Bridgewater Massachusetts, 1890
Bridgewater is a fine old town in the western part of Plymouth County, 28 miles south of Boston by the Old Colony Railroad, whose stations within it are Bridgewater Iron Works and, half a mile south of this, Bridgewater (Centre), and in the southern part of the town, State Farm. The post; offices are Bridgewater, Scotland and State Farm; the villages being these (except the last), and Paper Mill Village, in the eastern part of the town. The general form of the township is oval; having an assessed area of 16,055 acres, including 5,000 acres of woodland. The surface is for the most part undulating, having a fine eminence at the north called Sprague's Hill, 192 feet in height. In the western part of the town is the handsome Lake Nippenicket, covering 388 acres, and embracing several pretty islands. Robbin's Pond, three miles northeast of the centre, is also an attractive resort for fishing.
Town and Matfield rivers, entering Bridgewater on the north side, unite in the eastern part; and, receiving the waters of South Brook, from near the centre, join on the eastern line with the Winnetuxet River from Halifax, and form the Taunton River. This handsome stream washes the whole southeastern border of the town, and, like the others, affords power for several mills.
[State Normal School, Bridgewater, Mass.]
In the eastern part of the town there are a paper mill and two or three saw mills making shingles and boxboards. At the iron works are made a variety of cast and wrought work, cotton machinery, nails and tacks, and other articles. The town also has a boot and shoe factory and several brickyards. The largest product is iron and metallic goods, valued for 1885 at $582,942. Wooden and wood and metal goods counted up to $48,846; food preparations, $23,750; the aggregate of manufactures being valued at $769,945. The product the 108 farms cultivated in the town in the same year was $141,378. The valuation in 1888 was $2,194,847; and the tax was $11.20 on $1,000, The population is 3,827. Bridgewater Savings Bank, at the close of 1888, held deposits to the amount of $344,307.
The town is noted for its schools. Bridgewater Academy, incorporated in 1799, now furnishes the town high school. The public schools are graded, and occupy, aside from the academy, 14 buildings, valued, with attached property, at $31,410. The State Normal School here has been in constant operation since 1840, the attendance now requiring the entire accommodations of its two substantial edifices. The town public library is an excellent building of brick valued at $15,000, and containing about $6,000 [sic] volumes and an interesting museum. There are two public-school libraries of about 3,500 volumes and an institution library of about 400. The current news is furnished by the "Bridgewater Independent," a highly respectable weekly journal. The central village has a beautiful little park shaded with well-gown ornamental trees, about which are the familiar Hyland House, the stores and the public buildings.
The first Congregational Church (Unitarian) is a fine specimen of church architecture; and the Central Square Congregational (Trinitarian) has a spacious and convenient house; the New Jerusalem society has a very handsome edifice. The Episcopal church is also new and attractive. The Methodists have a substantial and comfortable house; and the Roman Catholic edifice (Saint Thomas Aquinas's) is also fitting to its office. There is also a Trinitarian Congregational church at Scotland village.
The territory of this town, in its original extent, was purchased of Massasoit by Miles Standish and others for "seven coats, nine hatchets, eight hoes, twenty knives, four moose-skins, and ten yards of cotton." The Indian name of the place was Nunketest, but the English called their purchase Duxburrow New Plantation. On June 3, 1656, it was incorporated under its present name, which it took from Bridgewater, in Somerset County, England. It received additions on the Weymouth side and from Stoughton; and in 1712, part of Bridgewater and certain lands adjoining were established as Abington. In 1821, part of the town was established as North Bridgewater; in 1822, part of it was incorporated as West Bridgewater; in 1823, another part was made East Bridgewater; and in 1824, a part was annexed to Halifax.
The first meeting-house was built in 1717, and Rev. Benjamin Allen was ordained pastor in the following year.
As early as 1775 cannon were cast here by Hugh Orr for the government. Lazell, Perkins and Company commenced the manufacture of iron and heavy machinery here in 1810. The shops now cover an area of ten acres. The forgings for the celebrated iron-clad "Monitor," invented by John Ericson, were executed here.
Bridgewater furnished a surplus of 60 men above its quota for the late war, and lost 27. Among the esteemed citizens living here at a late period are Rev. Ebenezer Gay, Nicholas Tillinghast, Marshal Conant and A. G. Boyden. Perhaps its most eminent names are these: Nathaniel Ames (1708-1764), Simeon Howard. D.D. (1733-1804), Perez Fobes, LL.D. (1752-1812), Levi W. Leonard, D.D, (1790-1864), Willard Phillips, LL.D. (1784), and Gen. George L. Andrews (1827).
pp. 198-201 in Nason and Varney's Massachusetts Gazetteer, 1890