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Freetown Info

Freetown, Massachusetts


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History

Freetown was first settled on April 2, 1659 on the banks of the Assonet River, when the areas of Assonet and Fall River were purchased from the Wampanoag Indians in an exchange known as Ye Freemen's Purchase. Its population slowly grew, and it existed as a Proprietary settlement until it was officially incorporated in July 1683. It remained a part of Plymouth Colony until that colony merged with the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1685. The town was the fifth municipal corporation established in Bristol County.

Throughout the 18th century, the town continued to grow and prosper. In 1747, through the Pocasset Purchase, the village of East Freetown (at the time called "New Freetown") was acquired from Tiverton, Rhode Island (which was being transferred from Massachusetts to Rhode Island). The townspeople were also some of America's earliest patriots, fighting in King Philip's War and other local skirmishes. On May 28, 1775, during the Revolutionary War, the Battle of Freetown was fought in a part of the town that is now part of the city of Fall River.

In 1803, Fall River separated from the town, and incorporated as Troy. In 1815, a portion of the town was annexed by Fairhaven, which at the time controlled Acushnet, Massachusetts. That part of East Freetown remains part of Acushnet to this day.

Throughout the 18th, 19th, and early 20th Centuries, Freetown served as a very industrious area. Blast furnaces, fishing, textiles, and manufacturing all came to and left Freetown, eventually allowing the area to regain its former rural charm. One of the more well-known industries was N. R. Davis & Sons, a gun manufactory that provided many weapons for the Civil War.

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One Massachusetts governor, Marcus Morton, has hailed from Freetown. The town has also boasted a number of representatives to the General Court, the state's legislature. Freetown celebrated its tricentennial in 1983.

The Town is currently home to two Historic Districts of the National Register of Historic Places: the Assonet Village Historic District, and the East Freetown Historic District.

Geography

According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 38.3 sq mi (99.2 km2). Land comprises 36.6 sq mi (94.8 km2) of the town, and 1.7 sq mi (4.4 km2) of it (4.41%) is water. The town is irregularly shaped, and is bordered by Berkley to the northwest, Lakeville to the northeast, Rochester to the east, Acushnet, New Bedford and Dartmouth to the southeast, Fall River to the southwest, and the Taunton River and Somerset to the west.

Within Freetown are various lakes, streams, and rivers. The more prominent are Fall Brook, the Assonet River and Long Pond which the Indians called Lake Apponequet. Also within Freetown are Breakneck Hill and Joshua's Mountain, site of Profile Rock. A vast area of land shared by Freetown and Fall River makes up the Freetown-Fall River State Forest.

Transportation

Freetown is serviced by two exits on Route 24 (the "Fall River Expressway") in Assonet and one exit on Route 140 (the "New Bedford Expressway") in East Freetown. Assonet is also situated on Route 79, and East Freetown is situated on Route 18.

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) provides commuter rail service to neighboring Lakeville via the Middleborough-Lakeville line, whose terminus is on the border of the two towns. Currently, plans exist to extend service to Fall River via Assonet in the future, most likely along the same path CSX operates.

Air transportation is provided locally by smaller aircraft in East Taunton, Berkley, and the regional airport in New Bedford. T.F. Green Airport in Rhode Island is the closest national-service airport, being approximately 35 miles from Assonet. Logan International Airport is approximately fifty miles from the town.

Government and Infrastructure

Town government

Freetown is governed in the traditional New England style with a Board of Selectmen overseeing day-to-day operations of the town and at least one town meeting per year to handle all major decisions including, but not limited to, budgets, by-laws, and zoning. In 2004, provisions for a Town Administrator were put in place.

The executive branch of town government is the Board of Selectmen, a popularly-elected board made up of three members who are elected for terms of three years. One selectman is up for re-election every year.

The legislative branch of town government is the town meeting, which in Freetown is an open town meeting.

Various other officers, boards, committees, and commissions round out the variety of services provided to residents, including scattered municipal water, trash collection, fire, ambulance, police, education, recreation, voter registration, etc.

As of the Annual Town Meeting held on May 7, 2007, elections in Freetown are held on the first Monday in April.

County government

Freetown is a part of Bristol County, Massachusetts. Where county governments in some states collect taxes or manage schools, these functions are carried out at the municipal level in Massachusetts. However, some minimal county government does still exist; especially in the court system.

State government

As a small town, Freetown is often divided and attached to neighboring cities and towns to form representative districts for the Massachusetts House of Representatives. These divisions are made along precinct lines.

Federal government

Freetown is a part of Massachusetts' 4th Congressional District, and is represented in the United States House of Representatives by Barney Frank (D-Newton). The town is also represented in the United States Senate by (Class II) Senator John Kerry (D-Boston) and (Class I) Senator Scott Brown (R-Wrentham).

Infrastructure

Typical of the town's nature, there are separate fire stations, post offices and libraries in Assonet & East Freetown. The main police & fire department headquarters building is halfway between the two. The town hall, however, is in Assonet.

Freetown's fire department provides 24-hour ambulance service to the town, and coverage to surrounding communities such as Lakeville. The town is situated between three major cities (Taunton, Fall River, and New Bedford), each with their own hospitals:

  • Morton Hospital & Medical Center in Taunton;
  • St. Anne's Hospital and Charlton Hospital, both in Fall River; and
  • St. Luke's Hospital in New Bedford.

Mental health hospitals in the area include Taunton State Hospital and Bridgewater State Hospital.

Freetown's state highways are patrolled by the Third (Dartmouth) Barracks of Troop D of the Massachusetts State Police.

Utilities

Municipal water is provided in some portions of Assonet by the City of Fall River, and in some parts of East Freetown by the City of New Bedford. Both villages are billed by the Freetown Water Commission. Sewer is not available in the town, except for a small portion of South Main Street that is serviced by a line running from Fall River for use by the Stop & Shop Supermarket Company's distribution center.

Electricity in Freetown is provided by NSTAR, cable television by Comcast, and telephone service by Verizon. Also, satellite is provided by both services

Education

Freetown provides elementary and secondary education to its population, but currently has no post-secondary institutions in the community.

Elementary

As with most rural areas, Freetown had country schoolhouses dotting its landscape. In each village of the town, these one- and two-room structures served students in grades one through eight. As part of its Post-War improvements, the town constructed an eight-room schoolhouse known as Freetown Elementary School on a tract of land roughly in the geographic center of the town, with the corner stone laid in 1949 and the school opening in September, 1950. That central area now boasts a park with a miniature Fenway Park, the Freetown Police Station, the Freetown Senior Center, and Freetown Fire Department Station 3.

In the mid-1950s, Freetown and Lakeville formed a regional school district (see "Secondary" below). In 1972, the Freetown and Lakeville opened the George R. Austin Middle School, a 5-8 facility which closed in 2002 and was replaced by the Freetown-Lakeville Middle School. GRAMS has recently been converted into an intermediate school to cover grades 4 and 5, with Freetown sending only students in grade five.

Secondary

High school students from Freetown initially travelled to several area cities and towns, including Fall River, New Bedford, and Dighton. As its agreements with surrounding cities and towns grew thin, the town recognized a need to develop secondary education programs of its own. In 1955, Freetown, Berkley, Carver, Lakeville, and Rochester formed a planning committee for a regional high school. Carver later dropped from the board, and the remaining towns voted. Freetown and Lakeville approved the school, while the others did not. On April 8, 1957, voters in Freetown and Lakeville approved construction of Apponequet Regional High School. Farm land on Howland Road in Lakeville was donated, and the school opened on September 21, 1959 to serve grades 7-12.

Students wishing a vocational education can apply to Old Colony Regional Vocational Technical High School for grades 9-12. Also, because Freetown is a part of Bristol County, high school students may apply for available slots at the Bristol County Agricultural High School.

Demographics

As of the census of 2000, there were 8,472 people, 2,932 households, and 2,389 families residing in the town. The population density was 231.4/sq mi (89.3/km2). There were 3,029 housing units at an average density of 82.7/sq mi (31.9/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 96.15% White, 0.72% African American, 0.19% Native American, 0.65% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 1.09% from other races, and 1.19% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.73% of the population.

There were 2,932 households out of which 36.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 70.3% were married couples living together, 8.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 18.5% were non-families. 14.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 5.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.85 and the average family size was 3.14.

In the town the population was spread out with 24.6% under the age of 18, 7.6% from 18 to 24, 30.2% from 25 to 44, 28.6% from 45 to 64, and 9.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 101.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 97.3 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $68,505.00, and the median income for a family was $72,270.00. Males had a median income of $45,977.00 versus $28,984.00 for females. The per capita income for the town was $24,401.00. About 3.2% of families and 6.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 3.0% of those under age 18 and 2.3% of those age 65 or over.

Library

"Freetown opened its free library Dec. 10, 1892." Today, each side of town features its own library: the Guildford H. Hathaway Public Library, on North Main St. in Assonet, has served the Assonet population since 1895, while the James White Memorial Library, a privately-owned publicly-operated library on Washburn Rd. in East Freetown, has served that community's population since 1947. In fiscal year 2008, the town of Freetown spent 0.58% ($113,681) of its budget on its public libraries -- some $12 per person.

Culture

While culture in Freetown as a whole has developed mostly over the last twenty years, both villages in town have strong cultural histories. There are a number of major, annual events such as the Strawberry Festival, held every Father's Day and sponsored by the Tuesday Club of Assonet, the Chicken Barbecue sponsored by the East Freetown Congregational Christian Church, and several events during the Fourth of July, including a parade and a fireworks display over the Assonet River.

Sites of interest

Many of Freetown's sites of interest are derived from its strong history. The Freetown Historical Society Museum in Assonet is a trove of artifacts and information relating to the history of the town and surrounding area, and has an extensive genealogical library. Several buildings on the property show visitors how life in Freetown once was, even a mere sixty years ago, with a one-room schoolhouse, small chapel, blacksmith shop, and the like.

Welcome Hathaway Park in Assonet is a public park with a boatramp on the Assonet River. It is the site of the faire and viewing area for the Fourth of July fireworks, and also one of two sites of the Strawberry Festival. The other site for that event is the historic bandstand at the Assonet Four Corners, built in the 1930s on the site of the former Green Dragon Tavern.

Profile Rock, in the Freetown-Fall River State Forest, is a granite outcropping from Joshua's Mountain featuring the image of what local Wampanoag Indians have held to be the face of Massasoit. King Philip's Cave, in East Freetown, is said to have been a hiding place for Metacomet during the King Philip's War.

Porter Pastures in Assonet and Town Beach in East Freetown are both public beaches, the former on Assonet Bay and the latter on Long Pond. There is also a municipal harbor on Long Pond.

Sports

The Freetown Youth Athletic Association, a recently-formed joint venture between the Assonet Youth Sports Association and the East Freetown Sports Association, manages a youth baseball program at the town's three baseball complexes: K. R. R. in Assonet, and Central Park and Long Pond in East Freetown.

Religion

Freetown has historically had Christian and Quaker denominations. Each side of town currently has its own Roman Catholic church, along with a United Church of Christ church in Assonet and a variety of Christian churches in East Freetown. For more information on churches in Assonet and East Freetown, see each village's independent article.

 

 

 

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