History and Lore
Alewives surging up stream at Nemasket
While researching the historic fisheries of our Great River we have come across some interesting accounts and thoughts on what was once here and how it was perceived by the early settlers of this region. Because this region was settled at such an early time it is difficult to find much information on its natural history. There does not appear to be any single source for this early information, rather it must be sifted from the pages of many different sources. The following are the results of our siftings, together they provide a hazy snap shot of what our Great River once was
The following is the account of a trip down the Taunton River in 1621 by Edward Winslow and Stephen Hopkins. They were sent by Governor Bradford to meet with Massasoit at Mount Hope Bay.
With these presents and this Message, we set forward Sunday the 10th of June [This date is considered an error. Governor Bradford (Bradford MS., folio 143) states the messengers started on Monday, 2 July 1621], about nine a clock in the morning ; our guide Tisquantum resolving that night to rest at Namaschet [Middleboro],+ a town under Massasoyt : and conceived by us to be very near, because the Indians flocked so thick, upon every slight occasion, amongst us ; but we found it to be some fifteen English miles.
On the way, we found some ten or twelve men women and children, which had pestered [annoyed] us till we were weary of them : perceiving that, as the manner of them all is, where victual is easiliest to be got, there they live, especially in the summer ; by reason whereof, our Bay affording many lobsters, they resort every spring-tide thither ; and now returned with us to Namaschet.
Thither we came about three a clock after noon, the inhabitants entertaining us with joy in the best manner they could : giving us a kind of bread, called by them maizium, and the spawn of shads which then they got in abundance, insomuch as they gave us spoons to eat them with. With these, they boiled musty acorns : but of the shads, we ate heartily.
After this, they desired one of our two men to shoot at a crow ; complaining what damage they sustained in their corn by them : who shooting some fourscore yards off, and killing ; they much admired [wondered at] it, as [at] other shots, on other occasions.
After this, Tisquantum told us, we should hardly in one day reach Pakanokick [Pokanocket] ; moving us to go some eight miles further, where we should find more store and better victuals than there.
Being willing to hasten our journey, we went ; and came thither at sunsetting ; where we found many of the Namascheucks, they so calling the men of Namaschet, fishing upon a ware [wear]*, which they had made on a river which belonged to them ; where they caught abundance of bass.
These welcomed us also, gave us of their fish ; and we, them of our victuals : not doubting but we should have enough wherever we came.
There we lodged in open fields : for houses [Wigwams] they had none, though they spent the summer there.
+ The spot so designated here is in what is now Middleboro, on the Nemasket River ; about thirty rods above the bridge, passed in going from the Green to the Four Corners, on the Middleboro and Plymouth road : being the rapids near the lower factory, which is now called the Star Mills.— H. M. Dexter, LIB. Of New England Hist., I. 101, Ed. 1865, 4. (This spot would have been above the wading place where Rt. 105 crosses Nemasket below the center of town)
* Probably at the old Indian Wear, so called, near Titicut, in the north-west part of Middleboro ; two or three miles south-west of the junction of the Nemasket, with the Taunton river.– H. M. Dexter, Lib. Of New England Hist., I. 102, Ed. 1865, 4. The Pilgrim fathers.
One interesting part of this story is the account of the Indians catching bass in abundance at this weir. In 1621 there would have been no Large or Smallmouth Bass in these parts. They were introduced at a later date. Therefore they must be referring to Striped Bass which are a native anadromous fish in New England. The date of this account is sometime between June 10, and July 2, this would be close to the time of year when Striped Bass would be spawning in the fresh water rivers of this latitude.
A Canoe Trip by Harry C. Atwood
This is a story about canoeing the Taunton and Nemasket in the early 1900's
David Beldings 1920 Report report on the Alewife Fishery of Taunton River