History of North Bridgewater



Situation and Extent.--Topography.--Centre Village.--Campello.--"Sprague's" or Factory Village.--North-West Bridgewater.--Rivers, Brooks, Hills.--Natural History.--Geological Formation.

NORTH BRIDGEWATER is a town in the north-west part of Plymouth County,--bordering on Bristol County on the west, and Norfolk County on the north,--and is situated between 42o, 03' and 42o, 08' north latitude, and between 70o, 57' and 71o, 04' west longitude; and is bounded on the north by Randolph and Stoughton, on the east by Abington and East Bridgewater, on the south by West Bridgewater, on the west by Easton. It is twenty miles south from Boston, thirty miles north-east from Providence, twenty-five miles north-west from Plymouth, sixteen miles south-east from Dedham, fifteen miles north-east from Taunton, and is five and a half miles in length from east to west, and five miles in width from north to south, and contains about thirteen thousand acres, and is about four and a half miles square,--has a total length of sixty-seven miles of public roads.

There are four villages in the town,--the "Centre," "Campello," "Sprague's or Factory Village," and the "West Shares," or "North-West Bridgewater." The Centre is a large and growing place, containing a large number of stores, manufactories; seven churches, the pride of the town; schools of different grades; one academy; bank, savings bank, postoffice, hotel, and railroad depot; the best of fire departments, and telegraph communication with Boston, and stations on the line of railroad. The stores of this place are of the usual variety found in all large places,--being of the highest order,--and the facilities for trade are not surpassed by any in the county. It is the emporium of trade for the surrounding towns, extending fifteen to eighteen miles. There is the best of dry-goods, furnishing and clothing, grocery and hardware, furniture and crockery-ware stores to be found in any country town; and it may truly be called a "live" place.

The next in importance is a neat and pleasantly located village, about one and a half miles south from the centre of the town, and formerly known as "Plain Village," now Campello.(*) It has always been noted for its extensive manufacturing establishments of boots, shoes, cabinet furniture, and musical instruments; and the thrift and industry of her citizens may be clearly seen in the neat and tidy appearance of the small cottages scattered throughout the limits of the same. The growth of this place was materially checked in May, 1853, by one of the most destructive fires that ever occurred in the town, if not in the county (a full account of which appears in another part of this work), and from the effects of which it has never fully recovered. There is, however, a large amount of business done in the shoe trade; several large establishments being engaged in manufacturing goods for foreign markets, the owners or proprietors of which have stores for the sale of goods in Pearl street, Boston; one manufactory of musical instruments, one large variety store, two smaller grocery stores, post-office, railroad depot near to the village, rendering it a desirable place for business purposes or for a private residence. The main street runs the entire length of the village, north and south, with graceful elms on either side. There are three schools in the place and one church.(**)

"Sprague's or Factory Village" is another small and beautifully located cluster of houses and manufacturing establishments, about three-fourths of a mile east of the Centre Village, on the road leading to Abington. There is a large manufactory of last and boot trees in this place, with water and steam power, owned and conducted by Chandler Sprague, Esq., to whom the citizens of that portion of the town owe their success for the enterprising manner in which he has rendered the place attractive. Within a few years, he has erected a large and convenient building for his use, in which are conducted several branches of manufacturing; also a beautiful residence, situated but a short distance from the factory; also a store, where is kept the usual variety found in country stores. In this place is a neat and roomy school-house, with a bell, erected within a very few years; a sawmill, and three shoe manufactories, beside smaller establishments for the mauufacture of shoe tools.

The next we have is the "West Shares," or "North-West Bridgewater," a prominent height of land from which magnificent views may be had. It is the highest portion of land to be found in the four Bridgewaters. On the north, we have a view of Blue Hills of Milton, and on the west we have a picturesque view of the Western Hills; and no place can excel it for its lovely scenery and its healthful locality. The land is of a good quality, and the people in this portion of the town are mostly farmers. In immediate proximity to this place is one Methodist Church, school, post-office, and store; and is situated at about equal distance from Stoughton and North Bridgewater Villages.

This town is well watered by brooks and streams,--only one large enough to be called a river, and that of small size. Most of these have had mills erected upon them. The most prominent of these is the Salisbury River, which rises in the town of Stoughton, running southerly one-half mile west of the Centre Village, till it crosses Belmont Street, a short distance below the mill known as the Caleb Howard Mill, when it turns and runs east till it meets Trout Brook.

This brook also rises in the southerly part of Stoughton, and runs south about a half mile east of the middle of the town till it meets Salisbury Brook, near "Sprague's" Works. At this point, the two are joined, and run in a southerly direction, a short distance east of Campello Village, into the town of East Bridgewater.

Beaver Brook is another stream, rising in Weymouth; runs in a southerly direction, and forming a boundary line between Abington and North Bridgewater, till it enters East Bridgewater. Another river rises in Easton, and runs through the south-west part of the town into West Bridgewater, and is called Cowsett Brook. Mike's Brook rises in the north-east part of the town, and runs south-westerly, and empties into Trout Brook, and is a very small stream.

West Meadow Brook rises north of the residence of Caleb Phillips, near Pleasant Street, and runs in a southerly direction into West Bridgewater, near Henry Jackson's.

Another small stream rises in the south part of Stoughton and north part of North Bridgewater, and near George W. Hunt's; running south-easterly, it empties into Salisbury Brook, near Galen Packard's mill.

Also, a small stream rises near the residence of the late Deacon Silvanus French, and, running south, enters West Bridgewater east of the late residence of Nahum Hayward, and empties into Salisbury River. Although the streams in this town are small, there has been, at various times, considerable manufacturing done by water-power. There are no ponds in town, of any size, excepting those made by flowing meadows for mill privileges; the largest in town being that at "Sprague's Works;" next, at "Howard's Mills," and one at "Tilden's Corner." There is about a thousand acres in the town covered by water; the balance is well divided into woodland, pasturing, and mowing; and there is no town in the county where there is less unproductive or unimproved land than in this town. There are over four thousand acres of good woodland, and over eleven hundred acres of land tilled, exclusive of orcharding; over fifteen hundred acres of good upland mowing land, about eighty acres of orcharding, about six hundred acres of fresh meadow, about three thousand acres of pasture land.

Of the town of North Bridgewater, we may say that its surface is comparatively level, with but a few hills. Beside those already mentioned, there are some elevated spots here and there; prominent among which is Cary Hill, situated in the north-east part of the town, overlooking the village on the south, gently sloping in either direction, from the top of which we may get pure air and fine views in an autumn day. When the leaves are turned into rich drapery, it is worth while to ride to this place for the prospect that may be had. It is of very easy access by good roads; and the wonder is, that it is not more generally selected as a place of residence by those wishing a healthy and retired locality. The land in the immediate vicinity is good, well adapted to tillage, produces fine crops with little labor.

Prospect Hill is another high and pleasant spot of land, very desirable for building purposes, and but a short distance from the village in a north-west direction, and west of the late Captain Asa Jones's residence.

Ridge Hill is a rough and rocky pasture, running from near the residence of Freeman Holmes, in the south part of the town, northerly for about one mile, and has been much celebrated for its plentiful crops of huckleberries and blackberries.

Stone-House Hill is situated on the boundary line between North Bridgewater and Easton, a short distance west of the manufactory of H. T. Marshall, at "Tilden's Corner." At this place is an old cave, made in the solid stone ledge, and is said to have been used by the Indians as a dwelling. The cave may now be seen as formerly used. It is situated on the old road leading to Easton.

To the true votary of science, everything in Nature presents a lovely aspect. "To him, there are books in the running streams, sermons in stones, good in everything."

"There is a pleasure in the pathless woods;
There is society where none intrudes."

Every town has its natural history, and every mile of its surface, with its hills and plains, its rivers, ponds, rocks, and trees,--all have a charm that clusters around the home of childhood. The forests of North Bridgewater consist of red, white, and sugar maple (although the latter is scarce, it is occasionally found); white, red, and black ash; the tremulous poplar and verdant hemlock; the tall spruce, much used in building; white ash, used for carriage-work, scythes, and rake-handles, for hoops, sieve-rims, and boxes, and a superior wood for oars. Sassafras was in early times quite plenty, valuable only for medicinal purposes. Chestnut is not abundant. White oak is used for carriages, red oak for casks, the bark of which is used for tanning; hickory affording plenty of good shellbarks.

Butternut is not common,--here and there a tree. White pine is tolerably plenty; although it has been, of late, much cut for fuel and building purposes. Pitch pine is quite plenty,--good only for fuel, being knotty and pitchy; red cedar, used for rail-fences and pencil-woods, also very useful for linings to chests, as a protection from moths; red beech, used for plane-woods, last, and boot-tree forms. Tall and graceful elms rejoice the eye in every direction. In the early settlement of the town, large quantities of ship-timber of oak and chestnut were carried from the town to the seashore towns of Weymouth, Scituate, and Duxbury. Among those who did a large trade in that line were Messrs. Abel and Eliphalet Kingman, and, later, Edwin H. Kingman. Of late years, a ready market is found at home for all the wood cut, where formerly large lots were either carried to Boston and the seaport towns, or made into charcoal, and then sent to Boston. Since the railroads have been built, wood has been much used on the locomotives, and has made it scarce at times; but, if we take a look about the town, we shall find "a few more left of the same sort."

Fruit-Trees.--Of this kind of tree, not so great a variety is found as in many places; although the writer is happy in believing that there is an increasing interest being felt in this most important of agricultural pursuits,--that of raising fruit. The most common fruit is the apple. There is a fair assortment of them in the town; and the new orchards contain choice varieties, while the old and wild orchards have given way to the woodman's axe. Now, the apple is a staple article of consumption, the consumers being more numerous than the producers; and people are looking more to the cultivation of all kinds than ever before. Choice varieties are engrafted upon the stumps of old trees; and were it not for the borers that eat the roots, canker-worms and caterpillars that eat the leaves and branches, we might look with delight upon as fine orchards as could be found in any place. These pests have destroyed the orchards, as grasshoppers have the nice fields of grass; and the ways and means of ridding the orchards of these plagues is not yet fully understood. Next to the apple comes the pear-tree, which does not appear to thrive as well in this town as in many others, the land not being well adapted for this kind of fruit, though, of late, many have been successful, and raised choice kinds.

Peaches are raised to a very limited extent, the climate not being adapted for the successful cultivation of this variety. The trees are said to be short-lived, and do not flourish.

Cherries do very well; and much is being done in this kind of small fruit, many varieties being cultivated. Of the native shrubs, we find the town has the usual variety,--such as the blueberry and huckleberry,--that affords employment for the boys and girls in a pleasant afternoon, and a source of pleasure to older persons, furnishing an agreeable repast when eaten with milk. Then we find the raspberry, gooseberry, and thimbleberry. Of the raspberries, there are the red and white, that grow wild, and are cultivated in gardens. Gooseberries, of late years, have become an article of much use, many new varieties having been introduced, the best of which is the English variety, that grow as large as shellbarks. Then we have the currant, an exceedingly useful article of culture, and easily raised, valuable for wine or table use. Of these we have also several varieties,--red, white, and black. Then comes that highly esteemed and valuable luxury,--"a dish of ripe strawberries, smothered in cream." These are found in many places growing wild in the pastures; and, although they are sweet and delicious, they are found so scarce, that not much account is made of them. The cultivated fruit of this kind is a favorite dish, of which there is a great variety, among which are the "Hovey's Seedlings," "Early Virginia," and "Boston Pine." These are fast becoming an article of cultivation as much as the potato or corn, and large amounts are cultivated in the gardens and fields of this town. The first that were raised for market, to any extent, were those by Mr. B. F. Lawton, of the West Shares. Since then, several have raised them with profit, and sent them to market. Of late, the most successful, or doing the most in that line, are Ira Copeland, in the Factory Village, and C. H. Packard, of Campello.

"Wife, into the garden, and set me a plot
With strawberry-roots of the best to be got;
Such growing abroad among thorns in the wood,
Well chosen and picked, prove excellent and good." TUSSER.

The birds common in this locality are the quail, partridge, snipe, woodpecker, woodcock, sparrow, thrush, robin, blue-bird, bobolink, wren, pewee, lark, king-bird, blue-jay, black-bird, chickadee, martin, barn, and bank swallow, cat-bird, cuckoo, humming-bird, kingfisher, whip-poor-will, owl, hawk, crow, bats. Wild geese occasionally light on the small ponds in the outskirts of the town.

"What songs with those of birds can vie,
From the goldfinch that on high
Swings its wee hammock in the sky?" CANNING.

Among the different kinds of fish that abound in our streams may be found the trout, pickerel, sucker, shiner, minnow, hornpout, eels, perch. Herrings, in early days, used to run up the rivers, but, of late, are seldom found.

The early forests in town had their share of vexatious animals that were common in this part of the country; as wolves, wild-cat. Foxes have become shy of company. Skunk, musquosh, and mink have been severely hunted. Woodchucks, rabbits, and squirrels of different kinds. Raccoons, that damaged the cornfields, have almost disappeared. Moles and meadow-mice are found in the fields, and often do much damage, gnawing bark off of trees in winter.

But the worst enemy the early settlers had to contend with among the beast kind was the wolf, which troubled the infant settlements exceedingly; so much, that shepherds were appointed over the flocks by day, and put in folds at night, and securely guarded; and, even after the town became quite thickly settled, these pests would make night hideous by their howling around the farms. Rewards were offered by the town for their heads, and wolf-traps were common in all parts of the town.

The geological formation of this town is similar to many other towns in Plymouth County. The hills, meadows, large plains and intervales, deep swamps and rocky pastures, furnish food for almost all kinds of grass, trees, and shrubs. Of the rocky portions of the town, we find sienite, or composition of feldspar, quartz, and hornblende. Says Dr. Hitchcock in his survey through the State,--

"The most elegant variety of porphyritic sienite that I have met with in the State occurs in North Bridgewater and Abington, and in other parts of Plymouth County. Its base consists of quartz and feldspar, with an abundance of epidote, disseminated, and in veins. This rock, if polished, would form, it seems to me, the most ornamental stone in the State. The feldspar, crystal, that constitutes it a porphyry, are of a flesh color. There is a dark-colored mineral diffused throughout the mass, which may be hornblende or mica."

Where mica is found plenty in the composition, it is sometimes called sienite granite.

Large quantities of peat have been cut in the meadows of the town in past times, and is now being used as a fuel which is of an excellent quality.

Large quantities of iron-ore have been found in the western and other sections of the town, and some has been manufactured into iron. It is not, however, plenty now, and the business of making it into iron ceased several years since.


(*) Campello. This name was first suggested to the citizens of Plain Village at the time of the establishment of the post-office in February, 1850, on account of the name of Plain Village being often confounded with other places spelled nearly the same. It was proposed by Rev. D. Huntington, and unanimously adopted by the people as a proper one,--it signifying a small plain.

(**) Orthodox Congregational.