Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Isaac Backus and Religious Freedom

The role of the Reverend Isaac Backus (1724-1806) of North Middleborough as founder of the First Baptist Church of Middleborough, Baptist theologian and historian, and spiritual leader of southeastern Massachusetts' Baptist community has been well documented. Less well known are the contributions Backus made to the advancement of American civil liberties during the Revolutionary period of our history.

A one-time devout adherent of Congregationalism, Backus was a conciliatory man who tried to heal the clefts of religious division he saw opening all about him. Despite his sponsorship of the Baptist faith, Backus remained supportive of his Congregational friends and neighbors and felicitous of their well-being, while speaking out for "Liberty of Conscience" for all faiths.

The defining episode in Elder Backus' development as a religious libertarian was undoubtedly the imprisonment of his widowed mother in Connecticut "for adopting religious sentiments contrary to law," and ever afterward Backus would remain a staunch defender of the rights of religious dissenters.

Backus was an ardent spokesman for the principle of religious tolerance, arguing that "the imposing of religious tests hath been the engine of tyranny in the world." He coupled the ideal of religious liberty with that of political freedom, and articulated this view in several of his many published pamphlets and sermons, including "A Plea for Liberty of Conscience" (1770), "An Appeal to the Public for Religious Liberty Against the Oppressions of the Present Day" (1773), and "True Policy Requires Equal Religious Liberty" (1779).

In 1774, Backus represented the Warren Association of Separate Baptist Churches' interests before the first Continental Congress, where he was a vocal advocate of religious tolerance and the separation of church and state. To the Baptists, it seemed unreasonable "that they should be called upon to contend for civil liberty if after it was gained they should still be exposed to oppression in religious concerns, when, therefore, the first Continental Congress met in Philadelphia, the Warren Association sent Mr. B. their agent to the convention there to procure some influence in their favor; but their efforts were unavailing; they were told they might as well attempt to change the course of the sun in the heavens as to try to effect a change in their measures respecting religion."

Backus' views were decidedly forward-thinking and, though at times they brought suspicion upon him and cast his patriotism into doubt by others, he was to reiterate them unflinchingly on numerous occasions, including before both the Massachusetts State Constitutional Convention in 1779, and the state convention to adopt the Federal Constitution in 1787.

Sadly, Backus did not live long enough to see the acceptance of religious tolerance for all as a foundation stone of democracy. It was not until the 1830s that the famous Dedham case disestablished Congregationalism in Massachusetts as the "state religion" and established, in principle, religious liberty and tolerance for all faiths, a cause for which Backus had labored his entire adult life.

Though Backus died long before this outcome, his life was full of purpose and continues to provide us with hope. As his epitaph in the Titicut Cemetery at North Middleborough reads: "His zeal and persevering industry in the cause of civil and religious liberty through a long, laborious life is still manifest ... "

For more information see:
Alvah Hovey, A Memoir of the Life and Times of Rev. Isaac Backus (Boston: Gould and Lincoln, 1858).
This is the earliest comprehensive biography of Backus. Since its publication, numerous biographies and treatises on Backus' life and work have been published.

Elder Isaac Backus (1724-180), engraving, late 18th century.
Backus was Middleborough's passionate spokesman for the cause of religious tolerance. His life's purpose was the establishment of religious liberty for all faiths, a cornerstone of American democracy.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Central Fire Station

Middleborough's original Central Fire Station was a two-story woodframe building located on the east side of School Street nearly opposite the School Street School. The station served nearly three-quarters of a century before being replaced by a modern brick structure on North Main Street in 1926. The 1926 station was designed by local architect of note Wilson G. Harlow who was responsible for several other local buildings, including the original portion of what is now the Mayflower Co-operative Bank on South Main Street. The new Central Fire Station was dedicated on December 30, 1926. The program for the day's event included a photograph of the new station on the cover, with a brief history of the department featured on the inside.
In 2003, the Central Fire Station was replaced with the present structure which was designed to incorporate some stylistic elements of its successor.

Dedication of the Central Fire Station, dedication program, 8.25 in. x 9 in., paper, December 30, 1926

The program was printed by H. L. Thatcher & Company of Middleborough.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Plymouth Archaeological Rediscovery Project

Southeastern Massachusetts, including Middleborough, holds a wealth of archaeological information. In the past, however, much of this information has gone unanalyzed and overlooked. Making this information more readily available to researchers, educators, archaelogists and historians, however, is likely to provide a deeper and richer awareness and understanding of early local history. This is the premise behind the Plymouth Archaeological Rediscovery Project.

Although Plymouth Colony was not the first English colony in the New World, it retains the distinction, justifiably or not, of being considered "America's Hometown" and "the birthplace of American Democracy". Unfortunately while Plymouth Colony maintains a rich and valuable Native American and Colonial history, the archaeology of the former Plymouth Colony has never been utilized to the degree that we feel it can be. Various institutions maintain collections excavated beginning in the 1850s, that for a variety of reasons (time, financial constraints, lack of staff) have gone unanalyzed and unpublished for decades.
What we at PARP hope to do is to help to bring about a change in this situation by synthesizing as much of this information about Plymouth Colony and make it available to school teachers, avocational and professional archaeologists, historians and anyone with an interest in this historically rich area.

One of the stated goals of the Plymouth Archaeological Rediscovery Project is the compilation of all known archaeological data covering the mainland area of the former Plymouth Colony (Plymouth, Bristol and Barnstable Counties). While the focus of the project is upon early colonial archaeology (1620-90), emphasis will also be placed upon Native archaeology as well. PARP also seeks to promote awareness of each community's archaeological history and resources, and solicits input from residents and researchers. Visit the Plymouth Archaeological Rediscovery Project website for much more information on this exciting project.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Betty's Neck

Betty's Neck Panorama with Peach Barn, photographed by Michael J. Maddigan, July 10, 2009

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Plymouth Rock Chickens

Once the most popular chicken in America, the Plymouth Rock is now considered an heirloom breed. The Plymouth Rock was first developed following the Civil War by D. A. Upham of Worcester, Massachusetts, and other farmers who sought to develop a cold-hardy dual-purpose fowl that had a large, deep-set body, which permitted them to produce a substantial number of eggs annually (up to 200), as well as providing a meaty bird. The original Plymouth Rocks had a unique white and black striped or barred pattern and consequently came to be known as Plymouth Barred Rocks.
Locally, Plymouth Rocks were highly favored. In 1882, Solomon H. Sylvester of Middleborough praised the relatively new breed, and such enthusiasm upon the part of Middleborough and Lakeville farmers encouraged the bird's popularity.
Mr. S. H. Sylvester, a fowl fancier, of Middleboro, of much experience, says that for the most good qualities and the fewest poor ones, the "Plymouth Rock" fowl excel all others, as they are good layers and setters, easy keepers, hardy, plump and nice for the table. The Poultry World backs up this statement, so now our readers will know what kind of hens to keep.

Later, other varieties of Plymouth Rocks were developed, including the brilliantly white White Plymouth Rock and the Buff Plymouth Rock (developed from cross-breeding Plymouth Rocks with Orpingtons and Rhode Island Reds). So popular did the Plymouth Rock breed become, that it warranted its own magazine, Plymouth Rock Monthly which was devoted entirely to the bird. Ironically, though the Plymouth Rock was once the most commonly kept chicken in America, its popularity plummeted in the 20th century, so much so that it was believed by some to have been on the verge of extinction. Today, however, the Plymouth Rock Fanciers Club of America and other organizations help foster this heirloom breed.

Fortunately Plymouth Rocks, including the original Plymouth Barred Rock, are still kept locally and their light pink-brown eggs sold. The following video courtesy of the Dahlia Farm on Plymouth Street in Middleborough depicts a brood of Plymouth Rocks intrepidly encountering its first snow.

Plymouth Rock Monthly, February, 1925, cover.

A. C. Smith, The Plymouth Rock Standard and Breed Book (The American Poultry Association, 1915 rev. ed.), cover.

"Chickens First Snow", courtesy The Dahlia


Old Colony Memorial, "County and Elsewhere", February 8, 1882, p. 5.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Clear Pond

Early History

In a town populated with the largest lakes in Massachusetts, little Clear Pond - an 18-plus acre kettle pond - frequently receives little notice.

There is little if any recorded association between the local native population and Clear Pond. It seems to appear initially in the historical record as a landmark on the western boundary of the enormous tract of land which was set off to Lieutenant Nathaniel Southworth (1648-1710) whose father, Constant Southworth had been instrumental in the negotiation of the Sixteen Shilling Purchase which comprised most of modern-day Lakeville. The Southworths owned the land, including a large share of acreage abutting Clear Pond, through the early 1800s when it came to be owned by Hannah (Southworth) Jackson, great-granddaughter of Lieutenant Nathaniel and wife of Samuel Jackson.

Throughout the period, the area north and south of the pond was heavily wooded, a fact which gave the vicinity of the pond (at least south of Rhode Island Road) the name Clear Pond Woods. It is likely that the area was used simply as wood lots. Certainly, the property on the west side of Clear Pond Road at Rhode Island Road was employed for this purpose as documented in various land records.

By 1800, a small portion of the western bank of the pond was owned by William Nelson while the remainder - nearly 80 percent of the pond - remained owned by Hannah Jackson in her own right. Nelson's share was sold in 1806 (at which time it was described as a wood lot) to Ephraim Ward. Ward's homestead was located to the south on what is now Stetson Street at Crooked Lane and ownership descended during the 19th century through Ward's son-in-law Sprague Stetson to his granddaughter, Jennie (Stetson) Bowen. Meanwhile, the Jackson's 275 acre property which stretched from Clear Pond to Lake Assawompsett, was divided into a number of parcels over time, four of which bordered upon the pond. By 1914, three of these four were in the hands of George Ward Stetson, Sprague Stetson's son and Jennie Bowen's brother.

Prior to the 1840s, the sole access to Clear Pond was by means of Rhode Island Road which made a large U-shaped turn just east of the pond. Clear Pond Road did not exist until 1831 or later and it likely was developed only in the 1840s when an easy connection between the Upper Four Corners (the intersection of Main and Vaughan Streets) and the Lakeville railroad station in the Haskins Neighborhood was wanted. As a result, Clear Pond Road was laid out and was known as late as 1915 as the "road leading from the Upper Four Corners to the Lakeville Station", a clear indicator of its original purpose.

Clear Pond appears to have been of little practical use historically. Covered by a growth of forest, the land surrounding Clear Pond was never cleared for agricultural use. The likely reason for this lack of development was the pond's location at the far northwestern extreme of the Southworth property which made it largely inaccessible (or at least inconvenient) to the remainder of the farm, the locus of which was situated closer to the Nemasket River along Vaughan Street. Consequently, Clear Pond Woods remained as wood lots, the primary function of which was to provide fuel for their owners.

Though of little use agriculturally, Clear Pond, however, was put to use for other purposes. Fishing was popular in the pond and was reported as having been good in December, 1914 [Middleboro Gazette, "Middleboro", January 1, 1915, p. 1]. Ice skating in winter was also a popular diversion, particularly with the children residing in the vicinity of the Upper Four Corners [French, p. 88].

Perhaps the most unusual scene witnessed at Clear Pond was a communal baptism in July, 1877, in which 43 people were said to have been baptized by Reverend L. B. Bates, a Methodist minister. According to the Middleboro Gazette, "there was a large company present" to witness the event. [Middleboro Gazette, "What the Gazette Was Saying Fifty Years Ago", July 8, 1927, p. 6]. Such numbers were perhaps not startling given the Methodist and Baptist revivals which attracted numerous new members throughout the summer and fall. [Old Colony Memorial, "Middleboro", November 8, 1877, p. 4].

Swimming Hole

Without a doubt, Clear Pond was best known prior to the mid-1920s for serving as a swimming hole for Middleborough and Lakeville children and adults.

Area residents were accustomed to enjoying the cool waters of the pond on the hottest summer days. Increasingly during the late 1800s and early 1900s, Clear Pond began attracting larger and larger crowds, principally because the other ponds in the vicinity had become municipal water supplies, and bathers were barred from them. A heat wave in mid-July, 1911, when the thermometer topped 100 degrees not surprisingly saw "the swimming pool at Clear pond ... the attraction for large numbers of local residents recently" [Middleboro Gazette, "Middleboro", July 14, 1911, p. 2, and ibid., "Heat and Drought", July 14, 1911, p. 2].

Harry Norris who grew up in Lakeville in the early 1900s recalled Clear Pond as an enclave nearly exclusive to boys. "I used to go swimming in Clear Pond, restricted to boys only. We didn't wear bathing suits. I'm not kidding. I didn't own a bathing suit. I think the girls snuck around there once in awhile." Norris' supposition was correct, for D. Evelyn Norris recalled that "we learned to swim in Clear Pond. We'd walk up the dirt road and go into the pond, and it hurt your feet when you were barefoot." [French, pp. 61, 86].

Not only was Clear Pond used for swimming, but it was also employed for bathing and washing. Again Harry Norris: "... My father would take all the boys over to Clear Pond in the wagon to have their baths, so they'd all be clean to go to church. There were four or five boys at the time and was the easiest way to wash them clean." [French, p. 86].

The 1920s saw even greater numbers of bathers patronizing the pond, now conveniently within reach by means of the automobile. Even the local Gazette in 1921 commented upon the growing popularity of the pond on particularly hot summer days, and it remarked on the then unusual sight of motorists dressed only in bathing suits passing through town destined for Clear Pond.

Clear pond has been a favorite resort for many these hot days of late. Never before have so many bathers been noticed there and were there a chance for changing clothing the pretty pond with its fine sandy bottom would be even more appreciated. During the past week many autos have been noticed with the occupants clad in bathing suits on their way to this spot. [Middleboro Gazette, "Middleboro", July 29, 1921, p. 1].

In 1925, the Gazette estimated that during hot weather in June of that year, "hundreds flocked there ... to cool off." [Middleboro Gazette, "Drowning at Clear Pond", June 12, 1925, p. 3].

Tragic Waters

While Clear Pond is small compared to Lakeville's other ponds, and has a somewhat broad bank and sand bars, the appearance of the pond is deceiving. The bank drops off quickly and the pond is deep at points, fed as it is by spring holes. In 1879, one young boy, Herbert Day "went in bathing in Clear pond and was near being drowned; in fact was drowned to all appearances. He is now doing well under a physician's care." [Middleboro Gazette, "What the Gazette Was Saying Fifty Years Ago", August 2, 1929, p. 6].

George Haskins of Lakeville, recalled the deceptive nature of Clear Pond for swimmers.

We boys used to go up to Clear Pond swimming in the nude. You could go out quite a ways before you got up to your neck and then it would be over your head. After you got out a ways beyond that there was a little island [on the bottom of the pond] so that you could touch ground again. I never had a chance to swim enough to be good, so I never went out there. [French, p. 169].

Harry Norris was also familiar with how quickly the bottom of the pond dropped off into spring holes, and experienced one nerve-wracking moment when he landed in deep water.

We used to go when we were quite young over to Clear Pond swimming and there was nobody there to supervise us. They had a raft that some of the kids built. It wasn't anchored down, so we had it over in the part of the pond where it dropped off kind of quick.

I was jumping on and off the raft and the first thing I know, it was over my head and I couldn't swim, so I was bobbing up and down. Finally , somebody saw me there and pulled me out. It was kind of scary. [French, p. 89]

Not all were as fortunate as Norris. In the 13 years between 1912 and 1925, five deaths occurred in the pond, acquiring for it a grim notoriety. Newspaper accounts at the time of each incident tell the tale:

CHARLES W. O'CONNOR, ae 17, June 24, 1912
The second drowning accident of the season in Lakeville occurred Monday night. Clear pond was the scene of the accident, and Charles W. O'Connor of Long Grove, Iowa, was the victim. He had recently come to Middleboro and worked for E. E. Cole for a time at his silver factory, and later at a shoe factory. O'Connor was 17. He went swimming Monday night and later the body was found [by another group of bathers]. There were stories of alleged foul play, but these do not seem to be substantiated, and Dr. A. V. Smith, assistant medical examiner, pronounced it a case of accidental drowning. The boy's mother in Iowa was notified of the accident by Chief [of Police] Swift, and she wired Monday to have the body sent there. [Middleboro Gazette, "Carver" [sic], June 28, 1912, p. 1; see also Brockton Daily Enterprise, "Boy Drowned in Clear Pond", June 25, 1912, which gives the same facts].

JOHN McISAAC, ae 16, July 23, 1917
John McIsaac, the 16-year-old son of Stephen McIsaac of Centre street, lost his life by drowning at Clear pond, Monday afternoon. Young McIsaac had been employed at Leonard & Barrows' factory and in the afternoon walked to Clear pond for a swim. He is said to have been a good swimmer and he walked right into the water on a sand bar which breaks abruptly into deep water. There were a number of lily pads in that section and the youth sank almost immediately. There were several boys about and as soon as they realized what had happened they went to the nearest home and telephoned for assistance. Dr. Alfred Elliott came to the lake and walking out where he was directed located and recovered the body. Medical examiner Charles E. Morse of Wareham was summoned and viewed the remains later in the evening. McIsaac was a member of the Catholic Club. The funeral was held in Sacred Heart church, Thursday morning in charge of Rev. Fr. T. A. Curtin, and burial was in St. Mary's cemetery. [Middleboro Gazette, "Drowned in Clear Pond", July 27, 1917, p. 1]

WILLIAM HIGGINS, ae 12, and CHARLES LAWRENCE, ae 12, April 18, 1922
Two more names were added to the already long list of drownings in this section this week when two boys came to their death in the waters of Clear pond Tuesday. William, the 12-year old son of Mr. and Mrs. P. Henry Higgins and Charles, the son of Herbert Lawrence of the same age, were the victims. Both families reside in Lakeville, near the Upper Four Corners. The two boys, in company with Robert Higgins, a younger brother of William, went to Clear pond about 9.30 o'clock, riding a part of the way with Maurice Washburn. They had constructed a raft and they went to have some sport with this. No really definite story of the actual happenings is available, but it is evident that the raft began to tip. The younger Higgins boy managed to retain his hold and finally, after taking off his shoes and stockings, secured a plank and made his way to the shore. The Lakeville authorities were notified and assistance was obtained from the Middleboro police. Chief Sisson and officer Rogers, with selectman Fred A. Shockley of Lakeville, took charge of affairs. The younger Higgins told the searchers where he had last seen his companions. There were no boats in Clear pond available and finally one was secured from Middleboro and another from another pond in Lakeville. Late in the afternoon the body of the Lawrence boy was found, standing upright in the water. Although search was made for the Higgins boy the body was not found until about 7.30 the following morning. This was but a few feet from where the first body was located. [Middleboro Gazette, "Two Drowned in Clear Pond", April 21, 1922, p. 9].

[At the time of the accident, there was allegedly still ice in the pond. Lakeville residents at the time attributed the deaths partly to the heavy boots the boys had worn. (D. Evelyn Norris and Wallace Wilkie in French, pp. 62 and 97)].

RONALD LaPOINTE, ae 10, June 7, 1925
Ronald LaPointe, the ten-year-old son of Paul LaPointe of East Taunton, was drowned in Clear pond Sunday shortly after noon where he had gone with several of his boy chums to get cooled off from the sultry weather. He was walking from one sand bar to another when he stepped into one of the deep spring holes and sank, being seized with cramps. Although there were several in the water at the time all attempts to rescue the boy were futile. Dragging the pond was soon begun with all kinds of improvised implements and the water became so roiled that it was hard work to carry on the work for a long time. The body was located a short distance from where he was last seen and brought ashore. Assistant medical examiner A. V. Smith viewed the remains and made a finding of accidental drowning. The remains were later taken to the parents' home. [Middleboro Gazette, "Drowning at Clear Pond", June 12, 1925, p. 3].

A Private Water Supply

In 1925, the Lakeville State Sanatorium, which had previously relied upon water wells located west of the Nemasket River near Bridge Street to supply it with water for domestic purposes, began searching for a new source. At the start of that year, Eugene R. Kelley, Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health petitioned for legislation which would authorize the sanatorium to acquire an additional supply. Though no source was made specific in Kelley's petition, local residents understood is object. The petition "is taken to mean that the institution wants to get Clear pond on Rhode Island road for its supply, only a short distance away. This would give a supply of exceptionally pure water." Having well documented the pond's growing summertime popularity with Lakeville and Middleborough residents, however, the newspaper admitted that "objections are liable from the large number who use this pond for bathing purposes during the season." [Middleboro Gazette, "Middleboro", March 13, 1925, p. 1].

Notwithstanding the possibility of protests by Lakeville residents, the commonwealth dispatched engineers to the pond to investigate its suitability as a water supply. The men were engaged during the summer in drilling wells with little initial success. "They have found too great a per cent of iron in most of these wells." By mid-August, however, the engineers apparently "succeeded in getting the quality desired", and chemical testing later confirmed this. Accordingly, in 1925, the Department of Public Health was authorized to take the pond and the necessary land:

This property is taken for the purpose of supplying the Lakeville State Sanatorium with pure water for domestic and other purposes and for collecting, storing, holding and preserving the purity of the water supply and conveying the same to said Sanatorium and for constructing and maintaining a pumping station and electric power lines to supply such power thereto. [Plymouth Deeds 1504:83, April 13, 1926].

Six parcels and portions of three others from five different owners (George W. Stetson, Jennie (Stetson) Bowen, Serena E. (Haskins) Bernhardt, Everett T. Lincoln and Frank A. Hackett), as well as Clear Pond itself, were taken by the commonwealth to create a nearly 40 acre preserve. To connect the pond with the sanatorium grounds, a 40 foot wide tract extending eastwards and immediately south of Rush Pond to the rear of the sanatorium property on Main Street was also taken from owners John G. Paun, Sarah I. and Grace I. Paun, Ezra Fillmore's heirs and Abraham L. Shockley.

A pumping station was constructed on the east side of the pond, powered by electricity carried through a transmission line from the sanatorium. To convey the water to the sanatorium, a pipeline was laid between the pond and the hospital.

On July 26, 1926, the Middleboro Gazette carried the headline "Closed to Bathers" which announced the fate of the pond.

Clear pond, the last of the bathing places within easy reach of the town, has been closed to bathers and has been taken over by the state for a water supply for the lakeville Sanatorium. Work has been started there towards the erection of a pumping station that will supply the above institution and later a pipe line will be installed through the woods to the sanatorium which will afford that place the best drinking water in this section. For the past few years, after Taunton and New Bedford gained control of Assawampsett and Pocksha and tabooed bathing, Clear pond has been the only place to take a dip and hundreds went there during the summer afternoons to cool off. A fence has now been built around the pond and trespassing is forbidden. It is expected that as soon as the new system is in operation, the wells near the Nemasket river that now supply the sanatorium will be discontinued.

The state has been working for some time in the matter of the acquisition of this pond and the location close by the institution made it an ideal proposition and solved the question of a good water supply. [Middleboro Gazette, "Closed to Bathers", July 26, 1927, p. 1].

A Public Park for Lakeville

By the 1950s, Clear Pond had outlived its usefulness as a water supply. By that time, Middleborough had extended its water line to Lakeville in order to accommodate the sanatorium. The seemingly inevitable abandonment of Clear Pond as a water supply prompted Lakeville residents to action who saw in the site an ideal public park.

Despite the fact that we are surrounded by lakes, and, we have within our bounds tthe largest natural body of water in the state the finding of an area adequate for our needs has proved difficult. It was thought that Clear Pond, which has been used by the Lakeville State Sanitarium as a water supply for a number of years might be the answer to our problem, especially in view of the fact that the Sanitarium had been successful in securing the extension of the Middleboro water line to the Sanitarium grounds. [One Hundred Third Annual Town Report of the Town Officers of the Town of Lakeville for the Year 1955].

The transition from private water supply to public park, however, was not without difficulty. A bill (S-444) which would have transferred the pond and surrounding land to the Town of Lakeville as a recreational area failed when Paul Anderson of the Middleborough Board of Selectmen indicated at the public hearing on the matter that the Town of Middleborough "might not be able to guarantee an adequate supply of water at all times [to the Lakeville State Sanatorium] and on this basis the bill was turned down." With this unsuccessful outcome, the committee charged with developing a suitable recreational area for Lakeville suggested that the community look towards Long Pond.

Nonetheless, more diehard adherents of the proposal prevailed. In 1956, another bill passed permitting the land and pond to be transferred on condition that it "be maintained as a public park for the benefit of the inhabitants of the Town of Lakeville." Helping allay fears which the commonwealth might have regarding the uncertainty of the Middleborough water supply was the provision that the Department of Health be permitted "to maintain its pumping station, pipe line and power line, and to draw on the waters of said Clear Pond for the purposes of emergency water supply at Lakeville State Sanatorium." [Plymouth Deeds 2552:462, September 11, 1956].

Clear Pond Park

Clear Pond and its surrounding acreage was officially transferred from the commonwealth to Lakeville on September 11, 1956, but ironically, no one benefitted from the waters of Clear Pond in 1957. A drought in Massachusetts prevented the park from being opened.

Nonetheless, work was immediately undertaken in 1957 to create a park at the site. The Lakeville town meeting of March 11 of that year appropriated $5,000 for the improvement of the property. The largest task, though one little mentioned, was the creation of the beach itself which involved grading the pond bank and the importation of tons of sand to create a 300 foot long sandy shoreline for bathers. At the time, a parking area was created as well to accommodate those arriving by car. In 1958, a wooden bath house and toilet was constructed, new gates and a water supply installed, and 20 picnic tables purchased and put in place. Additionally, "water safety, life saving and training equipment, such as the life guard tower, boat, ring buoys and wharf were purchased and installed."

C. Mansfield Whitney, the original staff director of the park wrote of its inaugural season in 1958: .
Clear Pond Park was opened on June 23rd with what I feel were very adequate facilities for the first year. The physical properties at the beach consist of a bath house for the changing of clothes, rest rooms, an excellent parking area for automobiles, a 16-foot pyramidal tent on loan from Thomas Sena [which served as a first-aid station], a lifeguard tower, a small section of wharf, a well with water pump and 500 gallon storage tank, and life saving equipment. [One Hundred Sixth Annual Report of the Town Officers of the Town of Lakeville for the Year 1958].

During the first year, American Red Cross courses in swimming for both adults and children, as well as life saving classes, were conducted.

Improvements continued throughout the period. In 1959, a 14 by 14-foot combined administration, first-aid and storage building was erected to replace the previous year's tent, and 150 feet of the beach was widened. The following year, two additional life guards stands were built. "Another convenience established for the first time [in 1960] was a refreshment stand operated by Robert Mann. This facility was enthusiastically accepted by the bathers and eliminated the vending machines which presented many problems in past seasons." In 1961, the beach was rebuilt and resanded, a continual priorty need at the park.

Clear Pond Park was an immediate success. So much so that its early popularity began creating challenges. By 1962, the park was so crowded on warm weekends that the picnic tables had to be relocated to a less congested area in the pines "with notice that they were not to be moved, and their use was restricted to two hours. These restrictions were stenciled on each table." At the close of the 1963 season, a decision was taken by the Lakeville Park Commissioners to close the park to all but Lakeville residents and non-residential property owners.

Since 1958, Clear Pond Park has catered to the needs of local residents and continues to fulfill its historic role as an important summertime recreation area.


The surface area of Clear Pond as historically recorded varies greatly, ranging from 18 and one-quarter acres to as high as 28 acres. Complicating matters somewhat is the fact that Clear Pond is a spring-fed pond, and height levels (and consequently its surficial area) has varied over time.


Brockton Daily Enterprise, "Boy Drowned in Clear Pond", June 25, 1912.

French, Susan Ashley. Toys in the Sand: Recovering Childhood Memories in Lakeville, Massachusetts (East Freetown, MA: Susan Ashley French, 1989).

Lakeville Town Reports, 1955-present

Middleboro Gazette, "Heat and Drought", July 14, 1911, p. 2; Middleboro", July 14, 1911, p. 2; "Carver", June 28, 1912, p. 1; "Middleboro", January 1, 1915, p. 1; "Drowned in Clear Pond", July 27, 1917, p. 1; "Middleboro", July 29, 1921, p. 1; "Two Drowned in Clear Pond", April 21, 1922, p. 9; "Middleboro", March 13, 1925, p. 1; "Drowining at Clear Pond", June 12, 1925, p. 3; "What the Gazette was Saying Fifty Years Ago", July 8, 1927, p. 6; "Closed to Bathers", July 26, 1927, p. 1; "What the Gazette was Saying Fifty Years Ago", August 2, 1929, p. 6

Old Colony Memorial, "Middleboro", November 8, 1877, p. 1

Plymouth County Registry of Deeds, Deeds: 104:6 (Nelson to Ward), 120:10 (Jackson et al. to Jackson), 130:131 (Jackson to Leach), 143:152 (Jackson et al. to Jackson), 144:151 (Division), 163:211 (Cole to Haskins), 164:188 (Southworth to Jackson), 187:198 (Leach et al. to Harlow), 229:73 (Haskins to Pratt et al.), 288:194 (Jackson to Richmond), 331:127 (J. Haskins to G. Haskins), 401:184 (Pratt to Richmond et al.), 460:41 (Harlow to Elwell), 621:494 (Richmond et al. to Smith), 861:70 (Smith to Davis), 901:363 (Davis to Baker), 989:311 (Stetson to Bowen et al.), 1040:401 (Baker to Paun), 1048:80 (Paun to Stetson), 1203:341 (Elwell to Conway), 1203:342 (Conway to Anderson); 1203:508 (Anderson to Paun), 1214:118 (Paun to Stetson), 1214:119 (Stetson to Bowen), 1504:83 (Order of Taking), 1518:413 (Bernhardt et al. to Commonwealth), 2552:462 (Commonwealth to Lakeville), Plans: 4:106 ("Plan Showing Land Taking for the Water Supply of the Lakeville State Sanatorium - Lakeville, Mass. Chapter 277 Acts of 1925 April 1926").


Map of Middleborough, Mass. Drawn by S. Bourne, 1831. Detail.
The detail of this map shows the heavily wooded area which historically surrounded Clear Pond and was known as Clear Pond Woods. The neighborhood served as wood lots for early settlers and Lakeville residents through the early 1900s.

Map of Plymouth County, 1857. Detail.

Map of Clear Pond Land Takings, Lakeville, 1925-26 by Michael J. Maddigan, 2009
This map shows the various parcels which abutted Clear Pond at the time that they were taken by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for the establishment of a domestic water supply for the Lakeville State Sanatorium on Main Street. Additionally, a forty foot-wide strip was also taken linking the Clear Pond water reserve with the rear of the sanatorium grounds.

"Closed to Bathers", headline, Middleboro Gazette, July 26, 1927, page 1.

Clear Pond, Google Earth, July 13, 2009
The limits of Clear Pond Park are readily visible in this aerial view. The lighter-colored vegetation consisting largely of white pine trees contrasts markedly with the darker areas which are mixed hardwoods. The park's eastern boundaries and the former layout of Rhode Island Road may be seen.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Pratt Free School

Originally established as Titicut Academy in 1856, the Pratt Free School was a co-educational institution which catered to the educational needs of the surrounding communities. Nine years later, in 1865, Enoch Pratt of Baltimore, a native of North Middleborough, endowed the school so that local children could receive a high quality education for free. “I make this endowment solely for the benefit of the constant rising generation of my native place”, stated Pratt at the time he made the gift. Later, the school was operated by the Town of Middleborough.

Pratt Free School, postcard, c. 1910.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The View from Shockley Hill, c. 1890

This stereocard dating from about 1890 is one in a series of posed views depicting scenes about Lakeville produced by Middleborough druggist John Shaw for sale in his apothecary shop. The young girl in the light-colored jacket appears in a number of other views made at the time by Shaw. Here she sits with a companion near the crest of Shockley Hill off Highland Road in Lakeville and the two gaze northwards towards Lake Assawompsett. The house at the base of the hill on Highland Road still stands. The large complex in the center near Lake Assawompsett is the Sampson Tavern barn behind which a portion of the tavern itself is visible. It was demolished in 1911 by the City of Taunton. The house at the far right was also owned by the Sampson family and last served as the Tamarack restaurant. It was levelled in a controlled burn in 2002 by the Town of Lakeville. The site is now occupied by Tamarack Park.
"Lakeville Scenes", View from Shockley Hill (Middleborough, MA: John Shaw, publisher, c. 1890).

Sunday, July 19, 2009

What is Right?

The following article was published in the Middleboro Gazette March 20, 1931, and was written by owner and editor Lorenzo Wood in response to the state's desire to clarify the spelling of "Assawompsett".

What is the correct spelling of the largest body of fresh water in the state located in this town and Lakeville? That is what the Massachusetts Geographic Board is trying to learn and this week Selectman Albert A. Thomas received a letter from the board as to what he knew about the spelling of the name of the lake.

It is found spelled seven times as "Assawompsett" on a map accompanying Weston's history of Middleboro; topographic sheet issued by the United States geological survey; Richards' Plymouth county atlas of 1903; James Parkhurst by his daughter, Helen Parkhurst of Lakeville; road map of the State Department of Public Works; annual report of the State Department of Public Health, 1928; report of committee on waterways, 1918.

Three times the board has found it spelled "Assawampsett"; on a map on file in the State Archives Division made in 1794; also a map showing public water supplies in 1922; the text of Weston's history of Middleborough [sic].

"Assawampset" is the spelling on an old state map of 1830. [Middleborough] Selectman Frederic Noble spelled it this way while Chester E. Weston in some of his reports spelled it "Assawompset", and Walling's county map of 1857 showed it as "Assowompset," while on a Walker atlas it is spelled "Assowompsett."

This word in this locality has been used in various ways so you can take your choice.

With the debate unresolved as to the proper spelling, Wood apparently was not up to considering whether Assawompsett was a pond or a lake. Historically, it has been known as both Lake Assawompsett and Assawompsett Pond.

Assawompsett Court street sign, photographed by Michael J. Maddigan, July 19, 2009
Assawompsett Court, located in the Heritage Hill subdivision in Lakeville, bears what is now the most common spelling of the lake.

Map of Middleborough, Mass. Drawn by S. Bourne, 1831. Detail.
The most common spelling in the 19th century eliminated the "O"s from the word. The largest boat ever to operate on the Nemasket River was named the "Assawampsett".

Assawompset School sign, Assawompset School, Main Street, Lakeville
Since its establishment nearly 100 years ago, Lakeville's elementary school has featured the more economical spelling with a single "T" at the end.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Snake River

The Snake River links Long Pond with Lake Assawompsett. Historically also known as Long Pond River, the waterway generally appears as a shrubby swamp with seemingly no clear course. Nonetheless, the river forms an important link between the two bodies of water allowing Long Pond to drain in the lower Lake Assawompsett. In November, 1912, concerned about the flow of water in the river, the Town of Lakeville had it dredged. Today, the Snake River - a wild and beautiful wetland area - may be viewed from Highland Road as well much more closely from Tamarack Park on Bedford Street.

Reflections in the Snake River at Dusk, photograph by Michael J. Maddigan, May 20, 2006

Friday, July 17, 2009

Dr. Sterling A. McLean

Older readers may well remember Dr. Sterling McLean who practiced medicine in Middleborough between 1935 and 1959 and was a well-loved and highly-regarded member of the town's medical community.

Dr. McLean's granddaughter, now living in Florida, has begun a blog, Dr. Sterling McLean, to help perpetuate her grandfather's memory. Over time, she hopes to add additional information and photographs documenting Dr. McLean's life.

Mertie E. Romaine in her History of the Town of Middleboro gives a brief biography of Dr. McLean and his service in Middleborough:

Dr. McLean was born in Plymouth, Massachusetts, May 15, 1909, and was graduated from Plymouth High School with the class of 1926 and from McGill University in 1934. He interned at Montreal General Hospital. In 1940, he received a scholarship from the Public Health Division of the Commonwealth Fund of New York for postgraduate study in pediatrics and obstetrics at Harvard Medical School, the Children's Hospital, and Boston Lying-in Hospital. Coming to Middleboro in July, 1935, he became associated with Dr. Alfred E. Elliott in the practice of medicine. He opened his own office on Rock Street in 1939. Dr. McLean was a member of the medical staff of St. Luke's Hospital in Middleboro, and at the time of his death, May 16, 1959, he was secretary to the staff. In June, 1947, he was named by Governor Robert E. Bradford, medical examiner of the Fourth District of Plymouth County, an office he filled until his death. He married Mrs. Lillian Grant of Middleboro, and there were four sons: Douglas S., Wallace M., Stuart R., and Grant A. McLean.

Dr. McLean was a Commander in the United States Navy during World War II. He served at the Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Naval Station and was medical officer at Dartmouth College where naval personnel were trained, and later at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. He was assigned to the USS Extavia and spent practically his entire tour of duty on that transport. He received his discharge from the navy in 1945 and resumed his local practice.

Sterling Alexander McLean, M. D., photograph, c. 1942, courtesy of Laura (McLean) Harris

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Child's View of Lakeville, 1880

In 1880, Louis Clark of Lakeville submitted the following brief note to Harper's Young People, the juvenile version of the nationally renown periodical:

February. 15, 1880.

I am nine years old. I was born in Boston, but for the last three years I have been living on a farm in Lakeville, Massachusetts. There are a number of lakes near here, and some of them have long Indian names, such as Assawampsett and Quiticus. Yesterday was a warm, spring-like day, and I saw two robins, and I heard the bluebirds singing.

Louis W. Clark.

The short notice, published in the March 9 version of Harper's Young People, reveals a Victorian child's sense of marvel and wonder at a world of strange-sounding though beautiful lakes and birds singing enchantingly overhead. The Clark farm was located at the intersection of Main and Bedford Streets on the south side of Lake Assawompsett.
Harper's Young People, 1:19, March 9, 1880, p. 246.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Maxim's Party Vehicle

The conveyance pictured above was operated by the Middleboro Auto Exchange on Wareham Street and could be hired for parties and excursions. Earlier "party wagons" had operated in Middleborough, most notably by William F. Keyes. The Middleboro Auto Exchange was established in 1905 by Carlton W. Maxim for the sale, lease and repair of automobiles, and operated until 1914. Mertie E. Romaine later described Maxim's party vehicle in her History of the Town of Middleboro. "Mr. Maxim offered the service of a "picnic" conveyance, a sort of automobile barge seating a number of people and used to take parties on excursions, to out-of-town meetings and entertainments in Boston." The ladies in the photograph appear to be enroute to a summer outing, their brilliant white dresses an indicator of the season.

Middleboro Auto Exchange party conveyance, photograph, c. 1912
The conveyance was capable of seating more than a dozen people. Notice the striped blinds which were provided in each section of the car to shade passengers as needed, as well as the "MIDDLEBORO AUTO EXCH'G" painted at the top of the vehicle.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

B. F. Tripp's Ice Cream

While today we may look back nostagically at hand-cranked ice cream, the manual making of ice cream was, in fact, about as commonplace as it is today. Most consumers actually purchased ice cream from confectioners who engaged in making the product during the summer months only. Among local ice cream makers, B. F. Tripp (founded in 1864) was perhaps the best known a century and more ago.

The production of ice cream locally was long considered a harbinger of summer, and was eagerly awaited. "The first ice cream of the season was made by B. F. Tripp Thursday," announced the Middleboro Gazette in April, 1875. "Summer is coming." (Only in 1911 did Tripp's begin manufacturing ice cream year round).

To meet the demand for this summertime treat, Tripp's was required to make ice cream in volume. To do this, manual cranking would have been inadequate for the needs of the business, so ice cream was made by steam - steam-powered machinery slowly churning the cream. The first Middleborough ice cream makers who resorted to steam appear to have been Robinson Brothers in 1873. "Ice cream by steam is something new for Middleboro, but this is what Robinson Bros., have been doing the past week."

Tripp's also resorted to steam-made ice cream and it was probably this firm which manufactured ice cream in a small building on Clifford Street in the rear of the Jenks Machine Shop Building. The operation is depicted upon a Sanborn Company fire insurance map for 1885 as a small one-story wood frame building. Significantly, it was connected with the W. B. Stetson shoe manufactory which occupied the rear of the Jenks Building with leather belting which transferred power from the shoe shop to the ice cream plant.

One of the men engaged in the manufacture of ice cream for Tripp was "Muldoon" Smith, a regional roller polo star who, during the off-season, worked in Tripp's ice cream plant. In the early 1900s, many recalled Smith transporting ice cream by the wheel barrow load, undoubtedly up Wareham Street and across the Four Corners to Tripp's ice cream parlor. By 1908 when Tripp's installed an electrically-driven ice cream maker, ice cream making had been relocated to the Tripp store (which also served as the waiting room at Middleborough center for the local trolleys).

Since 1892, Tripp's had been located on the west side of Center Street where Kramer Park is now located between the Savings Bank Building and the former Panesis store. Although Tripp's was best known for making candy, it also did a lucrative business during the summer months selling ice cream and to cater to customers, the small Tripp shop included an ice cream parlor which was typically redone each summer prior to the start of the season.

At Tripp's, the waiting room, the ice cream room is in order for the opening of the season, tomorrow. It has been painted, re-papered and renovated, and is in spick and span condition. The cream this year is to be of the same high standard and will be made by the latest approved machinery. There will be a large new freezer driven by an electric motor. The arrangement is the first in town, and the freezer will be run directly from the motor by driving gears."

Another novelty introduced in 1908 at Tripp's, in addition to the electric freezer, was the "Ice Cream Cornucopia" or ice cream cone which was introduced in Middleborough by Tripp's in July of that year.

Mertie Romaine who knew Tripp's first hand, wrote in her History of the Town of Middleboro of the popularity of Tripp's ice cream parlor. "Tripp's ice cream parlor ... was a pleasant 'drop in' for Middleboro shoppers, and evenings after dances were held in the Town Hall or Homestead Hall, the ice cream parlor was filled to overflowing."

Demand for ice cream (the making of which was overseen at Tripp's after 1897 by John J. Walsh) could be high, so much so that at least on one occasion Tripp's came close to running out. Had it not been for the quick thinking of Walsh, Tripp's would have undoubtedly seen a run on its establishment.

When it comes to lively stunts J. J. Walsh of the B. F. Tripp Co. is taking off the laurels. His ice cream was getting low the other afternoon and in a short while parched tongues would be without the frozen delicacy for a cooler. The populace must be accommodated, so John phoned up to W. R. Perkins in Lakeville at 3.20 that he must have some cream. The cows were contentedly chewing their cuds in the shady spots, little thinking they would be called upon to "step lively" so early. They were driven to the barn, milked, and the milk run through the cream separator, and soon after 4 o'clock it was down in the store waiting for electric power to run the freezer. Very shortly it was dipped out, and business went on uninterrupted.

Though Tripp's continued in operation until 1966, ice cream became an increasingly smaller part of the business for a number of reasons. Ice cream parlors eventually fell out of fashion, other local makers such as Farrar's began to compete with Tripp's, and mass produced ice cream came to be available in local supermarkets no longer necessitating an inconvenient side trip.

Tripp's Candy Kitchen, published in Mertie E. Romaine, History of the Town of Middleborough. Volume II (Middleborough, MA: Town of Middleborough, 1969), photographic half-tone, c. 1965.
The building was occupied by Tripp's following 1892 which remained there until it closed in 1966. The building was demolished two years later in August, 1968.

"Middleboro.", New York: Sanborn Map & Publishing Co. Limited, August, 1885, detail
This slightly modifed version of the August, 1885, Sanborn fire insurance map depicts the ice cream-mkaing operation which once stood on Clifford Street and was powered by the steam engine of the W. B. Stetson shoe manufactory. Likely, it was operated by B. F. Tripp.

Lucille Bremer as Rose Smith in Vincent Minelli's Meet Me in St. Louis (1944).
Rose holds two cartons of ice cream which had it not been for the fortuitious arrival of Colonel Darley "would have been melted." Patrons of Tripp's in Middleboro in 1903 (the year in which the film was largely set) would have faced a similar dilemma in attempting to get their ice cream home in waxed paper cartons before it melted. Consequently, most enjoyed the treat at the ice cream parlor, which explains the popularity of such institutions.

Middleboro Gazette, "Middleboro", May 11, 1906, p. 4; ibid., May 22, 1908, p. 4; ibid., June 26, 1908, p. 4; ibid., March 12, 1909, p. 6; ibid., May 22, 1914, p. 5; "What the Gazette Was Saying Fifty Years Ago", May 25, 1923, p. 6; "What the Gazette Was Saying Fifty-Five Years Ago", April 11, 1930, p. 8.
Romaine, Mertie E. History of the Town of Middleboro, Massachusetts. Volume II. Middleborough, MA: Town of Middleborough, 1969.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Real Estate Then and Now

An interesting comparison between ads for the same property nearly 100 years apart reveals some interesting contrasts in the way realtors approached prospective buyers. The house in question, the James M. Coombs House at South Main Street, was advertised for sale by Sullivan & Sullivan realtors in November, 1914. While the agency's pitch stressed the durable construction of the house ("this was built for a good house"), it also highlighted the modern amenities such as "furnace heat" and hot and cold running water which were not then universally available in homes. In an interesting reversal, the modern advertisement by Uptown Realtors of Middleborough emphasizes the home's unique past and "Victorian elegance", drawing attention to building features which are no longer commonplace in modern houses. The house was built in 1877 by James M. Coombs, editor of the Middleboro Gazette.


"Real Estate." Middleboro Gazette, advertisement, November, 1914.
"Uptown Realtors", The Real Estate Book, 19:6, advertisement, July, 2009

Friday, July 10, 2009

Indian Pipe and Betty's Neck

While there are few historical resources at Betty's Neck to inform visitors of its rich past and deeply-rooted connection with local Native American history and culture, there is nonetheless a perhaps subtle reminder of the area's past in the small and delicate plant known as Indian Pipe which can be found at this time of year working its way through leaf litter on the forest floor. This is rather an unpleasant plant for its lack of chlorophyll, its waxy appearance, ashen color, clammy feel and the fact that it turns black soon after being picked. For this reason, its alternate name is corpse plant. It feeds off decayed vegetation on the forest floor. Nonetheless, its appearance does resemble the clay elbow pipes made by Native Americans for smoking tobacco and its name is a reminder of the original occupants of Betty's Neck.

Indian Pipe (Monotropa uniflora) photographed at Betty's Neck by Michael J. Maddigan, July 10, 2009

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Nemasket Spring Water

Nemasket Spring, sometimes also referred to as Nemasket Springs, is a series of springs located on the west side of Plymouth Street just north of Muttock. One later owner, Thomas Fielding described it as "hundreds of mineral springs"

Nemasket Spring Water is boiling and bubbling upward from nature’s reservoir as clear and sparkling as heaven’s sunlight. It forces its way through solid beds of porcelain clay, a decomposition of feldspar or kaolin. What can there be more pure than water coming through such a distillatory medium?

While undoubtedly the local Natives were aware of and made use of the springs, much of the folklore surrounding them appears to have been an invention of late 19th century marketers who sought to build a long reputation for the spring water rather than historical fact.

The Tribou Farm

Little has been recorded regarding the springs prior to the 1800s when the property on which the springs are located came into the possession of Melzar Tribou. By the mid-1850s, under the ownership Melzar’s son, Nahum, the farm property occupied nearly the entire west side of Plymouth Street from just north of Muttock to the Nemasket River at Warrentown. In 1858, the farm was visited by a correspondent for the Old Colony Memorial who left the following description:

This farm consists of about 150 acres of very good land, mostly in pasturage and meadow, the grain crop of the present year amounting to only 200 bushels of oats and 100 bushels of corn. The yield of hay, the crop which Mr. Tribou seems to depend upon, is very great, and fills the loft of one of the largest barns in the County. There are cellars under all the buildings, affording ample opportunities for increasing the amount of manure, but which, I cannot but think, are not turned to the best account. There is an abundance of peat on the farm, at a short distance from the stables, which, if thrown into the cellars, might double the amount of manure without damaging its quality.

Mr. Tribou’s interest seems devoted to horses, in which he deals largely, and cattle, of which he has about forty head, cows, calves, steers and working oxen. He is of opinion that the Devons, of which his herd consists, are the best adapted to our soil. Hitherto he has found a ready market for all he can raise. His calves at six months old command from fifty to a hundred dollars. He thinks his stock are good milkers. They certainly make the best working oxen and finest beef cattle. Some are full blooded, others grades; but all are entirely red and can scarcely be distinguished from pure Decons. The herd when seen grazing together is a beautiful sight.

I saw, also, four fine colts, one of which took first prize in its class at the late County [Fair]. The most promising of them, however, is a young Black Hawk which the owner prizes very highly.

Learning that Mr. Tribou has another farm about five miles distant and not far out of my way home, I concluded to take it on my return. This farm consists of about 100 acres, in very rough condition and used only for pasturage. I do not know that Mr. Tribou intends to reduce this place to order, but if he does, I hope he may live long enough to accomplish his work. I think Mr. Tribou deserves much credit for his efforts to establish a regular stock farm in Plymouth County. He is, so far as I know, a pioneer in this enterprise, and it is to be hoped he will meet with that success which will induce others to follow; for without stock no great advance can be made in agriculture.

Later chroniclers stated that Tribou often mowed 200 tons of hay each season. “The grass grows in spring and summer so thick and high in the vicinity of the springs that it is very difficult to get the mowing machine through it.”

Tribou was highly successful as a master farmer, and as the article quoted above implies, accrued a considerable sum of money from the sale of his stock, particularly horses for which he was noted in dealing. “…His capacious stables were … the mecca for traders the country round.” Cattle, nonetheless, remained an important source of income as well, and to promote his animals, Tribou featured them in local fairs, most notably the Plymouth County Agricultural Fair held each autumn in Bridgewater where the animals consistently were awarded blue ribbons as prize specimens.

Through these means, Tribou was able in 1849 to erect a large 14-room house which resembled the George R. Sampson House on Everett Street with its Greek Revival style. Later described as a “pretentious mansion”, it “was one of the most imposing homes in the outskirts of the town. It was of colonial design, of large proportions, with pillars and balcony, and was especially well built.” The house was a landmark on the road from Middleborough to Bridgewater. So notable was the farm, in fact, that the immediate vicinity of the farm situated between Muttock and Warrentown came to be known, for a short time at least, as Tribou and the Tribou Neighborhood. Wealth from the land also permitted Tribou’s son, Nahum, Jr., to attend Middleborough’s prestigious Peirce Academy, Harvard and the Jefferson Medical School, a path typically financially out of reach for most farmers’ sons.

The Tribous and Nemasket Springs

The Nemasket Springs was a feature of the Tribou Farm of which they made great use. About 1850, Nahum Tribou acquired a hydraulic ram which was used to pump water from the spring into his house. The ram was located approximately a quarter of a mile below the house and was powered by water drawn from a small cress-lined brook which flowed from a spring-fed speckled trout pond above the ram and 2,000 feet away.

Tribou is said to have filled the troughs on his farm with Nemasket Spring water, a fact which contributed to the Eden-like mystique of the farm at a time when the quality of water used by many people was of questionable purity. "Tribou had many cattle and horses in this Nemasket Valley, which fattened and thrived on Nemasket Spring Water like babes on a mother's nursing-bottle; at least so say the neighbors."
The Tribous are reputed to have been "approached by New York parties who wanted to buy the springs, but failing to do so they returned from whence they came, very much disappointed." Later, an analytical chemist (probably H. Carlton Smith in 1897) described the site as "a regular Saratoga" and suggested that a resort hotel be constructed "so that visitors could have the benefit of the water, the air and the piny woods." The suggestion was not surprising. In addition to Saratoga, other resorts such as Poland Spring and Deer Park catered to the public desire to "take the waters" in the belief that pure spring water acted as a curative for a multitude of ills.

The Tribous never formally marketed Nemasket Spring water. Only following 1891 when the Tribou family sold the farm, would efforts be undertaken to commercially develop the springs.
Medicinal Water

Zymotic diseases, such as diphtheria, typhoid fever, dysentery, cholera, etc., are traced to impure drinking-water. Obnoxious air and contaminated water are sure foes to health, and they will quickly impair the vitality of the system, when sickness and death must inevitably ensue, unless a counter-action takes place by at once drinking absolutely pure water, like Nemasket Spring Water.

So wrote Thomas C. Fielding of Melrose who in October, 1891, acquired 65 acres of the Tribou property (including the house, outbuildings and springs) for $3,000 from Henry R. Tribou. Renaming the property Spring Brook Farm, Fielding clearly was cognizant of the commercial potential of the springs on his newly-purchased farm. Middleborough hardware dealer George E. Doane later characterized Fielding as possessing “sagacity and [a] keen business instinct”.
Fielding, however, appears not to have begun marketing Nemasket Spring water until the late 1890s. About 1898, Fielding wrote that “Nemasket Springs have been known locally for hundreds of years as most remarkable for their curative effects upon the human system” noting that he had “been importuned for years to place the water on the market”. Sometime during the mid-1890s, Fielding decided to market his water commercially. Yet, rather than rashly bottling and placing the water for sale, Fielding laid a careful foundation for its commercial development. One of the first steps was his engagement of Harvard chemist H. Carlton Smith to analyze the waters in order to demonstrate their high quality. Pure water was a topic much in consideration in the late 1890s, and Fielding hoped to demonstrate that the purity of Nemasket Springs was higher than better known competitors. Fielding accordingly shipped samples to Harvard for analysis, with Smith submitting the following report:

NATICK, July 8, 1897.
T. C. Fielding, Esq., Middleborough, Mass.
DEAR SIR: I have carefully examined the sample of water received from you for analysis, and find it to be a perfectly clear and colorless water of exceptional purity. The results of the analysis are as follows:

Parts per 100,000
Free Ammonia .………………………………………………………. .0004
Albuminoid Ammonia …………………………………………….. .0044
Chlorine ………………………………………………………………….. .32
Loss on Ignition ………………………………………………………. .40
Total Solids …………………………………………………………….. 3.40
Nitrogen as nitrates ……………………………………………….. none
Fixed Solids …………………………………………………………….. 3.00
Carbonic Acid …………………………………………………………. 11.00

The low amount of total solids (about two grains per gallon) indicates a very pure water, being less than shown by published analyses of the Poland Mineral Spring Water.
A microscopical examination was made for fungi and other vegetable micro-organisms, and nothing whatever found except a few amorphous particles.

A qualitative examination of the mineral constituents shows them to consist mainly of Calcium or Lime Salts dissolved by the excess of free Carbonic Acid, very little if any Iron or Aluminum, some Silica and Salts of Potassium and Sodium.
I do not hesitate to recommend most highly this water for table use.
Respectfully yours,
H. Carlton Smith
Analytical Chemist
Harvard University
School of Veterinary Medicine,
50 Village street.
Telephone, Tremont 138-2.
Fielding subsequently appears to have inquired of Smith whether the water could be labeled as “Lithia water”, that is water containing lithium salts. Accordingly, a second sample of Nemasket Spring water was sent to Smith’s Cambridge laboratory for analysis in early 1898. Writing on March 17 to Fielding in Middleborough, Smith revealed that “the qualitative test showed the presence of Lithia very distinctly”.

Bolstered by these scientific analyses which seemingly claimed for Nemasket a purity even greater than the well recognized Poland Spring Water, Fielding focused much of his advertising upon the medicinal properties of Nemasket Spring Water: "It takes the place of distilled water in the dispensary, where several druggists use it in connection with physician's prescriptions, as well as in the fountains, wherein it is charged in the usual manner for carbonated drinks. Carbonic acid is formed of one part of carbon and two parts of oxygen."

Fielding was also careful to secure the testimonial of at least one physician who touted the purity of the water, thereby giving added clout to the arguments regarding its purity. "Warren Peirce, M. D., of Plymouth says: 'There are no micro-organisms in 'Nemasket Spring Water.'' The human body is made up of four-fifths of water, and requires the purest of nature's liquid to eliminate the impure therefrom. The chemist can analyze the water into its several constituent parts of grains and solids. The physician can say whether it is pure or impure from the analysis. But can they discover that indefinable something, that vital principle, which cures the wound and heals the sore, in the apparently non-existing virtues or remedies appropriate for those very bruises?"

With these testimonials, Nemasket Spring Water appears to have been first marketed sometime in 1897. One testimonial letter dated August 12, 1897, reports the author as “having drank … Nemasket Spring Water at my house for some time”, while a second letter dated September 10, 1897, notes Fielding as “now putting your Nemasket Spring Water on the market.” The water was marketed as Nemasket Spring Water and possibly Nemasket Lithia Mineral Water, appearing on record at least once under that name.

The spring water was bottled in carboys, large heavy clear glass bottles holding 5 gallons. Patrons returned the bottle to be refilled, as indicated by George W. Holbrook, a conductor with the New Haven & Hartford Railroad Company residing at Provincetown. “I return the empty carboy; please send a full one in its place, and send the bill”, Holbrook instructed Fielding in September, 1897.
To promote the water, Fielding published a 24-page booklet extolling the virtues of Nemasket Spring Water. In addition to a history of the springs, the booklet included Smith’s chemical analysis of the water, testimonials from Middleborough and other residents and medical professionals, and even poetry. Takers of the water claimed numerous medical benefits: “its effects in kidney and bladder trouble is without a rival” (September 10, 1897), “it has done me a wonderful amount of good on my kidneys” (August 12, 1897), it is “of great assistance in rheumatic cases” (January 24, 1898). Many praised its diuretic qualities. Mrs. Charles McDermott of Brockton claimed to “feel better and stronger” since having started on a regimen including Nemasket Spring Water. No doubt, her raised spirits were attributed to the lithium in the water.

Pure Water
Fielding used a curious mix of scientific analyses, personal testimonials, poorly written poetry, highly imaginative historical imagery and Masonic symbols and mottos to promote Nemasket Spring Water. Perhaps most unique was one of the poems, Pure Water, which Fielding himself penned advertising the water.

Awake, my muse, and sing thy lay,
Pure water is the theme;
Let welkin ring throughout the day,
Or when the night stars gleam.

Nemasket Springs’ unceasing flow
Come drink from crystal cup;
It is a blessing here below
To build the system up.

It is diuretic at night
And cathartic at morn;
A catholicon to delight
The weary and forlorn.

An active principle is there,
And solvent forces, too;
Chlorine, with purifying care,
Has made it good for you.

It works in a wonderful way
Your aches and pains to ease;
It is as clear and bright as day,
So quaff it all you please.

Rheumatic woes are hard to bear,
They thrill you with dismay;
But my sparkling water will scare
Such harpies all away.

The sunlight finds no micro-life
To hasten ills like sin;
But as music from lute or fife
It makes you glad within.

It needs no charging, you will find,
When bottled from my spring;
It leaves a pleasant taste behind,
And that is just the thing.

‘Tis like a pearl of purest sheen,
Translucent as the light;
Or like the twinkling glow serene
From out the dome of night.

It’s nature’s own from mother earth,
Adulterate it not;
For He it was who sent it forth
In time long since forgot.

The vital hygienic force
In its solution lay;
No one can tell its subtle source
But He who knows the way.

The air we breathe is never seen,
Or thunder’s loudest crash;
But faith can see His gracious mien,
Like lightning’s vivid flash.

No vicious thought or spiteful deed
Can injure truthful things
No more than can a microbe breed
In old Nemasket Springs.

Go forth, Nemasket water pure,
And ask your meed of praise;
If aught in you be good to cure,
Or drooping soul to raise.

Press forward with undaunted mien,
You’ll surely reach the goal;
With success on your banner seen,
The purest of them all.

I’ve said as little as I need
To men of mind like you;
Knowing full well that when you read
You’ll find it square and true.

A clear glass carboy is the thing,
Held safely in a frame;
If ordered from Nemasket Spring,
Please plainly write your name.

In the primeval forest scene
Nemasket Springs appear;
King Philip is in foreground seen,
And paleface does not fear.

Why should he dread the red man there,
With hands upon his gun?
He did not want to lift his hair,
His friendship had been won.

There is no nature wholly bad,
Some goodness lingers there;
The soul may be morose and sad,
For lack of friendly care.

There’s gracious gems in heart you’ll find,
Like dewdrops in the vale;
Or lofty thoughts from gifted mind,
In choicest books for sale.

A few kind words in season spoke
Would light the saddest eye;
Grieving hearts would not be broken
If sympathy were nigh.

The springs are here which you can find,
Like landmarks in the dell;
A boon to you and all mankind,
And womanhood as well.

We’ll thank the Giver of such gifts
With hearts of loving praise;
For if desponding He uplifts, If we but mind His ways.

When you have drank and find it good,
Please drop a line to me;
That I may know your friendly mood,
Wherever you may be.


Testimonials from prominent patrons of the water also formed an important component of Fielding’s marketing strategy. Coupled with the scientific analyses conducted by Smith, and the praise of local and regional medical doctors, these testimonials helped influence potential customers.

Middleborough, Mass., March 14, 1898.
T. C. Fielding, Spring Brook Farm, Middleborough, Mass.:
MY DEAR SIR: I have used your Nemasket Spring Water on my table for some months, and find it most excellent. It seems to possess qualities peculiar to itself and surpassed by none. It is efficacious, pure and pleasant. Having been familiar with the Springs from my boyhood, and seen the sparkling water bubbling up through nature’s own filter beds, I am not surprised to learn that with your usual sagacity and keen business instinct you have seen in them not only an “honest penny,” but also to confer a public favor. I wish you every success in the enterprise.

Yours truly,

4 Pearl Street, Middleborough, Mass., Feb. 16, 1898.
DEAR MR. FIELDING: I have known you personally for the past twenty-eight years, and I take pride and pleasure in writing a few lines in favor of your Nemasket Spring Water, which I have been using in my family for many months. I would not be without the water in my house, for I have found it remarkably refreshing as a table water and a remedial agent, in my rheumatism, of most astonishing efficacy.
I can conscientiously recommend your Nemasket Spring Water to my friends. It is, in my opinion, without a rival in purity and therapeutic value. If experience teaches anything, I ought to know whereof I speak. The price is so low that all can afford to have it in their homes, which I think will prove a public benefaction.
I want you to use this letter in any way pleasing to you, as it is my earnest wish that you may bring successfully before the public the knowledge of your wonderful Nemasket Springs.

Faithfully yours,

Middleborough, Mass., March 7, 1898.
Mr. T. C. Fielding, Spring Brook Farm, Middleborough, Mass.:
DEAR SIR: Allow me to express a few words in recommendation of your Nemasket Lithia Mineral Water, which I have drank from the springs themselves, and have used it as a table water in my house.

There are seven feet of solid water boiling over night and day, welling up through a decomposition of kaolin, or the finest of mineral clay, and cannot be otherwise than pure and sparkling.

The water is a foe to constipation and a diuretic of surely remarkable efficacy. The absence of sediment proves the nonexistence of micro-organisms. The small amount of solids alone fixes its purity.

In my opinion it will prove quite an adjunct in the dispensary, also the water of waters for the table.

Success to your Nemasket Springs.

Cordially and fraternally yours,

5 North Street, Middleborough, Mass., April 3, 1898.
Mr. Fielding, Middleborough, Mass.:
DEAR SIR: I have derived considerable benefit from your Nemasket Spring Water. It is a diuretic without any sediment, and a sparkling table water of great purity.

Yours truly,

Summer Street, North Middleborough, Mass., April 4, 1898.
Mr. T. C. Fielding, Spring Brook Farm, Middleborough, Mass.:
DEAR SIR: Allow me to express my cordial good wishes to your success in placing Nemasket Spring Water on the market. I have drank it at my house for some time, and I can assure you that I have been wonderfully benefitted by it. It seems to possess a most agreeable and permeating quality, which reaches every ache and pain in the body as though a wizard's wand had bid them depart like unwelcome mists at break of day.

I think it is a duty incumbent on you to place Nemasket Spring Water before the people; and they are discriminating judges of meritorious articles, especially a water of remarkable efficacy and crystal purity such as yours is. As a table water it is matchless, and in my opinion admits of no comparison with any of the waters now in circulation. It is lovely, soft, sparkling and refrshing; and above all its healing power on myself has been such that I cannot but recommend it to my sisters in affliction as a panacea for their ills, or in health, as an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

I would not be without it in my house under any circumstances. It is nature's own remedy and earth's choicest distillation from the great Creator's laboratory.

Very respectfully yours,
I endorse the above. CLARENCE E. LIBBY.

73 Everett Street, Middleborough, Mass., April 7, 1898.
Mr. Fielding, Spring Brook Farm, Middleborough, Mass.:
DEAR SIR: A few weeks ago I was sick with torpidity of the kidneys, which caused blood-like urine and much sediment, but my physician, Dr. paun of this town, prescribed your Nemasket Spring Water, and long before the five-gallon glass carboy was empty I was able to go out to work again. Activity of the kidneys was restored, and the urinary flow was of crystal clearness. I have had several five-gallon carboys since for table water, and my wife says it is lovely. I say so, too, and wish you every success in placing so great a healing medium before the people.

Yours respectfully,

Rodman H. Robinson

Despite the many glowing testimonials in favor of the water, and the apparent local success it had, on July 14, 1902, Fielding sold Spring Brook Farm to Emily G. Fillmore. It is not clear what prompted Fielding's decision to sell not only the farm but the springs, as well, though money may have been a factor. In 1916 it was written that since Nahum Tribou's death, "the property has steadily declined" although it "retained much of its pristine beauty". Further, though he aggressively promoted Nemasket Spring Water, Fielding may have regarded the mineral water as a sideline rather than a profession. Both the 1895 and 1901 directories of Middleborough list his occupation as that of "steel engraver and chart publisher", rather than bottler.

The Fillmores, too, appear to have been uninterested in the water, preferring to farm the property. Their tenure, however, was brief. On March 1, 1905, Mrs. Fillmore sold the 65 acre homestead, including, house, barn, stable and springs to Rodman H. and Caroline B. Robinson of Scoharie, New York.

Though Robinson's principal occupation was real estate, (he worked as an agent of the Strout Farm Agency while in Middleborough), he, like Fielding before him, recognized the commercial potential of the springs and he immediately became “interested in the production and sale of Nemasket mineral spring water.” To establish the spring water on a more professional basis, Rodman formed the Nemasket Spring Water Company with himself as president and treasurer, and Dr. A. C. Wilbur of Middleborough as secretary. Rodman, Wilbur and Middleboro Gazette editor Lorenzo Wood served as the company’s directorate. The company was initiated with $25,000 in capital stock, which, in 1906, was increased to $100,000.

To promote his water, Robinson took advantage of local events. In 1913, when war games were held in the vicinity, Robinson furnished water to the camps at Tispaquin Pond and Fall Brook.

The business venture abruptly ended on the early morning of February 26, 1916 when fire destroyed the house and buildings on the property. Headlined under “Destructive Fire at Warrentown”, the Gazette on March 3, 1916, recounted the destruction of what had once been a showplace.

Fire completely destroyed the Rodman H. Robinson place at Warrentown at an early hour Saturday morning, the house, barns and sheds being burned flat to the cellars. The blaze was discovered shortly after 4 o’clock by Mrs. Robinson, who, barefooted and in her night attire, with her four children, ran through the mud to the home of Edward E. Place, across the street, to give the alarm. The fire then was in the rear of the barn, but it worked its way through the connecting buildings and three hours later all the buildings were in ashes. The fire department was called but on account of the vote passed at the last fire district meeting, Chief Maxim could not take the apparatus out of the district [which covered Middleborough Center only] …. Had the apparatus been allowed to go the house could have been saved.

The loss was estimated at $6,000, although “a much higher amount would be required to replace” the destroyed buildings. The cause of the fire was unknown.

With the loss of the buildings, the Robinsons sold the property in late 1916 to D. Janion MacNichol of Boston and removed to Quincy. In February, 1919, Margaret G. Kayajanian [Kayajan] acquired the property, and it was under the Kayajan family that the springs would gain their greatest fame.
Nahum M. Tribou, newspaper halftone from an original photograph, mid-19th century
Tribou was widely known throughout southeastern Massachusetts for not only his model stock farm, but also for his skill in horse trading. Through both businesses, Tribou was able to accumulate a sizeable sum of money.
Tribou House, Plymouth Street, halftone from an original photograph, published in Nemasket Springs promotional booklet (Middleborough, MA: Thomas C. Fielding, c. 1898).
The house is pictured at the time when it was owned by Thomas C. Fielding. Though later chroniclers had indicated that the property had declined since the death of Nahum Tribou, the photograph reveals a still striking and well-kept home. Built in 1849, the house featured water pumped directly from Nemasket Springs. It was destroyed by fire in 1916.
Henry R. Tribou, newspaper halftone from an original photograph, late 19th century
Nahum M. Tribou's son Henry succeeded to the family farm and livery business at Warrentown. "Although he was an excellent judge of horseflesh he was not the successful business man his father was. He was well known and popular among his contemporaries, an enthusiastic sportsman and an agreeable companion."
Nemasket Spring Fountain, drawing, published in Nemasket Springs promotional booklet, op cit.
This idealized version of the Nemasket Spring fountain shows the Masonic emblems and motto which Fielding used to help promote the water.
Nemasket Spring logo, published in Nemasket Springs promotional booklet, op cit.
This logo was used on a number of promotional items by Fielding. The numerous testimonials regarding the purity of Nemasket Spring Water was summarized simply in the Latin motto aqua pura.
Drawing, published in Nemasket Springs promotional booklet, op cit.
This drawing (and others similar to it) were prepared for Fielding in order to reinforce the tenuous historical connection between the local Native American population and the Nemasket Springs. While such a connection certainly existed, many of the stories surrounding the springs' early history appear to have been fabricated as a marketing ploy, and little is known of the tru history of the springs prior to the 19th century.
Nemasket Springs seal, published in Nemasket Springs promotional booklet, op cit.
Like Fielding's other promotional material, the seal which he developed for Nemasket Springs featured Masonic imagery.
Map of the Town of Middleborough, Plymouth County, Mass. H. F. Walling, 1855, detail showing the Tribou Farm.
At its greatest extent in the mid-1800s, the Tribou Farm occupied a large swath of land between Plymouth Street and the Nemasket River. In the 1860s, the large northern (pale pink shaded) portion was sold to Charles S. Stratton (better known as General Tom Thumb). The southern (dark pink shaded) portion which included Nemasket Springs remained in the Tribou family until 1891 when it was acquired by Thomas C. Fielding.
Middleboro Gazette
Nemasket Springs [promotional booklet]. Middleborough, MA: T. C. Fielding, c. 1898.
Old Colony Memorial