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Talk of the Towns - A humble fish altered history along the Namakset 7/25/14

Talk of the Towns - A humble fish altered history along the Nemasket

Middleboro Gazette
July 25, 2014

A humble fish altered history along the Nemasket
Every spring, the Nemasket River welcomes thousands of migratory river herring that thrash and leap as they fight their way upstream from Mount Hope Bay. Of all non-domesticated animals, the river herring—or alewife—has arguably had the greatest impact on the towns along the river in southeastern Massachusetts. The area was called Nemasket, or "place of fish," by Native Americans, and its earliest English colonists were dependent on river herring for their very survival. They provided a livelihood for generations of families in Middleboro and Lakeville, shaping their culture and the course of the region's development.

Today, herring fishing is banned, and the community is working toward protecting and preserving the river so the herring have a place to return each year. In a book to be released next week, historian Michael J. Maddigan explores the big story of the small fish that shaped life along the Nemasket River.

Maddigan has been involved in the field of local history and historic preservation for more than 30 years. He has written extensively on the history of Middleboro and Lakeville, and is the author of several books on local history, including "South Middleborough: A History," previously published by The History Press. Other works include "Elysian Fields: A History of the Rock Cemetery" (2007), "Images of America: Middleborough" (2009), "An Illustrated History of the King Philip Tavern" (2010), "Star Mill: History and Architecture" (2012) and "Representatives of the Great Cause: Middleborough Servicemen & Their Letters from the First World War" (2013).

Maddigan has contributed articles to numerous publications, and his work appears regularly in The Middleboro Gazette as the popular local history column "Recollecting Nemasket." Maddigan owns a small publishing press and website under the Recollecting Nemasket name, both of which are devoted to popularizing local history. He is currently at work on separate histories of the Brockton Fair and the Bridgewater State Farm.

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