Berkley Massachusetts, 1890

Berkley is a small agricultural town situated in the easterly part of Bristol County, about 40 miles south of Boston, and bounded on the north and northeast by Taunton, on the south and southeast by Freetown (from which it is in part separated by Assonet Bay), and on the west by Dighton and Taunton, from the last of which it is divided by Taunton River, here a navigable, broad and beautiful stream. It is watered in the east by Cotley and Quaker brooks, and in the west by several affluents of Taunton River. The villages and post-offices are Berkley (centre) and Myricksville; and the railway stations are the latter, in the southeast part of the town, on the New Bedford and Taunton line, and Berkley, on the Fall River Branch of the Old Colony Railroad. The termination of the town southerly is a long point of land called Assonet Neck. A little south of it lies Conspiracy Island, probably so named from its connection with King Philip's conspiracy against the English, which resulted in the Indian war known by his name.

On Assonet Neck, just by the margin of the Taunton River, is situated the famous Dighton Rock, covered with very curious inscriptions, which have greatly puzzled the antiquaries of both the old and the new world. The rock is eleven feet in length by four and one-half feet in height, and consists of a mass of gray granite lying on the sides of the river, which partially covers it at every tide. On the water side the face of the rock is nearly smooth, and is inclined sixty degrees. The figures are rudely carved, and partially obliterated near the base by the action of the water, They consist of rude outlines of human heads and bodies, crosses, misshapen letters, broken lines, and other singular forms and combinations. The first record of these inscriptions was given by Rev. Mr. Danforth in 1680, who refers to an Indian tradition "that there came a wooden house, and men of another country, swimming on the River Assonet." General Washington expressed the pinion that these sculptures were made by the Indians; he having in early life seen such writings, which were evidently done by them. Many savans believed that some of the inscriptions were made by the aborigines, and some of them by the Northmen; and it is asserted that the name "Thorfin," cut in Latin letters, can be clearly read. Many drawings have been made of these curious figures, and many theories of their origin proposed; but the one most probable seems to be Washington's. Originally Assonet belonged to Dighton, and hence the name "Dighton Rock;" but since 1735 it has been a part of Berkley.

[Dighton Rock, Berkley]

Many bowlders, varying in dimension, form and mineral, are scattered over the surface. On two of the larger ones deep cellars have been excavated, and dwelling-houses erected over them. The underlying rock is carboniferous. The land upon the border of the Taunton River is fertile; and, in the southern section of the town, the salt-meadows yield a valuable crop. The aggregate farm product was $116,209. There are four factories, of carriages and wagons, building, lumber, and food preparations, whose product in the aggregate was $21,810. The assessed area of the town is 9,875 acres, of which 2,650 acres are woodland. The valuation, in 1888, was $401,330; with a tax of $10 on $1,000. The population, in 1885, was 941, with 239 dwelling-houses.

Eight school-houses, valued at $7,725, accommodate the school children; and the two Sunday schools have collections of books numbering about 1,000 volumes. There is one Congregational church and the Methodists have one at Berkley and another at Myricksville.

This town, whose territory was formerly parts of Dighton and Taunton, was incorporated in 1735; being named in honor of George Berkeley, Bishop of Cloyne. Another portion of territory at the southwest of Berkeley was annexed from Dighton in 1799; and in 1810, 1842 and 1879 annexations were made from Taunton, the last embracing about 2,000 acres at the southeast, including what is called Myrick's District, now the most enterprising part of the town.

Bishop Berkeley was pleased at the mark of esteem in the name of the town, and sent the people a church organ. The instrument arrived safely at New York, where it was held as security for freight; and after a time there was an added charge for storage; and finally it was placed in Trinity church, in that city, where, at last accounts, it was still in use. Opposition to instrumental music in religious service was long afterwards manifested in this town. The first minister here was Rev. Samuel Tobey, who was settled in 1737, and died in 1781. He was followed by Rev. Thomas Andros, who had been a soldier and a captive in the Revolution. His sufferings are related in a book bearing the name " The Old Jersey Captive." Rev. William Mason Cornell, M.D., D.D., LL.D., was born here October 16, 1802.

Pp. 142-144 in Nason and Varney's Massachusetts Gazetteer, 1890