Plymouth County Massachusetts, 1890
Plymouth County lies in the southeast section of the State, having a sea-coast on Massachusetts Bay on the east, and another on Buzzard's Bay at the south, with a smaller extent on Boston Harbor. Its extreme length of land area is about 47 miles, north and south; with an average breadth of 20 miles. Its assessed area is 370,038 acres. It is bounded by Norfolk County and Boston Bay on the north, Massachusetts Bay on the east, Barnstable County and Buzzard's Bay on the south, and Bristol County on the west.
[ Massasoit signing treaty with Gov. Carver]
The Old Colony Railroad, with its divergent and connecting lilies, penetrates every town in the county, except Carver in the centre of the southern section. The sea-coasts which constitute so large a proportion of its boundary afford numerous and ample harbors. The surface of the county is mostly level, and the scenery is generally monotonous; yet there are some spaces of great beauty, and elevations presenting widely extended and interesting prospects. The views of shore and sea from Coleman's Hill in Scituate, from Prospect Hill in Hingham, from Captain's Hill in Duxbury, from Burial Hill and Manomet Hill in Plymouth, are unique and fine; while Alden's Hill in Lakeville affords a charming scene of lake, meadow and forest. The geological structure is of granite, sienite, carboniferons rock, and drift and alluvium. Extensive beds of bog-iron ore occur; but this material has in many localities been exhausted, and most of the iron works are now supplied from a distance. The Taunton River and several of its affluents drain the western section of the county; while the middle southern section has the Weweantit River, flowing into Buzzard's Bay; and in the northern part the North River, a circuitous stream, flows easterly, and finds the sea between Scituate and Marshfield by the same mouth as South River, a smaller stream coming up through the eastern section. There are many broad and beautiful lakes in the county, numerously visited by waterfowl. The most important sheets are those in Middleborough and Lakeville — Assawampset, Long, Pocksha, and Great and Little Quiticas ponds, — all connected, and forming the largest collection of fresh water in the State, — about 5,000 acres. Other ponds of some note are Billington Sea in Plymouth, Monponset in Halifax, Snipatuit in Rochester, Lispaquin in Middleborough, and Silver Lake in Plympton. The forests of this county are extensive, aggregating about 150,000 acres; oak and pine being the predominating growth. Extensive areas of these spread across the southwestern section of the county as an almost unbroken belt to the great forest in Bourne and Sandwich; and all through this wild tract numerous red deer still range.
The soil of this county is generally light and sandy, and inferior to that of most other parts of New England. The product of the 2,779 farms, in 1885, aggregated in value $2,343,878. Cranberries and the smaller fruits are extensively raised. The fisheries yielded $169,343; and there were owned in the county 20 vessels engaged in commerce, with a tonnage of 13,892, and a value of $367,700. There were 1,101 manufacturing establishments; some 200 of these producing machinery, artisan's tools, and other metallic goods, and about the same number being shoe factories. The value of the aggregate product was $27,819,116. The dwelling-houses numbered about 20,000. The valuation in 1888 was $56,203,997. There were 274 school buildings, valued, with appurtenances, at $663,840. Here also is a State Normal School. There are in the county several academies and private schools, having school property valued at about $160,000. Of libraries accessible to the public, 43 are secular, having 85,000 volumes; and 105 religious (church and Sunday-school), having nearly 50,000. In the county are 132 churches, comprising all the New England denominations. Further means of intelligence and culture are afforded by one daily newspaper, thirteen weeklies, and one semi-weekly.
Plymouth County being a part of the original Plymouth Colony, its history dates from the landing of the Pilgrims, in 1620. The old Colony embraced the territory now included in the three counties of Plymouth, Barnstable, and Bristol, formed in 1685. The union of the Plymouth Colony with the Massachusetts Bay Colony, in 1692, terminated its independent existence, which had continued for 71 years. For the first ten years of its settlement the colonists were confined almost wholly to the town of Plymouth, and at the end of that period numbered only three hundred. Ten years later, there were eight towns in the colony, — of which four only were within the limits of the present county. These were Plymouth, Scituate (incorporated 1636), Duxbury (inc. 1637), Marshfield (1640), Bridgewater (1656), and Middleborough (1669). At the incorporation of the county, in 1685, it consisted of the above-mentioned towns, with Accord Pond Shares and Ford's Farm Plantations, embracing parts of Scituate and Hanover, and the whole of (old) Abington. The Northwest boundary of the county is nearly the original line between the colonies of Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay, the only difference arising from the annexation from the latter of Hingham and Hull, which occurred at the formation of Norfolk County in 1793. The population just previous to this accession was, by estimate, slightly over 4,000, — many having gone to multiply settlements outside of the county,
The prosperity of the colony had been greatly impaired by the war with King Philip; the loss of men and money being a heavy strain upon their limited resources, so that many promising enterprises were broken up and many fair fields abandoned. Middleborough, Scituate, Bridgewater, Halifax and Plymouth itself were invaded by the savage enemy. In the later French and Indian wars, though unharmed in their homes, they joined heartily in maintaining the honor and integrity of the English nation. The town of Pembroke was the first in the Colonies to rebel against the British crown; having in 1740 adopted a resolution to adhere to their rights and privileges, " any royal instructions of his Majesty to the contrary notwithstanding." In May, 1776, Plympton voted unanimously in favor of independence of Great Britain; thus preceding the National Congress in their proclamation of liberty to the world, Shays' rebellion found here so little support that the courts were not interrupted as in other parts of the State. In the war of the Slaveholders' Rebellion, the record of Plymouth County is a brilliant one.
From time to time new towns were formed from the common territory and by the division of towns, until there are now 26 towns and one city, — Brockton. The towns are Abington, Bridgewater, Carver, Duxbury, East Bridgewater, Halifax, Hanover, Hanson, Hingham, Hull, Kingston, Lakeville, Marion, Marshfield, Mattapoisett, Middleborough, Norwell, Pembroke, Plymouth, Plympton, Rochester, Rockland, Scituate, Wareham, West Bridgewater and Whitman. The shire town is Plymouth.
The population in 1860 was 64,768; in 1865, it was 63,107; in 1875, it was 69,362; in 1880, it had reached 74,018; and the last census (1885) gives the increased figures of 81,680. The number of legal voters is now 22,103.
Plymouth County is divided between the 1st and 2nd Congressional districts. It is in the 1st Council District; with Cohasset, from Norfolk County, it constitutes a State senatorial district; and, together with Cohasset, it has 12 representatives in the General Court.
pp. 86-89 in Nason and Varney's Massachusetts Gazetteer, 1890