Muttock (Oliver Mill)

The next major dam, millpond, and mills were located at Muttock, later called Oliver's Mill. After the Indians moved to Titicut, a dam was built in the place of the Indians weirs. Later in 1734 a petition to the court requested to build a slitting mill on the Nemasket River. But it met with opposition from those who felt enlarging the dam might effect the catching of herring. The petition was finally granted and after provisions were made for the herring the dam was built.

A man who moved to the Muttock Area in 1744 would become a prominent citizen in the colony and perhaps do more for our town than any other individual was Peter Oliver of Boston. He bought most of the land around the Muttock including the dam and the water privileges. He erected a forge and slitting mill on the dam. The iron foundry, called Oliver's furnace was located just below the dam. The dam had to be enlarged and strengthened to provide power for these new works. While the construction was going on the bed of the river was changed by digging a canal above the pond, which extended along and then ran back into the river. Afterward the ditch was refilled.

In 1747 Oliver was appointed Judge of the common pleas. Later he became judge of the Superior Court of Judicature (1756) and was appointed chief justice, the second man in the colony next to the governor, in 1762. These positions undoubtedly helped him obtain large contracts from the crown for cannon balls, mortar, howitzers, shot and shell. Letters still exist to substantiate these orders. Hollow-ware was also manufactured. This business made the Muttock the largest and most enterprising village of the town. Besides employing many full-time men at the slitting mill, over 50 men, when not working on their farms, aided in the making of establishments at this location such as the blacksmiths shop, shovel shop, finishing shop, and nearby was a store.

Oliver Hall, the judges home, was one of the finest country residences outside Boston. The style was of "an old English mansion with steep roof and deep jutting eaves, with walls of white plaster and portico oak." It was located between two hills at the Muttock. The grounds and park included all the land from Nemasket Street to the river.

The wedding reception of Dr. Peter Oliver Jr. and Sarah daughter of Governor Hutchinson, a most brilliant affair, was held at Oliver Hall in February 1770. Guests attended from Boston and abroad. The couple moved into the home of Dr. Oliver which his father had built for him in 1762. In the attic of this home were built rooms for the slaves of the family. Many prominent men of the colony visited the Oliver's. They included Governor Hutchinson for part of the summer, Benjamin Franklin whose three day visit in 1773 would be the only one he would make to Middleborough. A reception was given in the evening by Dr. Oliver for Franklin was attended by some of the prominent men in Middleborough. On Sunday Franklin attended a meeting at the Old Meeting House on the Green.

The Oliver's continued to gain in wealth from their salaries for serving the colony and from their business enterprises on the river. At the outbreak of the revolution in 1776 one might have expected the town of Middleborough to stay loyal to the king. After all the Oliver's were influential people and had greatly helped the growth of Middleborough. But the town was opposed to the British from the beginning of the war. Judge Oliver "was impeached for receiving a salary from the crown" and he and his family then left the country along with the other Tories. The Judges home ,Oliver Hall, was burned to the ground, in 1778, but the son's house was sold and although owned by others, has returned to the ownership of Oliver descendants.

The works on the river were managed for short periods of time by many different men, but Abiel Washburn carried on a successful business there until his death in 1843. Eventually the industrial complex fell into ruins. An entry in the newspaper of 1867 notes that on Saturday night a severe storm of rain and wind set in motion a thaw of previous snowstorms which swept away the herring weirs and the dam at the Muttock works. The old dam had served as the road from Muttock Hill to the Green until 1818 when the town voted "that an agent be appointed to petition the court to locate a highway across the mill pond at Oliver's Works." A wooden bridge was built, but the road over the hill was so steep it was considered unsafe. Not until 1859 was a committee appointed to replace the bridge with a stone structure, raise the grade several feet, and cut down the top of the hill by eight or ten feet.