The history of New Bedford, Bristol County, Massachusetts

Twenty-seven years ago, when a youth of seventeen years, I conceived the idea of writing a history of my native place in the form of a lecture, for our then small and newly organized Lyceum. I entered upon my task with the ardor of youth, diligently searching every book and record that I could obtain for the earlier portion of my history. I then betook myself to the oldest inhabitants; a large number of those who had grown up with the place from its earliest history, as a village, being still alive. From these interesting and intelligent old people, some of whom had reached their ninetieth year, I obtained a good store of reminiscences. These, with what I gathered from the records of the old township of Dartmouth, (which township it will be seen originally included New Bedford, Fairhaven, Westport and the present township of Dartmouth,) and such books as contained any mention of our place, with a succinct account of the voyage of Bartholomew Gosnold to these shores in 1602, I compiled, and delivered before the said Lyceum, on Tuesday evening, March 6th, 1831.

This was the day of small things, it is true, for our now flourishing Lyceum. We then depended altogether upon home productions for our weekly entertainment; and many quiet, pleasant times we used to have of it, in those ante-railway, ante-electric-telegraph days.

Such is the brief history of the origin of mV undertaking; and now, at a time of life when it may be reasonably concluded that most of the effervescence of youth has passed off, with subdued feelings and moderate expectations of success, but with a heart none the less warm from the lapse of time in its interest for the spot of my birth, I again enter upon the task, with a sense of pleasurable duty of putting together what information I have from varied sources been enabled to collect, gathering up the fragments lest nothing be lost; so that those who come after us may have a nucleus round which to form a more full and complete history, when our youthful city shall take its place, as it is evidently destined at no very distant day to do, if it has, not already, among the chief cities of this country.


Table of Contents

I. The Old Township of Dartmouth — Discovery of the Coast by Bartholomew Gosnold in 1608 - Early Settlement - Deed from the Indian Sachem Massasoit to Governor Bradford and others - The Original Survey of Dartmouth 18

II. The Indians of Dartmouth — Troubles of the Early Settlers — Order of Court relative to the Support of the Ministry — Difficulty of Enforcing the Same — Origin of the Name of Dartmouth — Ralph Russell, and the Russell Family — Joseph Rotch — Origin of the Name of New Bedford— Early Quakers — Gosnold's Settlement at Cuttyhunk — Identification of the same by Dr. Belknap— Survey of the Township by Order of King Philip — List of the Original Purchasers 30

III. Character of the Early Settlers of Dartmouth — Destruction of their Property by the Indians — Order of Court, 1678, for More Compact Settlements — Old Colony Records - Freemen of Dartmouth — Names of the Original Proprietors — Proprietors' Records — Old Houses — Indian Relics 60

IV. The Early Friends or Quakers — First Meeting-House, built in 1699 — Visit of Early English Friends — Joseph Russell, Sen. — Causes of the Decline of the Society of Friends— Record of Meetings — Early Business — Joseph Russell — His Ancestor Ralph Russell 37

V. The First Representative to the Old Colony Court, John Russell - Names of those who had Taken the Oath of Fidelity, 1684 — Old Record — Early Land-Owners — Longevity of Early Inhabitants — First JSouse in the Village of Bedford—First Ship — Her Part in the Boston Tea-Party 44

VI. The Whale-Fishery — Burke's Tribute to the Early Whalemen - Early Enterprises — The Effects of the Revolution — The Old Ship Rebecca — Anecdote of the Early Strictness of Friends — Belles of Whaling in the Olden Time 59

VII. The Village of Bedford — Statistics by Abraham Shearman; Jr. — Captain William Gordon's Account of the Invasion by the British Troops during the Revolutionary War — Schedule of Property Destroyed - Anecdote of the Intrepidity of a Woman — First Candle-Works - Causes of Prosperity 70

VIII. March of the British Troops to Acushnet and Fairhaven — Destruction of Property on the Way — New Bedford and Fairhaven Bridge — Light-House at Clark's Point — The Bedford Bank — Notice of John Pickens, Joseph Ricketson and George Howland — Reflections upon those Times 78

IX. The Acushnet River, from its Rise to the Harbor of New Bedford — Islands in the River — The Native Indians — The Last of the Wampanoags — Settlement of Fairhaven 88

X. The Whale-Fishery, continued from Chapter VI — Biographical Sketches — Architecture of Older and More Modern Buildings, &c. 100

XI. Buzzard's Bay — Its Discovery by the Northmen, afterwards by Bartholomew Gosnold — Origin of its Present Name — The Elizabeth Islands — Naushon and the Bowdoin House — Trip to Naushon in 1856 116

XII. Early Newspapers — Sketches of an Old Ship-Master and Merchant — Old Editors of the New Bedford Press 187

XIII. Recapitulation in Part of Former Matters — Partial Genealogy of the Russell Family — Old Proprietors — Cases of Longevity, &c. 152

XIV. The Mode of Traveling in Olden Times — Sketches of Two Journeys on Horseback, one of which breaks off rather suddenly — Reminiscences of Old Citizens 166

XV. Old Settlers — The Original Surveyor of Dartmouth — Genealogical Sketches of several Old Families — Reminiscences of the Indians 179

XVI. Early Intercourse with England — Letter of Introduction to a Merchant of this Place by a Firm in London previous to the Revolutionary War — A Stray Leaf from the Diary of said Merchant — Old Houses — Genealogical Sketches of Old Families — Historical Reminiscences 196

XVII. An Old Pensioner's Story 218

XVUI. Priliminary Remarks upon the Mercantile Profession — Views in relation to Mercantile Character - The Value of Probity and Integrity in Commercial Pursuits — Sketches of Two Old Merchants, drawn from life 227

XIX. The Writer's Views in regard to the Title of his Production — Reminiscences of Elisha Thornton and James Davis, Two Distinguished Ministers of the Society of Friends in New Bedford; and General Remarks upon their Characters and Influence 288

XX. The Early and Continued Anti-Slavery Character of New Bedford — Biographical Sketch of Capt. Paul Cuffee — Lines Written by Phillis Wheatley 265

XXI. The Topography of Old Dartmouth, continued from a previous chapter — The Villages in the Vicinity of New Bedford: Russel's Mills, Westport, Smith's Mills, Acushnet, Long Plain, and Padanaram or South Dartmouth Village: with General Observations interspersed 266

XXII. The Destruction of Property by the British Troops — Extracts from, the Official Letters of General Grey, the Commander of the Expedition, to Sir Henry Clinton — Letter of Robert Fanshawe to Sir Henry Clinton — Doctor Dwight's Account of the Invasion, during a visit to New Bedford, from information obtained of Judge Pope's Incidental Observations — Additional Account of the same, of a later date, by Judge Pope — Further Reminiscences of the Revolution, from a retired ship-master of Fairhaven 278

XXIII. Retrospective View — List of Vessels Registered for 1818 and 1819 — State of the Whale-Fishery in 1880 — Capture of a British Brig-of-War by the Armed Sloop Providence — The Old Ship Maria — Memorandum of Samuel Rodman Sen.: Abstract of her Voyages — A Reminiscence of Interest to the Votaries of Mammon — Narrow Escape — The September Gale, and its Effects upon the Shipping of New Bedford 300

XXIV. Ecclesiastical, Legal, and Medical Reminiscences — Dialectic Society — Fragment Society — New Bedford Lyceum — Friends' Academy — Climate — Public Roads and Streets 314

XXV. Separate Notices of Westport, Dartmouth, and Fairhaven — Freemen of Dartmouth, 1686 — Warrants of Colonel Samuel Willis for the Impressment of Soldiers — Extracts from the Plymouth Records relative to the Early Affairs of Dartmouth — Further Reminiscences of Naushon — Note relating to the Northmen's Visit to this Coast — Prize Brought into New Bedford by Lieutenant Thomas Truxton 1776 340

XXVI. Incorporation Act of New-Bedford and Fairhaven as a Township, 1787 — Act of Separation of New Bedford and Fairhaven, 1812 — Orthography of Acushnet — List of the Lighthouses in Buzzard's Bay — Old Advertisement relating to the New Bedford Bridge, from the Columbian Courier, 1798 — First Whaling Voyage to the Pacific Ocean from Nantucket — Notice of Captain William Claghorn — Captain Edmund Gardner's Account of a Portion of his Seafaring Life — The-Progress of New Bedford — Statistics of the Whale-Fishery 380

XXVII. Visit to Cuttyhnnk and Gosnold's Islet, August 9th, 1858 — Muster-Roll of the Company of Captain Thomas Kempton, 1776 — Additional List of Revolutionary Soldiers of Dartmouth — Lines by Doctor Daniel Hathaway on the Death of Daniel Russell, 1772 — Records from Old Burial-Places — Letter of Jabez Delano, 1727 — Synopsis of the Natural History of this Vicinity — Conclusion, 374

Index 400


Read the Book - Free

Download the Book - Free ( 12.9 MB PDF )

The fondness with which we are inspired for the spot of our nativity seems to have been generated with ourselves; nor can time or distance eradicate it. Whatever fortune attends us, or whatever circumstance may induce us to leave our natal soil, whether we traverse foreign countries, or have settled in another clime, still we are neither withdrawn nor estranged from it, but turn with pleasure to the scenes of our childhood and companions of our youth. Poets of all ages have sung its blessings, and the sympathetic muse delights to wander over its joys and scan its beauties. This enthusiastic, this glowing flame, that burns within the heart of every one, neither age nor circumstance is able to quench. The Frenchman, when far away from his native land and winged retrospection brings him to his own sweet home, sighs for "the blushing vine-hills of his delightful France;" and the rude inhabitant of the Emerald Isle, driven from his country by the extremest necessity, still bears the latent spark within his bosom; and, too, the illiterate Laplander, having seen the light of the civilized world, gladly returns to his sledge and deer.