POVERTY POINT (Old Oxford Village)—- A trip to Poverty Point, formerly known as Oxford Village is a visit to colonial 18th century. It was one of Old Dartmouth’s first real estate developments known as “Ye Little Town at Ye Foot of William Woods Homestead. John Cook, a passenger on the Mayflower, at age sixteen built a home and garrison a short distance north of Oxford Village on land originally owned by Captain Thomas Tabor, whose first wife, Hester, was John Cook’s daughter.
Oxford Village was the business and shipbuilding center as early as 1710. At least 15 great ships were built in the yards at the point and whalers set out directly from Oxford. With the construction of the New Bedford bridge in 1790, transport to the open sea was cut off plunging the area into economic collapse, thus the name Poverty Point was associated with the area. Most of the commerce moved south to the growing Fair-Haven Village.
1760, December 12: William Wood sells Elnathan Eldredge 6 acres of land on the Acushnet River west of present-day Cherry Street. This “little town at ye foot of William Wood’s homestead,” with its thirty lots, becomes the nucleus of Oxford Village.
1778, September 5-6: The British land 4,000 troops on the west side of the Acushnet River. They burn ships and warehouses in Bedford Village, skirmish at the Head-of-the-River bridge, and march through Fairhaven to Sconticut Neck, burning several homes along the way. The fort is abandoned and it is destroyed by the enemy troops. An attack on Fair-Haven Village is repelled by militia under the command of Major Israel Fearing who had marched from Wareham with additional militiamen.
1800, May 1: The New Bedford (later Fairhaven) Academy opens. This private school is located on the west side of Main Street, north of Bridge Street.
1828, March 17: A contract is signed by a committee from Oxford Village, for the construction of a stone schoolhouse in District No. 11. The building on North Street is the first of the district schools to be built in Fairhaven.
Fairhaven is the resting place of John Cook the last surviving male passenger of the Mayflower. Cook died on November 23 1695 at the age of 88.
Fairhaven is also the home of Joshua Slocum, the first man to sail around the world alone. He left Fairhaven in 1895 and completed his voyage in 1898
New Bedford has always been “outside of the box”, so to speak. During the war of independence, it was the only “free” port in the colonies. New Bedford was the site of the first naval engagement of the war. On September 5th, 1778, the British land at Clark’s Point and proceed to burn the city. Torching everything except the warehouses that held the rum stored by the privateers that had been terrorizing British merchant ships.
It is also believed that Captain Henry J Robert’s experience in chairing a church meeting while stationed in New Bedford in the 1860’s inspired him to later write Roberts Rules of Order.
Having Quaker roots, the city has always been a thorn in the side of the national government. During the time of slavery, New Bedford was part of the Underground Railroad. Many slaves stowed on cotton ships that brought the raw product to the city for manufacturing. The most famous slave was Fredrick Douglass
New Bedford was the home of Berkshire Hathaway
In 1955 Berkshire Spinning merged with the Hathaway Manufacturing Company which was founded in 1888 in New Bedford, Massachusetts by Horatio Hathaway as a cotton milling business. Hathaway was successful in its first decades, but it suffered during a general decline in the textile industry after World War I. At this time, Hathaway was run by Seabury Stanton, whose investment efforts were rewarded with renewed profitability after the Depression.. After the merger, Berkshire Hathaway had 15 plants employing over 12,000 workers with over $120 million in revenue and was headquartered in New Bedford, Massachusetts.
The plant along with other mills was the draw for many Western European Immigrants like those from the British Isles, and the Iberian Peninsula, (and Poland.)