Bristol County Massachusetts, 1890

Bristol County lies on the western side of the southeastern section of the State, and is bounded by Norfolk County on the north, Plymouth County on the east, Buzzard's Bay and the State of Rhode Island on the south, and by the latter on the west. It has an area of 530 square miles, and contains three cities, New Bedford, Fall River, and Taunton, and seventeen towns; these being Acushnet, Attleborough, Berkley, Dartmouth, Dighton, Easton, Fairhaven, Freetown, Mansfield, North Attleborough, Norton, Raynham, Rehoboth, Seekonk, Somerset, Swansea and Westport.

The courts are held at New Bedford and Taunton. The county is entitled to three senators and eighteen representatives in the State legislature. The population, by the census of 1885, was 158,498, composed of 34,802 families, and sheltered in 23,992 dwellings, increased to 24,053 in 1888. There were 6,021 farmers, 1606 fishermen, and 82,944 engaged in manufactures. The value of the farm product in 1885 was $3,444,914; of fisheries, $1,325,868; and of manufactures, $52,670,730. The valuation in 1888 was $121,855,171.

The numerous branches of the Old Colony Railroad cover the whole county, and especially at the north, as with network, so that scarcely a town is without one or more stations within or near its borders.

There are in the county 98,360 acres of woodland. The Taunton River with its tributaries and several others running southward, furnish many water-powers. Besides numerous ponds there are several large bodies of water within the county lines, as New Bedford Harbor, about half of Mount Hope Bay, Watuppa Pond, the estuaries of Taunton and Acoaxet rivers, and others in the south and southwest. There are no great elevations of land in the county, the highest being Copicut Hill, in Fall River, whose summit is 355 feet above the level of the sea. Fall River Hill is 259 feet; Great Meadow Hill and Great Rock Hill, in Rehoboth, are respectively 266 and 248 feet; Falmouth* Hill is 193 feet; German's Hill, Yarmouth*, 138 feet; and Great Hill, in Marion, 127 feet. The geological formation is carboniferous, granitic, and felspathic gneiss. Bog-iron is of frequent occurrence, and bowlders have been scattered by glacial action liberally over the whole county.

The Indian name applied to this region was Pawkunnawkutt, or, by a later spelling, Pokanoket. The first colonists found the Massachusetts tribe of Indians, numbering about 3,000, in possession of the northern part of the county; the Narragansetts occupying to some extent the eastern shore of this bay, (though their home was on the western side); while the Wampanoag chief, the famous Massasoit, with 3,000 warriors, ruled over all the land from Cape Cod to Narragansett Bay. The first white people to explore this county were Edward Winslow and Stephen Hopkins; who in July, 1621, started from Plymouth for Mount Hope Bay, to make a treaty with Massasoit. They were guided by Tisquantum, and met with no opposition until they attempted to cross the Tetiquet (Taunton) River, when two Indians disputed their passage; but this ceased when the purpose of their journey was explained.

The first large proprietor in the county was Miss Elizabeth Pool, a lady of fortune and family, who first settled in Dorchester. She bought a tract (known as the First, or Tetiquet, Purchase), embracing the present towns of Raynham, Berkley, and Taunton; and, as then defined, the plantation of Cohannet was incorporated on the 3d of March, 1639. In 1668 was made the North Purchase, embracing the present territory of Norton, Mansfield and Easton. In 1672, the South Purchase, now Dighton, was admitted to the plantation; and in 1680 Assonet Neck was annexed to the jurisdiction of Cohannet. The lady proprieter of the first purchase found before her as settlers, Richard and Joseph Williams, Henry Uxley, Benjamin Wilson, William Coy, George Hall, George Macy, Francis Doty, and some others. The first mentioned of these has been considered the father of Taunton. At an early period in the settlement, Nicholas Street, whose wife was a sister of Miss Pool, was installed as teacher.

The dealings of this lady as a settler were characterized by the strictest sense of honor and faithfulness. She died in Taunton in 1654, in the sixty-sixth year of her age; where, at a later day, in the burial ground known as "The Plain," a kinsman, John Boland, Esq., erected to her memory a stone bearing a long inscription written by Hon. Robert Treat Paine, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

pp. 67-69 in Nason and Varney's Massachusetts Gazetteer, 1890

*Falmouth and Yarmouth are in Barnstable County.