About Our Town

The Town of Freetown is a pastoral community in Bristol County with a small summer colony and a maritime history. The town's early economy was based mostly on agriculture, but the water power of the Assonet River eventually brought grist, saw and fulling mills after 1695 and in the 18th century the town's industries included a tannery. One of the state's first trout hatcheries was established in Freetown, and in the 1870's railroad dining cars and the luxurious dining rooms of ocean liners were serving Freetown trout.

Freetown's position at the head of a tidewater made it the closest port to the iron-producing towns of Middleborough and Lakeville, encouraging iron foundries and nails works as well as shipyards. The shipyards built sloops and schooners, some of which probably then worked the coastal or foreign trade routes and brought their cargoes back to the busy wharves of Freetown. By the 19th century, iron ore came up the Assonet and into Freetown's wharves primarily from New Jersey. From the wharves the iron went to the factories in town making machine castings for textile machinery, a significant component of Freetown's industrial product at that time. The last ship was launched in Freetown in 1848, when the demand for larger ships outgrew the depth of the Assonet River and the extension of the railroads killed off coastal freighting.

Residents of the town turned to small market gardening, dairy production and lumbering and by the end of the century, much of the land that had been farmed was returning to forest as Freetown regained some of its pre-Colonial rural landscape. Residents are very proud of the town's Colonial history, pointing out that the first company of militia was formed in Freetown in 1683 and that three companies of Minute Men turned out on April 19, 1775 for the Battle of Lexington and then served honorably and well with the Continental Army.

- Narrative based on information provided by the Massachusetts Historical Commission