New Bedford Massachusetts, 1890

NEW BEDF0RD, long noted for its whale fisheries and for the wealth and urbanity of its people, is a city of 5,598 dwelling-houses and 33,393 inhabitants, delightfully situated on the west bank of the Acushnet River, here broadening into New Bedford Harbor, on the north side of Buzzard's Bay. It lies in latitude 41° 38´ north, and in longitude 70° 55´ west. It is 228 miles northeast from New York, with which it has connection by steamboats; and is 55 miles south of Boston, and connected with that place and the western regions by the New Bedford and Taunton and the Fall River branches of the Old Colony Railroad; while the Fairhaven Branch, just across the river, makes the same connections, and a more direct one with the eastern towns and Cape Cod. A fine bridge 4,000 feet in length provides easy access to Fairhaven; and street cars run to this and other neighboring villages.

New Bedford is hounded on the north by Freetown, east by Acushnet and Fairhaven, and west by Dartmouth. Clark's Point, bearing a lighthouse, is the southern termination of the city; and Clark's Neck, above the point, divides New Bedford harbor from Clark's Cove. There is another light in the upper harbor. In both upper and lower harbors are several islands; the larger ones known as Pope's, Palmer's, Egg and Angelica islands, the last being off Sconticut Point, which marks the eastern side of the harbor entrance. The city is ten and a half miles long, north and south, and about one and a half miles wide, east and west. The assessed area is 8,930 acres. The principal rock is felspathic gneiss and granite. The surface of the land is finely diversified by swelling knolls, pleasant plains, and fertile valleys. The Pamanset River has its source in Sassaquin's Pond, of about 50 acres, in the northeast section, and drains the northern part of the territory; reaching the sea through Dartmouth. The Acushnet River rises in the northern part of the town of Acushnet; its broadening channel forming a division between the town and the city. Great Cedar Swamp covers an extensive area on the line of Dartmouth, largely occupied by forest. The soil is diluvium, consisting of sand, loam and gravel. All varieties of gneiss, with flesh-red felspar, black mica, graphic granite, and coarse garnets are found.

There are 67 farms within the corporate limits, whose aggregate product in 1885 was $127,944. The largest manufacturing establishments are the cotton mills, employing, in 1885, 4,024 persons , while a woollen mill employed 96; the value of the textiles made being $5,343,779. There were 29 boot and shoe factories, employing 389 persons, and having a product valued at $751,240; 156 persons were engaged in making machinery, whose product was valued at $269,675; 236 were engaged in working iron, copper, britannia, tin and gold (jewelry), these products amounting to $980,000; 147 persons were engaged in making picture frames; 120 in carriage-making; 154 in making cordage; 148 in glass-making; 47 in stonework; 52 in making drills; and 49 in making coopers' wares. There were 27 ship-yards, 7 oil factories, 8 tanneries, and 4 lumber mills. Other manufactures were artisans' tools, electrical apparatus, paper boxes, brooms, furniture, liquors, harnesses; and many of smaller extent to the number of 420. Steam is chiefly the motive power. The value of the products in the aggregate was $11,334,770. The fisheries brought in $1,235,109; of which $1,155,863 was for whale products. In this business 82 vessels were engaged, 3 being steamers; 7, ships; 1, a brig; 59, barques; the remainder being schooners and sloops. The tonnage of these was 19,873, and the value $1,016,325. The commercial marine consisted of 2 barques, 1 brig, 18 schooners, 1 sloop, and 5 steamers, having a tonnage of 15,566, and a value of $255,000. There are five national banks, whose capital stock in the aggregate was $4,100,000. The two savings banks, at the beginning of the present year, held deposits to the amount of $14,746,199. There is also a safe deposit and trust company and a co-operative hank. The number of legal voters was 7,051. The valuation in 1888 was $33,454,347. with a tax-rate of $17 on $1,000.

The post-offices are New Bedford and Clifford; the other villages being Cannonville, Jesseville, Kennersonville and Rock Dale.

The city proper is built on land rising gradually from the bank of the river; and, seen from the Fairhaven shore opposite, or from the bay, presents a very beautiful appearance. There is a handsome park of 10 acres in the upper part of the city, where stands the Soldiers' Monument. The streets are laid out regularly, and several of them are remarkable for the elegant mansions, surrounded with ample gardens. County, Cottage and Sixth streets the first especially beautifully shaded with ancient elms, have few equals in the country. Many residences have an air of elegance and splendor seldom seen. The custom-house, city-hall, and the post-office are imposing structures of native granite. The latter building was erected in 1836, at a cost of $31,700; the customs building was completed in 1839, at expense of $60,000. Another fine edifice is that of the Odd Fellows, recently erected. There are also several handsome business blocks; and the manufactories are not all without beauty or impressiveness, the larger ones being generally of brick or granite. Under the will of Sylvia Ann Rowland, the city received $100,000 for the promotion and support, within the city, of liberal education, and the enlargement, from time to time, of the Free Public Library. The library building was completed in 1857, and is valued at $56,000. It now contains about 50,000 volumes. The county court-house, the house of correction, constructed of brick, and the jail, of granite, are also superior structures. There are three good halls used for entertainments.

There are four public and five private cemeteries in the city, several of which are of much beauty; all except one being remote from the city proper.

The Baptists have four churches here, the Congregationalists three; the Unitarians two; the Protestant Episcopalians two; the Roman Catholics five; the Christian one; the Christian Connection three; the Friends two; the Universalists one; the Latter Day Saints one; the Adventists one; and there is a Christian Union, which is undenominational. St. James' Church (Episcopalian) is specially noticeable for its chastely beautiful architecture. The Unitarians, Congregationalists and Roman Catholics, also, have each one or more fine edifices.

The city has excellent graded schools, including a high school, for which are provided 19 buildings, having the value of nearly $500,000. The Friends' Academy, founded in 1810, has been a very flourishing institution. It possesses a choice library of about 3,000 volumes. There are also several other flourishing schools. The city sustains two daily newspapers,- the "Evening Standard" and the "Mercury;" three weeklies, the " Republican Standard," the "Mercury," and the "Whaleman's Shipping List;" and one monthly, the "Old Colonist."

With the coming of cotton and woollen manufacture to New Bedford there was an influx of Irish and Scotch; and the numerous other manufactories have attracted flocks of young American people. Yet, as said a writer in the "Boston Journal" several years ago, " New Bedford seems to have a cosmopolitan breeze always blowing over its strata. On the vessels fitting out for their long and adventurous cruises you may hear all the modern languages spoken. Dutchmen, Frenchmen, Spaniards, Portuguese, and Norwegians have pitched their tents here, and make periodical visits to the whale regions."

The site of the city of New Bedford was purchased in 1652 from the chiefs Wesamequen and his son Wamsutta. The Indian name of the place was Acushnet. Of the first settlers upon the ground were Ralf Russell, his son John Russell, and Anthony Slocum, who later built an iron forge at Russell's Mills, and John Cooke, whose home was at the head of Acushnet River. The first house was erected about the year 1764, by John Louden, of Pembroke. The place was a part of Dartmouth until February 23, 1787, when it was set off and incorporated as a town. It was first named "Bedford" in honor of the Russells, early settlers of the place, and related to the Duke of Bedford. Finding there was already a "Bedford" in the State, the prefix "New" was adopted. The town embraced also certain territory on the east side of the harbor, which, on February 22, 1812, was set off to form Fairhaven. New Bedford was made a city March 9, 1847. In the course of a century from settlement the inhabitants had become quite numerous; but in 1676, during King Philip's War, nearly all the dwellings were destroyed, and many people killed. After the war the place again flourished. The whale fishery early attracted the attention of the inhabitants; and several small vessels were already in the business when , in 1767, they launched their first ship, the "Dartmouth," of which Joseph Rotch was the owner. Her first voyage was made to London with a cargo of whale oil. This ship, some years later (1773), came into Boston with a cargo of tea from London, which readers will remember was disposed of in a very peculiar manner. In 1775 New Bedford's whaling fleet had increased to 50 vessels.

The people of this village were the witnesses of the contest which has been called "the first naval battle of the Revolution" when on the 5th of May, 1775, Captain Linzee, of the British sloop-of-war Falcon, captured two provincial sloops in the harbor. The people of the place fitted out two sloops, with 30 men and retook the captured vessels, with 15 of the British on board, before they were out of Buzzard's Bay. Though at the period of the Revolution a great majority of the citizens were Quakers, or Friends, and opposed to privateering on principle, yet many citizens did engage in this business; and the harbor was largely used to fit out privateers and for captured vessels. The facts becoming known to Sir Henry Clinton, the British commander at New York, he despatched an expedition against the place. On the 5th of September, 1778 about 5,000 British landed from boats in Clark's Cove; and marching the country road to the village, they burned houses, wharves, shipping, naval stores and provisions.

From the close of this war the whaling industry steadily increased until 1857, when New Bedford had a whaling fleet of 325 vessels, worth, with outfit, more than $12,000,000; and requiring the services of 10,000 seamen. In the war of secession ships and outfits belonging in port were destroyed by Confederate privateers to the value of about $1,500,000. In September, 1871, 22 of her ships had to be abandoned in the ice of the Arctic Ocean; involving a loss, regardless of the whale products on board, of $1,000,000.

Perhaps the most eminent citizens of New Bedford were Joseph Rotch, an enterprising merchant and shipowner of the Revolutionary period; Captain Grinnell (1758-1850), a successful shipmaster noted as a man of great probity; Joseph Grinnell (b. 1788), a distinguished merchant and a member of Congress 1844-1852; Moses H. Grinnell (b. 1803), member of Congress 1839-1841, appointed collector of the port of New York in 1869, and distinguished as a promoter of Dr. Kane's Arctic Expedition; George Rowland (d. 1852), a successful merchant and financier, a member of the Society of Friends, to whose educational and benevolent institutions he made large bequests; Dr. Samuel West (1730-1807), clergyman, statesman, and author; Jabez D Hammond, LL.D. (1778-1855), an able lawyer and author; Hon. Jonathan Bourne (1811-1889) a successful merchant, at one period the largest owner in the world in whaling operations, an able financier, and highly esteemed as an excellent citizen; William Bradford, noted especially for his paintings of Arctic scenes; John Henry Clifford, governor of the Commonwealth, 1853-4; and William H. Crapo, member of Congress.

pp. 488-492 in Nason and Varney's Massachusetts Gazetteer, 1890