The Town of Middleborough, Massachusetts was officially settled by Europeans in 1661, but our history goes back well before the actual founding of the town. According to local historian, Dorothy Thayer:
“Excavations by Dr. Maurice Robbins of Attleboro, Massachusetts, at the area near the mouth of the Nemasket River, have revealed an Archaic Village in Middleborough that dates back to at least 2300 BC. This date has been substantiated by radiocarbon dating. Also a rock located to the East of the mouth of the Nemasket River, revealed only when the waters of Lake Assawompset are low, showed a mysterious sign of presence of Mediterranean people. On the rock is a picture of a Phoenician ship. It was carved by some awe-filled Indian, who saw the ship anchored in the lake and was moved to record his sighting for all to see.”
In 1661, the town was named Nemasket but then later changed to Middlebury and officially incorporated as Middleborough in 1669. The name Nemasket came from a Native American settlement along the small river that now bears the same name. Nemasket may have meant "place of fish," due to the large amount of herring that migrate up the river each spring. The name Middlebury was taken from a place in England, and changed to the more modern Middleborough.
During King Philip's War (1675–76), the town's populace took shelter within the confines of a fort constructed along the Nemasket River. The site is located behind the Memorial High School (now a kindergarten). Before long, the fort was abandoned and the population withdrew to the greater shelter of the Plymouth Colony. In their absence, the entire village was burned to the ground, and it would be several years before the town would be refounded. Western Middleborough broke away in 1853 and formed the town of Lakeville, taking with it the main access to the large freshwater lakes there, including Assawompset Pond.
Middleborough was once called the "shoe capital of the world." It is still home to the Alden Shoe Company, one of the last remaining shoe manufacturers in America. Middleborough has since become the cranberry capital of the world, hosting the corporate headquarters of Ocean Spray Cranberries. Notable sights include the 1870s Victorian-style town hall, the Greek revival-style town library, and in the spring, the Nemasket River teems with alewife and blueback herring running upstream to the Assawompset Ponds complex to spawn.
Come to Middleborough, Massachusetts for our natural resources, locally-produced food and products and a way of life steeped in the history of the ages. You may find that the songs of the herring in the river and the call of the wild in our preservation lands bring you back over and over again.
Middleborough, Plymouth County, Massachusetts