Halifax, Plymouth County,
By Nathaniel Morton
Graywacke and Granite is the geological formation of Halifax. Prof. Hitchcock
says of the former that "it is capable of being made some of the best land in
Halifax is located near the center of the county, 28 miles from Boston, and
12 miles from Plymouth Road. It contains 11,285 acres; 1700 of it water and
about 200 swamp, abounding in beds of peat from 2 to 10 feet thick.
It was here in 1676, that Capt. Benj. Church "captured the Monponsetts and
brought them in, not one escaping."
According to tradition, Mr. Sturtevant was the first settler, establishing
himself near the residence of Thomas Holmes.
In 1733, a house of worship was built. This is now in use as a Town House.
Halifax was incorporated July 4th, 1734, and was named for the Earl of Halifax.
John Cotton, a man of distinction, and author of the "History of Plymouth
Church," was first pastor, succeeded by Wm. Patten, in 1757; Ephraim Briggs,
1769-1801; Abel Richmond, Eldridge G. Howe, Revs. Howland, Kimball and Brainard,
and Wm. A. Forbes, present pastor, installed in 1866.
The people of Halifax were uncompromising patriots. Just before the
Revolution, a soldier named Taylor deserted from the British company stationed
at Marshfield and fled to Halifax, to the house of Mr. Thomas Drew. Three of the
company were detailed to take the deserter back. In effecting this, a ruse de
guerre was resorted to, and one of their number was sent in advance to pretend
that he, also, had deserted, hoping to detain him, until his two comrades in
arms should arrive. Mr. Drew saw through their arts and advised Taylor to flee
for his life, into the woods, which was quickly done. When the other two had
joined their comrade, and found to their chagrin that the bird had flown, they
become exceedingly exasperated. They then went to the house of Noah Thompson,
who was sick on his bed, and threatened to shoot him, with their pistols cocked,
if he did not reveal the hiding-place of the deserter, Taylor. Thompson, with
sublime courage rose up in bed and took down his gun, which hung above his head
on wooden hooks and brought it to his shoulder, while the fire flashed from his
eyes, and said: ' "You are dead men, or leave my house."
They probably thought "discretion the better part of valor" and started on
their way with disappointed hopes to join their company. In the meanwhile, the
tidings of the affair flew in all sections like wild fire, and by the time they
had got to the meeting-house, two minute men, Bradford and Bartlett, belonging
to a company then organized in expectancy of trouble with the Mother Country,
ordered them to stop and surrender, but their guns being hors du combat, the
British soldiers cocking their pistols, ordered the minute-men into the road and
marched them down to the house of Daniel Dunbar, who was a Tory, and placed them
in the house as prisoners. It was not more than an hour before the house was
surrounded by the whole company of minute men, and ''the surrender of their
comrades demanded, which was refused. Upon this they threatened to break in and
take them by force. The British soldiers retaliated by saying, that if they did
so they would instantly kill the two prisoners, who entreated their friends, not
to molest them as they felt sure the threat would be executed. It was finally
determined upon to send for Josiah Sturtevant, who was a Justice of Peace, under
the King, and he decided to bind the prisoners, Bradford and Bartlett, over to
the court, to be tried for breaking the law upon the king's highway. Sturtevant
subsequently, was driven away, shot at, and died, among the would-be enslavers
of his country June 7th, 1777, the town voted to give $150, for men to fill the
quota, provided they enlisted, for three years, or during the war. Among the
Revolutionary soldiers, was a slave owned by Caleb Sturtevant. Among the
"Haligonians" who served in the Continental army, were Nathaniel Holmes, James
Tillson, Josiah Thompson, Prince Witherel, Consider Pratt, Home' Sears, Zebediah
Thompson, Joshua Former, Elisha Faxon, Joseph Tillson, Richard Bosworth.
In 1812, the town furnished an entire military company, which was commanded
by Capt. Asa Thompson, popularly known as the "tall Captain," who was 6 feet 6
inches in height, and it is said that people would collect around South Boston
Bridge, to see him march his company over. This company is the oldest in the
State, and was chartered by John Hancock, in 1792, and served in the late
rebellion. It is at present in a flourishing condition, and commanded by Capt.
Charles V. Lyon. It will long be remembered by the people, how quietly this
organization responded to the call of President Lincoln, April 16th, 1861; for
which it was complimented by the Press of Boston.
This town suffered severely in the late war, and lost 22 men, out of a
population of 739. Their names will be preserved to all coming time, on a
monument, soon to be erected to their memory.
On the 5th of July, 1848, by fire, the manufacturing interests, of the town
were ruined. In the conflagration, 1 woollen mill, and 3 houses, were destroyed,
and thus about 50 males and females, were compelled to seek employment
elsewhere. This was the greatest misfortune that ever befell this town, and from
which it has never recovered.
There are 3 churches, 1 Orthodox, 1 Universalist, 1 Baptist, and 150
dwelling-houses. Present valuation, $365,471.00. One fact concerning the
longevity of the citizens is worthy of mention. The average duration of life, up
to the time of the late war, was 54 years, and of those who died, nearly
one-half fell victims to consumption.
Perhaps in no town in Plymouth County, is wealth so equally divided. But two
paupers are maintained, at public expense. This is essentially an agricultural
community, but there is no reason why, if the resources were properly developed
by capital and enterprise, that we should not present a better spectacle than an
increase in population of only 16 souls for the period of 36 years.
Monponsett Pond has always been a famous place of resort for wild fowl. In
1754, Mr. Drew, built a vessel here and floated it down the Winnetuxet to
John Thompson, who came from Wales in 1622, whose lineal issue to the eighth
generation are now in Halifax, many of them residing on what was formerly his
homestead, built a log house on the land now owned by Ephraim B. Thompson, which
was burnt by the Indians during Phillip's war.
Soon after, in 1677, John Thompson, returned from the garrison at Middleboro,
and built a frame house, (he being a carpenter), eight rods north of where the
former house was burnt. It was lined with brick, originally, (with loop holes),
so as to be proof against musket balls. This house was taken down in 1838. The
site where the saw-pits, in which the boards and joist were sawed, with a
whip-saw, is now extant. These houses were then in Middleboro, but now, within
the limits of Halifax.
John Thompson, about the time his house was burnt, was commissioned by the
Gov. and Council at Plymouth, as Lieutenant. Thus commissioned, he equipped
himself with a gun, brass pistol and sword. The gun-stock and barrel, is 7 feet
4 1-2 inches; the length of the barrel is 6 feet, 1 1-2 inches; caliber, 12
balls to the lb.; lock, 10 inches long; whole weight of the gun, 20 lbs., 12
ounces. It is considered quite a muscular feat to hold it, and sight at arms
length. The sword is 3 1-2 feet in length. These two have descended to Zadock
Thompson, and the pistol to Ephraim B. Thompson.
John Thompson's customary hour of rising was at 4 o'clock, especially on
Sabbath morning. The breakfast repast must be closed, even in summer, on or
before the rising sun.
Either he or his wife would go to church at Plymouth and return, every
Sabbath, a distance of 13 miles.
Note. For list of Halifax soldiers, see Appendix.
Notes About Book:
Source: Plymouth County Directory and Historical Register of the Old Colony,
Middleboro, Mass: Published By Stillman B. Pratt & Company, 1867.
Notes about Online Publication: This manuscript has been ocr'd and heavily
edited. Many of the Native American words have been reproduced as clearly as
online publication will allow us, but not all are exactly the way they were in
the original work. The structure of this manuscript has been changed to allow
better online presentation.