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THE INFLUENCE OF THE NEPONSET RIVER


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HISTORY OF THE NEPONSET RIVER AND THE LOWER MILLS
Early Settlers
River's Influence

Locations of early communities in the greater Boston area.


The Neponset River was large enough to make crossing difficult, so its banks remained the southern-most limit to the Massachusetts Bay Colony for several years. The narrow shores of the river, however, and the height and layout of its falls, ultimately made Dorchester an increasingly important area for water power.

Israel Stoughton, one of Dorchester’s first settlers, saw the river’s potential. There were two falls, one about seven feet in height and the other about four feet, in close proximity to each other. Stoughton secured permission from the town of Dorchester and the Massachusetts General Court to build a grist mill at these “lower falls” (the “upper falls” were a few miles up-river at Mattapan). In exchange, the town required Stoughton to build and maintain a bridge across the river.

Stoughton built Dorchester’s first mill in 1634 and brought an important trade to the area. At this time, the closest grist mills were in Roxbury and Saugus. The bridge and road to the south side of the river were close to the present-day Adams Street bridge. With a public road built between Braintree and Roxbury by 1655, settlement quickly developed on the other side of the Neponset and ultimately the road connected Boston to Plymouth to the south. In 1662 Unquity (Milton) separated from Dorchester and the Neponset became the dividing line between the two towns.

 


The first mill in Dorchester was built on the Neponset River
at the site of where Baker's Power House and Baker Mill were later built.
Courtesy of the Milton Historical Society