The Old Dartmouth Purchase

The proprietors of the Plimouth Colony purchased the township of Dartmouth from the Wampanoag people in 1652, trading a specific list of items in exchange for the land:

“30 yards of cloth, eight moose skins, fifteen axes, fifteen hoes, fifteen pair of breeches, eight blankets, two kettles, one cloak, £2 in wampum, eight pair stockings, eight pair shoes, one iron pot and 10 shillings in another commoditie.”

The hides had particular value as moose are not native to this region but were valuable then (as now) for making moccasins. The wampum beads, worked from the purple and white colored shells of the quahog clam and whelk was valued as currency in colonial North America but had even greater value to the Wampanoag. Belts made from wampum solidified treaties, recorded memories and commemorated important events.

Today these materials combined would have the equivalent 17th century value of $35,000.00. This was for a tract of land comprising approximately 115,000 acres or almost 180 square miles.

The Dartmouth Purchase was one of the largest such Massachusetts land transfers of the period. The tract was designated the township of Dartmouth. It had thirty-seven original purchasers and comprised the lands known today as Acushnet, Fairhaven, New Bedford, Dartmouth and Westport. While only a few of those original purchasers actually settled the region, their descendants certainly did and names like Delanoye (Delano),  Alden, Kempton, Hickes, Soule and Howland came down as some the most important and influential in the area.

Last modified: August 19, 2014