Old Bridgewater Historical Society

Old Bridgewater Historical Society

Bridgewater Timeline and History

Discover the historical timeline of the Bridgewater area.

Fall 1620

The Pilgrims land at Plymouth Rock and begin the settlement of Plymouth, Massachusetts. Plymouth Colony has been established.


Marshfield, Massachusetts is incorporated. Since the marshlands of Marshfield supplied many resources for colonists such as wild food sources for people and livestock, peat, and thatch, the incorporation of the town made it necessary for the residents of Duxbury to seek marshlands elsewhere. This is one of the many reasons that would lead to the purchase of Bridgewater.


Massachusetts becomes the first state to legally sanction slavery in a law that reads, "There shall never be any bond slaverie, villinage or captivitie amongst us unless it be lawfull captives taken in just warres, and such strangers as willingly selle themselves or are sold to us. And these shall have all the liberties and Christian usages which the law of God established in Israell concerning such persons doeth morally require. This exempts none from servitude who shall be judged thereto by Authoritie."

March 23, 1649

The inland area of Scituate, known as the "Hatherly Grant", is purchased from Massasoit (then known as Ousamequin).
He was the Sachem, or chief, of the Wampanoag Indians. The purchase was made by Myles Standish, Constant Southworth, and Samuel Nash and the signed contract is known as the "Bridgewater Deed." The price of the purchase was:

  • 7 coats, each containing a yard and a half of cloth
  • 9 hatchets
  • 8 hoes
  • 20 knives
  • 4 moose skins
  • 10 and a half yards of cotton fabric

This area of land was initially called "Duxburrow New Plantation", and would be known as such for almost 7 years.


The first church is organized in Bridgewater. It is located in the part of the town that would later become West Bridgewater.

June 3, 1656

The general court incorporates Duxburrow New Plantation, also know as Duxbury Plantation, and establishes its name as Bridgewater, Massachusetts.


John Cary is elected to be the first constable of Bridgewater. He is the town's "first officer." The first town meeting is held and sets fines for not attending or being late to town meetings. Not responding in a meeting when your name was called, or leaving a meeting early, are also subject to fines.


Massasoit, Sachem of the Wampanoag Indians, passes away. Two of his sons, Wamsutta and Metacomet, went to the Pilgrims in Plymouth and requested English names. They were then called Alexander and Philip. Alexander took the place of his father as the new Sachem. The first meeting house is built. It is made of logs and is located in the portion of town that would later become West Bridgewater.

December 26, 1661

At a town meeting, it was voted to build a dwelling home that would be given freely to a minister willing to "live & Die Amongst us." The home was probably constructed in the Spring of 1662, and is known today as the Keith House.

June 3, 1662

The settlement purchases the additional area of Hockomock from the Wampanoag Indians.

August 28, 1662

Goodmen Edson, Parker, and Harris, with John Willis, Sr. and John Haywward Sr. were ordered to lay out a highway for bringing hay from the Great Meadow to the town.


Massasoit's son, Alexander, is siezed by the Plymouth Court. He soon becomes ill and dies. Some believe he was poisoned. His brother Philip becomes the new Sachem. The first grist mill is built in Bridgewater by Deacon Samuel Edson.


The First Parish Church of Bridgewater is officially organized by Rev. James Keith. Recently arrived in Boston from Scotland, he accepted the post at the request of Dr. Increase Mather.

March 4, 1665

It is decided at a town meeting that any male residents that were not freeman be required to take an oath of fidelity or be fined. It is further decided that strangers wanting residence in the town be required to apply for permission to do so, that all public meetings are forbidden unless approved by the government, and that any person suspected of or being a "Ranter or Quaker" shall be brought before the town constable and fined. William Brett is one of two men appointed to carry out this law against Quakers.

July 7, 1668

The Plymouth Court grants Bridgewater more land, stating that the town should extend six miles from the center on the north side to the boundary of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, on the west to the Taunton bounds, on the south and southeast to the Titicut River, and six miles to the east. The conditions stated that all lands formerly granted to settlers would remain undisturbed, that the "Indians be not molested", and that the town give Rev. James Keith a a grant of land within these extended boundaries. Highways to Taunton, Plymouth and Boston are also laid out.


Bridgewater grants a license to John Howard to "keep an ordinary or tavern, the first public house operated in the town." The license is approved by the General Court at Plymouth. The establishment is run by John Howard and his descendants until 1821. It was torn down in 1838.

June 21, 1675

"King Philip's War" begins in Swansea, Massachusetts.

August 12, 1676

Massasoit's son, King Philip, is killed at Mount Hope, Rhode Island. He was beheaded, dismembered, and quartered as was the custom for someone that was considered a traitor to the King of England. Local lore states that his head was placed upon a pole in Plymouth, Massachusetts, and remained there for many years as a warning to others. King Philip's War is officially over.

June 2, 1685

New Plymouth Colony establishes the three counties of Barnstable, Bristol, and Plymouth, with each one being assigned a sheriff and court to deal with criminal matters. Bridgewater is located inside of Plymouth County.


Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay Colonies are combined into one large colony.

June 1, 1716

The North and South Parishes of Bridgewater are established.

June 25, 1717

Rev. James Keith gives a dedicatory sermon at the new First Parish Church in Bridgewater.

July 22, 1719

Bridgewater's first minister, Rev. James Keith, dies at his home at the age of 76. Rev. Cotton Mather is present at his death and gives Keith's eulogy.

December 14, 1723

The East Parish becomes the third parish of Bridgewater. It is created from land in the east end of the North Parish, and includes the estates of 9 families previously located in the south parish, namely those of Barnabas Seabury, Thomas Latham, Charles Latham, Nicholas Wade, Nathaniel Harden, Thomas Hooper, William Conant, Isaac Lazell, and Joseph Washburn.

October 28, 1724

Rev. Samuel Angier is ordained. He becomes the first minister of the new East Parish in Bridgewater.

January 3, 1738

The north part of the West Parish and a small portion of the north-west corner of the East Parish are set up as the new North Parish. The parish's first pastor is the Rev. John Porter.

February 4, 1743

The southwest part of the South Parish, along with a part of Middleborough, is set up as Titicut Parish. The Rev. Solomon Reed becomes their first minister.


The Ames Ironworks is established.

February 1775

Parliament declares Massachusetts to be in a state of rebellion against Great Britain.

April 19, 1775

The first shots of the Revolutionary War are exchanged in Lexington, Massachusetts. The War for Independence has officially begun.

July 8, 1783

Slavery is legally abolished in Massachusetts as a result of the ruling by the Massachusetts Supreme Court in the case of Commonwealth vs. Jennison, in which a slave named Quock Walker sued his owner for his freedom. The court based their ruling on the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights, which states "all men are born free and equal."


The Baptist Church is organized in West Bridgewater.

July 12, 1791

A natural disaster, the "Great Tempest," hits Bridgewater.


The Bridgewater Academy is established by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for the purpose of "promoting piety, religion and morality, and the education of youth in such languages and in search of the liberal arts and services."


The First Congregational Church is built on Howard Street.

September 1816

A "Great Frost" kills all the corn crops.

August 2, 1817

Bridgewater is hit by a "Great Wind and Gale."


The Industrial Age begins as iron furnaces and wool mills are launched.

June 15, 1821

North Bridgewater, formerly known as the North Parish of Bridgewater, is incorporated as its own town.

February 16, 1822

West Bridgewater, formerly known as the West Parish of Bridgewater, is incorporated as its own town.


The Bridgewater Academy constructs a new building at the south end of Bridgewater's Central Square. The land had been donated by the heirs of Major Isaac Lazell.

June 14, 1823

East Bridgewater, formerly known as the East Parish of Bridgewater, is incorporated as its own town. The last remaining parish, the South Parish, becomes known as Bridgewater and retains the original incorporation date of 03 Jun 1656.

February 20, 1824

A portion of Bridgewater is annexed to Halifax.

January 25, 1837

Joshua Crane records a "Remarkable Appearance in the Skies."


The first session of the Bridgewater Normal School is held in Bridgewater's Town Hall. Led by principal Nicholas Tillinghast, the class consists of 7 male and 21 female students. The school is created for the education of teachers.


The Methodist Church is built in Cochesett.


The Copeland and Hartwells Shoe Manufactory is established with a staff of 50 people. Bridgewater has now joined other southeastern Massachusetts towns in the shoe trade.

May 5, 1874

The town of North Bridgewater changes its name to Brockton.


The Howard Seminary is completed. It is the first high school in West Bridgewater. The Bridgewater Academy suspends operations due to a "lack of sufficient patronage." The building is leased to the Town of Bridgewater and is used as a high school.


Bridgewater's Public Library is organized.

April 9, 1881

The town of Brockton is incorporated as a city.

July 18, 1895

The Old Bridgewater Historical Society is incorporated. The Society's first president is Atty. Benjamin W. Harris.

June 20, 1901

The Old Bridgewater Historical Society's Memorial Building, located on Howard Street in West Bridgewater, is dedicated in a public ceremony.


The Water Commission and the Board of Health are established.


The "Spanish Influenza" strikes in Massachusetts. Bridgewater, East Bridgewater, West Bridgewater, and Brockton are all affected as businesses, schools, railways and more cease operation for several weeks.


Saint Ann's Catholic Church is constructed.


A new junior-senior high school replaces the Howard Seminary and the high school located in the old Bridgewater Academy building. The Academy building and its land are deeded to the Town of Bridgewater.


The Union of Congregational Church and the Unitarian Church are established.

August to September 1954

Bridgewater is struck by Hurricane Carol.


The Spring Street School is built.


The construction of Route 24 is begun and Bridgewater adopts zoning by-laws.


The Conservation Commission is established.


A complete restoration of the Bridgewater Academy was begun. When it was completed, the building became Bridgewater's new Town Hall.