Pembroke is a small historic town in Plymouth County, Massachusetts, United States. Pembroke is a South Shore suburb of the Boston metropolitan area. The town is located about halfway between Boston and Cape Cod. As of 2021, the median home value in Pembroke was $529,000. The population was 17,837 at the 2010 census.
Different sections of the town include Bryantville (along the Hanson town line), North Pembroke and East Pembroke.
The earliest European settlers were Robert Barker and Dolor Davis, who settled in the vicinity of Herring Brook in 1650. It has been said that the Barkers were about to go down the Indian Head River, at “The Crotch” of the North River in modern day Pembroke/Hanover. However, the Barkers went down the Herring Run to the South, thus landing on Pembroke land. Up until that time, the Wampanoag and the Massachusett were the only residents, fishing and farming along the rivers; they called the area Mattakeesett, which means “place of much fish”, because of the annual springtime run of herring in the local rivers. The land was part of the Major’s Purchase, a large tract of lands bought from Josias Wampatuck of the Massachusetts by a group of English investors. The area was once a part of Duxbury, before incorporating as a separate town in 1712, and was ultimately named for the town of Pembroke, Wales, the name of Brookfield being rejected because it was already in use by the town in Worcester County that still bears this name.
Most notable of the town’s resources are its water resources, which include the North River and Indian Head River; its ponds, Oldham, Furnace, Great Sandy Bottom, Little Sandy Bottom, and Stetson Ponds; and Silver Lake. The town’s ponds, streams and marshes are the home of herring that were prized so much that in 1741, the town began regulating the taking and preservation of the fish. The herring are celebrated each year at the town’s annual “Grande Old Fish Fry”.
The Pembroke Iron Works was established in 1720 and used bog iron taken from the surface of rocks on the bottom of the ponds, swamps, and bogs. Ice was cut from the ponds, stored in icehouses, and used in the summer months for food preservation. The ponds and streams also provided power for various mills, including grist, flour and sawmills. Later, shipbuilding and box manufacturing became important factors in the development of the town.
The town has large tracts of woodlands that provided timber for homes and industry, and provided cover for abundant wildlife. Because of its proximity to timber and location on the river, the town in its early years was known for its shipbuilding industry. The North River was the location of five shipyards – Brick Kiln Yard, Seabury Point, Job’s Landing, Turner’s Yard and Macy’s. Between 1678 and 1871, 1,025 vessels were produced on the shores of the North River.
Just before the Revolution, Reverend Gad Hitchcock of Pembroke (who had served with the provincial troops as a chaplain in upstate New York during the French and Indian War) gave a sermon in Boston blasting the British, and was rewarded for this with a set of fine new clothes from Samuel Adams. Residents of Pembroke again served with honor from the first “alarm” sent out by Paul Revere and others on April 19, 1775, till the end of the war.
The town took its current form in 1820, when the western half of town known as the “West Parish” was separated and incorporated as Hanson. Shipbuilding was among the area’s industries, with five yards along the North River. Famous among these were the Beaver, a vessel made famous for its role in the Boston Tea Party, and the Maria, memorialized on the Pembroke town seal. It was along the same river, on the Norwell side, that the Columbia, namesake of the Columbia River in Oregon, was launched. By the turn of the 20th century, mills had sprung up along the river, and the town’s ponds and streams provided the water for cranberry bogs. Because of rail service from Brockton, the town’s ponds also provided recreation and vacation spots for city dwellers.
A Massachusetts Historical Commission reconnaissance survey report dated June 1981 indicated that in the early 20th century the popularity of the cranberry spurred the construction of numerous bogs. By 1924 there were 17 cranberry growers in the Pembroke directory, with 14 producers listed as having Bryantville addresses. In the same year there were 14 poultry farmers listed, indicating that by that time poultry raising was well established in town. The E. H. Clapp rubber works, initiated on the Hanover side of the Indian Head River in 1871, expanded in 1873 to the Pembroke side of the river.
In the late 19th century and early 20th century, the ponds became an attraction for summer vacationers seeking relief from the heat in the cities. The Brockton and Plymouth Railway Co. initiated trolley service from Brockton and facilitated the development of Mayflower Grove in Bryantville as a popular summer recreation venue. The attractiveness of the ponds for summer recreation led to the development of numerous, dense cottage colonies built along their shores. The ponds are currently used for recreation, municipal water supplies and irrigation for cranberry bogs.
The town remained relatively stable in population from the end of the Civil War until the 1960s, when suburban migration from Boston and environs saw the town more than triple in population. Today, Pembroke is mostly a suburban community, with the majority of residents working in the Greater Boston area. In recent years Pembroke has developed into a fairly affluent and desirable community, with new home developments geared towards upmarket buyers.
As of 2009, Pembroke was a contender for CNN Money’s “Best Places to Live”, according to financial, education and quality of life statistics.
In 1952, Pembroke was a founding community of the Silver Lake Regional School District, along with Kingston, Halifax, Carver and Plympton. Due to chronic overcrowding which had led to split sessions by 1970 and double sessions by 1974, the town built its own campus of Silver Lake Regional High School in 1976, across from Hobomock Elementary School on Learning Lane. Flooding due to burst pipes delayed its occupancy until November 1976.
In 2002, with growing population again an issue, Pembroke separated from the other towns to reestablish its own school district; its students remained at Silver Lake RHS until 2004. The satellite campus, which had been in service as the Silver Lake district’s middle school in recent years, was renovated to become Pembroke High School, and serves students from ninth through twelfth grade. Pembroke’s athletics teams are known as the Titans (complete with a logo reminiscent of the Tennessee Titans logo), and their colors are blue and white. They compete in the Patriot League, where the teams have already garnered six championships since 2004. Pembroke has established a Thanksgiving Day football rivalry with previously mentioned Silver Lake Regional High School.
The town has three elementary schools (Bryantville, Hobomock and North Pembroke), which serve students from kindergarten through sixth grades (North Pembroke also serves pre-kindergarten classes). The Pembroke Community Middle School, located in the former Silver Lake Regional Junior High School on Route 27, serves seventh and eighth grade students.
The town has no contract with any vocational schools, the nearest being South Shore Vocational Tech in Hanover. The nearest private high school is the Catholic-run Sacred Heart High School in Kingston. The nearest four-year college is Bridgewater State University; the nearest community colleges are Quincy College’s satellite campus in Plymouth and Massasoit Community College in Brockton.
As of the census of 2007, there were 18,549 people, 5,750 households, and 4,553 families residing in the town. The population density was 774.9 people per square mile (299.2/km2). Statistically, the town’s population and population density is slightly smaller than average, just below both averages. There were 5,897 housing units at an average density of 270.0 per square mile (104.3/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 97.89% White, 0.50% African American, 0.07% Native American, 0.51% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 0.28% from other races, and 0.74% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.53% of the population.
There were 5,750 households, out of which 40.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 66.7% were married couples living together, 8.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 20.8% were non-families. Of all households 16.7% were made up of individuals, and 6.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.92 and the average family size was 3.31.
In the town, the population was spread out, with 28.6% under the age of 18, 5.9% from 18 to 24, 32.8% from 25 to 44, 24.3% from 45 to 64, and 8.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37.2 years. For every 100 females, there were 97.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 93.7 males. As of 2009, Pembroke has a marriage percentage of 62.1 and a divorce percentage of 8.2.
As of 2009, the median income for a household in the town was $74,985, and the median income for a family was $96,483. Males had a median income of $60,778 versus $46,581 for females. The per capita income for the town was $27,066. About 3.7% of families and 4.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 6.2% of those under age 18 and 6.0% of those age 65 or over.