Harboring Hope in Old Dartmouth [1602-1827]


Clifford W. Ashley Gallery

Major support for this exhibition comes from the William M. Wood Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

In 1602 English seafarers explored coastal Massachusetts for timber, fish and furs. By the 1620s, strong differences in religious beliefs led groups like the Pilgrims (and later the Puritans) to leave England and colonize Massachusetts in pursuit of a better life.

Between 1650 and 1675, the Puritans strongly established themselves in the colonies but in turn persecuted other colonists including Quakers and Baptists. The Quakers would have significant impact on New Bedford’s development culturally and economically. Land and natural resource incursions by the colonists caused devastating wars with local Native American tribes, who struggled to maintain their way of life and their rights to native lands. The Quaker and Baptist settlements of the “old Dartmouth Region,” located along Buzzards Bay and the Acushnet River, eventually grew into a seafaring culture. Religion, geography and maritime commerce combined to powerfully influence Southeastern Massachusetts’ colonial growth and the ultimate success of the port of New Bedford.

This exhibition explores the region of Old Dartmouth from the landing of Bartholomew Gosnold to the dominance of New Bedford in the whaling industry, and explores key themes that continue to resonate today.

Above detail of painting by William Allen Wall (1801-1885), Gosnold at the Smoking Rocks, 1842, oil on canvas. 1903.1


Sample from the Harboring Hope in Old Dartmouth [1602-1827] Audio Guide

Add depth and understanding to your visit. Rent the Audio Guide player at the Museum’s admission desk.


Exploration and Discovery

[ A Brave New World ] Gosnold’s report about his “discovery” made others consider starting a new life here. But European settlement had a devastating effect on the Native peoples.


[ Irreconcilable Differences ] King Philip’s War was a terrible turning point in the Colonist’s relations with the Native American. While the Settlers won, a civilization was lost.


[ Strictly Speaking ]  Was New England the Promised Land? Not for everyone, or at least not immediately!

Natural Resources

[ A Balancing Act ]  Europeans hit the scene and WHAM – in just a few hundred years forests are denuded and certain whale species are driven to near extinction.

Colonization and Immigration

[ Coming to America ]  This Land is My Land.


[ A High Price to Pay ]  British taxes & duties affected the New England Merchants, our economy, and ultimately led to the American Revolution.

New Bedford

[ The Evolution of an American Seaport ] How New Bedford became the Whaling Capital of the World.


From 1602 when English seafarers explored coastal Massachusetts to today.

Harboring Hope in Old Dartmouth Bibliography

A Select Bibliography of General Reference Relating to the Colonial History of Southeastern Massachusetts

Last modified: June 14, 2019