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Scituate Town

Scituate Town Hall is located at 600 Chief Justice Cushing Highway, Scituate, MA 02066; phone: 781-545-8741.

Beginnings [1]

Scituate was one of the first settlements in the United States, founded in 1636 by a group of men from Kent, England, who became known as the "Men of Kent." The name Scituate is taken from the Satuit Brook (Wampanoag for "cold brook"), which runs through the town.

Through different periods in its history Scituate has been a farming community, an industrial worker and tradesman's town, a fishing community, a wealthy person's summer vacation home, an immigrant's doorway to a new country, and at times all of these. Early Scituate was much larger geographically than it is today and at its largest included a total of 52 sq. miles. All of the Town of Norwell, Union Street in Marshfield, parts of Hanover and Government Island in Cohasset were within the town's original boundaries. Today the area of Scituate is 17 square miles.

A long stretch of the North River was originally located in Scituate, providing many famous shipbuilders space to set up their yards. Scituate has always been a fishing community, and remains so today, although at a lesser level of intensity. The Scituate Lighthouse, built in 1811, guided ships safely into the harbor for many years. During the War of 1812, two daughters of the fishing captain living there played "Yankee Doodle" on a fife and drum to scare away barges full of redcoats, and saved the town from the attack.

The Old Oaken Bucket Farmhouse, the Mann Farmhouse, and the Cudworth House are three early farming homesteads that have been preserved by the Scituate Historical Society and contain many original furnishings used in the 1600s and 1700s. In addition to the usual types of farming, through the 19th and mid-20th centuries a number of Scituate residents harvested Irish moss, a type of seaweed with commercial uses. In the 1997 street list, one resident still lists his occupation as "Irish mosser."

Scituate has always been a community with many summer residents, attracted to its pleasant ocean-front location. In earlier days, only wealthier people could afford to journey from a larger city to the ocean for the summer. Some formed beach clubs such as the Glades Club, founded in the 1850s, the Boston Recreational Club, and the North Scituate Beach Improvement Association, originally gathered in 1897. These helped bring many well-educated (synonymous with wealth in those days) residents who later became famous authors, poets, and scholars.

Scituate was a leader in the initial use of mechanical power. Scituate shipwrights built sturdy wooden ships from the lumber along the North River, and Scituate became the center of shipbuilding expertise in the New World. Many famous ships, including the Columbia, which sailed around the world, were built here. Also, almost any shipbuilder found in other areas along the coast apprenticed and were trained in Scituate. The shipbuilding industry in Scituate lasted almost 200 years, until 1872, when the lumber supply along the river began to diminish and metals took over as the new material for ships.

In 1640 the first water-driven grist mill in the United States was put in operation by Isaac Stedman at a dam on the Herring River. The mill ground corn from the local farmers into cornmeal, which was packaged and sold. The mill became known as the Stockbridge Mill and is today owned by the Scituate Historical Society.

In the late 19th century, Scituate had ten school districts. A number of primary schools from this era still exist, many converted into private residences or other uses. The Mount Hope Improvement Association building was an early schoolhouse.

  1. Scituate Master Plan Draft, Historic and Cultural Resources, 2001, www.town.scituate.ma.us, accessed June, 2011.
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