Taunton is a city in Bristol County, Massachusetts, United States, located approximately south of Boston, east of Providence, north of Fall River, north of New Bedford, and west of Plymouth. It is the seat of Bristol County. Taunton is situated on the Taunton River which winds its way through the city on its way to Mount Hope Bay, to the south. As of the 2010 census, the city had a population of 55,874. The current mayor is Thomas Hoye, Jr.
Founded in 1637 by members of the Plymouth Colony, Taunton is one of the oldest towns in the United States. The native Americans called the region Cohannet, Tetiquet and Titicut 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, giving it the additional nickname of "Christmas City".
The original boundaries of Taunton included the land now occupied by 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.
Taunton was founded by settlers from England 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, Tetiquet or Titiquet.
The English founders of Taunton purchased the land from the Nemasket Indians in 1637 as part of the Tetiquet Purchase and the remaining native families were relocated to the praying town of Ponkapoag in current day Canton, MA. Plymouth Colony was formally divided into counties on June 2, 1685, with Taunton becoming the shire town of Bristol County. The counties of Plymouth Colony were transferred to the Province of Massachusetts Bay on the arrival of its charter and governor on May 14, 1692. The Taunton area has been the site of skirmishes and battles during various conflicts, including King Philip's War and the American Revolution. Taunton was re-incorporated as a city on May 11, 1864.
In 1656, the first successful iron works in Plymouth Colony was established on the Two Mile River, in what is now part of Raynham. The Taunton Iron Works operated for over 200 years until 1876. It was the first of many iron industries in Taunton.
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.
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 weather forecast office that serves much of Massachusetts, all of Rhode Island, most of northern Connecticut, and most of southern New Hampshire there. The National Weather Service also operates the Northeast River Forecast Center on the site, serving New England and most of New York state. Several major companies operate within the industrial park and in other parts of the city.
In October 2005, the Whittenton Pond Dam north of downtown threatened to fail following a week that brought of rain to the city. Over 2,000 city residents were evacuated, 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 of water. In response, Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney ordered an immediate inspection of high-risk dams throughout the Commonwealth.
In 2012 Taunton became the target location for a Wampanoag casino complex which was embroiled in conflict by competing regional bands of the Wampanoag over territory claims. The proposed casino resort complex location is adjacent to a local elementary school and the regional technical high school, generating protests by parent and teacher groups.
Historical photo gallery