Marion, Plymouth County,
By J. Batchelder, M. B.
Marion was incorporated May 14th, 1852. Previous to this event it constituted
a part of Rochester, and was called Sippican. Its corporate name was selected
for no special reason. It was suggested merely for its euphony and the facility
of hailing vessels at sea by this name, this last circumstance rendering the
former name objectionable. At various times, there had been exhibited some
sectional differences between the two precincts of the town, which, in 1S50, (or
about that time), culminated in the repudiation, by the Rochester precinct, of
all the Sippican candidates for town officers.
Marion is bounded on the north and east, by Wareham, Sippican and Weweantit
Rivers, which separate it from Wareham, and Buzzard's Bay; on the south, by
Buzzard's Bay, and Mattapoisett; on the west by Mattapoisett and Rochester. It
is about four miles in medium length, and breadth, and therefore contains about
sixteen square miles. Its cutline is very irregular, following, to a
considerable extent, the serpentine course of river and sea-coast. It is almost
cleft into two nearly equal parts by Sippican Harbor. The land is low, level,
and rocky. The soil is a marine deposit, and fertile, but requiring great
expense and labor to clear it of rocks; hence but a small portion is under
cultivation. This is divided into small lots by high stone fences. Dense forests
of white pine and oak cover nearly four-fifths of the town. One source of
industry with the early settlers was the manufacture of tar, of which each
resident was allowed by the proprietors, to make ten barrels from the undivided
forest, and if he made more, he must pay a tax of one shilling per barrel to the
proprietors. More recently, the manufacture of salt, and of late, box-boards,
and fire-wood, constitute the principal exports.
The harbor is safe and commodious, and sheltered by several large islands.
The channel, as far as opposite the upper wharf of the lower village, contains
eleven feet of water. There are now owned in this place, four whale men, (one
brig, and three schooners), and two schooners engaged in the cod fisheries;
there are also one or two smaller vessels engaged in the coasting business.
aggregate tonnage 750. There are five wharves in the lower village, and two in
the upper. Two of the former are not now in use. The imports from three whale
men and two fishermen, for the year 1866, were, for the former, 865,000, for the
latter, $12,000. The people are generally mariners, a smaller portion mechanics
and farmers. Formerly, they were extensively engaged in southern coasting, and
many accumulated handsome fortunes. Now the fisheries are tho chief industrial
pursuit. There have been no persons of great public note belonging to this town.
The citizens, however, have generally been enterprising, and successful in
business, many of them eminently so.
Among the prominent and useful citizens of this precinct, were:
Seth Hiller, an extensive landholder
Charles and George Blankinship, eminent ship-builders and owners
George B. Nye, a prominent business men
Stephen Hammond, an eminent mariner
Dr. W. N. Ellis, who, for nearly thirty years, was the principal medical and
Many of the clergymen have been men of character and influence.
The population of the town is about 1000, chiefly concentrated in two very
pleasant villages, half a mile apart. There are four religious societies, one
Protestant, Methodist, Episcopal Methodist, Universalist, and Congregationalist,
each with a neat and commodious house of worship. There is one hotel, the "Bay
View House," in the lower village, a boarding house in the upper, and an other,
called the "Marion House," on the extremity of Great Neck, of a capacity to
accommodate three hundred boarders. All of these public houses will accommodate
five hundred, and they are full to repletion every summer, at least a part of
the time, besides several private houses owned by non-residents. Many private
families also receive boarders. The are five stores, and one Petroleum Oil
Factory, whose permanent stock amounts to $6500, and when in operation yields an
income of about 50 per cent.
The salubrity of this town is above the average of towns in New England.
This town contributed 40 soldiers for the war of the Rebellion, four of whom
died in the service, and one since, also 23 seamen, three of whom became
officers. There are evidences of a remarkable change in the depth of water in
the upper harbor. Where there is now considerable depth of water, during low
ebbs there may be seen large trunks and stumps of trees, and there is a
tradition, that the channel was once so narrow, that a person might step across
at low water below the wharves, between Black Point and the ship-yard. The
distance between these two points is about thirty rods.
The territory now called Marion, the greater part of Rochester, the westerly
part of Wareham, and, (in many instances), Mattapoisett, was called Sippican,
or, as it is more frequently spelt in the ancient records, Sepeean. It belonged
to the territory of Massasoit, and afterwards, of his son and successor, Philip
Metacomet, sachem of the Wampanoags. In 1662, Phillip entered into an agreement
with the English not to dispose of any part of his territory without their
consent. In 1666, he confirmed the title of the lands of Sepeean to two
subordinate chiefs, Watachpoo and Sampson; with the provision in the deed
corresponding with the above agreement. These lands had been held in the line of
Watachpoo's ancestors, for at least six generations. On the 24th day of Dec,
1668, Philip gives his consent that Watachpoo may sell his lands, or a portion
of them, to the English. The deed of his sale is not recorded. July 11th, 1667,
two sachems of Sepaconit (probably Agawam Neck in Wareham), sold the westerly
part of the present town of Marion, including what is called Charles Neck to an
Indian chief named Pompmunet, alias Charles of Ashimmit, "with libertie of
Comanage for cattle and likewise to make use of any timber for fencing or
building that is without this neck, with libertie of fishing or fowling or
whatever privilege is belonging thereunto as necessary." The consideration was
eight pounds $26.67.
The northern portion of Sepecan, including the north-west section of Wareham,
and nearly the whole of Rochester, was granted to Thomas Besbeck, and others,
Jan. 22d, 1638-9. In 1649, (June 6th,) "Libertie is granted unto the townsmen of
Plymouth, to make use of the land at Sepecan for the herding and keeping of
cattle, and wintering of them there as they shall see cause." This section
included Great and Little Necks, and the vicinity bordering upon the sea-shore.
For many years before and after this grant, herdsmen, with their herds, tenanted
temporary habitations erected for their use, where the rich pasture lands and
extensive salt marshes afforded ample sustenance for their charge. June 5th,
1651, the above grant was confirmed, and limited to the citizens of Plymouth;
"and the bounds thereof to extend itself eight miles by the sea-side and four
miles into the land." July 2d, 1655, "At this Court libertie was granted to the
town of Plymouth, to purchase lands of the Indians at Sepecan, to winter cattle
upon." June 3rd, 1679. An Act was passed preliminary to the sale of these lands
to certain persons, which was confirmed at the next Session of the Court in
July, and the settlement commenced in 1680. The first house appears to have been
erected by Samuel Briggs, who built about one fourth of a mile north-west of the
residence of Abel Griffith. The names of some of the first principal settlers,
as given by Barber, are: Samuel Arnold, John Hammond, Moses Barlow, Samuel
White, Samuel Hammond, John Wing, Aaron Barlow, Joseph Dotey, Jacob Bumpus,
Joseph Burgess, John Haskell, _____ Sprague, Abraham Holmes, Job Winslow.
The first settlement commenced near the entrance to Little Neck, and soon
after extended to Great Neck, and towards Rochester center. Their first minister
was Samuel Shiverick, from 1683 to 1687. He was succeeded in the latter year by
Samuel Arnold, who died Feb. 11th, 1707. Timothy Ruggles was settled in 1710,
who held the pastorate 57 years. The church was organized Oct. 13th, 1703. The
first meeting house was a building constructed for a "corn-house" by Samuel
Briggs, and moved onto Little Neck, near a huge rook, around which the Indians
used to perform their noisy demon worship, sometimes at the same hour when the
Christian worshippers were engaged in their service. The first burial-place was
laid out, according to their usual custom, in the rear of the meeting-house. The
first person buried there, is said to have been Eliza Briggs, aged 12 years. The
next meeting-house was built in Rochester Center, not far from 1730. The first
house built on Great Neck, was by John Allen, near the head of the Cove, between
Stephen Allen's and Mrs. Bolles.
The first house in the lower village was built by John Clark, where the store
of J. C. Luce stands, about 1760.
The first house in the upper village was built by John Keen, where W. P.
Delano's house stands. It was swept away by the great tide in 1815.
The Sepecan Indians do not appear very prominent in the history of
Massachusetts. They were, at some remote period, very numerous, as the frequent
and extensive shell-heaps indicate; though the interior tribes contributed
largely to these relics, in their periodical excursions to the sea-shore. In
Aug. 1677, while King Phillip's war was raging, the Saconet tribe, near the
eastern shore of Narraganset Bay, was detached from the Confederacy through the
efforts of Captain Church, who advised queen Awashanks to go to Sandwich with
her tribe and arrange terms of amity with the governor who resided there.
Church, impatient at their delay, set out to find their camp. He passed through
Agawam [Wareham], crossed the Weweantit River, and found Awashanks and her tribe
encamped near the beach at Great Hill, on the spot where the "Marion House"
stands. "Some were running races on horseback; some playing at football; some
were catching eels and flat-fish; and others plunging and frolicking in the
waves." The gallant queen received the English officer with the greatest respect
and cordiality; entertained him with fried eels, bass, flat-fish, and
shell-fish; and then, around a huge bonfire of pine knots, herself and warriors
pledged their allegiance to the English, and thus sealed the fate of Philip.3
The list of Marion men, lost in service, so far as we can obtain it, is as
Jesse L. Swift, C, 18th, of disease, Dec. 1, 1864
Nathan H. Weeks, C, 18th, of disease
Richard Gurney, A, 29th, killed
Benjamin D. Clifton, A, 20th, killed
Andrew T. Pratt, E, 3d, killed
Joseph Davis, 9th, N. H., Eeg., Co. I, died in prison.
3.See Abbott's History of King Phillip. Abbott calls the
river which Captain Church crossed to reach Awashank's camp, Mattapoisett. If he
has copied this name correctly, it is to be recollected, that, at this early
period, the names of places, rivers, &c., had not became settled, Many instances
of the interchange of names from ancient records might be quoted. The stream
which bears this name at present, is an insignificant stream, near the western
limit of Mattapoisett, ten miles be yond the Weweantit,' and no bluff is found
near it which commands "a wide prospect of Buzzard's Bay." If there is a spot
near the former stream elevated enough to command a view of the water, only a
portion of what is called Mattapoisett Harbor could be seen, a view incomparably
inferior to that from Great Hill.
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.