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Identified as Cohannet in the seventeenth century, Native settlement during Contact Period (1500-1620) in Taunton may have occurred around Watson's Pond, Lake Sabbatia and the Bearhole Pond area (MHC 1981:3). The falls in east Taunton are reported to be the site of a Native settlement in the middle seventeenth century and a fishing weir may have been located on the Taunton River in present day Weir Village (MHC 1981:3). Native trails probably followed the present route of Bay Street, Weir Street and Somerset Avenue with secondary trails crossing the Taunton River at Weir Village and along Plain and Hart Street and Middleborough Avenue (MHC 1981:2).
The first European settlement occurred during the First Settlement Period (1620-1675) in 1637, probably settling around Dean Street with the primary settlement node being around Taunton Green. By King Philip's war in 1675 the native population had been significantly reduced and pushed to the edges of white occupation while the white population probably numbered around 96 families (MHC 1981:4). Scattered farms were probably located in close proximity to the Mill and Taunton Rivers. The economic base of Taunton at this time was focused around farming and fishing. A grist and saw mill were begun between 1639 and 1562 near the junction of Mill River and Cohannet Street with a fulling mill to soon follow (MHC 1981: 4). A forge was built by James Leonard at the junction of Mill River and Whittenton Street around 1666 and iron ore was mined from Watson and Winneconet Pond (MHC 1981:5).
The Colonial Period (1675-1775) saw a significant drop in the native population following King Philip's War (1675-1676) with no known Natives afterwards (MHC 1980: 4). Minor damage during the war amounting to the loss of two homes and 15 lives may have been due to Taunton's positive relations with the Natives prior to the conflict (MHC 1981: 5). Post war settlement rapidly spread out from the original town center with new roads branching out to the north and west. Agriculture and fishing remained the mainstays of the city's economy but iron production began to become an increasingly important industry. These included one on Littleworth's Brook, Three Mile River near Fisher Street and on the Taunton River near Danforth Street Bridge (MHC 1981:6).
Population in the Federal Period (1775-1830) (Figure 4) continued until 1790, following a trend begun prior to the Revolution eventually becoming stable at approximately 3900 persons (MHC 1981:7). Population again increased after 1810 until 1830 when the total population was 6042 persons (MHC 1981: 7). Taunton saw a shift in its economic base away from agriculture and fishing and more towards industry and trade during this time. Industrial development increased at on the Mill and Three Mile Rivers and mills were built on the Mill and Taunton rivers (MHC 1981: 8).
The Early Industrial Period (1830-1870) (Figure 5) began with the opening of the Taunton Branch Railroad connecting Boston, Providence and New York in 1835 (MHC
1981:10). As a result of the new railroad line, continued mill focus and a large influx of foreign-born individuals to work the mills, the population rapidly grew to 18, 629 persons by 1870 (MHC 1981:10).
The Late Industrial Period (1870-1915) (Figure 6) retained a steady population with the continued influx of foreign-born persons throughout the period, eventually becoming 36, 161 by the end of the period (MHC 1981:14). By the start of the period Taunton had become the rail center of the country with rail lines coming into the city from five directions (MHC 1981: 15). Brick yards, which had early one been another important component of Taunton's economy, gained even greater prominence during this period supplanting the decline in the iron industry (MHC 1981: 15). Mill production and shipping also peaked at this time.
The Early Modern Period (1915-1940) population remained relatively stable reaching a peak at 39, 255 persons in 1925 and dropping slightly afterwards (MHC 1981: 17). Manufacturing declined after the loss of many of the cotton mills to southern and western states and the best known Taunton products soon became stoves, firebrick and stove lining (MHC 1981: 17).