Cohasset’s Break from Hingham
Reproduced, with permission, from Treasury of Cohasset History,
ed. J. M. Dormitzer (Town of Cohasset, Mass., 2005), pp. 31-34.
Cohasset once was Hingham’s Second Precinct and Second Parish
before it became a separate town in the year 1770, some 135 years after
the establishing of the parent settlement at Bare Cove. Not until 1670
had the upland areas of East Hingham, or Conahasset, been divided up
among Hingham landowners. The first settlers in the Conahasset area
were Hingham families who built farms and homesteads in several scattered
parts of the newly opened Conahasset uplands.
Clement Bates and Ibrook Tower located near today’s King Street;
Israel Nichols lived next to the rough highway now called Jerusalem
Road at Strait’s Pond; Perth MacFarlin built at Turkey Meadow
in an area of Conahasset which today has since reverted to the Town
of Hingham; Daniel Lincoln constructed his home near Little Harbor and
the Town Common; and Nathaniel Nichols settled on the ocean’s
edge near today’s Black Rock Beach. John Jacob soon built his
homestead near the cold spring at the present Spring Street. There were
others, also, whose identities are not clear in the early records .
Conahasset’s earliest roads may have been old Indian trails
which began as cart paths used by the first harvesters of salt hay at
Hingham’s eastern shores. Additional highways soon developed to
link together the scattered farms and homesteads springing up in several
places. But the journey between the new settlement at Conahasset and
the parent town of Hingham, some four miles in length, continued to
be difficult in the extreme, and dangerous during the winter months.
By the year 1711 more than twenty families lived in the Conahasset
area, and most found the overland trips to the town’s meetinghouse
and school to be arduous if not impossible. The fact was that the new
village often was not able to send representatives to town meetings,
nor were its children able to attend the distant schoolhouse. Conahasset’s
young people were lacking the advantage of education, and its families
were frequently unable to participate in the vital municipal and religious
functions of the town. Still missing from the growing community in East
Hingham were two important figures, a clergyman and a schoolteacher.
Finally on May 17, 1713, Hingham voters gave their consent for the
building of a new meetinghouse on the town’s common land at Conahasset.
They also granted Conahasset residents the liberty to engage a clergyman
of their own choice. The first meetinghouse and church soon was constructed,
but several years were to pass before a permanent clergyman could be
Despite the concessions made by Hingham’s voters, agitation continued
to increase among the Conahasset families for limited autonomy in the
form of a separate precinct in Hingham’s eastern section. This
movement for the establishment of a precinct was strongly opposed in
the parent town, and Conahasset’s petitions were defeated at Hingham
town meetings. Finally the acrimonious dispute between the two villages
was placed before the colonial government at Boston, where it was settled.
In November 1717 the Great and General Court of the Massachusetts Bay
Colony enacted a bill establishing Conahasset as a separate precinct
and parish in the Town of Hingham. Thus the growing community of East
Hingham achieved a certain autonomy, particularly in matters of religion
and schools. Conahasset became the Second Precinct and Second Parish,
with the right to maintain its own church and schoolhouse and to levy
taxes for the support of a minister and a teacher.
Cohasset’s first record book of Precinct and Parish Meetings
begins with the first meeting, held July 14, 1718. At that meeting,
precinct voters chose Daniel Lincoln to be the moderator and Thomas
James as clerk. A committee made up of John Orcutt, Joshua Bates, and
Joseph Bates was appointed to warn of and announce the holding of future
meetings. The most important business of the new precinct was to find
a permanent clergyman to occupy the pulpit of the parish church. Thus
began a search which would last until the year 1722, when the Reverend
Nehemiah Hobart, grandson of Hingham’s first minister, Peter Hobart,
accepted the call of Conahasset’s parishioners and raised a home
on today’s North Main Street, across the street from the precinct
meetinghouse where he would preach.
In matters other than schools and church, municipal authority remained
vested in the town government at Hingham. The precincting of Conahasset
may have solved the problems of education and worship, but roads to
Hingham remained difficult to traverse, and the new precinct found itself
continually underrepresented at important town meetings held in the
parent village. The discontent remained and soon became disaffection
as Conahasset’s families longed for a final and complete separation
The new community on the eastern shore grew rapidly to become a center
of seafaring activity and shipbuilding to rival its older parent. Agriculture,
small industry, and fishing combined to produce a thriving group of
villages in the uplands and along the shore, and strong community leadership
developed within the Second Precinct. Thus it happened that fifty-three
years after the establishing of the precinct, its residents once again
went before the Great and General Court of the colony praying for separation
from the original town.
On April 26, 1770, the petitioners were granted their wish to incorporate
the Second Precinct in Hingham into a district by the name of Cohasset.
Cohasseter Benjamin Lincoln was further instructed to see that a meeting
would be held to organize the new district. The signature of Colonial
Lieutenant Governor Hutchinson made it official on the same day, and
the new town found its most cherished dreams realized with the stroke
of a royal pen.
Despite some hard feelings lingering on both sides, long since buried,
parent and offspring communities found it easy to work together for
their next common goal, the independence of their colony and the founding
of a new nation.
From David Wadsworth, “Cohasset Broke Away from Hingham in 1717,”
Cohasset Mariner, n.d. Reprinted with permission of the author.
For more information on Cohasset’s separation from Hingham, see
Bigelow, Narrative History, pp. 182-203.