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City of Fall River History and Resources

Photo: Fall River RR Depot


The City of Fall River is an industrial community on the banks of the Taunton River in Bristol County with a long and fascinating history. The first settler was Benjamin Church, a hero of King Philip's war, who built a sawmill in 1690. The city's geography determined its destiny; as historians have pointed out, the significant fact about Fall River is that it had water power and port facilities together, making it both a transfer point for passenger and freight traffic to New York and the site of intense industrial development. Its diverse residential population is made up of immigrants from Great Britain, Portugal and Canada drawn to the mill jobs available in the city. Fall River's industrial history began in 1811 when Colonel Joseph Durfee opened the Globe Manufactory. By 1830 the city had seven textile mills, a steamboat to Providence and Newport and its own newspaper. A staggering population and industrial boom made Fall River one of the textile capitals of the nation with more than 100 cotton mills housing four million spindles, employing more than 30,000 people, and generating a weekly payroll of over $500,000. The city boasted an international market and 130,000 people when its prosperity peaked during the First World War. When textile manufacturing began moving south in the 1920's, the city's decline began, accelerating during a devastating fire, which destroyed the central business district, and the Depression. By 1930 the city declared bankruptcy and its finances were operated by the state from 1931 to 1941. Having learned its lesson, the modern city maintains a highly diversified industrial profile with chemical operations, electrical and food products along with the garment and textile industries. It also maximizes tourism with the largest factory outlet district in New England and a World War II memorial which opens a variety of American warships to visitors at the State Pier in Fall River. The city retains a variety of handsome historic public buildings. 

 Narrative based on information provided by the Massachusetts Historical Commission

Battleship at Fall River Fall River Neighborhoods in the 1890s
Battleship Cove Virtual Tour Fall River Police Dept. History
Community Profile Fall River Public Library
Digital Archive for Fall River Over Time Fall River Tourism
Federal Census, 1850, Fall River Historic Maps Covering Fall River
Federal Census, 1860, Fall River Marine Museum at Fall River
Fall River Historical Society Mary Darling-Parlin Historic Site
Fall River Homepage