The following are Acts and Resolves passed and or reviewed by the General Court of Massachusetts. They provide interesting insights into our river and what was valued in it at different times throughout our early history. They also provide us with a map of sorts, to tell us where anadromous fish were present throughout our Great River. These volumes also offer interesting first hand insights into our early society's social values and political development. Unfortunately the early volumes are not available in most city and town libraries. We found them at the Brockton Superior Court law library, if you can find them they offer some great reading along with some eye opening revelations about attitudes in colonial times. We will be adding more as time permits.


Plymouth Colony Records

Judicial Acts


31 October

Part I.

George Watson, Gyles Gilbert, William Witherly complained against James Walker, Robert Crosman, John Macomber, and Nicholas White, in an action of treaspas on the case, to the damage of an hundred pounds, for hindering the fish for haueing a convenient passage vp and downe the Mill Riuer att Taunton, by the worke about the saw mill, contrary to the inhabitants of the towne called Taunton, and contrary to the promise of the said James Walker, all which hath bine great damage to the complainants and others.

The jury find for the pliantiffes, that a suffiient passage be made by the defendants att the Mill Riuer att Taunton for the fish where they vsually goe vp and downe, where the saw mill or dam now erected is an anoyance to the said fish, the expense of time, and the cost of suite.



An Act to prevent the deftruction of Fifh called Shad and Alewives, in Ten and Three-Miles-River, in the county of Briftol, that fome further provifion fhould be made for faid purpofe :

WHEREAS it is neceffary for the prefervation of the fifh called Alewives, in their paffage up the rivers, called and known by the names of Ten-Mile and Three-Mile- River, in the county of Briftol, that fome further provifion fhould be made for faid purpofe :

Sect. I. Be it therefore enacted by the Senate and Houfe of Reprefentatives, in General Court affembled, and by the authority of the fame, That the feveral towns through which the faid Ten and Three-Mile-Rivers run, fhall be, and they hereby are empowered and directed, in the month of March or April annually, to choofe three or more persons in each town refpectively, being freeholders within the fame, as a Commitee, who fhall take an oath to the faithful difcharge of his or their duty, and the faid Committee or the major part of them fhall have the power to caufe the natural courfe of the faid ftreams through which the faid fifh pafs, to be kept open, and without obftruction, and to make the paffage ways wider or deeper, if they fhall find it neceffary ; and the Committee, or a major part of them, fhall have authority for fuch purpofes, to go on the land of any perfon, through which the faid Ten and Three-Mile-Rivers run, without being confidered as a trefpaffor or trefpaffors ; and any perfon, who fhall moleft or hinder the faid Committee or either of them in their execution of the bufinefs of his or their offices, or who fhall obftruct any paffage-way in the faid rivers, otherwife than maybe allowed by the faid committee, he or they fhall forfeit and pay a fine not exeeding the sum of fifteen pounds, nor less than five pounds.

Sect. 2. And be it further enacted, That the faid Committee, or the major part of them, at any meeting by them duly notified, fhall be, and hereby are authorized and empowered to open any dam or fluice-way of any mill erected, or that may be erected on, over or acrofs the faid rivers, at the expenfe of the owner or owners of fuch dam, provided fuch owner or owners fhall neglect to open the fame, when they are required by the faid Committee, and faid dam or dams, or fluice-way or ways, fo opened, fhall continue open to fuch depth and width, and for fuch length of time betwixt the firft day of April, and the laft day of May annually, as the major part of the faid Committee fhall judge necefary ; and in café any perfon or perfons fhall be found to obftruct the paffage-ways allowed or ordered by the faid Committee in any dam or fluice, fuch perfon or perfons fo offending, fhall forfeit and pay a fine, not exeeding the fum of ten pounds, nor lefs than five pounds.

[This act paffed March 10, 1788.]


An ACT to repeal in Part an ACT, entitled, "An Act to prevent the deftruction of Fifh called Shad and Alewives, in Ten and Three Miles Rivers, in the County of Briftol.

WHEREAS the Act, entitled, "an act to prevent the deftruction of fifh called shad and alewives, in Ten and Three Mile Rivers, in the County of Briftol, appears not to be of public utility, fo far as the fame Act refects the faid river called Three Mile River.

    Be it enacted by the Senate and Houfe of Reprefentatives, in General Court affembled, and by the authority of the fame, That the faid Act to prevent the deftruction of the fifh called shad and alewives, in Ten and Three Miles Rivers, shall be, and the fame is hereby repealed and declared to be null and void, from the time of paffing this Act, as to all matters therein required or authorized, to be done refpecting the river called Three Miles River, faving only, that all acts and doings heretofore lawfully performed by the virtue of the faid act fhall and may be justified thereby, this repeal notwithstanding.

[This Act, paffed Febuary 11, 1791]




An Act authorizing Stephen King and his associates, to establish a Dam across Taunton Great-River.


Sec. I. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives, in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same, That Stephen King and his associates be, and they are hereby authorized to build and maintain a Dam across Taunton Great-River, so called, on the land of Stephen King, in Taunton and Raynham, at a place about one quarter of a mile above King’s bridge on said river, for the purpose of establishing and carrying on Mills and Manufactories. Provided, That such Dam shall not be erected in such manner as to flow the water back to the injury of the works on Pratt’s dam in Middleboro, situated on the same river.

Sec. 2. Be it further enacted, That a proper and sufficient sluice-way, shall be constructed in the Dam here, authorized to be built, and such a sluice-way shall, at all times, be kept in repair, and ready to be opened for the free passage of boats and rafts, as well as all kinds of lumber, which have usually been floated on said river, and also a convenient way to be constructed and kept open according to law, for the passage of such fish as usually pass up the same river in their proper season ; and if such sluice-ways and fish ways shall not be sufficient, the same Dam, or such part thereof as may be necessary, may be removed or abated as a nuisance, in the same manner as other nuisances may, by law, be removed or abated.

[Approved by the Governor, June 14, 1813.]




1824.-------Chap. 76

Chap. 76. An Act regulating the taking of fish in the town of Bridgewater, in the county of Plymouth.

Sect. 1. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives, in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same, That from and after the first day of June next, it shall be lawful for the town of Bridgewater to catch the fish called shad and alewives in Titicut river, so called, which forms the boundary line between said town of Bridgewater, and the town of Middleboro, with a seine or net, and for that purpose they may sell at public auction for their own benefit, the privilege of catching said fish in said river, with one seine or net only, fifteen rods in length, four days in each week, between the fifteenth day of March, and the first day of June in each year, to commence at four o’clock on Monday morning, and to end at four o’clock on Friday morning, anything in any law of this Commonwealth, now existing, to the contrary notwithstanding : provided, that the said town of Bridgewater shall, at a legal meeting, between the first day of September and the last day of December, in each year, dispose and make sale of, at public auction, for the next year, and so from year to year, their privilege for catching shad and alewives with a seine or net, in the river aforesaid, for the time aforesaid, to such person or persons as shall offer the most for the same, and give sufficient security for the payment of the purchase money at such time, and in such manner as the said town shall order : provided, also, that it shall not be lawful for said town, or the purchaser of said privilege, to catch the fish aforesaid, within seventy five rods of the dam across said river, known by the name of Pratt’s dam. [Feb. 15, 1825] Add. Act, 1825 ch. 74.


1863.— Chapters 73, 74.

Chap. 73.        An Act concerning the Fisheries in Taunton Great River.

Be it enacted, &c., as follows :

SECTION 1. The provisions of chapter four hundred and one of the acts of the year eighteen hundred and fifty-five, relating to the catching of shad and alewives in Taunton Great River and the Newmasket River, are hereby extended to all waters connected with the Newmasket River, within the towns of Middleborough and Lakeville.

SECTION 2. It shall be the duty of the fish wardens chosen by the town of Middleborough, under the provisions of chapter four hundred and one, section nine, of the acts of the year eighteen hundred and fifty-five, either personally or by the assistants by them appointed and employed, to use all needful care, watch and inspection, to prevent any violation of any of the provisions of said act, from a point one mile and a half below the dam at Squawbetty Village up to the waters of Assawompsett Pond ; the expense of which care, watch and inspection, shall be paid by said town of Middleborough ; and the other towns on said Taunton Great River shall annualy pay to said town of Middleborough, for re-imbursment for their share in the benefits to be derived from said care, watch and inspection, the sums following : The city of Fall River and the town of Freetown, ten dollars each ; the towns of Somerset, Dighton, Berkley and Raynham twenty dollars each, and the town of Taunton thirty dollars. And the said town of Middleborough may recover the same in an action of contract in any court of competent jurisdiction.

SECTION 3. Any person who shall beat upon the ground, or do any act whatsoever whereby said fish in said rivers shall be disturbed, driven, destroyed or delayed, from the first day of March to the tenth day of June in each year, contrary to the meaning and intent of the provisions of chapter four hundred and fifty-five, shall be subject to all the pains and penalties named in the eleventh section of said act.

SECTION 4. This act shall take effect upon its passage.

Approved March 12, 1863.



Although this act law is from Berkshire County, it gives some idea of how much pressure our natural resources were under at that time.


Chap. 199 an act for the protection of Pickerel in the county of Berkshire.

Be it enacted, etc., as follows:

Whoever takes from the waters of the county of Berkshire a pickerel less than ten inches in length, or sells or offers to sell, or has in his possession, with intent to sell in said county any such pickerel, shall forfeit one dollar for each pickerel so sold or offered or exposed for sale; and in any prosecutions under this act the possessions of any pickerel less than ten inches in length shall be prima facie evidence of a violation thereof.

Approved March 30, 1895.