Taunton, Massachusetts

Taunton, Massachusetts
—  City  —
Taunton, Massachusetts
War Memorials on Taunton Green


Nickname(s): The Silver City, The Christmas City
Location in Bristol County, Massachusetts
Coordinates: 41°54′00″N 71°05′25″W / 41.9°N °W / 41.9; -71.09028
Country United States
State Massachusetts
County Bristol
Settled 1637
Incorporated (Town) 1639
Incorporated (City) 1864
Government
 - Type Mayor-City Council
 - Mayor Charles Crowley
Area
 - Total  dunams (124.2 km2 / 48.0 sq mi)
 - Land
 - Water
Elevation
Population (2000)
 - Total 55,976
 Density
 - Urban density
 - Rural density
 - Metro density
 -  Density
 -  Density
Time zone Eastern (UTC-5)
 - Summer (DST) Eastern (UTC-4)
ZIP code 02718, 02780, 02783
Area code(s) 508 / 774
FIPS code 25-69170
GNIS feature ID 0613154
Website www.taunton-ma.gov

Taunton is a city in Bristol County, Massachusetts, United States. It is the seat of Bristol County and the hub of the Greater Taunton Area. The city is located south of Boston, east of Providence, north of Fall River and west of Plymouth. The City of Taunton is situated on the Taunton River which winds its way through the city on its way south to Mount Hope Bay, away. Taunton is considered to be a mill town, with several mills in the city as well as in nearby Fall River.

As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 55,976. The current mayor is Charles Crowley.

Founded in 1637 by members of the Plymouth Colony, Taunton is one of the oldest towns in the United States. The city takes its name from Taunton, Somerset, in southwestern England. An English woman, Elizabeth Pole, from Taunton, was instrumental in the founding of the American Taunton. The native Americans called the region Cohannet before the arrival of the Europeans. Taunton is also known as the Silver City, as it was an historic center of the silver industry beginning in the 19th century when companies such as Reed & Barton, F. B. Rogers, Poole Silver, and others produced fine-quality silver goods in the city.

Since December 1914, the city of Taunton has provided a large annual light display each December on Taunton Green, also giving it the nickname of Christmas City.

Taunton once included many surrounding towns, including Norton, Easton, Mansfield, Dighton, Raynham, and Berkley. Possession of the latter is still noted by the naming of Taunton Hill in Assonet, which is now North Main Street, a street that heads into Berkley and Fall River.

Beginnings

Taunton was founded in 1637 by Elizabeth Poole, and officially incorporated as a town on September 3, 1639. Most of the town's settlers were originally from Taunton in Somerset, England, which led early settlers to name the settlement after that town. At the time of Taunton's incorporation, they explained their choice of name as being, in honour and love to our dear native country... and owning it a great mercy of God to bring us to this place, and settling of us, on lands of our own bought with our money in peace, in the midst of the heathen, for a possession for ourselves and for our posterity after us. Prior to 1640, the Taunton area was called Cohannet.

The British founders of Taunton took possession of the land from the native Wampanoag people. The Taunton area was the site of battles (on its soil or in the surrounding area) during various conflicts, including King Philip's War and the American Revolution. Taunton was re-incorporated as a city on May 11, 1864.

Industrial legacy

During the 19th century, Taunton became known as the "Silver City", as it was home to many silversmithing operations, including Reed & Barton, F.B. Rogers, and Poole Silver.

In the 19th century, Taunton was also the center of an important iron-making industry, utilizing much bog iron from the numerous swamps in the surrounding area. The iron industry in Taunton produced a variety of goods including stoves (Weir Stove Company/Glenwood), tacks (Field Tack Company) and machinery. One of the more successful companies during this period was the Mason Machine Works, founded by William Mason, which produced machinery for the textile industry, as well as steam locomotives. The Taunton Locomotive Works (begun in 1846) also operated in the city during this time.

Taunton was also home to several textile mills (Whittenton Mills) and other industries, such as felt (Bacon Felt) and brick making.

During the 19th century, Taunton was a major shipping point for grain from the inland rural farm areas of Massachusetts to the rest of the nation via Weir Village and the Taunton River. With the advent of the railroad, Taunton would also become an important transportation hub due to its central location.

The city formed the Taunton Municipal Light Plant (TMLP) in 1897, when it decided to purchase the floundering Taunton Electric Lighting Company, making it a publicly-owned electric utility. Today, TMLP provides electric service to 34,000 customers in Taunton, Berkley, Raynham, and sections of Dighton, Lakeville and Bridgewater. TMLP is governed by a three-member Board of Commissioners, which is elected by the citizens of Taunton.

Recent history

The Myles Standish Industrial Park in Taunton's north end is currently one of the largest in New England. The National Weather Service operates a Regional Forecast Office there. Several major companies operate within the industrial park and in other parts of the city.

In October 2005, the nearby Whittenton Pond Dam threatened to fail following a week that brought nine inches of rain to the city. Over 2,000 city residents were evacuated,[1] and Mayor Robert Nunes issued a State of Emergency. It is estimated that if the dam had failed, the Mill River would have inundated the downtown area with up to six feet of water. In response, Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney ordered an immediate inspection of high-risk dams throughout the Commonwealth.[2][3]