Harboring Hope in Old Dartmouth [ 1602 - 1827 ]

Harboring Hope in Old Dartmouth [ 1602 - 1827 ]

The European Settlement of Southeastern New England

From Gosnold to the Pilgrims, the American Revolution, the Rise of Whaling, Abolition and Beyond...With Emphasis on Conscience, Conflict, and the Issues that Endure Through Time.


In 1602 English seafarers explored coastal Massachusetts for timber, fish and furs. By the 1620s, strong differences in religious beliefs led groups like the Pilgrims (and later the Puritans) to leave England and colonize Massachusetts in pursuit of a better life.

Between 1650 and 1675, the Puritans strongly established themselves in the colonies but in turn persecuted other colonists including Quakers and Baptists. The Quakers would have significant impact on New Bedford’s development culturally and economically. Land and natural resource incursions by the colonists caused devastating wars with local Native American tribes, who struggled to maintain their way of life and their rights to native lands. The Quaker and Baptist settlements of the “old Dartmouth Region,” located along Buzzards Bay and the Acushnet River, eventually grew into a seafaring culture. Their locations west of Cape Cod were a safe distance from Puritan settlements to the north, but close to the Quakers of Nantucket, the prime whaling grounds of the Atlantic and Newport, Rhode Island, the main regional commercial seaport.

Religion, geography and maritime commerce combined to powerfully influence Southeastern Massachusetts’ colonial growth and the ultimate success of the port of New Bedford.

This exhibition explores the region of Old Dartmouth from the landing of Bartholomew Gosnold to the dominance of New Bedford in the whaling industry, and explores key themes that continue to resonate today. For instance:

Do we experience extreme religious viewpoints in the U.S.A. today?
Do we solve our differences violently or non-violently?
Can we still make a living from the land and the sea?

Major support for this exhibition comes from the William M. Wood Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Last Modified: July 21, 2014