Rochester, Plymouth County,
By Charles Sturtevant, M. D.
Rochester, called by the Indians Menchoisett, a large town-ship of about
fifty-eight square miles, distant 10 miles from New Bedford, and 20 from
Plymouth; was settled by persons from Scituate, Marshfield, Plymouth and
Sandwich, who in 1638, obtained a grant from the Provincial Court, at Plymouth
"to locate a township and organize a religious Society in Sippican," an Indian
locality near the head of Buzzard's Bay. They named their settlement Rochester,
from the town of that name in Kent County, England, whence many of them
emigrated. These settlers did not however actually take up their residence in
Rochester, until 1651, when Rev. Samuel Arnold, John and Samuel Hammond, Moses
and Aaron Barlow, Samuel White, John Wing, Joseph Dotey, Jacob Bumpus, Joseph
Burge, (or Burgess), John Haskell, Abraham Holmes, Job Winslow, and ____
Sprague, with probably others whose names are lost, established themselves and
erected their church in that part of the present town of Marion, known as Little
Neck. At this place may be seen to this date, the traces of their primitive
burial-place, and tradition has it that until heir antique church was done, they
worshipped upon and around a largo fiat rock, since known as Minister's Rock.
Some time about this date a few families from the old town of Dartmouth, now
Acushnet, who were friendly to the Indians in this vicinity, came and built a
village between the Indian settlements of Sip-pi-can and Mat-ta-poi-sett. Here
lived an old chief by name To-to-sin, a friend of King Philip, who frequently
visited here. From him, the locality is called To-to-sin's, or Towser's Neck.
Radiating from these centers the population spread to the North and West,
making the nest village at Rochester proper, especially at the locality since
known as Leonard's Forge, or Handy's Mill. Here the first corn-mill in this part
of the County was erected by the town, in 1704, having a perpendicular shaft,
and attended by Peter Black-mer, who was appointed to that office and that of
Town Clerk. The villages were yearly augmented by people coming from Boston,
Salem, and Plymouth, and in 1709, Rev. Timothy Ruggles was ordained, the first
minister in the town. In 1733, the settlers in Mattapoisett, were set off as a
distinct parish under the pastoral care of Rev. Ivory Hovey. His immediate
successor in 1772, was Lemuel LeBaron4.
These two men continued in the ministry for 100 years. Rev. Thomas Robbins, D.
D., the successor of Mr. LeBaron, possessed in his day the most valuable private
library in the state. It consisted of over 3000 volumes and 4000 pamphlets, some
of them rare. He also had an extensive collection of coins and manuscripts.
Still another religious society in the North village, or Snip-pa-tuit, was
formed in 1748, under the ministry of Rev. Thomas West. These four precincts,
agreed in 1670, to hold their town-meetings in the central village, thereafter
to be known as Rochester town, the other villages retaining their Indian names
till recently. In 1685, the town was incorporated, by the Provincial Court.
In 1775, Rochester voted to sustain the Continental Congress, whenever they,
might see fit to withdraw their allegiance from the crown, and in the succeeding
struggle for Independence, this town furnished more men in proportion to
territory or inhabitants, than any other town in the Old Colony. In 1816, the
spotted fever made fearful ravages in the village of Mattapoisett, and in the
western part of the central village. The population of the entire town being
2800, 61 heads of families were stricken down by this disease.
The surface of the town is level, the soil light, sandy, and not remarkably
fertile, but bearing some fine pine and cedar forests. There are several large
ponds, one of which, Snippatuit, together with its outlet to the sea, from a
valuable herring privilege. The occupation of the people is chiefly
agricultural, and considerable attention is paid in the winter, to the sawing
and preparing for market of a large amount of box-boards. Rochester Academy was
built and opened for educational purposes in 1839. It has always sustained an
enviable reputation as a literary institution and continues to flourish under
the present efficient management of Miss C. M. Rounseville. The educational
standard has always been high in this town, and public spirit has liberally
aided in whatever might elevate it.
4. In 1696, a French privateer was wrecked in Buzzard's Bay,
the crew were carried prisoners to Boston; the surgeon, Dr. Francis Le Baron,
came to Plymouth, and having performed a surgical operation, the town being
destitute of a physician, they petitioned Lieutenant Governor Stoughton for his
liberation, that he might settle in their town. This was granted, and he married
Mary Wilder, and he practised physic till he died, at the age of 36 years. Dr.
Le Baron did not relinquish the Catholic religion, and was strongly attached to
its ceremonies. He never retired to rest without placing the cross on his
breast. He left descendants, and all those of his name in this country are
descended from him. Thacher's History of Plymouth. There are other versions of
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.