West Bridgewater Massachusetts, 1890
West Bridgewater, one of our oldest settlements, is situated in the northwesterly part of Plymouth County, 25 miles south of Boston. The main line of the Old Colony Railroad skirts the eastern border, with stations at Matfield and Satucket; sending from the former a branch to Easton, which bas stations at West Bridgewater centre and Cochesett. The last two places and Matfield are the post-offices. The other village is Jerusalem.
The town is bounded on the north by Brockton, on the east by East Bridgewater, on the south by Bridgewater, and on the west by Easton. The assessed area is 9,822 acres; of which 2,890 are wood-land, containing pine, maple, oak and birch. The underlying rock is sienitic and carboniferous. The surface is remarkably even, with a gentle inclination toward the south. Nearly 1,000 acres are in swale, or wet meadow, which produces a valuable hay-crop. The soil is generally a sandy loam. The town is drained by Salisbury-Plain River in the northeastern, Town River in the central, and Hockamock Brook in the western section. These streams furnish motive power of considerable value. There are good roads, and the appearance of the farms and dwellings indicates thrift and respectability.
There are two boot and shoe factories, a shovel factory, one making eyelet machines, and others of less importance. The value of the aggregate manufactures in 1885 was $134,461. The product of the 51 farms was valued at $103,043. The population was 1,707; of whom 443 were legal voters. The valuation in 1888 was $969,589, with a tax-rate of 1.45 per cent. There were 382 taxed dwelling-houses. The ten public school-houses — occupied by primary and grammar schools — are valued at $7,200. The high-school instruction is given in the Harvard Collegiate Institute, whose two edifices are valued at $115,000. Beside the school-rooms, the main building contains a large lecture hall. This institution was founded in 1883 by a bequest of $80,000 left by Benjamin B. Howard for the purpose about 20. years ago. He also left $2,000 to aid in establishing public lectures, and the sum of $20,000 to the Unitarian Church in this town. The other churches are the Baptist and Methodist.
This place was settled in 1652. The surnames of some of the principal settlers were Hayward, Willis, Basset, Washburn, Gannett, Brett, Cary, Tompkins, Harris, Fobes, Mitchell, Lathrop, Leonardson, Keith and Edson. The orthography of some of these has been changed. The descendants of one family of Haywards omitted the y, and, later, transformed the word to Howard. Cary, was sometimes written Carew, and Lathrop Laythorpe. During King Philip's War, the settlers erected a stockade fort, and resolutely defended themselves against the incursions of the enemy, who burned many buildings, but succeeded neither in killing or capturing any inhabitant. In 1676, Col. Benjamin Church, whose force included 20 Bridgewater men, conquered a tribe of 173 Indians; the prisoners taken being brought to Bridgewater and confined in the cattle pound.
"They were well treated," says the annalist, "with victuals and drink; and the prisoners laughed as loud as the soldiers, not having been so well treated for a long time. Capt. Jacob Allen of this town was killed at the capture of Burgoyne. West Bridgewater was incorporated on February 16, 1822; being the last formed, though the first settled, of the original town of Bridgewater, which embraced the territory of this, with that of Abington, Whitman, Brockton, East Bridgewater, and of the present original corporation of Bridgewater. The Rev. James Keith, ordained in 1664, was the first minister.
About 210 men from this town went into the Union service during the late war, and 25 were killed in battle or died in consequence of the service. There is a monument to their memory, erected at a cost of $4,000. It consists of a granite column about forty feet in height, surmounted by an eagle with lifted wings and perched upon a globe. John Reed (1781-1860), an able statesman, and a member of Congress from 1813 to 1817, and from 1821 to 1841; Cyrus Alger (1782- 956), the eminent South Boston iron-founder; Caleb Reed (1797-18 54), for more than 20 years editor of the "New Jerusalem Magazine," and Sampson Reed (1800-1880), merchant, editor and author, were all natives of this town.
Pp. 678-678 in Nason and Varney's Massachusetts Gazetteer, 1890