyard. The Central Cemetery immediately adjoins the old yard but is
distinct from it. In the old yard we find some ripe ages — Experience Mitchell
lived to 90, William Cronin lived to 86, Samuel Bass lived to 91, John Angier to
85. No one can quite measure up to John Whitman's 107.
The yard has graves of many who fought in the early wars. TheFrench and
Indian War, the Revolution, the War of 1812. In the Revolutionary War, the town
responded quickly. Some men marched to Lexington and Concord in the first call
of April 19, 1775. Pews in the church were sold to provide money for outfitting
the soldiers. It was the Civil War that really took its toll on the town, for no less
than 47 young men from the population of just over 2,000 were killed.
Because of its rivers. East Bridgewater was settled early. We have seen that the
original settlers lived on the river and a canoe trip up the Satucket even today will
give some of the fiavor of their life. At one time there were 22 mills in the town.
The first mill was a saw mill built by Robert Latham, just prior to King Phillips
Indian War, perhaps in 1667. Joseph Shaw put up a grist mill on the Salisbury
River in 1700. John Whitman built a saw mill above Forge Pond about the same
time. In 1740, Hugh Orr built a dam on the Matfield and erected a trip-hammer
shop and made scythes. During the Revolution he turned to the manufacture of
cannon, iron products, and guns.
East Bridgewater's first doctor was Isaac Otis, Harvard 1738. On June 30,
1746, he married Mehitabel, daughter of Captain Jonathan Bass of the town and
so came here to practice medicine for the rest of his Hfe. Some of his records are
preserved in the restored apothecary shop and medical museum on Plymouth
Street known as the Dr. Orr House. Often he bartered his services for grain or a
day's work by the patient in his fields. He died on December 9, 1785, of billious
cholic. His epitaph reads, "Thus dies the great man of skill."
Dr. Hector Orr was the most famous physican to practice in the parish. He was
born in town on March 24, 1770 and graduated from Harvard in 1792. After ap-
prentisingwith a doctor in Randolph, he was commissioned in 1796 by President
John Adams and went to India on a celebrated expedition commanded by Com-
modore Preble. A great Freemason and confident of Paul Revere, he organized a
lodge that still continues as Fellowship Lodge of Bridgewater. Fellowship Lodge's
records reveal that the first meeting was in East Bridgewater at the First Church.
"November 3, 5797 (sic). The Most Worshipful Paul Revere, Grand Master, being
then placed in the Chair, a Grand Lodge was opened. A Procession was then
formed in Masonic order and proceeded to the Reverend Samuel Angler's meet-
ing house, where a sermon was dehvered by our Rev. Brother Thaddeus Mason
Harris, and an oration by the Right Worshipful Hector Orr." After Orr died in
1855 he was succeeded by his son, Samuel Orr, who died in 1878 - nearly 80
years of medical practice in the town between the two of them.
Through the 1 700s negro slaves were kept by some of the people. The church
records show this. Angier wrote, "August 22nd, 1734 I marry'd the negro man
that belongs to John Johnson and the negro woman that belongs to Sam'l Beale."
"Febry. 6th, 1772 Nathan Mitchel's negro man marry'd to a maulatto girl
brought up by Anthony Winslow." Otis owned the first slave in the town, a
woman named Ailla.
General Sylvanius Lazell, who lived in the house on the corner of Central and
Bedford Streets where the nursing home is now located, was one of the wealthiest
men in the town during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. He manufactured
nails and reputedly produced 80 tons of them a year. He controlled the turn-
pike that ran by his house from New Bedford to Boston. General Lazell's turn-
pike company was known as the New Bedford and Bridgewater Turnpike Corp-
oration, but despite its name, it never got as far as New Bedford. Its southern
terminus was the post office near the Great Ponds in Middleboro. It was said to
derive its success from the devout nature of its route which passed as near as pos-
sible to six churches.
Accordingly to Benjamin Keith, there was a fellow named Nathan Johnson
who liked to bedevil the General. On one occasion he took Lazell's prize turkey
and threw it down a well and then told the General that the turkey had flown
down the well. To get it out, Lazell had to give Johnson the turkey. Another
time, Johnson agreed to butcher a hog for General Lazell if he could have the
head. When he cut the head off, he cut it so far down that he got most of the pig.
Johnson remarked to Angier's successor, Rev. James Flint, "Look here Mr. Flint,
it's of no use for you to pray for rain until the wind changes."
The man who got East Bridgewater into shoe making was Edward Mitchell.
The industry began in the southern part of town known as Joppa or Elmwood.
Elmwood was originally called Joppa, but Reverend Timothy Otis Payne of the
Swedenborgian Church thought that Elmwood sounded better. He was vigorous-
ly opposed by Seth Bryant. A meeting was called and a Mr. Newton Kean said
that the change could not be made without getting the permission of every man,
woman, and child in the place. Rev. Payne however got up a petition, went to
Washington, and managed to get the name changed. Bryant was so mad, he moved
away. At the corner of West and Bedford Streets in Elmwood there is a famous
old tannery stone which was in use from 1700 to 1835. Mitchell had his tannery
on the west side of Bedford Street and when the tannery was torn down, the
stone was rolled into a field and abandoned. Years later, a Mr. Alfred Parker went
searching for it after hearing from his grandparents of an old stone with a square
opening in the center. He couldn't find it until one day while bicycling in Bridge-
water he came upon the stone set in a wall. The owner of the Bridgewater prop-
erty had hauled stones to his farm including Mitchell's. Prior to the 100th anni-
versary of the incorporation of East Bridgewater in 1923, Mr. Parker brought the
stone back and set it up where it now is.
This is not the only piece of historic East Bridgewater to go traveling. The old
academy which in 1818 stood on Central Street to the west of the cemetery fi-
nally was moved to Keith Place, where it can be recognized despite its metamor-
phis into a private house.
Much of the past is of course gone. At one time there was a dam across the
stream on the left side of Pleasant Street and a huge flax mill and grist mill, and a
trip hammer and blacksmith shop. There Captain Vinton made scythes for all the
surrounding towns. Below on the same stream was a rolling and slitting mill for
slitting iron for machine hammered nails. Supposedly almost every house and
barn built in Massachusetts used something made in East Bridgewater. On the site
of the present Savings Bank was a deep cellar where ice was kept by Jason and
White. Covered with woolen cloth it stayed there well into August.
Eliah Carver is the only one of the early businessmen whose name is still pre-
served in the name of a company. He lived in Natchez, Mississippi as a young man
and there learned about cotton gins. It was said that Eliah Carver was to the cot-
ton gin what James Watt was to the steam engine. He was decorated by the gov-
ernment of Indian, which gave him a gold metal and 2500 rupees for his inventions.
Wlien he came to the end of his life. Carver built an addition to the house of his
niece on Plymouth Street so he could watch the mill. That was his great success.
A friend of Carver's was Ezrah Kingman, who represented the town in the
General Court for six years. Kingman was an exquisite flute player and it was he
who introduced music into the services of the First Church. Previously it had been
Not all the business started in town were successful. The first bank failed des-
pite the many prominent men associated with it. All the money was put into
Western land speculation. Large loans were made without security and the bank
went under. Its building still survives. It is the house that Mr. Richard Wliitmarsh
lives in next to the Savings Bank. In existence is money printed in East Bridge-
water from the time when the banks were allowed to issue their own currency.
On the failure of the bank, Herman Washburn composed a ballad. "Come,
come my friends and lend an ear and listen to my song, I'll tell you facts which
have occurred as thus we pass along: There was a bank got up in town — the
peoples' admiration, but soon they found it was to aid in western speculation.
The President we all do know; he took his post so grand, and lent the money to
his sons to pay for western land. This President when once a Judge, the people he
did ride, and from the path of honesty his feet have turned aside." Since the man
mentioned in the ballad still has descendants in town, we shall not mention his
Nor were town meetings always placed, as shown in a ballad which circulated
called "Town Meeting Song: and sung to the tune of Yankee Doodle. "In East
Bridgewater, as I learned, they had a great town meeting; they nail a notice on
the door and I believe they called it Greeting. Yankee Doodle is the tune, two
Yankees is promoting. 'Twill do to whistle, sing or play, and just the thing for
One of the most interesting old records is a faithful diary of the East Bridge-
water weather kept by Leonard Hill from 1806 to 1869. It is a precise record of
the weather in East Bridgewater for every day from all those years. Hill records
that on July 14, 181 1, the temperature in East Bridgewater reached 109 and was
followed by four consecutive days of temperatures over 100. His cold weather re-
cords included January of 1857 with 15 days below zero. The coldest day was on
January 24, 1857, when the glass read 23° below. Of the winter of 1868, he said,
"It has not thawed all night from November 30th to March 6." He also mentioned
the great arctic winter of 1810, which was the coldest winter ever known in New
England. Calling it "Cold Friday" he wrote that on January 19, 1810, the temp-
erature went to 33° below. It was 25° below the next day, then 24° below, 17° be-
low, and then 1 1° below. A cold week in that memorable winter. But the winter
of 1819 was altogether different. Frogs were out in February. "Hot as June"
wrote Hill on February 12, "71° and no frost since January 14" was his note for
February 13.There was no winter like it until the one of 1868, which was equally
warm. The summer of 1826 was the wettest, with 21 days of rain in August alone.
During the war of 1812, the East Bridgewater Light Infantry was ordered to
go to Boston, Gushing Mitchell was in command. They duly reported to Boston
and were stationed on Dorchester Heights. William Harris, father'of the Honorable
D.W. Harris who lived near Sachem's Rock was the only one who knew how to give
the challenge and demand the countersign — an indication of the lack of train-
ing of the soldiers. But they became one of the best companies in the state and
held Dorchester Heights for two months. On the first Sunday after their return,
they marched in their uniforms to the Unitarian Church and Reverend Mr. FUnt
gave them what the soldiers called, "A rousing good sermon."
One of the more facinating volumes in the First Church archives is the origin-
al minute book of the East Bridgewater Manufacturing Co. which was the prede-
cessor of the Carver Cotton Gin Co. In a firm script the records of the company
are set down. The shares were divided among Samuel Rogers, Samuel Keene,
Wallace Rusk, Allen Whitman, Nathaniel Wlieeler and Seth Allen. Another inter-
esting book in posession of the Church is the early police record listing the various
offenses. We notice that the offenses are rather similar to failings of our present
generation. The selling of liquor illegally, beating and torturing a horse, common
drunkedness, assault and battery, larceny of wood, assault, disturbing the meeting
on the Lord's Day, concealment of goods, larceny of soap, malicious destruction
of property, receiving stolen goods, malicious mischief, burning a store, disturb-
ing the peace, embezzlement of money, fornication, adultery, being a stubborn
child, breaking glass windows, extorting money, keeping a growling dog, threat
and abuse, entering a dwelling house in the night time with the intent to commit
larceny and so on.
Some of the more noble of the citizens of East Bridgewater in the Nineteenth
Century appear in the old police blotter and many a geneologist would be horri-
fied to discover that his family tree included fornicators and larcenists.
Still another set of books of great interest are three ledgers of The General
Store in East Bridgewater over a period from 1780 until the 1820's. The ledgers
of Joseph Chamberlin's store included most of the names we are already familiar
with: Dr. Orr, Dr. Otis, the minister Rev. Samuel Angier, and others. Looking at
Samuel Angler's account in the old book, we find in the year 1800:
June To setting his horseshoes all around 2 shillings
October To setting his horses shoes all around 2 shillings
December To a staple and ring to his ox yoke 4 shillings
To sharpening his cotter
To a quarter of veal that was 12
pounds at 5 pence a pound
To half a bushel of seed corn
1 802 April To a hoop 1 shilling
May Seed 1 shilling
December To a half a day in his woods 1 shilling
December To drawing three loads of wood 1 1 shillings
Chamberlin's account shows that the store not only provided food but services
and that as late as 1802, East Bridgewater money was figured in shillings and
The only literary magazine of any significance ever to be published in East
Bridgewater was a Transcendentalist Journal, called The Amaranth or Literary
Portfolio. The first issue appeared on October 6, 1832. It contained ai; article by
John Greenleaf Whittier, reprints from the London Literary Gazette, and notices
of local happenings. Later the magazine was shifted to Boston where it continued
for a number of years. The notices in The Amaranth are such as these:
"Members of the East Bridgewater Temperance Society are
notified to meet at the Academy on Monday evening next at 7 o'clock.
"Boston and Worcester Railroad. We understand that the excava-
tion for this railroad is commenced eight miles or so to be completed
in May next including the passage of Charles River.
"The Third Regiment of the First Brigade (Fifth Division) will
parade in this town on Wednesday next.
"A meeting of the officers of the Third Regiment held at Smiths
Hotel in this town on Monday last, John Torrey of Boston was
elected Colonel, Vice Abraham Washburn resigned, Martin Casey of
North Bridgewater, Lieutenant Colonel, Vice John Torrey promoted,
John H. Hathaway of this town Major, Vice Martin Casey promoted."
Subscriptions to The Amaranth were $1.00 payable in advance, or $1.50 at
the end of the year. This got the magazine into trouble because people didn't pay
at the end of the year. Alas, East Bridgewater's only hterary journal soon was in
debt, and moved to Boston.
Included in the records of the old First Church during the Nineteenth Century
are the ordinary business affairs of running a Parish. There is concern about the
common being fenced. It became the complete charge of the Church following
separation of the town and church. There are some humorous moments.
"May 24, 1834, Voted that the parish committee, tithing men and sexton be
requested and directed to see that the boys are orderly on the Sabbath during the
service and if any are found to be disorderly and disturbers of the meeting they
be complained of before some magistrate in order that they may suffer the pen-
alty of the law."
The town almost lost its ancient meetinghouse because during the years from
1839 to 1850 a group in the First Parish desired to tear down the building and
erect a new one. It was voted on May 4, 1839, that the parish rebuild the church,
but then on May 20, 1839, "Voted that a committee be chosen and instructed to
have the roof of the church repaired, not to exceed $25.00. Voted that they re-
consider the vote respecting the erection of a new meetinghouse." On April 20,
1845, "Voted to postpone indefinitely the consideration of the Fifth Article in
the Warrant which related to repairing the meetinghouse or building a new one."
On May 18, 1849, "Voted to accept this report of the committee chosen to ap-
praise the pews in the meetinghouse which was as follows: 'April 28, 1849' - we
the subscribers having been chosen by the First Congregational Society in East
Bridgewater to appraise the meetinghouse belonging to said Society have this day
attended that duty and appraised said house exclusive of the bell in the interest
which said Society have in their associated capacity, in said house and site,
$325.00 as will appear by the within plan upon which plan the price of each pew
is made thereon accepting the 21 pews are appraised at 50 cents each." This ap-
praisal was in connection with tearing the building down, for since the pews were
owned by different families, the families would have to be reimbursed for the
pews. On July 31,1 849, the parish voted, "To instruct the committee to contract
for building a new meetinghouse. The contractors to have the old house and pay
therefore to the pew owners $325.00 the appraised value of the same. The con-
tractors, after the new house is finished to convey the same to the Parish, reserv-
ing for themselves all the pews (except one for the use of the minister) as a fund
for reimbursing to themselves the cost of said house."
But the old church survived. On April 11, 1850, "Voted that the Parish con-
sent to have the meetinghouse altered and repaired in such a manner, that as a
committee chosen by the Parish shall assent to, provided the whole expense of
the house as it now stands and the alterations and repairs shall not exceed $2500.,
and provided also that the same be done without any cost or charge to the
Parish." On June 5, 1850 the Parish voted "To consent to have the meetinghouse
turned around so as to have the East end thereof from the street. Voted that the
meetinghouse be altered and repaired according to plan presented by the com-
mittee of subscribers, provided the cost shall not exceed $3300.00." Apparently
the alterations were a success, for on December 6, 1850 the church voted that the
surplus money from the sale of pews be appropriated towards the purchase of an
organ. The church was to go another hundred years before a debate would break
out once again about whether it should be torn down or not. Indeed, The First
Parish voted in 1961 to tear down the central meetinghouse. Once again, commit-
tees being what they are, this was not accomplished.
We scarcely know what to make of the vote of September 23, 1855, when,
"Voted to choose a committee of three to cause the tombs in the old burying
ground to be removed and to sell at auction the stone and after deducting the ex-
penses of the sale to pay over the proceeds to the owners of the tombs."
The Reverend George Moore, a frail young graduate of Harvard Divinity School,
wrote a copious diary and in it there are some remarks about the town. He said,
"East Bridgewater, Friday, August 10, 1838, we saw Mr. Whitman the father of
the late Bernard Whitman and of Jason Whitman of Portland who is now 103
years old. He walks about quite erect, has a full face and looks in good health.
One would not think him more than 80 years old, he has been to town meetings
and has always until recently kept up his interest in the affairs of the town; and
inquired every Sabbath after the preacher, sermon, text. We also called at Mr.
Ryder's school and on several families and drank tea at Mr. Nutter's where I be-
came so engaged in talking about Cuba as to lose myself. On our return to the
vUlage of Joppa, we had a pleasant evening with Deacon Keene's where we are
staying East Bridgewater, Saturday, August 1 1, 1838;Walked this morning over
to South Bridgewater, two miles. It is a very pleasant village and the views all a-
round are beautiful mingled with pine and oak groves. . . .East Bridgewater, Sun-
day, August 12, 18, 28; Went about yesterday p.m. with Mr. Barrett making sev-
eral calls upon his parishioners, drank tea at the house of Mr. Nutter, addressed
the Sabbath School at noon and felt myself the better for the effort. Attended a
singing meeting in the village and heard some excellent songs. . . .Concord, Mon-
day Evening, August 13, 1838, left the pleasant Village of Joppa in East Bridge-
water this morning. My time was passed as pleasantly there as it could anywhere.
Under existing circumstances, I have found the family of Deacon Keene very
pleasant. Miss Suzanna is a Swedenborgian but she has a very pretty face. The
Deacon is a man of few words; of course, he is Deaconish as it would not be pro-
per for him to be otherwise. The Village of East Bridgewater I affect-there is a
charming grouping of pine groves, hill and valley and level meadowlands and fields
on the low ground in every direction and the people are pleasant — there is no
aristocracy. When the lawyer gives a party, he invites shoemaker, tailor, farmer,
and all who are respectable of whatever occupation. This is a charming country
life for me where all the members feel an interest in the welfare of the rest."
In 1839, Mr. Moore came back and wrote as follows: "East Bridgewater, Sun-
day, September 1, 1839, came here yesterdays stage to supply the pulpit today;
stopped at Deacon Robinson's and pleasant folk they are (a plain, homely far-
mer's family but none the less for that), preached in the morning my sermon on
"Evil Works and Retribution" - and in the evening on "Conscience", to a con-
gregation of about 200, people very attendant. They wished me to preach as a
candidate, but I told them No. I can preach nowhere as a candidate at present. I
am glad that I came to this town to preach for my coming made me the means of
getting them a good minister, and of getting a good minister a good parish. Know-
ing the situation of Mr. Cutler of Gardner, I recommended them to hear him
preach and they seemed quite desirous of doing so. And wished me to write to
him about it — made several calls and enjoyed my short stay very much."
"Concord, September 2, 1839: Rode from East Bridgewater to Boston this
morning, on the outside of the coach was a very pleasant driver. He heard me
preach yesterday and was very free to talk about his own feelings. In regard to a
future world, he said he knew nothing about it. He lived for the present — he
always meant to do as well as he could — but he was for enjoying life as he went
along. As to a future world he did not trouble himself about it — he saw men
die and that might be the last of them for all he knew."
Any trip to East Bridgewater in the early 19th century would have been by the
New Bedford and Bridgewater Turnpike. It extended in a remarkably straight line
through the villages of Titicut, Bridgewater, East Bridgewater, Whitman, Abing-
ton, and South Weymouth to a junction with the Braintree and Weymouth Turn-
pike in Weymouth, at the corner of Main and Washington Streets. The length
was about 25 1/2 miles. The cost of construction of this remarkable road was
$49,662.50. Its chief fault seems to have been in not having reached New Bedford.
— in turning its travelers off at a distance of 13 miles from the center, further
away over torturous county roads. At its peak, one stage a day passed each way
between Boston and New Bedford, and seven freight wagons each week. One toll
gate stood at the southern end where the Lakeville town house now stands; an-
other was in the Joppa. Plymouth County records show that the East Bridgewater
part of the Turnpike was thrown open to the public free in December of 1829. It
was not until 1847 until all parts of it were free road.
An Almanac of 1846 said of East Bridgewater, "A pleasant town, afforded a
good water power for manufacturers, and has thus improved to considerable ex-
tent. Manufacturing consists of cotton goods, boots, shoes, nails, tacks, bar iron,
bar iron, leather, lead pipe, chaises, window blinds, sashes and boxes. The manu-
facture of iron commenced here early after the settlement of the country. Can-
nons were cast during the Revolutionary War and since that time small arms have
been made here to a considerable extent. The manufacture of nails and tacks have
been very large and profitable. There are two pleasant villages in the town of
which considerable business is transacted. A branch of the Old Colony Railroad
from South Abington to Bridgewater passes near the Village of Joppa (six miles
from the former, and two miles from the later, and twenty-six miles from
An 1869 Almanac, listing the inhabitants of the town gives us some of the oc-
cupations: farmer, laborer, molder, shoemaker, clerk, merchant, teamster, mason.
machinist, mechanic, millwright, nailer, hairdresser, postmaster, painter, cigar-
maker, boxmaker, forgeman, tinsmith, furniture dealer, carpenter, expressman,
physician, patternmaker, surveyor, tack manufacturer, peddler, clergyman, forge-
man, coal dealer, lumber manufacturer, lawyer, wheelwright, jeweler, grocer, ship
broker, town clerk, blacksmith, stone cutter, butcher, restorer, gardener.
The boundry line between East Bridgewater and Bridgewater was not settled
until February 23, 1838. The boundry line between Halifax and East Bridgewater
was established on April 1 1, 1857. Part of East Bridgewater was lost to the new
town of South Abington (Wliitman) on March 4, 1875 and part was annexed to
Brockton on April 24, 1875. The date of the establishment of East Bridgewater,
is of course, subsequent to the date of the earliest census. Therefore, it is hard to
provide figures for its growth prior to its separate incorporation. In 1840 there
was a population of 1,950. In 1850, the population had increased considerably
to 2,545. In 1855, stood at 2,930, and in 1860 the population of East Bridge-
water reached 3,207 — a level it was not to reach again for more than 60 years.
Population then began to decrease and went down to 2,976 in 1865, came up a
little to 3,017 in 1870 — decreased again to 2.808 in 1875 and again decreased
to 2,710 in 1880, pulled back up again to 2,812 in 1885 and then to 2,911 in
1890 and finally decreased again to 2,894 in 1895. These increases and decreases,
reflect the changes in town boundaries as well as social conditions.
There was a fuss in East Bridgewater in 1850 over slavery, when a number of
people took the schoolhouse to hold an anti-slavery lecture in and a number of
others tried to break the door in. People were indicted and bound over to the
court. Nor were the religious affairs of East Bridgewater altogether rosy. In a note
that appeared in a monthly religious magazine of August 1844, "Reverend Nath-
aniel Wliitman was installed as pastor of the Unitarian Society in East Bridgewater
on Wednesday, July 17, 1844. There were several appropriate illusions in the
various exercises to those hallowed associations which cluster around this society.
The effect of which was in a measure lost by the great length of the whole service.
The new pastor is a son of the late venerable and esteemed Deacon John Whitman
who died in 1842 at the advanced age of 107 years and 3 months having been a
member of the East Bridgewater Church for 78 years. The society in East Bridge-
water has known many discouragements and trials. Eight years have elapsed since
they have had a settled minister. Yet, with a very few exceptions with or without
a preacher, they have been constant in their weekly service. We hail it as a good
omen; that a waste place in Zion has been restored."
When the Civil War broke out, a town meeting was held on the 27th of April,
1861. It was voted that the town would raise whatever money was necessary to
uniform a volunteer company and provide for the family of every member. Four
thousand dollars was voted on the spot and a town council voted to carry the
claim into effect. It was voted to pay every volunteer ten dollars a month while
in active service, and it was resolved, "That the citizens of East Bridgewater this
day in town meeting assembled do unanimously resolve that they will to the ex-
tent of their ability maintain and defend the integrity of the constitution and the
union and uphold the government of the United States." During the 1 860's there
were frequent votes of the town regarding Civil War matters. A bounty was paid
of $100. to anyone who volunteered. This was later increased to $150. All told
East Bridgewater furnished 350 men and 14 of these were officers. The town
voted a total of $55,000 for the war. The ladies sewed voluminously. In 1873,
at the instigation of the Ladies Sewing Circle of the First Parish, a granite mono-
lith weighing 33 tons was placed on the Common with the names of the 47 young
men who died, some at famous battles like Fair Oaks, Fredricksburg, Spottsyl-
lania, Chattanooga, and Gettysburg.
In the southeast corner of the town is Robins Pond. It covers 125 acres and a
little north of the center of the pond is a small island covered by trees which has
been a favorite resort of pleasure parties. Ever since the first visit to Robins Pond
by a white man (although many people have been attracted there in the summer)
it was not known that any person ever drowned in it until during a picnic on the
island on July 19, 1882 a severe storm occurred. A young man from West Bridge-
water, Frank Howard, (only 29 years old) was sailing in a boat when the boom
swinging around struck him on the head and knocked him into the water. He was
rendered senseless and sank.
Formerly, the number of ailwives or herrings that came up the Satucket and
spawned in Robins Pond was immence. The shade preferred the Matfield River
and the shade weir was located on the Matfield. The Herring weir on the Satucket
built by the Indians hundreds of years before was a stone sluce which might
well be called a raceway. This surviving structure can still be seen when the water
is low and drawn off, but since 1819 the herring have not made much of a run up
the rivers for the coming of the mills and of pollution changed their natural habits.
One map reproduced in this volume shows East Bridgewater in 1879; we no-
tice that the Roman Catholic Church is located at this time in the center of town
where the Public Library is now located. The high school is at the end of what is
now Keith Place, that the present location of the Catholic Church is occupied by
the house of Mrs. Keith. The old Town Hall is standing on its site across from the
house of Aaron Hobart which many years later was to become the Town Hall. The
brick yard extensively occupied an area off Union Street between Union and Cen-
tal. The Iron Works are located on the Matfield off Union. Going up the street the
onlookers will notice that the major part of Elm Street is settled, which comes as
a surprise because the street does not look like one of the older streets in East
Bridgewater. On the corner of Elm and Central is the house of the Rev. Sanford
which was later used as a church when Rev. Sanford resigned from the Congre-
Down in Elmwood it would be noted that the edifice which is still obvious on
West Street was then functioning as a school and the other district schools can be
located such as the one next to the Unitarian Church facing the Common, and
the school at the corner of Union and Hobart Streets. East Bridgewater had at one
time nine different district schools. The other map which shows the entire con-
fines of the town and also dates from 1879 is keyed to show the different dis-
tricts such as Satucket, Eastville, Northville, Auburnville, and the town center it-
self. One can readily see how much of the land was lost to South Abington
and how much the boundaries of the town were to change in subsequent years.
The map also shows us how the rivers and the distribution of water from them
has changed over the years.
In 1885, the entire budget of the entire town of East Bridgewater was
$19,785.00; schools accounted for $5,600.00 of this; highways took $3,000;
support of the poor was $3,000.00 and the decoration of soldiers' graves $100.
The biggest disaster to ever hit East Bridgewater occurred on May 21, 1893,
when a fire wiped out the Old Colony Iron Foundry and Machine Shop, levelled
the Methodist Church and two large warehouses. The loss was estimated at
$100,000.00. At one time 15 of the buildings were on fire. The cause of the fire
was said to be the flying spark from the engine of the locomotive. The air was
filled with burning embers, said the report. The hose com.pany from Elmwood re-
sponded quickly, as did Brockton and Bridgewater. It was said that had the fire
broken out in the evening rather than in the afternoon, the entire town would
have been destroyed.
The County of Plymouth, which in 1765 had a population of 25,777 and
in 1800 a population of 32,302, had reached by 1860 a population of
64,768 and by 1895 a population of 101,498. The population of the county
increased considerably more than the population of the town in the Nineteenth
Century, from a percentage point of view. Looking at East Bridgewater in 1895,
the population broke down this way: Of the 2,894 souls, 1,441 were male, 1,443
were female. There were 726 families in the town. There were 642 houses and 41
more of these were unoccupied at the time, making a total of 683 dwellings. Of
those 642 occupied dwellings, 9 were one story, 479 were one story and an attic,
1 had a basement and one story, 7 had a basement, one story and an attic, 9 had
two stories, 1 28 had two stories and an attic, one had a basement and two stories,
and seven a basement, two stories and an attic. Six hundred and thirty nine of the
houses in East Bridgewater in 1895 were made out of wood, 2 were made out of
wood and brick, and none were made out of only brick. In that year, only fifteen
percent of East Bridgewater was foreign born; the rest were native. There were no
colored people, Indians or Japanese. There was one lone Chinaman. There were
179 widows and only 79 widowers, 8 divorced men and 4 divorced women. Of
the 2,894 people in East Bridgewater in 1895, 5 were born in California, 13 in
Connecticut, 1 in Delaware, 1 in Florida, 2 in Georgia, 2 in Illinois, 2 in Indiana,
1 in Iowa, 1 in Louisiana, 1 15 in Maine, 1 in Maryland, 2,148 in Massachusetts.
Of the Massachusetts born, 921 had been born in other towns with the remainder
in East Bridgewater. One person born in Michigan, 1 in Minnesota, 2 in Missouri,
55 in New Hampshire, 7 in New Jersey, 37 in New York, 1 in North Carolina, 3
in Ohio, 3 in Pennsylvania, 26 in Rhode Island, 1 in South Carolina, 31 in Ver-
mont, 3 in Virginia and 2 in Wisconsin. Of the 449 foreign born, 2 had been born
in Austria, 12 in Canada, 1 1 1 in French Canada, 31 in England, 7 in Germany,
166 in Ireland, 1 in Japan, 8 in New Brunswick, 49 in Nova Scotia, 1 in Oceana,
(Pago Pago) 7 in Poland, 17 in Portugal, 1 in Prince Edward Island, 1 in Russia,
12 in Scotland, 19 in Sweden and 1 in Wales. There were 47 people in the town
that year who were 80 or over, and there were 49 children of a year or under.
Nine schoolhouses - of which 1 was exclusively primary, 7 were primary and in-
termediate and one was high school. Unfortunates were in East Bridgewater in
1895 as well. The list of defective social and physical conditions in the census in-
cluded paupers, 3; maimed, 5; paralytic, 3; insane, 3; idiotic, 3; blind, 6; and so
The average working man in East Bridgewater was taking home a yearly pay of
$580.54. The average salaried man in the town was taking home a pay of $ 1 ,303.7 1 .
Mrs. Louise Ripley, born in 1839, recollected in 1901 about life on Cinder Hill
in the 19th Century. Cinder Hill is roughly the part of North Central Street as it
ascends to meet West Union Street. She said, "In this neighborhood at the time
were but four families. One family attended the Orthodox church (congrega-
tional), one attended the Methodist and one the Unitarian. The other family did
not attend any church but called themselves Universalists. What is now Central
Street was the main road from West Bridgewater to East Bridgewater until 1847
when the new road was built, (now known as Union Street — PJR). The four
families had 1 5 children among them and they were sent to the local one room
schoolhouse called District 8. I do not know what year it was built but in the
1840s it seemed like an old building. The old school stood near the road. It was
painted white. There were three windows on each side and two in back. A broad
stone step. A door facing north admitted us to the entry where after having left
our outside garments, being sure not to leave them on a nail claimed by some
other scholar we were ready to enter the schoolroom. On the left when we entered
stood a waterpail and dipper. It was considered a privilege to go after the water.
The well was about halfway between the school house and what was then the
Burrell house, although the well was the property of the Keiths across the road.
The water was drawn by a wellsweep but the two boys who went after the water
were never in a hurry and preferred to fish for the pail until they recovered it. It
was not a deep well. Often the water was within three feet of the surface. When
the water was brought in many hands were raised with "Please, teacher, may I
pass the water?" At the right of the entrance in the winter stood the box stove
with the funnel running the length of the room. The fire was supposed to be
kindled by eight o'clock but the wood did not always burn readily, so we came
in cold, crowding around the stove to get warm. In those days most of the children
wore woolen dresses, their mothers knowing they were not so liable to catch fire.
There were many days in winter that the room was not comfortable before after-
noon. I never knew the school to close on account of weather. In the right hand
corner stood the teacher!s desk. In the summer term of 1856 there were 71
pupils — four under five of age. In the winter term there were seventy with three
under five years. There were four rows of desks and benches, seven in a row, each
bench seating two, bearing the initials and marks of those who had been scholars
there — especially on the boy's side. The floor slanted from the back seat to the
front and many the apples and inkstands that have gone the length of the seats
to the space left in the floor for recitations, and once a dinner of bread and milk
took the downward course. There were two terms a year, the spring term com-
mencing the first Monday in May and ending in September. The second beginning
the Monday after Thanksgiving and ending in February. The first day of school
there was never any tardiness for all must be there in time to choose their seats
and see the new teacher, for it was a new one every term. . .a man in the winter
and a woman in the summer. The beginning of the new term the scholars would
take their place in the class they were the previous term and the teacher would
hear them recite two or three times. If it was thought they could go with a higher
class they were put there. Every Wednesday afternoon was given up to writing
and choosing sides which we all liked. I remember my first school dress. It was a
plaid. My pantalettes tied on with garters reaching to the tops of my shoes which
were made by a neighboring shoemaker. . .warm stockings knit by grandmother
and a thick warm coat would complete my outfit. Three of the houses now stand-
ing on Cinder Hill I think were very old. My grandfather's house was built as early
For well over 40 years, the organ at the Unitarian Church was blown by Asaph
Beal. It is said that Asaph seldom missed a Sunday. There were no Sunday even-
ing service at the Church and he, therefore, went around to other churches to
blow on Sunday evenings. He always kept a hymn book by the pump and said
that he pumped by note or pumped to the music. Born in Maine in 1837, he be-
came a shoemaker and lived most of his Ufe in East Bridgewater, but is chiefly
known for his organ blowing.
Reminiscing about the town in the 19th Century, Mr. Benjamin Keith who
died in 1901 said, "The manner of living was very different from what it is now;
we have luxuries now that were not known then. Almost every family had a cow
and a pig and neighbors would exchange milk and make cheese. Each would carry
milk and have it measured and the neighborhood all together would furnish milk
for quite a large cheese and two or three milkings. Then, another neighbor would
take his turn and make cheese. They would kill their pigs at different times and
lend one another a piece of fresh pork so as to have fresh pork at different times
during the winter. There were no meat carts then that peddled meat in the winter
as there are now. Then families would buy a quarter of beef in the fall and salt it
down in the barrel to eat through the winter, and if they wanted a piece of steak,
would go to the barrel and cut off a piece of lean meat and soak it and fry it and
the children would think it quite a variety. Corn and rye meal was the principal
bread. Some flour would be bought at the store in 7 pound lots and corn would
be carried to mill in bags. The miller would toll to pay for grinding: 2 quarts for
grinding a bushel. There were three grist mills in the town, one at Satucket, Shawns
Mill, and the one near the cotton factory which did not operate long after I re-
member it. I have many a time taken a bag of corn on my shoulders and carried
it to Shaw's Mill before the road was made that leads by the Orthodox Church."
"The credit system was then in vogue and the storekeeper would sell his goods
and charge them and settle once a year. He frequently took a note for his dues
and if any men owed him and would not pay him he had the power by law to
carry him to jail, and I remember to have seen them carried to jail for debt." Keith
said that the grocery store used to sell hquor at three cents a glass and he could
remember going in the store and seeing pipes of rum, gin, brandy and wine and
anyone could have it for three cents. Keith also said that soon after the War of
1812, military spirit ran pretty high. There were all sorts of voluntary military
companies. Musters were held on the old common and visited by spectators. There
were perhaps 12 or 14 military companies out on the common and it looked as if
it were a holiday it was enjoyed by people of all ages. The boys formed companies
and went to the drills with wooden guns.
Undoubedly the most famous murder ever to be committed in East Bridge-
water was the Sheldon tragedy. Kimball Sheldon was formerly associated with
the firm of Rogers & Sheldon, a large rolling mill and tack manufacturing firm in
East Bridgewater. He was supposed to have been extremely prosperous; in a single
year according to one statement, he made over $30,000.00. He lived in luxury on
Central Street where the new part of the Central Cemetery is across from Central
School. He was attached to sports and kept seven thoroughbred horses. The rol-
ling mill burned but neither Mrs. Rogers nor Mr. Sheldon wished to rebuild. At
that time, he was said to have property estimated in value of about one-half
million dollars. He then began to invest his money in a long series of disasters.
He invested in all sorts of stocks and investment companies which failed. The
losses of Mr. Sheldon - Tennessee land deals, Texas realty speculation, gradually
eroded his fortune. In the case of the failure of one company, The American
Loan and Trust Company, he was held responsible for some of the debts of the
corporation. Because he was at one time a man of such wealth, as fortunes went
in the town, when he declared that he was poor, few helped or believed in him.
He was thought still to be a rich man, living a life of a miser. He began to invest
with even more abandon and to put his money in more desperate schemes. He
gradually sold off his horses and carriages, his tools, the contents of his green-
house, until his estate was absolutely bare.
At the time the tragedy occurred, the only thing to eat in the house was a
small piece of butter two inches square, a pound of sugar, a little salt. The only
living things upon the premises which once was such a bountiful estate, were
a calf, two kittens, a hen and six chickens. Everything else had been used up or
destroyed or sold. Some people have had dreams that they have been in a closed
room with the walls gradually closing in around them. Sheldon was in that kind
of position. He had seen things dwindle and dwindle and the knot closing tighter
and tighter until with winter coming on in 1908 he could not see where he could
get the money to pay for coal, the taxes and the interest on the mortgage on his
home, and this unhinged him. Mr. Sheldon began to contemplate killing his wife
and shooting himself, believing that Mrs. Sheldon, who had always been nervous,
could not survive the shock of his death and further believing the shock of learn-
ing the desperate situation would kill her. She was ill for some days with sciatica.
Seventy-eight years old, broken down in fortune, mind and body, worn out
by lack of sleep and fatigue, on Friday, September 1908, he went to his library,
opened the second drawer in the cabinet and took out a 22-calibre revolver.
Seeking his wife's room, he found her asleep and he pressed the revolver near
her temple and fired and then proceeded to hit her with an iron bar. He then
took such time as he desired to make a few arrangements of his own. He went to
his next door neighbor, Mrs. Carl Sturgis, who had been in the habit of passing
the evenings with Mrs. Sheldon, and told her not to come in the evening. Then,
he mailed letters from the post office. He then went to the site of his old rolling
mill to gaze upon what remained at the place where he made his money in the
days of prosperity. He gassed himself to death at 4 o'clock on Saturday morning.
After the death of Mr. Sheldon a reporter went around the once splendid estate.
then in need of paint. In the carriage house, in place of the beautiful carriages,
was only one old hack hardly worth taking away. The beautiful conservatory
was dark and gloomy with darkened glass; there was not a flower or plant to
show its once beautiful condition. In the sheds were remnants of the things once
used around a fine estate and hardly a tool was whole or in condition to use. The
fences around the property were falling down in places and the garden itself over-
grown with weeds. Poor Mr. Sheldon — he was the victim of speculation. He
suffered from the necessities of life when once he had all.
Perhaps he was not the nicest of fellows anyway. According to Mr. Samuel
Fuller, Mr. Sheldon used to come out of his house and stab the boys' footballs
if they landed in his yard. The boys in retaliation would urinate into the maple
syrup cans that Mr. Sheldon put on his trees.
The first part of the 20th century was static in East Bridgewater. The popula-
tion in 1900 was 3025 and in 1940 was 3822. Economically the area was de-
clining in importance. Industry moved elsewhere and the town was too far from
Boston to enjoy any surburban type growth.
There were however, some interesting people. J.K. Alexander became the
world's largest dahlia grower. The Dahlia King, he was a hybridizer of many new
varieties and as a result there are still today a good many varieties of dahlias that
have the names of local people who in the 1920s were friends or relatives of Mr.
Alexander. He farmed many acres off Central Street in the area where the
housing for the elderly is now located.
M. Clifton Edson started at the age of 14 as a trumpet soloist and the band he
organized became famous. His concerts on the common attracted crowds from
the whole South Shore. Lennie Knapp wrote a poem about him:
When Clifton plays the trumpet
All other sounds recede.
We rise on wings of music
From mundane hungers freed.
When Clifton plays the trumpet
Our hearts are healed of pain.
Forgotten is our doubting.
Our faith restored again.
When Clifton plays the trumpet,
All heaven approve the song.
Trumpets blown by angel lips
his golden tones prolong.
Michael McCarthy served the town as clerk for 22 years and as selectman for
19 years, was chairman of the committee that built the Central School and new
high school, and was on his way to important state office at the time of his death.
Elecied representative in 1942, he ran for Secretary of State in 1954 and was
appointed Commissioner of Veterans Services in 1955. His paper, "The Town
Teller" went to all the East Bridgewater servicemen during World War II. When
death took him he was clearly in line for even higher political honors.
East Bridgewater began to change radically in 1950 when the population
reached 4412 and then 5359 in 1955 and 6139 in 1960. The surburban growth
of Boston finally was felt. The population now is approaching 10,000. Since the
area of East Bridgewater is 17.28 square miles, it can absorb many more people
before it reaches the density of some of the surrounding towns.
If East Bridgewater was as thickly populated as Whitman, its population would
exceed 30,000. The increase in population has resulted in the average East Bridge-
water citizen being much younger than his counterpart in the 1930s and 1940s.
Nearly half the population is now under 19 years in age.
The town has remained white in racial stock. Its population is 98.9 per cent
white. Of the foreign born, 35 per cent are Canadians and 15 per cent are Italian.
As one would expect, the percentage of high school graduates and of college
graduates has risen steadily and so has the percentage of Democrats and In-
dependents as opposed to Republicans. The working population has gradually
become a commuting one and the number of people working in the town itself
has steadily declined.
In 1969 there were 1854 houses in the town. The high percentage of these
(82%) were owned by the occupants. Only 17% were rented. This is a higher
percentage than the average for Greater Brockton, where 63% of the houses are
The striking changes are illustrated by home building. Between 1950 and
1954, 160 homes were built. Between 1955 and 1959, 140 homes were built.
In 1960, 51 homes went up and in 1961 there were 65 constructed. Forty-five
were built in 1962 and 81 in 1963. The total for this period 1950-1963 is more
than for the entire preceeding 50 years. All of these trends in youth, education,
work habits, building, have continued through the 1960s and will accelerate in
the 1970s. With the growth has come debt. About 93% of the debt in the post-
war period has been for schools.
Chu.ch life in the postwar period was marked by the destruction by fire and
rebuilding of the Catholic Church along with the long ministry to the Catholic
Community of Father Daniel Scully. There were two well remembered ministries
in the Protestant churches. From 1944 to 1949, Alex Porteus led the Methodist
Church in a renewal. He was responsible for digging out the basement as a big
assembly room and putting in a new kitchen. At the Congregational church. Rev.
James Workman instilled vitality. The Swedenborgians prospered during the
1950s because of the ministry of Rev. Paul Zacharias. The churches however
mirrored the general decline of religious interest in the country and ceased to
play a central role in town affairs.
The old First Church had its steeple blown off in the hurricane of 1938. With
vengeance, the steeple came plunging back through the roof of the meetinghouse.
Although the wreckage was cleared and the roof patched, the steeple itself was
not replaced until 25 years later, in 1968. Indeed, in 1961 the church voted to
get bids on tearing down the old meetinghouse, whose foundations were rotted
away and which had not been painted since 1947.
However, in a curious way the First Church became once more a part of the
play it had been the prime actor in. Perhaps the final chapter of the church's
history and the town's history will prove to be the most unusual part of the
George Whitefield, whose preaching stirred tremendous controversy
in New England and led to a division within the town.
All four town offices of the original Stand ish grant have to be consulted for
East Bridgewater material, as well as the offices of those towns whose boundaries
include land that was once part of East Bridgewater, such as Whitman and Halifax.
In West Bridgewater, the small museum of the Old Bridgewater Historical
Society contains some interesting items. The Massachusetts Historical Society in
Boston has material about Edward Everett's stay in town and some valuable
maps. All of the old churches have material. The town libraries have scrapbooks
and other curiosities, and the East Bridgewater Public Library has a historical
room. This is the first separately printed history of East Bridgewater. The
student in pursuit of family trees will find three books particularly helpful in
Nahum Mitchell's, Msfory of the Early Settlement of Bridgewater, which contains
many family trees as well as a brief sketch of the original Bridgewater settlement
through 1840. Reprinted in 1970.
Vital Records of East Bridgewater to the Year 1850, which was printed by the
New England Historic Genealogical Society in 1917, and reproduces a number of
the records of the town, particularly the First Church records of birth, marriage,
Epitaphs in Old Bridgewater, by Williams Latham, which has accounts of all the
cemeteries and lists the tombstone inscriptions in them. Printed in 1882.
A great deal of interesting lists appear in an article by William Allen on the
history of East Bridgewater in D. Hamilton Hurd's History of Plymouth County,
Obviously the various family histories that have been printed privately about
leading New England lines have some material as does Sibley's Harvard Graduates.
Waiting to be researched are the back files of local weekly and daily newspapers.
Anyone with a desire to help save the town's history could do well to get local
businesses of long standing to give their records to the library or church and to
ask older people to turn over what they have for safekeeping. Tape recorded in-
terviews with some of the older people would be extremely valuable.
I would be glad to suggest other projects for saving the history of East Bridge-
"'ater as well as topics for papers, and I would be glad to help get printed any
papers on local topics. For example, a report of the start of telephone service
would probably capture some original reminiscences which in a few more years
will be lost to us.
'^ (Copy oj Oriojual Deed for the Piirehase of Old Bridgemiter^
Nash and Constant Southworth in behalf of all townsmen of the town of Duxbury to them and their heirs
forever. In witness whereof I the said Ousamequin have hereunto set my hand this 23d of March 1G49.
In consideration of the aforesaid bargain and sale we the said Miles Standish Samuel Nash and Constant
.Southworth do bind ourselves to pay unto the said Ousamequin for and in consideration of the said tract of
land as followeth; 7 coats a yard and a half to a coat, 9 hatchets, 8 hoes 20 knives, 4 moose skins, 10 yards
and a half of cotton. Miles Standish. Samuel Nash. Constant Southworth.
— Translation by Stella J. Snow.
CCopy of Original Deed for the Purchase of Old Bridgeuater)
fe,./^vV"/v*i*^^wv>- y^o^ 9-tu^ vo<si^t- ^^'>- f-Y^rry^^
. JL /ZvJU ft^^ 5^,
Witness these presents that I, Ousamequin Sachem, of the county of Poconocket, have given granted
enfeofed and sold unto Miles Standish of Duxbury, Samuel Nash and Constant Southworth of Duxbury afore-
said in behalf of all the townsmen of Duxbury aforesaid; a trac^ of land usually called Satucket, extending
in the length and breadth thereof as followeth, that is to say, from the wear (weir) at Satucket seven mik^
with' ail' and' singular al woods, underwood's lands meadows rivers brooks rivulets etc. to have and hold to the
said Miles Standish Samuel
The Mitchell Farm, East Bridgewater,
THE C B. MITCHELL
Located on Bedford Street, East Bridgewater, and
owned by C. B. Mitchell. Contains 15 acres, keeps 20
cows. Purchased by Mr. Mitchell in 1907, He then cut
1800 pounds of hay, and no ensilage. Now cuts 40 tons
of hay and 200 tons of ensilage. Operates the East
Bridgewater Milk Route, selling 250 quarts daily. Mr.
Mitchell is some farmer, and no doubt his is the banner
place for production in the Bridgewaters. He is one of
our progressive citizens. Selectmen and Overseer of
East Bridgewater and a booster for every advancement.
East Bridgewater Brick Company
L. W. CUSHMAN, Pres. and Treas.
The Largest Brick Manufactory in this Section.
General View of Ofliues, Brick and Drying Yards.
The plant covers more than J 30 acres. Capacity 120,000 daily. Makes
superior Building Brick and ship to all points on N. Y., N. H. & H. R. R.
also by Truck and Teams to all neighboring towns and cities.
Office and New Briclt Residence in Background
Homts of Kmployees
Our Bricks are the hardest common brick manufactured in New Englancj^
On June U, J9 15, an official test by New England Bureau of Tests, Boston,
our body brick showed only 6.50 per cent absorption. :
Ten of Our Team Horses
Brick Macliine and Inside Shed
Sbowlng FortjT'two of our Smployee*
>ij^ * _0
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