The Origins of Conohasset
From David Wadsworth, "The Origins of Conahasset;" Cohasset
Mariner, December 6, 1984. Reprinted by permission of the author.
Cohasset's origin was as the easternmost land in the town of Hingham.
The parent settlement, originally called Bare Cove, had been well established
by the year 1635 and soon began to expand into nearby vacant lands.
By the end of the sixth decade of the seventeenth century, the salt
marshes and meadows of the area had been granted by the town to numerous
Hingham residents, but the upland areas east of Hingham, in the section
called Conahasset, still remained undivided and were part of the town's
common land. By this time Hingham's population was increasing, and so
was the need to utilize vacant upland areas nearby. It was decided to
divide up the Conahasset uplands, and a Hingham town meeting in 1669
determined the number of shares of common land each man should receive.
At town meeting held in Hingham on December 6, [16701, voters met to
assign specific parcels of land to qualified residents. At that time,
most of the Conahasset uplands passed from common land into private
ownership by grants made by the town. The division of land at Conahasset
followed the English method, having long but narrow strips of a given
length. The width of each lot depended upon the number of shares to
which the new owner was entitled. In this case the length of most new
properties was one mile, except where natural boundaries interfered.
As anyone familiar with Cohasset's topography will attest, the town's
land areas are anything but consistent in quality. Here, glacial gravel
and clay are interspersed with granite ledges, and the rich topsoil
so vital for agriculture is scarcely to be found. Hingham land division
planners took the varied topography into account and attempted to provide
some usable land to each owner along with the unusable. To achieve fairness,
they first divided all of the Conahasset area into four large sections
called the First, Second, and Third Divisions and the Second Part of
the Third Division. Every new landholder received shares in each of
the four divisions. In this way it was hoped that the best and worst
of Conahasset's varied lands would be shared equally . . .
Soon after the 1670 land division, Hingham settlers began to establish
the first farms and homesteads in Conahasset. Of the earliest dwelling
places, none exist today. One of the oldest, owned by Israel Nichols,
near Straits Pond, survived into the twentieth century and is remembered
by long time residents. Joshua Bates's homestead on South Main Street
appears to be the oldest extant, dating from 1695 and built on the fortieth
lot of the First Land Division. Of those whose homes were the first
in Conahasset, most were of the second generation of Hingham settlers.
Names such as Bates, Lincoln, Souther, Tower, James, Nichols, Pratt,
and Beal were among the earliest, and there were numerous others.
For many of the new landholders, the long, narrow lots laid out by
surveyor Lieutenant Joshua Fisher were awkward to manage. The process
of breaking up the original parcels and combining them into more workable
properties began quite soon. Today, relatively few Cohasset properties
are bounded by the original 1670 lot lines, though in some places the
original boundaries still can be identified.
Not long after the first homes, the earliest industries arrived. Mordecai
Lincoln harnessed Conahasset's Bound Brook to run a mill and ironworks
in Beechwood, and Hingham's Cushing family operated a mill at the west
end of Straits Pond, near Cohasset's West Corner. Shipbuilding started
at Cohasset Harbor (called Ship Cove) by the year 1700. Subsequent generations
of Cohasseters were to turn to the town's eastern frontier, the Atlantic
Ocean, for their livelihood. The first years of the eighteenth century
saw Hingham's easternmost village at Conahasset start to form itself
into a community which within two more decades would itself challenge
the parent town's authority and seek its own identity as a separate
parish and government.