OLD DARTMOUTH HISTORICAL SKETCH
Proceedings of the Annual Meetings, held December 30, 1913 and March 30, 1914
- REPORT OF THE DIRECTORS, William A. Wing
- REPORT OF THE TREASURER, William A. Mackie
- REPORT OF THE PUBLICATION SECTION, William A. Wing
- REPORT OF THE PHOTOGRAPH SECTION, William A. Wing
- REPORT OF THE MUSEUM SECTION, Frank Wood
- REPORT OF THE EDUCATIONAL SECTION, Caroline Jones
- REPORT OF THE RESEARCH SECTION, Henry B. Worth
THE FIRST SETTLERS OF DARTMOUTH AND WHERE THEY LOCATED
by Henry B. Worth
Proceedings of the Old Dartmouth Historical Society’s
New Bedford, Massachusetts
December 30, 1913
Both President Edmund Wood and Secretary William A. Wing of the Old Dartmouth Historical society retired from office at the tenth annual meeting of the society. Both of them declined to stand again for re-election. Mr. Wood has been president of the society for the past seven years, while Mr. Wing has served as secretary for a number of years. Herbert E. Cushman was elected president of the society, to succeed Mr. Wood, while Henry B. Worth was chosen secretary.
The annual reports of the society were read, and any lack of enthusiasm at the beginning of the meeting was replaced by satisfaction when it was announced that the money had been raised to clear off the debt of the organization.
In opening the meeting, President Wood spoke as follows:
“We are met tonight to hold the tenth annual meeting of this society. This meeting should have been held some time ago but for several reasons it has been deferred. Things have not been going as well with the society for some time as they ought to go. The directors have held several meetings and believed before the annual meeting was held that certain changes ought to be made and certain plans outlined for the conduct of this society. It is not necessary at this time to argue the advantages of having an association like this in this community. This has already been amply proved. We all remember the enthusiasm with which this society was inaugurated, the interest displayed in the idea by such a variety of people and the large membership that we were able to secure. Everyone was congratulating the community on the fact that the formation of the society had not been longer delayed. Historical documents of value, and sources of information in regard to the history of old Dartmouth were fast disappearing. Relics of great historical value which had remained with some of the old families for many, many years were becoming scattered. Much work has been done and we can see around us in this building the proud evidences of it.
“But all such interest in every community is liable at times to flag. We have the ebb and flow of the tide. This society has had its flow and its ebb. There is no use of disputing the fact that the interest of many of those who did the most in the early days of this society has been waning and new people have not been sufficiently encouraged to take up their work and do their share in carrying forward our well recognized mission. It has become evident to many of us that certain changes should be made, new blood should be introduced for some of the offices. At one of the last meetings of the directors a nominating committee was appointed to bring in a list of officers to be balloted for this evening. That committee has reported and the nominations will be read later when we come to the election of officers.
“Another matter has worked against the sustaining of interest in our work and that is that the society has been going behind financially. We have a beautiful building, well adapted to our work and affording every facility for our meetings, for every social function which might be arranged for and for the storage and display of what has now become a very valuable collection. Representatives from other societies from time to time visit us in New Bedford, and grow envious of our good fortune as they walk about in these rooms and wish they had equal facilities. But with the acquiring of this building, the munificent gift as you remember of one of our members, have come along with it expenses of maintenance and repairs. We have also thought it best to have a curator in charge and in attendance much of the time. All these expenses have been a little more than the annual fees paid by the membership have amounted to. The result has been a constantly increasing deficit; amounting at last to several hundred dollars.
“Experience has shown that it is ill-advised and almost impossible to inaugurate a new regime and enlist the interest and services of new people in a venture, about the neck of which hangs a financial deficit. It was evident to the directors that before this annual meeting should be held and before even new plans could be made and new officers chosen these old bills should all be paid and the society pronounced free from debt. Through the liberality of some of the members, who have already in times [past] showed themselves the generous friends of the society a sufficient amount has been subscribed and paid in to entirely wipe out this deficit; so that tonight it is a satisfaction to be able to announce that we are free from debt and this encumbrance does not stand in the way of the inauguration of a new and active career for the society.
“At the annual meeting it has never been the custom to have research papers read by the different members but to confine our action to hearing the reports from the different sections into which the work of the society has been divided, and then to have the annual election. These reports will now be read.”
The reports were as follows, all of which were accepted and ordered placed on file:
Report of the Directors
by William A. Wing
Tonight we hold our tenth annual meeting and our society must needs record the death of the following members:
Charles W. Agard, Mrs. George L. Clark, Walter Clifford, Anna J. Donaghy, Betsey W. Kingman, Sarah M. B. Potter (life), Cynthia J. Read (life), William Reynard, Arthur Ricketson, Mary Roberts, Mary P. Rugg, Marion Smith, Thomas B. Tripp, Anna G. Wood.
In the deaths of Mr. Agard and Mrs. Smith we lose two of our [staunchest] friends. They gave of their time, possessions and encouragement and surely we must feel [their] loss.
Your secretary in such goodly company as our president and treasurer, withdraws from his position, feeling that at the end of a decade a new organization cannot but be beneficial; as a life member the period of his interest in the society’s welfare is defined.
We are fortunate in having our Mr. Worth to come to our aid, a member who has done more than anyone else for this society.
William A. Wing, Sec.
by William A. Mackie
William A. Mackie read the treasurer’s report covering a period of 18 months showing receipts of $2655.43 and payments of $2291.19, leaving a balance of $364.24 with one unpaid bill of $293.53.
by William A. Wing
A case of maps in the society has a bit of history to disclose. The first map shows the original layouts of land in our present New Bedford in 1710—of especial interest are the lands of Joseph Russell, Manassel Kempton and Benjamin Allen.
The next in chronological order is a map of New Bedford drawn by order of the selectmen in 1795—by act of the general court.
The selectmen being Walter Spooner, William Tallman, Isaac Sherman.
Of particular value are the layouts of the roads and the locations of the mills—in those days merely grist mills, saw mills and fulling mills.
The map of New Bedford in 1815 by Gilbert Russell shows the residences of that period and emphasizes the preference of people in those days and perhaps today, of living south of Union Street.
A map of the village of New Bedford in 1834 tells of that great increase in streets from South Street on the one side—beyond North Street on the other and west as far north as Parker Street.
In 1847 New Bedford had a map by E. Thompson and we possess the copy owned by the first mayor, the Honorable Abraham Hathaway Howland presented to us by his daughters.
It has become a place of buildings pictured by the artist, the Commercial Bank on this very site is of perhaps the most local interest to us.
Contrasted with the map of 1913 these simple little plans are almost pathetic and teach a lesson we may well apply of small beginning and quiet but steady growth.
William A. Wing, Chair.
by William A. Wing
We are fortunate in acquiring two photograph portraits from oils by Jarvis. They are of Dr. Foster Swift (1760-1835) and his wife Deborah Delano (1762-1824). Dr. Swift for in those days they were fortunate enough to have a Dr. Swift here to whom they could look for help in truth and reverence and admire, even as we have been so blessed here in our own day.
This Dr. Foster Swift came to Dartmouth recommended by no less a personage than General George Washington. He was instrumental in establishing the first medical society in this vicinity. The meetings being mainly convened at Taunton as a convenient center.
He became one of the first army surgeons at this establishment after the War of 1812.
The very beautiful wife of this very handsome man, for the portraits show them, was of the Delano family of old Dartmouth, which has given more than one favored descendant to the world.
Their daughter Mary married George Washington Whistler, father of the artist and their daughter was Deborah Delano Whistler, wife of Sir Seymour Haden. So well known in art [and] musical circles in London, so our portraits link us with George Washington, the early medical profession, the army, art and music here and abroad. A wide circle centering in Old Dartmouth.
William A. Wing, Chair.
by Frank Wood
One of the most interesting features of our annual meetings have been the very able reports of the secretary of our museum section, but tonight you are doomed for a great disappointment, as you will have to listen to one by its chairman, which I assure you will be only commendable for its brevity. First, I will call your attention to a few of our acquisitions from:
- Mrs. Duff.
- Mrs. Rebecca Hawes, from the estate of William Read.
- Miss Sarah Howland Kelly and Mrs. Caroline Kempton Sherman, a sword, which formerly belonged to Silas Williams Kempton, master’s mate on the Santiago de Cuba. The sword was carried by him into Fort Fisher. He was drowned March 23, 1865.
- Late Mrs. Anthony of Fairhaven, portrait of her father, Captain Cox.
- Miss Church and Mrs. Frank of Fairhaven, gift and loans of portraits and other articles formerly in the Church family.
- Walton Ricketson, ancient wooden settee which belonged to his father, the late Daniel R.
- Mrs. William H. Bartlett, draft box, bowl, etc.
- Bequest of late J. Howland Jr., portraits of his father and mother. These are now, through the courtesy of Mrs. and Miss Howland, in our possession.
Once more we are indebted to one who takes a keen interest in our society, Mrs. Delano Forbes of New York and Fairhaven, the gift of five pieces of Chinese wood carving, of the Foo Chow period, representing: Goddess of Morning, Stork of Good Omen, The Wrestlers, The Warrior, The Priest.
And now I would mention a gift, not to our society, but to the city of New Bedford, ours none the less for that reason,—the statue of The Whaleman. The gift of our first president and most honored member, Mr. Crapo. I am sure you all join me in the wish that he were with us at this meeting.
I cannot but believe that the coming year will be one of great activity for our society but we must not depend entirely on our officers and our committee. The individual members must recognize his or her duty to the society and their opportunities. In the address of Isaiah Thomas, the first president of the American Antiquarian society in 1814, he made the following suggestions.
It will not be expected that we should individually devote a very considerable part of our time to the affairs of this institution, yet without injury to himself, every member may do something for its benefit. There are various ways in which we may contribute to its prosperity. Some may bestow a little personal attention to the management of its local concerns.
Others may devise projects by which its interests and its usefulness may be essentially promoted and others may collect, as convenience and opportunity permit articles for its cabinets. This program for the individual members, laid out a century ago is as applicable now as it was then. I hope you will consider it. There are some to whom such considerations make no appeal, but they constitute a class that has no legitimate place in a historical society.
The right kind of people for us are those who believe with George Meredith “that all right use of life, and the one secret of life is to pave ways for the firmer footsteps of those who succeed us,” and we have in this rejuvenated society of ours so large a company of such men and women that I cannot but feel assured that the Old Dartmouth Historical Society has nothing before it but permanency and success.
Frank Wood, Chairman.
by Caroline Jones
The educational department invited, through Mr. Keith, the teachers to visit the historical rooms Oct. 5, 1912. A number of teachers responded and since then several classes have spent profitable hours looking over the collections.
- Captain Avery met the pupils of Miss Loring’s room at the Donaghy School and gave them a very interesting talk about whaling. May 26, 1913.
- Miss McAfee’s, Oct. 23, 1912, class sent an appreciative note to the chairman of the educational department, thanking her for their instructive afternoon.
- Miss McCarthy of the Jireh Swift School took her class Jan. 28, 1913.
- April 12, sisters and pupils from St. Anthony’s School.
- Miss McAfee, June 24.
- Miss Winchester from Middle Street, as a reward for perfect attendance, Oct. 23, 1913.
- The New York state educational department sent a man to take photos of the rooms for use of the division of visual instruction of public schools of New York State.
by Henry B. Worth
Henry B. Worth reported for the research section saying that owing to the fact that the quarterly meetings had not been called for some time that it had caused a cessation in the activities of the section, but that ample entertainment would be provided along the usual lines in the future.
Henry B. Worth.
The following officers were elected:
President—Herbert B. Cushman.
Vice presidents—Rev. M. C. Julien, George H. Tripp.
Treasurer—Frederic Howland Taber.
Secretary—Henry B. Worth.
Directors—William W. Crapo, Walton Ricketson, Edward L. Macomber, (3 years); Abbott P. Smith, (2 years).
George R. Stetson spoke of the educational advantages offered by the rooms of the society to children and said that he was very glad to hear the report of the educational section and thought that it would impress upon some people the great field of usefulness in getting the children interested in our local history. He hoped the usefulness of the rooms might be extended.
George H. Tripp spoke of the museum as an educational factor, and said that he thought that the pupils of the public schools here have recently taken up a study of the history of New Bedford, and he stated that there was no better place to find out about it than right in the rooms of the society.
Mr. Tripp thought the society should in some way show its appreciation for the large amount of work done by the retiring secretary Mr. Wing and he moved a vote of thanks. Miss Watson and Mrs. Clement Swift spoke of the valuable work done by Mr. Wing and the society extended the vote of thanks.
A vote of thanks was also extended to the retiring president, Mr. Wood.
The meeting adjourned.
Annual Meeting, March 30, 1914
About 50 members gathered for the annual meeting of the Old Dartmouth Historical Society, held last evening. The meeting was a short one, owing to the fact of the meeting held last December, but the president, Herbert E. Cushman, said that it was desired to get back to the old order of things, and the meeting was held according to the by-laws.
The first order of business was the report of the secretary, Henry B. Worth, which was as follows:
“To the members of the Old Dartmouth Historical Society:
“According to the by-laws of this organization, the annual meetings should be held in March, but the meeting which should have been held a year ago was deferred until December 30, 1913, only three months ago. As soon as the present officers were elected it was discovered that by some inadvertence the annual period covered by the dues had been extending from July to July. This was an error as the period should be from one annual meeting to the next, or from April first to April first. The executive board ordered the correct dates to be restored and those whose dues according to their receipts were paid up to next July, have observed the discrepancy. This will be adjusted and hereafter the mistake will disappear.
“Soon after the last meeting it was considered necessary to make certain repairs and changes in the building on Water Street, which rendered necessary the closing of the building during the remainder of the winter.
“The present membership comprises 619 annual members and 33 life members, of whom William M. Butler is the latest addition. The fee for life membership is $25 and is deposited in the permanent fund, only the income from which is used.
“Your attention is again called to the number and value of the society’s publications. These include 38 pamphlets, comprising over 670 pages, with numerous pictures of houses and persons, together with essays and articles on many topics relating to the inhabitants of ancient Dartmouth and their history. These are being sold at a nominal price which is practically the cost of printing. They are in constant demand in all the libraries of the eastern United States where the local history of this section is an item of interest. A list of these pamphlets has been printed, giving synopsis of contents for free distribution.
“This society in its widest activity is one of the most useful educational institutions in this vicinity. The records of the past are collected and arranged, and appear in part in these publications; but at the rooms of the society are exhibits which show in wood, iron and ivory what were the tools, implements and handiwork of the New Bedford whalemen. Without exaggeration these are the most valuable collections in the world. The arrangement is so picturesque that it appeals quickly to school children, while a student in the art of carved ivory or one desiring to understand the process of obtaining oil and bone, will find the most realistic presentation that can be discovered on land. Nowhere else will your annual contributions be productive of more certain educational benefit.”
The report was accepted and placed on file.
The report of the treasurer, Frederic H. Taber showed cash on hand $364.24; dues received $252, a total of $616.24. The bills paid amounted to $407.30, leaving a balance on hand of $208.94.
The report of the nominating committee, George E. Briggs, Alexander McL. Goodspeed and Elmore P. Haskins was made, and on motion Frank Wood cast one ballot for the following list of officers:
President—Herbert E. Cushman.
Vice Prsidenet—Rev. M. C. Julien.
Vice President—George H. Tripp.
Secretary—Henry B. Worth.
Treasurer—Frederic H. Taber.
Directors, three years—Warren Kempton Reed, Oliver F. Brown, Jeb C. Tripp.
President Cushman, who was down on the program for an address, spoke as follows:
“It is rather unusual to have two annual meetings so near together as has this society, but it seemed wise to the directors last year to postpone holding the annual meeting of 1913 until December, when you were good enough to elect the present board of officers.
“Since that time the directors have had several interesting meetings, and have made many plans for the future. It seemed better that we should hold our annual meeting for 1914 at the time fixed by the bylaws.
“Looking back over our records, we find that the Old Dartmouth Historical Society was organized in a paper read by Ellis L. Howland before the Unity club in Unitarian chapel, January 17, 1903. The formal organization was in May, 1903, and the first general meeting June 30, 1903 at Grace House. It was incorporated in 1905, and the work that has been accomplished during that time has been very gratifying. The present board of managers find itself with a comfortable home, well equipped and well arranged, with a museum that is of great value.
“This work has been done by men and women who have been earnest in their efforts to establish on a firm basis, this society, and we commend and thank them for their interest. No one can visit the Old Dartmouth Historical rooms without realizing how valuable a collection we have, and how interesting. This must be well cared for, and ought we not to feel it is simply a nucleus of a larger collection? They have done well to arrange for the exhibition which had to do with the old days when our city was noted for its interests in whaling. We must not forget, however, that in a few years, what is now being done in New Bedford, will be history, and we must make and keep in line, a record and a collection of that which today is making New Bedford well known throughout the world, its various industries and its activities in all directions. We solicit from all, such as they have, which will make our exhibit stand high in our community. Our good friend, Frank Wood, who has charge of the rooms, will be glad to confer with anyone who has that thought in mind.
“We realize that there are in New Bedford probably a great many articles—probably more than in any other city in the United States—specimens and items that would be especially interesting. We must therefore have our friends realize that this institution is permanent, and that any such articles will be cared for as they would like, if they desire to present them to us.
“The other day it was my pleasure to be at the rooms, and looking through the front windows on the wharves, with the oil casks and the whaling ships there, and looking out of the rear windows at the Mariner’s Bethel, one felt that they had stepped out of the New Bedford of the new day, and into the old, and are we not fortunate to be the possessor of quarters located, it seemed to me, in the midst of that for which it stands, that is, the historical part of our city, and its historical interests.
“One cannot go into the rooms without being inspired with the fact of how important it is to our city that there has been brought together our present collection.
“What I have said well applies to the rooms and the exhibits. Do not forget that with these surroundings comes also the opportunity for the research work, which is accumulating valuable records, the educational work, which will awake and maintain the interests of the younger generation, and the social side, which brings good fellowship among its members.
“I now desire to make a personal appeal to every one of you.
“It has been my pleasure during the last few years, to visit some of the old historical societies in other parts of our state, and of New England, and it has been interesting to note the pride that the members had in belonging to such an institution. Many of these societies have been organized many years, and not only one generation, but many, have had a part in their upbuilding.
“We in New Bedford are fortunate in being among the beginners of the work which we are trying to do. We want as many people as possible to have a part in that work.
“It was interesting to hear one of our good friends say, in the northern part of the state, that their fathers and grandfathers had belonged to their society, and they spoke of it with pride. We want as many of our own people to be able to hand down this same saying to their descendants. It is therefore important that we have as many people in our city who are interested in this kind of work, as is possible, as members.
“In looking over the list of members, now about six hundred, I find many names missing that would seem to us ought to be there. The question is, have they been asked to become members? If not, would it not be well for us to see that they have the opportunity, and are you not willing to do your part and help increase the membership by asking at least two or three people during the coming year to ally themselves with this society? If everyone would ask and obtain two or three members, we would have a list that would be valuable, and our income would be assured. The more people that we have interested in our work, the better results we can obtain, and we do feel that now is the time for this administration to increase the membership and interest in our society, and what can do it in a better way than to have people feel they are personally a part of it, and interested in it?
“It is our purpose again to open the rooms on April 8th for a reception to the members by the officers and directors, and it is hoped that all will come and renew their enthusiasm and interest in the good work.”
George H. Tripp said that he noticed one interesting remark of the president that should be taken note of and that we should not dwell too much on the past of the city, but should have something to represent the present activities of our city. He spoke of several cities he had visited where they have industrial museums, and suggested that the society could take up this work, and have on exhibit some of the fine fabrics that are being made here today. He said that he admitted it was a little difficult to get the goods, but he had secured for the library some goods from agents in New York who said they could vouch for the fact that they were made in New Bedford. Mr. Tripp said that the talk about a mile of cloth being made a minute in this city, should be something to be proud of, but there should be some samples of the fabrics that could be exhibited and not only of the cloth, but of the twist drills, the glass ware, and all the other products made here.
Secretary Worth spoke of the visit made by the school children under the auspices of Miss Jones of the educational section, and how interested the children were in the objects they saw.
The First Settlers of Dartmouth and Where They Located
by Henry B. Worth
In colonial times when a new settlement was to be established, explorers were sent in advance to investigate the region, and determine where it would be most advantageous to locate the residential center. They would build some sort of rude structure either a log cabin, a stone house, or a cave dug in the hillside and this would suffice for a habitation until they were able to erect separate dwellings for each family. This common house was also used for the storage of property that required protection. It is now proposed to indicate who were the first settlers in ancient Dartmouth, when they arrived, and the locality which they selected as their first abode.
The grant made by Plymouth colony to the thirty-six original purchasers took place in March, 1652, and no settlement had then been formed. The situation at that date, in reference to the Indians, is important to consider. If a circle be described with the Fairhaven bridge as a center and a radius of about twenty miles in length, it would pass through all the nearest English settlements of that period. Where the Buzzards Bay canal joins one bay with the other was the village of Manomet. Northwest was Namasket, which is now the town of Middleboro; further west was Cohannet now known as Taunton, and still further in line of the circle was Rehoboth and other places on Narragansett Bay. None of these villages were strong enough to render any assistance to the settlers on the Acushnet River. An additional menace was the fact that within this circle was a line of Indian villages that would surround any settlement at Cushena. The shellfish at Sippican and the famous fishing grounds at Apponegansett attracted the Indians to these shores in the summer, while the lakes and forests at the north furnished all they required for winter homes. During the King Philip War, in Dartmouth alone, one hundred and sixty Indians surrendered to the English, and it plainly appeared that the Red Men constituted a desperate element of danger in that region.
Under such circumstances the only safety for the English would be to flee to some stockade near the shore where they could remain until assistance arrived from Plymouth, or they could escape upon the sea. Appreciating these possible contingencies, the pioneers generally selected as the location of the residential center of sea coast towns, a place where there was a good spring, convenient fishing and where the land would provide food and shelter and a place in which they could locate their habitations, which could be defended against attack or which would furnish safety until they could escape to other communities. An ideal location would be a neck connected to the mainland by a narrow isthmus in order that the approach could easily be watched. Pucateest Neck in Tiverton, was an early settlement and contained in a high degree, all the necessary requirements. Sconticut Neck had no satisfactory fresh water supply nor land suitable for cultivation and was not selected.
A legend has been printed that in 1652 one Ralph Russell came to Dartmouth and established an iron forge at Russell’s Mills. As it can be demonstrated that this event was an impossibility and that Ralph Russell never appeared in Bristol County, this tradition may be dismissed without discussion.
Preparation for a new town was accompanied by activity in land transfers. Consequently, the logical course will be to commence with 1652 and examine the recorded evidence, until a point is reached where there is indication that some settlement was in contemplation or had been formed. By an examination of all ancient documents, it is clear that the inhabitants of Dartmouth before 1700, came from three well defined sources.
1. There were the thirty-six original purchasers, but only three settled in Dartmouth, although the descendants of nine others were later among the inhabitants. None of these came to Buzzards Bay before 1660.
2. A vigorous persecution of Quakers on Cape Cod induced some of the Kirbys, Allens, Giffords and Wings to remove to Dartmouth, but this crusade did not begin until 1657 and the first deed taken by any of these persons was dated 1659.
3. Owing to the crowded condition of the island of Rhode Island, the men of Newport and Portsmouth were compelled to seek homes elsewhere, and finally a great number moved to Dartmouth; but the first recorded indication of this tendency occurred in 1657, and the first deed was taken in 1659.
Consequently there is nothing to show any English occupation before 1659; but during that year a few deeds appear that indicate an approaching activity. Ralph Earle and Daniel Wilcox of Portsmouth, purchased considerable interests in Dartmouth, which was the beginning of that great movement from Rhode Island. But the most significant conveyance was given by the proprietors to John Howard in which they “Do freely and absolutely give and grant ten acres of land adjoining the river, twenty rods wide, bounded on the north by a great rock near the head of the spring.” This seems not to be a sale, but a transfer upon some different consideration, and Howard was not one of the proprietors. It is said that he had been a member of the household of Captain Myles Standish; in 1637 with others freely offered to go against the Pequots; later became an inhabitant of Bridgewater where he was one of the first military officers, surveyor of highways, and a most influential citizen. He was the ancestor of the great Howard family of Bridgewater. At that period a new community in its early career always needed the assistance of some executive individual who was familiar with warfare among the Indians. The value of the services of Captain Myles Standish will never be over-estimated, and no more suitable person could be selected for this important service in Dartmouth than one who had been a pupil of the Puritan captain. Here, then, was a practical preparation for a settlement. It is not possible to state the exact relation of Howard to the new community, but he was not required to move from Bridgewater nor become a permanent resident of Dartmouth: and after 1663 his name is not found in the annals of the latter town. His land remained in possession of his family until transferred by his descendants in 1708.
It also appears that in 1660 the government at Plymouth ordered their agent to collect the taxes of James Shaw and Arthur Hathaway at Cushena. As shown elsewhere, the entire amount to be collected was thirty shillings, and the next year the amount was the same, while in 1662 it was seventy shillings. The tax in 1663 is not recorded, and in 1664 the inhabitants were constituted the town of Dartmouth. An analysis of these figures supports the conclusion that the tax was ten shillings from each man, and was not based on the value of property. If this theory is correct, then there were three residents in 1660 and 1661, and in 1662 the number had increased to seven. As Howard never withdrew from Bridgewater, he was probably not the third man who was assessed in 1660 and 1661. This was probably Samuel Cuthbert who is known to have been a resident during the latter date. The seven residents in 1662 were Shaw, Hathaway, Cuthbert, Spooner, Samuel Jenney, John Russell, Thomas Pope or Ralph Earle. John Cooke was in Plymouth probably as late as May, 1662.
So having determined who were the first settlers and that they probably arrived at Cushena in the spring or summer of 1660, the remaining part of the problem is to determine where they located their preliminary habitation. The hint given in the Howard deed will point the way to the conclusion. By tracing the title of that land it appears to have been situated on the east side of the river opposite to Brooklawn Park. The rock ledge in the southeast corner of the park at the roadside, extends under the river and appears again above the surface along the road leading to Fairhaven, where in several places it has been cut down to the road level.
A short distance south of the brook, and about three hundred feet east of the highway, the ledge abruptly terminates and at its foot, issues a spring as attractive and picturesque as when first discovered by Howard, Shaw and Hathaway two hundred and fifty years ago. Albert B. Drake, the well known civil engineer, states that it is the finest natural spring on the east side of the Acushnet River, and the only one that comes from the solid rock. Starting from a distant basin in the ledge, its waters never freeze and never cease to flow. Under the designation of “Wamsutta Spring,” this water supply is utilized for commercial purposes. The region was diversified with convenient forests and land for cultivation. Where Howard’s Brook joins the river, until recent years was a choice natural oyster bed, and other shellfish were abundant and within easy reach. At its junction with the river, Howard’s Brook bends to the north and forms a neck of about eight acres. On account of the high ground it would be easy from this place to observe the approach of Indians, even when some distance away, and escape by water would be convenient. The locality was far enough up the river to be free from the influence of boisterous storms, and there was ample water of sufficient depth for a ship-yard to be established across the river at Belleville a century later.
The final step is to determine whether this neck was the place selected as the first abode of the settlers. It was set off to Samuel Cuthbert, and in 1661 conveyed by him to John Russell; 1666 Russell to John Cooke, and in 1686 Cooke to his son-in-law, Arthur Hathaway. In his will, dated 1694, Cooke seemed to have assumed that he retained an interest in the neck, and this he gave to his daughter Sarah Hathaway and refers to the land as “Near the burying-place.” By inheritance the neck came into possession of Antipas Hathaway, who in 1752 transferred it to his brother Jethro, using the description:
“Ye olde burying point in Acushnet village bounded by Howard’s brook.”
During the periods when they owned this neck Cuthbert, Russell and Cooke were the leading residents of Dartmouth, but each owned a homestead farm some distance away. The same year that Cooke conveyed the neck to Arthur Hathaway the town of Dartmouth voted to build a town house east of Smith Mills at the head of the Slocum Road.
In an obscure corner of an old record in Plymouth in penmanship that is difficult to read, is the copy of an agreement executed in February, 1663, by John Howard and John Cooke, as follows: “The neck hath a way allowed to it by those appointed to lay out the land and it was approved by the company; now with the consent of the neighbors at Acushena, John Howard and John Cooke are agreed that the way shall begin at a heap of stones and extend to the top of the hill, and the width shall be from the heap of stones to the brook; and as it is at present incapable for a way, without labor, we are to make it capable on equal terms. And there shall be only one foot way into the neck from James Shaw’s stile straight into the neck.”
This agreement is one of the most suggestive documents relating to early Dartmouth. It was among the first official acts of the proprietors; a highway proposed by the committee, approved by the owners, laid out by Howard and Cooke, accepted by the inhabitants, and then built by two men representing the proprietors. No public improvement could be established with more precision, and none has been found until modern times laid out with such legal formality. All this public machinery would not have been set in operation to benefit any private individual. At every step the public directed the proceedings and hence must have been the beneficiary. The inhabitants were to use the way in going to and from the neck, where they engaged in some common concerns. It was the first layout of a public road before 1700. When Russell transferred the neck to Cooke the description included “A way which was allowed by the purchasers and laid out by John Cooke and John Howard.” It remains to determine the conclusion to which these facts logically lead.
The town of Dartmouth comprised over one hundred thousand acres and was assigned by the colonial government to those men who arrived at Plymouth before 1627. As they all had their residences in other parts of the colony, it was not expected that they would remove to this territory. It was merely a dividend in land, which cost them nothing to buy and nothing in taxes to hold. For seven years there was no demand for the land and no transfer was made. Then purchasers appeared and the proprietors were ready to sell. To bring the section into the market it was essential to institute some preliminary survey and establish a convenient center, so they secured the services of John Howard and paid him in land. During the year 1659, the exploring party selected the locality at Howard’s Brook for the new settlement, the place combining the required advantages. Then it became necessary to provide utilities that would be needed. Their own habitation was probably a log or stone house on the neck, or a cave dug in the hillside. The line of travel from New York to Plymouth was by water up Buzzards Bay, across the isthmus at Manomet where the canal is being built, and then by water the remaining part of the journey. Most if not all communication east and west from Dartmouth was presumably by vessels, and hence a landing would be required at Howard’s Neck. Then they provided for a road from the neck to the great Indian path, which extended from Lakeville to Sconticut Neck. The allotment of homesteads was one of their earliest transactions. Beginning at Howard’s Brook and extending north to the head of the river were three farms, assigned respectively to Samuel Cuthbert, William Spooner and Samuel Jenney. From the brook south, were the farms of John Howard, James Shaw where the Laura Keene place was afterwards located; then Arthur Hathaway down to the south line of the town of Acushnet. After a considerable interval, John Cooke’s farm was on the hill where the Coggeshall Street bridge ends in Fairhaven, and John Russell and Ralph Earle settled at South Dartmouth. Sometime later the north end of the neck was devoted to a burial place, but a landing place and a burial ground do not adequately account for the layout of that road. Landings, burial places and private buildings or structures used as garrisons, would not occasion a road built with so much particularity.
The loss of the proprietors’ record for the first sixty years after the colonial grant and the fact that no town records have been preserved previous to 1673 has obliterated most of the early history of this settlement. But if these lost records could be consulted they would probably tell substantially the following narrative. That a town house and meeting house, possibly one building for both, was placed on the neck for the use of the inhabitants, in which to hold its public meetings, civil and religious, and this would adequately explain the object of this formal layout. It has been assumed that the inhabitants held their public meetings in dwelling-houses and while this is possible it is more likely that a different arrangement was made in accordance with the prevailing custom. At that date single apartment dwellings were all that could be obtained, and these would not be convenient either for town meeting or religious congregations. The high respect and veneration felt by the Pilgrims for such institutions would not permit them to neglect erecting at once a building suitable for public gatherings. A common building on the neck, devoted to such purposes, would account for the remarkable interest taken by the townspeople in that short road down the hill to the neck, where they could attend town meeting or hear John Cooke preach. The neck was the town Common or Green adapted to the local situation and was the temporary town center where were grouped all those public utilities that the new community required.
Captain Church in his history of the King Philip War, mentions “The ruins of John Cooke’s house at Cushnet.” There is a tradition that somewhere Cooke had a garrison or stockade, and it has been asserted that this was a block-house which stood south of Woodside Cemetery in Fairhaven. While it is possible that Cooke had some sort of defense on his farm, yet there is a reasonable doubt whether the place referred to by Church was not on Howard’s Neck, which was provided by the inhabitants as a place of refuge during the first period of the settlement. This is also possible, because the title to the neck was owned by Cooke during the King Philip War.
As long as the Indians did not disturb the settlers the homesteads were gradually extended in scattered formation into different sections of Dartmouth, a policy that caused criticism from the authorities at Plymouth and was the basis of all the misfortunes that overtook the inhabitants in the Indian war. Fortunately the Dartmouth settlers kept near the shore, so that while they could not offer any firm defense yet they were able to escape by water, and so far as definitely known only four were killed by the Indians.
Until the King Philip War a majority of the inhabitants lived on the east side of the Acushnet River and probably no change was made in the meeting place for public gatherings. During the two years occupied by the war no meetings of the town were held, and the territory of Dartmouth was abandoned. After the death of Philip, the Indians lost their war-like spirit and never recovered from the effects of that struggle. Then the inhabitants slowly returned and rebuilt their habitations and the next meeting of the town was held in June, 1678. From that time the population rapidly increased and soon became widely distributed. The Acushnet River was no longer the western limit; the central and western portions were occupied and ferries were established where bridges could not be built. Soon a demand for a central location of the town house led to a vote of the town to place it “near the mills,” that is, Smith Mills. The inhabitants of Apponegansett and Acoaksett greatly outnumbered those who lived on the east side of the Acushnet and easily accomplished the change which took place in 1686.
In the ordinary progress of events, Howard’s Neck could not always remain the center of the town. The inevitable change had arrived. The public uses to which the neck had been devoted, were transferred to other sections. As a place of refuge, it was no longer required, because the Indians had been forced into a permanent peace. Landings were provided in other sections and the neck was used only by those living in the vicinity. The town meetings were held at the head of the Slocum Road. Those who settled west of Acushnet River formed a great majority of the inhabitants; were largely Quakers and not in harmony with the religious practices of the Pilgrims on the east side of the Acushnet and had their separate meeting house. The latter may have continued to hold religious meetings at the usual place, but it must have been a small struggling body without organization and without settled minister. The only object of interest that remained, was the burial-ground, and to preserve this Cooke made the transfer to his son-in-law, Arthur Hathaway, and here is probably where Cooke was buried. The neck remained in possession of the Hathaway family until 1854, and since 1862 with the farm on both sides of Howard’s Brook, has been owned by Samuel Corey.
The situation at the neck remains with little change as it appeared when selected as a town center two and a half centuries ago. The road built by Howard and Cooke is still open and used by Arthur H. Corey to reach his residence. An old mill is standing on the brook, but years ago was dismantled and is in ruins. Since the deed of 1752, the name of Howard has disappeared from the locality. Manufacturing industries on the river have driven away the shellfish that were so abundant along these shores. At the north end of the neck until plowed over some years ago, were found unmarked stones placed at intervals, the indication of an ancient burial place.
The waters of the great spring still flow unceasingly to the sea, the salient and determining feature that fixed the choice of the English in selecting their first home on the Acushnet. People engaged in New Bedford mills have residences on the east side of the river, and the line of houses from Coggeshall Street before many years, will meet those rapidly extending south from the head of the river. The space between comprises a few farms near Howard’s Brook, whose owners still resist the flattering offers of speculation. Here, with little outward change, may be observed those natural advantages that impressed the English on their first visit to Cushena where they located their first residential center, and here is the last spot to yield to progress and innovation.