Historical Industrial Perspectives: Taunton Massachusetts

Located in Bristol County, Massachusetts, Taunton is one of the oldest cities in the United States with a rich history of manufacturing.

 

Taunton is one of the oldest European-settled towns in the United States. Officially incorporated in 1639, its first English settlers were from Plymouth Colony. Most hailed from the town of Taunton in Somerset, England naming their new home after their birthplace. The founders purchased the land from the Nemasket tribe in 1637.

 

Mill River at Washington Street.JPG
By MarcbelaOwn work, CC0, Link

From the 1650s into the 1900s, Taunton celebrated its iron-making industry. Investors built forges on the Forge River, in nearby Raynham, and on the Mill River in Taunton. The development followed the discovery of bog ore, an impure form of iron found in wetlands in the region. Taunton’s companies were manufactured iron stoves, tack, locomotives, Civil War rifles, printing presses, and industrial machinery, particularly for textile making, into the mid-20th century.

The Mill River works built by James Leonard in 1670 and operated by his descendants for more than 100 years transitioned to using the river’s power for first a nail and then a textile mill beginning in 1805. Source  Wikipedia.

In 1968 the historic wooden Whittenton Pond Dam associated with the mill industry failed, flooding the city. Concern built again in 2005 when another failure seemed imminent. After draining the Pond, demolition of the wooden structure led to an earthen and rock replacement.

Silversmiths earned an excellent reputation beginning during the 19th century,  Taunton called “Silver City” because of the high-quality items produced. Felt and brick making were also important industries.

Shipping, utilizing the Taunton River, moved grain and other agricultural products from the interior throughout the nation during the 1800s. When railroad transportation experienced growth, the city became a vital hub because of its location.

 

Today Taunton continues as a robust business center. Myles Standish and Liberty and Union Industrial Parks offer a range of opportunities for the local workforce, including manufacturing, high tech, warehousing, and distribution operations.

 

 

 

Site of Taunton Iron Works, Raynham Massachusetts-plaque.jpg
By Kenneth C. ZirkelOwn work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

 

Thanks to the Taunton Historical Society and New England Historical Society for their help.