Middleborough (frequently written as Middleboro) is a town in Plymouth County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 23,116 at the 2010 census.
The town was first settled by Europeans in 1661 as Nemasket, later changed to Middlebury, and officially incorporated as Middleborough in 1669. The name Nemasket came from a Native American settlement along the small river that now bears the same name. Nemasket may have meant “place of fish”, due to the large amount of herring that migrate up the river each spring. There are no contemporary records that indicate the name Middlebury was taken from a place in England. The names Middlebury and Middleborough were actually derived from the city of Middelburg, Zeeland, the westernmost province of the Netherlands. Middelburg was an international intellectual center and economic powerhouse. The English religious dissenters known as the Brownists developed their governing institutions in Middelburg before emigrating on the Mayflower, and were the earliest settlers of Middleborough.
During King Philip’s War (1675–76), the town’s entire populace took shelter within the confines of a fort constructed along the Nemasket River. The site is located behind the old Memorial High School (now a kindergarten), and is marked by a state historical commission marker along Route 105. Before long, the fort was abandoned and the population withdrew to the greater shelter of the Plymouth Colony. In their absence, the entire village was burned to the ground, and it would be several years before the town would be reestablished.
Western Middleborough broke away on May 13, 1853 and formed the town of Lakeville, taking with it the main access to the large freshwater lakes there, including Assawompset Pond.
Middleborough was once a large producer of shoes and is still home to the Alden Shoe Company, one of the last remaining shoe manufacturers in America. The local Maxim Motors manufactured fire engines from 1914-1989. Middleborough has since become the location of the corporate headquarters of Ocean Spray Cranberries.
Notable sights include the 1870s Victorian-style town hall and the Beaux Arts-style town library (1903). In the spring, the Nemasket River alewife and blueback herring run upstream to the Assawompset Ponds complex to spawn.
In 1994 the Middleborough All Stars of Little League Baseball reached the Little League World Series by defeating Milburn-Short Hills, New Jersey, to take the East Region title. The team finished third in the United States. They are one of only two Massachusetts Little League teams to win the East title (the other one being Andover Little League, 1988) before the splitting of the New England and Mid-Atlantic Regions in 2001.
In the summer of 2007, Middleborough became the proposed location for a controversial future resort casino, sponsored by the Wampanoag Tribe of Mashpee, Massachusetts.
Profanity ban controversy
On June 11, 2012, Middleborough made national headlines after residents approved an ordinance outlawing the use of profanity in public, making it punishable by a $20 fine. It passed 183-50 in the town of over 23,000 residents. Many legal experts said the law violates the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Dozens of residents on both sides of the issue attended a protest in front of the town hall. The Massachusetts state director for the American Civil Liberties Union said, “the Supreme Court has ruled that the government can’t prohibit public speech just because it contains profanity.” In October 2012, Massachusetts attorney general Martha Coakley blocked enforcement of the law, saying it was inconsistent with the Constitution, and the town ultimately backed off the profanity ban.
Middleborough has its own school system, headed by a school committee and superintendent. There is one school for kindergarten children, the Memorial Early Childhood Center, housed in the old junior high (previously the old high school). It opened in September 2007 after a $13 million renovation. The Mary K. Goode Elementary and the Henry B. Burkland Elementary Schools serve grades 1 through 5. The John T. “Tiger” Nichols, Jr. Middle School (1999) serves grades 6 through 8, and the Middleborough High School serves grades 9 through 12. Middleborough High’s mascot is the “Sachem”, and their colors are black and orange. Other sports teams in town include the semi-pro football team the Middleborough Cobras and the middle school baseball team the Tigers.
Middleborough is also home to the Frederick L. Chamberlain School, a private institution that serves students from around the world struggling with learning disabilities.
In 1856, Middleborough-born, Baltimore businessman-wholesale hardware merchant, banker, and steamship line owner, Enoch Pratt, (1808-1896), established as one of his first philanthropies in The Pratt Free School, later adding additional bequests upon its incorporation in 1865. It later became a grammar school, preparing students for entering the Middleborough High School. Later in 1882-1886, he endowed the Enoch Pratt Free Library, the nation’s first circulating, public library system (with a central library and five branches) and later further endowed a mental health institution, the Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital.
The Middleborough campus of Massasoit Community College is also located here.
In November 2017, “Middleboro voters approved a $103 million dollar plan to construct a new Middleborough High School building and campus.” The project started in February 2019 and is to be completed by 2021.
As of the census of 2000, there were 19,941 people, 6,981 households, and 5,117 families residing in the town. The population density was 286.7 people per square mile (110.7/km2). There were 7,249 housing units at an average density of 104.2 per square mile (40.2/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 96.1% White, 1.3% African American, 0.3% Native American, 0.4% Asian, <0.1% Pacific Islander, 0.6% from other races, and 1.3% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.8% of the population.
There were 6,981 households, out of which 38.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 56.4% were married couples living together, 12.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 26.7% were non-families. 20.4% of all households were made up of individuals, and 7.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.78 and the average family size was 3.23.
The population was spread out, with 27.7% under the age of 18, 6.9% from 18 to 24, 32.8% from 25 to 44, 22.3% from 45 to 64, and 10.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females, there were 96.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 92.1 males.
The median income for a household in the town was $52,755, and the median income for a family was $65,173. Males had a median income of $60,854 versus $40,570 for females. The per capita income for the town was $75,000.