For geographic and demographic information on the village of North Scituate, which is a part of Scituate, please see the article North Scituate, Massachusetts.
Scituate was settled by a group of people from Plymouth about 1627, who were joined by immigrants from the county of Kent in England. They were initially governed by the General Court of Plymouth, but on October 5, 1636, the town incorporated as a separate entity. The name Scituate is derived from satuit, the Wampanoag term for cold brook, which refers to a brook that runs to the inner harbor of the town. In 1710, several residents emigrated to Rhode Island and founded Scituate, Rhode Island, naming it after their previous hometown.
Twelve homes and a sawmill were destroyed in King Philip's War in 1676.
In 1717, the western portion of the original land grant was separated and incorporated as the town of Hanover, and in 1788, a section of the town was ceded to Marshfield. In 1849, another western section became the town of South Scituate, which later changed its name to Norwell. Since then, the borders have remained essentially unchanged.
Fishing was a significant part of the local economy in the past, as was the sea mossing industry. The sea was historically an integral part of the town with occasional incidents such as that described February 13, 1894 in which eight men clinging to the vessel's rigging on a schooner grounded off Third Cliff apparently died before a large crowd watching from shore "literally frozen to the ropes" while unsuccessful rescue efforts continued through the day and their apparently lifeless bodies were covered by nightfall. A small fishing fleet is still based in Scituate Harbor, although today the town is mostly residential.
In 1810, a lighthouse was erected on the northern edge of Scituate Harbor. This lighthouse is now known as Old Scituate Light. During the War of 1812, a British naval raiding party was deterred by the two daughters of the lighthouse keeper playing a fife and drum loudly. The girls and this incident became known as the "American Army of Two" or "Lighthouse Army of Two".
Another notable lighthouse, Minot's Ledge Light, stands approximately one mile off Scituate Neck.
Samuel Woodworth's Old Oaken Bucket house is located in Scituate. The town is also home to the Lawson Tower, a water tower surrounded by a wooden façade, with an observation deck with views of most of the South Shore from the top.