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My friends and fellow-citizens of Old Dartmouth :
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, We are convened this day on an occasion of no ordinary interest. We are met to commemorate the two hundredth anniversary of the incorporation of the town of Dartmouth in the year 1664. We find in the records of the Plymouth Colony for the year the following:
“ 1664, June.— Att this Court, all that tracte of land comonly called and knowne by the name of Acushena, Ponagansett and Coaksett, is allowed by the Court to bee a townshipe, and the inhabitants thereof hare libertie to make such orders as may conduce to theire comon good in town consernments; and that the said towne bee henceforth called and knowne by the name of Dartmouth."
The territory within the limits described in that record, includes the present towns of Dartmouth, Westport, Fairhaven, and Acushnet, and the city of New Bedford, and was at that time probably an almost unbroken wilderness ; how different now ! Where to-day we find the bustle and din of business, hear the hum of the spindle and the shriek of the locomotive, and see the gallant ships entering our harbors freighted with the rich products of other and far remote waters, then,
with the exception of an occasional settler engaged in clearing up a portion of the wilderness and reducing it to his necessities, or the swiftly gliding canoe of the Indian rippling the placid waters of the streams, all or nearly all partook of the silence of nature.
But leaving the remote past to abler hands, let us come down to a more recent period; there are those present whose recollections take them back to a very different condition of things from what we now see. Even I, at my comparatively early period of life, recol. lect when New Bedford contained only about three thousand inhabitants ; the details of a painting, made some twenty-five years since by one of our native artists, representing the “Old Four Corners," are all familiar to me; many a time have I accompanied my respected father to the shed market there represented ; the old store on one of the corners, then and now known as the “ Four Corners," with the upper balf of the window shutter propped up on a stick, and nearly all the other objects handed down to us of the present day by this picture, I recollect as though they were still extant, not forgetting some of the more prominent persons so faithfully represented, nor yet the little old No. 1 fire engine, nor the old chaise with the small round seat in front, upon which sat old “Tony," when he drove his excellent master, the venerable William Rotch, Sen., through the streets. I have heard my maternal grandmother relate, that when the house which stood upon the north-west corner of Union and First streets, on a portion of the site now occupied by Thornton Block, was raised, she sat at the window of her house on Water street, between School and Walnut streets, and looking through the forest witnessed the operation. In that house, many years after I was born. I have been told by an uncle of mine, that when he was a boy, and went with other boys after berries, if they thought to go so far from home as where I now live, on Sixth street, they considered it necessary to take their dinners with them. These, and many other incidents that might be related, show the changes that have taken place in
a few years.
I have also very pleasant recollections of many of the old people of forty or more years ago.
Of the venerable William Rotch, Sen., before alluded to, who lived in what is now the " Mansion House," who on one occasion, when I was quite a boy, placing his hand upon my head, said to me, “Ah George, I have worn out, I have not rusted out." Of John Howland, my honored grandfather, who was acknowledged by all to have been a strong-minded man, a useful man too, and one who served his generation faithfully, who, once on the evening after a “town meeting” put to me this question : “ George, been to town meeting to-day ?" I replied, “No, grandfather, why should I go to town meeting ?” (being only a boy,) when he immediately added in the style peculiar to that day, “Go to larn." Little did I at that time appreciate the force of the expression, "Go to larn." Whether or not I have heeded the injunction since, I leave for others.
These men, and such as these, acted on the belief that there was something for every one to do, and that it behooved every one to do something. With them there was no place for drones; — would that such sentiments prevailed more fully at the present day. There