Jesse Costa

The Dynegy coal burning power plant at Brayton Point in Somerset, MA from across the Taunton River. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Preston Khoury, Contributor

Somerset, Massachusetts is a town across the Taunton River from Fall River and has a very unique history within itself. The story of the town goes back to 1677 when the Shawomet Purchase took place. This purchase is what divided most of what makes southern Massachusetts into 31 shares. Somerset and Fall River have always a good relationship. In 1690, the ferry service between Fall River and Somerset began. The town having been settled in for a while at that point. In 1694, Jonathan Bowers, who was a shipbuilder in training settled and built a home on Water St. (Main St.).

In 1790, Somerset was officially incorporated, the town had elected Jerathamel Bowers as the moderator for the first town meeting. He had asked that the town would be named Somerset in honor of his wife. His wife’s name was Mary Shelburne Powers, who was born in Somerset Square in Boston, Mass. In 1815, Somerset Potters Work opens, one of the nine potters to operate between the years 1705 and 1918. In turn, gave the area of the Pottersville area of town its name.

In 1835, education had become to sprawl in Somerset, The Avon Street School opens. It was a one-room school and is the oldest school building in the town. Industry began to grow progressively bigger, In 1855, Job Leonard bought Somerset Iron Works and changes its name to Mount Hope Iron Works, which made tacks, shovel plates, and nails. In 1860, Richard Tripp built and designed The Octagon House. There was a myth that some people had believed the corners were to shallow for evil spirits to hide.

In 1875, Slades Ferry Bridge opened, it became the first bridge to cross the Taunton River. The bridge had physically linked Fall River And Somerset. Since Slades Ferry Bridge had opened, In 1876, The Ferry Service between Fall River and Somerset was decommissioned. Education still stayed as a big priority in Somerset, In 1885, Somerset High School was opened. The school was built on Pierce’s Bluff off of South Street. Sadly, The school burned down in 1935, five days after graduation. In 1900, The Somerset Pallas Range Stove was created by The Somerset Stove Foundry and became one of the best stoves in the country. In 1908, The Brightman St. Bridge was opened, it was built a quarter mile up the river from Slades Ferry Bridge.

In 1910, The first town library, The Hood Library opens thanks to a donation by the Hood family and in remembrance of the founder of The Somerset Stove Foundry, William P. Hood. In 1925, the first unit went online at The Montaup Electric Company. In 1927, The Somerset Town Office opened. News and media made its way across the town of Somerset. In 1932, The town’s weekly newspaper, The Spectator begins. In 1936, The Somerset Credit Union opened, operating out of Panneton Drug Store. In 1937, It would become the first credit union in the state to operate out of its own building.

In 1937, The New Somerset High School opened on County Street. Shirley May France, a Fall River native, made her first few attempts to swim across the English Channel in 1949. She was hoping she would the youngest woman do it. Even though she was unsuccessful, she was welcomed back to Fall River & Somerset with a parade and worldwide fame for her efforts. In The 1950’s, The Somerset Playhouse had a lot of good hosts such as Mae West, Billy Burke, etc. In 1963, The Brayton Point Power Station is opened, with its main source being the Taunton River until 2011. The same year, The New England Power Company was created.

In 1966, The Braga Bridge was opened for traffic. In 1970, Slade’s Ferry Bridge is demolished. In 1973, The Music Festival begins, celebrating the commitment of the town to music and art. In 1984, Arthur “Chick” Marchand, long time selectmen and business owner, becomes the towns first administrator until his death in 1997. In 1989, The Pottersville Elementary and Village School were eliminated from the school system. The Village School is now the home of The Somerset Historical Society. In 1998, Somerset Resident Gil Amancio took the town to court over Somerset’s Christmas display outside of Town Hall, and the judge ruled that the town had to take down the Nativity scene. In 2009, The Brayton Point Power Station constructs two 500 foot cooling towers for the plant to use as their new source. The Plant’s Cooling Towers Were Finished in 2013.

In 2010, Somerset approved the creation of the regionalized school district with Berkley. With the fact that some Berkley kids had been going to Somerset High for the last 25 – 30 years. In 2011, Somerset approved the 24.5 million share of the new high school. That same year, The Veterans Memorial Bridge is opened for traffic. In 2014, Somerset Berkley Regional High School is opened. That same year, the town had closed Wilbur Elementary School and the students were redistricted. In 2017, The Brayton Point Power Station was shut down permanently. Today, Somerset is still the same historic town that sits along the Taunton River, proud and strong.