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The Town of Dartmouth is unusual in exemplifying from its earliest history the tension between the established Calvinist Puritan religion and those who wished to worship in their own way. In 1652, Massasoit, Chief Sachem of the Wampanoag Federation, sold the land covering Dartmouth and 4 other present towns, to elders of the Plymouth Colony, including Miles Standish, John Alden, and Governor William Bradford. These early real estate speculators then sold the land off in smaller parcels, primarily to religious dissidents, Quakers and Baptists, who were seeking refuge on what was then the frontier from the religious persecutions being launched both by the Massachusetts Bay and Plymouth Bay Colonies. The town, named after an English port, was incorporated in 1664 but refused consistently to pay the "minister's tax" which was levied on all communities to support Puritan clergy. The community grew quickly, attracting many who disagreed with the establishment and many more who sought work in agriculture, saltmaking or fishing, including a significant number of Portuguese immigrants. Dartmouth has remained through most of its history a rural agricultural community but began adopting a summer residential and resort character in the 19th century as wealthy and near-wealthy city dwellers from New Bedford built and purchased vacation homes. Although Dartmouth is now primarily a suburban bedroom community, the town came into the 20th century with significant portions of its historic character intact; there is still farming in Dartmouth, still a strong vacation component and still a wide diversity in religious beliefs. The construction of Southern Massachusetts University in the 1960's accelerated the town's growth in residential development. Areas of Dartmouth are rich in colonial, Federal and Greek revival architecture and some rural areas are left, although under pressure from housing development. Residents are proud of the fact that in Dartmouth the past and present co-exist: the past in its farms, churches, villages and scenic rural roads and the present in Route 6 commercial development, the North Dartmouth Mall and emerging industrial policies. (Seal supplied by community. Narrative based on information provided by the Massachusetts Historical Commission)
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