Fall River Massachusetts, 1890

FALL RIVER, a beautiful manufacturing city and port of entry in the southwest side of Bristol County, lies on the easterly shore of Mount Hope Bay and Taunton River. Freetown bounds it on the north and east; Dartmouth on the southeast; Westport, together with Pocasset in Rhode Island, on the south; and on the west are Mount Hope Bay and the town of Somerset, on the right bank of the Taunton River. Its assessed area is 18,272 acres, and which includes 2,607 acres of woodland. The city proper is 49 miles south of Boston, 183 miles northeast of New York, 17 miles south of Taunton, 18 miles southeast of Providence, 14 miles west of New Bedford, and 18 miles north of New port. Along the whole extent of the water front run the tracks of the Old Colony Railroad, affording the best facilities for the transfer of freight and passengers between the cars and the numerous steamers that run to New York, Philadelphia and Providence. The Old Colony steamboats running daily between this city and New York are among the finest in the world for size, safety, and luxuriance of equipment. Trains also run direct to Providence by the railroad bridge over the Taunton River at the upper part of the town; while a branch from the New Bedford line of the Old Colony road enters the city at the greater elevation on the east.

The city has much rural territory, occupied by 83 farms; the product of these, in 1885, having a value of $102,260. The country is hilly, the elevations within five miles radius varying from tide-water to 355 feet above sea-level. The geological structure is granite, in which beds of iron-ore occur a foundation which affords inexhaustible quarries of good building stone. The granite frequently crops out in extensive ledges; and numerous boulders are scattered about, generally resting on the bed-rock, over which the soil is often shallow. The latter is composed principally of sand, gravel and gravelly loam. [Steamer "Pilgrim," Fall River Line.]

Copecut Hill, in the midst of the eastern section, rises to the height of 355 feet, while the rear of the city proper has an elevation of 259 feet, affording a magnificent view of the delightful scenery of Mount Hope Bay, and of Mount Hope itself. The Taunton River, here a broad and beautiful stream, washes the entire length of the town, gradually expanding to the bay, and affording anchorage to the largest vessels. The eastern part of the city is drained by the Copecut River. Copecut Hill rises from its western shore, and in the broad depression between this and the heights along the Taunton River lies the long and beautiful Watuppa Pond, the reservoir of the water-power of the city, and the source of supply for its excellent water-works. The name of this pond is an Indian term, signifying the "place of boats." It covers, with its connected ponds, an area of almost 5,000 acres; and its average discharge is 122 cubic feet of water per second, or 31,746,774 cubic feet for every working day of ten hours. Its outlet flows over a bed of granite and between high, rocky banks to Taunton River, having a descent within the last half mile of 132 feet; and so numerously are the mills built along and across its course that, for much of this distance, it is an underground stream. This river is the Indian "Quequechan" signifying "falling" or "quick-running water;" and in like manner the present occupants have given the stream and the town which has grown about it their own name of the same meaning, Fall River. This place is emphatically a city of spindles; and they have been put in motion by capital furnished almost exclusively by its own people. In 1813 the first cotton mill was put in operation. In 1870 there were 18 incorporated companies, with a capital of $6,310,000, and 698,148 spindles. In 1888 there were 38 companies for the manufacture of cotton goods, owning 57 mills, with an incorporated capital of $18,543,000, but a probable investment of $35,000,000, and containing 1,823,472 spindles and 41,219 looms. These employ 19,195 operatives, and turn out annually 480,500,000 yards of cloth. A careful comparison shows that this city has nearly one seventh of all the spindles in the country, about one fifth of those in New England; and manufactures over three fifths of all the print cloths. While this is the principal product, its industrial activity is also engaged in the bleaching and dyeing of cotton goods, the printing of calicoes, in the manufacture of cotton and other kinds of machinery, of cotton thread, woolen goods, comforters, felt hats, hoots and shoes, leather, straw and palm-leaf goods, food preparations, carriages, water-craft, and numerous other minor articles. The value of the textiles sent out from these factories in the census year of 1885 was $19,223,481; and the aggregate value of all manufactures was $22,915,658.

In his historical sketch of Fall River, Mr. Earl says that, "In the union of hydraulic power and navigable waters it is probably without a parallel upon the American continent;" and were it not for its cotton manufactures, its citizens would doubtless be engaged largely in navigation. It has now five ship-yards; and 22 vessels owned here consisting of 5 schooners, 1 sloop, a bark, a brig and 14 steam vessels are engaged in coastwise and ocean commerce. Something was formerly done in the whale fishery; but its fisheries in 1885 were confined to menhaden and oysters, whose product had the value of $7,740.The seven national banks of the city, by the last report of the comptroller, had an aggregate capital of $2,123,000; the four savings banks, at the close of last year, had 25,247 depositors, and held deposits to the amount of $11,295,737; and there were two co-operative banks, authorized to hold capital to the amount of $2,000,000,. and having actual property to the value of $257,225.

The valuation of the city in 1888 was $46, 504,585 . the tax-rate being $17.40 on $1,000. The population was 66,870; of whom 9,426 were voters. The dwelling-houses numbered 5,302; and many of these were unusually large.

The mills are distributed somewhat in groups; on the Quequechan above the dam, following nearly to its head along its east side, are the Wamsutta, three Union, three Durfee, two Granite, the Crescent, Merchants, Barnard, Wampanoag, Stafford, Flint, Seaconnet and Merino mills. The last six, with their tenements, form a community by themselves, known as Flint Village. On the west bank of the stream, above the dam, are the Tecumseh No.1, Robeson, Davol, Richard Borden, Tecumseh No.2, Chace and Barnaby mills. Some two miles north of the stream, and along the bank of the Taunton River at Bowenville, are the Mechanics, Weetamo, Narragansett, Sagamore, and the two Border City mills. Above is the village of Steep Brook, which has a post-office. Two miles south of the stream, and on the highlands overlooking the bay, are the Slade, Montaup, Laurel Lake, Osborn, King Philip, and Shove mills, - all taking water from Laurel Lake, which is about one mile in length. Beyond them, across the State line, in Tiverton, are the Bourne and one of the Shove mills. The American Print Works, the Fall River Iron Works, the American Linen Company's two cotton mills, and the Mount Hope Mill, are located in successive order on the bay southward from the stream. With some of these mills the motive power is furnished by steam. Slade Ferry Bridge, spanning the Taunton River; the Anawan Boat Club House; Grab Pond and Laurel Lake; the city water works on the shore of Watuppa Pond, and their stand-pipe tower, 121 feet in height, on the hill above; the southern park, and Oak Grove Cemetery, are all special objects of interest. Notable buildings are the new court-house, the remodeled city hall, the immense Borden Block, of brick, and containing the Academy of Music, the largest auditorium in the city; Granite Block, occupying the front of an entire square; Brown Block, containing the public library; Pocasset Block and Pocasset Bank, Notre Dame Asylum and College, the new custom-house and post-office a magnificent edifice of gray rock-faced ashlar, with carvings and other decorations in red and gray granite, and, at either end, semicircular pavilions projecting from top to bottom of the main body of the building. The longest frontage is 84 feet. It was completed in 1880, at a cost of about half a million dollars. The Central Congregational Church, on Rock Street, is built of smooth brick with sandstone trimmings and has a fine tower and spire. The style is the Victorian Early English Gothic. The magnificent Durfee High School is the most conspicuous object seen on approaching the city from the west or south, and commands from its towers comprehensive views of the entire landscape. The edifice is of granite, four stories in height, in the modern renaissance style of architecture. The most striking features are the two towers and a central pavilion with steep roof. It contains a fine gymnasium, drill-hall, laboratories, and an astronomical observatory consisting of a tower surmounted by a revolving dome of iron and steel, in which is an equatorial telescope having an eight-inch object-glass. In the south tower is the clock and a chime of bells. It was completed in 1887, and presented to the city by Mrs. Mary B. Young, as a memorial of her son, Bradford M. C. Durfee.The city has a complete system of graded schools, including normal and training schools, which, in 1885, were occupying 41 school-houses valued at about $700,000. The public library contained upwards of 30,000 books, and there was a public-school library of 652 volumes. There are published in the city three daily and four weekly newspapers and journals.

The Baptists have two churches here; the Congregationalists, five; the American Episcopal Church, four; the Methodist Episcopal, seven; the Presbyterian, two; the Christian, three; the Roman Catholic, nine; the Unitarians, one; the Friends, one; the New Jerusalem Church, one; the Primitive Methodists, one; and the "Re-organized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Bay Saints," one.

The territory of this city north of the Quequechan was originally in the limits of Freetown, and that on the south in Tiverton. By a royal decree in 1746, five townships, previously within the jurisdiction of Massachusetts, were set off to Rhode Island; and Tiverton was one of them. In 1803, that portion of Freetown on the north of the stream was set off as a separate township, and named Fall River. In 1804, the name was changed to Troy, but the previous name was restored in 1834. In 1854, Fall River was made a city. In 1856, that portion of Tiverton including Globe and Flint villages, and up to the accepted boundary line of Massachusetts, was erected into a Rhode Island town, and named Fall River. By the settlement of the boundary between the States (which had been in dispute) in 1862, the Rhode Island town was ceded to the city; by which the latter acquired nine square miles of territory additional, an increase of population by 3,593 persons, and an increase of $1,948,378 in taxable property. In reference to these conditions Fall River is also known as the "Border City."

Hon. James Buffinton, the first mayor of Fall River, was born in that place March 16, 1817. He received many honors from his city, the State, and the nation, being a member of Congress for many years, and occupying that position at his death March 6, 1874.

Pp. 298-302 in Nason and Varney's Massachusetts Gazetteer, 1890