The Town of Bellingham, Norfolk County (formerly in Suffolk County, until 1793) was established November 27, 1719, from parts of Dedham, Mendon, and Wrentham.
February 23, 1832, bounds between Bellingham and Franklin were established.
Bellingham is located at the southwestern corner of Norfolk County, just northwest of the northeast corner of Rhode Island. It is bordered by Medway on the north, Franklin to the east, Wrentham to the southeast; Woonsocket, Rhode Island, on the south; and Blackstone, Hopedale and Mendon to the west, and Milford to the northwest.
The area of the town south of the Charles River constituted the southwestern corner of the Dedham Grant, which sprouted much of what has become Norfolk County. The land was swampy, and the town of Dedham did not believe it worthy of settlement. The area north of the river would be purchased by Edward Rawson, and due to the settlement of borders with the surrounding communities, these two areas would eventually merge. Most of the land to be called Bellingham was originally a portion of Dedham. By 1713, there were enough citizens to warrant village meetings in the area. By 1718, the village petitioned for separation, and the town officially incorporated on November 27, 1719. The village was originally named "Westham" (short for "West Dedham"), but at the time of incorporation, its name was changed to Bellingham without record of the benefactor. The town is named for Richard Bellingham, an early governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
The town was founded with a Pilgrim (Congregationalist) meeting house, like all the towns in the colony at the time. However, this church would dissolve before the middle of the century, replaced with a Baptist church. John Leland, a Baptist minister, who was a major supporter of James Madison and the First Amendment to the Constitution, was baptized in Bellingham's Baptist church in 1775. The town grew slowly, given the terrain and the limited resources. During the Industrial Revolution, several man-made ponds were constructed to support industry in land that had been swamp. Deborah Sampson enlisted as "Robert Shurtlieff" at Bellingham, near the end of the Revolutionary War, and disguised herself as a man, to become America's first woman soldier.
The Partridge Connection to Bellingham
Eleazer Partridge first purchased land in what would become the town of Bellingham from Samuel Rich in 1702 ― this piece of land was part of what was known as Rawson's Farm in Dedham, Massachusetts. In 1720 Eleazer purchased an additional 102 acres of the farm, and and as his family settled on the land it slowly became known as Partridgetown. This land was a part of the valley of Stall Brook on Farm Street, including the town farm and three others. You can see the area on the map above as the Town Farm is labeled.
Genealogical Sources for Bellingham, Massachusetts Research
The following genealogical resources for Bellingham, Massachusetts can assist you in researching your family tree.
- Bellingham (1904). Vital records of Bellingham, Massachusetts, to the year 1850. Boston, Mass. : Published by the New-England Historic Genealogical Society at the charge of the Eddy Town-Record Fund.
- Partridge, George F. (1919) History of the Town of Bellingham, Massachusetts 1719-1919. Bellingham: Published by the Town
- Partridge, George F. (1919) History of the Town of Bellingham, Massachusetts 1719-1919 p. frontpiece. Bellingham: Published by the Town