The Town of Pembroke was formerly part of Duxbury and was established in the year 1712. Its geography and natural resources provided the basis for its settlement patterns, commerce and recreation. The earliest settlers of Pembroke were Robert Barker and Dolor Davis who settled in the area of Herring Brook in 1650. At the time, Indians wintered along the North River and grew a variety of crops.
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 iron dredged from the bottom of the ponds. 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 also has vast 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 ship building 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. The Brick Kiln Yard was where the Beaver was built; it was one of the ships involved in the Boston Tea party. Other famous North River Ships include the Columbia , the Bedford and the Maria. The Columbia was the first ship to sail around the Cape of Good Hope and the Columbia River is named after it, the Bedford was the first ship to sail into a foreign port flying the American Flag, and the Maria is depicted on the Town Seal.
A Massachusetts Historical Commission (MHC) reconnaissance survey report dated June 1981 indicated that in the early 1900’s 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 1800’s and early 1900’s, 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.
By the early twentieth century box factories were producing large quantities of shoe boxes for the shoe industry in Brockton, Abington, Whitman and Bridgewater as well as crates for the cranberry and poultry industry. One of the largest of the box-manufacturing firms was the J. H. West Box Factory that employed over 100 workers, many of whom lived in the immediate vicinity of the box mill.
The Town of Pembroke has experienced what can be described as spectacular growth over the seventy-year period 1930 to 2000. During that time the town has increased by over one thousand percent, from a population level of 1,492 in 1930 to 16,927 in the year 2000. Most of the growth occurred during the 1950’s when the population almost doubled from 2,579 to 4,919 and from 1960 to 1970 when the population more than doubled again, increasing from 4,919 to 11,193. In the seventy years, the town has grown from a small rural community into a bustling suburban community. In 2008, the current population is over 18,549.