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township, beside a collection of farms, contains three villages; the Town, or New-Bedford proper, on the Western, and Oxford, and Fair-Haven, on the Eastern, side of the river.
The situation of New-Bedford proper is an easy declivity, sloping towards the river, which here forms a noble basin, about a mile in breadth. The surface is in some degree disfigured by rocks, but is otherwise handsome. The streets are either parallel, or at right angles, with the river; being laid out with perfect regularity. Unhappily they are only forty feet wide. There are five of the former, and four of the latter. The houses are generally good, and some of them expensive and handsome. There are seven valuable mansions here, inhabited by the family of Rotch.
The township contains three Presbyterian churches; one at New-Bedford, one at Fair-Haven, and one in the interiour. The first and last are supplied by a single clergyman. It also contains three Friends' Meeting-houses.
The soil is hard, but well fitted for pasturage. Apples and several other fruits abound : but peaches, although they grow easily, and of good kinds, are much injured by the peach-worm.
The harbour is the basin, mentioned above. The entrance is narrow, the anchorage good, and the depth sufficient to admit ships of four hundred tons to the wharves ; where they are sheltered from every wind.
Both the town and Fair-Haven are busy, commercial villages. Fifteen thousand tons of shipping belong to this port, the great body of which is owned by the inhabitants. It is chiefly made up of large vessels, employed in the whale fishery about Falkland Islands, in the Pacific ocean, and elsewhere; or in a circuitous carrying trade. The business of all kinds done here, considering the size of these villages is great; and, hitherto, has been almost uniformly profitable : but the duties collected are of no great importance. Yet the importations are probably smaller, when compared with the quantum of business, done by the merchants, than perhaps those of any other place in the Union. VOL. III.
The following is an abstract of the Duties collected in this port
for ten years.
Duties. 1801 $58,964 1806
$26,972 1802 15,527 1807
40,018 1803 13,824 1808
1,324 1804 27,344 1809
6,306 1805 35,163 1810
10,703 A bridge is begun across the Acchusnutt from the town of NewBedford to Fair-Haven. The proprietors, that they might take the advantage of two small islands, lying in the river, and of a bar extending from one of them a considerable distance, have formed this structure in a circuitous manner. The abutments, islands, and bar, .extend about 2,000 feet, and the bridge, 3,960, or three-fourths of a mile. The water in the channel is more than thirty feet deep. The expense, estimated at thirty thousand dollars, was defrayed by the inhabitants of these two vil. lages.
New-Bedford and Fair-Haven were both settled in the year 1764. The ground, on which they are built, was formerly included in the township of Dartmouth, incorporated in 1664. Dartmouth originally included the present Dartmouth, and the whole of the townships of New-Bedford and Westport. NewBedford was not incorporated until the year 1787: the same year with Westport. The ground, on which the town stands, was the property of a Mr. Russell; and was purchased of him by Mr. J. Rotch, a native of Nantucket. When the question concerning the name of the proposed settlement was started, Mr. Rotch observed, that Russell was the name of the Duke of Bedford ; and that this spot, having been the property of a family, having the same name, should be called Bedford. Fair-Haven received its name from the beauty of its situation. Mr. Rotch speedily built a house, stores, and wharves; and was joined by several associates.
In Nantucket he had become thoroughly acquainted with the whaling business; and had formed interesting connections, both with the merchants, and fishermen, of that island. With this knowledge, and these connections, he began the business advantageously. Mr. Rotch was a Friend of a fair character, sagacious, and persuasive. By his peculiar address he procured first from the Government of France, and then from that of Great Britain, the privilege of exporting oil to those countries, duty free; and was thus enabled to carry on his own business with the highest profit, and essentially to befriend that of his neighbours. In consequence of these happy beginnings, and the industry, and skill, with which they were followed, the town instantly began, and with one exception has ever continued, to be eminently prosperous. We were not in Fair-Haven: but its appearance was pleasant and handsome.
No events of any peculiar importance occurred in the history of this town until the year 1778. On Saturday evening, the 3d of September, the British under General Gray landed 4,000 troops upon Clark's neck; the Western boundary of the river at its mouth: and marched to the town. Here they burnt houses, wbarves, &c. to the amount of £11,241; and destroyed English and West-India goods, provisions, naval stores, shipping &c. to the amount of £85,739 ; amounting in the whole to £96,980, or $323,266. From this place they marched around the head of the river to Sconticut Point, on the Eastern side, leaving in their course, for some unknown reason, the villages of Oxford and Fair-Haven. Here they continued till Monday, and then re-embarked. The following night a large body of them proceeded up the river with a design to finish the work of destruction by burning Fair-Haven. A critical attention to their movements had convinced the inhabitants that this was their design, and induced them to prepare for their reception. The militia of the neighbouring country had been summoned to the defence of this village. Their Commander was a man far advanced in years. Under the influence of that languor, which, at this period enfeebles both the body and the mind, he determined that the place must be given up to the enemy, and that no opposition to their ravages could be made with any hope of success.
This decision of their Officer necessa
rily spread its benumbing influence over the militia ; and threatened an absolute prevention of all enterprise, and the destruction of this handsome village.
Among the officers, belonging to the brigade, was Israel Fearing, Esq. a Major of one of the regiments. This gallant young man, observing the torpor which was spreading among the troops, invited as many as had sufficient spirit, to follow him, and station themselves at the post of danger. Among those who accepted the invitation was one of the Colonels; who of course became the Commandant; but after they had arrived at Fair-Haven, and the night had come on, he proposed to march the troops back into the country. He was warmly opposed by Major Fearing; and, finding that he could not prevail, prudently retired to a house three miles distant, where he passed the night in safety.
After the Colonel had withdrawn, Major Fearing, now Commander in Chief, arranged his men with activity and skill; and soon perceived the British approaching. The militia, in the strictest sense raw, already alarmed by the reluctance of their superiour officers to meet the enemy, and naturally judging that men of years must understand the real state of the danger better than Major Fearing, a mere youth, were panic struck at the approach of the enemy, and instantly withdrew from their post. At this critical moment Major Fearing, with the decision which awes men into a strong sense of duty, rallied them; and, placing himself in the rear, declared, in a tone which removed all doubt, that he would kill the first man, whom he found retreating. The resolution of their Chief recalled theirs. With the utmost expedition he then led them to the scene of danger. The British had already set fire to several stores. Between these buildings and the rest of the village he stationed his troops ; and ordered them to lie close in profound silence, until the enemy, who were advancing, should have come so near, that no marksman could easily mistake his object. The orders were punctually obeyed. When the enemy had arrived within this distance, the Americans rose, and with a well-directed fire, gave them a warm and unexpected reception. The British fled instantly to their boats, and fell down
the river with the utmost expedition. From the quantity of blood, found the next day in their line of march, it was supposed that their loss was considerable. Thus did this heroic youth, in opposition to his superiour officers, preserve Fair-Haven, and merit a statue from its inhabilants.*
A wag, who had divined the true reasons of the Colonel's retreat, followed him to the house where he lodged; and, finding by inquiry, that notwithstanding his original declarations to the contrary, he had concluded to take up his lodgings there for the night, resolved to be his sentinel. He therefore mounted the jaw-bone of a horse upon a pair of small wheels, instead of a cannon. This piece of artillery he charged, and discharged, at regular intervals during the night, as the proper means of defence to his gallant Commander; and bad the satisfaction of secing him safe and sound the next morning.
The township of New-Bedford extends from Dartmouth to Rochester four miles, and from Buzzard's Bay to Freetown thirteen. In 1790, it contained 454 houses, and 3,313 inhabitants; in 1800, 626 dwelling-houses, and 4,361 inhabitants; and, in 1810, 5,651.
Thursday, November 25th, we left New-Bedford early in the morning; and rode to Sandwich, thirty miles; through Rochester, twelve: and Wareham, thirteen. On our way we visited a manufactory of twine at the head of the harbour, and about four miles from the town. It is the property of Mr. Rotch; and will cost, it is said, forty thousand dollars, when completed. It contains five stands of quills ; each of which spins thirty pounds of tlax per day; and a twisting machine, which easily twists all that
One hundred and fifty pounds of flax, therefore, are converted daily into twine at this manufactory, or 46,950 pounds in twelve months. Sewing twine only is spun at present, and is said to be of a good quality; but it is intended soon to spin that, which is designed for netting. The flax is chiefly imported from Connecticut. This was an application of water machinery to the convenience of
which I have not before seen.
* This account of New-Bedford I had from Edward Pope, Esq. from whom I received many civilities.