Somerset is a residential community in Bristol County, on the west side of the Taunton River. Though the town has a long history of commerce and industry since its early settlement in the 18th century, Somerset transformed itself in the 20th century to a predominantly suburban community of homes. What is now Somerset was originally... Show all »
Somerset is a residential community in Bristol County, on the west side of the Taunton River. Though the town has a long history of commerce and industry since its early settlement in the 18th century, Somerset transformed itself in the 20th century to a predominantly suburban community of homes. What is now Somerset was originally known as the Shawamat Lands.
The earliest colonists farmed and fished, both in the river and off-shore, but the town's economic activity soon relied on shipyards, mercantile operations and shipping. The Lee River was the site of the first shipyard established between 1707 and 1712. After the War of 1812, Somerset became an important distribution point for foreign goods with trade to China, the West Indies, and Europe.
By 1847, the local shipping industry employed 138 vessels that were engaged in the coastal trade. Somerset's shipbuilding enterprises constructed clipper ships. This industry was particularly active after the Mexican War and the California Gold Rush, and grew further with iron works that made anchors.
Additional manufacturing in town consisted of nail and stoneware making. Through all this industrial activity, agriculture still remained the major occupation and use of land around 19th century Somerset. By the end of the 19th century however, the nearby city of Fall River began absorbing Somerset's industry and the town's business activity shifted from manufacturing to suburban development and services.
The dominant industry in Somerset since the First World War has been power generation with the erection of the Montaup Electric Company plant in 1923 and Bryant Point in 1963. During the Great Depression, as most towns of the area declined, Somerset saw a dramatic increase in population as the middle class from Fall River settled in.
Today, this suburban character continues with even some resorts, vacation home development and recreation along Somerset's 15 miles of waterfront. Two notable facilities for public use include Pierce Beach and Waterfront Park that both offer recreation. Among the town's local services is the Somerset public school district.
The town's school system consists of four elementary schools, a middle school and a high school. Other services include police and fire departments, conservation commission, water, sewer, historical commission and many other active town offices committed to keeping this community of 18,000 residents running smoothly.