Dighton, the geographic center of Bristol County, in Southern Massachusetts, is also a rural economic center. The community is a blend of suburban and rural space. The small town, whose 5000 residents live spread out over 22 square miles, is 40 miles south of Boston and only 13 miles east of Providence, Rhode Island. This proximity... Show all »
Dighton, the geographic center of Bristol County, in Southern Massachusetts, is also a rural economic center. The community is a blend of suburban and rural space. The small town, whose 5000 residents live spread out over 22 square miles, is 40 miles south of Boston and only 13 miles east of Providence, Rhode Island. This proximity offers potential for commuters to live in the quiet community and still have access to major cities; however, Dighton has its own strong native industrial presence that fuels the local economy.
Dighton, began settlement in 1672 as the southern precinct of the Town of Taunton, and was originally called the Taunton South Purchase. In 1712, the community was incorporated as a separate town and assumed its current name in honor of Frances Dighton Williams. Early settlers were farmers who raised livestock and crops for themselves or traded their products for food. Shipbuilding began as early as 1693, and flourished in the early 1700's. Ships from Dighton traveled to the West Indies, South America, and Europe with cargos of local products and returned with rum, molasses, salt and general merchandise. Dighton later became a port of entry and the natural distributing point for central and southern New England because ships could not navigate the Taunton River beyond Dighton.
Early manufacturing centered on cotton mills, and on paint, clock, silk and furniture-making operations. The Anchor Color and Gum Works, built in 1861, first manufactured furniture, then oil paint and watercolors. About 1830 Sarah Hart of Hunter's Hill began to raise silk worms. Several cotton mills operated in Dighton in the early 1800's, the largest of which was the Mt. Hope Cotton Company. Local resources also played a role in the economic development of the town. In the early 1860's strawberry cultivation became a significant industry. By 1900, many greenhouses in town produced and distributed strawberries and even today, strawberries are part of Dighton's identity and are represented on the town seal. Fishing, as well, proved to be a lucrative business. Herring was for a long time fished in the Taunton River and in its tributaries.
Today, Dighton is mostly a residential suburb of Providence and Boston. Though some farms still remain, a great deal of former agricultural land is being redeveloped. The old Mt. Hope Finishing Company, which became the Raytheon Co. in 1958, now houses several manufacturing businesses and warehouses. One of the newest major businesses in town is the Dighton Power Plant, owned and operated by Calpine, Inc.
The town offers an excellent regional public school system and is home to the Bristol County Agricultural High School and of the Dighton-Rehoboth Regional High School. Additionally, Dighton has a wide variety of recreational activities for its young people, including little league baseball, soccer, basketball, softball and tennis.