Fairhaven, Massachusetts
—  Town  —
Fairhaven Town Hall
Location in Bristol County in Massachusetts
Coordinates: 41°38′15″N 70°54′15″W / 41.6375, -70.90417Coordinates: 41°38′15″N 70°54′15″W / 41.6375, -70.90417
Country United States
State Massachusetts
County Bristol
Settled 1670
Incorporated 1812
 • Type Representative town meeting
 • Total 14.1 sq mi (36.5 km2)
 • Land 12.4 sq mi (32.1 km2)
 • Water 1.7 sq mi (4.4 km2)
Elevation 15 ft (5 m)
Population (2008[1])
 • Total 16,112
 • Density 1,299.4/sq mi (501.9/km2)
Time zone Eastern (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) Eastern (UTC-4)
ZIP code 02719
Area code(s) 508 / 774
FIPS code 25-22130
GNIS feature ID 0618281

Fairhaven is a town in Bristol County, Massachusetts, in the United States. It is located on the south coast of Massachusetts where the Acushnet River flows into Buzzards Bay, an arm of the Atlantic Ocean. The town shares a harbor with the city of New Bedford, a place well-known for its whaling and fishing heritage; consequently, Fairhaven's history, economy, and culture are closely-aligned with those of its larger neighbor. The population of Fairhaven was 16,112 at the time of the 2008 census.

Henry Huttleston Rogers[]

Among Fairhaven's natives was Henry Huttleston Rogers (1840–1909), who was a United States capitalist, businessman, and philanthropist. Rogers was one of the key men in John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil trust. He later developed the Virginian Railway. Rogers and his wife, Abbie Gifford Rogers, another Fairhaven native (who was the daughter of the whaling captain, Peleg Gifford), donated many community improvements in the late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century, including a grammar school, an extraordinarily luxurious high school, the Town Hall,the George H. Taber Masonic Building, the Unitarian Memorial Church, the Tabitha Inn, the Millicent Library, and a modern water-and-sewer system. These structures were erected to top-quality construction standards, a trademark philosophy of Henry H. Rogers; most are still in regular use more than one hundred years later.


The original land purchase[]

Fairhaven was first settled in 1670 as "Cushnea," the easternmost part of the town of Dartmouth. It was founded on land purchased by English settlers at the Plymouth Colony from the natives, — specifically, from the Wampanoag sachem whose name was Massasoit, and his son, Wamsutta.

Dartmouth, divided and redivided[]

In 1787, the eastern portion of the Dartmouth township seceded and formed a new settlement called New Bedford. This new town included areas that are the present-day towns of Fairhaven, Acushnet, and New Bedford itself. Fairhaven eventually separated from New Bedford, and it was officially incorporated in 1812. At that time, Fairhaven included all of the land on the east bank of the Acushnet River. A portion of Fairhaven, the northern portion, upriver from Buzzards Bay, formed another independent town, called Acushnet, in 1860. Thus, what had once been a single town, Dartmouth, with a substantial land area, became, in less than 75 years, four separate municipalities. (Note that the western portion of the original Dartmouth land-purchase eventually became a fifth town, Westport.)

Fairhaven on an 1893 map

Fort Phoenix[]

Fort Phoenix (now called the Fort Phoenix State Reservation) is located in Fairhaven at the mouth of the Acushnet River, and it served, during colonial and revolutionary times, as the primary defense against seaborne attacks on New Bedford harbor.

Within sight of the fort, the first naval battle of the American Revolution took place on 14 May 1775. Under the command of Nathaniel Pope and Daniel Egery, a group of twenty-five Fairhaven minutemen aboard the sloop Success captured two British vessels in Buzzards Bay.

On 5 and 6 September 1778, the British landed four thousand soldiers on the west side of the Acushnet River. They burned ships and warehouses in New Bedford, skirmished at the Head-of-the-River bridge (approximately where the Main Street bridge in Acushnet is presently situated), and marched through Fairhaven to Sconticut Neck, burning homes along the way. In deference to the overwhelming force approaching from the landward side, the fort was abandoned, and it was destroyed by the enemy. An attack on Fairhaven village itself was repelled by militia under the command of Major Israel Fearing, who had marched from Wareham, some twenty kilometres away, with additional militiamen. Fearing's heroic action saved Fairhaven from further molestation.

The fort was enlarged before the War of 1812, and it helped repel an attack on the harbor by British forces. In the early morning hours of 13 June 1814, landing boats were launched from the British raider, HMS Nimrod. Alerted by the firing of the guns at Fort Phoenix, the militia gathered, and the British did not come ashore.

The fort was decommissioned in 1876, and, in 1926, the site was donated to the town by Cara Rogers Broughton (a daughter of Henry Huttleston Rogers). Today, the area surrounding the fort includes a park and a bathing beach. The fort lies just to the seaward side of the harbor's hurricane barrier.


Prior to the second half of the nineteenth century, whale oil was the primary source of fuel for lighting in the United States. The whaling industry was an economic mainstay for many New England coastal communities for over two hundred years. The famous whaling port of New Bedford, Massachusetts is located across the Acushnet River from Fairhaven. Fairhaven was also a whaling port; in fact, in the year 1838, Fairhaven was the second-largest whaling port in the United States with twenty-four vessels sailing for the whaling grounds. The author of Moby Dick, Herman Melville, departed from the port of Fairhaven aboard the whaling ship, Acushnet, in 1841.

A humpback whale sounding

However, once New Bedford's predominance in the whaling industry became apparent, Fairhaven's economy evolved into one that supplemented the New Bedford economy rather than competing directly with it. Fairhaven became a town of shipwrights, ship chandlers, ropemakers, coopers, and sailmakers. It also became a popular location for ship-owners and ship-captains to build their homes and raise their children.

Mark Twain[]

Fairhaven's great benefactor, Henry H. Rogers, befriended a number of the high and mighty; he also became a friend, advisor, and patron to a number of the less-well-off. Among them were Booker T. Washington, Anne Sullivan, Helen Keller, and Mark Twain, all of whom came to visit Rogers in Fairhaven, sometimes for protracted periods.

Late in Twain's life, he had, through imprudent investments and more than a little bad luck, managed to impoverish himself. Rogers lent him a helping hand, and Twain did whatever he could to return the favors.

Twain and Rogers

On 22 February 1894, the third of Rogers's great bequests to his hometown, the Fairhaven Town Hall (pictured above), was dedicated. Earlier, in 1885, Rogers had built a huge and modern (for the times) elementary school and, in 1893, a memorial to his beloved daughter, Millicent, in the form of an Italian-Renaissance palazzo that serves as the town's free public library to this day. When the Fairhaven Town Hall, a gift of Abbie Palmer (Gifford) Rogers, was dedicated, Henry Huttleston Rogers’s friend, Mark Twain, delivered a humorous speech to mark the occasion. Less than three months later, on 21 May 1894, Abbie Rogers died in New York following surgery for stomach cancer.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 14.1 square miles (36.5 km²), of which, 12.4 square miles (32.1 km²) is land and 1.7 square miles (4.4 km²) (12.06%) is water. The town is located on Buzzards Bay, on the eastern bank of the mouth of the Acushnet River, and is the southeastern-most town in Bristol County. The lands of the town jut out into the bay via Sconticut Neck and West Island, along with several other small islands. It is bordered by the river and New Bedford to the west, Acushnet to the north, Mattapoisett to the east and Buzzards Bay to the south. Most of the town's water area consists of its harbors, bays and coves, along with a portion of the Acushnet's waters, and the Nasketucket and Scipping Creeks. Fairhaven's localities include East Fairhaven, Oxford, Poverty Point, Nasketucket, Sconticut Neck, West Island and Winsegansett Heights.

Booker T. Washington

Helen Keller on the day she graduated from Radcliff College, a project financed by H. H. Rogers

The town has two large public parks, Livesey Park and Cushman Park, as well as a number of smaller ones; Cushman Park, as well as having tennis courts and ballfields and a bandstand, is also the location of Fairhaven High School's running track. The town has several commercial wharves, a yacht club, and several marinas for recreational craft. There are several small bathing beaches, the largest being the Fort Phoenix State Reservation, a south-facing beach to the east of the fort and the New Bedford Harbor Hurricane Barrier. There is also a bike path which travels along a long-unused railroad right-of-way, just to the south of Route 6.


Interstate 195 travels on an east-west path through town, crossing the Acushnet River at the point where it begins to broaden as it approaches New Bedford Harbor. It is also crossed by U.S. Route 6, which enters the town on a bridge between the mainland and Pope's Island, which is connected to the rest of New Bedford by the New Bedford-Fairhaven Bridge, a swing-span truss bridge over one hundred years old. Access from I-195 to Route 6 is Route 240, a short, one-mile divided highway which leads, at Exit 18, to the intersection of Route 6 and Sconticut Neck Road. The town's retail center is located at this intersection, and includes several stores, markets, and restaurants.


As of the census[2] of 2008, there were 25,065 people, 8,423 households, and 4,354 families residing in the town. The population density was 1,303.4 people per square mile (503.1/km²). There were 7,266 housing units at an average density of 586.1 per square mile (226.2/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 96.32% White, 0.60% African American, 0.26% Native American, 0.44% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 1.19% from other races, and 1.17% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.84% of the population.

There were 6,622 households out of which 27.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 49.6% were married couples living together, 11.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 35.8% were non-families. 30.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.38 and the average family size was 2.98.

In the town the population was spread out with 21.7% under the age of 18, 6.6% from 18 to 24, 27.9% from 25 to 44, 24.3% from 45 to 64, and 19.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 41 years. For every 100 females there were 89.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 85.3 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $41,696, and the median income for a family was $52,298. Males had a median income of $38,201 versus $29,736 for females. The per capita income for the town was $20,986. About 6.5% of families and 9.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 11.4% of those under age 18 and 11.6% of those age 65 or over.


Fairhaven is the home of the Acushnet Company, a world-renowned manufacturer of golf equipment. The Acushnet Company's primary brands are Titleist (golf balls and bags), FootJoy (golf shoes), Scotty Cameron (elite putters), Cobra (drivers), and Pinnacle (golf balls). Fairhaven is also home to Nye Lubricants, Inc., a firm dealing in fine industrial lubricants whose history dates back to 1844.


Fairhaven is located in the 10th Bristol state representative district, which includes all of Fairhaven, Marion, Mattapoisett, and Rochester, as well as a portion of Middleborough. The town is represented in the state senate in the 2nd Bristol-Plymouth district, which includes the city of New Bedford and the towns of Acushnet, Dartmouth, Fairhaven, and Mattapoisett. On the national level, the town is part of the 4th Massachusetts Congressional District, which is represented by Barney Frank. The state's senior (Class I) Senator, re-elected in 2006, is Ted Kennedy, and the state's junior (Class II) Senator, re-elected in 2008, is John Kerry.

Fairhaven is governed by a representative town meeting, run by a board of selectmen and an executive secretary. The town has one library (the Millicent Library), two fire stations (the Central and East Fairhaven stations), a central police department, and one post office, located behind the library. The Fairhaven police department is located on Washington Street, a kilometre east of the center of town.


File:Fairhaven High School 1.jpg

Fairhaven High School

Fairhaven has its own school department, with three elementary schools (Leroy L. Wood, East Fairhaven, and Rogers, which is named for H. H. Rogers and his family), one middle school (Elizabeth Hastings Middle School), and Fairhaven High School, which also accommodates some high school students from neighboring Acushnet.

Fairhaven High School, donated by Rogers in 1906, is the most recognizable landmark in the town, given its prominent location on Route 6 (Huttleston Avenue) and its impressive appearance. The school's teams are known as the Blue Devils, and their colors are royal-blue and white. The school's fight song is sung to the tune of the "Notre Dame Fight Song". In addition to the public school, high school students may choose to attend either Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational-Technical High School ("Voc-Tech") or Bristol County Agricultural High School ("Bristol Aggie"), free of charge.

The town is also home to Saint Joseph's School, a Roman Catholic parochial school which provides an education to kindergarteners through eighth-graders.

Notable residents[]

Henry Huttleston Rogers was, without doubt, Fairhaven's most remarkable citizen. Other than Rogers, Fairhaven was also home to:

  • Joseph Bates (1792–1872), co-founder of the Seventh-day Adventist movement.

Joseph Bates

  • John Cook Bennett (1804–1867) was an American physician and a ranking and influential (but short-lived and controversial) leader of the Latter-Day-Saint movement, who acted as second in command to Joseph Smith, Jr. for a brief period in the early 1840s.
  • World-renowned marine painter and photographer William Bradford (1823–1892) lived and worked in Fairhaven.
  • John Cooke, the last surviving male Pilgrim from the 1620 voyage to found the Plymouth colony (and who was, with Thomas Delano, one of the original buyers of the land from the Wampanoags).
  • Captain Paul Delano (1775–1842), a sea captain, moved to Chile in 1819 where he became an important part of that country's early Navy.
  • Lemuel D. Eldred (1848–1921), a talented marine painter, who depicted New England’s dramatic seascapes, rocky beaches, and quiet coastal villages in the manner of the Hudson River School’s second generation.
  • William H. Hand, Jr. (1875-1946), was one of the most prolific yacht designers of the twentieth century. Hand’s office was in Fairhaven, Massachusetts.
  • William Le Baron Jenney (1832—1907), an American architect and engineer who became known as the "Father of the American Skyscraper", was a Fairhaven native.
  • "John" Manjiro Nakahama (1827–1898), the first Japanese person to live in America.

Albert Pike

  • Albert Pike (1809–1891) was an attorney, soldier, writer, and prominent Freemason. Pike is the only Confederate military officer or figure to be honored with an outdoor statue in Washington, D.C. (in Judiciary Square). A Massachusetts native, he taught school in Fairhaven as a young man.
  • Christopher Reeve (1952–2004), of Superman fame, kept a sailboat, the 40-foot sloop-rigged "Chandelle", at a Fairhaven shipyard and sometimes flew into New Bedford Regional Airport to pick it up or to stay in town during a stopover en route to Martha's Vineyard.
  • Gil Santos is the longtime radio play-by-play announcer for the New England Patriots of the National Football League and morning sports reporter for WBZ radio in Boston.

Captain Slocum's Spray

  • Captain Joshua Slocum (1844–1909), the first man to sail alone around the world, and his ship, the Spray. The Spray originally belonged to Captain Eben Pierce of Fairhaven, a whaling captain, who gave the derelict boat, slowly deteriorating in a ship cradle in a meadow on Fairhaven's Poverty Point, to his friend, Captain Slocum. Slocum spent thirteen months in Fairhaven while working on the Spray, making her fit for open-ocean sailing. Fairhaven oak formed much of the boat's refitted structure. The Spray and her one-man crew returned after nearly three and a half year to the very cedar spile that was used for her launch. Today, the student newspaper at Fairhaven High School is called "The Spray".
  • Captain Noah Stoddard was a famous American Privateer. He was successful during the American Revolution in numerous raids against the British such as the Raid on Lunenburg, Nova Scotia (1782).[3]

See also[]

  • Baron Fairhaven
  • Cara Rogers Broughton
  • Fairhaven Branch Railroad
  • Huttleston Broughton
  • Kanawha, the yacht
  • Lady Fairhaven
  • Gideon Nye
  • Mai Rogers Coe
  • Urban Hanlon Broughton
  • Runnymede
  • Whale oil
  • Whaling in America


  1. ^ "City-Data: Fairhaven, MA". 
  2. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  3. ^ Ralph M. Eastman. "Captain Noah Stoddard" in Some Famous Privateers of New England. 1928. pp. 61-63

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