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The Town of Middleborough is a 70-square mile historic industrial town on the Nemasket River and was a major native settlement area used for seasonal fishing, hunting, and berry gathering. The town is one of only a handful of southeastern Massachusetts communities that retained a sizeable Indian population throughout the Colonial period. The first European settler was Sir Christopher Gardner, a fugitive from English justice who settled among the Nemasket Indians in 1633. When he was captured and returned to England, it was several years before a small group of white settlers led by Elizabeth Poole established themselves within the town. Agriculture, fishing, hunting and some lumbering were the main occupations of early settlers and as Indian settlements dwindled, the town's industries grew. There was a good deal of bog iron found in Middleborough which stimulated the iron and mill industries. A large self-contained industrial complex was developed by Judge Peter Oliver, including a blast furnace, forge, slitting mill, blacksmith, finishing and hammer shops, grist mill and fuel storage, all of which, along with a country estate, was confiscated when Oliver fled the Revolution as a loyalist. Although the iron industry dominated the Federal period, Middleborough also made shovels, textiles, straw bonnets and woolens. Immigrant populations of Swedes, Italians, Canadians and Armenians followed the industrial jobs available. After the Civil War, the town became a rail center, attracting industrial development, lumbering, box mills, brick making and the well-known Maxim Motor Company which has been producing fire trucks since 1914. Town officials have recently approved six parcels as sites for industrial parks and the town plans to embark on an aggressive campaign to bring businesses in to offset the major suburban residential development the town has experienced in recent years. Visitors to Middleborough now can enjoy the partially restored Oliver Mills Park on the site of Judge Oliver's industrial complex and follow the spring herring run which brings thousands of alewives upstream to spawn. Residents are particularly proud of the historic museums in town which feature recreations of 19th century homes, historic fire engines, Nemasket Indian artifacts, toy trains and memorabilia of the famous midgets General Tom Thumb and his wife, a native of the town. (Seal supplied by community. Narrative based on information provided by the Massachusetts Historical Commission)
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