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Did an ancestor travel the Bay Road of Massachusetts? Learn about this settler migration route, its transportation history, and find related genealogy sources.

Map of the Bay Road in gold through Boston, Dedham, Taunton, and New Bedford, Massachusetts.



At least three routes in Massachusetts have been labelled the Bay Road: (A) the Old Connecticut Path from Boston to Hartford,[1] (B) the Old Roebuck Road from Boston to Providence, and (C) the route from Boston to New Bedford.[2] But this article is only about the later pathway from Boston to New Bedford.

The Bay Road followed an old Indian trail about 60 miles (97 kilometers) from Massachusetts Bay to Buzzard's Bay. It went from Boston to New Bedford in Massachusetts.[3] Boston was founded in 1630; New Bedford was established in 1652.[4] The Bay Road attracted European settlers along its route because it provided access to markets for settler goods and services.

Overlapping routes. Part of the Bay Road followed the exact same route as a part of the Old Roebuck Road  at least as far as Norwood. Moreover, that small portion of the Bay Road was also used as part of one of several main routes of the lower Boston Post Road  from Boston to Providence to New York City. In the 1760s and 1770s that same small part of the Bay Road was also part of the King's Highway  from Boston to New York City and all the way south to Charleston, South Carolina.

Stagecoach service. In the 1760s stagecoaches began to traverse these roads carrying regular mail and passengers. Inns for stagecoach passengers and other travelers often were established about the time of American Revolution. By 1800 an advertisement suggested stage service from Boston to Providence took only ten hours.[5] Nevertheless, travel between colonial towns was more often by sea than it was over land until just before the American Revolution.[6]

Toll roads. Massachusetts developed a turnpike (toll) system for wagon roads in the early 1800s including most of the route from Boston to New Bedford. For example, the New Bedford and Bridgewater Turnpike charged tolls from 1807 to 1847.[7] Most of these early pathways continue as roads today. Modern freeways usually parallel the older road systems.

Decline. However, the use of early roads and turnpikes for moving settlers decreased with the introduction of railroads. Settlers could travel faster, less expensively, and safer on railroads than on wagon roads. So, as railroads entered an area, the wagon-road traffic in that area declined. Railroad service from Boston to Taunton opened in 1835.[8] The first railroad from New Bedford to Taunton was opened in 1840.[9]


Settlers who traveled the Bay Road from Boston to New Bedford passed through these places:

Suffolk County, Massachusetts

Norfolk County, Massachusetts

Bristol County, Massachusetts

Plymouth County, Massachusetts

back into Bristol County, Massachusetts

Connecting Routes. The Bay Road  connected with half a dozen new migration routes out of Boston:

Modern parallels. The modern roads that roughly match the Bay Road  from Boston to New Bedford are:

  • From Boston head southwest onWashington Street bound for Dedham.
  • From Dedham go south on the Providence Highway to Norwood.
  • At Norwood transfer onto Neponsit Street bound southeast to Canton.
  • At Canton turn south onto Washington Street which shortly becomes the Bay Road or Bay Street on its way to Taunton.
  • From Taunton take Summer Street/MA-140 to the southeast. This becomes County Street or County Road bound for Clifford.
  • Near Clifford the County Road merges going south with MA-18/Acushnet Avenue/Ashley Blvd on the way into New Bedford.

Settler Records

Boston was founded in 1630 by Puritan immigrants from England. New Bedford was settled in 1652 by some Pilgrim families of Plymouth, Massachusetts, who had purchased their new homeland from the Indians.[10] The road between these two important ports attracted settlers who would be able to more easily get access to the markets which those ports provided. Many of the earliest settlers along the Bay Road would have been from Boston or New Bedford. Look at the earliest deeds along the Bay Road to learn the names of the first settlers. If you already know the name of a settler near the Bay Road, you have a good chance of finding his or her genealogy in sources like:

  • Lucy Mary Kellogg, et. al., Mayflower Families Through Five Generations: Descendants of the Pilgrims Who Landed at Plymouth, Mass., December 1620, 23+ vols. (Plymouth, Massachusetts: General Society of Mayflower Descendants, 1975- ). At various libraries (WorldCat); FHL Book 974.4 D2mf.
  • Robert Charles Anderson, The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England, 1620-1633, 3 vols. (Boston, Massachusetts: New England Historic Genealogical Society, c1995). At various libraries (WorldCat); FHL Book 974 W2a.

External links


  1. Boston Post Road in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia (accessed 16 October 2014).
  2. Frederic J. Wood, The Turnpikes of New England and the Evolution of the Same Through England, Virginia, and Maryland (Boston: Marshall Jones, 1919), 25. Internet Archive version online.
  3. Handybook for Genealogists: United States of America, 9th ed. (Logan, Utah: Everton Pub., 1999), pages 531 and M-48. At various libraries (WorldCat); FHL Book 973 D27e 1999.
  4. New Bedford, Massachusetts in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia (accessed 30 October 2014).
  5. Frederic J. Wood, The Turnpikes of New England and the Evolution of the Same Through England, Virginia, and Maryland (Boston: Marshall Jones, 1919), 86-87. Internet Archive version online.
  6. Wood, 25.
  7. Wood, map between 56 and 57, and 131-32.
  8. Taunton Branch Railroad in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia (accessed 30 October 2014).
  9. New Bedford and Taunton Railroad in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia (accessed 30 October 2014).
  10. New Bedford, Massachusetts in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia (accessed 16 October 2014).


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  • This page was last modified on 5 November 2014, at 19:41.
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