Mattapoisett was settled in 1750 and officially incorporated in 1857. Originally a part of Rochester, the area had most likely been visited by European traders and sailors. There is also evidence of prior Wampanoag Indian settlements, including burial grounds, throughout the town. In fact, the word Mattapoisett is Wampanoag for "a place of resting."
Early industry included logging and farming, but Mattapoisett became best known as a center for shipbuilding and whaling. Some 400 ships were built in the town's shipyards from 1740 until the 1870s, including the Acushnet, the ship that Moby-Dickauthor Herman Melville sailed on and later deserted. The town supplied many of the whalers used on the East Coast in the first half of the nineteenth century. The last one, the Wanderer, was built in 1878, shortly after the discovery of oil inPennsylvania.
With the decline of whaling and associated shipbuilding, Mattapoisett transitioned into a popular summer vacation spot for prominent New York and Boston residents, including Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. Today, the town is largely a suburban community, with most residents commuting to jobs in greater New Bedford, Providence or Boston, or operating businesses targeting summer tourism.
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