Marshfield, Massachusetts

Marshfield, Massachusetts

Marshfield is a town in Plymouth County, Massachusetts, United States, on Massachusetts's South Shore. The population was 24,324 at the 2000 census.

For geographic and demographic information on specific parts of the town of Marshfield, please see the articles on Green Harbor, Marshfield (CDP), Marshfield Hills, and Ocean Bluff and Brant Rock.


1. Native Americans

Native Americans lived in Marshfield for thousands of years before the white man came. These First People included members of the Wampanoag Tribe of the Algonquin nation and members of the Massachusetts Tribe. Evidence of Native American habitation extending back to 9,000 to 10,000 B.C. has been found extensively in the area.

Native American roads were well established in the town by the time of English settlement in the 1600s. These Native American roads are still in use today, comprising the town's main roads. A hauntingly beautiful, pre-historic Native American road - extending between three rivers- can still be seen today in seemingly pristine condition. It is in woodlands formerly owned by the Marshfield Drive-In Movie Theatre.

The Wampanoag name for the area is "Missacautucket."

2. Pilgrim Settlement

Marshfield is an early Pilgrim town, originally part of the "New Colony of New Plimoth in New England," which was established in 1620. Marshfield retains some of its historic character throughout its several quaint villages.

Marshfield was first established as a separate settlement in 1632 by Edward Winslow, a Mayflower Pilgrim who became a governor of Plymouth Colony. Edward Winslow was the third signatory to the Mayflower Compact. He became a negotiator and diplomat for the Colony in its dealings with the Native Americans. Edward Winslow established the first church and the first school in the town, near the cemetery which today still bears the Winslow name.

Governor Edward Winslow made a major contribution to the success of Plimoth Plantation by returning to England to obtain cattle for the Colony. Cattle farming was introduced into Marshfield at the inception of its settlement and became a major industry for the town for the next 300 years.

A commercial fishing enterprise was established in Marshfield by 1623, by William Green, who later married a granddaughter of Pilgrim Richard Warren. The area was originally referred to as "Green's Harbor." When the area was formally set off as a town, it was named "Rexhame." Later, the name of the town was changed to "Marshfield." It is believed that the name "Marshfield" was taken from a Welsh town by that name. The town has extensive acreage of salt water tidal marshes along its three rivers: the Green Harbor River, the South River and the North River.

Marshfield was officially set off from Plimoth Plantation as a separate "town" in 1640. Much of the land in the town was originally granted to Pilgrims, their family members or to the investors in the Pilgrim settlement at Plymouth.

According to the List of Freemen of 1643, the earliest settlers in Marshfield, in addition to Edward Winslow, included his brothers Kenelm Winslow and Josiah Winslow. The list also included Thomas Bourne, Robert Waterman, John Dingley, Thomas Chillingsworth, John Russell, Edward Buckley, William Thomas and Nathaniel Thomas. (The two Thomas families were not related.)

The list of those who had taken the Oath of Fidelity in the Town in 1657 included: John Adams, John Booth, John Howland,Jr. Thomas Dogget, Samuel Baker, Robert Latham, Joseph Rose, Edward Bumpas,Jr., John Branch, James Dougherty, Robert Parker, Edmund Hincksman, Richard Sylvester, Thomas Tilden, Francis Crocker, John Thomas, Abraham Jackson, John Thomas, John Rogers,Jr., John Walker, George Vaughan, William Foard,Jr., William Maycomber, Richard French, Ralph Chapman, John Bumpas and Grigory Flecnam.

3. Home to First Native-Born New England Colonist

Another early resident of the town was Peregrine White, the first English child born in New England. Peregrine was born on November 20, 1620 on the Mayflower, while the ship was anchored near Provincetown on Cape Cod. This is where the Pilgrims moored for several weeks prior to selecting a location in Plymouth for permanent settlement. Peregrine was born to Pilgrim Susanna Fuller White and her husband Pilgrim William White. William died during the first winter. Half of the Pilgrims died that winter due to sickness, cold and starvation.

The name "Peregrine" means wanderer, foreign traveler or "pilgrim." After Peregrine's father died, his mother Susanna White married Edward Winslow in 1621. Winslow's first wife, Elizabeth Barker Winslow, also had perished that initial winter. Susanna was the first English bride married in New England. She was also the first English woman to give birth in New England.

Pilgrims Susanna, Edward and Peregrine all settled in Marshfield, along with Susanna's older son, Pilgrim Resolved White. Edward Winslow was given a large grant covering most of Marshfield south of the Green Harbor River.

Peregrine White was adopted by Edward Winslow. The Plymouth Colony Court later gave Peregrine a large grant on the western bank of the South River, where he established a successful farm. Peregrine became widely known for planting a great number of European fruit trees in Marshfield and other parts of the Colony. He held a number of offices in Marshfield and the Colony, including the office of Selectman of Marshfield. Peregrine also served as a lieutenant in the Colony's militia. He lived until age 84, passing on July 20, 1704. Peregrine White was much revered within the Colony as the first born.

Peregrine White's baby cradle, the first cradle of New England births, has been lovingly preserved since 1620. The cradle can be seen today on display at Pilgrim Hall in nearby Plymouth. 4. Land Tenure

For purposes of settling in the area peacefully, Josiah Winslow secured a deed to the town from the Chief of the Wampanoag Tribe, Chickatawbut. Chief Chickatawbut granted land rights to the English settlers from Plymouth on the condition that members of the Wampanoag Tribe could continue to hunt and fish in the area in perpetuity.

In the earliest years of the town, many of the land grants given by the Plymouth Colony Court were held by investors or speculators who did not live in the town, and frequently swapped and traded their deeds. The settlement of the town was largely confined to the area south of the South River.

There was extensive "common land" in the town, not owned by any individual. Some of the land in the town remains "common land" today, such as the town's magnificent five mile long seashore along the Atlantic Ocean. In the case of Briggs Thomas v. Inhabitants of Marshfield, 13 Pickering 240 (1832), the Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the Marshfield seashore was a public highway and landing place. The Court further ruled that the Marshfield seashore, including extensive beach dunes, had been set aside for use as a common for hundreds of years. In connection with that litigation, it was determined that the owner of the farm along some of the beach, Major Briggs Thomas, did not own the beautiful Rexhame Beach, as he claimed, and that Rexhame Beach was part of the common land of the town.

5. Colonial Government

Plymouth Colony was governed by a Governor and a General Court, composed of freemen of the Colony. The term "freemen" included white males, and excluded all women, Native Americans, blacks, indentured servants, Quakers and other religious minorities. In 1685, Plymouth Colony was divided into counties. Marshfield was designated part of Plymouth County. Marshfield did not become part of Massachusetts until 1692, when the English Crown forced the Pilgrim's Plymouth Colony to merge with the Massachusetts Bay Colony, which was seated to the north in Boston.

The 1692 charter created the Province of Massachusetts. The charter joined Plymouth's government with the Massachusetts Bay government, and created a single legislature. The Province of the Massachusetts Bay was replaced by a provisional government called the Massachusetts Provincial Congress during the American Revolution. After the American Revolution, the provisional government became the "State of Massachusetts" which later evolved into the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Up until the time of the merger of the two colonies, Plymouth Colony was distinctly different from the Massachusetts Bay Colony. For example, the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony did not embrace the death penalty or physical mutilation as punishment for crimes, while the colony at Massachusetts frequently employed such punishments. The two colonies were controlled by members of different religions. Plymouth Colony was established by Separatists, while the Massachusetts colony was established by Puritans. The two colonies had different sets of laws. Plymouth Colony demonstrated greater religious tolerance. Neither Marshfield nor Plymouth Colony was involved in the Massachusetts witchcraft hysteria, which erupted simultaneously with the merger of the two colonies, and resulted in the Salem witch trials.

6. A Town Divided During The American Revolution

Marshfield was fiercely and bitterly divided between Tories and Patriots in the time leading up to the war and during the American Revolution. In many instances, members of the same family stood on opposite sides of the dispute.

Marshfield was considered the hot bed of Tory activity in Massachusetts. Marshfield was the only town in Massachusetts to formally pledge its loyalty to the King, and to condemn the Boston Tea Party, at its town meeting. The leading Loyalists were members of the town's founding families, including the descendants of Pilgrim Edward Winslow and the descendants of Pilgrim Peregrine White. Another prominent Loyalist in the town was Nathaniel Ray Thomas, also a descendant of one of the town's earliest settlers. Thomas held the post of Mandamus Councillor. He had been appointed by General Thomas Gage, royal governor of the Province of Massachusetts and the King's Privy Council.

Marshfield's Tory organization, the "Associated Loyalists of Marshfield," had 300 members. They held their meetings at the Marshfield mansion of Dr. Isaac Winslow, today known as the Historic 1699 Winslow House. The Tories became concerned for their safety and sought the assistance of General Gage who commanded the British troops in Boston. To protect the Associated Loyalists, General Gage sent Captain Balfour and numerous officers leading 100 troups of the regiment known as the "King's Own." They were quartered on the 1500 acre estate of Nathaniel Ray Thomas.

Marshfield was so notorious as a Tory town that Patriot militia from the local towns considered an incursion into Marshfield--to attack the Tories and the British soldiers quartered within the town. On April 20, 1776, Anthony Thomas, a Patriot leader, assembled troops at his house to attack the estate of his own neighbor, Nathaniel Ray Thomas. The confrontation was narrowly averted when the British troops quartered at the Thomas estate abruptly evacuated Marshfield via ships waiting at Brant Rock, taking along one hundred to two hundred Loyalist residents of the area.

Other Tories left the town as hostilities escalated. Some never returned and relocated to Nova Scotia or other places in Canada. A main commander of the Massachusetts volunteers fighting for the British was Master-Muster General Edward Winslow of the Loyal North British Volunteers, the Plymouth cousin of Dr. Isaac Winslow. This Edward Winslow (loyalist) eventually helped to found the Loyalist colony in New Brunswick, Canada. Abijah White, who had been Marshfield's representative in the Province legislature, was wounded in a battle at Boston Lighthouse as a member of the Loyalist militia and died not long afterwards.

After the American Revolution, many of Marshfield's Tory families were subjected to land confiscations, imprisonment, house arrest or mobbings. Some were banished from Massachusetts under the Tory Banishment Act. The Marshfield Board of Selectmen acted to jail almost 40 male residents of the town.

The following is a partial listing of some of the Tories of Marshfield and their status during or after the Revolution:

John Baker--jailed 1776; John Baker, Jr.--remained; Kenelm Baker--remained; John Barker--jailed 1776; Seth Bryant--banished from state; Caleb Carver, Jr.--banished from state; John Carver--remained; Melzer Carver--evacuated with British; banished.

Obediah Daman--remained; Seth Devrow--remained; Zephaniah Devrow--remained; Thomas Decrow--banished from state; Jedediah Ewell--remained; Seth Ewell--remained.

Elijah Ford--remained; Levi Ford--remained; Samuel Ford--remained; Elisha Ford--mobbed 1776; jailed 1776; Robert Foster--remained; Adam Hall--property listed for confiscation; banished; John Hall--remained; Luke Hall---evacuated with British; banished; Jeremiah Hatch--guilty at trial in 1777; John Hatch--remained; Noah Hatch--remained.

Isaac Joice--property listed for confiscation; banished; Simon Keen--remained; John Little--remained; Peabody Little--remained; Thomas Little--remained; Thomas Little, Jr.--remained; William Little---remained; Onesimus Macomber--remained.

Joseph Phillips--property listed for confiscation; banished; Nathan Phillips--house arrest 1775-82; Adam Rogers--remained; Robert Sherman--remained; Benjamin Stockbridge--prisoner of war; physical abuse; jailed 1776.

Nathaniel Ray Thomas--property confiscated; labelled by state "notorious conspirator"; banished; Nathaniel Thomas--remained; Israel Tilden--evacuated with British; banished; John Tilden--jailed 1776; Joseph Tilden--jailed 1776; Joshua Tilden--remained; Stephen Tilden--jailed 1776; Seth Vinal--remained; Seth Vinal, Jr.,--remained.

Abraham Walker--jailed 1776; Benjamin Walker--banished from state; Gideon Walker--banished; Isaiah Walker--remained; Josiah Walker--jailed 1775; Zera Walker--property listed for confiscation.

Abijah White--died after battle at Boston Light; Cornelius White III--banished; jailed 1775-76; jailed 1777; Daniel White--banished; Gideon White--remained; Lemuel White--remained; Paul White--mobbed, remained; Sybilline White--jailed 1775; Sylvanus White--jailed 1776; Sylvester White--jailed 1775-76; Warren White--jailed 1773-76, jailed 1777.

Edward Winslow--mobbed 1775, labelled a Tory in 1777 and 1778; left for Nova Scotia in 1781; Isaac Winslow--evacuated to Nova Scotia, returned in 1784; Pelham Winslow---evacuated with the British to New York; banished from state.

Despite the powerful influence of Marshfield's Tory families in the time leading up to the war, the town's Patriots were active on the revolutionary Committees of Correspondence. Marshfield native John Thomas (general) raised an army of volunteers from Plymouth County for the Continental Army on April 23, 1775 known as the 2nd Massachusetts Regiment, also known as the 23rd Continental Regiment. General John Thomas's regiment would see action at the Battle of Bunker Hill. General Thomas was a leader in the Seige of Boston, and was instrumental in causing the British evacuation of Boston on March 17, 1776. Other Patriot leaders included Colonel Anthony Thomas, his son, Major Briggs Thomas, and John Bourne.

Marshfield even had its own version of the Boston Tea Party. At midnight on December 19, 1773, Marshfield Patriots confiscated tea from the old Ordinary in the town as a protest against the Crown and in sympathy with the Boston Tea Party. The Ordinary is a building constructed as a tavern in 1673 by Timothy Williamson, located at 2000 Ocean Street at the corner with Moraine Street (today known as The Corner Cafe). In 1773 the building was owned by John Bourne.

After taking the tea, the Patriots burnt the tea on a large rock, situated on what became known as Tea Rock Hill. The town's Tories responded by adopting the Marshfield Tory Resolves, in which they condemned the Boston Tea Party. Today, notwithstanding the town's partly Tory heritage, the townspeople regard their own "Marshfield Tea Party" as a source of pride. Re-enactment of the Marshfield Tea Party has taken place as part of the town's 4th of July celebration.

7. General Background

Early industry in the town included farming, cattle, fishing and salt marsh haying. An early nail factory, founded by Jesse Reed, was one of the first to manufacture nails by machine. Shipbuilding grew in the town, and over 1,000 ships were built along the North River in town during the nineteenth century. The town is also the site of Brant Rock, where Reginald Fessenden built the antenna from which he sent his first transatlantic voice radio broadcast in 1907.

In 1941, a great conflagration engulfed the eastern part of the town. Approximately 400 buildings burnt down in three hours. This was one of the largest fires in terms of structures destroyed in the history of the United States. The tragedy was the subject of national news coverage, including photographic coverage in Life Magazine.

Marshfield is the home of one of the oldest continuous churches in America, the First Congregational Church.

The Marshfield Fair is held every August on grounds that once hosted a militia training green and livestock shows. It was organized by town resident and statesman Daniel Webster and is the United States' longest running agricultural fair.


Marshfield is located on the South Shore, about where Cape Cod Bay meets the Massachusetts Bay.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 31.74 sq mi (82.2 km²). 28.46 sq mi (73.7 km²) of it is land and 3.28 sq mi (8.5 km²) of it (10.33%) is water. Marshfield is bordered by Massachusetts Bay to the east, Duxbury to the south and southeast, Pembroke to the west, Norwell to the northwest, and Scituate to the north and northeast. Marshfield is eighteen miles east of Brockton and twenty-nine miles southeast of Boston.

Marshfield is named for the many salt marshes which dot the landscape in the town. There are three rivers, the North (along the northern border of the town), South (which branches at the mouth of the North River and heads south through the town) and the Green Harbor River (which flows just west of Brant Rock and Green Harbor Point at the south of town).

The South River divides a peninsula from the rest of the town, where Rexhame village and the Humarock and Fourth Cliff neighborhoods of the town of Scituate lie. The Scituate neighborhoods can be reached by land by two bridges, or by foot along Rexhame Beach. The Rexhame-Humarock peninsula is a barrier beach with an 84 ft. high moraine, one of only two barrier beach moraines on the east coast of the United States.

Marshfield is also the site of several small forests and conservation areas, including the Daniel Webster Wildlife Sanctuary along the Green Harbor River and the North River Wildlife Sanctuary, along Route 3A.

The Town of Marshfield MA has six separate zip codes: Marshfield 02050, Brant Rock 02020, Ocean Bluff 02065, North Marshfield 02059, Marshfield Hills 02051, Green Harbor 02041.

This quaint seaside Town is politically divided by nine Villages: Marshfield Center, Fieldston, Ocean Bluff, Rexhame, Brant Rock, Green Harbor, Marshfield Hills, North Marshfield and Sea View.

The following are the beaches comprising the five mile long Marshfield Public Seashore. The entire seashore is open to the public: Rexhame, Fieldston, Sunrise, Ocean Bluff, Brant Rock, Blue Fish Cove, Burke, Green Harbor.

Marshfield aka "MarshVegas" is a Summer beach destination. Tourists and vacationers cause the town's population to nearly double from Memorial Day through Labor Day Weekend. Only full-time residents of this town can vote on public tax matters.


Numerous families in Marshfield claim descent from the Pilgrims and other Old Colony families. Even today, any listing of school children will include many children bearing these Pilgrim and Old Colony names.

As of the census of 2000, there were 24,324 people, 8,905 households, and 6,598 families residing in the town. The population density was 854.8 people per square mile (330.1/km²). There were 9,954 housing units at an average density of 349.8/sq mi (135.1/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 92.69% White, 3.54% Black or African American, 0.11% Native American, 0.37% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.52% from other races, and 0.76% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.67% of the population.

There were 8,905 households out of which 37.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 60.9% were married couples living together, 10.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 25.9% were non-families. 20.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 7.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.73 and the average family size was 3.20.

In the town the population was spread out with 27.4% under the age of 18, 5.7% from 18 to 24, 31.2% from 25 to 44, 26.2% from 45 to 64, and 9.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females there were 95.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.6 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $125,508, and the median income for a family was $142,541. Males had a median income of $92,600 versus $72,975 for females. The per capita income for the town was $118,768. About 0.1% of families and 0.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 6.7% of those under age 18 and 4.8% of those age 65 or over.


On the national level, Marshfield is a part of Massachusetts's 10th congressional district, and is currently represented by Bill Delahunt. The state's senior (Class I) member of the United States Senate, re-elected in 2006, is Ted Kennedy. The junior (Class II) Senator, up for re-election in 2008, is John Kerry.

On the state level, Marshfield is represented in the Massachusetts House of Representatives as a part of the Fourth Plymouth district, which also includes much of the town of Scituate. The town is represented in the Massachusetts Senate as a part of the Plymouth and Norfolk district, which includes the towns of Cohasset, Duxbury, Hingham, Hull, Norwell, Scituate and Weymouth. The town is patrolled by the First (Norwell) Barracks of Troop D of the Massachusetts State Police.

Marshfield is governed on the local level by the open town meeting form of government, and is led by a town administrator and a board of selectmen. The current board of selectmen includes a direct descendant of Pilgrim Richard Warren. The modern town hall is located at the intersection of Routes 3A and 139, just south of the South River. The town has its own police and fire stations, with firehouses located in Marshfield Hills, Ocean Bluff and near the fairgrounds. The town's Ventress Memorial Library is located a short distance east of the town hall, and is a member of the Old Colony Library Network (OCLN). There is also an independent library, the Clift Rodgers Free Library, in Marshfield Hills. The town has three post offices, in the same neighborhoods as the fire stations.


Marshfield operates its own school system for the town's nearly 4,700 students. There are five elementary schools (Governor Edward Winslow, Daniel Webster, Eames Way, Martinson and South River) which serve students from pre-kindergarten through fifth grade (Eames Way and South River, however, do not have pre-kindergarten classes). The Furnace Brook Middle School serves students from sixth through eighth grade, and Marshfield High School serves grades nine through twelve. Marshfield High School's athletic teams are known as the Rams, and their colors are green, white, and black. There are no private or vocational schools in the town; the nearest private schools are in neighboring Scituate and Duxbury (as well as a charter school in Norwell). The nearest college is Bridgewater State College in Bridgewater, MA.


Route 3, also known as the Pilgrim Highway, skirts the town along the Pembroke town line, and can be accessed in Marshfield via the Route 139 exit. Route 139 loops through the town, with a long portion passing along the beaches of the Ocean Bluff and Fieldston neighborhoods before heading north and east into Pembroke. Route 3A also passes through the town, entering from the south in Duxbury and exiting over the North River into Scituate.

There is daily bus service connecting with the MBTA station in Braintree and another bus connecting with South Station in Boston. The nearest train station is the Greenbush station in Scituate. There is a commuter ferry to Boston available in Hingham. The nearest airport is Logan International Airport in Boston. The area is also servd by T.F. Green Airport in Rhode Island. The nearest freight rail service is in Wareham.

The town is home to the Marshfield Municipal Airport, which serves small private and regional aircraft.

Notable residents


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